Monthly Archives: August 2022

Respecting Our Wisdom and Judgment

Wisdom is meaningless until your own experience has given it meaning and there is wisdom in the selection of wisdom.

~Bergen Evans~

Have you ever thought about how we end up doing the things we do? Have you ever acted a certain way and then thought to yourself, “That was dumb?” I would guess all of us have from time to time. Those of us with experience as parents have often watched our children getting into trouble by not thinking first. I would dare say one of the main jobs of parents is to get their children to think before they act.

Knowledge is a collection of facts. Wisdom is the way we evaluate our actions and put them into perspective. Judgment involves thinking before acting. People sometimes are able to recite all the facts about what will happen if they act a certain way but don’t take the consequences seriously. Criminals are well aware of the consequences of their crimes but somehow don’t think the rules apply to them.

Sometimes we make up our own rules as we go along. We expect one thing from everyone else but have our own private set of rules for our actions. I think we sometimes forget why there are rules in the first place or don’t consider them as applying to us.

When we were children, the ultimate authority lay in our parents. Even if we did not understand the rules or want to accept them, our parents said these were the rules “because I said so.” As we became older, most of us took the time to understand why we have rules. It is a way of knowing what to expect from others and what others expect from us.

Respecting the rules is a way of respecting each other. Could you imagine driving down the road and not knowing whether another driver will stop at a red light, drive on the expected side of the road or obey traffic signs?

Wisdom is not always written down as laws or rules. Much of wisdom is the result of learning over generations about consequences and the best way to do things. Some of this wisdom ends up in the laws of our civilization but some of it is handed down in our family traditions. We can learn everything the hard way, but we save ourselves a great deal of trouble by learning from our forebears. The problem is that it takes a certain amount of wisdom to recognize the wisdom of others. We sometimes think we know best and can learn everything we need to on our own.

We might be able to find our own path, but it is like clearing a way through a jungle when there is a nearby path waiting for us to follow it. Do we really want to spend all that time learning what others have learned and rediscovering paths which our ancestors have forged? We do have a choice.

Action Steps

  • Think about what lessons you have learned from your parents and grandparents.
  • Compare what happens when you listen to wisdom or act impulsively.
  • Who are the wise people in your life now?
  • What can you learn from them?
  • What would it take to share your wisdom with others?

Selection from my book, Navigating Life: Commonsense Reflections for the Voyage, available at Amazon.

 

If You Really Knew Me

Man is never alone. Acknowledged or unacknowledged,
that which dreams through him is always there to support him from within.

~Laurence van der Post~

Once I watched a segment on Oprah called High School Challenge. A group of high school students spent the day getting to know themselves and others by finishing the sentence, “If you really knew me…” Predictably, they started with superficial statements revealing only the obvious. As the day progressed, they began to reveal more personal concerns and eventually got to the secrets which deeply troubled them.

I think most of us are not very different from high school students at least in this exercise. It is not easy for us to reveal our secret fears and insecurities. We might look for ways to hide from being noticed, remaining wallflowers at the dance of life. We might be aggressive as a way to conceal our insecurities, in the manner of bullies. We might choose the path of those who tease others, focusing on their shortcomings so that ours are not so apparent.

How would we finish the statement, “If you really knew me…?” How honest would we be? We would probably start with safe statements, revealing little about ourselves. As we feel safer, we might start sharing more personal information and eventually get to the concerns with deeply trouble us.

We might admit that we never felt loved, at least not as much as others in our family. We might admit our embarrassment at what makes us different from others: our skin color, our physical appearance, or our physical, mental and emotional shortcomings. We might admit feeling that we have not accomplished as much as we would like and probably never will. We might express feeling disappointed by not becoming what others expect of us.

Voicing these concerns might be a revelation to us as well as to others. We often hide these issues from ourselves so we don’t have to face them. We try to ignore them or pretend they don’t exist. Even if we can’t see them clearly, we still trip over them when we least expect it. We all have fears and insecurities buried deep within us. We can develop a shell for protection as some animals do, or develop weapons such as claws, quills or poisons to keep others at bay. None of these approaches will make us feel any better about ourselves. They are just tools we use to keep from being hurt. In the long run they keep us isolated from others.

What if we could find a way to be open with others about our insecurities and make it safe for them to share theirs with us? Maybe it would be a way for us to contribute to a less hostile world. Maybe it would be easier for us to live in peace with each other.

Action Steps

  • Make a list of what troubles you.
  • Make further lists until you have some deep feelings about what you write.
  • Take the risk of sharing your list with someone you trust.
  • Make it safe for someone to share his or her concerns with you.
  • Talk about what you have in common and how you can help each other.

Selection from my book, Navigating Life: Commonsense Refle tions for the Voyage, available at Amazon

The Simple and the Complex in Our Lives

Simplicity is making the journey of this life
with just baggage enough.

~Charles Dudley Warner~

Have you ever stopped to watch young children going about their business? At first, life is very simple. They feel good when they are full, warm, dry and safe. They feel bad when they are hungry, cold, wet or threatened. They don’t stop to think about how they feel, they just react immediately.

As we age, life becomes more complicated. By the time we get to school, we start thinking about whether others like us, whether we are smart enough or whether we have the things our playmates have. Later we face decisions about what to do with our lives, the prospect of a life partner and how to spend our time. We would all like to be happy, but how do we get there?

We are constantly bombarded by TV, phone or e-mail ads suggesting things we can’t live without. Loneliness sometimes prompts us to surround ourselves with people we would be better off without. People might expect things of us that would take more time to do than we have available. If we are surrounded by enough things and busy enough, we are tempted to think we will be happy. But there can still be a sense that something is missing if we slow down enough to notice.

If we put aside the things, people and activities for a while, we will notice that there is a part of ourselves all our own. Many people don’t take the time to stop and ask themselves who they really are and what they are doing on earth. Life is not a popularity contest, a garage sale or a race to see who can get the most done.

If we peel off the other people, things and activities like layers of an onion skin, what is left of us? We finally get to who we are and are meant to be. It is hard to find time to look at ourselves this way. We have too much to do. People who are sick in bed and can’t do much of anything sometimes use the time to reassess their lives. Some people take vacations, days off or spend in a retreat to get some perspective. Have you ever spent time alone to get to know yourself? It can help you realize what is important to you. You can also discover what distracts you from living your life.

We don’t have to make this an occasional exercise followed by a return to our hectic lives. We can work to make simplicity our focus and eliminate things, people and activities which make our lives more complicated and distract us from living the way we see best.

Action Steps

  • Set aside some time to think about your life.
  • List what is really important to you.
  • Think about the people in your lives who help you reach your goals.
  • Decide which of your possessions and activities help you along your path.
  • Make some tough choices., available at Amazon.

Selection from my book, Navigating Life: Commonsense Reflections for the Voyage, available from Amazon.

Life Choices: Love, Fear or Power

People will forget what you said,
and people will forget what you did,
but they will never forget how you made them feel.

~Astraea~

Did you know you had choices of how to live? Choosing love means being aware of the needs of others around you, knowing what you have to offer them and doing what you can to help them meet their goals. Choosing fear means not getting close enough to know what others need and avoiding them as much as possible. Choosing power means focusing on your own needs and making sure they get met by taking control of others.

All three styles depend on how you feel about yourself. If you like who you are and are confident in yourself, you may choose love as your predominant driving force. The less sure of yourself you are, the more you may be inclined toward fear or power.

Despite the recent election talk of values and morality, not far below the surface in most of us is a desire to have others think and act the way we do. We don’t want to hear what others believe unless it matches what we believe. I know this is true, at least for me. I avoid political conversations with people, even friends, who I know do not see things my way.

Even after elections are over and there is talk on both sides of reconciliation, we are still quite polarized in our understanding of where our country should be headed. Those who won see the election as a mandate to pursue their vision. Those who lost plan to regroup, focusing their efforts on the next election. While there is strength in diversity of opinion, there can also be divisiveness and polarization. The challenge of democracy is to pursue our own goals while respecting the right of others to pursue theirs.

Sometimes our differences are only apparent. The words we use can cloud the issues. Opposing positions might not be as far apart as we think, but are couched in terms which make them appear incompatible. Listening to each other might help us realize we want the same things and can work together toward our mutual goals.

Sometimes there are radical differences in our positions so that it is not possible to have it both ways. We could fight it out, the winners having their way and the losers sulking in defeat. We could also examine our own position to see if it makes sense and whether we could make any changes which would, at least partially, satisfy the opposition.

Then we could take the time to listen to the other side, understanding what they want. While doing so we can be on the lookout for ways in which their position complements ours. With mutual understanding, compromise is more possible. Winning or losing without compromise can result in bitter feelings on both sides.

I am not in a position to preach about how we should live our lives as good citizens. I have not been a prime example of what to do and have tended to isolate myself, talking only with those who agree with me. Having considered all this, I plan to think about how sensible my goals are and to see where I can be more flexible. I plan to listen to opposing positions and look for ways they can complement mine. I plan to seek dialog rather than isolation or confrontation.

Action Steps

  • Could you seek mutually satisfying decisions rather than reacting automatically?
  • How often are you tempted to react in a negative way?
  • How can you remind yourself of your choices?
  • Do you need to make some changes?
  • Try it today.

Coming to Terms with Life’s Mysteries

There is something precious in our being mysteries to ourselves, in our being able ever to see through even the person who is closest to our heart and to reckon with him as though he were a logical proposition or a problem in accounting.

~Rudolf Bultman~

When I was a child I thought I knew everything. As a young man, I came to realize I didn’t know everything but thought I could understand and make sense of anything. Over the years, I have come to realize there are some things I will never understand. I think of them as life’s mysteries.

One of them has to do with the universe. How do all the heavenly spheres stay in balance year after year? Maybe astronomers or physicists understand the balance, but to me it remains precarious and mysterious.

The universe inside the atom is equally mysterious to me. Left to themselves, subatomic particles stay balanced and keep spinning. Particle accelerators can create spectacular if short lived fireworks. Then there is atomic fission fueling power plants as well as nuclear warheads poised to threaten the survival of the world if someone gets crazy enough. How can the world inside the atom be so fascinating as well as so fearsome?

In between the universe and the atom are a whole range of mysteries. The Bee Movie recently reminded me that theoretically bees can’t fly, yet they do. Migrating birds somehow find their way from a pond on one continent to a lake on another. A recent theory suggests birds can detect and even see the earth’s magnetic fields. Even if true, that doesn’t entirely resolve the mystery of migration for me. And what of whales and butterflies which also migrate?

It is not just nature that’s mysterious. I have sailed upwind in a sailboat and sometimes still wonder how I did it. Despite my sailing experience, windsurfing remains a mystery at least for anything longer than five seconds.

Computers are also mysterious. How does moving a mouse with your hand change where the pointer is on the screen? When I first studied computers, I learned that all they can do is say yes or no, on or off, one or zero. Yet these simple operations have connected the continents through the World Wide Web.

I also wonder how maple trees, bees and worms can give us tons of maple syrup, honey, and silk with no threat to their survival. When I was in grammar school I learned that it would probably not be too long before the world ran out of oil. Yet the supply seems almost inexhaustible.

What about the glorious colors in the changing leaves each Fall? And what of the breathtaking sunrises and sunsets around the world each day? None of these seem to serve any useful purpose other than to make us delight in them.

I could go on, but I think you get the point. We are surrounded by fascinating and wonderful events, many of which we tend to take for granted. Maybe it’s time to stop and marvel at the parts of our universe which entrance us.

Action Steps

  • Think of what creates a sense of wonder in you on your daily rounds.
  • Take time to stop and delight in your wonderment.
  • Balance your time of worry with time to let the world fascinate you.
  • Think of what enthralls you about other people.
  • Let people know when they delight you.

A selection from my book, Navigating Life: Commonsense Reflections for the Voyage, available at Amazon,

Strengthening Our Democracy

Strengthening Democracy’s “Gut Health”

Our politics is a battle of immune systems

A human lymphocyte cell. Source: commons.wikimedia.org Public Domain

Written by Joel Ombrey on 8/21/2022 and published in Medium.com. 

One way I’ve been thinking about our current politics lately is as a battle of immune systems.

On the one hand, we have our democratic system that is designed with a strong anti-authoritarian immune system. Rebelling from a king, the founders designed the system to entrust governing power with representatives of the people and to separate that power among different branches of government with different governing functions. They codified citizens’ rights in a written constitution and set up a court system to peacefully resolve disputes.

On the other hand, we have MAGA which is designed to protect and promote the interests of former President Trump. I’m moving away from using the terms “conservative” or “Republican” to describe Trump supporters as it’s not descriptive of the current reality. Genuine conservatives exist, as do members of the Republican party that are faithful to that organization’s founding values and ideological principles. However, the current elected class and most media on the right is a cult of personality, where position in the power hierarchy is determined by one’s relationship to one person— it’s about Trump and Trump alone. They are MAGA.

Daily Beast columnist David Rothkopf’s characterization of MAGA in the wake of Liz Cheney’s loss in the recent GOP Wyoming primary, planted the notion of an immune system in my mind.

Source: Twitter.com

While I agree with Rothkopf that the MAGA immune system is effective at isolating and destroying truth-tellers within the GOP, the potential scope of that system is larger, and more dangerous than he suggests.

Liz Cheney’s loss marks the maturation of this immune response within the Republican Party, but it’s still an open question as to whether it will triumph over our democracy’s anti-authoritarian immune system.

The key is attacking accountability institutions

The true danger of the MAGA immune system is that it not only targets dissent within its ranks, it also targets the accountability mechanisms our country has in place against authoritarianism. Like our body’s immune system protects our organs and other systems from disease, our democracy’s laws, and political norms protect our institutions from corruption for personal and political gain. The MAGA immune system is in direct conflict with our democracy’s anti-authoritarian immune system. It’s a zero-sum contest, both cannot co-exist.

Writing about Cheney’s defeat in the Washington Post, Greg Sargent captures it well:

The true reason he (Trump) worked to oust her is to help secure absolute impunity for his crime spree against democracy — to clear the way to do it all again.

For Trump, the targeting of Cheney is very much about debilitating the institutions that are struggling to preserve U.S. democracy against his movement’s assault on it.

…it’s about disabling mechanisms of accountability that threaten to fully expose Trump’s wrongdoing.

Opinion | Trump just revealed exactly why Liz Cheney’s loss is so dangerous

After losing the Republican primary for Wyoming’s House seat by more than 30 points to a candidate enthusiastically…

www.washingtonpost.com

Strengthening democracy’s “gut health”

Based on the above, the key question in my mind is “How do we ensure democracy’s immune system wins?”

Our body’s immune system is reliant on our “gut health” — the ecosystem of “good” bacteria in our digestive tract that helps us absorb nutrition and water and strengthens our body’s ability to fight disease. Through this lens, the question becomes, “how do we help strengthen our democracy’s ‘gut health’”?

I think it’s very possible, as does the just defeated Cheney in her concession speech from Sargent’s article:

“As we leave here, let us resolve that we will stand together — Republicans, Democrats and independents — against those who would destroy our Republic. They are angry, and they are determined. But they have not seen anything like the power of Americans united in defense of our Constitution and committed to the cause of freedom.”

While I’m optimistic, the threat is formidable. The majority of a major political party has gone authoritarian, while the remainder is cowed into silence. Democracy’s immune system also has a structural weakness that MAGA exploits — its insistence on freedom of speech and due process. Sean Iling, co-author of “The Paradox of Democracy”, notes,

“The history of democratic decline is a history of demagogues and autocrats exploiting the openness of democratic cultures to mobilize people against the very institutions that sustain democracy itself.”

Our democratic and law enforcement organizations can’t clamp down on MAGA arbitrarily and without due process or we become the very thing we oppose.

Supporting democracy’s “gut health” means strengthening our democratic institutions at all levels — national, state, and local — but particularly the latter two. Much of our attention is often focused on the national level because it makes for splashier headlines. However, as we learned in the fight over the 2020 election results, the state and local levels are crucial. This is where election systems are designed and operated, votes counted, and results certified.

Secretaries of state, canvassing boards, and other similar bodies are the institutions that determine democracy’s “gut health.” Each one by itself has an impact limited to its municipalities and states. But in total, they comprise our electoral system and determine the integrity of elections for every level of government. MAGA learned its lesson in 2020 and is now actively targeting these institutions. Election deniers have won nominations to these types of offices in multiple battleground states for the midterm election.

The best way to strengthen our democracy’s “gut health” is to ensure pro-democracy candidates, not election deniers, win these key state and local positions. This means voting all the way down the ballot. There’s a phenomenon in elections called “roll-off.” It is the difference between the number of votes for the “top of the ticket” — high profile races like president or governor — and those “down-ballot” — like secretaries of state, county commissioners, and election boards. The lower the “roll-off” number, the more people filled out the ballot completely. Our goal for the 2022 midterm election must be zero “roll-off.” A vote for the top of the ticket is weakened without a vote for the bottom.

I was talking to a friend recently about how to communicate this idea in a mail piece with limited space. “Fill out the whole frickin thing” came to mind. We’re still working on it.

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Your Morning Routine

Why Creating a Meaningful Morning Routine Will Make You More Successful

Written by Kathryn Lavery and published in Medium.com 8/17/2015

For the majority of my child and adult life I never considered myself a “morning person.” I was a night owl. During my architectur,e school career I worked late through the night and slept in the mornings. When I started working at an Architecture firm, I conformed to getting up at 7am… but I didn’t enjoy it. I would get up as late as possible, skip breakfast, rush to work, and then feel like I was trying to catch up the rest of the day.

This type of routine will take its toll on your physical and mental well-being and majorly impact your productivity.

Now, I work from home for myself on various businesses, and I happily wake up around 5:30 am each day. Even on weekends, I’m usually up by 7 am. It could be that I’m enjoying the work I’m doing so much and am accountable to only myself; however, I think it has more to do with the fact that I’ve learned so much about how creating good habits and a morning routine are critical for lifetime success. A morning routine sets the tone for the whole day, and if you do each day right, you’ll do life right.

One of my goals for the beginning of this year was to get into a good morning routine in order to set myself up for the day. It started whenever I read The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod in January. I knew that not having a good morning routine and feeling overwhelmed and disorganized were connected.

I needed to work smarter, not harder, and the first step was to create good habits.

The first thing I needed to do was quit the belief that I was a “night owl.”

Over the past several months I have been working on “habit stacking” to craft myself a good morning routine that works for me. Habit Stacking is a way to build a new habit into your life by stacking it on top of something you’re currently doing. For example, before I brush my teeth in the morning (current habit) I will meditate (new habit) for 3 minutes. I’ve discovered the personal ritual I have set up for myself has helped put me in the right mindset and offset any morning procrastination. Here’s a previous medium post I wrote about it.

Another great reason to create a morning ritual it is to avoid mental fatigue.

We only have a certain amount of energy and willpower when we wake up each morning, and it slowly gets drained away with decisions. This is especially true if you’re making hundreds of small decisions in the morning that mean nothing yet will affect how you make decisions for the remainder of the day. Try to have the first hour of your day vary as little as possible with a routine.

Avoiding mental fatigue is why Mark Zuckerberg wears the same thing everyday. Knowing exactly how the first 90 minutes of my day looks like is powerful, as it helps me feel in control and non-reactive, which in turn reduces anxiety and ensures I’m more productive throughout the day.

You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine. — John C Maxwell

The First 60 Minutes of my day:

1. Wake up and drink a 16oz glass of ice cold water

After 6–10 hours without any liquid, you need to rehydrate and wake yourself up. Drinking water is a great way to kickstart your metabolism, especially when it’s ice cold.

2. Stretching or 7 Minute Workout

A little light stretching in the morning is all it takes to shake off grogginess and limber up for the day ahead. It only takes a few minutes but by doing basic stretches, here’s the ones I do. I use the 7 minute workout app.

3.Take a cold shower (3 mins)

When I first heard friends talk about taking cold showers in the morning, I thought they were nuts. Then one random day in mid-February I decided to try it. I’m not going to lie: it sucked. However, I felt so energized and alive after it that I’ve been doing it every day since. If you’re considering it, be prepared for discomfort at first, but also look forward to feeling more refreshed and alive than you have before. Also, it has numerous health benefits

4. Brush teeth and get dressed

5. Meditate

Perhaps the most important part of my routine is clearing my mind so that I can gain focus for the day. I’m very new to meditation. I only added it to my daily life within the past 6 months.

I personally use the Muse headband because, as a beginner, I had trouble learning how to meditate and understand when my mind was drifting. The Muse detects my brain signals to let me know when my brain is calm and focused and when it is not. It is not essential for meditation. I have also heard great things about the app Headspace.

Since beginning the daily habit of meditation I have seen a big improvement in my focus, productivity, and stress levels for the rest of the day.

6. Make bulletproof coffee (+ sometimes do dishes)

I’ve been doing bulletproof intermittent fasting since Oct./Nov. of last year, so I only drink BP Coffee in the morning. While the coffee is brewing, I use those few minutes to wash some dishes. No one could ever accuse me of being a “cleaner,” but I enjoy doing the dishes in the morning so I can think through my day. It also makes me feel like I have accomplished something already, which is a great way to start the day.

7. Reading (20 mins)

This 20 minutes of reading has been huge for me. Not only is it enjoyable, but reading books on mindset, personal growth, and business inspires me in the beginning of my day and gets the creative juices flowing. If you’re curious what I’m reading, you can see here.

8. Morning pages (15–20 mins)

This part of my morning routine was established more recently and is a creative process. It’s an activity of writing 750 words (around 3 pages) each morning. It’s not blogging or anything that I will ever release to the world. It’s a stream of consciousness of whatever is on my mind, essentially a brain dump on ideas for business, life, and other decisions. Whatever I want to clear my mind of, It gets my brain working and thinking more creatively.

9. Daily goals (5 mins)

Each morning I write down my goals. First, I write down a long-term goal that I’m working towards. I write this down each day to keep me mindful of my direction so that I don’t go off track. Then, I write down the day’s targets, which are what 3 things I need to accomplish to move me further toward my long-term goal. I usually have my 13-Week Roadmap planned ahead of time that has my goals broken down with a timeline. I’ll delve into this process in another post, but essentially it’s a planning structure so that I know what I should be working on for 3 months at a time. Interested in learning about this? Let me know.

10. Day planning (3 mins)

I break down my day in 30 minute increments, enter any calls or appointments I have, and then schedule out my tasks for the day. I always put the most important (coincidentally usually the least enjoyable) first so that I ensure it gets done. I try to never book any meetings or appointments until late in the afternoon if I can help it because my mornings are my sacred hours of peak productivity.

Then I begin working.

I don’t look at my phone, email, facebook, or twitter until after I’ve completed that first big task of my day. I pause my inboxes the night before (using inbox pause) so that, in the morning, if I do need to send out any emails I can do so without being bombarded with any incoming mail. Remember, email is someone else’s request of your time. Prioritize your goals and tasks first before looking at email so you don’t go into reactive mode as opposed to proactive mode.

My morning routine takes just over an hour. I can’t stress enough to you the importance of a great morning routine, as it will set you up for a successful day — and life. With that said, what I do isn’t for everyone. I experimented with a few different things and figured out what worked for me. You should do the same. Soon you’ll know what things work for you, and you’ll enjoy starting your day.

I’d love to hear about your morning routine if you have one. What does the first hour of your day look like?

Following the Relay for Life

We cannot direct the wind but we can adjust the sails.

~Author Unknown~

Some years ago, I found myself in the Spencerport High School sports stadium. Tents rose throughout the infield and a band warmed up. The high school color guard marched in to the beat of their drummers. Among them I found the names of my significant other, Carol, her younger sister and her nephew. Around me was a sea of people wearing purple shirts, all displaying a message on the back, “Survivor.”

Everyone had gathered for the American Cancer Society Relay for Life, in honor of those who had survived cancer, those who had not and those who might eventually face it. We had been invited to attend several times in the past, but had not ever done so for one reason or another. This year was different.

The announcer read the names of all the survivors present, their type of cancer and how long they had survived. Among them were a five year old boy, people in wheel chairs and women with the tell-tale scarves covering their chemotherapy-induced hair loss. As their names were read, they assembled on the track. After the reading, they walked together around the track as those who loved them looked on in silence.

Toward the front walked Carol, her older sister Sharon and brother-in-law Gary. I took this in stride until they walked by me. I had not known Carol’s mother or sister Marie who had died of cancer before we started dating. I knew Carol’s nephew, Tommy, who fought cancer for three years to have more time with his children Haley and Andrew.

For the past six months, Carol waged her own battle with cancer while I did what I could, often feeling helpless. We both focused on what had to be done and had little time to think about how we felt about the ordeal we had all been through.

After supporting her through her diagnosis, surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, I stood beside the track watching Carol walk with the sea of other survivors. For the first time since her diagnosis, my emotions overcame me and tears came to my eyes. I felt remnants of my initial fear and sorrow that her family pattern of cancer had finally caught up with her as well as respect for her courage in facing her ordeal and gratitude that she had survived it.

I often wondered about cancer but had never taken it seriously in the past. My first question to her radiologist was, “Why do people get cancer?” I have seen and heard explanations on many levels but have yet to find one which adequately answers my question. Cancer has been around for centuries, but not to the extent it is today. Our environment, lifestyles and diet all seem to play parts. Still, it is not clear, at least to me, why some people get cancer and others don’t.

Carol’s encounter has brought me to a new respect for life, realization of how precious it is and my need to cherish it. I don’t think I will ever look at Carol again and take her for granted.

Action Steps

  • Think about how you live your life and how you treat your body?
  • What would your body say about how you treat it?
  • Find out what you can do to protect yourself from cancer.
  • If you have lost someone to cancer, live part of your life in his or her honor.
  • If you love any cancer survivors, find ways to show them how much they mean to you.

Based on a selection from my book, Navigating Life: Commonsense Reflections for the Voyage, available at Amazon

 

The Care and Feeding of Angels

Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing
some have unwittingly entertained angels.

~Hebrews 13:2~

 

I wrote in the past about the angels among us, working quietly to make our lives better and easing the strain of our life challenges. They are often unacknowledged and sometimes unnoticed.

Even though I refer to them as angels, they are not just spirits. They have human needs too. However, in their efforts to care for the rest of us, they often forget about their own needs. They are just as prone to stress and burn-out as we are, although they are probably less attuned to these signs, since they are so focused on what others need.

I have often heard from people who are good listeners that no one cares about their concerns. No one imagines anything could ever bother them. Caretakers sometimes seem indestructible, or maybe it is just our wishful thinking.

Whose responsibility is it to care for the angels in our lives? First, it is their responsibility. Everyone knows that a car will break down quickly without regular service and maintenance. While people are not machines, they also need nourishment, rest, exercise, appreciation and support.

If you are an angel, stop to think how much you are doing for everyone else and also what you need. What do you do for yourself? In your efforts to care for everyone else, do you forget to take care of yourself? Do you listen to what your body is telling you? Do you pay attention to your feelings of stress, exhaustion and loneliness, or do you try to carry on as if you don’t have any of these feelings?

You deserve to take care of your body, and especially of your spirit. Take time to sit quietly and be aware of your requirements as you do for everyone else. You have needs too. Once you are aware of them, set aside some time for yourself. It may seem selfish, but unless you do, you won’t remain helpful to others.

If you are not an angel but have one or more of them in your life, stop to think about what they may need. Encourage them to consider their own desires and what may please them. There may also be things you can do for them. It might be hard to figure out what they want since they do not often make their wishes known. They may seem like they can go on forever taking care of you as they always have.

It helps to let them know you appreciate all they do for you instead of taking them for granted. But this might not be enough, since appreciation might tempt them to work all the harder.

You might watch them and see what they need. They might appreciate being reminded to take time for themselves. You could let them know they don’t have to be of service immediately or on call twenty-four hours a day. Or you could find a way to be their angel at least on occasion.

Action Steps

  • Discover who your angels are.
  • Think about how they have enriched your life.
  • Make sure you thank them.
  • What could your angels use from you in return?
  • Do it for them.

The Magic of Everyday Life

 

Surprise is the greatest gift which life can grant us.

~Boris Pasternak~

I learn daily of the number of people dying in violence-related incidents.  read of the ingrained hatreds among groups around the world and wonder how things could have come to this. The problems seem overwhelming. How could the world be a different place?

Just when things seem most hopeless, something happens to remind me that life is still full of wonderful surprises. They do not appear every minute or maybe they do and I just don’t notice them. When I sense them, they remind me that people are on earth to enjoy what God has put before them rather than to find more efficient ways to destroy each other.

I have seen the most glorious sunset I could imagine at Sunset Beach in Oahu. I was present at the births of three healthy babies entrusted to my safekeeping. I looked down on the Grand Canyon from thirty five thousand feet in the air.

I have heard Dvorak’s Symphony From the New World played in a park in Pittsburgh and the Queen of the Night aria from The Magic Flute sung in concert as well as whistled on the street. I have heard my grandson Joey talking a mile a minute after having to learn sign language because of his delayed speech.

I have smelled the scent of holly flowers meant to attract bumblebees. I have enjoyed the aroma of honeysuckle pervading the countryside and the fragrance of night blooming cereus wafting `across my front porch.

I have tasted Evil Jungle Prince sitting in Keo’s Honolulu Restaurant among the orchids, sipped Sangria at a modest restaurant in Gijon, Spain and relished Pat Davis cakes at family celebrations.

I swam in the Sea of Cortez, felt my hair stand on end as I touched a Van de Graf generator and had my hand tickled by a salamander scooting across my palm.

These are a few of the sensory experiences which have surprised me over the years. I did not plan or expect any of them to happen and they are by no means the only pleasant surprises I have encountered during my journey through life.

Thomas Moore in The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life helps us regain a sense of wonderment about the many mysteries of the world waiting for our exploration and appreciation. Diane Ackerman in A Natural History of the Senses gives us a context for appreciating all that our senses bring to our life experience.

I am sure there are many delights I have encountered in passing but have not dwelt upon sufficiently and many others which I have not taken the time to even notice. I hope I can set aside my concerns to better notice the delights God has placed along my path. I also hope that delight in nature can help turn the world people’s attention from its conflicts and give them a context in which to start appreciating each other better.

Action Steps

  • Recall what has delighted you over the years.
  • Think of the last delight you encountered.
  • Which of your life experiences means the most to you?
  • Think about how you could delight someone you care about.
  • Set aside some time for wonderment about the world you live in.

Selection from my book Navigating Life: Commonsense Reflections for the Voyage, available at Amazon