Where I Am

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Pain: An unpleasant sensation occurring in varying degrees of severity
as a consequence of injury, disease, or emotional suffering or distress.

A rather amazing realization is beginning to make itself known: how negatively staying in a job I did not enjoy effected me. I loved the people I worked with and that now appears clearly as the reason I kept doing it. Well, that and the fact that I did know what else to do. Making a choice to leave a profession of decades is a bit like climbing a tall, difficult to scale mountain: difficult to prepare for and even more difficult to do.

With my work responsibility lightening up before retirement I find myself reviewing the previous few months. The almost startling discovery is how much less depression has effected me once I made the choice to hang it up. It’s easy to understand why from my current vantage point: I do not have to be concerned about the performance of the business, the profitability of the next quarter or what our competitors might do. Doing such things had been a part of my life for so long they had become habitually normal (but in reality is anything but normal).

Only in giving up the emotional suffering and distress that came with being a responsible manager of a large business have I begun to realize the madness I lived in for so long. It has been said there are four primary ways my body has to deal with pain: sleep, forgetting, madness and death. Many times sleep came with difficulty due to my business worries. Forgetting was not an option and obviously I am still alive, which left madness for me to escape into from time to time. And my brand of madness was depression.

Perhaps the greatest faculty our minds possess is the ability to cope with pain. Classic thinking teaches us of the four doors of the mind, which everyone moves through according to their need.

First is the door of sleep. Sleep offers us a retreat from the world and all its pain. Sleep marks passing time, giving us distance from the things that have hurt us. When a person is wounded they will often fall unconscious. Similarly, someone who hears traumatic news will often swoon or faint. This is the mind’s way of protecting itself from pain by stepping through the first door.

Second is the door of forgetting. Some wounds are too deep to heal, or too deep to heal quickly. In addition, many memories are simply painful, and there is no healing to be done. The saying ‘time heals all wounds’ is false. Time heals most wounds. The rest are hidden behind this door.

Third is the door of madness. There are times when the mind is dealt such a blow it hides itself in insanity. While this may not seem beneficial, it is. There are times when reality is nothing but pain, and to escape that pain the mind must leave reality behind.

Last is the door of death. The final resort. Nothing can hurt us after we are dead, or so we have been told. From “The Name of the Wind” by Patrick Rothfuss

Right now life feels so much lighter than it ever has in my adult life. Allowing me to be accountable only for myself is eye-opening. There are those I care about who I’ll help without hesitation, but I am not responsible for them. It feels like half the weight of the world has been taken from my shoulders and I have not had a bout of depression in months. So this is what taking care of one’s self feels like. I like it and am grateful to be exactly where I am!

I give you this to take with you:
Nothing remains as it was.
If you know this, you can
begin again, with pure joy
in the uprooting.
Judith Minty

Farewell

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June 28, 2013

Dear co-workers, colleagues, associates, friends,

Getting to this date seemed to take forever and now suddenly it has arrived: our last day together. For going on eight years you have believed in me to lead you. I grateful beyond my ability to express my feelings for that honor. I thank you for your unwavering support especially during the times when you did not understand or agree. You simply had faith that I somehow I knew what I was doing.

To a person, you are all good people and talented professionals. We accomplished the near impossible and our competitors did not know what hit them. The business that for years had been given up for dead before our time, became the contender that succeeded and never backed down. We showed ’em didn’t we!

You have been my “family” through one of the most difficult periods of my personal life. I am thankful for the times you “were there for me” and privileged to have had your trust that allowed you to come to me for help with your tough times, professionally and personally.

Some of you have told me I have been great manager; a good boss. If that is true it is because you made me that way. I had to measure up to all of you.

I regret our company has sold this operation, but proud we increased the value to make this a sought after property. Now we are scattering to the wind, but I will always hold high these shared years with you as precious memory. It has been the finest experience of my career. Thank you for making it so.

Sincerely,

Me

Man’s feelings are always purest and most glowing
in the hour of meeting and of farewell.
Jean Paul Richter

To Love Life

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Self-knowledge has no beginning and no end.
It is a constant process of discovery,
and what is discovered is true,
and truth is liberating…
Jiddu Krishnamurti

Once I became open to discovering the truth about who I was and how life really worked I became happier. That happened NOT because I was always pleased with what was found, but because what I discovered was the truth. There can be no happiness without self-honesty and a genuine acceptance of reality. Now I am grateful to have some knowledge about both.

…to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you’ve held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again…
Ellen Bass

Peace and Quiet

peace-and-quietFor approximately twenty years when asked what I wanted most my response was “peace”. The long-time hope was the demands of work and responsibility would settle down and emotionally I would find real equilibrium with those I care about. Without knowing it “fake it until you make it” was what I was practicing the first ten years I gave that answer.

Soon I will be taking my life in a different direction and was struck this morning with thoughts about this thing I have referred to as “peace”. I asked myself, “Really, what is it you have been yearning for?”

From on-line definitions I crafted a composite meaning of “peace” that aligns with what I aspire to:
• A state of harmony, tranquility or quiet;
• Freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts, and emotions;
• Harmony in personal relations;
• Free from strife;

After I read over that list a few times it hit me. “Peace” is almost entirely an inside job! I knew that, but have never had the clarity to completely accept the responsibility is mine. “Peace” has little to do with the circumstances of my life. Blaming external things for a lack of peacefulness is a distraction at best and a self-told lie at worst.

Accept what is: There is only so much we can affect. What we cannot change, what we cannot influence no matter what, should not be a concern to us. This is what I notice with so many people, in that we focus and linger on things which we have no control over. Why worry about something that all the worrying in the world will not change? Why care about what other people think of us when we’re not even sure what it is they are actually thinking? Once you open the blinds to this fact, and start accepting what is that you cannot change, you automatically relieve yourself of a mountain of stress and anxiety. It’s like a huge weight has been lifted from your shoulders. Taking this path is following a road towards peace.

Live in the present moment: Most of the time, what we worry about is relating to something either in the past, or something that hasn’t happened. Living in the present moment erases all such thoughts. Why worry about something in the past that we cannot ever change? Why worry about something that we are not even sure will happen or not? This is why in the present moment, you find true inner peace. In the present moment, there are no problems and no concerns. There is only stillness, and it is within that stillness that you can uncover peace. http://www.ineedmotivation.com/blog/2008/05/find-inner-peace-in-10-ways/

Without doubt there is more peace in my life now that ever before. While far from a thorough practice, accepting what is and living in the present have had a sizeable positive impact on the quality of my existence. It seems so simple, but that wisdom was obscured from me by my own thoughts for many years. Gratefully I can see that now.

Nothing can bring
you peace but yourself.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Keep Practicing the Art of Living

viktor-franklIn a little more than two weeks we arrive upon the 108th anniversary of birth for Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist, Dr. Viktor Emil Frankl, MD, PhD (March 26, 1905 – September 2, 1997). I did not read his renowned work “Man’s Search for Meaning” until about ten years and remember vividly how that little book stunned me with its simplicity and wisdom. In honor of the man and the teachings he left behind, what is just below is taken from an article published in the New York Times on the day Dr. Frankl died sixteen years ago.

Viktor Frankl’s mother, father, brother and pregnant wife were all killed in the camps. He lost everything, he said, that could be taken from a prisoner, except one thing: ”the last of the human freedoms, to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Every day in the camps, he said, prisoners had moral choices to make about whether to submit internally to those in power who threatened to rob them of their inner self and their freedom. It was the way a prisoner resolved those choices, he said, that made the difference.

In ”Man’s Search for Meaning,” Dr. Frankl related that even at Auschwitz some prisoners were able to discover meaning in their lives — if only in helping one another through the day — and that those discoveries were what gave them the will and strength to endure.

After their arrival at Auschwitz, they and 1,500 others were put into a shed built for 200 and made to squat on bare ground, each given one four-ounce piece of bread to last them four days. On his first day, Dr. Frankl was separated from his family; later he and a friend marched in line, and he was directed to the right and his friend was directed to he left — to a crematory.

As their illusions dropped away and their hopes were crushed, they would watch others die without experiencing any emotion. At first the lack of feeling served as a protective shield. But then, he said, many prisoners plunged with surprising suddenness into depressions so deep that the sufferers could not move, or wash, or leave the barracks to join a forced march; no entreaties, no blows, no threats would have any effect. There was a link, he found, between their loss of faith in the future and this dangerous giving up.

”We had to learn ourselves, and furthermore we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us,” he wrote. ”We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life but instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life, daily and hourly.

”Our answer must consist not in talk and medication, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.”

Prisoners taught one another not to talk about food where starvation was a daily threat, to hide a crust of bread in a pocket to stretch out the nourishment. They were urged to joke, sing, take mental photographs of sunsets and, most important, to replay valued thoughts and memories. Dr. Frankl said it was ”essential to keep practicing the art of living, even in a concentration camp.” By Holcomb B. Noble http://www.nytimes.com/1997/09/04/world/dr-viktor-e-frankl-of-vienna-psychiatrist-of-the-search-for-meaning-dies-at-92.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm

When difficulty comes, I try to remember the insights Dr. Frankl left for us distilled in his quote, “Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’. Dr. Frankl’s book, has been deeply meaningful to me and millions of others. I am grateful he left the world a better place than he found it.

Being tolerant does not mean
that I share another ones belief.
But it does mean I acknowledge
another ones right to believe,
and obey, his own conscience.
Victor E. Frankl

If You Don’t Love What You Do…

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I had been busy deafening my parents for years by creating high-pitched squawking melodies on my “recorder”, the closest thing we had to a wood instrument at home. On band day I was so excited to finally get to see and hold a genuine, shiny flute in my 10-year-old hands.

I picked it up, my eyes gleaming, and held it to my lips. “Pfffffffffffffffffffft.” Nothing. I tried again, blowing into it like the 12-year-old owner of the flute had showed me. Again, nothing but a music-less “Pfffffffft.” I couldn’t believe it. My heart-felt heavy in my chest, and tears pricked at my eyes. I gave up, and handed her back her flute. Next, I decided to try the clarinet. It wasn’t the flute, and I wasn’t a huge fan, but at least it was still in the part of the orchestra that got the pretty melodies. “Honk-screech!”

Feeling even worse, I made my way to the back of the room where the brass instruments were. Someone handed me a French Horn. I held it to my lips, and out came a full, rich sound totally recognizable as belonging to a musical instrument. I shrugged, and wrote down “French Horn” next to my name, as by default this was obviously my instrument.

I played the French Horn for five years, including the first couple of years of junior high school. I hated the thing. I never got the good parts of any musical piece. In my second year of junior high school, my apparent “rare talent” for this instrument got the attention of a professional French Horn player in the city. He even offered me free private lessons after school. (It really was so kind of him to do that, I hope he never reads this). The plan was that I’d play in a major youth orchestra, and eventually play professionally.

I don’t remember how, but somehow I managed to quit the darn thing, despite everyone’s excitement about my supposed talent. I didn’t get much respite though, as fairly soon after I got sucked into the vortex of being a “gifted student in the Sciences”. I was finally spit out by the system at the age of 28. By then, I was not surprisingly a suicidally depressed Emergency Medicine resident. Same phenomenon, different vocation.

People don’t mean any harm by identifying talent in kids and giving them opportunities to develop that talent. If the child actually enjoys the activity, this is a fantastic thing. A friend of mine in junior high was discovered by a professional ballet company, and within weeks accepted an offer of a full scholarship at the best ballet school in the country. She dances professionally today at a well-respected company. But she loves ballet – this is the difference.

I so wish that some grown-up had encouraged me to choose the musical instrument that I loved passionately, along with the reassurance that I could learn how to play it. I wish that someone had seen past my “gift for science” and paid equal attention to how much I loved my creative writing classes.

You can only go so far on talent alone. If you’re good at something, it gets noticed and valued by others, and it certainly opens doors. It can generate much-needed income, which can be important. Yet when it comes to truly fulfilling your potential and knowing the joy of doing what you were made to do, the only thing that will give you that experience is what you love.

I fully appreciate that you can’t always do what you want. Economic realities are what they are, and it would be foolish for many people to abandon the job that pays the bills in order to pursue their passion. Then again, there are plenty of people who have done just that, and have done very well.

Regardless, if you’re honest with yourself about what your true passion is, you owe it to yourself to pursue it in some form, even if you never quit your day job and you never earn a penny doing what you love. The key is to do what you love, somehow. From “Being Good at Something Doesn’t Mean You Should Be Doing It” by Dr. Susan Biali, M.D. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/prescriptions-life/201203/being-good-something-doesn-t-mean-you-should-be-doing-it

And so it is with great gratitude within the last year I discovered what I have long done as a profession was never what I truly loved, but instead what I chose to make money doing. The avocation has treated me well, but is far from the work I want this life to leave behind. This is the year I change direction and follow my dreams. For the inspiration and new courage to try something new, I am thankful.

Until a person can say deeply and honestly,
“I am what I am today because of the choices
I made yesterday,” that person cannot say,
“I choose otherwise.”
Stephen R. Covey

Patient Teacher

forest starkIt has been said that life is the most patient teacher. You will be presented with the same experience over and over until you learn the best way to deal with the situation. This is not because life is cruel. Rather, it is because things have a way of coming back to haunt us when we don’t deal with them. One form of intelligence is the ability to learn from mistakes. When you are presented with a painful experience, take the time to think about how you can avoid it in the future.

Young, carefree, innocent
You sing, laugh and dance
Taking in all Gods’ glory
At every single chance.

Grown up
You ignore the wonders
that you cherished as a child
Gone is the carefree, honesty and mild.

You walk around with blinders on,
Into the race of money and greed.
Not caring who gets hurt
Just to fulfill your selfish needs.

Stepping over the line of morals
to have wealth and material things
Ignoring all Gods gifts
Like the first rain in Spring

Keep that little child inside!
Hold her close to your heart,
We’re only here for a brief time
Then with this world, we must part.
From “Carefree” by Nordica D. Lindgren

Some days to simply say “I am glad I’m alive” and mean it is the greatest gratitude I can express. “I’m glad I’m alive!”

Saying thank you is more than good manners.
It is good spirituality.
Alfred Painter

Memo To Myself

NOTEBOOK IN CHECK WITH PEN IIFebruary 3, 2013
Memo
To: Myself
From: Me
RE: Living well

This morning, please read the list below s  l  o  w  l  y  before scurrying off into your day. Don’t hurry. Take your time. Soak up the wisdom and your day will be better for it.

  • Remember that no one has all he answers to life.
  • Life is an adventure that must be enjoyed to the fullest.
  • Sometimes it is the surprises along the way that make it all worthwhile.
  • Remember that if today seems dark, tomorrow will always be brighter.
  • Sometimes we need to get lost in the darkness before we can fully appreciate the light on our path.
  • Remember to appreciate the moment you are in.
  • When you live in the past or for the future, you miss everything in between, and you will have never truly lived.
  • Remember that change is a good thing.
  • When you learn new things and take on new challenges, you expand your mind and become a better person for it.
  • Remember that if you love someone, tell them.
  • Life is short and it moves very quickly.
  • Loving someone openly gives purpose and meaning to your days.
  • Remember to stop and take a breath.
  • Life is not a race to be won.
  • The only way to enjoy all of it is one moment at a time.

(List originated by Rebecca Finkelstein)

Remember you are perfectly imperfect.
I am grateful for you.
I love you,
Me

Talk to yourself
like you would
to someone you love.
Brene Brown

A Living, Not a Life

4535868510_a1bdaf6707What is work? According to the dictionary: activity in which one exerts strength or faculties to do or perform something; job; employment; a trade, profession; labor, task, or duty that is one’s accustomed means of livelihood.

Yep. That’s where I will be heading shortly this morning: off to work to earn my paycheck. But later this year I will leave the profession I have long grown tired of and jump off into the unknown. Each thought of doing more of I really want to do with less money, I grow increasingly excited. Fifteen years ago I would have thought that was craziness. Today I know the scorecard of life is NOT about money, what job is held nor how much one works, but instead about how much one lives.

We’re ambivalent about work because in our capitalist system it means work-for-pay (wage-labor), not for its own sake. It is what philosophers call an instrumental good, something valuable not in itself but for what we can use it to achieve. For most of us, a paying job is still utterly essential — as masses of unemployed people know all too well. But in our economic system, most of us inevitably see our work as a means to something else: it makes a living, but it doesn’t make a life. Gary Gutting, New York Times

Do not waste the vast majority of your life doing something you hate so that you can spend the small remainder sliver of your life in modest comfort. You may never reach that end anyway. Resist the temptation to get a job. Instead, play. Find something you enjoy doing. Do it. Over and over again. You will become good at it for two reasons: you like it, and you do it often. Soon, that will have value in itself. Adrian Tan

When I weigh things out I don’t believe I wasted the majority of my life working. The way forward was blessed with a rewarding profession that enhanced my existence to a great degree. Over time though, it became just a job; something I did because I thought I was required to do. There were true responsibilities of paying bills, saving, helping my son get the education he wanted and supporting a couple of ex-wives. Those are behind me.

Eventually I will need to generate income to augment my savings, but what I do will be something I truly want to do that does not rob me of too much time. What a rare advantage to have the room to sort out what that might be (actually I believe if I keep an open mind and my awareness sharp it will appear in my path). I’m approaching a new personal frontier that is both stimulating and forbidding. It’s the new and uncertain feelings that I am the most grateful for. They make me feel fully alive!

Work without love is slavery.
Mother Teresa

Work and the Ability to Change

I’m packing and getting ready to rush to the airport to return home after a business trip that has taken up the majority of the week. I find myself asking “why I work” a lot these days. And more so, why do I work in the same profession I have been in for many years. While clear answers are difficult to come by, I do find guides along the way like the article just below titled “Why Do We Work” from the Washington Post by Michael Maccoby.

Many people would be happier with jobs that make better use of their abilities. Even so, people do not work for money or survival alone. Even when necessity forces us to take a job, financial need is not the only reason we work.

Work ties us to a real world that tells us whether our ideas make sense; it demands that we discipline our talents and master our impulses. To realize our potentialities, we must focus them in a way that relates to the human community. We need to feel needed. And to feel needed, we must be evaluated by others in whatever coinage, tangible or not, culture employs. Our sense of dignity and self-worth depends on being recognized by others through our work. Without work, we deteriorate. We need to work.

In this still fragile economy, many people will be motivated at work they do not like mainly to keep their jobs for the sake of income and mental health. But a leader who wants enthusiastic collaborators needs to engage them in work that is meaningful to them. This can be done by focusing on four Rs: responsibilities, relationships, rewards and reasons.

We are motivated when our responsibilities are meaningful and engage our abilities and values. The most meaningful responsibilities stretch and develop us. Caring people are motivated by work that helps others. Craftsmen are motivated by producing high quality products.

We are motivated by good relationships with bosses, collaborators, and customers. Fun at work is motivating. So is appreciation for helping others.

Rewards can be motivating, but they can be overvalued. Of course, investment bankers will exhaust themselves for huge pay offs. And piece workers, sewing garments or assembling gadgets, will work harder producing more finished products for the extra dollars. But there is no evidence that teachers will teach better to make more money. Incentive pay focuses a person on particular tasks, like teaching to the tests. It can stimulate a doctor to see more patients, but not treat them any better. Or it can strengthen a boss’s authority by rewarding a subordinate for following orders. But if someone does not feel fairly rewarded compared to peers, incentive pay becomes de-motivating. People may be more motivated by public recognition and appreciation for their work than by money.

Reasons can be the most powerful motivators. Workers doing repetitive work on an assembly line during World War II were highly motivated because they were helping to win the war. The same work in peace time would be boring. People take pride in work that contributes to the well-being of others and the common good. Leaders who articulate a meaningful purpose, support good relationships, give people responsibilities that engage and develop them, and recognize exceptional work will most certainly gain enthusiastic collaborators.

For the moment I am content to do the work at the job I have, yet I know big changes are ahead for me. For so long change was unnerving, but today I am grateful to say I am excited about the possibilities and open to where the future takes me!

What people have the capacity to choose,
they have the ability to change.
Madeleine Albright