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Thursday, September 29, 2016

Maybe We're Just Not Listening

I've often wondered if, how, and when God actually talks to us.

I'm probably not the only one wondering that too, I suspect.

Maybe though it's the wrong way to go about it.

Maybe God talks to us all the time, it's just that we aren't listening very often.  I know, this can get very new age-ish very quickly, and I'm not suggesting that we all need to go to Walden and spend a year in a cabin seeking enlightenment either.  What I am suggesting though is that in our arrogance, we expect to receive things in nice little burning bush packages, lightening bolts, or edicts from God-professionals who also just happen to drive nicer cars than we do.  We want God to talk to us like we want fast food:  Quickly and without it costing too much of our time.

Somehow I just think we're getting it all wrong.

I'm not claiming, by the way, that God talks to me...all the time or even any of the time for that matter.  What I am claiming is that I'm pretty horrible at listening.  Or watching.  Or even noticing.

As a younger person, I was far too busy for such stuff.  I just wanted a dose of God on Sundays (which I mostly didn't get) and maybe someone to pray too as I ventured out during that snowstorm.  What I wanted was one-way communication (me to God) and a few favors (God to me) in return.  Age, however, has its benefits, none the least of which is a larger lifetime of perspective.  Somehow I think I got the communicating with a higher power thing wrong.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Senator Warren vs. CEO Stumpf (Wells Fargo)

Submitted without commentary; watch, read, and draw your own conclusions.

You can find CEO Stumpf's official statement to the U.S. Senate HERE.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Making October Great Again

In theory I should be loving October:

The weather isn't too hot, nor is it too cold.

I like the changing Fall foliage.

The non-summer routine has taken hold.

It's a photographer's dream.

It's a great time to ride the bike.

I love taking a trip out to the pumpkin patch.

I like preparing the yard for winter.

Yet over the years, October hasn't been so good for me.  I have 8 years worth of blog postings to prove the point.  What to do?  Well, starting next month I am going to take October back.  Yes, I'm going to "Make October Great Again".  All of my postings in October will be positive reflections on the world in and around me.  It's the perfect time really, especially given the fact that the media will, by the time October actually rolls around, basically just be saying the words "Trump" and "Clinton" over and over and over again anyway, to the point where blood will be flowing from all of our ears.

Oh, and yes, I am stealing a certain political candidate's slogan.  The above graphic is really just a cheesy modification of a bumper sticker you can find HERE.

Making October Great Again...coming to a blog near you.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Treading While Whispers Become Shouts

Friday Evening, September 9th
I'm sitting here, basically treading water, and I'm not sure why.  Now in theory, this just shouldn't be, as I'm physically doing well, including wonderful little gems such as... last check-up yielded a blood pressure of 120/72
...I'm power-walking on the treadmill for 45 minutes now 5 days as week...on an incline...for an average speed of 4mph (but getting up to 5mph for a stretch)
...I'm still losing weight
...I've dramatically moderated my caffeine intake

I'm married to a wonderful woman who literally saved my life and that I love dearly.

My daughters are all doing what they love, living more or less independently.

I'm closing in on my last two graduate classes.

I'm doing some things I enjoy, such as continuing to write this blog.

While not necessarily religious, I have been working on being more Spiritual.

So, why the treading water?

Well, thinking about the listing above, something is missing.

Should I even be writing this?  In point of fact I'm going to stop writing this now and abide by a time honored rule of people who write (as opposed to "writers", as I'm not at that level):  I'm going to put this down and come back to it later.

* * * * * *
Sunday, September 11th
It's not lost on me that today is the 15th Anniversary of the September 11th attacks.  As  the John Lennon song (#9 Dream) goes, "So, long ago, was it in a dream, was it just a dream?".  Sadly though, it wasn't a dream.  God bless all those who have been impacted by those horrible events.

Back to Friday's thoughts.

* * * * * *

I spent much of yesterday doing two things:

1) Tearing down a coal bin that we are no longer using.
2) Thinking.

I've always found that physical labor helps me quite a bit when I'm perplexed and/or feeling like I am in a rut.  Yesterday was no exception.  Unfortunately, in my professional life the tasks at hand seldom to never allow for the combination of sweat and pondering.  Well, if they do, Security is called and you're taken to a hospital, lest a caring co-worker thinks you are having a heart-attack.

I think part of the challenge for me, at least in my professional life, is that there is always something going on around me, which creates so much mental data to process.  The result is that I get caught up in a kind of mental vortex, where mental whispers become mental shouts and the definitely benign can become the seemingly malignant.  I can lose perspective easily.  Rarely to never though is this ever apparent, as I try hard to always be the consummate professional in the office.

For the record, is it "career suicide" to admit the above?  On one hand, maybe it is.  On the other?  What I say may in fact be what others feel as my crime...if you want to call it giving voice to reality and being honest.  Anyone who wants to criticize me for being honest can do so.  Bring it on.

Anyway, in pondering these things while using a Craftsman 8 amp reciprocating saw...for which I burned through two wood cutting blades...I began thinking about two books I've read by Nadia Bolz-Weber.  I'm not going to bore anyone, least of all myself, with a book report, but here's a central point, of sorts:  I think that God speaks to us not in the "big" ways that Hollywood or tele-evangelists portray, but rather in the quiet moments and odd circumstances we find ourselves in as we go about life.  We're given these opportunities in life to experience the lesson we're always being taught...or on the other hand...we drown after failing to see that we need only pick our heads up out of the water.

Part of it, for me, is ego.  I think, in my recent challenges, I'm being taught to not allow myself to get caught up in mindless mental swirling about how and where I might stack up on some imaginary listing that likely exists nowhere else but inside my head.  I'm being taught it's okay to stand up and be counted, but it better be something actually worth the accounting.  Better yet and better still, maybe it's more important to think about just why an ego might be bruised in the first place, rather than a simple and mindless gut-reaction attempt to defend myself.  Sometimes defending yourself is the worst thing to do, as it only lends credence to an otherwise imaginary foe.

I'm not declaring any kind of victory or even deep insight.  I very well may, in fact, might start the work-week tomorrow and almost immediately be back to square one, fighting to stay out of a mental vortex that I've mostly created for myself.  What I am declaring though is an attempt to listen for those quiet moments and see the odd circumstances as opportunities given to me to grow, not as challenges to an ego that doesn't exactly and hasn't historically served me very well.  I plan on picking my head up before I drown.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

In the end, you never get away with it.

An actual conversation with someone battling significant substance abuse problems.

"Why do you do it?  Why lie about [your drinking and/or drug use] it?"

Functional Addict:
"Because I can get away with it."

It's easy to get angry in cases like this, and I'm not going to claim that I am somehow un-phased.  Granted, there's background here that I am not going to tell, but in terms of raw emotion, well, I think you can understand how this kind of thing can gnaw at someone (re:  Me).  In fact, I began this posting a few months ago, but thinking clearly enough about the situation to be able to articulate myself in a way that actually makes sense has taken a while.

The bigger story here isn't how I or anyone else would react to a statement such as I've noted above.  No, I think it's that someone could be so desperate that they are left evaluating things in terms of what they can "get away" with.  Now I'm told by someone far smarter than I (when it comes to this kind of thing...) that addicts are basically ashamed of their behavior, and lying is just a defense mechanism to somehow attempt to shield themselves.  Seems reasonable, but misdirected.  I have to remember though that feelings...especially mine...seldom neatly follow logical rules.  This brings me back to the fact that the functional addict probably couldn't really help themselves in the truth-saying department at that moment, but nor I could I help myself in the anger at being played a fool either.

I got the better end of this stick though, as handling anger for me is a very rare affair (as I've noted in other postings), and even when the feeling is overwhelming, it is always temporary.  The functional addict though has bigger fish to fry.  They have to battle the source of their behavior; I only have to deal with an outcome of their behavior.

You see, in the end, you never get away with it.

* * * * * *

I've been thinking about anger a lot lately.  Now I haven't been a rage monster, so it's not a case of having deal with feeling anger at the moment, but rather I've been reflecting on those things that have made me angry in the past.  It's all a part of my "empathy as a super-power".  I feel guilty about those times when I have been a small way, somewhat ashamed.  Ironic, huh?  I talked about how an addict may lie because they are ashamed, and here I am feeling slightly ashamed at feeling angry.

Part of it is that I just don't want the attention that being angry seems to provide.  I really, truly don't.  I don't want people thinking " careful, it will make him mad...".  I don't want to be that "him".  Heck, I don't even want to be in that sentence, period.  I only want people paying attention to me when I'm in control, when I say, under my conditions.  Anger seems to wrestle that control away in a visceral kind of way, and that's why it bothers me so very much.

Another angle to all of this anger stuff is the fact that I grew up with a very angry parent.  I tell people that for most of my childhood (and all of my adult life) my mother basically had two emotions:  Pissed Off and Not Pissed Off.  Yeah, there were the occasions where she would be happy, but they were few and far between.  Growing up it was frightening.  Having grown up, it bothered me tremendously.  It made me angry at the notion of being angry.  I wouldn't see myself becoming my mother whenever I got angry, but rather I would see just how toxic anger is (as it was to her), and it repulsed me.  Make that "repulses" me.

People have asked me how it felt when my mother passed away, and while I know I've written about that in the blog (and I'm too lazy to look up the postings from back then), I'll note it again now:  Relieved.  I was relieved when she passed away.  Not saddened, but relieved.  It was a weight taken off of my shoulders.  Yes, I loved my mother, but I did not love being around her, a fact that I had to deal with almost constantly when she was alive.  While it was incredibly difficult being around my mother for the most part, I never shied away from my responsibilities as her son.  I'm proud of that fact, but even prouder of the fact that, when it was clear that my mother was not ever going to get better, I took the lead and made sure that she was allowed to die with dignity and in peace.  At that moment in the ICU at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, I was finally able to stop my mother from being angry.