Slivers of Insight

“Eyes in the back of the head” always seemed like a nonsensical statement that grownup’s sometimes claimed to have when I was young. Outside of being a figure of speech the phrase never had any particular meaning to me, at least not until the last decade. Now I think of those backward viewing “eyes” as being real as long as I forget they are there.

At the moment my life is happening it is frequently unclear exactly what is going on. Activity of all sorts mix together to figuratively “stir up the dust” so no one spot can be perceived plainly. If it comes at all, gaining insight about the past comes in similar fashion to glancing into the distance at straight railroad and noticing the rails converging on a point. Understanding, when it comes, takes time, comes as an unexpected glimpse and only when looked back upon from a far-off view.

Also in my past there is the pointless, absurd, irrational, meaningless, nonsensical, useless and ridiculous of which no logical perception is possible. To try find real meaning where there is none to be found is “barking at the moon” and expending energy for no possible gain. It is a sickness of sorts to repeatedly attempt to find an answer to the unanswerable.

When some measure of clarity comes to me about the past, it is almost never because I have “made myself” think about it until a conclusion arrived. Quite the contrary. What comprehension and insight I get arrives when I am long done beating the subject up and have let it go sometime ago. Only when I let my grasp go is discernment and comprehension of any of my past possible.

There is irony in the fact that the more I let go of my past, the better I understand bits and pieces of it. I am grateful for that insight and for those slivers of insight that make them selves known once I tire of digging for them.

I’ve never tried to block out the memories of the past,
even though some are painful.
I don’t understand people who hide from their past.
Everything you live through helps to make you the person you are now.
Sophia Loren

First posted July 29, 2012

All That Matters


Life was a bloody battlefield
until I conquered the enemy
and won the war.

Now, life is a journey,
and I am a warrior.
Prepared for anything
and weakened by nothing.

There are hills and dales,
mountains and plateaus,
blind spots and brilliant vistas,
but none of that matters.

All that matters is my second chance,
and the only thing capable of disrupting my path,
is myself.
From “Death and Life” by B.G. Bowers

Miracles were just second chances
if you really thought about it–
second chances when all hope was lost.
Kava McLaren

Pick More Daisies

norway-picture1If I had my life to live over again,
I’d dare to make more mistakes next time.
I’d relax.
I’d limber up.
I’d be sillier than I’ve been this trip.
I would take fewer things seriously.
I would take more chances,
I would eat more ice cream and less beans.
I would, perhaps, have more actual troubles but fewer imaginary ones.
you see, I’m one of those people who was sensible and sane,
hour after hour,
day after day.

Oh, I’ve had my moments.
If I had to do it over again,
I’d have more of them.
In fact, I’d try to have nothing else – just moments,
one after another, instead of living so many yeas ahead of each day.
I’ve been one of those persons who never goes anywhere without a thermometer, a hot-water bottle, a raincoat, and a parachute.
If I could do it again, I would travel lighter than I have.

If I had to live my life over,
I would start barefoot earlier in the spring
and stay that way later in the fall.
I would go to more dances,
I would ride more merry-go-rounds,
I would pick more daisies.
By Nadine Stair, an amazing 85-year-old woman, from Louisville, Kentucky, who provided the words above after someone asked her how she would have lived her life differently if she had a chance.

Gratefulness adds richer color and a gentle texture to everything.

Never let the things you want
make you forget the things you have.

Wasting Time Well


Time is an equal opportunity employer.
Each human being has exactly the same
number of hours and minutes every day.
Rich people can’t buy more hours.
Scientists can’t invent new minutes.
And you can’t save time
to spend it on another day.
Denis Waitley

Until recently losing track of time was mostly restricted to great moments of a vacation, being totally engrossed in a good conversation or activity, being stunned by beauty or becoming caught up in the rapture of love. In those instances my awareness of the day and/or hour was fleeting and lasted for no more than seconds and minutes.

The fact that I lose track of time more now in semi-retirement is a wonderful thing. What’s meaningful is the experience of being so absorbed and so immersed is no longer restricted to “doing”. With increasing regularity I find myself wasting time without much care about its passage. It feels like I have been freed from a prison where time was my jailer.

One of my newly founded beliefs of the last decade is modern wealth is more about time than money. It was not that long ago rushing from one endeavor to another, one meeting to the next one and seeing this person and then the next person occupied the majority of my awake time. For a long while being so involved in work gave me a sense of importance that today I don’t find significant.

Time goes faster the more hollow it is. Lives with no meaning go straight past you, like trains that don’t stop at your station. Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Today I am discovering time has only the amount of importance I place on it. My experience of being alive is better when I can stop having thoughts like “what should I be doing?”, “I should be working on ___” or “I’ve got to be productive”. Such things are all in my head and broken down to their essence are actually borderline crazy! My time is mine to spend any way I choose and if ‘wasting’ it feels best, then I will do just that.

I had the mistaken belief that value should be placed based on rarity. My finding concerning time is my value of it is now placed based on the quantity of it I have. It is my hope that I can become as proficient at wasting time well as I once was at being productively time conscious.

For the wealth of time life has brought me to, I am grateful. To realize wasting time well is a good thing brings a smile of happiness and peace.

Free time is the most expensive time you have,
because nobody pays for it but you.
But that also makes it the most valuable time you have,
as you alone stand to reap the profits from spending it wisely.
Jarod Kintz

Pieces of the Past

how soon our time is gone

For the most part I am a strong man. I can keep going through just about anything, but just because I don’t stop does not mean I am not in pain. Many people mistake that ability to keep moving forward as some sort of gift when it’s only a survival skill I learned long ago.

Pain is a relatively objective, physical phenomenon; suffering is our psychological resistance to what happens. Events may create physical pain, but they do not in themselves create suffering. Resistance creates suffering. Stress happens when your mind resists what is… The only problem in your life is your mind’s resistance to life as it unfolds. Dan Millman

About many hurts of the past I am able to let go (mostly anyway) by continuing to move forward and not allowing that pain to drag me down. Then there are those slivers of grief and sadness I don’t let go of. The majority are related to women I have loved and better said, those I have never completely let go of and still carry a flame for. James Frey wrote, “The wounds that never heal can only be mourned alone.” How true!

There are songs that come on the radio that cause me to change station within a few seconds. The words pull me back to another time.

On other occasions it is places that bring up old hurts. A ‘favorite’ restaurant can do it (so I don’t eat there any more).

Driving down a particular road can take me back (so I avoid going that way).

Overhearing a casual conversation of a couple obviously in love can make me start to pine momentarily for what once was or what I hoped would be that never came.

While I know movies are not real life, there are certain ones that come close to my experiences and can wake up my sleeping past. For some reason, I will still watch such a movie to remember (must be a masochist streak in me).

“We are healed of a suffering only by experiencing it to the full” was Marcel Proust’s take on hanging on to the past. Maybe I have not grieved enough over some of the past. However, as I type those words I suddenly realize those little pains are still alive in me because I hang on to them intentionally like a cherished gift. Without a doubt some of my grasp on pieces of the past is because I don’t want to let go. It’s as if ‘what was’ is still alive in some small way as long as I hold on.

Maybe I need to adopt Rachel Naomi Remen’s attitude, “Perhaps wisdom is simply a matter of waiting, and healing a question of time. And anything good you’ve ever been given is yours forever”.  Seems given time there may yet be a way for me to keep a few memories without them hurting me.  I am grateful for all that I have experienced; for each happening that helped to shape me into the person I am today.

Scars are but evidence of life…
Evidence of choices to be learned from…
evidence of wounds…
wounds inflicted of mistakes…
wounds we choose to allow the healing of.
We likewise choose to see them,
that we may not make the same mistakes again.
Marcia Lynn McClure

A Different Eventual Destination

PastPresentFutureEvery decision you make—every decision—
is not a decision about what to do.
It’s a decision about Who You Are.
When you see this, when you understand it,
everything changes.
You begin to see life in a new way.
All events, occurrences, and situations
turn into opportunities
to do what you came here to do.
Neale Donald Walsch

Starting a new week, I am glad for the reference point Walsch’s words lend me. I am reminded that everything I do makes a difference. It is the “NOW” that matters. Every single thought, action and even inaction in the present work together to shape the direction of life.

Years ago I learned as a private pilot that a one degree error in navigational judgment makes little difference in a short distance, but over the length of a long journey such a mistake will place me far from my intended destination. And so it is with life. Every course correction, big or small, yields a different eventual destination.

How could I have known….

At fifteen years old, a part-time job taken casually would bring a life-long career.

At nineteen moving alone a thousand miles from home and essentially messing up just about everything would in time be the comparison point I would live a well-managed life by.

At twenty-two getting married to a kind and caring woman would bring the first real structure to my life, a son I love dearly and begin turmoil that is still not completely over today.

At thirty-four having an affair outside marriage would start a chain of events that only in retrospect can I see, including a spark in my heart that lives yet today.

At forty-four taking a promotion/transfer would in time change my life so completely, in the worst and best ways, to where it is hardly recognizable compared to what came before.

The answer is “I could not have known”. Life is lived looking forward while moving toward the unknown. What’s ahead is always obscured in foggy uncertainty while the past seemingly takes on crystal clarity.

The purest wisdom I have is what lies ahead matters little compared to what I do in the present. The specifics of the past are only out of focus echoes of what really happened. As long as I learn the lessons, keep the good and cast off the bad, the specifics of what has been doesn’t matter.

The future will take its shape more from what I do NOW than from anything done before. Ultimately, the only sure thing any of us will ever know for certain exists right now, at this moment. All before and after is just a thought in the mind. I am grateful for that knowledge and will continue to improve my practice of it.

…the past gives you an identity
and the future holds the promise of salvation,
of fulfillment in whatever form.
Both are illusions.
Eckhart Tolle

One I Will Not Forget

Native_American Indian_Color_apache-chiefAs I sit and stare into his eyes, and him into mine, it is as if I am looking across time. There is a momentary, but very real connection with this proud Apache Chief. Without knowing how, I am certain he appreciates me “seeing” him and acknowledging he one lived. I am honored to bear just a tiny amount of him within me now. His face will not be forgetten.

Native American Ten Commandments
1. Treat the Earth and all that dwell therein with respect
2. Remain close to the Great Spirit
3. Show great respect for your fellow beings
4. Work together for the benefit of all Mankind
5. Give assistance and kindness wherever needed
6. Do what you know to be right
7. Look after the well-being of Mind and Body
8. Dedicate a share of your efforts to the greater Good
9. Be truthful and honest at all times
10. Take full responsibility for your actions

There is no memory of the last time I slept twelve hours as I did last night, but am grateful for the rest. I need it to fight off yet another cold, my third in as many months. My leave-behind here today is short and humbly offered.

Even in illness, my gratitude is strong. It is not of the fair-weather sort. I will not grumble or grouse because I have another cold, or maybe even the flu. Rather, I will be thankful my sickness will pass and in a few days be a reminder to appreciate all the more being healthy.

This place,
This place with all creatures and their pain,
This place is beautiful all the same.
This place, with it’s ice and heat and rain,
Darkest depths, roughest terrain,
With its disasters, sorrows, shame…
This place is beautiful…
And is yours to better
And not to blame.
Evette Carter

Embrace and Appreciate Life

_meditation_of_autumn__by_janek_sedlar-d5ggia7For a long time I internally felt inferior at company meetings and business gatherings. It always seemed there were so many smarter and more successful people around, that surely I did not belong. No matter how successful I became or how many plaudits were laid at my feet there was a sense of being counterfeit; that surely I lacked the brains and ability to belong. Of course, I was always mistaken but did not know it. Instead of seeing myself clearly I learned to fake confidence and assuredness. Only a select few were ever able to see past the facade worn by my cowering inner-self.

The erroneous sense of self started with how I was conditioned as a kid. However, no matter what my parents did or didn’t do they don’t deserve the majority of the blame for my lack of self-esteem. I do! My caregivers had control of my life for around a decade and a half. I’ve had it well over thirty years. The majority of making me feel inferior was self-induced.

In the vantage point of latter middle age, now it’s obvious the inferiority feelings were all smoke and illusion. It took a long time, but no longer do I feel like I don’t belong to the “club of successful professionals”. The total of who I am makes me the equal of ANYONE.

You are one thing only.
You are a Divine Being.
An all-powerful Creator.
You are a Deity
in jeans and a t-shirt,
and within you dwells
the infinite wisdom
of the ages
and the sacred
creative force
of all that is,
will be
and ever was.
From “Devine Living:
The Essential Guide to Your True Destiny”
by Anthon St. Maarten

For what took decades to manifest, gratitude abounds within for the healthy self-esteem I enjoy today. I am less fearful, have more courage and generally feel like I can take on the world with a level of vigor previously unknown. As I often say now, the best is yet to come!

All I have learned in life really just boils down to this:
there is only one difference between the so-called wise
and the so-called foolish…and between those who are
truly happy and those who are not.
Those who are wise – and those who are happy –
embrace and appreciate life.
Those who are unhappy and unwise do not.
That is all; that is the only difference.
Rasheed Ogunlaru

Full Power Ahead

letting go

If “holding on” was a class one could take, I’d get an A+ without having to study. Being a world-class practitioner of the tightly gripped past I have both benefited and been hurt by my stubbornness. It’s takes strength and wisdom to look into the murk of what was and clearly know what to let go and what to hold on to. Sometimes it’s impossible.

There is a danger in hanging on to what is unhealthy. Gerald D. Jampolsky was focusing on the potential peril when he wrote, When we think we have been hurt by someone in the past, we build up defenses to protect ourselves from being hurt in the future. So the fearful past causes a fearful future and the past and future become one. We cannot love when we feel fear… When we release the fearful past and forgive everyone, we will experience total love and oneness with all.  The key thought in all that is “forgiveness”. When I have truly forgiven my the pain becomes exorcised, but love remains untarnished.

Like most of us, often a past chapter of my life was a combination of joy and love mixed with heartache and pain. More than I care to admit I have swirled the two together and killed the good memories burying them with the bad ones. Doing that strips my recall of not only sorrow, but happiness as well. What works much better is to find some sort of equilibrium between the two where the focus can be the reminiscent joy and love. But the sadness is not forgotten for in many ways it is the pain that makes the good all the more meaningful, like night gives meaning to daytime. This only works if my forgiveness is genuine and complete. Grief, pain and sorrow are important landmarks for my life and to completely try to make any of them vanish is to deny myself wisdom earned the hard way.

Such thinking is nowhere more important than on the subject of romantic love. In “Never Let Me Go” Kazuo Ishiguro said I keep thinking about this river somewhere, with the water moving really fast. And these two people in the water, trying to hold onto each other, holding on as hard as they can, but in the end it’s just too much. The current’s too strong. They’ve got to let go, drift apart. Often there is a story after the story where the same river brings the two who drifted apart back together at a later time . What once was can not be recreated, but with letting go new possibility is created.

A second chance is not feasible until the contents of the initial possibility are cleansed by releasing it. That does not mean to deny any part of what once was, but instead to hold memories with reverence in a past tense. Sometimes in your life you have to leave some precious things not because you don’t deserve it but because you deserve something better than that and it’s just like creating space for some bigger and much better things waiting for you in your life ahead is how Shubbanshu Tiwari explained clearing the path for new possibility. Precisely, what might be bigger and better can not come to be until what was has been let go.

I am grateful for what Ray Bradbury said: Learning to let go should be learned before learning to get. Life should be touched, not strangled. You’ve got to relax, let it happen at times, and at others move forward with it. It’s like boats. You keep your motor on so you can steer with the current. And when you hear the sound of the waterfall coming nearer and nearer, tidy up the boat, put on your best tie and hat, and smoke a cigar right up till the moment you go over. That’s a triumph.

Well written Mr. Bradbury! I am grateful that your words are exactly what I needed to read this morning. My past is at peace (at least much more so than ever). I gratefully have hope for the future that the best of my life lies in front of me. Full power ahead.

…Love is easy, falling in love is even easier,
but letting that love go, is the most difficult thing
you’ll ever have to do. Some of us never let it go
and sometimes it takes a while to realize what you want.
But your heart will always have the right answer in the end.
You just have to figure out what it’s telling you.
Marie Coulson

One Step at a Time

rear-view-mirrorIn a backwards look it is relatively easy to see how my life moved from one point to another even thought back then forward momentum seemed to be straight into fog. Everything ahead was obscured and I gave little thought to what I was doing or how my actions were shaping my future life. In a way I was like the fish who did not know he lived in water, except my pond was a lake of dysfunctional behavior.

I was dripping in pain, loneliness and self-induced delusion when I wrote “Alone”. It’s interesting that a man wrote it but the feelings are those of a child begging to be loved echoing within.

I am alone now,
No one to talk to but myself.
All others have gone,
or else forsaken me long ago.
I look inward,
But only a hallow do I find,
Love inside,
But no one who wants it.
Why am I never good enough,
Why don’t I get loved more?
Why do those who say they care
Hurt me so much?
I cry alone…..

Over twenty years ago “Mistakes” was an partial and incomplete list of the mistakes I believed I had made to date.

I choose the wrong parents or else they choose me.
I grew up wanting love and getting little.
I give too much in my desire to be wanted and loved.
I married the wrong person.
I should have stayed single till much older.
I am too troubled to have a relationship with most people.
I am too good at my work and capable at little else.
I choose the wrong career.
I live in the wrong place.
I have driven away the love of my life.
I am sick because I did not take care of myself.
I managed money badly and had a car repossessed when young.
I was deceitful with women.
I have long loved someone outside marriage.
I have lied to have time with the one I love.
I have denied relations to my marriage partner because I love another.
I have stayed married.
I have a job I am good at but don’t like much.
I like more money than is healthy.
I am weak and need others for strength.
I need the one I love too much.
I express my love too openly to the one I love.
I should be stronger and more silent with love.
I stole a camera when I was 17.
I have not made a difference in this life.
I have been too self-centered.
I have expected too much of others.
I have been too selfish.
I have hurt others In business and messed up lives.
I failed the one I love.
I destroyed what the love of my life once felt for me.
I feel sorry for myself too much.
… Mistakes…
only a few of thousands…
oh, to have time to do it over again and right the wrongs…

These days I find myself wishing I had journaled or kept better notes of my thoughts and feelings of my 20s and 30s. However, am grateful for the random files I have found in the last few days that I wrote back in the early to mid 90’s. Seeing flashes of my old self mirrored through time illustrates how well recovery can work. “It works if you work it” is the saying often spoken at the end of 12 step meetings. As flimsy as that might initially sound to many, it’s true beyond what an uninvolved person can grasp. One step at a time, one day at a time: it works.

Happy trails to you,
until we meet again.
Some trails are happy ones,
Others are blue.
It’s the way you ride
the trail that counts,
Here’s a happy one for you.
From the song “Happy Trails” by Dale Evans