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Showing posts with label hope. Show all posts
Showing posts with label hope. Show all posts

Monday, January 18, 2021

Contentment about the Future: We Are Free To Decide For It

Every four years we have an national election for President.  After one particular election, a coworker and I were having a very civil discussion on the election (and the inauguration) that had just past.  If I remember, her choice did not win.  I said, you know after every election, there is a large segment of the population that is not happy.  I said, no matter who wins or loses, we ultimately have go on with our everyday lives in much the same way.  Besides, in another four years, everyone will get a chance to be heard again.  She seemed to appreciate and accept that point.  This election (2020) and the last election (2016) were no different.  In each case, it seems like there is a sizeable segment of the population that feels hopeless, like it's the end of end of world and that life as we know it is over.  Perhaps at some point in the future, election results may signal the 'end of world', but I don't think we are at point yet.

As bad as some feel after a their side faces defeat in a hard fought election, I don't think it can compare to the end of the world hopelessness that many likely felt during WWII.  I expect that sense pervaded Europe in particular and the world in general at the time.  I can't even begin to fathom what prisoners in places like Auschwitz had to face.  Seeing and facing starvation, cruelty, torture and death all around them with seemingly no end in sight is something I think few can relate to  A friend recommend a book to me called Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl.  In that book the author chronicled his experiences as a concentration camp prisoner and how he identified a purpose in life to feel positive about and then immersed himself in imagining that outcome.  In other words, in a horrible and seemingly hopeless situation, he was able to find a purpose, meaning and hope.  He was saying that even in the worst situation, that we have a certain freedom to decide how we are going to view life. 

I'm not even going to imagine that I can relate to the search for hope, meaning and purpose in such a horrific circumstance.  Yes, I've faced some blows in this life, but nothing quite like that.  But, I have experienced enough to know that survival and even eventual thriving is possible during and after bad circumstances.  Finding Jewels in the Darkness tells my ability to find good at a bad time in my life.  I'd literally lost much of what was (or seemed) important to me--my brother, my house, my job, my marriage, much of the custody of my daughter--in the space of a year.  However, things started to settle down and I was able to find some special moments with my young daughter.  Moments that I would have not likely had or paused to appreciate otherwise.  I was able to strip down life to the basics and figure out what mattered.  Among the things I found was my writing voice, a greater self-respect and the understanding that I could survive serious blows in life.  In other words, I sort of found myself.   Eventually, my finances and job prospect and personal relationships looked up, but I couldn't have necessarily seen that during the height of the storm. 

I'm not going to be Pollyannaish and say everyone does survive life's seemingly harsh blows or that everything turns out fine.  But, to me life is like a journey where picking up "wins" along the way and avoiding "loses" is important, but not nearly as important as the good fight we fought along the way.  After all, what else do we really take with us besides the intangibles of a well fought life?  I believe there is a dignity of striving to be the best version of one's self even as days grow more cloudy, even as the journey works towards a close.  There are many things we can lose in our life with little or no control over the process.  We can lose our worldly possessions, we can lose others we love, we can lose our independence and in some cases, we can lose the battle with sickness and disease.  However, there are some thing we don't have to lose.  Among them our dignity, our spirit, and our freedom to decide how to see our lives.  Those things we have to be willing to part with.  I'm not saying holding on to those is always easy.  However, we can, if we choose, hold onto those things.  

I believe in the lives of many/most if  you dig deep, you will find a point in which they have felt hopeless.  The key for me and the key for many in that circumstance is to find something to hold onto to or for.  It could your faith.  It could be your family.  It could be your memories of surviving before.  It could be your vision of what could be.  It could be your knowledge that there is someone who championed us--and may have passed away--that we'd hate to disappoint.  It could be our pride.  It is important to be able to find this and when we do we have a choice at that point.  Do we give in to the brokenness or hopelessness OR do we decide that we want to find that which sustains us?  For some, it seems the brokenness is too great and they don't feel like they have a choice.  But, for those who are able to recognize it, we are free to decide to push forward and to decide to accept life on its terms or work to change it.

Tying back to this election and prior elections, many have or had a deep sense of dread or hopelessness afterwards.  For many people, it feels/felt like 'the wrong person' won.  If feels/felt like our country is/was headed down a dark, unrecoverable path.  There is always a risk to what we perceive as poor leadership dragging down our country.  However, elections do not have to feel like an impending disaster.  This election for some, like past elections for others doesn't have to feel that way.  We have always had the choice, even when we aren't happy with the results, as to whether view ourselves as a victim of them OR to view ourselves as those who continue to fight for what we believe in or what is important to us.

Whether you are happy with this election, upset about it or ambivalent, how we choose to view it and our lives in general is ultimately up to us.  This is something I cannot stress enough.   So, let's decide to come together and set an example for our leadership on all sides of the aisle.

Just my 2 pennies worth,

As an aside, there was another time I was woefully underemployed in my field.   I had an undiagnosed severe anxiety condition.  It hindered me in getting my Bachelor's degree, but didn't stop me.  However, it made it almost impossible to interview effectively before and after I graduated.  Anyway, it was four years before I got a job in my field after graduating college.  I could have given up, but something inside kept me going forward.   Just like the struggle above in "Jewels", I fought depression and a feeling of hopelessness at times, but something inside me said, no, it's not time to give up.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Hope delayed is hoped denied

One of the pillars of our legal system is the right to a fair and speedy trial.  That idea or concept is so important to the health of our Republic that it is enshrined in law as the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution.

Sixth Amendment Text

Amendment VI

"In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense."

Anyway, one of the basis for this concept is that "justice delayed is justice denied".  That is to say, if you have to spend too long in jail awaiting trail or with the threat of no future hanging over your head, effectively you are being punished already whether you are guilty or not of the charges against you.


"Hope delayed is hoped denied" is in essence an expansion on the concept of "justice delayed is justice denied".  While justice delayed obviously applies strictly to constitutional law, "hope delayed" can apply to many aspects of your life.

  • In our professional lives, if we work our tail off, but continually get passed over, we lose hope. If our reason for hope--the promise of promotions if we give our 100% to our organization--is continually put off or delayed, we eventually will lose the hope.  In essence, our hope will be lost or denied..
  • In our spiritual life, sometimes we realize the life we have led, the things that we put our faith in are all wrong.  So, we adopt a new faith.  If we go into our new faith thinking that our higher power (God) will remove all obstacles and/or that we will never face troubled times, we are setting ourselves up for a rude awakening.  If our hope is that following God's will lead us to easy times, yet we continue to face hard times, our hope will eventually disappear,  In a sense, we will have denied hope by our misunderstanding of the reason for the hope we have.
  • In our relational lives, we can get unwittingly stuck in ruts.  We can talk about better communication, being better attuned to each others  needs or feelings and so on.  However, if we continue to see little or no movement towards a more healthy relationship, our hope will lessen or get delayed.  We may push our hope back and say, let's give it more time.  But, as more time passes and progress continues to be slow or nonexistent, our hope dissipates.  Eventually, this leads to a sense that things will never change.  That is to say, our hope is denied.

Our continued contentedness, productivity and sometimes existence require hope.  With hope, we can function in our daily lives.  Without it, we will struggle to do so.  I guess the takeaways from this blog are these:

  • We need to anchor our hope in things that aren't passing.  This is the spiritual aspect of hope.
  • In dealing with others, whether in a professional or personal environment, we need to be aware of the role hope plays in their life.  In other words, we need to have a sense of what brings hopefulness to them and what drains hopefulness from that.  That doesn't mean we bear responsibility for their overall sense of hope, but it also doesn't mean we play no role no role in their sense of hope either.

1 Peter 3:15
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect...

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Man in Motion, Carpe Diem, Lose Yourself, Don't Look Back: what it all means.

It's funny sometimes you turn on the radio and you hear a song that you've heard countless time and it speaks to you in a way that it never has before.  Today--July 9th, 2015, I heard St. Elmo's Fire (Man in Motion) and it got me to want to step outside myself.  It got me a little fired up.  Man in Motion was about the story of Rick Hansen and his world tour on behalf of the disabled.

In the wiki page for him, it is said about him that:
In 1980, fellow British Columbian and Canadian athlete Terry Fox, who had lost a leg to bone cancer, undertook the Marathon of Hope, intending to run across Canada from Newfoundland to Vancouver Island to raise awareness for cancer research. He made it from St. John's, Newfoundland, to Thunder Bay, Ontario, before a cancer recurrence forced him to stop, about half of the way through his journey. Inspired by Terry's courage, Hansen decided to undertake a similar journey to prove the potential of people with disabilities and to inspire a more accessible world. But his planned path was far more ambitious: he planned to circle the world in his wheelchair.

Back to the memes and sayings--what do all these things have in common:

In all these memes and songs, we are exhorted to reach for a 'higher place' or calling.  But what does that mean when we are underneath the fallen debris and difficulties of life and what is a 'higher place'?

To me, a 'higher place' is the potential we have always had locked inside us, but were blocked from approaching it.  What are the steps to reaching a higher place?

  • Recognizing that we aren't where we could or should be.
    • It is hard to achieve a greater purpose when you are don't realize or are in denial about where you are relative to your potential.
    • I believe that most people know on some level that they can do more than they are doing now.  This self-awareness I believe leads to stress, anxiety and often taking 'self-medicating' steps to deal with it.  For example, if you are the underachiever relative to your group, class or family--your circle--and you know that you are as capable as other in your circle are, it is hard to escape or miss it.  This often leads to taking steps to 'cope' with your perceived underachievement
    • Having a mentor, counselor or close friend to relate to and to confer with can help us to visualize goals.
  • Wanting to achieve a higher purpose.
    • Not everyone wants to or sees the need or benefit of a higher purpose. Sometimes it takes a bad situation or circumstance to wake us up to where we need to go or that we do need to work on a higher purpose.
    • “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” ― Henry David ThoreauCivil Disobedience and Other Essays
  • Having or recognizing goal(s).
    • In order to reach for higher you have to recognize a suitable or 'reachable' goal(s).
    • Sometimes these goals are recognized in early life.  Sometimes they are recognized in later life.  
    • Sometimes these goals are not recognized all at once, but rather in steps.   Though we tend to prefer understanding the big picture all at once.
      • Effectively this implies long-term goals which house short and medium term goals.
      • It's important not to get discouraged when the goal(s) haven't become completely obvious at once.
      • This can require us to learn or practice patience.
    • Goals can be diverse in nature.
      • They can be professional goals.
      • They can be personal goals.
      • They can be athletic goals.
      • They can be intellectual goals.
      • They can be spiritual goals (or all goals can have a spiritual element to them).
      • They can involve a clear winner.
      • They can involve where everyone is a winner (betterment of society).
      • They can be goals that focus on bettering oneself.
      • They can be goals that focus on bettering lives of others.
  • Obstacles to the goal(s)
    • Important to recognize them.  If you can't put your finger on what is blocking you, it is hard to remove the blocks.
    • All obstacles do not have to be overcome or conquered at once.  As a matter of fact, trying to do that can often lead to discouragement.
    • Important to understand the type or nature of the obstacles.
      • Unavoidable life circumstances get in the way.
        • Death of a family member, job loss, etc.
        • These often require time and processing.  It is important to allow yourself a break for these, but not to forget the endgame.
      • Unforced errors/poor choices  (purposeful or unintentional)
        • Can be demotivating or distracting. 
        • We need to recognize that the errors don't define us, UNLESS we allow them to.
        • We need to avoid pinning the blame on others for why we are not where we need to be.  We need to recognize our role in this process.
        • We need to not let these become an excuse or define us.
      • Setbacks
        • These are inevitable.
        • Once again, they don't need to define us.
      • Realization that the status quo is so much easier usually.
        • As they say, any goal worth having will not be easy to achieve.
        • Often times the status quo takes no effort.
        • Anyone can fail, all you have to do is not even try.  Then failure is guaranteed.
        • As Imagine Dragons says in It's Time, "The path to heaven runs through miles  of clouded hell right to the top."
    • Faith being weak/doubting ourselves.
      • We have to recognize that while God rewards those who reward themselves, He won't usually have achievement or success come easy.  
      • We have to push on towards are goals, but remember that He is ultimately in control and can help us to move mountains if we ask Him.
      • Feelings as if we can't change and/or what difference does it make what we do.
        • It is important to recognize this negative self-talk and to replace it with positive self-talk.  Not pie-in-the-sky, delusional or completely unrealistic, but still positive.
        • Sometimes we are our own worst enemy.
Achieving a higher purpose is not for the faint and often times requires a lot of sacrifice with little reward (at least at first).  But, it is important to focus on the One that created us in His own image and realize that God doesn't give us more than we can handle.  We just have to do our best and then leave it in His hands.


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Life's Illusions: Only just a dream.

A number of years ago, an idea popped into my head.   What happens if the life we think we are leading is all part of someone's complex dream?  In other word's, to myself, I feel I am real and self-aware, but what happens if my reality is really just part of someone's dream?  The Matrix sort of dealt with this idea.

I'm sure I wasn't the first one to ponder this thought and I am sure I won't be the last.   But, I digress.

Years later, after a series of setbacks that started with my mom nearly dying, my life as I knew it unraveled: job loss, marriage breakup, death of my closest brother, house on the way to being lost, loss of full-time parenthood, etc.   By this time, my now ex had moved out and cleaned out much/most of the items of value in the house.  A dear friend of mine walked through the house for the first time with me and noted that the house lost it's soul.  I guess in a way, the house was still standing, but the 'home' had died.  As I walked out back and noticed the patio, grill and backyard and started to walk out into the driveway, a strange feeling came over me.  I had the sense that my marriage had been an illusion.  The life I had known it was an illusion.  It wasn't the most healthy marriage from the beginning in hindsight, but sometimes you don't know these things until much later.

No one is perfect, save one.  In that vein, you bring your strengths and weaknesses or flaws and good points into a relationship.  In hindsight, our flaws clashed heavily.  We went in with a fairy tale of how we'd 'survived' dysfunctional in the past and were past that.  What we didn't realize is how mistaken that was.


This last year was pretty dramatic in the space of about a year. I had a friend, my mom and my dad die--two being unexpected.  In a certain way, this has seemed surreal to me.  It's like a few years ago I had my full nuclear family, now it is almost cut in half.   I'm still getting used to that.


I remember an episode of Married with Children called "Teacher's Pet".  In the episode, poor Bud finally seems to have luck with dating.  He has a date with his substitute teacher and a classmate.  In typical Bundy fashion, this situation crashes.   First he confides in his dad about the dilemma, letting his father know the teacher is 40.   Next day at school he finds out that the substitute teacher ran off with a football player.  The classmate then dumps him as he is thought to be no longer desirable after being dumped by the teacher.   As if it isn't bad enough at that point, his dad alerted the authorities to the inappropriate relationship.  However, the teacher had been replaced by an old woman.   His dad, mistaking the new teacher for the original one, tells her to stay away from his son and rips her telling her the only 40 associated with her was 1840--that being the year she would have been born.   The old woman is then hauled off by the police.  Bud, being humiliated, decides in his mind that this is all a bad dream. He figures that if he drops his pants in front of class it will shock him into waking up.  Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way and bud finds out it isn't a dream much to his further humiliation.

Bud: I know! I'll prove it's a dream. I'll take down my pants and it'll be so embarrassing, I'll wake up.
[Bud lowers his pants to the shock of entire class]
Bud: I'm even dreaming that I ran out of underwear.

Teacher's pet

The Married with Children episode was funny, but it did underscore a larger point.  When faced with a painful reality, we can either face it head on, pretend it isn't so and/or compound it.  Bud, seemed to pretend it wasn't so and compounded it at the same time, not a small feat.


Life sometimes hums along merrily for a long time and then boom, it changes.  One day we have the car, job, our health and that of loved one and then in what seems like a short time, a major shift occurs.  It seems surreal.   Immediacy and permanence of the change can make us question was what was before real?  I think the answer is yes and no.   Yes it was, but our perception of it being permanent or unchangeable was an illusion.

Sometimes, we just have to take a deep breath and understand that nothing in this life is forever.  We enjoy the good things when we can, endure the bad thing as they come, mourn the losses when necessary and we hold onto that which never fails.

Psalm 73:25-26New International Version (NIV)

25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
    And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
    but God is the strength of my heart
    and my portion forever.

In the meantime, we I realized a long time ago that for most this life is full of struggles and if we don't have a Higher Power, a greater calling, a Hope, then it can all seem hard to swallow.  This is why sometimes people seek the unhealthy 'highs'.

I guess if I would give advice to my daughter it would be this:
  • Live your life with the Hope in Jesus.
  • Live a purpose driven life.
  • Enjoy the good times, realizing they that they don't always last.
  • Be brave and face what life throws you knowing you don't have to face it alone. 
  • Be true to yourself.