Monday, June 25, 2007

Chicken Wire Theory

Far too many people seem to live according to the "chicken wire theory." By this I mean they only can feel good if they are putting others down. In its most benign form are the people who always want to be first, best, out in front - taking their pleasure in having things bigger, better, shinier, newer, more abundant, more "cutting edge" than anyone else. They are so ruled by the law of comparing themselves to others that it seems only in outdoing someone else can they ever be satisfied. In its more malevolent form are those people who are habitually critical or condescending, forever finding fault with other people's choices, opinions or ideas.

I call this "chicken wire theory" because if you take a piece of wire mesh commonly used in chicken pens and stretch one of the hexagon segments as large as you can get it, the way it grows is by smashing all the segments around it down flat. Sadly, far too many people have fallen into the trap of thinking that it is primrily by making others small they will get to shine big.

Sometimes it's done in jest - belittling or disrespecting in such an "aw shucks" joking manner with a wink of the eye and a slap on the back that it doesn't seem outright mean. But like a wolf in sheep's clothing, those mocking comments at someone else's expense still have sharp teeth that can bite deep.

Other times it is more blatant - in the way individuals justify climbing over others to get to the top. From exploitive business practices to manipulative interpersonal relations, it has become far too acceptable to look out for number one at the expense of someone else.

I think there is a far better way. Getting back to the chicken wire analogy, if I take a pair of wire cutters and snip out the dividing lines between two or more segment they ALL get bigger into one huge gaping hole in the mesh. NOT a good idea if your goal is to fence in chickens! But when it comes to human relationships, if we can break down the barriers that separate us we can ALL grow together, enlarging our understanding in significant ways without ever being at the expense of someone else.

When I become willing to be more authentic with others - fully listening and sharing at a deeper, more honest level rather than falling back on prescribed social roles, it does this. That's my way of cutting out the walls that divide us.

I hurt both myself and others any time I allow my words or conduct to imply that someone else is less worthy or important than me. By the same token, I hurt both myself and others any time I fall into the trap of thinking I am less worthy or important than those I come in contact with.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said: "No one can make you feel inferior without your permission."

I want to be more mindful of this intricate dance of how we honor or dishonor one another with our speech, our willingness to listen, our gift or non-gift of eye-contact. It's so easy to not notice small, seemingly insignificant habits that can take me too close to playing the chicken wire game.

My time and attention have limits. I can't always be available to every single person who may want something from me. Beyond that, I do have the right to choose to associate with people whose company I enjoy and to avoid those I don't. But that doesn't mean I have to be dismissive, arrogant or rude in choosing to re-direct my focus someplace else.

I do not have to ever make others feel small. I do not have to take it personally when someone else disregards me. I can keep reaching for those emotional wire cutters to do all I can to reach out in ways that will allow us ALL to get big together with unity and mutual support. And when there are others in my path who do want to play the chicken wire game I can recognize that pattern and remove myself. I do not have to play.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Count Your Blessings

A favorite hymn I often sing is "Count Your Blessings."
You can hear it and many others by going to Cyberhymnal.

The words are:

When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
And you will keep singing as the days go by.

When you look at others with their lands and gold,
Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold;
Count your many blessings.
Wealth can never buy
Your reward in heaven, nor your home on high.

So, amid the conflict whether great or small,
Do not be disheartened,
God is over all;
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.


I have found that it is almost impossible to be miserable and grateful at the same time.

I can experience tremendous pain, sorrow or grief and remain grateful. But so long as I keep gratitude present in my consciousness, I do not perceive the pain in the same miserable way that I do when I let gratitude slip from my grasp.

I choose what energy happening around me I will focus on. At any given moment on any given day there are horrible things happening all over the world. At many points there may be specifically difficult or worrisome things effecting me directly. Choosing not to FOCUS on those is not the same as ignoring, minimizing, denying or rationalizing. It's merely accepting that the world and my life include a multitude of things and I get to pick which things I give the most brightness and volume.

At any given moment on any given day there are also amazing, wonderful, awe-inspiring things occurring in the world. At many points throughout my day there are very specific things I have to be grateful for which I can choose to be mindful of. Or not.

It really is up to me.

Pigs are Not Llamas

Perception is such a slippery thing.

We see what we look for. We see what we believe. We see what we expect.

The famous sociologist W. I. Thomas has said that situations defined as real become real in their consequences. If I believe there is a God, I will behave accordingly. If I believe there is no God, my life choices will take on a very different flavor. What I believe or don't believe cannot change the reality of deity or the lack there of. But it will change very dramatically how I allow it to influence my life.

If I believe that people are basically good and kind my internal reactions to life and my outward behavior will be very different than if I believe people are usually self-serving and not to be trusted.

If I believe I have worth I will create a very different reality than if I assume I do not.

There is tremendous power in how I define my reality.

Still, I do not believe in the simple "mind over matter" approach to living. As Tony Robbins teaches in his Personal Power program, if you stand next to your garden and say "There are no weeds! There are no weeds!" the weeds will take your garden. On the other hand, it make no sense to bemoan the sad state of your garden, wondering why on earth weeds had to come, wallowing in sorrow over the purslane and pigweed. Instead, the only action that makes sense is to roll up your sleeves and get in there and pull the weeds out. Then you can have a beautiful garden.

If I put on rose colored glasses when I look at the world, refusing to admit there are problems I may initially change how I feel about life, wrapping myself in a sweet cocoon of denial. But like the weeds in my tomato patch, problems left unchecked just keep getting all the more problematic. On the other hand, there is no point of borrowing trouble by going looking for danger and harm behind every corner. I can create crisis by believing it is going to be there.

The trick, for me, is to find balance and keep striving for the most realistic view that I can. I do that by gaining experience, by seeking sound feedback, and by being willing to admit to myself when I'm making mountains out of molehills or if I'm ignoring the elephant in the room.

I am best served by facing each situation that comes up face on, in it's own terms NOT with all the baggage of everything it reminds me of. I can translate coping skills from one situation to the next. But every new day, every new moment is a new opportunity. The past does not equal the future. So I will keep defining each situation as optimistically as I can muster, with a dose of willingness to accept that things aren't always going to turn out as I expect or would like.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Ostrich Lessons

"In popular mythology, the Ostrich is famous for hiding its head in the sand at the first sign of danger. The Roman writer Pliny the Elder is noted for his descriptions of the ostrich in his Naturalis Historia, where he describes the Ostrich and the fact that it hides its head in a bush.
There have been no recorded observations of this behavior. A common counter-argument is that a species that displayed this behavior would not survive very long. Ostriches do deliberately swallow sand and pebbles to help grind up their food; seeing this from a distance may have caused some early observers to believe that their heads were buried in sand. Also, ostriches that are threatened but unable to run away may fall to the ground and stretch out their necks in an attempt to become less visible. The coloring of an ostrich's neck is similar to sand and could give the illusion that the neck and head have been completely buried." (from Wikipedia)

Why do I include this here? Because I think I've recognized a pattern in my own thinking and behavior that is very much like hiding my head in the sand.

If I am feeling at all vulnerable or unsure of myself, at times I find it almost impossible to say what it is I want or need. This can be little stuff, such as expressing a preference in which restaurant to go to or what movie to see. Or it can be big stuff - such as seeking medical attention when ill or admitting I need help on a major project.

For a number of reasons, I learned early on not to ask directly for what I needed. This became crystal clear for me recently when a wise friend said: "For me, asking for what I wanted, or even admitting what I valued, cost me as a child, opened a potential point of manipulation. Even though that dynamic hasn't been in my life for over 30 years, I can still feel it's power sometimes." Oh yeah. Those words ring so absolutely true for me as well.

So I am trying to pay a bit closer attention to this and do some work around what it means to me to say to myself, let alone others, that I need help, or that I want a particular thing. There are people in my life today whose love and support are worth gold. But they are not mind readers. If I do not TELL them what it is I need, the chances of them being able to help me find it are pretty slim.

I remember the first time I encountered gift registries that allowed engaged couples or expectant parents to go into stores and specifically pick out what things they would most appreciate as gifts. I was appalled. It seemed unquestionably greedy to me for someone to say "this is what I expect you to get me." But over the years I've learned to look at it completely differently, and now I appreciate those registries every bit as much as I used to abhor them.

I understand now that gift registries are all about giving people a way to say "these are my tastes in color, in style, etc" in a way that in no way implies any guest is OBLIGATED to get those item. Instead, it is merely a way of giving family and friends a tool for gauging what the person already may have and what they still need. It's not bad or wrong or selfish to say "here are things I would like to have." That's not demanding. It's giving information. That can be a very good thing, particularly when getting something for someone whose home you have never seen or who you want very much to support but have no ideas of where to begin.

So I'm considering the concept of shifting my attitudes and behavior around how I relate to my own needs, desires and preferences. When asked what is I want to do or given an opportunity to express a need I hope I can quit perceiving those moments as exposing me to potential harm, manipulation, rejection, or mocking. Instead, I can think of it as a chance to open up my own personal gift registry. I may get what I ask for (help with a project, lunch with a friend, willingness to spend time together or deepen a relationship.) I may not. But either way, the more clearly I manage to articulate what it is I need, the more likely it is that I will find a way to fill that up, whether by my own efforts or with the help of others. Hiding from my own preferences and desires and ignoring my true needs out of fear is simply not useful.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Light and Dark, Laughter & Tears

I do not believe in accidents.
Things happen that seem random, chance, coincidental. But I believe it is simply the universe delivering up lessons when we are ready to receive them.
The trick is for me to be open to what is laid before me, ready to learn the lessons placed in my path. I recently had a seemingly "chance" encounter with a woman who has offered up just such a lesson. I'm trying to let it sink in deep.
I was at a social event where I crossed paths with a delightful lady who I had heard much about from a mutual friend. Because the friend we both know had said so many nice things about the woman, I was immediately drawn to her and pleased to have the chance to get to meet her for myself. We spent the evening talking about many things - books, work, love, life. It was a great evening.
At some point I asked her: "What makes you laugh?" She gave a light hearted response at the time. But later, sent the following e-mail message:
"I've given more thought to your question about laughter. Surprisingly for me, I hadn't really reflected on how I moved from a fairly serious and unfun period into having capacity for much more joy. I've concluded that my increased ability to laugh from the heart has something to do with learning not to run away from the darker side of things. Counter intuitive, I know.
I really have made an effort to notice things about myself and my life that I used to turn away from. For me, it was a difficult thing to just look at something like feeling lonely and accept it as it is. If I forced myself to stay with that sort of experience, then the next urge was to rush in and try to immediately change it. I feel much more at peace now that I can just notice it and spend time giving what I used to see as the darker stuff it's fair air play, so to speak. For example, to say to myself "w ow, I'm really very sad right now". Sometimes I think about why the feelings have come, sometimes I just accept it as is and sit with that experience until it runs it's course.
When I was young, I couldn't do that since I was afraid of engulfment, but now I have the experience to know my feelings and experiences can't consume me.
Anyway, I think as I've been more willing to embrace my sadness, anxiety, shame, and so on, my ability to be joyful has really grown. I laugh more because I cry more...I feel more authentic and at peace for letting the whole range of emotions surface."
I've thought much about these words. I think they were exactly what I needed to hear.
I have a long history of trying to FIX IT when I feel sad/lonely/upset or anything painful. I either distract myself or willfully manipulate myself back into a sunnier state. At times I've been known to pummel my more vulnerable emotions with punitive blame- insisting they change and change right now any time the dark side comes calling. I get tangled up in my belief system about how "we create our own reality and I can choose to be happy and at peace right now". Allowing myself to stay in anything negative feels like doing something weak or bad or wrong.
While I DO believe we create our own reality, I think it's high time I get over assuming it's going to be like magic ' Abracadabra, presto chango! ' and accept it's more like baking a cake. If I put in the right ingredients and go through the PROCESS of baking, then out comes a lovely cake....but if I take it out of the oven before it has time to fully cook all I get is gooey dough.
Maybe dealing with difficult feeling states is much the same way. Yes, I CAN relinquish pain and choose peace. But sometimes I need to allow for a healthy dose of patience to let the emotions run their course of making the transition. Too often I've tried to zoom from zero to sixty in making it all better immediately, not giving myself permission to feel what it is my heart needs to feel.
Perhaps it's time to find a new pattern, and to quit being so punitive with myself when dark days come. Feeling sad or out of sorts is NOT "getting it wrong". It's just life lessons dressed up in a different color. There is much I can learn from being willing to be open and present to the full spectrum of what my heart has to offer.
Clearly, for some folks there is a time and place where interceding in a prolonged blue state is appropriate. But I'm not talking here about clinical depresson. I'm simply referring to the habit I've had of wanting to pick and choose which emotions were allowable and considered worthy and which ones I have tried to keep locked permanently away from my heart.
It's a package deal. The extent to which I shut down my capacity for lonliness, grief or sorrow I also diminish by ability to reach for wonder and joy. I don't need to let myself get stuck in the negative or painful feelings. But I need to be able to fully feel them and acknowledge them in order to move on. Keeping them gagged and squashed silent merely makes them bigger, not less.
"as I've been more willing to embrace my sadness, anxiety, shame, and so on, my ability to be joyful has really grown. I laugh more because I cry more...I feel more authentic and at peace for letting the whole range of emotions surface."
YES - that is the lesson. Now my job is to open up to let myself learn.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

A Parable

I learned many important life lessons from my big brother. He was both my idol and my nemesis as I was growing up. As adults, we’ve developed a friendship that I truly treasure. This weekend I will be travelling to New Mexico to celebrate his marriage to a fine lady whose love has brought him much joy. I couldn’t be more delighted. So, in honor of my big brother’s impending nuptials, I thought it would be appropriate to record one of the stories he taught me many years ago…. I’m sure I won’t get the details all quite the way he told it almost 40 yrs ago. Still, I have always remembered the main themes of the story and it has helped me more than he knows.

The parable of the bird, the cow and the cat.

Once upon a time there was a Robin named Ralph. Ralph lived in a farmer’s field, hanging out with the other birds. He enjoyed finding fat juicy worms to eat and preening before the lady robins. Life was good.

However, every fall, it came time to fly south for the winter. That was a lot of work! It took many days to reach the winter nesting grounds. It was just plain exhausting to make that long trip. One year as all the birds were preparing for the annual journey; Ralph started complaining some about what lay before him. “Man, every year it’s the same old thing. Fly south. What for?? All that work just to have to turn around and come back again in the spring. That’s a lot of wing flapping! It makes me tired just thinking about it.”

Jake, one of the crows, heard Ralph’s lament. With great sympathy he said to Ralph: “Hey buddy, I know what you mean. What do those old birds know who keep insisting that we do this year after year? They are locked in senseless tradition. I tell you, I’ve had it with all this back and forth – go south, go north business. I’m a bird, not a lemming. I’m sick of mindlessly following the crowd. I say we DON’T go off with everybody else this year. How about it Ralph? You and Me! Let’s team up and just stay here this winter. Sure, I hear it gets a bit cold during the winter months. But Farmer Brown has that nice big barn where the cows sleep. We can go make nests in the rafters. We’ll be safe and warm and dry. Just think of what a great time we can have relaxing and having fun here all winter instead of chasing the crowd back and forth on those foolish migratory patterns.”

Jake’s suggestion sounded wonderful to Ralph. The robin really did not want to have to do all the work of flying south. So the two birds made a pact. When the rest of the flock left, they would stay and make their own fortunes.

The other robins were quite concerned. The elders warned Ralph not to listen to Jake. They pleaded with Ralph to come with them when it was time to go. But Ralph would not be deterred from his plan. So when the day came for all the birds to begin leaving on their trek south to warmer lands for winter, Ralph and Jake remained behind.

The first few weeks after the departure of the other birds were just great. There were still plenty of fat worms in the ground, easy picking now that there was no competition from others. Jake and Ralph flew back and forth over the fields and into the treetops having a grand old time. They laughed raucously about the foolishness of all those other birds who were no doubt flapping themselves into exhaustion while the two of them were living the high life right where they were.

However, as the days began to get shorter the temperatures dropped. It got cold. There came a big storm, and the ground froze. After that, Ralph began to wonder if he had made the right decision. Worms were no longer available. And his beak got frosted over as he sat up on his perch in the trees.

Still, not wanting to admit that maybe the other birds had been right all along, Ralph puffed himself up with bravado and insisted that he needed to go on a diet anyway. Eating all those worms had made him rather fat. He would eat some seeds and insects for a while and be just fine. He added a bit more twine and leaves to the nest for proper insulation from the cold and determined that he was going to have a grand adventure.

But then full winter hit. Late autumn had been bad enough. Winter was miserable. All the leaves came off the trees and the ground was covered with snow. There were no seeds to be found and the insects were few and far between. He was hungry much of the time. Then, as it got colder and colder, even the insulation in his nest up in the rafters of the farmer’s barn was not enough to keep Ralph warm. He shivered constantly and his beak began to chatter. He was miserable.

Worst of all, one morning when Ralph woke up, he discovered that Jake was gone. There had been no discussion or goodbye. The crow just left. How could he? After all, it had been Jake’s idea to spend the full winter there in the first place. Then, at the first sign of real difficulty, the crow up and left, abandoning young Ralph to his own devices. What a mess!

Now Ralph was left all to himself with no one to console or help him in his plight. He started to wheeze and sneeze. Little chunks of birdie snot were running out his beak. He was running a fever. He was sicker than he had ever been. What’s a bird to do in a situation like this? He thought longingly of the nice warm winter grounds where his friends were now comfortably living, with plenty of fat juicy worms for the taking. Overwhelmed by the tragedy of his plight, poor Ralph began to cry. Finally he succumbed to the cold and fell from his nest, landing in a frozen heap on the ground. As darkness began to overtake him, Ralph the Robin was feeling very sad and sorry for himself.

About that time, Bessie the cow happened to walk by. Not noticing the bird at all, she dropped a huge stinking cow pie right on top of Ralph’s head. Oh gross! Now he was not only alone, cold, and hungry he was covered in stinking cow crap. He consigned himself to an ignominious death there on the dusty floor of the barn in a pile of poop and wondered if his friends would miss him.

However, much to Ralph’s surprise, he did not die. As a matter of fact, after a few minutes he began to feel better. As it turned out, the cow pie was WARM. It thawed out Ralphs frozen feathers and melted his icy beak. Sure, it stank something awful. But this was the first time he had actually been warm in weeks. So maybe it wasn’t such a terrible thing to have happen after all. He was so relieved to feel this lovely warmth seeping through his whole bird body that he popped his head up and began to sing.

Ralph’s song attracted the attention of Chloe the cat. She was quite curious to find the robin sitting on the barn floor all covered in cow dung. After walking around him once or twice Chloe asked Ralph “Hey, what are you doing down there?” Ordinarily Ralph avoided cats. He’d heard they were not to be trusted. However, his fever made it difficult to think straight and he had been alone for such a long time that by this point he was happy just to have someone new to talk to. So he struck up a conversation with the cat. He poured out his heart, telling Chloe the whole pitiful story of how he had been misled by Jake the crow and ended up on the barn floor in December when he really should be off in the south with his friends.

Chloe smiled her barn cat smile and purred to her new friend….”oh my dear Ralph, that is a terrible tale. I am so sorry you had to have such a dreadful experience. I would love to help. How about I clean you up and get you out of that stinking mess?”

This was good news to Ralph whose head was swooning from the stink. He readily agreed and said he would very much appreciate it, if Chloe did not mind.

“Not at all” assured the cat. So Chloe began to use her paws to dig away the dung most carefully. After the worst of the mess was gone she began licking the little bird with her soft pink tongue that tickled like wet sandpaper. Together they giggled at the absurdity of the whole affair. Once each and every feather was cleaned Chloe got a sharp gleam in her eye, smacked her lips and pounced on little Ralph to eat him up.

As she pinned the bird down with her sharp claws he cried out in horror: “What are you doing? I thought you were my friend!” To which Chloe replied. “Well, yeah, but I am a cat and this is what cats do. What did you really expect?” And then she ate him up, bite by bite.


#1 – Listen to the wisdom of your elders. Often the things they are trying to teach you really are for your own good.

#2 – Be careful who you believe or trust

#3 – Not everyone who craps on you in your enemy

#4- Not everyone who gets you out of crap is your friend.

#5 – If you are warm and safe, even if it’s in a pile of crap, be grateful and keep your mouth shut!

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Must Be Present To Win

There are days when I feel like I am LIVING my life and there are days when it seems I am standing off in some far removed corner, watching my life happen. All too often I can get caught up in the chaos of the hamster wheel cage, running around and around and around, expending all sorts of energy and business without ever really going anywhere.

What does it take to be fully engaged in my own skin, a human BEING instead of a human DOING?

I remember entering a drawing at a fair once where I received a little blue ticket with a number on it. On the back side of the ticket were stamped the words "Must Be Present to Win." Yep. That's true. We need to be fully present in our lives to win.

Because I am a person with a deep faith in God, I also am a powerful believer in the forces of darkness. I am convinced that one of the ways the adversary gets us is NOT by luring us into wretchedness and depravity, but rather by just keeping us so bloody DISTRACTED and BUSY that we don't stop to ponder, to pray, to sit quietly ready to listen to silent promptings of the spirit.

I think it is great that I'm smart enough and strong enough and healthy enough to accomplish all sorts of good things. I'm truly grateful for the abilities I've been blessed with. But sometimes I think I need to remind myself to just STOP all my frantic running around, no matter how worthy the projects I am involved with, so I can just be present to myself for a while.
I read somewhere recently: "Collapsing in exhaustion does NOT count as relaxation."

Multi-tasking is highly over-rated. Yes, there is always one more good thing I could be doing. But for today I think I'll toss out the to-do list and just practice BEING.

Monkey Golf

One of my favorite stories is "Play the Ball Where the Monkey Drops It." This was first relayed to me by my eldest brother several years ago. A while back I came across it again HERE It goes like this:

"The story is told of a golf course in India. Apparently, once the English had colonized the country and established their businesses, they yearned for recreation and decided to build a golf course in Calcutta. Golf in Calcutta presented a unique obstacle. Monkeys would drop out of the trees, scurry across the course, and seize the golf balls. The monkeys would play with the balls, tossing them here and there.

At first, the golfers tried to control the monkeys. Their first strategy was to build high fences around the fairways and greens. This approach, which seemed initially to hold much promise, was abandoned when the golfers discovered that a fence is no challenge to an ambitious monkey. Next, the golfers tried luring the monkeys away from the course. But the monkeys found nothing as amusing as watching humans go wild whenever their little white balls were disturbed. In desperation, the British began trapping the monkeys. But for every monkey they carted off, another would appear.

Finally, the golfers gave in to reality and developed a rather novel ground rule: Play the ball where the monkey drops it. As you can imagine, playing this unique way could be maddening. A beautiful drive down the center of the fairway might be picked up by a monkey and then dropped in the rough. Or the opposite could happen. A hook or slice that had produced a miserable lie might be flung onto the fairway. It did not take long before the golfers realized that golf on this particular course was very similar to our experience of life. There are good breaks, and there are bad breaks. We cannot entirely control the outcome of the game. "

I've been thinking about this a lot lately. I've heard it said that pain is merely the measuring stick between current reality and whatever it is we desire. The greater the distance, the greater the pain. But no matter how we wish things had turned out or what we hope or strive for, what IS, is. How I choose to respond to that is really the only true control I get.

I also need to remember that I only see a very narrow, finite slice of the universal picture. More than once in the past I've discovered after the fact that times when I did not get something I wanted badly, or when events unfolded that SEEMED to be just plain terrible, the lessons learned were ultimately very much in my best interest. There have been some unanswered prayers (or those answered with a "no" or "not yet") that clearly proved to be major blessings in the long run.

So I'm trying to remind myself to trust the universe to open the doors that will ultimately bless my life and keep tightly shut those doors that would open before me the wrong path. I'm practicing allowing myself to feel at peace with whatever happens rather that take on my usual control-freak M.O. of stewing and storming and giving myself all sorts of grief and frustration when things turn out differently than I had planned or hoped for. That doesn't mean I have ceased to care about the outcome. I haven't! It also does not mean I will stop trying my best to pursue particular paths.

Those golfers in India didn't just give up trying to play to their best advantage. They still sought out just the right kinds of clubs, took lessons to perfect their swing and did all they could to master their game. But in the final analysis, they learned to accept that no matter WHAT they could do to be the best golfers they knew how to be, in the end we all have to play the ball wherever the monkey happens to drop it. And that's ok.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007


Sometimes late at night
the brain comes undone.
Sleep won't come.
Thoughts race.
Convoluted images of dreams, memory, imagination, hopes and terrors, curiosities and dreads all collide
inside my head.
I wish I could just peel back the top of my skull
and dump the junk

Monday, June 4, 2007

The Train Has Already Left the Station

Sometimes I wish life had a "do-over" button, or a "go back" like on my computer. When I do something impulsively, I want to just wipe it all away and start over again.

Other times when events play out in a pattern that is painful, I sometimes fall into the trap of obsessing over "if only" or "what might have been."

I have a picture hanging in my office with a verse that says:

"I cannot change yesterday. I can only make the most of today, and look with hope toward tomorrow."

It is useful for me to pay attention to the past, so I can learn from it. It is not useful for me to spend my energy on regret, as I can never go back.

I can say "Oops! Nevermind" when I make a mistake. I can apologize. I can repent. I can forgive. I can choose to focus on the future.

What I cannot do is change the shape of what has come before. Sometimes I wish with all my might that I could make something go away. But I don't have that sort of power.

I've already paid the tuition. I better allow myself to claim the education that all that past stuff brought me. And then I need to turn my face to a new day.

Let it go.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said:

"Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense.
This day is all that is good and fair. It is too dear, with its hopes and invitations , to waste a moment on yesterdays."

Sunday, June 3, 2007


One of my teachers loves flowers.

He had planted chrysanthemums all around his house.

Those flowers brought him joy.

Sadly, there was a mix-up one day in the chemical shed.

When he intended to spray some fertilizer on the flowers, he got the weed killer instead.

His lovely mums got sprayed with herbicide. They shriveled up, turn brown and died. This made my friend very sad.

However, even though the mums appeared to be mostly dead, they did have one pathetic little scrap of green remaining.

So my friend continued to water, and tend, and talk to his beloved plants.

Sometimes he got discouraged. Sometimes he was sure it was of no use. But he decided to just be patient, and give it time. Day after day after day he kept tending to those shriveled up dead looking flowers. He did not give up.

All the rest of that season the mums looked hopeless. Other people who saw him carefully tending those brown stubs just laughed, insisting that those flowers were toast.

But when the next spring came, the mums came back again. They looked a little misshapen and funny. But they bloomed. They once more brought joy.

It's hard to know when to give up and when to be patient and keep trying. Whenever I think of quitting, I try to remember the mums.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Stronger at the Broken Places

I once had a wise teacher who told me about making balsa wood airplanes as a child.

While flying them out in a field on a windy day, one of his favorite planes crashed and broke. He was sad to see the crumpled, shattered body lying in a heap. It appeared to be utterly ruined.

However, after the initial disappointment, he picked up the pieces and carefully, painstakingly, glued them back together. Then he left it for a while to sit and dry. Finally, when he was confident it was ready, he took it back out to fly again.

Amazingly, that repaired plane became one of his best flyers. Although scarred and perhaps less beautiful that the unbroken planes, that one was so sturdy that even when it took an occasional tumble, it didn't break again. It had become stronger at the broken places because of the glue.

Our lives are often like that. We have heartaches and disappointments. We have circumstances that make us feel as if we have crashed into the ground. But if we can pick ourselves up and glue those crumpled pieces of our heart back together, we too can become stronger at the broken places, with new found resilience to face the storms the world may bring.

During a particularly difficult time in my life, I received the card you see pictured here. As it says: "Sometimes when you least expect it, life gives you a big ol' sock in the nose." Then, on the inside it reads:"Not to worry. With time the pain will pass, and from it you will have gained experience, which gives you information, which gives you objectivity,which gives you wisdom, which gives you truth, which gives you freedom from having to get a sock in the nose again." Every now and then, when I am facing struggles in navigating the current of my world, it helps to pull out the card and to remember the story of that broken airplane.

Friday, June 1, 2007

The Unfolding Journey

Some years ago I went through a dark period of pain and chaos. Some of that pain was the result of other people's actions. Some of the pain was a consequence of random events that happened which were less than ideal. Some of that pain was the result of my own choices. Sorting out the heartaches and happenstance that caused me so much turmoil was hard work. It took a long time. It required me to look at things I did not necessarily want to see. But it was worth the effort.

For a season I felt much better. Things seemed to make sense. But somehow, over time, I began to fall back into some of the same old habits of thinking and behaving that created the chaos the first time. This time my outside world was much saner and safer than it had been in earlier days. However, my inside world felt just as volatile and scattered as it had before. I crashed. Inexplicably, for no apparent reason I could name, my brain-soul tilted once again, bringing me to my knees.

I felt very foolish to find myself right back where I had started, especially when it was quite obvious there were no monsters under the bed and no eerie things to go bump in the night.

However, on closer inspection, I recognized that I was not in exactly the same place as before. Things were different this time because when I took the time to notice, I found I still had a whole toolbox of strategies and resources, along with scattered bits of wisdom, that had helped me dig my way back into the light before. I had simply quit using them well.

Chaos was my native language. So it was easy for me to revert to that when I stopped paying attention.

When I picked myself up and brushed myself off, once I got over the embarrassment of how foolish I felt, I realized I could go back to my learned language of sanity and peace. I had some very good teachers along the way who taught me important lessons about how to do that. They provided me with valuable tools. But it remains my responsibility to use those tools and to pay attention.

The purpose of this blog is to explore some of those lessons learned from helpful teachers, strangers, lovers, fools and friends who've crossed my paths over the years. I want to try to sort out which ones still fit and which ones I may be ready to discard.

Some days I find clarity. Other days everything grows murky with uncertainty. At times I believe if I am smart enough, or insightful enough, or lucky enough, or tenacious enough to somehow catch hold of the RIGHT thread of this tangled up knot of beliefs, biases, half truths and misconceptions that runs amok in my brain, THEN life will make sense again. Other times I am convinced I am just kidding myself with that belief. The trick is to live sanely in an insane world that makes no sense.

My head and heart wage mighty civil war, each doing wild banshee shriek dances for supremacy over which side of me to listen to or believe. I remain a clueless observer on the sidelines. I am still an apprentice human, trying to master the craft of being.

Writing helps me sort out the muddled mess, to unravel the threads that feel so hopelessly tangled and knotted. By painstakingly sorting them all out I begin to discern which ones lead to peace and which to chaos.

I suspect there are lessons worthy of exploring in both directions.