Friday, January 28, 2011
I hadn’t thought about Dave in a long time. Dave worked for me a few years back. There was never anything he couldn’t do. When a job came open he thought he’d like, he’d apply for it. People would tell him he didn’t have the education or the experience for the position but that never deterred him. Regardless of the outcome Dave kept moving ahead. That was how I met him. He applied for a position in my department. I had three or four other candidates who had Dave beat hands down as far as qualifications were concerned but I was so struck by the man when I interviewed him. In his mind there was no doubt he’d get the job. In the long run he was right. I picked him above some other people who did a lot of squawking and complaining. My boss gave me the “You’re on your own on this one,” speech.
It was hard for Dave. The people who worked with him didn’t believe he deserved the job so they cooperated only as much as they needed to keep out of my dog house. It never seemed to bother him. He never made excuses, his work was professional and impeccable and he rarely missed a deadline. The people he trained loved him because he was able to break things down to a point where it was easy for them to understand. Two years after he entered my department he asked me to lunch and told me he was applying for a job in another area that interested him. I was never foolish enough to believe I’d keep him forever. Of course I gave him a sterling recommendation. When Dave applied for the job in my department he was one of twenty three people who wanted an interview. When he left the department only three people applied to fill his slot. He had set the bar that high. He taught me a lot about endurance and perseverance and unfettered optimism. He always listened very carefully to criticism and suggestions about his performance but never to any directed at him personally. He’d smile, shake his head and move on.
I lost track of Dave over time, mostly because I moved to another city but he crossed my mind this morning and I pondered the reason for his success. If you are familiar with my musings you know I believe in three things: You are worth it, you deserve it and you are who you hang around with.
Courtesy of Dave, I’d like to add a fourth: You are who you believe you are.
Dave had a high school education and his first job was in the tool crib as a stock clerk. The last job I remember him having was manager of technical training. He had three or four people with master’s degrees working for him. As I got ready to begin my day I thought a lot about the “Dave Maxim.” He simply believed he could do whatever he made a choice to do. There were people who suggested he take jobs in different areas or return to school and he’d shrug and smile and say he was happy where he was. He knew himself and what he was capable of doing but never did he ever doubt what he set out to do.
So I sit here this morning, fingers poised over the keyboard, hoping to write some sort of dramatic ending and all I can come up with is this:
Who do I believe I am?
What about you?
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Five of us sat around an imaginary table last night and talked about our souls. We were from all over the world and brought to the table different forms of spirituality and methods of expressing them. At the end of our session the facilitator closed with three readings, one from St Francis, one from Gandhi and one from the Dalai Lama. We shared our journeys last night. The facilitator asked us one at a time to share part of ourselves. I went last. As others shared I began to get anxious. It wasn’t about whether they’d like me or not or accept how I viewed my Creator, or anything like that. It was the fact that each of these people led with a litany of what was wrong with them. When it was my turn I shared that while I had challenges in my life I was grateful that I had been healthy both physically and emotionally and most of my issues were of my own creation, so I was really a very thankful person and tried to honor that by helping others any way I could. I know that isn’t earth shattering and I actually felt a bit inadequate.
Joan asked me at breakfast this morning how it went and I told her that after having twelve hours to think about it I was struck by the fact that people most often define themselves in the negative or more precisely, by what’s wrong with them. After further review I found I do the same. I create this world of negativity around me. I look for what’s wrong and a solution to it and don’t stop and look at what’s right. I always have to do more, be more, work harder…………….
Melissa and I used to work out together. In June she broke her foot and in September she got the flu and was bedridden for two weeks. Her oldest child began school in August. She hadn’t been at the gym in a long time and I ran into her yesterday morning when she announced herself by saying “I’m here!!!” I was just finishing my workout and so we talked for a bit. Melissa was down. She ripped off a litany of things she hadn’t done right since June. As she spoke I saw her face get longer and longer. I listened.
“Did you ever look at all you’ve accomplished?” I asked her.” You and Aaron, her husband, own two successful small businesses; you are a room mother at school; you are a great friend, a good mom and a supportive partner.” I touched her arm and said “Do what you can. If it means you are only here three days a week then be here three days a week and quit beating yourself up.” She went on to tell me how she would track her calorie intake and how she had gotten away from that and felt bad. Call it my inner guidance, the Holy Spirit, or gas from the omelet I had for breakfast but I looked at her and said “You don’t start something until you start something. Track your food today and when you get up tomorrow look at the chart on the wall and realize you have something to build upon. Quit focusing on what’s wrong and start celebrating what’s right.”
As Joan often points out to me I have a long way to go until I am Mother Theresa. I get down, get frustrated and get fed up. I have challenges and obstacles but for the most part I do pretty well. A Course In Miracles Suggests that this world we live in is a world we created. So be it. If I am going to create a world to dwell in, for the time being, it may as well be a positive one. It may as well be a world that reflects the joy and love inside of me not how darned inadequate I feel some days.
As I crossed the parking lot I ran into David. David’s sister was my neighbor for years. “How’d you lose all that weight? I need to do that. How’d you do it?”
I thought for a second, looked at him and said “No matter how hard it gets, no matter how many times I fall, I don’t give up.”
Have I told you lately how fantastic I think you are?
Sunday, January 23, 2011
Joan and I were cleaning out a closet the other day when we ran across a box of old photos. Most of them were from when we were both younger and I was much thinner. When we were married in 1974 I weighed one hundred fifty seven pounds. I was twenty years old almost twenty one. After we rearranged the closet I began thinking about the differences between now and then. That’s when I recalled my mom’s diet and exercise regimen.
My mom and dad grew up during the Depression and while we never lacked for anything we lived as if poverty was knocking at the door. Honestly, until I went to college I thought everyone lived like we did. But I digress. I started thinking about how I ate then and how I eat now and a lot of the changes that have occurred not only in my life but in society in general.
We were allowed to drink soda twice a year – Christmas and July Fourth. There were four of us and we went to the liquor store with my dad and we each got to choose four bottles. That left eight slots and my dad filled them with white soda and sour mix to go with the bottle of brandy he got one a year for company. The rest of the year we drank milk and water. If it were really hot outside my mom might make a pitcher of Kool Aid. Soda was a treat and I don’t drink it today at all, but it seems it’s everywhere you turn.
The same held true for dessert. My mom baked cookies on Monday morning and put them in two jars. One jar always had peanut butter cookies and the other held either chocolate chip or sugar cookies. When we ate all the cookies we ate all the dessert for the week. On weekends my mom would make an apple pie every now and then and dessert for the most part was considered a real treat. We had butter at Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. I thought everyone ate toast dry!!
If the weather was nice, this in my mom’s definition meant no rain or gale force winds and little or no chance of a blizzard, we were ushered outside. My mom hooked the door and if you wanted to come in you better be dying. In other words if we weren’t in school, cleaning, or doing homework we were outside playing, in the fresh air, with balls, bats, jump ropes, bikes and all that other neat stuff we pay gyms to provide us with today. We would come in for lunch and then went outside again until dinner and then back out till the street lights came on. We walked everywhere that was walk able, which included going to see if a friend was available to play with you. Using the telephone to “chat” was unheard of.
Don’t misunderstand, I am not complaining, not one little bit. My life was pretty simple and I didn’t know anything any different. With some common sense nutrition and a lot of sunshine and exercise I was healthy. My mom will be eighty next month and my dad eighty seven in July. They pretty much live the way they always did when we were growing up. Until my dad’s macular degeneration got too bad they would walk to Mass every morning. Round trip that was two miles. With assistance, my dad still goes to water aerobics twice weekly. My mom attends all sorts of classes and even though she refuses to admit it she is an accomplished artist in the areas of painting, ceramics and knots and sews like no one else I know. She does use the internet and has a cell phone.
One of my goals for the next year is to simplify my life. The grocery store near out house is about as far as the one was when I was growing up. When we need milk, bread, or eggs I am going to start walking to get them. It’s the little things that push you over the top sometimes.
Saturday, January 22, 2011
I was lying in bed around four this morning and the thought struck me that I really wonder how many times I get off course because I confuse who I am with what I do? I think it happens a lot. I rolled over on my back and started to “define” me and I realized after a few minutes the picture I painted had a lot to do with things “I did.” For example, how often do I say, “I’m a writer,” I’m a coach,” or “I’m a runner.” All of these things define me through things I do and ultimately lead me to comparing my activity to other people’s activities and accomplishments. Inevitably I will always find someone who is better, quicker or brighter and the negative destruction begins. I don’t know if it ever happens to you. It sort of crept up on me, gradually, through my life. My value, my sense of worth, all built on a stack of activity and accomplishments. I look around at other people and use them as a yard stick or ruler.
So where is my “default setting.” Who am I versus what I do? It took me a few minutes to come up with it, distill it down into words that were “inactive.” (That’s a difficult thing to do when you are programmed towards using “action words” all the time.)
I am a child of God. I was created in His image and likeness. I am a reflection of God. I was created, good and pure and holy in the truest sense of the word. God loves me unlike anyone else in this universe, galaxy or world can love me and for Him, my existence is good enough. When I embrace that definition, which isn’t really all that often to be quite frank, the energy I produce radiates and mirrors that love and reflects it to other people. When I accept other people, don’t judge, don’t compare and simply allow myself to love and be loved. That’s my default setting.
You may refer to God in other terms, formats or conditions; I don’t think it bothers him/her. I think the main concern is that we find our way back to who we really are. All the other stuff may be fun, enjoyable and teach us some sort of life lesson, but I think if I set my sights on just being me, I’ll have enough to do. It almost sounds like it’s not enough doesn’t it? It’s almost like that voice inside of you says “That’s it?” It’s hard to accept help and love from other people. I felt really weird the other day after I wrote what I call my “meltdown blog” and I received this outpouring of support, affection and love. Part of me said “Stay away, I’m not used to this happening.” Another part said “These people must think I’m really messed up.”
The Miracle inside of me rises to the surface occasionally and I get a glimpse of who I really am in the eyes of my Creator. There are times we are called to take and times we are called to give and times we are called to be and bask in Divine love however we define it. I laughed a bit as I rolled over. How do you put into words that you have a goal of running a 10K in ten weeks and allowing God to show you who you really are.
I drifted off to sleep until the dogs came in at five, whimpering to go out and eat. Joan rolled over and reminded me it was my turn. I didn’t think it would do any good to let her know I’d just discovered I can’t be defined by my activity. She usually has a good comeback.
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