What’s Coming to Your Door?

“If God had to build a door, it’s because we erected a wall.” ― Craig D. Lounsbrough

Why Do Doors In Some Countries Open Outwards? - Door Stop

Amazing how accessible so much is to us in this day and age. I get almost everything I need delivered right to my door, often within a day. Sometimes I think I go to the grocery store just for the social contact. I’m probably doing one of those GEICO commercials – acting like your parents – because I’m talking too much to strangers. As I start up conversations, I get very puzzled looks from young employees who aren’t used to being treated like human beings.

People these days need a dose of humanity more than ever before

When my grocery store first started up with delivery we were in a chaos and crisis period of time at my house. I could order what was needed and have it delivered within hours for free. This was exactly what we needed. As I received one delivery, an older child brought my bags from the car. It looked as if his mom was driving and managing more children in the back seat. My delivery “man” was very friendly and I was very effusive in my praise. After handing over the bags, he then asked me if I had a band-aid he could have. Never had that happen before.

8 Grocery Shopping Tips For 20-Somethings | Thought Catalog

In my former life, before becoming a widow and then the COVID lockdown, we would go shopping and exploring. I don’t do that anymore – my explorations are done online. My gifting and giving during Christmas was all done online, again. Very convenient. I only had to send a few items back. In retrospect, it seemed too sterile.

Living life with others, even strangers, is supposed to be an adventure

Most people complain about all the hustle and bustle of getting out into the retail space, especially during holiday time. But maybe there’s something to be said for literally rubbing shoulders with real people. Seeing faces and waiting in line.

“There is no greater predictor of human well-being than the amount of social time we spend with one another.” ― Tom Rath

  • Being around others, even strangers, reminds us that our chores and frustrations are shared – we are truly not alone in all the burdens of life. There is a subtle comfort in that.
  • When you go out, maybe share a meal, with friends and family you also share parts of your story. The whole group, sitting around the table, become linked in that shared telling and connecting. We realize how much it means to us that someone else understands and wants to be a part of our life. Listening is as important as telling.
  • A colleague was out sick with COVID, I wanted to be sure to tell him that his absence mattered, he was missed. We all need to be reminded that we matter. It doesn’t take that much.

Recently I visited my niece and her husband who live in a nearby town. I went shopping for a gift. There were all sorts of shops we used to visit in that town in years gone by. It was not convenient but fun to explore, hunt and find just what I was looking for. Talking with real people in the store energized me – just what someone in my situation needed.

Opening my door and getting out really is good for my sanity.

Probably for yours too. 

“I lived when simply waiting was a large part of ordinary life: when we waited, gathered around a crackling radio, to hear the infinitely far-away voice of the king of England… I live now when we fuss if our computer can’t bring us everything we want instantly.

We deny time. We don’t want to do anything with it, we want to erase it, deny that it passes. What is time in cyberspace? And if you deny time you deny space. After all, it’s a continuum—which separates us.

So we talk on a cell phone to people in Indiana while jogging on the beach without seeing the beach, and gather on social media into huge separation-denying disembodied groups while ignoring the people around us.

I find this virtual existence weird, and as a way of life, absurd. This could be because I am eighty-four years old. It could also be because it is weird, an absurd way to live.”

~ Ursula K. LeGuin, Interview by Heather Davis
Free Photo | Man checking time on wrist watch

Waiting in Line One Day

Everything we believed about waiting in line at the grocery store is wrong – SheKnows

The older we get, the fewer things seem worth waiting in line for. – Will Rogers

Surely I’m not the only one?

Waiting in line, trying to figure out what’s going on with the person in front who’s holding things up…

…the overly complicated order that needs so much explaining and then followed up with personal details about that aunt living in East Texas

…the lady that seems so surprised when presented with the total for her groceries or the order – it’s only now that she begins to dig in her purse for the method of payment (please not a checkbook)

…the person who’s on his phone and won’t stop the conversation in order to be in this moment and speak with the person who’s trying to help, we all must wait for the call to finish (a conversation we’ve all had to listen to while standing in line)

I was patiently standing in line the other day, hoping that I was being observed from above so that I could earn plenty of extra credit points. That guy in front of me was completely unaware that anyone else on earth existed as he took that poor girl at the counter up and down his order with all kinds of detail. I don’t think she was too interested. She mostly whispered and seemed half asleep. He had to repeat so much. There were also humorous anecdotes at each twist and turn. I’m certain she didn’t understand most of them.

My hope was to hop in and out quickly. All hopes dashed as I stood there listening to this little man work his way through all the complications of his order for himself and maybe several others. Should I give up and run out the door?

“Don’t be overheard complaining … not even to yourself.” ― Marcus Aurelius

As I climbed into my vehicle I suddenly realized what God must think when he stands behind me in the line, watching my behavior and idle chatter. Am I really scoring any extra points for my lack of grace and selfishness? Is he impatient, critical, or perpetually hurried?

Doesn’t that cause a pause? What if God was really watching what I was doing? What I was saying about someone behind their back? How I wasn’t helping when I could? Those times when I fudged about the truth? Does God really expect me to live out my beliefs, even when it’s difficult or I’m out of practice?

“I have always found that actively loving saves one from a morbid preoccupation with the shortcomings of society.” ― Alan Paton

Complaining and being critical sure does make me feel better in the moment. I wonder what long term benefit it has for my soul?

Put up with one another. Forgive. Pardon any offenses against one another, as the Lord has pardoned you, because you should act in kind. – Colossians 3:13

Such a Cloud of Witnesses

Do you live in a place that daily empowers you?

I’ve already got a post ready to upload. Tonight I finally put away my Christmas. I was running late with this chore due to a cold all last week. As I was hauling plastic crates out to my messy garage I started to see and think about another important experience that I should write about. Right now before the fires of inspiration begin to burn low. BTW, don’t tell my son-in-law that my garage is still messy.

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Good friends unexpectedly came over to help me set up my annual minimal Christmas. What a blessing this was. We tried to make a fun night out of it. They were a no-nonsense, purpose driven SWAT team. Haven’t you ever had someone do something for you, and you didn’t realize until afterwards how much you really needed it? That tree never looked so professionally decorated. While watching, I sent my daughter a photo of the progress. She texted back, telling me, “That’s what it’s supposed to look like, Dad!” 

“We only have what we give.” ― Isabel Allende

The Gallup organization provides personality testing for people who work in organizations like colleges. It’s also available as a learning experience for students. As the years have gone by, I have taken these kinds of self-tests again and again. As with all such personality indicators, the results change as time and circumstances evolve. My list of “strengths” has always moved around as I have had different kinds of roles and progressed through stages of development.

All of this to say, one of my strengths is called INPUT. People high in this theme tend to archive and collect information, memories, ideas, symbols. Anyone who has been to my little cottage always remarks right away about the eclectic décor. It’s sort of like a gypsy explosion. Lot’s of color and artifacts everywhere. My contribution, due to my strength, are all of the filled up bookshelves and memories on the walls. For example, hanging in the hall, there are classic rock albums from bands whose concerts I have attended. There’s a bookshelf in EVERY room of the house.

1K+ Book Shelf Pictures | Download Free Images on Unsplash

“I’ve got an apartment that consists of nothing but books; on the other hand, I don’t collect. It’s a mania to buy books. I can’t go out without buying a book. But it would never occur to me to collect. I collect authors because obviously I want all their work, but this business of first editions and that whole thing doesn’t strike me.” ― Edward Gorey

As I was trudging from one end of the house to the other tonight, I kept passing by photos on the walls, symbols of memory (like that vase), and even the orange bird carved from wood that made it back to the mantle. I am living in a cocoon of remembrance. It’s always a great feeling to be home.

I’m looking up right now at a photo of my one-year-old granddaughter beaming at me with the lights of her Christmas tree in the background. She is extremely photogenic. I half expect her first line to be, “Mom, I’m ready for my close up!” This one is just a perfect picture, and as I gaze at it again, she’s not that far away anymore.

Hanging on the wall right above this photo is another one of her soon to be five-year-old brother sitting in bed with my wife. He was about 18 months old at the time. He is babbling away about something and she is looking back with the deepest affection at the little man of her dreams. They are both sitting in her hospice bed, she will be gone to heaven a few months later. Neither one of them seem to me that far away either.

My cloud of witnesses

I’ve always thought that one of the most inspiring versus from the Bible is in the letter to the Hebrews:

So since we stand surrounded by all those who have gone before, an enormous cloud of witnesses, let us drop every extra weight, every sin that clings to us and slackens our pace, and let us run with endurance the long race set before us. – Hebrews 12:1 (The Voice)

Here, in my house, I feel as if I am surrounded by a cloud of memory that bears witness to God’s love, his grace and provision. It’s real because of these people, places and symbols. They each bear witness to me day after day. That’s probably why I’m still chugging along.

What’s helping you run the race?

294 Confused Old Man With A Mobile Phone Stock Photos, Pictures & Royalty-Free Images - iStock

I often stand around for way too long trying to locate photos on my phone. They are not organized! There’s got to be a better way. My encouragement to you is to not leave your important memories buried in the archive that is your phone. Print something(s) important to you and keep it out so you can see it daily. Let it bear witness to the truth you have experienced. The manager at CVS and I are now good friends, I print off all of my photos there. Rotating photos of two grandkids as they grow like weeds is like a part-time job.

“Generally speaking, our stuff can be divided into three categories: useful stuff, beautiful stuff, and emotional stuff.” ― Francine Jay

Ultra sparse Scandinavian minimalism works well if clutter is your problem but I’m advocating finding some ways to visually stimulate your thinking and feeling each day as you head off to do battle. Do some rain dancing so that your cloud descends. Hauling out all that Christmas tonight was much less a chore for me as I brushed up against so much memory and meaning.

The Christmas That Came and Went

My grandchildren spent some time with me over the Christmas holidays. I looked down and saw fingerprints on my pajamas one morning. A sure sign that there had been no Christmas ghosts at my house this year. I sat back and surveyed the wreckage of having the whole family here in my little house. It was a marvelous carnage of wrapping paper, half-eaten meals, toys, and toddler debris on all the floors. We didn’t have the dog this time. That meant more and less mess.

It was all over too quickly.

“You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world but a world lives in you.” ― Frederick Buechner

Create a keepsake of your child's growth Sweet Retreat Beat

The pajamas are in the washing machine right now. But those prints are on my soul forever. Don’t they always say that childhood passes so quickly? My grandchildren live in the Dallas area. I don’t see them often enough. They are bigger and more grown up each time I do. I missed the whole crawling stage this fall.

“Being with you and not being with you is the only way I have to measure time.” ― Jorge Luis Borges

It got very cold during Christmas. At least for this part of Texas. I was in bed with an extra blanket. It was a quilt that my grandmother had pieced together from her sewing scraps. She sewed clothes for herself and others in the family. Over the years as I have grabbed that patchwork quilt I think about my grandmother. Growing up, we spent a lot of time together. It’s not so much a single event or interaction that I recall, but her presence that has been instilled within me because of her constancy, patience and deep love.

my quilting, sewing, and crafting blog | Quilts, Patchwork quilt patterns, Quilt patterns

As I labor to build memories for my own grandchildren, I think about my childhood memory with others. It’s not built out of single events, but instead those long and constant relationships.

As Christmas came to an end, I had the familiar experience – departure. Everyone loaded into the car and waved from the backseat. I then begin to prepare myself for our next meeting. Mostly this is self-preparation. When next we meet, how am I going to do a better job of grandfathering? Of course, realizing that these two children are ever changing as they grow more and more as each day passes. I hope I do too.

Are you working on your 2023 resolutions yet? This next year’s list are predictably similar to those from previous years. Take a look at a U.S. survey from October – November.

Here’s something interesting to know about resolutions. Haven’t you heard that success is greater if you make yourself accountable – tell someone who will check in on your progress? This is sort of like Social Facilitation. Research tells us that this only works when you are performing a task that you already know how to do. Being accountable or having the eyes of your whole family on your every trip to the refrigerator can instead get in the way of your success when you’re attempting a goal you don’t know how to accomplish.

Resolutions tend to focus on self-improvement. The weight that must get lost, the habits to change, or the money to save. What about resolving to be more intentional about the people in your life – especially those who depend on you? Even those who don’t even realize yet how much they need you?

“A kind gesture can reach a wound that only compassion can heal.” ― Steve Maraboli

As you arise on the morning of the next year, look down and see those handprints on your pajamas. Who are you going to take with you into this next chapter of life?

How (And Why) We Should Celebrate Mother's Day : 13.7: Cosmos And Culture : NPR

Cleaning Out the Closet

17 Utility Closet Organizing Ideas — Broom Closet Organizer

I’m digging out stuff in the closet. It’s worse than I thought. How did I accumulate all this junk? Who in the world thought THIS was worth saving? Someone else around here must be loading stuff into this little closet – not me! Maybe if I get it all cleaned out and thrown away I’ll move off that naughty list just in time for Christmas?

 

My three theories about closets:

Closets are where we accidently accumulate junk

I’ve got a very junked up closet in my study. I’ve made a promise that I’m going to get in there and clean out all the terrible trash that has filled it up for years and years. The closets in my house are mostly all small and unlit – making them like haunted tombs.

Over the years, I have searched through the closets of others and been astounded at what found its way into the darkness. Why save THIS? Most ended up here because a decision couldn’t be made. In a hurry, we stash away what we imagine we might need in the future. I glanced at a small box full of electronic cords in my dark closet last week. Who knows what those match with anymore?

Be careful, so many items that stay in your closet too long can lose their value. If you aren’t careful with the people in your life – keeping up and staying in touch, they too will become obsolete to you. Who knows what value you each might have lost to others in the dark.

In our closets we find things we had forgotten about

A lot people are digging around in their closets this time of year. Are you trading out your warm weather clothes for sweaters and coats? That typically doesn’t happen much here in Houston – although a big freeze is predicted for Christmas. Just in time to kill all my plants. As the seasons change it’s time to trade out short sleeves for sweaters. I was at a play last week and there were older men wearing shorts – in December. The weather down here is always strange.

Christmas means pulling out the decorations from wherever they’ve been stored and opening boxes and bags. Closets can be places to hide away gifts. I found storage boxes of gift wrap supplies in three different closets lately, one box was even under my bed. I’ve got to be careful to remember all the places I’ve hidden away presents from prying eyes who came to visit during Thanksgiving.

“I forget what matters because I pay attention to what doesn’t.” ― Craig D. Lounsbrough

When something is misplaced or just gone for good, we always start digging in a closet. It must be in here somewhere.  Each time I search I find something new I had not been looking for. I file it away, hoping later to remember, that’s where the box of dominoes now resides. As organized as we strive to be, closets will always be repositories, used infrequently and by more than one person. There’s always something in there to discover.

Our lives are like that as well. There really is something of value hidden away in the dark – it just might take time and effort to dig around and lay hold of it. That something, whether it’s a memory, skill or slice of wisdom needs to be shared. 

14,670 Finding Treasure Stock Photos, Pictures & Royalty-Free Images - iStock

Closets are places for keeping treasures safe and secure

This is the place where you stash away what you don’t need to access each day. Back in the ancient days I had a file cabinet with family records stored away in a closet. Everything is digital now. When I was growing up I had a relative with a coin collection stored in his closet. He would take it down to show us when we visited. There’s a big plastic container that I can see in one of my closets packed full of photo albums from across the decades. These are invaluable memories. I pulled one down during Thanksgiving so my daughter could show her son what she was doing when she was his age. It meant more to us than to him I’m sure.

During this season, do you know what your REAL treasures are? What have you hidden away in your memories? There’s that famous question, what’s the first thing you will grab when the fire alarm goes off? We keep things safe so that they can be share with others. During this time of year with family, share some important stories associated with what you are keeping treasured in your life.

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In my bedroom I expanded to two closets after my wife passed away. Now, I feel as if I’ve moved into a luxury hotel. For years I only had room for the necessities in my one closet. All that has changed. I even have space to store items I may never use. There are pillows on the floor, suits that are too big, a box filled with concert t-shirts, and even old jewelry that no one wants.

Sitting up on the shelf, where I see it every day as I open that closet door, are my wife’s remains. She was cremated and we never did anything with what was left. The pandemic hit, my family moved away and then I just woke up and a few more years had past. So, my wife is still here with me, sort of.  This wasn’t the plan. I’m not sure we made any concrete plan. At the time all we were really concentrating on was surviving cancer for one more day. Living in the afterwards left us sort of bewildered.

Opening the Door: Creating Inclusive Pathways for Next Generation Leaders in Family Businesses

What’s behind those doors of your life? Are there items that need to be reorganized, pulled forward and put to use? What about something that needs to be set out on the curb for trash pick up? Unhealthy habits, old baggage, grievances, selfish attitudes – anything like that need to go? You’ve got treasures stored away that should be shared with someone before it’s too late.

Make today count and do something with what’s in your closet.

 

What Makes You Afraid?

Is Your Child Afraid of the Dark? | Sunshine House

I noticed the other day, although it’s been going on for a long time, the use of the word “phobia” in our daily discourse. In the most safe of civilizations in the history of the world, we certainly talk about fear a lot.

At our Thanksgiving dinner we all enjoyed (I hope) a dish of Brussels Sprouts. Now, I’m reasonably certain that there are people all around me who are sproutsphobic. They do not care for this little cabbage like side dish. Even though I cooked it with bacon and tried not to over do it so that it wouldn’t turn out mushy. Still, I think there are people in other families that would protest having this dish added to their feasts.

I saw a security photo last week of a man walking out the doors of a store dragging dozens of new purses behind him. He was obviously shoplifting in a very brazen manner. The retail industry reports that in 2019, almost $70 billion worth of merchandise was shoplifted. That cost must be passed down to someone. Probably me. That makes me angry and afraid that this behavior will increase. I guess I’m a shoplifterphobic person. Aren’t you?

Sometimes I find myself driving back home, out to the suburbs, from an event that took place downtown. It’s late at night and the traffic is very minimal. But often, there are people driving past me who have obviously been drinking. There are others who take advantage of the empty lanes on the freeway to race at dangerous speeds. It’s dark, very late and despite the lack of traffic, I find myself driving home very much afraid of those other drivers. I try to pay careful attention and get where I need to go as fast as I can.  Does this make me a latenightdrivingphobic person?

“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.” ― Marie Curie

What I really believe is that when we overuse a serious term like this we run the risk of causing harm to people who might need help. In the heat of political, moral and social debates in our society, using labels is a convenient way to reduce the opposition to a category and dehumanize people who disagree.

Having a real phobia is a diagnostic symptom used by health professionals. It is marked by out of proportion fear or anxiety about a specific object or situation. These fears are not reasonable or based on facts. People who are terrified of heights and won’t ride in an elevator. Those who fear water and won’t walk across a bridge. Others won’t go to the doctor or dentist because of their fears related to examinations. I just had a student in my office telling me her sister has trypophobia – I’ve never in my life heard of this one?!

What classifies these as phobias is that they are irrational feelings and they can prevent people from living a full and healthy life.  When we overuse the term, “phobia,” we risk minimizing the real obstacles that some people face and work very hard to overcome. Inadvertently, we are making light of serious health problems.

Just because I don’t agree with you doesn’t mean that I have a phobia, just that I have a different opinion or belief.

“It is better to debate a question without settling it than to settle a question without debating it.” ― Joseph Joubert

Still Giving Thanks

“I wanted to thank you,” I said.
She wrinkled her nose and squinted like I’d said something funny.
“Thank me for what?” she said.

“You give me strength I didn’t know I had,”; I said. “You make me better.”

― Ransom Riggs

Thank you…

for parking with enough room so as not to dent my door

for remembering my name

for making me feel welcome

for playing my favorite song

for asking

for listening again so patiently

for sharing those photos

for saying “excuse me”

for asking me to lunch

for fixing my phone

for not making too much fun of me when I park me car like that

for not standing too close

for yelling out “hello” when I walked in the door

for sitting quietly in the hospital with me

for looking at my photos

for buying stamps

for forwarding that email

for driving all this way

for being persistent

for letting me past you in that crowded grocery aisle

for taking your hat off

for waiting when I was late

for showing me how to get from here to there

for remembering

for sharing your umbrella

for not trying to match my story with yours that’s better

for making room in your busy life

for not talking during the movie

for letting me know you got home safe

for not walking too far ahead

for buying my dinner

for asking how my grandchildren are doing

for putting me on your prayer list

for telling me it’s going to be alright, and making me believe it

for being a good example to follow

for holding up my bike when the training wheels needed to come off

for telling me the truth

for loving those I loved

for loading the dishwasher, again

for not complaining, the way I do

for lending me that book

for listening to me go on and on in frustration

for sharing your popcorn

for helping me carry in the groceries

for holding the door

for not rolling your eyes when I gave too much advice

for inviting me to that concert

for telling me about a new movie

for letting me know when I let you down

for telling me what time it really was

for talking during those long drives to keep me awake

for telling me what a good idea I had, even when I didn’t

for posing in photos with me that I will save for a lonely future

for not remembering all my mistakes

for answering the phone

for making a plate for me to share

for making me keep my word

for answering email right away

for being in a good mood even when I know you’re not

for not having to be asked

for coming to the rescue

for sitting with me on the balcony during a starry night

for a smile beamed at a stranger

for sharing some good news

for inviting me to sit with you

for being gracious when telling me how I messed up

for holding my hand

for not leaving me alone

for letting me share a little of your hope

 

“St. Augustine said, “The very pleasures of human life men acquire by difficulties.” There are times when the entire arrangement of our existence is disrupted and we long then for just one ordinary day – seeing our ordinary life as greatly desirable, even wonderful, in the light of the terrible disruption that has taken place. Difficulty opens our eyes to pleasures we had taken for granted.”

― Elisabeth Elliot

Kindness Counts and Santa Claus is Watching

“You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Beef tamales plate .Tuesday lunch special with homemade salsa Verde - Picture of Taco shop, Malmö - TripadvisorMy neighbor brought over dinner the other evening. Our cold weather had arrived. It was her specialty of Tex-Mex (New Mex-Mex?), including the annual holiday batch of tamales. We both are from parts of the country that celebrate with these wonderful delicacies. She had just returned from out of state, taking care of a grandchild in the ICU.

Of course, if you donate an organ, it’s a monumental act of love and sacrifice. But it’s very rare, right? What I’m thinking about are all the little acts of kindness that we all do for each other – these gestures that hold the social world together each day. It’s so easy to take simple gestures for granted if we’re not careful.

“Guard well within yourself that treasure, kindness. Know how to give without hesitation, how to lose without regret, how to acquire without meanness.” ― George Sand

Research tells us two things about kindness;

(1) when we do something kind toward others, despite its cost, it stimulates the brain in positive ways.

(2) acts of kindness are contagious – when we experience or witness kindness it makes us happy and to look for ways to repeat similar acts.

One little email or text with a photo makes so much of a difference. It can communicate layers to someone else – maybe at just the right time (theirs, not yours).  How about sticking a card or note in the mail, remember the mail? Amazon will sell you Forever Stamps so you will always be ready. I have a friend who used to give me calls when he was driving home from work. What great idea. Use that time for a meaningful purpose. Kindness means the most when it’s not expected. Who in your circle needs some human contact the most right now?

Old Woman Phone Pictures | Download Free Images on Unsplash

The first place to start being kind is to pay attention. Stop talking, look someone in the eyes, provide the right body language and never try to match with your own example (like a ping-pong game).  I often get so wrapped up in my own cares of right this moment that I miss out on really listening. Today, while I was listening, I think I rushed someone out of my office maybe too quickly. Being kind with time can be a tremendous gift in this world full of too much busy-ness.

Being kind takes empathy as well. It’s impossible to know how to be kind when we don’t understand and feel as someone else does. A student and I were talking about her class performance the other day. I was repeating to her instructions and coaching that I had given countless times in class. Why didn’t she hear this the first or fifteenth time? It was very difficult for me to empathize with her panic about passing the next exam. I tried to imagine her as my own child, or myself – much easier to do! When I was in college I needed a lot of help. Of course, this will never happen if you aren’t listening (see above).

“The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the greatest intention.” ― Kahlil Gibran

What do you need to do today to raise your awareness of the situations of others in your circles?  How about just stopping, turn everything off, sit on the porch and reflect. 

What do you need to do today to feel and understand better? Maybe you could ask someone to tell you (again) their story about what’s happened?

Make a list. What kindness could you carry out today?  Put it on your calendar. Maybe your kindness is something you stop doing. Something you stop saying.

Got any tamales you want to share?

“Life is mostly froth and bubble,
Two things stand like stone.
Kindness in another’s trouble,
Courage in your own.” 

― Adam Lindsay Gordon

 

A Bridge Over Troubled Water

Did you see the story on the news about the superhero 4-year-old who’s demonstrating empathy?

“What you do every day should contribute to giving your life meaning. If it doesn’t, why are you doing it?” — Don Hutcheson

My friend and I were talking about a terrible ordeal his family was experiencing. His wife’s mother has lived with them for over 20 years. She is like a mother to him, taking care of everyone’s needs in the house. She has been diagnosed with a terminal cancer. Treatments are happening, but it is a hard, hard journey. His voice trembled trying to find just a little bit of hope as he told their story.

I tried to be encouraging. Don’t think about what might happen in the days to come. Don’t lose today. Find the blessing in this moment, this day. Encourage her to share her stories with your daughter. You do the same, talk about what she means to you.

“We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.” ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

As I think about the people in my life who don’t seem to have a full tank of empathy it always causes me to get mad first, next comes a rain storm of self pity. Maybe a day later I try to pause to reflect.  How do I stop making situations about me and start to think and act toward others – first?

Feeling Helpless? Try Helping Someone Else. | Ravishly

Empathy isn’t that easy. Before you beat yourself up for being too filled up with self pity or too insensitive to everyone around you, consider some of the steps your brain and heart have to go through to really put empathy into full effect. Those who study this human practice have discovered three important dimensions that help us to understand, connect and better help others.

The first is easy to understand, it’s called Emotional Empathy. This describes your ability and willingness to share/understand how someone else feels in particular situations. Our connection to others is so often one that’s based on common feelings. But sometimes it can be difficult for men and women to be empathetic toward each other. They often have different emotional alphabets.

Empathetic Accuracy is a cognitive part of the equation. You have to know what someone else is going through. That doesn’t happen if conversations aren’t occurring or there’s too much discomfort about asking real questions. It’s impossible to be empathetic if you remain  safely disconnected from people and their situations. Do you think our communication revolution has improved this sort of accuracy?

Nothing is going to happen if you don’t really care.  Empathetic Concern is the essential dimension that describes our will. Do you care enough to think about someone else, to engage your feelings? I think this is the driving force that makes empathy work in my life. I’m trying to get better about this by refusing to jump to conclusions, listening more carefully and even praying for some understanding.

Supporting men to end family violence | Pursuit by The University of Melbourne

“Love is about bottomless empathy, born out of the heart’s revelation that another person is every bit as real as you are. And this is why love, as I understand it, is always specific. Trying to love all of humanity may be a worthy endeavor, but, in a funny way, it keeps the focus on the self, on the self’s own moral or spiritual well-being. Whereas, to love a specific person, and to identify with his or her struggles and joys as if they were your own, you have to surrender some of your self.” ― Jonathan Franzen

So what’s something you could do today to raise your empathy score? Thinking about it doesn’t really help someone make it another step. Who needs something from you right now, not some time in the mysterious future, but now?

Another Mile Down The Road

“The afternoon knows what the morning never suspected.” ― Robert Frost

Anyone out there experiencing signs of the afternoon arriving?

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I drink a cup of coffee several times a day now. I never used to do that. Never. I sometimes wonder if I’m unconsciously paying homage to loved ones recently gone to heaven. My young adult years were spent surrounded by coffee guzzlers. My kids handed down their one cup at a time coffee maker to me, that helps as well.

I know that a lot goes on in our unconscious. There’s not enough space to pay attention to everything at the same time all at once.

The other day I was showing my yard guy a little brown box that had been delivered and was sitting on the welcome mat. It contained my Pill Pack. I think it’s the greatest invention since air conditioning. Every day’s dosage all packed in a convenient little plastic envelope. No more trying to sort out all those pills into narrow weekly squares – and search for stragglers on the floor. I don’t even really have to think about it.

While I was boasting of the ingenuity of it all, he couldn’t get past the fact that I was having to take all those pills every day. What was wrong with me, he must have been thinking. I didn’t appear that infirmed to him. What does he know!

“Wisdom comes with winters” ― Oscar Wilde

What did happen to me? I woke up one day and found myself swallowing a handful of pills. Now I’m choking down my fruits and vegetables in capsule format. When I went from wearing reading glasses to having to have a prescription I panicked and asked my doctor what went wrong? Was I not drinking enough water? Too much TV? Air pollution? She gently put her hand on my shoulder and said, you’re just old. 

What made you realize you were getting older? Not necessarily “infirmed” but, what were some of the memorable milestones along your journey of life? Driver’s License, first real paycheck, bringing that baby home from the hospital, getting glasses, having teenagers driving off in your car, starting to think about fiber, medical check-ups with uncomfortable issues?

“You don’t stop laughing when you grow old, you grow old when you stop laughing.” ― George Bernard Shaw

509 Old Man Watching Tv Stock Videos and Royalty-Free Footage - iStock

Do you ever feel as if you’re trapped in your routines?

Last week I realized that I’m getting religious about watching the news. Now THAT sounds like something old people do. I wake up and turn it on and I get home and turn it on. Since I’m watching the same channel – it seems like they are replaying the morning stories at night! There’s not as much really happening as the 24-hour constant flood of information would have us believe. That can’t be true!

Turning off the TV is a good habit. Turning on some music is always a better choice. Put on some acoustic guitar and see where your mood goes. See how much more gets accomplished when you’re not trying to read the Netflix subtitles! Always use your routines to enable more freedom in your life. Routines allow you to be more conscious about what matters. When you keep saying “no” because you have to follow some rigid pattern – you’ve missed the point.

“In the shapeliness of a life, habit plays its sovereign role.”  ― Mary Oliver

We need routines to make sense of living and to get things accomplished.

Simple things like brushing our teeth and important goals like graduating from high school are accomplished because of routines. Very young children practice routines and in so doing learn, bit by bit, about life and are shaped for the next stage. As adults, we use routines to practice automatic thinking – so we can dream and solve problems while we’re driving to work each day. That feeling that we’re chipping away at daily accomplishments is called “perceptual effectiveness” – routines help us to at least feel as if we’re moving in the right direction.

It doesn’t seem to cool off until after 7pm down here in Houston for at least half the year. And yet, I keep buying more plants to replace all the stuff that froze to death the last two winters. As I was putting a few more tropicals into the back tonight all I could think about was that no one is ever going to see this but me. After we discussed my pill intake, Mr. Perez, who takes care of my yard, stood in my back garden and remarked how relaxing he thought it must be to sit here in the evenings (and listen to the new neighbors with lots of kids cool off in the pool next door). Isn’t it funny how different two people can see the same thing?

Why do you think we become more reflective as we age?

“Reflect upon your present blessings — of which every man has many — not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.” ― Charles Dickens

Time is moving faster and faster. A very pregnant co-worker just told me that as miserable as she feels in her final days before delivery, it won’t last long. What a great perspective. I told her that when she gets old like me, time is really going to fly past. That sand slipping through the hour glass starts to speed up as it nears the end of the funnel.

Hourglass Lampworking - Glass Blowing Techniques - YouTube

Getting older reminds me of all that I didn’t get accomplished. That list of grand projects is probably not going to happen. Life got in the way. Several years ago, during the chaos of the pandemic, I started posting notes throughout the house. The overwhelming sense of the world, new ways of doing old business and increasing social disconnection caused me to want to be more mindful of people and situations. It became a way to better organize my thinking and feeling.

So many projects never got done. But then, there are all these people that deserve some attention. Maybe that’s a more glorious way to spend today? Who needs some of your attention today? What’s keeping that from happening?

“The hardest choices in life aren’t between what’s right and what’s wrong but between what’s right and what’s best.” ― Jamie Ford

Are you still living a life that’s filled with choices?

Our ruts often keep us from seeing the far horizon and the infinite choices we could strike out for. Life isn’t supposed to be what we expected. I think it should be more peeking around the corner than that. Sure, there’s unexpected catastrophes like the price of gasoline and someone just had a stroke.

  • Use routines in your life to liberate your dreaming and doing
  • Make just today count for something – don’t waste it in worry or regret, literally think about what/who needs you right now.
  • Don’t let your life live you – make wise and reflective choices when you can. Think always about the people in your circles that need a word of hope today.

“Happiness, not in another place but this place…not for another hour, but this hour.” ― Walt Whitman