All Who Wander Are Not Lost

GM and welcome back to Monday!

It’s the first week of May, the second month of 2Q and we have lots to do. Are you at your best? I’ll bet your head is already spinning with everything you need to get done this morning, get done today, get done this week, get done this month, OMG-is-school-almost-out-for-the-summer? …you get the drift, right? When your head is overflowing with a task list, problems you need to solve and all the other junk floating around from last week, it’s hard to focus. It’s hard to stay calm. It’s hard to find the energy and creativity for not only solving problems but innovating. It’s hard to enjoy the moment when we’re so busy reacting to everything.

 Meditation is like a gym

So, what do you do to stay focused, stay creative, stay energized? How about we do nothing for a little bit? I know that sounds counter intuitive – after all, doing nothing won’t get your task list completed, will it? On the other hand, giving your brain a chance to wander might just help your creativity. It certainly will help your stress level and it should help your physical wellbeing, too.

Notice I didn’t give this practice a label. If I did, it would be meditation, but I know a bunch of y’all will dismiss the idea. What can it hurt, though, if you take 5-10-20 minutes to focus on your breathing and practice letting go of all those thoughts galloping through your mind? At most, you lose a few minutes. At best, you gain some peace of mind back and are better equipped to get through your day.

If you need a little help, here are couple of guided meditation sources: HeadSpace and Mindfulness Solution. I use HeadSpace, there’s something about it that keeps me faithful to my morning practice.           

 

How much do you love me?

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Before

 

I was thinking a lot about forgiveness this weekend, after I had a discussion with a retired minister. The conversation started with us discussing something my husband, Martin, did. A couple of weeks ago, when I came home, Martin greeted me with, “How much do you love me?”

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Before

 

Hmmmmmm. As a conversation starter, what does that inspire in you? My reaction was A) What did you buy? or B) What did you do? In this case, it was B; he’d seriously messed up one of my finished pieces (y’all know I knit, right?). It was a gorgeous wool vest that shouldn’t be machine washed because it shrinks – seriously shrinks, as in, fits-a-child-shrinks.

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After, compared to another version that is original size.

 

Anywhoways, the point is, hubby did something and was worried about my reaction. Sweet, right? I couldn’t get mad; it actually made me laugh to look at it. (It also made a bunch of my fiber friends laugh…) And therein lies the point of the discussion with the minister.

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After. Definitely after.

 

She (yes, she; bet y’all thought it would be a he…), she said that this was very forgiving of me, as if it cost me something to not get mad about the ruined vest. I thought differently – it would cost me wayyyyy more to get mad. Here’s why: First, I appreciated that he felt bad (after all, he did ruin it) but I also felt bad that he felt bad. People make mistakes and we need to give each other room to do so without judgment; empathizing with them is part of this and judging others degrades your relationship in my view. And really, what’s more important to you, the relationship or the mistake? Getting angry about it would put the emphasis on the mistake and not on him. Since he’s so much more important to me than any object, it makes sense, right? It also helped that it made me laugh (one reason I married him) and that he didn’t mind when I shared a picture of it with some friends and we laughed ourselves silly. I ask you, did forgiveness cost me or benefit me?

 

Our friend Patrick models the new-and-improved vest, errr, hat.  Whaddaya think?

Our friend Patrick modeling the after version as a hat.         Whaddaya think?

Why this topic, this day? Because today is when we honor the Reverend Martin Luther King, Junior. He’s famous for many things; one of my favorite quotes on forgiveness is his:

We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.” – Martin Luther King, Junior.

Not every instance of forgiveness is easy. It’s usually quite difficult but that’s beside the point. Forgiveness is often more about how we think of the world and forgiveness, or a lack of it, affects how we act and how we influence others. If you get a moment today, think about forgiveness. It’s one way to honor Reverend King’s legacy.

Wag more. Bark less.

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Fierce protectors, resting after a long day defending the palace.

All right, I think I’ve found my favorite slogan ever: “Wag more. Bark less.” Isn’t that awesome? We’ve got two large dogs so I may be biased about this obviously dog oriented philosophy. Our Weimaraners are good natured girls but they think they need to guard us from the hordes overrunning the back fence. What may look like an innocent rock, leaf or squirrel to you is, in reality, the next invasion of barbarians. Are dogs innately suspicious? Is it that simple? Or do they have justification for suspecting all kinds of nefarious things in our idyllic backyard?

You’ve probably heard the parable about two travelers coming upon a farmer on the outskirts of town. When the first traveler asks the farmer what kind of people live in the town, the farmer turns the question back on the traveler and asks what kind of townfolk lived in the traveler’s previous town. “A bad lot”, the first traveler answers. The farmer then advises this traveler that they will likely find what they have before. When a second traveler approaches and asks the same question, the farmer again responds with a question. This time, the traveler says they were good people and that he will miss them. Guess what the farmer says? OK, I know. Y’all have heard this before. Then you totally understand the relationship between my dogs and those travelers. The farmer tells the second traveler that he will likely find the same kind of people in the town, just like where he came from.  Like my dogs, the travelers see the same things and interpret them differently, one sees the negative, the other one sees the positive. In the case of the travelers, it is the type of people. In the case of my girls, it’s rocks and leaves masquerading as danger.

Some of you are mumbling (as the mother of a teenage boy, I have supersensitive hearing, the better to hear mumbles with….), “If it walks like a duck, talks, like a duck….” Well, I’ll give you that one. Sometimes people are bad and rocks are dangerous. But you have to think about the big picture – are all the people in your life bad? Is every rock a menace? If so, to paraphrase the farmer, maybe it’s you, not them. This brings me back to the simple joy of “Wag more. Bark less.” I think that’s a GREAT motto to live by. I’d rather see the joy in things. Yeah, so once in a while, I’ll get a nasty surprise. Does that mean I should always be looking for it from perfectly nice people? I’d like to have more faith than that. I’d like to wag more and bark less.

On the Hunt

On the hunt for barbarians, they could be anywhere, maybe even up in that tree.

References

 “Wag More Bark Less” is the slogan of Buddy Biscuits dog treats – http://www.cloudstar.com//prodcat/Wag-More-Bark-Less-Treats.asp

For more on the travelers and the farmer, see this excellent telling of the parable (scroll down to The Two Travelers and the Farmer): http://www.wisdomcommons.org/virtue/151-optimism/parables

You Say Toe-may-toe, I Say Toe-mah-toe

Do you ever feel like you’re talking to someone but not really communicating? We have to remember that we all see things differently. I hope you find the following true story a funny reminder of this.

San Antonio is very bicultural, with a seemingly even split between native Spanish speakers and native English speakers. Other cities, like Miami, are probably the same. A few years back, my Assistant was a woman named Yolanda, who was raised in a Spanish speaking home. Her family emphasized English and she easily thinks in both languages. Myself, I was raised with English and therefore read and think in it. I have a decent ear for language, though, and can speak Spanish with a good accent. There are a fair number of words that sound very different in the two languages and there are also names that are common in the Hispanic community that are not so common in the Anglo community, like Hector or Jesus.

Like much of Texas, San Antonio is a very religious town, with references to our Lord, Jesus Christ, being fairly common in conversations. (Can you guess where this is going?)

When Yoli and I worked together, there was a mobile jewelry salesman from Mexico City, Jesus (Hay-soos for those of you who aren’t familiar with Spanish pronunciation). Yoli & I knew Jesus, the salesman, pretty well; we almost always talked about him and rarely wrote his name down. In my head, he was (and still is) Hay-soos. For me, Jesus (Gee-zus) is a different person entirely. When Jesus the jewelry salesman would visit, Yoli and I made it a point to go see all his sparkly doodads. He would usually call one of his regulars and then she would pass the word through email and Yoli would tell me.

One day, he called Yoli to tell her he’d be in the lobby with some new trinkets. She then emailed me: “Jesus is coming today.” Not thinking of jewelry, I assumed she was telling me Jesus Christ was coming.

I don’t know about you but I wasn’t expecting His return to Earth to be announced via email and in such a calm fashion.. I would think that Yoli would at least have burst into my office with some sense of drama! She’s kind of excitable that way.

Trying to be cool about the whole thing, I calmly replied, (still in email) “Really, how do you know?” I also offered to pray with her, thinking a quick prayer couldn’t hurt. She then told me that He’d called her. I immediately realized that Yoli must have been the most special of humans to have gotten a call from our Lord, Himself. I was just about awestruck. We went back and forth in email a couple more times before she came giggling into my office to tell me that I was crazy and asking if I wanted to go see our friend from Mexico City and his sparklies…..

The moral of the story is that two people can be saying the exact same thing but in two different languages, carrying two different meanings. Also, we listen and see differently. Remember the next time you’re in an argument to listen for the difference.

Thank You

Thank you for your service.

Thank you for the time you served, the work you did, the sacrifice you made.

Thank you for putting your life at risk.

Thank you for doing things that most of us cannot imagine.

Thank you for the worry over a loved one, the grief over a lost soldier.

Thank you for the time your mom or dad spent fighting for us instead of  being with you while you grew.

Thank you for the hardship of moving from base to base, leaving old friends and having to make new.

Thank you, all of you, for your service.

Punchbowl Cemetery Honolulu, HI

 

It doesn’t come easy.

It would be so much easier if we could avoid life’s difficult situations, wouldn’t it? I’m nearly quoting a friend, Caryn B (it is so weird to be quoting another Caryn but that’s another story), when her comment coincided with something that made me nervous.

First, here’s what is making me nervous. I’m in college for the first time in 17 years (MBA) and living on campus for the first time in 27 years (BA). It’s only for a week but it’s still filled with the disruption of having to get used to different circumstances  and meeting new people. Both of these make me uncomfortable. We all like our routine and having to go through a disruption is usually an irritation at most. When you combine it with having to meet new people, however, it gets a little more uncomfortable. At my age, you’d think I’d be over the whole issue of making new friends but I’ve always been shy – yeah, those who know me are snorting at this point. Each of you will recall that I was standoffish in the beginning and once I got to know you, some of you even told me that I’m nicer than you expected. That’s shyness. I’d bet nearly everyone has it to some degree.

No big deal, right? Right. It’s still uncomfortable though. And here’s where Caryn B’s quote becomes relevant. I could avoid this disruption in my routine and the discomforting feeling of being the new kid. If I did, though, I’d miss out on learning (I’m on a college campus, remember?) and making new friends. Since everyone is in the same program, it’s logical to think we’ll have a lot in common. Some of them I even know from working together online. See how easy it is to talk myself around the discomfort? This is how we all work ourselves around difficult situations. We take things in small chunks or we tell ourselves it’s not really that difficult until we’ve gotten through the issue.

Now let’s take the discomfort up several notches, to nerve wracking or outright painful. Imagine telling your neighbor that they need to keep their dog fenced or you’ll call animal control. Or how about telling your boss that you made a mistake? Or telling your spouse you’ve lost your job or your kids that you’re getting a divorce? These don’t have to be ugly conversations to hurt. And yet you may gain something from them, such as a safer environment or an improved ability to do your job. Learning from our own and others’ mistakes is part of life and difficult situations are part of that learning.

To paraphrase Caryn B again, it’s a shame we have to have the pain to get the education. She goes on to ask whether we’d appreciate the education if we could avoid the pain. I think life is bittersweet, that having the bitter intensifies the sweetness. Certainly we taste sweetness without the bitter but it’s not as, well, sweet. So, yes, I think we learn without the pain of difficult situations but I also think we appreciate the education more when it doesn’t come easy.