Gratitude: The Cure for Dissatisfaction

Why are so many of us unhappy? Why are mental health problems growing so rapidly? According to the Surgeon General 1 in 5 American adults AND children are affected by a mental disorder during each year! WHY?!?!

The following comes from an anonymously written editorial on the website chinatownconnection.com.  It is titled “Why Are Americans so Unhappy” and I believe sheds light on the “why”:

Is it that we have electricity and running water 24 hours a day, 7 days a week? Is our unhappiness the result of having air conditioning in the summer and heating in the winter? Could it be that 90+ % of these unhappy folks have a job? Maybe it is the ability to walk into a grocery store at any time and see more food in moments than Darfur has  seen in the last year?

Maybe it is the ability to drive from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean without having to present identification papers as we move through each state? Or possibly the hundreds of clean and safe motels we would find along the way that can provide temporary shelter? I guess having thousands of restaurants with varying cuisine from around the world is just not good enough. Or could it be that when we wreck our car,  emergency workers show up and provide services to help all involved. Whether you are rich or poor, they treat your wounds and even, if necessary, send a helicopter to take you to the hospital.

Perhaps you are one of the 70 percent of Americans who own a home. You may be upset with knowing that in the unfortunate case of having a fire, a group of trained firefighters will appear in moments and use top-notch equipment to extinguish the flames, thus saving you, your family and your belongings.

Or if, while at home watching one of your many flat-screen TVs, a burglar or prowler intrudes, an officer equipped with a gun and a bullet-proof vest will come to defend you and your family against attack or loss. This all in the backdrop of a neighborhood free of bombs or militias raping and pillaging the residents – in neighborhoods where 90 percent of teenagers own cell phones and computers.

How about the complete religious, social and political freedoms we enjoy that are the envy of everyone in the world? Maybe that is what has 67% of you folks unhappy.

A 2011 Gallup poll found Americans were somewhat or very dissatisfied with overall quality of life (23%), opportunity to get ahead by working hard (45%) and moral and ethical climate (70%).

Ruut Veenhoven of Erasmus University in Rotterdam does research on the subjective appreciation of life and maintains the “World Database of Happiness”. He found the United States not even close to the top ten with a general level of happiness that places our country at 17th!

OK. Now that I added fodder to the general murky mood in the U.S.A., please allow me to offer my perspective. When I had little growing up I did appreciate the things I did have, even though I yearned for more. Anything new was most often received with joy even if it was new clothes under the Christmas tree and few toys. When I was a struggling 20-something I remember buying my first new couch on credit that took 18 months to pay for. I loved that couch and to this day have never appreciated a piece of furniture as I did that one. Living after a natural disaster in a foreign country without running water for six weeks and electric service for almost three months taught me gratitude for those two things I had always taken for granted.  In retrospect of my life I can see it was lack and struggle that made me appreciate things most.  It was rarely, if ever, abundance that brought any more than momentary gratitude.

As a middle-aged adult I “made it” and had the resources to have and do most anything reasonable I wanted to do. I worked for years under the guise that $$ would make me happy but instead my unhappiness grew to its maximum level that accentuated every fault and dysfunction I had.

My level of contentment and appreciation of life today is the highest ever. While it took a lot of work, changing what was going on inside of me brought that about. It is my opinion that is what is wrong in our country today: Looking outside our self for “other esteem” will NEVER bring about good self-esteem within. I am living proof of that. If success, money, sex, awards, accomplishment, things and external experiences could make someone happy I would have floated away in delirious bliss years ago. Instead, it took pain and heartache followed by lots of deeply emotion inner work to open me to the sources of happiness. There is nothing perfect about my life. Trouble, concern and worry are still around. But today those things sit mostly on the bench in my game of life while contentment, caring and love are the primary players with gratitude as the quarterback.

Riches, both material & spiritual, can choke you if you do not use them fairly. For not even God can put anything in a heart that is already full. One day there springs up the desire for money & for all that money can provide: the superfluous, luxury in eating, luxury in dressing, trifles. Needs increase because one thing calls for another. The result is uncontrollable dissatisfaction. Let us remain as empty as possible so that God can fill us up. Mother Teresa

Those Who Have Less Are Many

This morning as I begin a new day writing here, I am curious if I can come up with 50 things to be grateful for in 10 minutes. Here goes:

1. Bed I woke up in.
2. Clean sheets I slept on.
3. Home I slept safely in last night.
4. Alarm clock that woke me up.
5. Electricity to power everything.
6. Lights so I could see before dawn.
7. Coffee pot and ground coffee.
8. Milk and sugar.
9. Glasses so I can see this screen.
10. Ability to see so the glasses matter.
11. Comfy clothes to wear.
12. Coffee cup for my coffee.
13. Morning banana.
14. My computer.
15. High speed internet.
16. Inspiration to write this blog.
17. Being alive.
18. Hands and arms that work.
19. Good health.
20. Email I get from a friend each morning.
21. A good brain that allows me to write.
22. Carpet under my feet.
23. Legs that work.
24. Wisdom to be grateful.
25. Desk and a chair to sit in.
26. Radio to listen to.
27. Pen and notepad.
28. My Bathroom.
29. Indoor plumbing to wash my hands.
30. Comforter and blanket on my bed.
31. Pillow for my head.
32. Those that support my writing.
33. Living in a peaceful country.
34. My phone to get a text on.
35. A window to see the sunrise.
36. The calendar in my office.
37. Art on my walls.
38. Optimistic and hopeful outlook.
39. Nat Geo to read during morning business.
40. A job to go to later.
41. Ample money to support myself.
42. People I look forward to seeing today.
43. A short commute to/from work.
44. The cool fall morning outside
45. Heat to keep me warm this morning.
46. A wide choice of clothes in my closet.
47. Refrigerator
48. Food in the pantry and fridge.
49. Ability to remember.
50. Love of friends and family.
51. Toothbrush and toothpaste
52. All my fingers and toes.
53. The Internet
54. A good night’s sleep.

The last four are bonus entries to make up for any duplication or similarity of entries created by writing quickly on the fly. My progress began to slow down a little after the first 30 but the list above was completed in about eight minutes;   one thing to be grateful for every eight seconds!

Once I began to focus on comparing my life to how it could be, gratitude filled me more and more. I imagined how decadently luxurious almost all waking today up in a third world country would find my list. People who have more than me are few and those who have less are many. Such a way of looking at things is a noble way to put my life in perspective. On what many would call a “bad day” I have a better and easier life than almost all on the planet! The majority of the world’s population spends most of every day on one task: attempting to find enough to eat.

How lucky am I! For my rich blessings I am highly grateful. A great frame of mind to begin a new day with!

Ode to Business Travel

Being away from home for business can sometimes give me a perspective I don’t have day-to-day.  On ocassion after traveling, walking into my home can cause me really notice what I am seeing.  The smell particular to my home greets me as I enter and the belongings I walk by daily have newly–noticed individual dimensions beyond what most often just fades into the landscape.    

A photo on the wall reminds me of my son at age eight.  My trophy from a junior high regional science fair begs attention and I see how well it is holding up in spite of it being over 40 years since I received it.    

My piano is too large for me to miss seeing every day and yet at a moment of reawakening and recognition I am reminded how beautiful it is.  Looking closer I see the rich walnut grain, a glint of light on the shiny strings and re-gilded harp.  Even the imperfections of a few small scratches on the piano bench lend personality.  

It seems an inch or two further above the floor has been added to the height of my bed.  Maybe it recovered from supporting my weight night after night and actually grew a little taller while I was gone.  Touching it with my left hand as I heft my suitcase up on the bed, I am reminded how comfortable a place it is to be.  Thankfulness creeps in for the spot where I spent a third of my life. 

Unpacked and with laundry going I sit down to decompress. 

The trip was long and tiring.
Successful as business goes.
Assignments are done,
Battles are won.
Decisions have been spun.
Hires and fires are complete.
The strategy is on the street.

I sit down
To look around
For a moment.
To let the stress vent,
To shake off where I went,
To regain some of the energy spent,
And delight in being home.
 
No television or radio
No announcements overhead.
No noise of people going by.
No loud next room couple in bed.
No streets too crowded.
No sound of walking feet.
No street performers.
No rhythm, noise or beat.
No cabs to flag down.
No subway to take in town.
No shuttles to ride around.
No fake smiles.
No frequent flyer miles.
No people to tip or pay.
No queue to get through.
No security to do.
No stuff to be scanned.
No pat down’s by hand.
No shoes to quickly forsake.
No laptop removal to make.
No suitcases to break.
No wake up calls to take.
No worry of being late.
No weirdo’s and flakes.
No hands to shake.
No contacts needing to be made.
No dragons to be slayed.
No upgrades to sweat.
No flights to be met.
No trade secrets to spill.
No eating out every meal.
No staying up later than I prefer.
No people with whom I must confer.
No…
No…

NO MORE!
I’m home.
There is the quiet. 
Finally…
 

It is a great comfort to arrive home after the trials and tribulations of business travel.  Being wrapped in familiar surroundings and feeling the “hug” of the safety of my domain comforts me.  I a very grateful for the “rabbit hole” I call home.

It’s a dangerous business… going out your front door.  You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.  J. R. R. Tolkien

Home, Sweet Home

Growing up I heard the phrase “home, sweet home”, but it did not fit what I was experiencing.  I never felt much “sweet” where I lived during a difficult childhood. Only as an adult have I been able to realize the tranquility and safety that was possible in one’s own place.  That is why today “home” is my favorite place to be.  

Some of my early “home, sweet homes” were humble, but cool.  My first place I could afford to live without roommates was a little cottage in Manitou Springs, Colorado.  It sat up on the west side of a hill with parking way down below.  To reach the hillside cottage I had to use a footbridge across a small stream and then use a bunch of stairs to get up the hill.  Bringing home groceries and getting them to my place was good exercise!  This place was tiny, but it was mine; MY home.  I loved living there. 

Some friends who moved away owned an old Victorian house and rented it to me.  It had lots of faults including an upstairs bathroom that did not work.  Not a big deal until you realize the bedrooms were upstairs and the only working bathroom was downstairs way in the back by the kitchen.  The place needed a lot of work but it was my home.  I felt safe and protected there. 

Another residence vivid in memory is the home I shared with my new wife in huge high-rise in the middle of a big city. For a kid from the country, this was a fascinating experience.  My work was in the same building.  The bottom two floors contained a shopping mall that included a two screen theatre, a grocery store, a drug store and a food court.  Even my doctor and dentist were in the building.  Once I did not leave the building for ten days!  My home there was a cherished adventure. 

Since those times in my early 20’s, I have lived in over a dozen different homes in five states and one foreign country with each being my unique protected safe sanctuary from the world.  

Wikipedia defines a home as:  a place of residence or refuge.  It is usually a place in which an individual or a family can rest and store personal property.  That’s a bit “encyclopedia-ish” for my taste.    

  • Home is a place of safety from the elements and the outside world.  
  • Home is where I share life and my truest self with people I care most about.  
  • Home is where belongings collected from many points and times remind me of the wonderful life I am having. 
  • Home is a place of serenity even when once upon a time there was the noise of a child nearby. 
  • Home is the one place I don’t care if my hair is sticking up and fashion is my ratty, comfy clothes. 
  • Home is the place where I have done the most manual labor of my life as I worked on up-keep and to make each house uniquely a home.    
  • Home is where I really do live.  Here and there you will find shoes in the corner, blankets and pillows stacked by the fireplace, books and magazines strewn about, stacks of papers and magazines, my briefcase on the kitchen table, etc.   
  • Home is where I often lose coffee cups temporarily and later find them with interesting science experiments growing inside.
  • Home is where I have at least one or two “junk drawers” filled with things I just may need sometime. 
  • Home is where the books I love and the music I adore are.
  • Home is where many of my favorite smells can be found.  I love candles and incense of all sorts.  As I go room to room the scent landscape changes.
  • Home is where I can cook without regard for what others think of my cooking. 
  • Home is where I love to take Sunday afternoon naps with the windows open while it rains buckets outside. 
  • Home is slowing down.  Sitting down.  Lying down. 
  • Home is where I greet the morning, and where I bid another day good night.
  • Home is imperfection unlike the gorgeous houses in glossy magazines.  My home has never been and will never look perfect like that.  My home is “perfect” for me in its uniqueness and how it is an extension of who I am.  

There is no place on Earth I would rather be than at home.  I am extraordinarily blessed to live as I do so comfortably.  My gratitude for my home exceeds the words I can find to express it. 

A house is made of walls and beams
 a home is built with love and dreams. 
Unknown

The House with Cardboard Walls

Once upon a time in the deep South there was an old four-room clapboard house that sat on the side of a paved two-lane country road.  This house had four rooms:  living room, kitchen, bedroom and storeroom.   The toilet was a small building about fifty feet out the back door.   

This was an old house that had never been painted on the outside nor finished off on the inside.  The floors were uneven and sagged in places due to the foundation only being stacks of rocks underneath.  In the three rooms used as living space the walls and ceiling were covered with flattened out cardboard boxes that had been tacked to the rough-hewn wall studs.  In most cases the printed side of the cardboard was on the reverse side of what could be seen.  Here and there a few exceptions existed where printing for the products the boxes once contained was obvious. 

Each of the four rooms had one window with two panels of four panes of glass.  In two of the rooms a bottom panel would still raise for air a fan pulled in during the summer.  Lack of use in the two other rooms had caused the wood of the window frames to swell into the window casings making them immoveable.  

The heat for the house was supplied by a long, squatty cast iron wood stove with stove-pipe for smoke at one end that went up and out through the living room wall.   Doors were always left open into the other rooms so heat could reach there.  

One modern convenience the home did have was electricity.  The “juice” powered a single light bulb in each room that hung naked on a wire from the ceiling.  The light was turned on and off by a string that hung down from a switch on the light socket.  There was one wall outlet per room but there was little to plug into them except a B&W TV in the living room and tree lights at Christmas.   Sometimes in the winter when it got really cold the electric stove oven in the kitchen would be turned on and the door left open to add extra heat to the little old house.

The other modern comfort that had been added was running water that came from a well a few hundred yards away that was shared with two other houses.  Water was available only at the sink in the kitchen and there was very little water pressure.  What came out of the faucet was actually more like a good-sized trickle than a stream.  There was no hot water heater.

One bathed in this house by heating water on the stove then pouring it into an aluminum wash basin with a flat bottom and rounded-up sides with a half-inch lip around the top.  With small dents all over from use over a long period of time, the basin was about eighteen inches across and five inches deep in the middle.  With a bar of soap and a bath clothe one washed up.  In the winter this was usually done by the wood store which also served to heat the water in cold months. 

There were no door locks on the front and back door.  What kept each door shut was a rough “old-timey” door  latch made of unfinished bare wood with carving marks still clear on them from their making decades before. From the inside you lifted the latch from its catch to open the door.  On the outside a string was threaded through a hole in the door that one pulled to lift the latch on the inside.  A wooden spool that sewing thread had come on was nailed to the outside as a handle to pull the door shut. 

This old house was roofed with tin which caused the eves of the roof to echo with any sound that hit it. Especially noticeable was when it rained and the drops pelted the tin making a relaxing and gentle rumble.  One accustomed to the sound was eased into sleep by its calming effect. 

The front of the house had a wood porch onto which the front door opened and the living room and bedroom window looked out upon.  I know a story about how two boys, seven and five years old, got into trouble from being out on that porch.  Their mother left very early weekdays for her job in a factory making baby clothes.  The boys were awakened just as she was about to leave for work and were left to get up, get ready for school, make breakfast for themselves and catch the school bus.  The outhouse was way out back and with their Mother gone; the boys got out of bed and avoided the journey out back.  Instead the two boys proceeded out to the front porch and relieved their bladders off the side of it. 

One day a car drove by as the boys were peeing off the porch standing there in their “tidy-whities” and undershirts they slept in.  What they were doing seemed so normal to them they kept doing what they were doing and waved to the passer-by they knew.  Their Mother was NOT happy about what the boys had been doing when she was told later by the neighbor driving by who thought what the boys were doing was cute. 

How do I know all this?  I lived in this house with my Brother and my Mother for close to two years.  Vivid in my memory is how much trouble we got into for using the front porch as our bathroom.  That old house has been my reference point for all places I have lived in since all were an improvement.  However, I do have vivid gratefulness to that ancient house that still stands today although no one has lived there in a long, long while.  For a time, the old house with cardboard walls kept us dry and warm.  As humble as it was, that place sheltered us from the world and kept us safe.  For what once was a great embarrassment I now find sweet memories and much gratitude.  

Home is home, be it ever so humble.
Proverb

Photo:  Taken in 2007 of the backdoor at the actual “house with cardboard walls”

Simple Joy of Cool Air

The age of air conditioning is considered to have begun in the 1950’s.  It wasn’t until 1969 or a little over 40 years ago that a little more than half  (54%) of new cars came with air conditioning.  The majority of homes did not have AC until 1978.

Today I wonder how we’d get along without it!  There is nothing like a 98 degree day to make one appreciate having air conditioned comfort at home, at work and in the car.  Here in early June I have tremendous gratitude for my AC this year.  The upper 90’s came early!

In the 1950’s and prior it was not unusual for offices and factories to shut down during some of the hottest parts of summer.  It was just unbearable to work at times.  Then starting in the middle of the 20th century businesses began to cool workspaces with water cooling towers and refrigerated units.  From there cooled air moved into homes and cars.

There are parts of our country that would be difficult to live in without cooled air.  Imagine Phoenix or Las Vegas in July or Orlando or south Florida in August without AC!  Air conditioning in the last 60 years has been a major contributor in shifting population in the United States.  Since 1950 the population of Phoenix has grown +255% and Las Vegas population has increased by 1843%!  The city of Jacksonville,Florida has 279% more people living that than in 1950.  In the same time frame Houston has grown 238% and Dallas 179%.

Sixty years ago the largest population centers were in the northern parts of the USA in large part because of summer weather there being more bearable.  Since 1950 and the growing use of air conditioning the populations of Cleveland and Detroit have decreased by 50%.  There are almost 30% less people living in Minneapolis, Philadelphia and Boston than lived there six decades ago.

I grew up in the south eastern part of the country where a 98 degree day was often matched by a humidity  percentage around the same number.  I was an adult and out on my own before I had an air conditioned place.  Growing up I do remember getting sweaty at night, but the back and forth of the oscillating fan and open windows made it bearable as I recall.

I was lucky to have visited the South American Amazon about 10 years ago.  The main camp where we stayed did have buildings with a roofs and floors, but there was no electricity which meant no AC.  I recall it being hard to go to sleep, but the jungle cooled  off at night.  As long as there was a breeze, by 10pm the night was bearable to try and get some rest in.

I sit here typing this at my desk with freshly cooled air pouring in my home office from the floor vent.  Soon I will be in my car driving with the air conditioning going.  From there I will be in offices and other businesses all during the day that I know will have units cooling the air to a comfortable level.  Being one who sweats like a faucet, I am more grateful than most to live in an age with air conditioning.  I can’t imagine living with out it.

Now that I stop and think about it I realize how very grateful I am for something I always take for granted.  I have been reminded of it by times when there were issues with AC units in my home or car or at work.  I remember how thankful I was when the failing units were repaired and cooling again. The more I pay attention to things I am grateful for, the more I realize I have to be thankful for.

               Whatever we think about and thank about we bring about.                 Dr John F. Demartini


Shoes Don’t Make The Man

There is a wise, but anonymous saying I have come across a number of times that goes: “…I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet…”  While I can’t relate directly to either situation, I do relate to the intent of the thought.  Growing up and through a good part of my 20’s, extra footwear was a luxury not present in my life.  If I was lucky at the time, my shoe collection contained a pair of dress up shoes, a pair of everyday work or school shoes and a pair of athletic shoes of some sort.

In high school it was embarrassing at times to me to have only one pair of shoes to wear to school.  I was not allowed to wear my “Sunday shoes” to school and my school years were before athletic shoes were acceptable dress in the halls of education (unless you were at P.E. (gym was called physical education where I went to school).  The same was true in business as I grew up and entered the professional world.  In my working life self-consciousness came to me about having only the one pair of dress shoes most of the time.  I realize now, probably no one noticed what was on my feet at school and there was even less interest in what shoes I wore to work .

On-line I found this explanation of self-consciousness: an acute sense of self-awareness. It is a preoccupation with oneself, as opposed to the philosophical state of self-awareness, which is the awareness that one exists as an individual being….

It is only human for to suffer with self-consciousness from time to time. For one reason or another there are also those of us who lacking enough self esteem find ourselves concerned with “other esteem” or with being judged by what is outside of us, who we are, what we have and so on.  I grew up to be one of those people and only in my adult life have I been able to see it and realize that it is a self made restriction and unnecessary concern.  Even now I can’t say it is completely gone.  What begins when we are children usually never completely goes away.  Intellectual awareness has improved my thinking and the longer I am cognizant of those thoughts the more they diminish.

As much as I thought the lack of extra shoes diminished me at the time, I am grateful for the childhood days where that thinking taught me humility.  As an adult, I can now give thanks for the times I did not have a dress shoe collection for it taught me the ability to feel appreciation when I was able to afford more.  As a human being, I have gratitude for these experiences as it has softened me and helped me to be more compassionate toward people who have little.

I have a good friend in Peru who grew up in the jungles of the Amazon. He told me long ago that he did not have his first pair of shoes until he was 14 and those were for church and school only.  He said that first pair of shoes hurt his feet and he continued to go barefoot whenever he could growing up.  He even talks about a concoction that his Mother rubbed on his feet as a kid to make the bottoms of his feet tougher.  I have touched the bottoms of his feet and even today as an adult his feet are tough with thick layer of callus on the bottom (with quite an assortment of interesting scars).  Further, his feet are much flatter and more spread out that I am accustomed to seeing.  He says it is from growing up without his feet constricted in shoes. He says he runs faster, climbs trees better and has a more stable stance when barefoot.  And of course as an adult today one of his favorite pastimes is going barefoot in the jungle!  His view of things often flips my traditional views on their head.  I am thankful for that insight.

While I am grateful for all I have learned and the knowledge I intellectually have, today I have a LOT of shoes. The 6 pair of athletic shoes, 9 pair of dress shoes and at least that many pair of casual dress footwear (plus my cowboy and hiking boots) in my closet speak loudly.  The loud mental voice says that while I have over come a good bit of the old thoughts of having few shoes, I will never be over it completely.  It was part of the shaping of me into the unique person I am.  I accept that.  I think what I really need is few months in Peru, get some of that foot toughening stuff on my feet and hang out in the jungle with my friend Jesus.  What stands out most in my memory of visiting his country is how blessed we are in the USA.   The unfortunate part is most people here have no idea how “rich” they are.

The truly rich are not the ones who have a lot and want more.  They are the ones who are content with what they have.

Home Sweet Home

My recollection is clear of the feeling when I caught sight of the house that would become the first home I owned.  The realtor was late and just being seeing the outside convinced us if the inside of the house was as appealing as the outside, we had found our first house to purchase.  We were not disappointed and soon were in happily in debt.  I know the realtor was pleased, as we had dragged her through over 100 homes over the previous months.  That little house truly was “love at first sight”.

After moving into the home, we worked constantly on the house taking down wall paper, painting, cleaning up the yard, planting and all the things that made that house a home.  It was the place my infant son came home to and where the retired next door neighbors became “shirt tail” grandparents.  Although we only owned the house a few years, it was a wonderful “first” that is burned into my treasured memories.

In recent times due to life changes I ended up renting half a duplex for several years and was the first time I had rented in several decades.  After a marital home was sold and the last bits of a divorce settlement were made I began looking for a house to purchase.  This search turned out to be much like my very first home.  I worked my way through one realtor and ended up on a second one before finding something I wanted to buy.  The search covered 18 months and at least 75 homes that I looked at and for a second time in my life I found a home that was “love at first sight”.

Once again, I knew this house was the one I wanted when I first saw it from the outside during my lunch hour.  I swear the house told me I was supposed to live here.  That evening when I was able to see the inside with my realtor, I absolutely loved what I saw but was sad there was already a contract on it.  In the end we stayed up late that night and made an offer anyway.  I thought there was only a slight chance the first offer would fall through and I might be able to buy it.  The next morning to my surprise, my contract was accepted by the sellers and I literally cried with joy.

So now I live in this wonderfully unique house that above you see the glass in one of the front doors.  Boxes are everywhere, nothing has been hung on the walls and only some rooms have semi-organized furniture in them.  I tell people I “live in the land of boxes” because I am taking my time to sort out my things and am lightening the load wherever I can.  That is a refreshing new start for me as I begin this new phase in my life.  I am so grateful to own a home again… Grateful like I was for the first home I managed to buy when I was in my 20’s.

The difficulty of the last few years is now settling into a mellow life filled with gratitude and humility.  I realize now that the challenges of my life have all been to bring me to this point where I can embrace myself just as I am.  Had I not experienced and endured the things that I have I would not have found this measure of wisdom I enjoy now that makes me the best I have ever been.  Given time gratitude has the power to make even the bitter taste sweet.

Every house where love abides
And friendship is a guest,
Is surely home, and home sweet home
For there the heart can rest.
Henry Van Dyke

Long May You Run

“Long May You Run” is a song from the one album that Steven Stills and Neil Young did together as a duo.  If I remember correctly Neil gets the writer’s credit for this love song to a car.  I wrote here in this blog a few weeks ago about a car accident I was in during April of 2005.  Now I want to express my gratitude for is the car that likely saved my life.

“She” is a 1996 Volvo 960 that I got new 15 years ago.  From the beginning “she” was my favorite of all cars I have owned.  (I know guys like to refer to cars they care about as ‘she’.  I have never asked before, but do women refer to cars they care about as ‘he” or is caring about cars purely a guy thing?).  I always kept the car maintained very well and at the time of the accident in ’05 she was in top mechanical shape.  Sadly the car got banged up badly in the accident.

I was on the interchange of two freeways where there was construction.  The entrance ramp I was on had a stop sign just before one was able to merge onto the second highway.  So there I sat behind a big dually pickup waiting my turn after he got his.  All of a sudden things went crazy and for a split second I had no idea what was happening.  At first I thought my car was exploding, but learned a short while later the explosion and smoke was from the airbags going off.

Once I managed to get out of the car I saw a florist delivery van had hit me from behind.  Apparently the driver was in a big hurry, going 45 mph on the ramp, looking to merge and never even looked to see the two vehicles stopped.  So he hit me and slammed me into the truck in front.  The airbags exploded, the windshield shattered and suddenly my well cared for car was a mess.

I am very grateful to this day to have been driving a car as safe as a Volvo.  The drivers of both other vehicles left in emergency vehicles.  I walked away.

Due to the age of my car (10 years old at the time) and the cost of repairs (basically two new bumpers, a windshield and airbag replacement) the car was deemed a total loss.  However, I took salvage rights to the car, accepted the reduced insurance payment, located another car just like it to use as a donor car and brought the “old girl back to life”.   So now “she” looks a little more beat up due to the fact that the donor car parts were not in the pristine shape my car had been in.   And another six years have passed also.  But “she” is still my “girl”!

I have two other vehicles, but still love to drive my Volvo.  The ” old girl” has less than 70,000 miles on her and I will keep her  going as long as “she”cares to run.  Why?  “She” saved my life and deserves to “live”.  It is my way of expressing gratitude for the day my Volvo saved my life.  My wish for the car is best summed up in a line from the song I talked about at the beginning of this blog:  “long may your chrome heart shine”.

Praise the bridge that carried you over.  George Colman

Late Gratitude

If you happen to see the image above pop up on your computer all I can tell you is I can relate to the frustration you are about to endure.  About 10am this morning I was sitting here starting to type today’s blog entry.  Suddenly my computer reset itself all on its own.  When the reset was complete, what I saw on my screen was what you see above:  a nasty virus called MS Removal Tool had invaded my desktop computer.  Crafty nasty people somewhere created it and today it slipped past my anti-virus and anti-malware software.

I have now spent the majority of the last 12 hours trying to beat this bugger.   I did take about 5 hours off in bits and pieces to eat, meet a friend for coffee and finish a small project.  Each time I thought maybe the virus would just go away or I’d be able to come back fresh, do a new search and find the solution that works.  In the process of one of the “fixes” I found on the net I managed to spread the virus to my laptop via a flash drive.  No fun.  Now both those computers need expert ‘healing” I can not give them.  So into the shop they go.

You may be thinking this is a gratitude blog and so far tonight it does not sound like one.  It would be easy at this moment to turn this into a rant or a complain blog.  However, I have discovered it is within difficulty and challenge that a good lesson can be well learned.   So I open myself up to the wisdom I can glean from my experience today.

First, I know my computers will get repaired.  All I have to do is take them in and pay for the virus removal.  I am grateful there are skilled tech’s who can do the repairs and thankful too that I have the ability to pay them for it.  Neither computer is completely trashed like they would be if lightning got them, so I am grateful to be able to look on the bright side.   Further, if something like this had to happen, now is a good time as I will be distracted by a busy work week while the virus removal is taking place.  There will be little time to be on the computers.

By taking the high road and finding something to be grateful for, even in the face of something malicious like a computer virus, I give myself the gift of peace.  There was a time when after going to bed I would have fretted and kept myself awake for an hour or two over something like this.  But letting it go, putting it into perspective and realizing in the grand scheme of things it really does not matter much is the healthiest and best choice.  It is a gift I choose to give myself.   For that lesson learned well, but the hard way I have great gratitude.

If we will allow it, the friction of life can smooth us like the friction of rushing water in a river can smooth a rock.  JB


BEWARE:  MS Removal Tool is a computer infection that pretends to be an anti-virus program, but is actually a program that displays fake security alerts and scan results in order to make you think your computer is infected. MS Removal Tool is installed through the use of malware that will install the program onto your computer without your knowledge or permission.