This Is The Only Moment

This morning, Bill @ drbillwooten.com touched off a train of thought with another one of his fantastic quotes – this from Ernest Hemingway – “And if there’s not any such thing as a long time, nor the rest of your life, nor from now on, but there is only now, why then now is the thing to praise and I am very happy with it.”

Assuming that one is living a life of relative physical and emotional comfort, I think being happy takes guts.  It seems to be far easier to ascribe one’s frame of mind to the actions or inactions of others, the elements of living that remain decidedly out of our control and/or historic wrongs that we suffered from which it seems likely we will never recover.  I know you have met people who have affixed a figurative piece of velcro to the back of their hand and permanently placed it against their forehead.  Lots of sighs.  Slews of “if onlys”.  Eeyore on steroids (and I say that with affection, for I am a huge Eeyore fan).

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There’s a lot of conversational fodder in looking at your life and finding happiness contingent upon something or someone else.  Life as a perpetual “if….then” statement.  The operative word for me is ‘perpetual’, for arguably there are times when we are anticipating, hoping, planning, etc.  But all the time?  Are we always waiting to react?  Are we never responsible for initiating?  If one believes the latter, then what in the world can we claim personal responsibility for?  What do we get to claim as ours?

Happiness is a challenge, for it means you own it.  It’s on you.  No one else.  Your boss can be impossible (I’ve had those), people may not offer what you are hoping for, someone may ride your bumper during an interminable rush hour.  Maybe your kids don’t get you or you don’t get them.  Perhaps the list of irritations far outweigh the list of delights.  I get it.  But I own it.  My lousy moods are mine – rarely do I blame someone else.  My happiness – which can certainly be fostered and enhanced by the phenomenal people around me – is also mine.  Because at the end of the day, I’m the one in this moment.  Our perceptions of the present moment are not the same, even if we’re sitting here having a cup of coffee together.   However I interpret this time is my job.  And I’m ok with that – because I can adjust and recalibrate – I don’t want someone else to do it for me.

When I was a young adult, my mom would repeatedly admonish “You never listen to me.  Well, you listen to me, but you end up doing what you want to do anyway.”  She was right.  I asked her many years later whether she really would have wanted to take responsibility for my actions – a question answered by her silence.  It’s easier to point a finger out, but honestly?  You’re the one who makes your day.

Why do I post this today?  Because I needed the reminder.  Because the morning broke grey and indifferent and I felt my body concede, bending to the power of a day that didn’t give a damn.  Joints in active rebellion.  One look in the mirror and all bets on a good hair day were off.  The Sirs decided to bark passionately at absolutely nothing and my head began to feel like it was in a vice.  The kitchen still looked post-apocalyptic.  This was my moment.  And unless I kicked myself in the butt, the day was going to continue to spiral down with alacrity.  So Bill’s quote brought me back to baseline.  If this is all I’ve got, it’s fine by me.  And though I wish that all your moments are golden, I know that some may not meet that threshold.  So when they don’t, consider that this is all we know for sure.  Right now – and it’s yours.  For that reason alone, it deserves at least a smile, and perhaps a shake of the head.

 

You’d Think I’d Know By Now

I recently received a comment about one of my posts, which I have let drive me crazy.  The person (whose blog I read regularly and enjoy – particularly for the  fabulous photography) wrote candidly that he didn’t read my posts frequently because he found them “too sweet”.  Now before you say anything – this isn’t a referendum on whether he’s right.  He’s right – I’m not the type to disabuse anyone of their feelings and after obsessing about this for days now, I see his point.

I assure you I’m not all that sweet.  Well, I’m sweet, but I have as many snarky moments as the next person.  And I can be sarcastic.  And if you’re a friend or relative of mine, I can be an absolute lioness – with both chuffing and growling sounds perfected.  You get my drift, though believe me I could go on and tell you all the reasons why I can compete with the best provocateurs, devil’s advocates and cynics.  Just ask Andy.  But I digress (again).

What gets me is how much I let this thought consume me.   I have held onto this like Archie covets a new bone.  The circuitous breeze in my head blows relentlessly and none too gently.  “Have I become saccharine?”  “What do I want this blog to reflect?”  “Is it honest” “Am I still thinking like Pollyanna?” (answer to this question is  – yes).  “Do I have anything new to say or have I become Mimi One-Note?”  “How much do I want to put out there”  Of course, the answers change direction depending on the time of day, the state of my hair, and whether I have eaten recently.  As of this writing, I’ve decided that I’ve got to let it go.  Must be time for lunch.

I began this blog with a thousand different ideas about what I wanted it to be like and then zeroed in on a year’s worth of entries that I could print out and give to my sons – a somewhat morbid, but well-intended gesture for them.  I’m now well into my second year and I can’t see giving them a flippin’ tome, so what am I doing now?  Honestly, I have no idea.  Given that I’m a big believer that certain answers come with time, I’m giving it time and just moving forward.  What I do know is that I’m as transparent as I feel I can be.

On Monday we were out to dinner with friends of ours who have had a really challenging year.   Her son was diagnosed with a serious illness, she was just laid off for the second time in less than a year.  The company he works for is on the brink of going under.  And yet, there we sat genuinely aware that we were all beyond lucky.  First and foremost, her son is much, much better – and that offers a perspective like nothing else.  We live in far better circumstances than most people in the world.  We laugh – a lot.  We know love.  We’re more aware that the concept of happiness is not something that is a given, rather more like snatches of sunlight between the cracks in a day.  The key is in noticing those spaces.  I’m trying to look for them, choosing to find them.  I don’t want to miss my chances, for the weather changes with little warning.

Lately, I’ve been acutely aware of time speeding past.  When the hell did I become 59 when I still hold on to such immaturity?   I’m not ready to age-out of life just yet and would prefer to be in the game with some well-preserved naiveté and faith in a whole bunch of things that are bigger than me (note to David Kanigan – no height comments here, pal).  I’d rather be acknowledging the spaces in-between and delight when I find them.  Pollyanna?  You betcha – though I don’t do braids.

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My Friday Lament

I want to be young again, but I really don’t want to re-live all the lousy stuff that occurs in the normal course of growing up.

I want to be old enough to fully accept that ‘legacy’ has nothing to do with what I did for a living, but what I did with my life – and that it mattered.

I want to find my waist again.

I want my waist not to matter as much as the shape of my soul.

I’d like to have no regrets, yet I regret that I think one can’t live without them.

I want to be remembered despite not having any wish or intent to go anywhere which would prompt people to miss me.

I wonder when I’m going to feel like I’m making my mark, yet delight in doing nothing but watching two fawns practice leaping in my backyard.

I miss the sounds and smells and demands and affection of having little boys, though my sons as adults delight me as no other adults can.

The rain is welcome, despite my wish for the sun.

In my head I’m far younger than the mirror suggests.  I find that a little insulting, and adds still more dissonance.

I want to read and read every book, blog, essay that grabs my curiosity and still take time to relish every sentence that I love.

I want to travel more and still cocoon at home.

I want to dare more though I’ve never been known for  being particularly intrepid.

Nobody gets everything in life; yet everything in life is not worth having.

The ebb and flow of extremes.  The push and pull of our hearts and minds.  It’s ok to grapple with this confusion, I tell myself.  It’s that insistent feeling I have that somehow, we’re supposed to ‘know’ by now.  The irritation I feel when I find that when pressed, I really have no clue – and the smile on my face as I realize that I’ll likely never get off this swing, so while I’m on it I’m just going to see how high I can go.

We Should Never Graduate

A friend of mine posted this quote on Facebook yesterday (an old friend of recent re-acquaintance).  I couldn’t walk away from my own thoughts about its implications, and my complicity – in both positive and negative ways  – over the years.  You know me well enough to know that I have yet to transcend my own limitations, unable to keep my mind still long enough to even utter a mantra;  I am not about to denounce a material world which has afforded my family a comfortable lifestyle, and some accessories which make my sloppy outfits look well-considered.  In other words, before you jump up in defense of capitalism and financial success as a social definitive – sit down.  I’m not arguing with you.

I am however, absolutely passionate about my belief that learning is a lifelong exercise, and organizational leaders are in the position to educate all the time.  I’ll go a step farther – they have an imperative to educate.  And with that in mind I have got to ask you – what are you teaching?  Does your department, company, organization commit to moral management or success-at-any-cost?  Are you developing people’s abilities to complement their career progression or are you focused on the immediate needs which you find critical to meet?  Are we defining our own personal success primarily by the amount of money we make (with the caveat that we are earning what we need to and perhaps a bit more)  or are there any other markers that we value as much?  More importantly, do we inculcate that philosophy to the people that we are charged with developing and growing?

What are the stories of compassion that balance the perpetual theme of acquiring stuff?  How well-rounded are the people we know and work with?  Where do the paths of wisdom and management-speak meet?  I may not be articulating this well – I am trying to avoid the cliché of saying that we all do the right thing everyday, and instead suggest that compassion, morality, critical thought are as essential to the development of a thriving workforce than any other issues of which we speak.  And it takes thought and planning and commitment to the larger theme of lifelong education.  Challenging our children, our friends, ourselves to consider where we are placing our priorities as we enter in and out of the chapters of our lives.  That to me, is what reading the whole book is all about.

A Tuesday Whisper. A Hope For A Lifetime

I have to say that after I read this quote, my first thought was “Hmmm, I hope he told this to Zelda.”  My second thought was how complete.  Whether wishing another well in his/her professional or personal life, whether young or old, currently contented or suffering from a case of the emotional itches that disrupt your day.  For all the times I’ve written about ‘rules of management’,  lessons learned from the workplace, etc – the truth is that no one has offered up the ultimate rule book on your life.  You can choose all the time, a scary thought in and of itself, but also so full of promise.  If you want to be a better boss, friend, spouse, parent, child – go for it.  Feel some comfort in knowing that there is nothing stopping you other than your own discomfort, malaise or fear – and those can be stared down with a little fortitude (and perhaps a glass of wine).

To reflect upon your day and feel proud of how you met its challenges and embraced its joys in equal measure.  And to know that you can re-create it however you see fit at any moment.  These are gifts you can give yourself – you deserve them.  Give generously.  Have a great day.