Profound Puddles in Your Life

Tell me, have you fallen lately? I don’t mean this literally. I mean, have you taken a step that you thought would lead you forward, only to find you missed your goal completely, and maybe landed in one of life’s puddles.

When I was in Junior High School, I went out for the tennis team. It was going to be a stretch for me to make the squad, but I thought it might be good for me. Well, that’s not entirely true. My parents thought it would be good for me.

When I got there, seven other guys were waiting for the coach to arrive. We lined up and were assigned to four courts and told to volley with a partner. The coach watched us for a while, then asked us to gather around for his decision.

I’d made the team, he told me. I was pretty enthusiastic about it, that is until I discovered everybody who showed up made the team.

Over the next couple of practices, we all played against each other to establish our ranking. The top ranked player was number one of course. When our names were posted I scanned down the list. There I was, I’d been assigned as player number eight. Well, nowhere to go but up, I thought.

Every day after school we’d head out to the courts for practice and matches. When the weather was great, everything went along nicely. But often the courts would be full of puddles from our frequent rain showers, and we’d be forced to push the water off them, using long poles with wide flat rubber heads. They were supposed to clear the surface. They didn’t and we would have to do our best to play around the more obstinate puddles.

I don’t know if you’ve ever played tennis on a court with puddles, so I’ll give you some insight. When a fast-moving tennis ball hits a puddle, it skids wildly. There is no predicting which direction it will travel and it’s a rare thing to be able to return the ball back over the net. Not only that, striking a soggy tennis ball is like hitting a grapefruit.

Fortunately, practices were short those days.

As a side note, I eventually moved up to number six, but never played against kids from other schools, since only the top four played official matches. Actually, this was okay with me.

Over the course of my life, I’ve discovered that the tennis court is not the only place that has puddles.

The puddles I’m talking about now are those that potentially await us all. The death of someone close to us, an intense physical challenge, a financial set back, a string of endless arguments, the loss of a job, an accident, or the end of an important relationship.

They don’t happen every day, but you never really know when they’ll appear. Some days I feel surrounded by them. And some of them are quite deep.

Maybe you’ve stepped in a few yourself.

So, what do we do when confronted by life’s challenging puddles?

We have a lot of choices. We can swear at them and blame everyone and everything around us. I do this occasionally, even though I know it isn’t helpful. In those weak moments, I try to give myself some slack. I try to stand as far away from my circumstances as I can and be an observer, hoping the distance gives me better perspective. If I am kind to myself, I can see more clearly and often find some value within the experience.

Other times, I am able to adapt to the puddles I fall into. It’s not that I enjoy them, but I don’t resist them as much, which makes it a lot easier on me. I try to accept that difficulties happen to everyone and that there is almost always a pathway out. I try to shift my thinking away from my anger or resentment and toward solutions and growth. It doesn’t always work, but it’s a lot better than remaining in the puddle.

On my best days, I go inside myself. I rest for a while and slow down. I remind myself that everything that happens in my life is there to serve me in some fashion if I’ll only take the time to look closely and listen to my heart. Finding the beautiful message opens my world and allows me to release any unhelpful thoughts.

When I do this, I don’t mind running along and jumping in the puddles.

Who Are Your Life Teachers

The summer I was eight-years-old my family moved from Watertown to Delmar, New York. One of the first things my parents had to do was to enroll my sister and me in our new schools. She went to Junior High School (yes, there was no such thing as Middle School) and I went to Delmar Elementary School, just two blocks from our house.

It snowed so much in Watertown, sine it’s so close to Lake Ontario, that we missed a lot of school. In fact, we had so much snow one year, that my sister and I could have jumped out our second story window and not gotten hurt. Maybe buried, but not hurt.

The local school officials in Delmar felt that I should repeat third grade in order to catch up with the rest of my class. I didn’t agree with this decision, but I was a kid with no power, so off to third grade I went.

Fortunately, it only lasted a week and they reconsidered and put me in a fourth-grade classroom. My teacher, Mrs. Hosey, was incredibly welcoming and made sure I felt at home. Not surprisingly, she is my all-time favorite teacher. Not just because of her welcome, but for all that she taught me. We did all kinds of fun stuff and she engaged every one of the kids in my class.

I’m not saying she made things easy, she didn’t. She challenged us and helped draw out talents we didn’t believe we had. She asked us to search for meaning in what we were studying. I loved the fourth grade and I loved her.

I guess the feeling must have been mutual, because many, many years later, when I was a bank manager, she found me and opened an account at my bank. And, when I moved to a new branch, she moved with me, keeping us connected.

It was a beautiful thing to be able to help her with her needs and it felt like a kind of repayment for her guidance, kindness and generosity. I consider her one of my best life teachers.

When I was thinking about this topic, I recognized that it’s not just teachers who have profound effects on us. Sometimes it’s one single seemingly random connection we have with someone or some specific life event that occurs that changes our direction.

And, it’s not always what we label as ‘positive’ experiences that teach us, even though those may feel much better.

Sometimes it’s the ‘negative’ experiences that alter our lives and teach us important and valuable lessons. These instances can shape us and help us grow, if we allow them to.

So, who are your life teachers? Your spouse, parents, grandparents, school teachers, clergy, bosses, coworkers, those in government, police, friends. The list can be very long.

And what about your experiences?

Have you found that an illness (yours or someone close to you) has brought you wisdom and an increased awareness about life?

What about a job loss or relocation to a new home or losing a friend? Have they shown you new insights and challenged you to find hidden meanings in your life?

So many situations present themselves to us in ways we find difficult to understand or accept. Sometimes we fall into despair or become angry because of the circumstances we face. It makes me wonder about all of the teachings I’ve missed because I wasn’t open to them.

On my best days I think back to Mrs. Hosey and realize that the challenges that approach me all have meaning and value. I try to keep my eyes open and see if I can find the hidden gems, just like I did in her class.

Note: To make a comment, please click on the Post Name, then scroll to the bottom of the page, write your comment in the box and hit enter.

Casting Rainbows

I’m usually sitting at my desk in my home office by 6:00am. When the sun comes up, it hits the windshields of the car passing by my house and sends momentary flashes of blinding reflected light into my eyes. It doesn’t last more than a second, but the glare is so incredibly bright that it’s painful.

This is another of those situations in life that seem so simple to fix. I could merely reach over and pull the shade down. Problem solved. Except that this also shuts out all of the beautiful sunshine. And considering the length of our winter and the amount of shadows we’ve lived with, especially over this last year, I can’t make myself do it.

To be honest, my first reaction was to feel a bit angry and wonder why it had to happen this way.

Fortunately, I’ve learned that if I’m at all patient, another idea will follow as to how to solve the problem facing me. And it did.

It was wonderful and a total surprise.

I imagined being able to pull down a thin translucent sheet of material that would act like a prism, casting gorgeous rainbows all over the wall in front of me. So beautiful.

I thought to myself, I need to figure out how to make this real. I want rainbows instead of blinding glare in my life. I know I’ll find a way. I’ve discovered this about myself. Once I shift my perspective, new things become possible.

It’s the way my mind works, or perhaps it’s my heart, but once a shift happens, an idea or question will pop up in front of me. One did.

“How could I turn other things in my life, that I find painful, into something I find beautiful…radiant, even?”

I thought about this for a while. What challenges does this pose to me? What challenges would it pose to you?

The first challenges to arrive were these; major world conflicts and disagreements between factions, mistreatment and oppression by those in power, religious intolerance and political ideological disputes. Those seemed kind of big to tackle right away. Maybe I ought to start with something easier and work up to these.

Okay, how about, simple differences of opinion, small acts of dishonesty, saying unkind things to each other, failing to meet expected standards and thinking less of others and more of myself.

Perhaps these were smaller, but it seemed just as difficult to see how I could turn them into anything beautiful.

The more I thought about this, the more obvious it was to me that, the closer I come to disliking another’s position, the closer I come to disliking them personally. And there’s the glare, the blinding reflected light flashing into me…’I’ve made it personal’.

Every time I do this, I find that I suffer inside and the distance between myself and others grows.

I’ve made us separate. It’s them and me. We’re apart because I’ve chosen to believe they are what they say or what they do.

I have to stick around long enough and remind myself, it’s not who they are.

I have to ask myself, can I stop a moment and see who they are on the inside? Can I find some thin translucent sheet to place between us so I can see the rainbows they cast?

Yes, this is the hard part.

I have to go inside and remember that we are all one, made from the same source of love. We cast different shadows and see different lights. We’ve been raised and trained to see different paths.

Why is that?

Could one answer be that our life is enhanced when we are encouraged to look beyond ourselves? When others views are meant to expand us, to foster dialogue between us and to create harmony out of discord?

Imagine if we could be open enough inside, willing to talk without our opinion having to be the conclusion, willing to see others real needs, willing to honor other’s lives.

And, perhaps the most important aspect in all of this, is to realize I can not change anyone else, I can only change the way I view the world and relate to it. Seeing this clearly is a wonderful thing.

To me this creates beautiful rainbows…radiant ones even.

Note: To make a comment, please click on the Post Name, then scroll to the bottom of the page, write your comment in the box and hit enter.

Cease Fire

So, you have your story about yourself or more likely, you have a handful of stories. In order to manage your life, perhaps you try to use one of your stories to suit different situations you face. Maybe that works and maybe it doesn’t.

What I sometimes find is that my story seems out of sync with life, forcing me to make some adaptations. When this happens, there can be challenges within me. I’ve come to recognize and accept that there are distinctly separate parts to me. There are my physical, emotional, mental, spiritual and ego parts. No doubt there are others, but these are the ones that raise their heads first.

When one or more of these parts are in conflict, the whole of me is pushed off center and a sense of unhappiness can take over. Often, it’s only for a brief period of time, but occasionally, it lasts for an uncomfortable span.

Here’s a quick example.

When my family and I were on vacation last summer, I moved wrong and hurt my back. Physically, I needed to rest, gently stretch and take it easy. Emotionally, I was torn between knowing I needed to give my body time to heal, and feeling sorry for myself for the fun I would be missing. Mentally, I wanted to figure out how to heal faster or decide how I could have fun while recuperating. Spiritually, I wondered about the mind-body-spirit connection and about the healing process. Would it be possible for me to marshal energetic forces to heal more quickly? And, my ego, well it had a field day, offering plenty of advice and opinions all aimed at self-protection. It also chided me that I should have been more careful. Thanks, really helpful!

Maybe you are wondering where the cease fire comes in. Actually, right here. Well, almost.

One quick reference. According to Wikipedia, cease fires date back to the Middle Ages, when warring factions decided they needed a break in the battle. They were supposed to be reconsidering the need to fight and whether resolution was possible, but often each side used the time to resupply, as preparation for more fighting. Curiously, it was also known as a ‘truce of God’.

To me, a cease fire is extremely important because it creates an intentional ‘pause’. A pause, not to resupply inner arguments as part of the ongoing war, but to allow the story to be reconsidered. And perhaps to find a resolution, hopefully where all parties are satisfied with the proposed outcome.

You can think about it as a ‘reset button’. Imagine what a relief it would be, in the middle of a fight, an argument, or an internal battle, to be able to hit the ‘reset button’ and pause the conflict. Imagine the pause giving you time to start over, to see the conflict from another perspective or to allow the intense energy to dissipate and drain away. Imagine the freedom this would create inside of you and how it could change your story.

I’d like to say that my vacation experience provided me with an immediately effective cease fire, but it didn’t. I had to spend time working through a few things before it leveled out. I discovered it takes practice.

I also learned that the practice is worth it and that each time I hit the reset button to call a cease fire, it becomes easier.

It also creates a wonderful opportunity for me to claim my best life, which I’ll talk about in the next post. See you then.

Note: To make a comment, please click on the Post Name, then scroll to the bottom of the page, write your comment in the box and hit enter.

Ants and Uncles

Have you ever heard of the expression, ‘cry uncle’ or ‘say uncle’? In case you haven’t, it means to submit or give in to someone else.

During my childhood, this most often happened when two of my friends were fighting, and one had the other in a headlock. The ‘locker’ would make the ‘lockee’ utter the phrase, ‘say uncle’, before releasing their grip. Usually it required some tightening before this occurred.

As you can imagine, it’s not a pleasant experience for the ‘lockee’.

It seems to me that there is a grown-up version of this practice. Every so often I witness one person trying to force another into a verbal headlock, demanding their submission.

Maybe all they really want is for the other person to agree with them. But, more often than not, it becomes a classic power struggle, where one person wins and the other losses. This doesn’t feel good either.

Why is winning so popular? Why do we sometimes feel such a need to be in control of others?

Intriguing questions.

Here’s another, which at first glance, may seem unrelated.

Do you have any idea how much an ant can lift? According to scientists who study ants, they can lift between 10-50 times their own body weight. So, if I had their strength, that would mean that on my best day I could lift over 9,000 pounds. That’s the weight of one of those monster trucks that drives over the top of a bunch of cars, crushing them to pieces.

Wow, are ants amazing creatures or what?

Here’s another thing you might not know. The average colony is made up of thousands of ants. There are even ‘super colonies’ that number more than three million ants living together.

That’s shocking to me.

During the early spring, for some reason, ants want to live in our house. I have no idea what they are looking for or how they get in, but for a period of several months they apparently want to commune with Maureen and me.

Ordinarily, if I can, I coax them into an old empty Dove soap box (which I call the ‘bug box’) and escort them back outside. I have no real idea, but I suspect some are repeat offenders.

Occasionally, before transporting them, I will sit and watch them. I’ve seen them lift what I consider to be HUGE things and then easily carry them away. They never seem to give up nor submit to any of the challenges they face.

Perhaps one reason is that there aren’t other ants telling them they CAN’T lift or carry the item they intend to walk away with. Without being told it’s IMPOSSIBLE, they just go ahead, bite down on the item and move along.

I admire them a great deal. I think it’s awesome that they don’t say ‘uncle’ when faced with difficulties and that they aren’t adversely influenced by other ants.

I want to be more like them. I want to believe all things in my life are possible. I want to believe I am capable of lifting things far greater than I’ve previously thought could be done. I want to do amazing things, like they do.

Note: To make a comment, please click on the Post Name, then scroll to the bottom of the page, write your comment in the box and hit enter.