Monday, February 24 2020
“You have no responsibility to live up to what other people think you ought to accomplish. I have no responsibility to be like they expect me to be. It’s their mistake, not my failing.”
Richard Feynman, physicist and Noble Prize winner
Good morning, friends! I hope you are very well this morning. Things are going around, so protect yourself. Now, let’s get to it.
“Expectations” sounds like a word School House Rock should have covered back in the ’70s. The management of expectations is one of the more powerful issues of life. Consider: did you grow up with any awareness of expectations from your parents? Whether you knew it or not, they had them. We all do and did. It’s nearly impossible to experience anyone without the infection of expectations.
Some expectations are warranted. If one goes out to eat, service commensurate with the cost creates expectations. Last night for supper at a local Chipotle the preparer of the food was inattentive; so be it for fast food. If I’m at a fine dining establishment I’d better get serious attention. I expect it. You rightly expect plenty of things for which you pay. It’s part of the consumer economy. But when we don’t pay (payment being a form of contract) or otherwise contract, that’s when expectations get into trouble.
When we’re on the giving end of expectations, as one Buddhist thinker taught me, we set ourselves up for the receiving of disappointments. That’s bad enough, but when we are on the receiving end of expectations we find ourselves in the morass of pressure, stress, anxiety, and generally negative life. I know, I know; someone will suggest that expectations fuel progress. That’s essentially an old wives’ tale. It isn’t true. Expectations may inspire someone in a particular direction, or encourage them to achieve, but in all cases we all do what we want to do when we want to do it and how we want to do it, again absent of the contract of payment or otherwise.
In life, we are beholding to no one for our own lives. Expectations are low-level table talk and little more. The one who expects, if heavy-handedly, is wrong and the one who suffers from heavy-handed expectations is to be pitied. Better is to be freed from expectations at all and to be engaged in a process of self-discovery, self-awareness and self-achievement. As far as our own lives go, we owe no one anything and anyone expecting is just plain wrong.
So examine your own habits of expectations, both given and received. And when you get the keys of release from that terrible prison use them and then give them away. Many prisoners await freedom. I expect nothing of you, that’s for sure. Just be the best you that you can be. And have a wonderful week.
Tuesday, February 18 2020
“If you remember me, then I don't care if everyone else forgets.”
Good morning, friends! With Valentine’s Day just passed I thought a thought on love would be in order. I had a most marvelous Valentine’s Day; I hope you did too. Anywho, let’s get to it.
A few years ago I was sitting in the front room of a very senior adult lady who seemed to be in the shadow of the end of life. It wasn’t necessarily eminent, but it was circling. As we spoke I asked her about deeper things of life: what her accomplishments were, how she felt about the important relationships in her life, and what, if any, were her current fears. We had a wonderful time of honesty (a quite rare experience, in my experience) and when we got to “fears” she only expressed that she feared being forgotten. We were deep in the mire of honesty.
My training as a coach moved me to let her comment rest in the air. I watched as she wrestled with the expression of the honest fear; I didn’t want to remove the power of the moment with any cliché or flippant foolish answer or solution. She spoke, in her honesty, of something deep within us all. I was wrestling, too.
Recently a mentor of mine simplified a road of the human journey for me. We begin life completely indifferent to the thoughts of anyone, absorbed in our own life. We next experience an awkward suspicion that everyone is thinking about us, talking about us, and consumed with the coming and goings of our lives. These teen years pass quickly, thankfully. Soon enough in young adulthood we begin to wonder if anyone, anyone at all, is actually thinking about us at all. Penultimately, we find the stage of life when we realize that in fact no one is thinking about us at all; everyone is thinking completely of themselves, just as we are of ourselves. And finally we reach the stage of my elderly lady, when our fear is being forgotten. Such is the journey of the disconnected life.
Love (giving, selfless, outward) is ironically the experience that connects us, one to another, in ways that nothing inward, selfish or keeping can do. So many of us believe that we build our lives by accumulating and holding only to realize, often too late, that we didn’t invest in the right thing: loving relationships. But a simple eye test shows us that the most loving people among us are the richest in positive, affirming relationships.
My elderly friend indeed was remembered, with love by many people. She was a kind, loving woman and was blessed in her final days with affections far beyond her front room. We agreed that her fears were real but unfounded. She feared what we all fear in time; whether our fears are unfounded is another matter. Love enough people and it won’t matter who forgets you. Too many people will remember you to even count! Love, love and love, and be loved. It really is the very best way. And may I say I too love you. And have a wonderful week.
Monday, February 10 2020
"Never postpone a good deed which you can do now, because death does not choose whether you have or haven’t done the things you should have done. Death waits for nobody and nothing. It has neither enemies, nor friends."
Good morning, friends! I hope you are wonderfully well today and off to a great start of the week. Let’s get to it!
This morning, barely two hours ago, I had a water accident in my kitchen. It had to do with a faulty sprayer on the sink. It’s been faulty for a month or so, sticking in the “open” position for a moment longer than it should. I knew exactly how to fix it and could have fixed it every day from the start; all it required was a trip to the garage for some 3-in-1 oil. But every day I allowed the thought of fixing to fly out of my head when something more immediate and pressing appeared. This morning the sprayer stuck longer than a moment. Before I knew what was happening my left side was soaking wet and there was a puddle of water from the kitchen to the dining room. All because I was too lazy for a month to take 5 minutes for a quick fix. Now I know…
While our proverb for today calls death the tipping point, I find that life includes plenty of tipping points of awareness for wasted time and good deeds. Opportunities for good deeds come down to the next moment. Whoever I encounter in the next moment, will I bless then, dismiss them, or harm them? It seems easy enough when the next moment is innocent, but consider the times when the next moment is contentious.
* The phone support person is surly; will you do the good deed or not?
* The cashier is indifferent to you; will you do the good deed or not?
* Your neighbor is a bore, or worse; will you do the good deed or not?
* Your boss, or co-worker, is inconsiderate of you; will you do the good deed or not?
It’s easy enough to be a trader of good deeds and blessings; you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours. But that is a diminishing life. Our circle of goodness doesn’t grow when we are traders of goodness. Our circle of goodness grows when we are sowers of good deeds and blessings. It’s like a garden. It may begin as a certain size but in time, a bit each year, it gets smaller and smaller while the weeds and grass creep in from the edges. If the garden is your life then you grow it and expand it by the good deeds and blessings you share.
Correct, death waits for and respects no one. But neither does time. Once the moment has passed it’s gone, and collect enough wasted moments of undone good deeds and soon enough you have habits that lead to a diminished life. Do not go gentle into that bad night. Fight back against the creeping of self and selfishness; don't be lazy like I was this morning. Sow the seeds of good deeds and blessings everywhere. Whether any one of them blooms is no matter. What matters is that you will see yourself in a new, better light. And so will everyone else. I already do! Have a wonderful week.
Monday, February 03 2020
“Now that the Super Bowl is over it ‘s time to climb out of the spectator’s stands and get into the game of your own life.”
Good morning, friends! I have no time to waste today so I won’t waste yours. Let’s get to it!
Did you watch the Super Bowl last night? Plenty of people watch for the game, some for the commercials, and some for the halftime show. Me? I haven’t watched a football game of any kind in seven years. I cannot morally support a sport that effectively kills combatants for my entertainment, but I don’t judge you if you watched. To each his/her own. But I have watched my share of basketball games. And baseball games. And soccer matches. I’m as much of a spectator as the next person.
Is your life a spectator sport? Mine sure is. I don’t mean a sport for other people to watch, one with your daily shenanigans, like some “Real Housewife” reality show. I mean spectating your own life. Walk this way with me… Today and tomorrow are pretty much the same, or maybe this week and next week, with little variation. Routine has set in like arthritis in your life. You may have the occasional outlier of a day or moment, but all in all things are petty much same old same old. Shamefully, I just judged myself. How about you?
If we sit by and watch our lives waft by in repetitive fashion we have no one to blame but ourselves. To be sure, if our same old same old is casual days on sunny beaches with cabana service on a Caribbean beach no one is complaining. But if it’s a desk or cubical or classroom with fluorescent lighting, the low hum of technology and with a desk calendar as the only change agent then your spirit should be complaining loudly! Or maybe it’s a retirement space that is more numbing than encouraging, more antiseptic than exciting, and less than the life for which you hoped.
I don’t think I’m going out on a limb here to suggest that you, and I, have the potential for more in us. If you and I could get a vision of what we prefer then a simple action plan would take us in better directions for sure. And even if we missed our mark, wouldn’t the incremental improvements bring better energy to our lives? I’m not at all talking about swapping one routine for another, or one humdrum for another. I’m talking about a shift from spectating your life to engaging your life. How exciting would that be?!
I’m not advocating selling your home and possessions and moving to the islands, unless that is a smart and reasonable plan for you. What I am advocating for is an intentional plan to break free from routines that likely are not serving you well and certainly are not blessing you at all. You can do it! And so can I. But we have to get out of the stands and into the game, as scary as that may seem. What do you say? Let’s go win! And have a wonderful week!