Friday, July 29, 2016

Thursday, July 28, 2016

I Quit

Don’t worry. I’m not really throwing in the towel, but we’ve all been there. Things aren’t going the way you want, or perhaps they’re not doing so as quickly as you might like. Frustration sets in. Before you know it, you begin to ask yourself if it’s worth it. Is the work you’re doing accomplishing anything? Even if it is, is it accomplishing enough. Is anyone paying attention?

The answer to that last one, at least, is easy. Someone is always paying attention. You are, even if no one else, and that matters. Your mind is sitting there like a precocious child, observing, studying, and - most importantly - remembering everything that you do. When you think that no one else is looking, remember that there is never less than one, and that one is the one most likely to be learning from your actions.

What new habit might you be setting by giving up? What new patterns would be engraved in your mind, to inform and influence all future decisions? That happens, you know. We are creatures of habit, some more and some less than others, but all creatures of habit to some extent or another. The things we do become matters of record in our mind and inform future things that we will do. The first time you do something, it is difficult. The second time is easier, and the third time is easier still. On it goes until practice, if you are very lucky, makes perfect.

We often think about this for habits we want to improve, but it applies the same for those habits we would prefer to do without as well. That part of the mind doesn’t understand value. It only understands repetition. If you keep doing it, it will improve. That goes for good habits and bad. Wherever you put the time and energy will get the attention and improvement. Choose wisely. I’m pretty sure we all have a bad habit of mistakenly improving bad habits, and we probably always will, but we can do better. Perfection may not be an achievable goal, but continuing to move toward it does mean continuing to be better.

For most of us, though, there is more than one person watching, even when we don’t realize it. I once had a conversation with a guy I had known in passing at school but had not seen or spoken with in years. One of the things he told me was how much of an influence I had been in school. Me? I was a no one, or at least I had been pretty sure I was. What attention I received in school was not usually of the pleasant or positive variety, but there it was. Someone had seen me, and taken something influential from what they had seen, and I had known nothing about it.

I have learned over the years that this is not unusual. Most of us are influencing people every day without knowing it. The courtesy you show to a cashier is being seen by everyone in line behind you. The dedication you show to your task is seen by your co-workers. The way you present yourself is seen by everyone you pass on the street. Your children! Your children and all of the children around you are watching every single thing you do; watching, studying, and dissecting for meaning - their meaning, not necessarily your meaning, and they don’t always remember to ask. You are teaching people every day, whether you know it or not. What lessons are you teaching?

Quitting can get to be a habit, just as much as not quitting. Anything you repeat can become a habit, so be aware of what habits you are setting. Are you quitting because it’s the right time to quit, or because quitting has become the easier thing to do? There can be a right time. Quitting is not inherently bad. We quit bad habits and people celebrate. We quit one job to go to something better because that is part of growing and becoming something better. We often have to quit one thing in order to begin something that we want or need more. Sometimes we need to quit because, despite all of the best intentions, we just can’t do what we were trying to do. That happens, and there is nothing wrong with acknowledging it. We’re not going to succeed at everything we try.

The question remains, are you quitting for good reasons or because quitting is the easy thing to do? It makes a difference, and directly impacts the lessons you are teaching. When frustration sets in, try to remember why you started in the first place. Is that still something you want to accomplish? Can you make changes to what you’re doing, instead of quitting, to better accomplish your goal? If you must quit, don’t quit in frustration. Quit because you have examined the situation and determined that quitting really is the better option.

Mindful action can make all of the difference, even when that action is to quit some action. Know what you are doing and why you are doing it. If you have taken the time to understand your own thoughts and motivations you will get better results even out of quitting. You will also find that you have reason to quit less often. If you go in with eyes wide open you are more likely to succeed, but you’re also less likely to begin going in where you won’t succeed. Being mindful has a beneficial side effect of helping you make better decisions.

Quit when you have to, when it’s the right thing to do, but don’t make a habit out of it. If you had good reason to begin, you probably have good reason to continue. Take a break, if you must. Catch your breath and gather your resources. Re-evaluate your actions and methods, and then keep going. Always keep going.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Communication Breakdown

I took a speech class in college and, as you would expect, we would often discuss the nature of communication. Different communication styles, how to communicate better, tips and tricks for communicating in different situations, things of that nature. The assignment I remember most vividly was, “What did you learn about communication growing up?” That one went over like a lead balloon. It’s safe to say that, at the time I was taking this class, I had yet to learn much of anything about communication that could be expressed in a classroom setting, or at least I had not learned how to communicate anything I had learned about communication. It was a little bit Inception, but it was a whole lot uncomfortable.

I’ve always had a hit-and-miss relationship with speech classes. Two of the teachers in my life of whom I have truly positive memories were speech teachers, and a third was a theater teacher, which is certainly related. (The other two were both English teachers, and yes, that is the sum total, so you can see why it’s easy to remember.) These were the teachers who went above and beyond, who made a special effort to connect, and tried to build a bridge to an awkward kid who knew nothing about building bridges. Of course, that means there was a need for that connection, that I was in a place that required a special effort and couldn’t be reached with ease. The first speech class was just after my grandfather has passed away, and I was devastated. The second speech class …

The second speech class was never finished, for one thing. The timeline gets very muddy in my head for that period, but it was sometime around then that my breakdown happened. Whether it was during that semester or after, I’m not certain, but I wasn’t able to complete the semester and dropped out. I made it to, “What did you learn about communication growing up?” though. Did I mention that assignment, itself, was a speech that we had to deliver in front of the class. We did it over a series of days, and I had been postponing like mad, but the teacher told me at the end of one class that I would be delivering mine the next session. There was a girl in class who usually had a tape recorder, so I asked her to make sure she had a blank tape ready for that speech. I was going to need it.

I never wrote that speech. In fact, I don’t think I ever got around to getting the tape to write it down afterward, which is what I had intended to do. I delivered the speech off the top of my head, made up on the spot, and I’m told it was one of the better speeches given during that class, but I don’t remember it. The only thing I remember was that I opened with, “I haven’t spoken to my family in going on three years, and they live across town,” and had everyone’s undivided attention. This was during the estranged period that I’ve mentioned before and was part, though certainly not all, of what led to the fall and subsequent wake up call. I don’t think I ever went back to that class. I know it was not long after that I dropped out.

Don’t get the wrong idea here. I’m not blaming anyone or casting stones of any kind. Everyone involved could have done something differently during that time, and that absolutely includes me. As I said, the breakdown was a wakeup call about changes I needed to make more than anything else. My primary method of communication up to that point was tall walls and locked doors. If something bothered me, it got locked away and hidden from everyone. I acted out, I disrupted class, I cut, I scarred, sometimes I yelled, but I didn’t talk. If there was a destructive behavior one could indulge in to get away from problems, I probably tried it, usually while hiding behind a sarcastic comment or a fake laugh. I did things to get attention so that no one would pay attention to what I didn’t want them to see. It worked like a charm, until it didn’t. When it stopped working, pretty much everything stopped working.

I’m not a master communicator today. I still bottle things up too often, or hide behind a joke to avoid getting embarrassed. Tattoos have replaced cutting and scarring, but the impulse is remarkably similar. I would prefer to avoid confrontation and sometimes let things go on longer than I should just so that I don’t have to say anything. On the other hand, I know these things now, when I was completely blind to them then. I understand the pressure points, and I take steps to address them before they get out of hand. I do talk, probably not as much as I should, but far more than that angry, scared, bewildered child ever thought possible. I have a loving family and I am so very appreciative. Plus, I have these pages, where I encourage myself to open up and not shove things down into that bottomless pit that - Surprise! - turns out to not be quite so bottomless. In short, I have outlets that are far more healthy. I have bad days - Who doesn’t? - but I’m unlikely to ever let things reach a breakdown point again.

Wish I could say the same about the world around me. Communication is critical, not just for the good health of the individual but also for the good health of the whole. Without communication, things breakdown. We move into the social versions of cutting and scarring, drinking and screaming, breaking and burning. Unfortunately, the social versions of breaking and burning are usually breaking and burning, but on a larger scale. If we don’t talk, we tend to destroy. Sometimes we can’t talk, it’s true. Sometimes you have to destroy to build, but more often you have to build to build, and that requires communication.

Sometimes we need a wakeup call to see the direction we’re heading. I know I did, but wakeup calls are not fun. Someone who can wake up to the soothing sounds of running water probably doesn’t need the wakeup call in the first place. The person who really needs a wakeup call often needs a five-piece band, sirens, and a good swift kick, all at the same time. Talking is easier. Trust me. Scary as it can be, talking really is easier.

I learned some valuable lessons from those speech teachers, even if I never got around to thanking them. I guess maybe this is my way of thanking them now. Thank you. You gave me some valuable lessons that served as a solid foundation. It took me a while to start building, but I think we’re on the right track now. Live and learn, and keep learning. Ultimately, I think that’s the point. There’s always a chance to keep learning.

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Friday, July 22, 2016

TGIF 7-22-16

An important reminder.

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Thursday, July 21, 2016

Staying Out Of Trouble

I don’t understand people. That’s one of my quirks that I often put the most effort into keeping hidden. I try to understand. I’ve spent most of my life actively studying what makes people tick and how people think. Much of what I know about history, religion, philosophy, and related subjects - and I can state without an ounce of false modesty that my collection of knowledge in those fields is not small - is a direct result of that dedicated study. The more I know about how people can be expected to respond to various situations, the easier it is to make sure those situations don’t cause me any trouble. You’d be amazed how much of my life’s effort has been bent toward the single task of keeping me out of or away from trouble.

If you are familiar with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Personality Test (and if you’re not, there is some fascinating information available that you might find interesting), you’ll understand when I say that my personality type by this test is INTJ. I can’t speak to the accuracy of the other fifteen types, but I can tell you this one is pretty much dead on. The descriptions of behaviors, likes, dislikes, motivations, and such are all me, all the way down to my boots. I shared the results with a friend recently, and my friend was laughing at how eerily accurate they were. If you read that and then read these pages, you’ll probably have a better understanding of why I have to try so much harder in some areas, and why I spend so much more time on others.

One of the things that struck me as amusing with this test was the nicknames. All of the personality types have cute little nicknames that quickly sum up that personality type, and one of the most common nicknames for INTJ is The Mastermind. According to many half-joking descriptions, we are the ones who are always plotting to take over the world. To be perfectly honest, I can’t really disagree with that description. Put in proper context, people like me are often convinced that no one else is trustworthy or dependable enough to run things, and we tend to be anti-authority, unless we are the authority. What they don’t tell you in these descriptions, though, is that we don’t plot to take over the world out of any desire to actually rule the world. Instead, what we’re looking for is some peace and quiet. The world is just too loud and too interfering with other people in charge. If I set the rules then I can make certain the rules don’t bother me. It makes perfect sense, see? I trust me, but I’m not so sure about you.

I would say that I’m not entirely serious, but I mostly am. Part of the way my brain is wired results in there being very few people in the world that I trust. I know this, though, so I actively focus on modulating it and not letting it turn into something dangerous or unhealthy. I see details in everything, so that part is actually a little bit easier than it might otherwise be. I can connect the dots and see, logically, that there is no cause for alarm with a given situation, so I don’t respond with alarm. When I am most likely to get in trouble about such things is when I forget that other people won’t necessarily respond in the same way. Like I said, I don’t understand people and I do have a tendency to forget and expect people to respond like I would, when my response type is anything but common.

On the other hand, though, I’m lazy. Taking over the world requires entirely too much work, and there are other things I’d rather be doing. From other people I’ve talked with, I get the impression that this is not unusual in my personality type. That might explain why none of us have ever actually tried to take over the world, outside of comic books and B science Fiction movies.

Contrary to what your mother probably told you, though, (sorry Mom) laziness is not inherently a bad thing. As Robert Heinlein pointed out in Time Enough for Love, “Progress is made by lazy men looking for easier ways to do things.” There are exceptions - there always are - but the things we already have are rarely improved by the Go Getters and A Types. Those people might be better at creating new things - and we need the new things, don’t get me wrong - but no one improves on something that already exists like the thinking lazy person who is tired of doing things the hard way. If you want an expert in efficiency who will improve every process you have in a short amount of time, find a lazy INTJ type and just leave him alone to do his thing. Stay out of his way and, soon enough, you’ll find him reading a book in a quiet corner because everything is done, done right, and done in half the time. I’m not even joking. It works.

The world is a crazy place, and sometimes it only seems to be getting crazier and crazier. Sometimes all you can do is make a joke - and, if it’s coming from me, it’s probably a sarcastic joke - and ride the wave. Try not to fall off, but get back up and try again if you do. There’s plenty of trouble out there, and I’m just trying to minimize how much of it I step in. I can’t actually take over the world. I can’t make people do things my way - and I’d be the first to tell you that I’m far too lazy to pull it off, even if I could - but I can tell people how I would do things, and then I can go read my book. Some people will listen, some won’t. That’s the way it goes. I can’t fix that, but I can do my best to not let it break me.

Passing on the things I know, the things that I have found to work, is part of how I do that. I do that whole find the most efficient way to do things, get things done, and then go read a book routine all the time. If I can teach more people to do the same then we have more people quietly reading books, and less trouble all around. If you don’t like to read, there’s always video games, hiking, fishing, anything that doesn’t involve bringing more trouble into a troubled world.

I want peace and quiet. That doesn’t mean that I won’t poke my head up and growl, or more, when it’s necessary, but the point is to get away from trouble. If a little trouble now prevents more trouble later, okay, I can do that math. Let’s get it over with, but let’s learn from the experience too, so that maybe we don’t have to do it again. I have a book to get to. Don’t you?

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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

A Day In The Life

Everyone has quirks. Some of us have more than average, to be sure, but that’s just a matter of degree. No one is without their eccentricities, and there is no such thing as “normal” in any absolute sense. Normal is a range with very porous borders.

I have to get up as soon as the alarm goes off or I will hit snooze a ridiculous number of times and may as well have not set an alarm at all. There is no inbetween. Once up, you can almost set a clock by my movements through the morning routine. Breakfast is its own weird, time-distorting beast, but everything else moves like clockwork … until it doesn’t. If you take something out of the routine, rearrange the pattern somehow, there is a very good chance that the whole thing will fall apart. Not only will it take longer to get out the door, but I will probably be halfway down the road and realize that I forgot something. It won’t be something simple or minor or simple, either. I won’t have my hat or my wedding ring, maybe even my wallet, things I would ordinarily never leave the house without. That’s the way the routine works for me. It either works completely or it’s a disaster. Needless to say, I stick to the routine as much as possible.

I get to the office and set things up the way I want them to be. My lunch goes here, my coffee cup goes there. I have three monitors, with certain, specific information on each by default. When we changed office buildings recently, it took me a few days to figure out how I could set up the new desk to most closely match the previous arrangement. It was slightly disconcerting, and people laughed as things got sorted, mostly with me, but some at me, I have no doubt. That’s how it goes. I have some great co-workers, but I have some pretty strong oddities too, and no one knows that better than I do. If you want to find someone laughing at my foibles, look no further than me. I’m fully aware of the humor in the situation.

Once a week I drop off my office shirts at the cleaners, and the lady behind the counter frequently comments on how easy it is to find my stack of blue shirts. They’re not the same color, but they are apparently uniform enough to stand out. There was a time when I would buy only black clothes - no matching required - and though I have added, I thought, quite a bit of color to my wardrobe, it seems that I am still fairly monochrome to outside observation. Baby steps, right? There is even a green shirt in my closet now, though not in the office shirt section (yes, there are sections). We can’t change everything all at once.

I do things by schedule, and get out of sorts when that schedule is broken. I do things in certain ways, and doing so is part of how I remember things. I have some narrowly-defined comfort zones. These are just some of the quirks that make up who I am, and that people often notice about me in short order. I could write a book listing them all (maybe I will someday - should be funny, at least), but they’re just different pieces of who I am, all stacked up neatly (and sometimes not so neatly) along with many other pieces that go into forming a whole.

They aren’t all so rigid, though. My playlist is likely to go from Slipknot to George Strait to Mozart to Hammerfall to Sinatra to Webber to Dio to Dion … You get the idea. My book collection is just about as eclectic. I don’t believe in boundaries or barriers when it comes to entertainment. Am I entertained? Yes? Good, more of that, please. No? Skip, move on to the next option. This might help to explain why I just can’t understand the current culture of hating on things. I don’t have enough time to get to everything I might enjoy. I have no time at all to waste on things I don’t enjoy. Someone appreciates it, and their doing so doesn’t hurt me in the least. More power to them.

Some of my quirks that are generally pretty rigid still have room to move. I don’t like getting anything dirty or sticky on my hands (again, the people who know me personally are snickering at my use of such a mild description), and I wash my hands about a billion times a day. Even I laugh at how I look trying to eat barbeque chicken (though barbeque chicken is totally worth the effort). If it’s needed, though, I’ll shove my hands in the muck and get the job done. You can bet I’ll be washing them afterward, but I’ll change my own tire, and I’ve never shirked a day’s work because it would get me dirty. If a small child hands me their grimy, chewed up blanket, I’ll smile and say, “Thank you,” and that kid will never know how much I’m cringing, because some things are just more important.

To be honest, I can do that with most of my quirks, force them to the back burner until I have time to deal with them. It takes more effort with some than others, and sometimes the trade-off isn’t really necessary or worthwhile, but I can usually do it. It’s mostly just a matter of practice and determination. It is absolutely a trade-off, though. Being able to do something doesn’t guarantee that it’s a good idea to do it. Sometimes what we call quirks might be tied to deeper psychological issues, and there are healthier ways to exercise those demons than just brute force and suppression. Sometimes it’s just more fun to do things the way you’d rather do them. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that either.

Life is a balancing act, and that includes balancing quirks and eccentricities. We all have them, and the people who act like they don’t usually have the biggest of them all. That tends to be why they hide their quirks. Embrace what makes you different and learn to use it for your benefit. I’m an oddball and I know it, but I’m also perfectly fine with it. It’s who I am, and I rather like who I am. If I don’t like it or it interferes too much with who I want to be, I’ll work on changing it, but that, too, is a balancing act. Is the effort necessary appropriate to the task? How much is this interfering, and how much will changing it cost?

There are days when it seems like my day is just one quirk after another, but that’s life. There are also days that sail by, smooth as silk and nothing seems out of place or out of the ordinary. Don’t stress about what makes you different. If it’s not hurting you then don’t hurt yourself over it. We all have them, and we usually manage just fine. Be who you are, quirks and all, and extend that same courtesy to those around you. That right there would take care of most of the problems in the world.

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Friday, July 15, 2016

Thursday, July 14, 2016

My Divided Nature

There are times when I feel a strong urge to tie matchsticks in my beard and hoist the black flag. Does that seem out of place in these pages? Is it a surprise? That has been my entire point this week. None of us is just one thing, and we all have different facets that we show under different circumstances. Most of us do not know nearly as much about our neighbors as we think we do.

I was recently mocked because my writings on being kind and tolerant were seen as weak. People who are trying to kill you don’t care about kindness and tolerance, and all of the usual insults that frightened people hurl about to mask their fear, to pretend that they are the tough ones, and to puff up like a … oh yeah, like a frightened toad. You see, people like this tend to forget that puffing and strutting are fear responses. They don’t show how strong you are. They are an attempt to trick a predator into thinking you’re strong because you’re afraid it may eat you otherwise. I stopped being afraid many years ago, and I do not need to strut or puff in order to demonstrate that my claws and fangs are still in full working order. When they’re needed, I assure you, they’ll do their job.

I am fully aware of the fact that people who are trying to kill me will not be swayed by kindness and tolerance. I can promise you that people who try to kill me will not be experiencing much kindness and tolerance at the time either. I just don’t see much point in discussing that part for weeks on end, because that’s the easy part. When it’s time to fight, you fight, and you fight to win. If you need instruction in that area, you take a self defense class or learn to shoot or something of that nature. Here, we are learning about what to do the rest of the time, and we are focused on that because the rest of the time also happens to be most of the time. Most people know what to do about people who are trying to inflict violence. That is usually self-evident. It’s all of the other types of people who can be confusing, especially because there are so many of them. Some of them are close to the violent type but aren’t the violent type. What do you do with them? Do you push them over the edge and increase the number of people you’re fighting against? That seems remarkably silly and counterproductive. How about, instead, we find ways to pull them back from that edge and increase the number of people fighting with us as opposed to against us? That sounds so much more useful, doesn’t it?

I know all about fighting. It’s my natural state. I get out of bed ready to fight, and then I put on the clothes and coat of peace and tamp down the natural urges. Try to imagine, if you can, a Buddhist Viking, a Celtic warrior who has traveled the world and picked up some new tricks, or the Incredible Hulk who has learned to leash the beast and use it for his own purposes. If you can picture those ideas, you can come closer to picturing who I am. It is important to remember, though, which form comes first. I am not a pacifist who has learned to fight. I am the soldier who understands better than most the value of peace.

It is foolish to create enemies where they do not already exist.. It is reckless to increase your enemy’s numbers for them because it seemed easier now to push people away than to understand how to bring them in. It will not be easier tomorrow when you have les allies than you could have had and more enemies than you should have had. Remember, when it’s you against the world, that it was you who decided to be against the world. Making enemies is easy, making friends is hard, but which is more valuable should be the most obvious thing in the world. Too many people, though, focus on what’s easy rather than what’s valuable.

If I don’t tell you that being kind to that person who looks different than you can increase your number of friends and decrease your number of enemies, it is not because that thought has not occurred to me. It is within my nature that such thoughts always occur to me. I don’t always mention them because they are not always the point. That is an issue we struggle with here in the modern climate. There is a point that I am trying to make with these writings, but that doesn’t mean that there are not other points to make, or that I do not know and value those other points. They are just not the subject of our current discussions.

Not addressing those other points, however, can sometimes cause confusion and interfere with the points we are trying to make. Then it comes time to try to explain things I am not in the habit of explaining, so I can only present a picture and hope for understanding. There are times to fight and, when it’s time, you fight to win. I know that in my bones. I don’t talk about it much because that part’s easy. It is what you do between those times that is difficult and requires thought and consideration. The hard times are what I am trying to learn, and what I wish to discuss.

It is better to be a warrior in a garden than a gardener in a war, and no one knows better than the soldier the value of peace. My divided nature is one that hears warhorns in my sleep but dreams of peace. I am always ready to fight, but I had to learn to be ready to not fight. In the end, it’s less a divided nature than a practical whole. I want a better world, and there’s nothing easy about that. When it’s time to fight, you can bet I’ll be on the front line, but I’m also dedicated to putting in the time and effort necessary when it’s not time to fight. That’s the hard way, but it’s the way that leads to better, more long lasting results.

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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Skipping The Battle

One of the most difficult things for me to remember sometimes is that not every battle needs to be fought. We don’t have to correct every error or right every wrong. Sometimes it just doesn’t matter, and sometimes there are other things that matter more. Life is a balancing act of conflicting priorities, and it can be easy to forget or overlook damage being done to one priority while focusing on another. It’s important to remember, though. It can be critically important, and this requires that we pay attention even when we think things are obvious.

They usually aren’t actually obvious. There are so many things going on beneath, beside, and just otherwise away from our perspective that there are almost always hidden complexities involved in even the most seemingly obvious situations. No matter the occasion, one of the most fundamental realities of life is that we tend to know less than we think we know. A corollary to that rule is that the volume of expressed opinion tends to be directly and inversely proportional to the real knowledge present. As Charles Bukowski explained it, “The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts while the stupid ones are full of confidence.” A bit more direct than I would usually phrase it, but you certainly get the point. When something seems obvious, that might be the best time to ask more questions. Step back and consider the possibilities.

As I said, this is something I struggle with. I’m that guy who has an almost pathological urge to go, “Well actually …” and then explain all of the nuanced ways that what was said is incorrect. I will usually do my homework and be able to cite chapter and verse, so I have that much going for me, but let’s face it, most of the time, no one cares. More often than not, no one cares because it’s just not important. I’ve wasted a lot of time and aggravated people for no good reason. Quite frequently, the only thing I’ve really accomplished is hurting myself or my own interests in one way or another. Not a terribly useful activity. Being self destructive is certainly one of those things I’m trying to dial back on.

I have gotten better about it. I’m not nearly as self destructive as I once was - though that may have been just required for continued living - but keeping my trap shut is one of the areas where I still have issues. Trust me, I’m not as nice as I present myself in these pages. I know that, which is one of the reasons I present in the way I do. It’s educational, for me. Practice. It’s also one of the things that confuses people. Because I am practicing certain behaviors that don’t actually come naturally to me, people draw certain conclusions that may not line up quite right with reality. Then my natural sarcasm kicks in, feelings get hurt, and the whole thing turns ugly. I’m not all nice, but I don’t want things to go ugly, so I’m working on learning to be a bit more careful about when I do or do not say something.

It’s funny in some ways. I have a natural talent for ignoring things in some areas that is just about as strong as my inability to ignore in others. If you try to place rules that I don’t like they had better have teeth or you’ve wasted your time. I know, intellectually, that there are people who believe they have to do various things because the rules say they have to do these things, but I don’t comprehend that existence. It’s a three-dimensional structure being explained to the inhabitant of a two-dimensional reality. All I can do is nod and smile and admit that you’re probably right, those people probably do exist, but it makes no sense to me. I have no frame of reference. I follow rules because I agree with them or because it’s more inconvenient to break them. That’s it. That’s all I understand. If I disagree with a rule (or just don’t care, because that’s a real factor as well) and can easily ignore it, I will be ignoring it. Count on it.

So, as you can see, I understand the idea perfectly well, I just don’t put it into practice quite as consistently as I probably should. I’m working on it, though. There was a time, decades ago, when the slightest provocation could set me of physically. I worked on fixing that and fixed it. There was a time when my mouth got me in trouble almost more often than it did anything else. I worked on fixing that and, for the most part, fixed it. It still pops off from time to time but, these days, I have trained myself fairly well to speak less and listen more. It’s mostly in writing that I am still behind the curve on this one. Facebook, message boards, blogs, comment sections. These are where I struggle, but, even here, I am learning.

That’s really all we can do, when you come right down to it. Keep learning, keep doing better, keep moving forward. We’ll make mistakes, we’ll stumble from time to time, even lose ground occasionally, but two-steps-forward-one-step-back is still better than standing still or just going backward. Just remember, everyone you meet is dealing with issues you know nothing about. Things are rarely as obvious as we believe. Sometimes the face a person presents is just a face they’re trying to learn, so they may not be very good at it, they may seem to be missing some points, but they’re trying. Sometimes the best answer is no answer. Sometimes we need to just let go and let be. I’m working on it, and I make mistakes. Such is life.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Beneath The Surface

None of us is exactly one thing and nothing else. We all have facets, different elements of our personalities that don’t always line up and may even, at times, seem to be contradictory. The more effort you put into mindful living, the less likely it is that there will be actual contradictions - an honest awareness of what you do and why tends to prevent this - but even that is often just internal. I may know why I do things and so know that there is no contradiction, but that doesn’t mean that you know why I do things. I might seem to be a walking contradiction to the outside observer, no matter how much sense I make to me, even with consistent internal rules. What we keep beneath the surface can change the context completely.

The subject has been coming up a bit more often lately, and I’ve been struggling a little with how to answer it. If your knowledge of me comes entirely from Frequently Interrupted then you are familiar with one facet, but it’s easy to mistake that facet for the whole. I’ve put a lot into that facet, and it’s a fairly large facet. It’s still not the whole, though. Those who have known me for years are even more familiar with other facets, while those who know me outside of Frequently Interrupted but not as well or without the extended history might be confused. Correcting some of that confusion is part of what I want to talk about now.

I will need you to bear with me, though. Correcting confusion about me is not something I am accustomed to doing. I’ve spent most of my life embracing the misconceptions other people have held of me because doing so was easier or less frustrating than the alternative. To put it bluntly, I have had a “bad reputation” for most of my life, and I have often allowed that reputation to flourish - even encouraged it - because doing so meant that people left me alone. Being left alone was a wonderful option when the alternatives were far less pleasant. If that meant being a “bad guy” to people whose opinions weren’t terribly important to me in the first place, that was a small price to pay for some peace and quiet.

I have a preference for peace and quiet. Don’t we all? Maybe not all, but it’s certainly not rare. I also have a preference for doing things on my own terms (and yes, I just heard that collective groan from everyone who knows me at the use of so mild a term as “preference”). Again, this is not exactly unusual, but those two preferences do have a way of coming in conflict with each other. It’s pretty common to have to give up one for the other, but there are ways to get around that.

Picking your battles is one way. I do things my way, but I don’t have to be loud about it. I don’t have to get in your face because I have a different way of doing things. I’m not talking about hiding anything. There is loads of space between hiding and highlighting, and a clever person can fit plenty of life into that space. More life than the average person ever uses, to be honest. I don’t need to tell you what color my socks are in order to be happy with my choice of apparel. There are battles that need to be fought - fight them with all of the passion they require - but don’t waste energy on useless fights, and certainly not on fights that are actually interfering with your own preferences. You might be amazed at how often you can get away with “breaking the rules” by just doing it like it’s the normal thing to do.

Skipping the battle completely, though, can be even better, and often comes with its own amusements. Think about it. How much time do we waste trying to appeal to people we don’t even find very appealing? Why do we put so much effort into being who someone else likes than in being someone we like? It’s all about balancing priorities, and there are often compromises we do need to make, but it’s never a good idea to compromise away your own identity. Don’t become someone you don’t like to please people you also don’t like. It sounds simple when put in words like that, but it is a common mistake that people make every day.

I mentioned that I’ve often had a bad reputation, but let’s be honest here. That reputation was usually with people whose opinions didn’t matter to me in the first place. To me, the people who mattered would take the time to learn the truth, and the people who thought poorly of me … Well, odds were pretty good that the feeling was mutual. If you and I have opposing moral philosophies then your belief that I am a bad person actually indicates that I am a good person, by my own standards. Funny how that works, but not quite as funny how often we forget to consider it in that context. We spend too much time trying to please everyone, instead of considering what pleasing those people means in a larger sense.

There are things that I don’t talk about and there are things that I don’t often talk about. Sometimes the apparent oversight can lead people to draw incorrect conclusions. While I have usually been fine with allowing those incorrect conclusions throughout my life, sometimes they can get in the way. It’s important to remember that the original and primary purpose of Frequently Interrupted was for self-therapy, which means I’m going to naturally lean more heavily on areas where I believe I need more work. Don’t ever make the mistake of believing that, because I spend more time talking about certain subjects, those are the only subjects that matter to me or are all I’m concerned with. The truth is closer to the idea that those are simply the subjects I struggle with the most. I’m trying to find my own blind spots here, and hoping to present some useful and helpful information along the way.

We all have a face that we present to the public which isn’t necessarily indicative of all that we are. It isn’t that we’re being dishonest or hiding anything. There is just often more beneath the surface than we are able to present to all people all of the time. I know this about me. You probably know this about you. We often forget, however, that the same is true for everyone else. Never assume that what you see on the surface is all there is to know. I’ll work on correcting some confusion on my end as we go, but remember, I don’t always even realize that it’s there. Old habits run deep, and there are many parts of who I am that I am just used to. If you have any questions, let me know and I’ll be happy to see what I can do about answering. I don’t promise to answer all questions, mind you, but I will take all questions under advisement. I look forward to hearing from you.

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Friday, July 8, 2016

Live Life Between

Live life between the extremes.

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Thursday, July 7, 2016

The Whole Of Planet Earth

"The whole of planet Earth is a sacred sight."

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Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Symptoms Of Nature

"You are a symptom of nature."

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Monday, July 4, 2016

A Monday Message

The day job has been extremely hectic this past week, and I have spent most of the week not knowing whether I was coming or going. Combine that with the holiday weekend, and I'm afraid there is nothing ready to go for our weekly posts. Rather than scramble and turn in shoddy work, I will focus this week on some nice image-idea posts and spend some time writing to get caught back up. Thank you for your understanding.

By the way, how was your holiday weekend? Let us know in the comments. We would love to hear from you.

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Happy 4th Of Jule 2016

Have a safe and fantastic 4th of July everyone. Enjoy your family and friends, and enjoy being alive. For my non-US readers, no reason you can't enjoy yourself as well. This may be our national holiday, but every day is a day to celebrate being alive. Have fun!

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