Thursday, November 30, 2006

White Wall Tires

This morning I was enjoying what will probably be the last of my breakfasts on the porch for a while unless I switch to frozen eggs. I was enjoying my French toast and coffee when a fancy car passed sporting white wall tires. I couldn't remember the last time I had seen them on anything other than an antique car. I was reminded of Alexander Pope's adage, "Be not the first by whom the new are tried, nor yet the last to lay the old aside." I thought of old customs which were once the rage but now passe. It is amazing to me the things we come to think we must have when in fact they are just fads which will eventually fade. Sometimes it is hard to think past what is in vogue and remember what is really important.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

How To Be Your Own Best Critic

It seems like we would be in a good position to be our own critics. After all, we are the only ones inside our skins on a twenty-four hour basis. Yet we are often blind to our rough spots and don't see what we need to fix or change. Maybe we don't want to see it. Some people act like porcupines and don't let anyone else close enough to share their opinions, especially of us. However there is a way we can learn to view ourselves critically. If we listen to what we criticize about others, and think about what we are saying, we might well find that we criticize in others the very things we would do well to change in ourselves. It's something to ponder.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Counting on Feedback

How much time do we waste fretting about why people act in ways which inconvenience us? Don't they know what we want them to do? How could they be so callous? People don't always do things to inconvenience us. Sometimes they do things they think we would like, but just don't know us well enough. How often do we tell people what we think, and how often do we expect them to guess our thoughts? We tend to forget people are not mindreaders. If we think something, we expect others to be aware of it. It doesn't work that way. It is important to let others know what we think. But we will get farther if we first listen to how others receive information. Then we will know how to approach them and they will be more receptive to what we have to say.

Monday, November 27, 2006

The Agnostic's Prayer

I was reading last week that choosing faith or choosing athiesm was noble and respectible while choosing agnosticism was wishy-washy and unrespectible. In some ways this statement seemed to make sense. With the first two options, at least one chose something definite. If you choose athiesm or faith, at least you know where you stand and can get on with the rest of your life in accordance with your beliefs. But is agnosticism really a cop out? Agnosticism means admitting you don't know about God. You then have the choice of saying you don't care either and proceed with a life of indifference. You can also say you don't know but would like to find out and spend at least part of your life answering the questions you have about God and living according to what you discover. Maybe that is not such a bad alternative.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Where My Gratitude Lies

I didn't write yesterday. I was busy being grateful. Hopefully you have your own gratitude list. Here is mine. I am grateful that my life partner has survived cancer for over a year after her initial diagnosis. I feel able to stop worrying about her now. I am grateful for my own health. I have not taken the best care of my body, but it is working well despite my lack of attendance to its needs at times. I plan to show my gratitude by working to take better care of it in the future. I am grateful for my prosperity. I learned some time ago that prosperity is a matter of attitude rather than one of have money. I am able to look back over the last ten years and see how far I have come with my new attitude. I am grateful that my children have all been able to say goodbye to their grandmother and let her go in peace as I was able to do with my father a few years ago. I have learned that once unfinished business has been buried with someone it is very difficult to dig it up and finally resolve it. I am grateful that I was able to find a free internet broadcast of WQXR, a radio station which brought me joy and peace many years ago when I lived in New York.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Protection from the Truth

I have noticed that we sometimes keep things from people which we know to be true. We do this to protect them at times. We imagine that if it were us, we would not like to hear it. How do we decide whether to tell someone the truth? I remember three criteria which I heard once and which applies to anything we might say. Ask yourself, "Is it true, is it kind and is it purposeful." If what you have to say does not meet all three criteria, keep it to yourself. The hardest part for me is the third. How do I know whether what I have to say serves a purpose for my audience. Sometimes I have to listen first to get a sense of how something might be received. I can go from past experience of how a person reacts. Sometimes I just have to guess.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Tradition and Innovation

When you look at TV ads, you see attempts to find new ways to get people's attention and sell things. When you think about this time of year, you tend to think of family customs. Is innovation or tradition more important? It's probably not a fair question. Tradition gives us a sense of how we connect with our ancestors and our culture. Innovation keeps life interesting. Sometimes I think the challenge is to find a balance between to two and a way to keep our lives in perspective.

In Pursuit of Perfection

I have always been somewhat mystified by people who avidly pursue perfection. Do they really want to be perfect or are they more interested in being perceived as such? I have had many reminders throughout my life that I am not perfect. I have tried to accept them gracefully and go on about my business. The motto of my college was, "Let each become all he (or she) is capable of becoming." Nothing was mentioned about perfection. While I see it as a challenge to improve whatever talents we may find ourselves possessing, perfection is an elusive goal and its pursuit destined to end in frustration. On the other hand, there is an old monastic saying, "It's a great life if you weaken just a little."

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Facing Reality

Did you ever come to your senses and realize you were living in a fantasy world? I did this morning. I have been doing some walking and swimming (side stroke) and occasionally thinking about what I eat. Today I went to the gym for a real workout and I found myself huffing and puffing. I was not in the shape I fantasized being in. I found it interesting to find how easy it was to delude myself that I was in good shape and have a lot of work to do to achieve the fitness I would like to have. I wonder what else I need to know about myself.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Dodging the Roadblocks

Sometimes I roll on in life without thinking of the obstacles. I can set goals and work toward them without a second thought. My biggest roadblock is the need for perseverence. The goals I set are often not reachable quickly. They require that I work steadily for a long time and not become discouraged. What is hardest for me is not having clear signs that I am getting any closer to my goal. I notice this particularly in writing. I have learned that finishing a writing project is not necessarily a clear sign of success. Now that I have set my sights on breaking into the publishing industry, it is harder to see if I am getting any closer to my goal. My challenge is to find the perseverence to keep going when there are no mileposts along my way.

Monday, November 13, 2006

The Balance Between Idealism and Commerce

I have been wrestling lately with how to have my writing published.
I originally thought that if I had good ideas, publishing would not be that hard. In my efforts to find an agent and a publisher, I have come to realize that publishing is a business, something I naively ignoried before. Publishing seems to be more about selling books and making money than about disseminating ideas and enriching people's lives. Not that the two are necessarily incompatible, but commerce seems to be the priority for publishing houses. I guess this should not have come as a surprise to me. The challenge I see for myself is how to make my writing challenging to people's thinking as well as being commercially successful without focusing entirely on commerce. This does not seem easy, at least for me, but others have done it and I will try to understand how they have.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Proud of Our Country

It's been a long time since I have felt proud of our country. In the past we have been champions of the downtrodden and come to the aid of a world in crisis. More recently, we have created a crisis or at least worsened it by our withdrawing from the world community on many fronts. In the recent election, we seem to have begun to realize the error of our ways. We have a chance to work together again, hopefully in a thoughtful and constructive way to again make the world a little better place to live. I hope we follow through with the opportunity.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Humility and Accomplishment

There seem to be many people these days who spend most of their time announcing how great they are and very little of it doing anything great. Maybe it is just the end of the campaign season. Hidden in the back pages of the newspaper or sometimes only relayed by word of mouth are the accomplisments of those who go about sharing their talents with others without making a big deal about it. I am impressed by the humility of these people. They don't seem to need recognition and are often uncomfortable when their efforts are noticed. They are content to share what they have with others and do what they can to make others' lives a little better. Thank God for them.

Mortality and Living

I ran across a line in Anne Rivers Siddons' Up Island yesterday. It stated that you can't really live until you come to terms with your mortality. Realizing that we will not live forever gives our lives a context. We do not have forever and what we accomplish in the limited time we have will be our legacy to those who follow. Unless it grabs you by the throat, mortality is easy to ignore. When we feel well, we tend to think we will have all the time in the world. An interesting mental exercise would be to decide what we would do today if it were the last day of our lives.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

The Slippery Truth

I was reading an article in the religion section of the newspaper this morning about how the truth is not relative and that it can be found in the words of Jesus as contained in the bible. There is nothing ambiguous about it. Unfortunately people have fought for years about what Jesus meant and how to interpret his words. Others have been just as insistent that Mumammed spoke the only truth. Still others believe their various interpretations of God, none more worthy than the other. Some also think truth lies on another plane, like science. Unfortunately, there does not seem to be one exposition of the truth that we can all agree on and follow together. We are left to follow our own conscience under the guidance of God as we understand Him or Her. Our challenge is to do this in a way which brings us together rather than pitting us against each other.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Ready, Fire, Aim

The title of this blog came from a description of how the brains of people with ADHD work. Actions or words emerge before they have a chance to be considered for their potential consequences. I thought of the efforts of Pope Benedict and John Kerry to backtrack and undo the consequences of what they had said. It seems to me an effort not unlike dealing with the tar baby. The harder you try, the more deeply you get into a mess. It seems there are many people spouting off with little thought to the consequences of their statements. Others speak considering only what they might have to gain without considering the effect on their audience. The answer to this dilemma seems to me to be listening first. If we know what is in the minds of our audience, we will have a better idea of how to approach them in an understanding way and make the point we want to without inviting a firestorm.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Communication for the Rest of Us

After I wrote yesterday's blog about communication difficulties in families beset by mental illness, I realized that they did not have exclusive rights to this problem. The rest of us have many thoughts during the day, only a few of which we share with others. Then we expect them to understand the context of what we are saying as if they were privy to the rest of our thoughts. We expect them to be mindreaders and we become annoyed when they don't know what we are talking about. I think one mistake many of us make is to start talking without knowing the other person's state of mind, receptivity to what we have to say or understanding the context of our thoughts. I remember once a description of our lives as imagining ourselves being the main character in a play while others in our lives have supporting roles. What we forget is that others have the same fantasy and we are seen as supporting characters in their drama.