Improved Means to an Unimproved End

First posted June 30, 2012

Living in a country where I have been programmed to consume, it’s difficult not to indulge to or even past the point of what I can afford. Things have not always been so in this country. Somewhere in the last hundred years or so American culture went from pursuing our needs to one of chasing our wants. Hence, the concept of a “standard of living” came about which is made possible by all who want to sell stuff at a profit.

It is evident to me I don’t need most of what I have, but have been advertised into a little bit of insanity about raising my “standard of living”; having more stuff, newer stuff, better stuff or more expensive stuff. Like a hamster on a wheel I have gone round and round trying to satisfy an insatiable desire. There is nothing wrong with wanting, but what I do about those desires matters.

As one friend said to me years ago, “having lots of stuff is OK, as long as the stuff does not have you”. Having grown up poor it has been easy for me to grow emotionally connected to my stuff as I have succeeded and progressed professionally. Having “stuff” is part of my “other esteem” issue when things outside me sometimes get substituted for where my self-esteem should be. Just recognizing I do that and accepting it has been a healthy step.

Now days I sometimes finding myself feeling burdened by all the things I have. Moving out of the country for a year a while back I was amazed how much storage space was needed for my stuff. No storage unit was large enough. I had to rent a warehouse!

What I hang on to actually shapes my life to an extent. The stuff determines to a point how I spend my money, where I live, what I do and don’t do and even when I do it. Honestly there have been times when I yearned for the youthful days when everything I owned would fit in my car and the smallest Uhaul trailer I could rent. True or not, I recall feeling freer back then. Certainly youth contributed to that sense, but the lack of things/stuff/possessions/crap/junk, whatever you want to call them, had a lot to do with how I felt.

So what have I done recently? Completed a project of framing items collected for twenty plus years.  My holiday weekend project is to hang them in my home. More stuff to care for and maintain. Alas, my addiction continues, but not without some progress.

I am grateful to recognize my affliction and even understand it a little. Half of facing any issue is coming to realize it exists. There I have arrived and now the difficult work begins over time: making my load of stuff lighter. After all, everything I own will belong to someone else one day. One of the sorting mechanisms I have already discovered for deciding what to keep and not keep is asking myself “I wonder how much this will sell for at an estate/garage sale some day?”

Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys,
which distract our attention from serious things.
They are but improved means to an unimproved end.
Henry David Thoreau

Posted in Life, Seeing 'what is', Self Awareness | Tagged , ,

I am Nobody but Myself

 

Originally posted November 29, 2011

I am all the ages I’ve ever been.
Anne Lamott

I love that quote!  It is insightful and true.

I am still the little 3 1/2 year-old boy who sneaked his father’s pocket knife and when no one was looking busied himself poking holes in the bottom of a metal Band-Aid can, at least until I jammed the whole blade deep into the side of my left hand I was holding the box with.  The moment I saw the blood is my first real memory of knowing fear.  I remember vividly being scared and then seeing how afraid my twenty-two year old mother was when she couldn’t get the bleeding stopped.  Wrapping my hand that wept blood with each of my heartbeats in a towel she took me to her mother’s house about a quarter of a mile away.  How we got there I have no memory of.

My grandmother was the daughter of a man known in his time as an “herb doctor”.  Country folk depended on such healers for every day medical needs as the closest doctor was ten to twenty miles away.  She knew from watching her father that turpentine and sugar would stop bleeding.  Generous amounts of both were poured on my hand, held in place by a towel and the bleeding did slowly stop.  Except it burned like hell, that’s all I have clear memory of.  I do know my hand healed and when making a face with the side of my hand using my thumb as the bottom of a mouth, one eye is already there; a scar from that old wound.

Still today I am the little boy who entered first grade when I was two months past my 6th birthday.  In the rural south there was no kindergarten except a private one in town the “rich kids” got to go to.  I was not one of those.  Being dropped into the first year of school with basically no preparation it remains abundantly clear today how fearful I was initially.  The whole place intimidated me and I struggled at first.  Gradually being sad and wanting to go home went away.  I caught up, was able to keep up and in time grew to love school.

The seven-year old boy in his second year in grade school is still within me.  I had Mrs. Betty Levie as my teacher.  She was young and liked us kids.  We liked her.  Years later she would be my science teacher in junior high and encouraged me to enter projects into several science fairs.  She even drove me to a regional fair forty miles away that my family had no interest in getting me to.  Without Mrs. Levie’s help I would never have won the regional junior high first place trophy for Zoology when I was thirteen.

A boy of ten’s memory is alive and recalls sitting at the kitchen table with his mother and brother eating dinner when she made her big announcement.  She was going to marry the guy she had been seeing which my brother and I did not like at all.  My mind screamed “don’t do it”, but the words were never spoken aloud.  I knew it would do no good to open my mouth.  Within two years this man we were made to call “dad” showed himself to be mentally twisted and down right evil.  Even if it would have done no good, I wish I had spoken up when my mother asked how we felt about her marrying the turkey!

I am still the young man who moved to Colorado at eighteen who struggled to make ends meet.  Having my car repossessed was an embarrassment I can still feel today.  I stuck it out in Colorado Springs and in time was able to support myself working a full-time and two part-time jobs.  While other young twenty-something’s were partying and having a good time, I was working three jobs.  I don’t regret it though.  That determination I managed to muster served me well then and what I learned from the experience has been a good reference point ever since.

The young man of twenty-three who took a bride of twenty-two is still within. We were both just “kids”.  Outwardly so sure of where I was going while internally scared with no idea what the future held, my young wife was the stability I needed to begin to make some sense of life.  Ultimately the marriage ended up being a mess, but it lasted for two decades, produced a son I love dearly and contained my first lessons of what love was.

And so on… I am the same person I was at 30 when my son arrived, at 40 when my first marriage stated to fall apart and at 50 when I was fired from a job of eighteen years.  All the ages I have been created a life cut into facets like a diamond that sparkles in the light when looked at it from an appreciating angle.  Some detail has faded into the background, but key events and periods that shaped me are vividly within. During the near fifty-eight and a half years I have been blessed with so far, I am thankful to have the ability to remember so much. Gratitude runs deep for it all; the joy, the pain, the happiness, the heartache and the love that shaped and guided me to be the man I am today.

All my life I had been looking for something, and everywhere I turned someone tried to tell me what it was.  I accepted their answers too, though they were often in contradiction and even self-contradictory.  I was naïve.  I was looking for myself and asking everyone except myself questions which I, and only I, could answer.  It took me a long time and much painful boomeranging of my expectations to achieve a realization everyone else appears to have been born with:  that I am nobody but myself.  Ralph Ellison

Posted in Beyond the obvious, Embracing life, Life | Tagged , ,

How You Play The Game

(Originally posted on July 18, 2012)

Being an ambitious and driven person it has been results I’ve focused on most for the majority of my life. I suppose that will never completely change. However in recent years I’ve learned to have a lot of respect for my effort. Being able to accurately see when I have “done my best” has become a healthy benchmark and a boost to my self-esteem. It took a lot of failures to discover giving something all I had to give was ultimately what matters most.

Was my effort toward what I was trying to accomplish the best I had to give at the time? Being able to ask that question and truthfully answer it has been a sizeable alteration of my vantage point. Now I know doing my absolute best puts me in a place where I own no one, especially myself, an apology or excuse.  My best is ALWAYS enough.  Giving all I have to something is an accomplishment within itself.

There is a positive bent to realizing all is not lost if I don’t win the battle. What matters is having the strength to try with all I know to do, to fight for my objective and face the possibility of falling short; of being defeated. If all I do is put a gold star by my name each time I master something or fully accomplish it, so much due credit will be lacking. Some of my greatest and most elegant struggles were for things I never completed or fully accomplished. Giving myself praise for effort lights my self-esteem up and recognizes I am what I do, not just what I accomplish.

My brain used to be like Velcro only for my full and rare successes.  I made them stick so I could wallow in them as long as I could.  My thoughts were like Teflon for what I failed doing or succeeding at.  I refused to let falling short stick to me and wanted to forget as fast as I possibly could.

Of course I still like completely realizing an objective but the fact of its accomplishment has the most joy when I don’t dwell on it. When I stopped hiding my failures, things got better.  Being pleased with “me” all the times I did my very best, but fell short or did not complete what I had started gave me a lot more to be proud of. It turned out how I kept score internally matters a lot!  A corny, but true saying describes well what I have come to know first hand:  “It’s not if you win or lose, but how you play the game!”

So here I am today readily able to give myself full credit for a lot of time and effort diligently put into a failure. It’s the struggle that matters; the amount of heart and soul I put into my effort that has become an improved self-judgment yardstick. And I am far better for it and grateful for the perspective that allows me to see things that way.

There are defeats more triumphant than victories.
Michel de Montaigne

Posted in Life

Everything…

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This life is what you make it.
No matter what, you’re going to mess up sometimes,
it’s a universal truth.
But the good part is you get to decide
how you’re going to mess it up…
Keep trying, hold on, and always, always,
always believe in yourself,
because if you don’t, then who will…
So keep your head high, keep your chin up,
and most importantly,
keep smiling, because life’s a beautiful thing
and there’s so much to smile about.
Marilyn Monroe

 

Posted in Beyond the obvious, Embracing life, Life as it really is | Tagged ,

The Space I Have (repost)

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(Originally Posted on August 10, 2013)

I had a little talk with myself.

I asked, “If nothing was holding you back and you could live anywhere, where would you be?”

I quickly answered, “Right here where I am” but knew the answer was far more than location. Yet I had no better quick answer.

I asked, “Why don’t you know for sure exactly where you’d like to be”.

I answered, “That’s a good question. I think it is more a state of being, than a physical place. My happiness is not about being some where, it is about how I fill the space where I am.

“Please explain” I said to myself.

I answered, “It’s peace I want most; to wish to be nowhere else living any other life”. I found a description that hints at that: www.experienceproject.com

I am at peace and comfortable with and with in my self.
I am not always happy with what I do in a certain moment
but I accept it as “what I have done” and go on;
maybe to learn from it and to change in the future and maybe not.
I don’t fret too much over the flawed person I am.
I do my very best to pass this same understanding
and acceptance on towards others as well.
For, giving them the benefit of the doubt
(till such a time as they prove undeserving of it)
I trust that their intentions are for the best
even as I believe mine are.

I heard myself ask, “How do you find peace?”

I answered, “You don’t find it.  It finds you. Staying present and accepting life as it really is invites peace. I am grateful be reminded that peacefulness is not about being any particular place. It comes from how well I fill the space I have.

Acceptance is not liking
or agreeing with,
it’s not submitting.
It’s not fighting with or resisting.
It’s not giving in or strategizing,
it’s not even a step towards resolution.
Acceptance is letting go of all judgments,
opinions, positions and prejudices.
Acceptance is accepting everything
about what is and isn’t so
about any given situation.
If you want to find peace
first you must find acceptance.
http://www.peaceiswhereiam.org/

Posted in Life

Many Cowards

one strong enough

Love knows no master.
It is the sole sovereign of a heart.
Willingly one becomes its captive
and gladly serves its needs.
No bondage is more sought after.
No chains are more happily received.
James Browning

Posted in Lessons learned the hard way, Love, Relationships | Tagged , ,

Continue Striving

being born today

 

There is no knowledge
so hard to acquire
as the knowledge of how
to live this life
well and naturally.
Michel de Montaigne

Posted in Life, Perspective, Wisdom | Tagged , ,

Only Law of Life

if you can't risk

True love doesn’t exist,
for, love is always true.
If it is not true,
then it is not love at all.”
Ashmita Acharya,

Posted in Beyond the obvious, Life as it really is, Love | Tagged , ,

What We Believe

memories 2 copy

Nothing is ever really lost to us
as long as we remember it.
L.M. Montgomery

Posted in Life, Memories, Wisdom | Tagged , ,

As You Imagine

you don't see me

Your eyes are like a mirror…
and what you see in me
is a reflection of you.
CV Pillay

Posted in Beyond the obvious, Insight, Life as it really is | Tagged , ,