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Showing posts with label serenity. Show all posts
Showing posts with label serenity. Show all posts

Friday, August 10, 2018

One Degree off Center: Just Enough to Throw Us Off

I heard someone recently characterize the how sometimes it doesn't take much to separate a person from his or her serenity.  His phrasing was "One Degree off Center".  That struck me as a very apt characterization.  This actually feeds into an idea that crystallized for me as it relates it to stress and worry. 

I've observed in my life and that of others a funny phenomenon.  They are hit with a significant negative and they are seemingly able to shrug it off.  Yet, the same person is hit with a relatively insignificant negative (often easy to recover from--a one degree off center negative).  They literally fall to pieces or have their serenity totally disrupted.  As with everything else in my blog, I have a take on this phenomenon.

I have literally avoided doing much research for what I write about as I want what I write to be organic vs. ideas and thoughts I literally lift from elsewhere.  It was suggested to me that I could strengthen my blog by doing more direct citation.  That is to say, take the kernels of an idea that comes to me, pop them, remove the ones that are burnt or unpopped and flavor it with it citations.  But, at this point I will stick with my 'tried and true' method, which is to write mostly from my soul.

Back to the point at hand.  Why do we shrug when we are hit by a big negative and get stuck on the seemingly small things.  I have a thought on that: It is our sense of control.

  • When a circumstance is well beyond our control and it is abundantly obvious to us, there is a sense that there is little point in fretting about it as there is no humanly way possible that will affect the outcome of it.
    • When my car was wrecked at the beginning of 2017, I had been worrying about keeping it in good running order for another year or so.  I'd hoped it would hold out, but I was nervous that miles were piling up on it.  This had been in the back of my mind for a while.  When another driver caused a wreck which destroyed my car, literally everything else was thrown by the wayside.
      • I no longer had to worry if the car would hold out another 30-40 miles  That choice/concern was taken away from me.
      • I no longer worried that day about making it to work on time.  It was pretty clear that I needed to go home and rest.
      • I figured that their insurance would pay for it and I'd just get a new car.
  • When a circumstance appears to be within our ability to influence or control it is easier to focus on it.  
    • I was fairly sure I left my iPod at work vs. having permanently lost it, but I didn't to drive all the way there to get it.  So, despite my best efforts, I had focused on it on and off over the weekend, hoping that I was right about it.  I was right as I did leave it at work.  I wasted my time worrying on something small because it appeared to be in my control.  

In the first point, it was totally obvious I was thrown completely off center, so I had the sense that I just needed to turn to side or turn around and I'd be back at where I'd need to be rather than trying to make a minute adjustment.  In the second point, I was very close to center, but I couldn't quite get there.  Rather than having to make a large and obvious adjustment, I only needed a slight adjustment to the circumstance to be back at center.  Unfortunately, it would have taken some effort to get back to center--driving an hour and a half to get to and back from work.  So, the one degree off center that that situation was causing me was worse anxiety in some ways than completely having to go from scratch to get a new car did.

Moral of the story: Be willing to give up the worry about that which you believe you can control.  Because a) the sense of control often is an illusion anyway and b) somethings just don't make a difference in the bigger picture.

Just my 1/50th of a dollar worth here.

-- Rich

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Wisdom to Know...

I believe in life, we hear sayings and understand them on some level, but don't necessarily deeply or totally appreciate them for awhile if ever.  Once such such saying for me is the Serenity Prayer.  I suspect anyone who has been going to church for a long time, been involved in a support/recovery group and/or is a person of faith has heard of the first part of it:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change; 
courage to change the things I can; 

and wisdom to know the difference.

Not everyone however is familiar with the second part of it:

Living one day at a time; 

enjoying one moment at a time; 

accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; 

taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it; 
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will; 
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next. 

Anyway, I've heard it many times and maybe I have really 'gotten it' before, but haven't expressed it clearly as I will no. Below, I'm going to focus on the first part of that prayer as I understand it.


  • Calmness of mind.
  • Untroubled of heart.
  • Doesn't mean no fear or disquiet, but it means they don't rule you.

Accepting the things I cannot change

  • To me this usually means tabling my expectations of others people or circumstances.  
    • Expectations might be quite understandable such as wanting a healthy relationship with you child, your siblings, your parents, etc.  It doesn't matter, the expectations have to be let go if unrealistic.
    • Expectations might appear to be within reach but if you were honest, would see that they aren't.  It doesn't matter how in reach they appear to be, if they aren't, it's time to let the expectation go.
    • Expectations that we will be understood.  If we are fortunate, we will have that friend and/or lover that pretty well understands us.  Life is so complex as is human interaction there is no feasible way to expect anyone other than our Higher Power to totally 'get us'. It doesn't matter how much we want it, it's time to understand that we will never be fully understood by anyone except our HP.  In short, time to let that expectation go.
  • To me, this means actually accepting what I can't change, rather than just saying or trying to convince myself that I have 'accepted' it. 
    • To me this requires an understanding of what accepting is.
      • Recognizing the validity/reality of what is to be accepted.
      • Consenting to the reality of what is to be accepted.
      • Words and actions showing that acceptance.
        • Your focus is not on the person/situation.
        • Any thoughts about the person/situation may pop up, but do not linger.
        • You can have feelings about the person/situation, but you just can't live in them.
    • To me this requires an understanding of what not accepting looks like.
      • Saying you've accepted something, but your words give lie to that supposed acceptance. 
        • For example, you say your over someone, yet every chance you get you badmouth the other party.
      • Saying you've accepted something, but your actions give lie to that supposed acceptance.  
        • For example, you say your over someone, yet when you think no one is watching, you stalk them on social media or elsewhere.
      • A tendency to be triggered about the circumstance that needs to be accepted, even if it infrequent.

Courage to change the things I can
  • To me that means recognizing any blocks in the way of making the change.
    • All the courage in the world cannot help if you haven't identified the blocks in the way of change.
    • This may require prayer, meditation, counseling or other means to draw out the nature of the blocks.
  • To me that means being able to push through those blocks.
    • This means a willingness to face any blocks or demons that are in the way.
    • This can mean asking others, including your HP for help, strength or support in facing the blocks.
    • This doesn't necessarily mean waiting until the fear subsides (it may never).
      • It means walking through the fear.
      • It means talking through the fear.
      • It means focusing what is on the other side of the wall rather than the difficulty in climbing the wall.

Wisdom to know the difference
  • Sometimes we know when what we can change and what we can't--and for that matter should and shouldn't--but need to be honest with ourselves.  Wisdom starts with a willingness to be honest with ourselves.
  • Sometimes we don't know the difference and need to ask our HP, meditate, ask for advice, etc. for help in discerning.  In other words, we have to be open to our HP and the resources he places in our path.
  • Gaining wisdom in life isn't a one-time event, but a life long process.  Gaining wisdom over a specific circumstance or situation likewise may occur over over time rather than all at once, though we might have a crystallizing moment.

For me the path to serenity is a long and continuing one.  I still have a long way to go, but I'm still on the journey and am willing to be on that journey for the rest of my life.  Perhaps one of the biggest blocks is wisdom (or willingness) to know the difference, hence the blog title.  Anyway, while I would love utopia, I know I'll never have it in this life, so I work to rest my hope in my HP that He will grant me the first part of the prayer while I keep in mind the second.

I hope you'll take what you can and are able to use out of this blog and add whatever need as in life, "your mileage may very".  Have a blessed day.

- Rich

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Nothing to Sneeze At: Different definitions of success

History is littered with what we now consider odd symbols of wealth or success.  Being fat used to be a sign of being wealthy especially in accent times, where plentiful or readily available food wasn't always guaranteed.  The ability to sneeze upon demand oddly was one too.  Sneezing was thought to be a way of clearing one's mind.  Those with idle time and/or the money to afford snuff--which could induce sneezing--were typically aristocrats.  Interestingly enough, sneezing in conversation was typically considered a sign of disapproval.  Hence, "not to be sneezed at", indicated that something was worthwhile.  Anyway, when we think about the phrase, "nothing to sneeze at", we think of an amount of money that is significant.  But really you could apply that phrase to any measure of success.

When we measure success, we most often think of how much monetary advantage someone has gained.  However, as we know that is but one measure of success in a person's life.  From my perspective, there are many measures of success and not all traditional.  By it's nature, traditional implies long established or understood.  So, let's start with the more readily thought of measures.

  • Wealth
    • A person who has a lot of money, especially if they've largely earned it themselves is typically considered successful.   Gaining or accumulating a small fortune is not an easy task for most, so society looks upon it as a sign of accomplishment.
    • A person is considered 'successful' if they can provide a comfortable (aka free of money concerns) for themselves and family.   Being able to provide that in death is also a sign of success. 
  • Power
    • Being able to shape events and shape the world around you is another common sign of success, especially considering those with money can more easily buy influence.
    • Power, often, but not always, comes in conjunction with having 'made money' or the ability to do so.
    • I believe in society we tend to admire those who are able to exert control over as many of us feel like we are powerless in the worlds.  Typically those who are able to do so have a better chance of making sure they and their friends are 'taken care of' and we hope that they can take care of us (those whom they lead or 'rule' over).
  • Awards or Achievements
    • Not everyone can be the best or win at something.  We tend to recognize achievements, especially those that are rare and/or above and beyond the norm as indicators of success.
      • In the NBA for example, there is only one person who is considered the most valuable to their team per year.  So, to get that award really speaks volumes about your success, especially where it relates to helping your team.
      • The Noble Peace Prize likewise is award to person or group every year.  So, if you are nominated and win it, it typically speaks volumes about how people value your efforts towards advancing peace.
    • Typically, but not always, an award or achievement is forever.  Therefore, not only will you be recognized at the time it is given, but you will go down in the 'history books' when you achieve or are recognize for greatness.
  • Fame
    • Typically, but not always comes with wealth.
    • Often is associated with some degree of influence or power.
    • Tends to come with, but not always, awards or accomplishments.
    • Is a sign of 'relevance'.  
      • While it is probable that being rich will tend to make one more memorable, it isn't a guarantee thereof.  While wealth my guarantee some publicity in one's own life or the life of one's own life, it is no guarantee that generations hence that you'll be remembered or even thought of.
      • Once we get past survival thoughts, I believe there is a spiritual yearning in many if not most people to feel like they matter.  
  • Successful influence.
    • Even if we don't 'succeed' according to the world's other measures of success, we may be considered successful if our children that we've raised have achieved one or more of the previous measures.
    • We ourselves can gain some measure of pride if we can claim that we helped our children (or players or students/spouse) to succeed.  

  • Sacrifice
    • This may seem counter-intuitive, but sometimes success is sacrifice, especially if that sacrifice was not in vein such as in examples below:
      • A soldier who dies in the service of his/her country, can through his/her efforts be part of a larger success in military victory and/or keeping us safe.
      • A fireman who dies in the line of duty--such as on 9/11--while leading other to safety has succeeded in making the world (or his/her part of it) a better place.
      • A police officer who dies in the line of duty, but helped keep his/her town safe by protecting the citizenry in the process.
    • Sacrifice can mean giving up of our hard earned time or treasure to help others succeed.  If we by our sacrifice help others to succeed, then we have achieved a level of success ourselves.  Successfully passing it on.
  • Survival
    • This can take many forms some include:
      • Literal physical survival such as in a battle (such as in war or a personal fight like cancer). 
        • When pinned being enemy lines, being able to make it out alive can be success (a miracle)
        • When you are deemed to be terminal and given only a short time to live, beating the odds can be a huge success story.
        • When you have a hard-core addiction, especially one that could be life-threatening, it may not seem like much, but success can be as simple as making it alive and sober another day.
      • Keeping a roof and food over your head in a bad economic downturn.  When you don't know how you'll make it, being able to look back and say, "somehow I made" it is a sign of success at navigating the storm.
      • Emotionally surviving after an attack or repeated abuse.  Sometimes having the strength to endure and to recover without getting destroyed or destroying yourself is a miracle.
      • Spiritually surviving trying circumstances (such as loss of job, family members or home).  Keeping the faith despite the world around you seeming to collapse is not something everyone does.
    • People who haven't been through the rough times, cannot always appreciate that success in life can be as simple as surviving.
    • Survival can be a success on the way to other successes (thriving). 
  • Simple Completion
    • In some ways this can be considered a success or a point just past survival.
    • Some challenges are so great that we don't have to be the best to be considered a winner or success.  Examples are as follows:
      • Finishing last place in a marathon is in itself a success.  Many people either don't finish or never have tried in the first place
      • A baseball player who makes it to the major leagues for a short stint, never to taste that success again can be considered a success.  Especially if/considering:
        • That player was not considered to have the talent level to make it.
        • For all those who have played the game, it is a rare class of people that even touch that level of success, even for a moment or brief stint.
  • Serenity or Spiritual Peace
    • We may not have the recognition, the worldly 'successes', the praise, the glory or even the simple notes of appreciation, but there is something to be said for being at peace with your Higher Power.
    • Many people live their whole life, never having achieved any level of serenity or spiritual peace, so achieving it is achieving a success that no other worldly success can match.
    • Serenity or Spiritual Peace can help us whether storms or lack of 'successes' in other areas of our lives.
    • The importance of it best captured by this verse: "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? (Mark 8:36)
  • Successfully Leading/Supporting 
    • Our children, students or players may never achieve pinnacles of the traditional measures of success, but that's okay.  Not everyone can be the richest, most famous, most accomplished or powerful.
    • Our spouse may never be achieve the pinnacle of success, but if we have supported him or her and encouraged him or her to be the best they can be, that is a measure of success.
    • In a world in which many people crash and burn and fail, leading those under us to well-adjusted lives is in itself "nothing to sneeze at".  We can't guarantee them 'worldly success', but we can give them the tools to be well-adjusted. 

In this world, we are often pushed by those close to us to succeed according to worldly standards. We are pushed by who are well meaning and by those who live vicariously through us.  While it can be a good thing to strive towards the traditional or worldly measures of success, it is important to never forget the more basic and less traditional measures, thereof.  Doing so, I believe can help us to be more grounded and can keep us from getting discouraged when we aren't succeeding as well as we'd like by the traditional measures.  But, I believe in all our successes we should remember the following:
  1. Never forget those who helped us along the way (especially and including our Higher Power).
  2. It is okay to have some pride in our successful efforts, but it is important not to be too prideful.
  3. Worldly 'success' can be fleeting, so appreciate it while it is there, but always be aware of the the less traditional measures of success which tend to be longer lasting if not eternal.
  4. The measure of who we are is we do with what we have.  (Vince Lombardi)  We are not guaranteed worldly success by any measure, but I believe we are guaranteed being considered a success by our Higher Power if we do the best with what we are given.

Thanks for reading,

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Loneliness is such a sad affair

It's amazing, we live in cities with tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands or millions of people, yet we somehow find a way to be lonely.  I'm not necessarily saying lonely all the time, but you know we all have our moments.  For some people, the moments are occasional, but for others the moments are lasting and seemingly without end.

The anniversary of my marriage was the other day.  We were pretty low key about it.  It's not that we didn't consider it important, but we consider it a step in a lifelong process. In my first marriage, we focused too much on reaching and celebrating the milestones and not enough time on the health of the relationship.  So, for me, I look forward to us working together and letting the milestones come naturally and then taking time to celebrate them rather than making a production of reaching and planning them.   We've had many really good moments in which it all seems to click, but we've also had growing pains.  Unfortunately, blended families rarely work as smoothly as The Brady Bunch.  There is a period of time it takes for everyone to get know and trust each other  Anyway, our schedules do not always permit us to spend us much time as we'd like getting to know each other and/or discussing what we need to.  Any married couple with two working parents, I'm sure can relate.  This leads to moments of loneliness in which we feel the other can't always be there for our daily life challenges, concerns or triumphs.  So, it is our goal in the next year to find enough or make enough 'us' time to help with that.

This all got me to thinking about loneliness.  I believe everyone has times of loneliness in which they realize it is just them and their Higher Power (God).  For example, my wife is aware of and empathizes with my current neck injury and I her knee injury, but neither of us has experienced the specific injury problem/level of the other.  Therefore, there is a certain amount of loneliness we have in dealing with our injuries.  I imagine when a spouse has cancer it is sort of like that too.  You support him or her as much as you can, but ultimately, they have to be the one who battles it.


So, how would I classify the types of loneliness.  Based on what I've experienced, on what I've seen in others and on what I can surmise, here is a breakdown of loneliness.

  • Where you miss the closeness of family.  The following are circumstances that could lead to familial loneliness. 
    • Your family of origin is not very close-knit.  For whatever reasons the bonds you see in 'perfect' families never fully took, stuck or were available.  
      • You never really knew your family--this can either be immediate family (such as a missing parent) or extended family (such as aunts/uncles/cousins/grandparents).
      • You knew them but for whatever reason or dysfunction there was a lack of closeness.
    • You family of origin is scattered or busy.  Getting together can be an undertaking in some circumstances.
    • Your family of origin has been decimated.  As we get older we lose those who have been a fixture of our family.  This can secondarily lead to a breakdown of remaining family.  Unfortunately, for me, this type of circumstance has hit close to home.
  • Where you miss the closeness of friends.  The following are circumstances that could lead to this type of loneliness.
    • You have few if any friends.  
      • No man is an island.  We all need to be part of a bigger gang.
      • People are generally social creatures and best thrive when surrounded by friends.
    • You have few close friends
      • You may have a lot of acquaintances, people you see at work, church or wherever.
      • However, at the end of the day, you may not really have much of anyone to be able to call on.  To me that is the definition of closeness.
    • You have close friends, but they are often unavailable.
      • They have a busy schedule and it is hard to find time with them.
      • You are separated by significant distance and it is hard to get together easily with them.
  • Where you miss the closeness of a romantic relationship/marriage family.  The following are circumstances that could lead to relational loneliness
    • You are single and unattached.  While being single has its perks, one of the drawbacks is not having someone to curl up with and hear "I love you".
    • You have a relationship/marriage which is by strife and disconnect.  Relationships on balance are meant to be a safe place for us.  One where we can share our joys, fears and all other feelings in between.  When this is limited or nonexistent in a relationship, it can feel vary isolated.  Isolation of course can lead to the disintegration of a relationship.

  • Where you wonder about your role.
    • Sometimes we might seem like we are just another cog in the wheel at our job.
    • Sometimes we wonder if we were not present, would anyone care that much.
    • Sometimes in our group (friends/family/etc), we can be just another voice and not necessarily feel like an important one.
    • Sometimes we might wonder about our role in the cosmic scheme.  That is do we matter to or in our Higher Power's universe (God).
  • Where you wonder about your impact.
    • Sometimes we wonder if we are making a positive difference in the lives of others.
    • Sometimes we wonder if we are raising our children in the best way.  That is are we being the best leader.
    • Sometimes we wonder if we are doing anything significant in the world are or we just replaceable?
  • Where you wonder about your legacy.
    • Sometimes we wonder if we were gone if we'd be forgotten or missed that much.
    • Sometimes we wonder if after we are long gone will there be any sign that we mattered.
      • Lasting impact in the lives of others--lives that we positively changed.
      • A 'monument' to what we left behind.  It could be things we built or created, ideas/concepts/writings that we shared, a marker that we mattered somewhere.
  • Where you wonder about your eternal destiny.
    • We think about this during our lives, but we might consider it more as our health starts to deteriorate.
    • We might wonder if we be 'punished' or 'rewarded' for the life we lived and the ideal we tried to follow.
    • We might wonder if we will see those we lost along the way.
    • We might wonder if we will even have any sense of self or awareness after the final curtain has gone down.
    • We might wonder if there is any real existence after this life has passed.  (All we are is dust in the wind?)


As I indicated previously, I believe that everyone experiences loneliness of a sort at some time or another in their life.  I think it's unavoidable and can even be beneficial in that it can help clarify who or what really matters in our life.  As social creatures if we feel too much loneliness, I believe we have a tendency to try to assuage it.  That's not necessarily a bad thing, I believe we have to keep a few questions in mind when trying to lessen or assuage loneliness.

  • Is the amount of 'loneliness' we feel reasonable to expect or feel, especially relative to our situation?  
    • Is it excessive and indicates a mental health issue?
    • Is it excessive and indicates a need to interact or connect more with others?
  • Are we spending too much time, effort and trouble trying to 'remedy' it and not enough effort accepting it as 'part of life'.
    • We can recognize some loneliness is okay and doesn't need to be 'cured'.
    • We can recognize our efforts to 'cure' our loneliness may be way out of wack with the extent of loneliness we are feeling.
      • Just because we are feeling kind of lonely doesn't mean we have to go out every night looking for others to 'cure' it.
  • Are we mistaking the type(s) of loneliness we are feeling?
    • If we feel too much existential loneliness, trying to deal with or 'cure' it with a relationship is probably a mistake.
      • Family/friends can support us, but they can't be our reason for being or our crutch to avoid dealing with existential loneliness.
      • If we focus on using relationships to solve our existential loneliness, we may end up with too many, too new, too involved, too entangled or some other unhealthy relationship issue.  Ultimately, while others can help support us and help us walk through life, it is up to our and our Higher Power to work out the existential questions.
    • If we feel too much relational loneliness, trying to 'cure' it with an 'existential' solution is likely a mistake.
      • While it is important for us to feel like and be driven by a purpose in life, a purpose will not replace the benefits of healthy relationships with others.
      • While it is important to focus on our purpose, we can't necessarily focus on a purpose 24/7/365.  Even if we throw our lives into a purpose, there will be downtimes in which it will be hard to relational loneliness.
    • Like resentment, we can only ignore or suppress relational loneliness for so long before it blows up in our face.
      • We will search for an outlet to 'fix' it and it may not be a very healthy one.
      • Our purpose may very well suffer if it has to compete with too much relational loneliness.

I guess my takeaway on the matter of loneliness would ultimately be this:
  • Some loneliness is okay and even expected.  It can also be a positive driver for change.
  • It is important to know when work on changing it and when to learn to accept it (serenity).
  • It is important to recognize the type and degree of loneliness you are facing so you can address it the proper way.
  • At the end of the day, after we strip it all away, it is between us and our Higher Power, but we are given the gift of family and friends just as Adam was in Genesis to support us in life.

Loneliness can be such a sad affair, but like much else in life it is how you choose to deal or cope with it when it is present that can help determine just how sad it is.

This is one of the most hauntingly sad songs that I've heard.  Knowing how she lived and died and how alone she must have felt as she struggled with anorexia 

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Survivor's guilt, thriver's guilt and the unbearable lightness of being...

I was talking with a good friend one time about why people feel guilty about being the one who makes it.  By that I mean the one who survives or the one who succeeds vs. the one who passes away or fails.  I see it as "survivor's guilt" and "thriver's guilt" respectively.  We also discussed the concept of "lightness of being"--something which I feel few people ever learn to appreciate or hold onto if they do come to appreciate it.  To me that's a sense of being carefree.

Anyway, I will delve right in by first introducing the concept of guilt over being the one who makes it.
  • Survivor's guilt -  I'm not going to delve into this concept too much as I feel it has been explored.  But when someone close to us passes--naturally or not--especially if they are younger, we feel like we could have helped them somehow, that they didn't 'deserve' to be the one or that somehow we contributed to their passing, it is not uncommon to feel guilt over being the one that is left behind.  Much of the time, the guilt is misplaced:
    • It is easy to second guess how you could have 'helped' another after the fact, when the 'evidence' or problem is more clearly obvious.
    • No one 'deserves' to die per se--except for maybe those convicted of a capital offense. It's a natural part of life however.
    • Even if you somehow contributed, it probably wasn't intentional.
    • It doesn't seem fair that a younger person, especially our kids would go first.

Next comes the person who succeeds and who sees others who have not:
  • Thriver's guilt - This is a term that I thought of.  I'm not sure if it has ever been used before?  Anyway, the concept behind this is that I believe there are successful people who feel guilt over the fact that others around them are not thriving.  It's like they somewhere in the back of their mind they feel that they don't 'deserve' to be doing well, while others are suffering, even if they have done nothing to cause or lead to the suffering of others.  It can be feeling guilty about having opportunities that others did not have.  That is wondering why they are fortunate to have a leg up.  This can persist even if they take the opportunities provided to them and work hard to be successful.   Here are some of my thoughts on 'thriver's guilt'.
    • People have no choice to decide to whom and what situation/circumstances they are born under.  
      • It is proper to be thankful to your Higher Power (God) to be born into a family which is thriving and/or has opportunities.
      • It is proper to want to help or look for opportunities to help the not-so fortunate.
      • It is not proper to feel guilty about being born into opportunities, but instead by grateful and take full advantage of the opportunities you were given.  Guilt over squandering opportunities can be very appropriate.
    • People usually have some amount of choice as to how to deal with the situation or circumstances they are born into (or raised in).
      • In some cases, others are less fortunate due to poor choices they've made.  However, often is the case, that they are less fortunate because they have less opportunities.
      • In some cases, others are more fortunate due to hard work they've done.  They were given the wisdom or had the opportunity to be positively influenced by others in their life.  Therefore, with hard work, they've raised themselves out of a bad situations.  In many cases, they are more fortunate in spite of poor choices they've made. We've heard stories of the kids of rich being rescued, enabled or protected by their parent's money. 
      • Once again, if you've worked hard to succeed regardless of where you started out, there is no reason to feel 'thriver's guilt'.  However, if you've succeeded in spite of yourself, then a little perspective or 'thriver's guilt' isn't a bad thing.
    • If a person has succeeded by working hard and doing right by others, regardless of where in life they started, then it is not appropriate to try to shame them into feeling guilty about their success. Nor is it appropriate shame them into feeling their success is undeserved.  What is appropriate is reminding them that not everyone has the opportunities they had and to remember that and be helpful or charitable where they can.
      • It is not our place to judge others like that.
      • If a person is raised properly, they are more likely to respond when encouraged to be helpful to others than being shamed into being helpful.  
      • Encouraging them to spend time with helping the less fortunate is also a better way to reach their sense of empathy rather than trying to shame them.
      • No one likes to live in shame and even if it works for a while, an eventual backlash is probable. 

Now the final subject, people who are at ease with themselves and their lives/relationships:
  • Lightness of being - When I think of that term, I think about not having a care in the world. In reality, a lightness of being is a place of serenity.  It is a sense of ease in your own skin.  It is a place where you are at peace with your Higher Power (God).
    • It can be a place in our lives that is hard to reach and/or is fleeting. 
      • It can take a lot of effort--praying, meditating, introspecting, pausing to observe.
      • Circumstances happen which lessen or destroy our lightness of being, but we don't have to live or stay in the circumstances, no matter how bad they are.
    • It can be a place we reach not because our life is problem free, but because our perspective has become better.  That is to say, we see the glass as half-full more than we do half-empty.
      • We see our problems are not as big as others or even as we had originally thought.
      • We are able to see a gratitude list in our mind, rather than a list of complaints.
        • Perhaps it is because of misfortunes we've endured and are past.
        • Perhaps it is because we see others with less fortunate circumstances.
    • It can be a place we reach when we see the value we can offer or our significance in life
      • In other words, it is as much spiritual as it is emotional or mental.
      • If we are able to see our role or place in this world, even if it is tough one, we at least have an anchor to hold onto.

I guess my take away from the whole subject is:
  • Survivor's guilt - Is a place that we can visit, but not a healthy place to stay.
  • Thriver's guilt - We shouldn't feel guilty for our success if we've put hard work into it.  Not everyone will succeed to the same level and there is nothing wrong with that.  It is when we  don't appreciate properly and respect our fortune that we need to be reminded of it.  It is important to appreciate the means and/or tools that God blessed us with and to bless him back by helping the less fortunate.
  • Lightness of being - A fleeting place which takes some work to achieve and stay there and is based on our outlook and spiritual well-being as much as anything.

I don't always know if what I write is meaningful or helpful to others and I know everyone's experiences are at least somewhat different.  So, take what helps you from this post and leave the rest for others.  


* I got the title from the novel "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" which posits some interesting existential questions which I let you click on to explore.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Traveling through life with a purpose: Meeting others for a reason, season or lifetime.

I guess I've always known that people come in and out of our lives for different reasons, though I haven't always fully accepted it.  Sometimes we lose them to relationships ending, sometimes we lose them to the death and sometimes if we are truly fortunate, we keep them for a lifetime.  I guess this is sort of a follow-up to a prior blog entry: The reflection across the pond: the connection of the past to the future which we embrace.

It seems cliche, but people do move in and out of our lives or stay in our lives for a reason.  I've heard it said that when relationships end, it is like a death where the other is still alive.  Of course when our loved ones actually pass on, it literally is a death.  Either way, it is easy to succumb to questioning God why?  It is easy to question Him, why do we have to feel the pain of loss?  The pain of loss may never truly go away, but with His help, often times we can gain a better understanding of their purpose or role in our lives and more importantly a serenity about it.

When it is a relationship--friendship, romantic or familial--that ends in a 'divorce', even if it was for the best, I believe it usually leaves a hole in our soul,  It can leave us in a state of bewilderment as in what the heck happened.   It's as if one day we were close, but figuratively a million miles away from that person, even if they are just up the street.  It can be cruel: the closeness we once--even possibly recently-- had has vanished.  In a way, the shell of the relationship is like a corpse that isn't buried, but in plain sight.  It is easy to focus on the loss of that relationship rather than the purpose or benefit of that relationship had during its lifetime.
  • The friendship that has faded over time or distance may have served us when we were going through a tough time.
  • The relationship we had led to new experiences that we may have never had otherwise and/or may have left us with a child.
  • The family member that has drifted away from us, may have allowed us to gain a better insight into ourselves and/or who/what shaped us in our formative years.
The key here is not to get stuck in the what ifs or why nots, but accept what is.  It can feel cruel, but given time to mourn and His help we can learn to appreciate what we gained from those relationships, rather than what ifs or why nots.

I've had friends abandon me and I've been divorced and both situations are painful, but I have been able to look back and see that those friends have often helped during the lifetime of the friendship.  Also, I know with my divorce, that though things ended out badly, I learned much about myself, did have some positive adventures, found out what is really important and how to be a better person.  Furthermore, I did gain a daughter.  In other words, I can move forward, because the relationship, even as it failed, wasn't a total loss.


When a relationship ends with a death--even if it is expected, there is a certain shocking absoluteness to it.  When a relationship ends in a 'divorce', at least we can humor the concept that one day that the personal interaction or our state of mind will be reconciled at least to a healthier place.  In other words, there is a hope even after it is over, it doesn't have to stay awful.  Unfortunately, when a relationship ends with a death, it is frozen where it ended.  If the person died when we weren't 'at peace' with them, there can be shame associated with letting the opportunity to come to terms with them pass us by.  If the person died abruptly, we can be left without really having had the opportunity to say goodbye.  What can be especially cruel is if they die senselessly and we, in hindsight, 'should have seen it coming'.  Unfortunately, unless we are truly prepared for the passing by death of a relationship, it can take a long time, if ever to truly recover from.

Once again, however, after a time of mourning, we are best served by not being chronically stuck in the what-ifs or the 'Why God, whys'.  It is very difficult, but instead of focusing on the fact that we will never see that person in this life again, we should attempt to view things this way:

  • We were fortunate to have that person in our life for as many years as they were.  We were never promised any time with that person and the fact that they we got the opportunity to know them has enriched our own lives.  In other words, their presence in our lives for as short or long as it was, was a Gift.
  • If we are confident of their ultimate destination to a better place, we can rest better knowing the person's struggle with the challenges in this life have been replaced with something much better.
  • The person who had passed typically would not want us to mourn them for too long, but instead carry on.  Carrying on doesn't mean forgetting that person, but instead it means remembering them in a healthy way.
Our life in this shell that we call our body is a Gift of the Almighty.  Our fall from grace, unfortunately caused us to lose our immortality.  Therefore, unfortunately, as sure as the sun rises in the morning and sets at night we will lose special people in our lifetime, so it is best if we can learn to value the time we have with them as we go along and then embrace having had that time with them when they pass.  Death may end a relationship, but it doesn't have to destroy the positive memories of it and our serenity indefinitely.

I was broken up when my brother took his life over 4 1/2 years ago, but in his life and his passing, I have learned that he has given me certain gifts that I can never repay.  He gave me a great example of a compassionate and kind soul.  He gave me an example of a person who was his own person.  In other words, it is more important to be true to yourself.  He reminded me that when life overwhelms me, instead of retreating, it is important to reach out.  Far from being a sign of weakness, reaching out is a sign of strength.  Real courage is doing something you need to even when you don't want to, to opening up to those you need to rather than letting pride get in the way. 


If we are really fortunate in this life, we will meet a handful of special people that stay with us until our number is called--be it a spouse, a sibling, a friends or other.   I have come to appreciate these people.  These are our true support system.  These are the people we bounce our ideas off of.  These our the people that give us grounding when we seek to explore the uncertainties of life around us.  These are the people we can count on day or night.  These are the people we should say a prayer of thanks to the Almighty for.  The key here is to recognize these people when they come along and/or a part of our lives.


Whether we meet others for a time and they disappear, a time and they pass on or our lifetime, the key is recognize their purpose or role in our lives and accept the time they are in our lives.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Is it too much to ask?: Surrendering and expectations

A had a discussion with a friend one time, actually it was a group discussion.  Anyway, we were discussing expectations in marriage.  Part of the discussion centered on the idea that tensions in marriage are largely caused by unmet expectations.  If a marriage is beset by a history of addiction or codependence of any sort, it is hard for one or both partners to be 'present' in the marriage.  As as result, it's hard for one or both to meet each other's expectations. 

Bearing this in mind, a question came to mind: Given such problems, when are marriages worth fighting for?  I believe if you have kids together, and especially if a marriage is started on a friendship, then perhaps such a marriage is worth fighting for.  Anyway say you've answered that question--is it worth fighting for--in the affirmative, the follow-up question is what do you have to do to make it at least livable, if not thriving?  I've always thought one of the keys to success or at least tolerability of an imperfect marriage is surrendering expectations.  That doesn't mean you don't push for what is important to you in the marriage.  What it means is that after you've expressed your marital concerns to your spouse, you surrender them to your Higher Power. 

From the AA Big Book

"My serenity is inversely proportional to my expectations. The higher my expectations of other people are, the lower is my serenity. I can watch my serenity level rise when I discard my expectations. But then my 'rights' try to move in, and they, too, can force my serenity level down. I have to discard my 'rights,' as well as my expectations, by asking myself, How important is it, really? How important is it compared to my serenity, my emotional sobriety'? And when I place more value on my serenity and sobriety than on anything else, I can maintain them at a higher level - at least for the time being."
Alcoholics Anonymous,
p. 452


We tend to have significant expectations of those close to us and we often find ourselves getting disappointed.  In pondering that, the following occurred to me is:
  • God imbued me with free will, but He also imbued others in my life with free will as well.
  • How can we expect others to necessarily live up to our expectations, given their free will when given our own free will we don't live up to the expectation of our Creator?
  • In other words, the free will we cherish and leads to us disappointing God is the same free will that prevents others from meeting our expectations.

In closing, a little realism in expectations and a little understanding of the way we disappoint others--including our Higher Power--can go a long way towards helping a marriage.  If we are able to better see our own faults, we can be more realistic accepting that perhaps our spouse isn't perfect either.

Just some thoughts...