Friday, January 14, 2011

Random Thoughts Volume XIV

Even though I had last weekend off from my workplace obligations I did not have a weekend off from my "Honeydew" list. I worked most of last Saturday carrying boxes and crates full of Christmas decorations out to my storage shed. Part of the day I had help from my granddaughter who came over to spend the night. Sunday night, after my work was done, and my granddaughter had gone home, I watched the movie called "Eat, Pray, and Love". The part of the movie centered on eating took place in Italy. In one scene an Italian man says to the Julia Roberts character, "You Americans are workaholics. You don't understand the 'sweetness of doing nothing'". It's really difficult to do nothing. There is always a "Honeydew" list, a goal, or someone's agenda that needs to be met. Even when I am not at work I feel like I always have things that need to be done. Part of the problem is the real or imagined lack of time to keep up with things. Most people cram their personal life and needs into the weekend because workplace demands consume most of your time during the week. The eight hour workday is a myth. The process of getting ready for work, commuting to work, actually working, and then commuting back home is approximately twelve hours most days. Most Americans only get an average of six hours of sleep a day so that leaves you with six hours a day to fit in the rest of your life.

Yesterday a friend sent me some thoughts about something called the "fear of not measuring up". In a competitive and driven society such as ours, we all suffer from this fear to some degree. There's a million ways for it to manifest itself. It's the fear that you aren't smart enough or aren't pretty enough or aren't successful enough. It's the fear of not being able to "keep up with the Joneses", that you don't drive the right kind of car or don't live in the right neighborhood, that you didn't go to the right school or you're not a supermom and on and on and on. It's the fear of being inadequate. Let's be honest. Some people are smarter, more successful, and better looking than the rest of us. That's called "Life's Not Fair". However, the rest of us are not doomed. I think we all have unlimited potential if we have the drive and initiative to take advantage of the opportunities given us. On the other hand I am someone who believes in the idea of contentment. I always want to be the best possible version of myself but, quite frankly, sometimes I am too tired to be. I have more stuff than many people but much less than many others. I can honestly say that I am very content with my standard of living. I have everything I need to live comfortably and to be happy. At this point in my life I think more about how I can do with less than with always wanting more. I'm not a genius but I am far from stupid. I am happy with who I am and I don't feel inferior to anyone. I am not perfect but I know I am a good person. I don't have to beat everyone else in order to feel like I am successful. It really all boils down to these few questions. Are you happy? Is there love in your life? Are there things you care about and other people who care about you?

Have you ever been lost in beauty? It happens to me. What makes it happen? It could be my granddaughter's face and smile, a painting that moves me, being in nature, or a beautifully written piece of music. Yesterday it happened again when I decided to take a walk in the snow. I went to the Great Lawn across from my office. Snow fairies had cleared a path on the sidewalk and along the river so it was easy to walk although most of the snowfall was undisturbed. Everything was pristine white as only new fallen snow can be. There was no other person there except me. At one point I walked past some very colorful, somewhat whimsical, sculptures of farm animals. When I got closer to the river I was suddenly in the presence of several hundred geese who looked quite regal as they marched across the lawn. Of course, the presence of so many geese created a need for me to walk slowly and carefully since they had done a great job fertilizing the lawn and sidewalk. I had such a pleasant and peaceful time on my walk that I wished I could just sit on a bench and watch the river flow by. The coolness of the air and the falling snow was refreshing. As I headed back into my office I decided to treat myself to a sugar free vanilla latte. Going into our lobby shop cafeteria during the height of the lunch hour was a bit jolting after my solitary walk in the park. It was loud, crowded, and people were moving in every direction. I paid for my latte as quickly as possible so I could make my escape back to my secluded work area. A walk in the snow, lost in beauty, alone with your thoughts, is good for the soul. During my walk I was reminded of the lyrics to a favorite song by Neil Young. They go like this, "I'm thankful for my country home, it gives me peace of mind, somewhere I can walk alone, and leave myself behind".

I have often heard that when one door closes, another opens. This has often been true for me. I have known many people who worry about everything. The Dalai Lama says, "Worry is a waste of energy. Nothing is solved by worry. The energy spent on worry would be better used solving the problem you are worrying about". I have never been a worrier. I have never needed to worry because I have a wife who worries enough for ten people. Now just because I don't worry doesn't mean I walk around in a state of ignorant bliss. I have concerns and challenges in my life but I also strive to live in such a way as to minimize the stress in my life. Many of you are people of faith. I am also a person of faith. I have always believed my needs would be taken care of and somehow I would receive whatever I need. However, along with this belief I have always acted as though everything I need depends on me taking care of myself. I don't sit around assuming everyone else will take care of me. I am also a person who believes in Karma. There's a saying that goes "What goes around, comes around". Karma is the believe that you get what you give. If you're putting good vibes into the world around you, good things will come back to you. Likewise, if you spend all your time being negative, critical, hostile, or unforgiving, don't be surprised when that comes back to you. Be a good, loving person and life will take care of you. Sometimes doors will close but others will open. Never slam a door, burn a bridge, or close your heart.

Sometimes I get very nice compliments at work. Last year a young co-worker said I was "the youngest 58 year old that she had ever met". Recently another young co-worker told me I was like "his own Dalai Lama". I admit I liked these compliments because I try to be young at heart and the Dalai Lama is someone I truly admire. When we are admired or complimented it feels good. If it happens on a regular basis we may start to believe we are as great as some people think we are. So how does one maintain their humility? I have found the most effective way is to go home to your family. Family will put you in your place. I don't mean in a nasty way. It's just that family will call you out if your head gets too big. I may be the office Dalai Lama but at home I am just Dad. I may be young at heart but my son's affectionally (I think!) call me the "old man". Once I almost started a riot in my granddaughter's day-care. All the little kids thought I was Santa Claus. I guess that can happen when you have a long beard and you are wearing a red coat and hat and it's December. Later when I asked my granddaughter if she thought I was Santa Claus she replied, "You're not Santa Claus. You're Paw Paw"! One of my son's is studying to be a priest. In a few years he will be Father Nick and the old ladies in his church will bake him cakes. Now, however, and in the future, he's my son, and not my pastor, so I will still ask him to take out the trash and run some errands for my wife and me whenever he's home. The bottom line is that families keep us in line and discourage us from taking ourselves too seriously. Don't be surprised if your families don't acknowledge your greatness. Even if they think you are great and wise, they may not tell you.

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