Category Archives: Attitude

New Paint

We have decided to place our home on the market, for the third time. In preparation, I am scraping down the old paint on the porch so that I can add a layer of adhesive primer and then some fresh paint. My son and I did something similar a couple of years ago to the same porch but without the adhesive primer. It looked great for a while, but after some time and weathering, the wood did not truly accept the paint and it began to lift off.

This reminded me of the process that we go through to become better people. Sometimes, we brush off the old habits, attitudes and thought processes so that we can take on new ones. A lot of the times, we find that without a proper foundation, the new habits, attitudes and thought processes just don’t stick like we thought they would. We find ourselves falling back into our old patterns. It certainly is easy enough to do.

I think that is why we need a life changing event, an ‘aha’ moment, a strong source of motivation to act as the adhesive primer to create the proper foundation for our newness. We need something that makes the new habits stick. My sister had complimented me on my will-power to avoid gluten containing foods, but I attributed that not to will-power, but a motivation to avoid the arthritis and pain that the inflammation gives me as a result from eating gluten and high sugar containing foods. That experience of overall pain and lack of mobility helps me want to avoid the same in the future.

“You must learn a new way to think before you can master a new way to be.” – Marianne Williamson, American spiritual teacher, author and lecturer.

To have a different attitude or develop a different habit, we need to change the way we think. We must make a conscience effort to change and be better. It is like putting on a new coat of paint. To make sure the paint sticks, we need a good foundation, which is why this time, I am using an adhesive primer on the porch. I don’t want the porch to look good temporarily, but for it to look good for the new owners for many years. I don’t want to change myself for the better just to fall back to where I was. I want to change myself for the better so that I can create a firm foundation to continue getting better. I know that I will never be perfect, but that doesn’t matter, as long as I try daily to be better than I was the day before.

I hope to have the porch painted by the end of the week. It is a good exercise in reminding me that, like the porch getting new paint, that I must continually strive to improve myself as well. Take this time to be thankful for all that you have, all that you are and ask for guidance to be all that you are meant to be. Take care and be well.

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No Left Turn

On the road where I work, there is a bridge over a main interstate artery for our city. The area around the bridge has been under construction for almost two years. There are two traffic lights on the bridge to allow left turns from both sides to access the artery below. The traffic on the bridge was always congested. On my way home each evening, I would wait in line to turn left. It was not unusual to wait two to four cycles of the traffic light to execute the turn. Yesterday, they finished building the new ramps to allow both lanes to turn right to go either north or south. No more left turns! Traffic today moved much smoother and much faster. This will make my commute home each night much easier.

Speaking of new traffic patterns, I survived yet another layoff from my work. The department I worked in was outsourced to a third party contractor. I am in the process of learning what my new duties and responsibilities are in the new reality of my job. I am exploring the paths that define my new work. It is an interesting adventure. On top of the new duties, our overall processes have changed because of the off-site processing. This is giving me the opportunity to learn the new system and develop efficiencies around them, trying to avoid the left turns that create difficulties. I am enjoying the challenge. I see both the road work and work changes as positive. Both are efforts to improve and enhance their respective purposes.

I am saddened that some of my co-workers are losing their positions because of the changes. They were good at what they did and they worked earnestly and honestly. Of course this leaves fewer people to do the work, but the new procedures places many of the stresses on the contractor and away from the employees.

Ceasless Wonderment

I have embarked on an online study program for nutrition and I signed up for a second class to learn about plant-based nutrition. I have always had an incredible thirst for learning. The more I learn, the more I realize that there is so much more to learn. If God gives me 5,000 years to live on this earth, I still don’t think I would run out of things to learn about. In that time, there would be more discoveries, more understanding, rethinking things that were once thought to be understood as well as the social, civil and moral changes that would take place.

The universe is a ceaseless source of wonderment. Think back, if you will, to a time when you were just a child. Things were magic then. You could imagine anything at all. You could see castles, dragons, jungles and pirates on the sea. The magic was all around you and most importantly, the magic was in you. It was that wonderment that made you appreciate the most mundane thing. A cardboard box could magically become a boat, a car, a lion’s cage or a treasure chest.

We think that when we set aside those types of thoughts that we become more mature, a grown up. But really, you can bring that magic with you even today. It just takes being mindful of what is around you, paying attention to the moment, savoring the experience.

Since I started my grain free diet, I have a better appreciation for the food that I eat. I taste it. I experience the texture, the taste while it is in my mouth and the finish after I swallow. It is magical. That attention to the food helps me pay attention to other areas in my life. While I am hiking with my son, or walking through the parks with my dog, I am awed by the diversity the universe affords us. The vast number of plants, insects, wildlife that abounds. It makes each walk an incredible journey in the intelligence of nature, the infinite touch of God.

Even as we strive to understand quantum physics, genetic expression, and the human mind, each discovery leads to more questions and more opportunity to be in awe of what is around us. And just as we do understand some universal law, we can find exceptions. Everything in the universe expands when it is heated and contracts when it is cooled – everything that is except for water. Water expands when it is heated and when it freezes. The reason and mechanism is an understanding beyond me. It is magic.

Magic can be the awe of those things that are not yet understood. Rabbits come from magician hats and if you put two of them in a closet, you find 200 when you open the door 10 minutes later. That’s how it works in the cartoons. But really, the universe has such incredible diversity, that there is no one person that could possibly learn everything there is to learn. But, I promise, that as long as I am able and cognitively aware, I will wear myself out trying to learn more and more. Knowing that all that I learn will show me how much I have left to learn. In the global library of knowledge, I know next to nothing. But what I do know I hope will settle in my heart as wisdom.

Be in the moment, pay attention to what is around you and do forget the magic that fills every day. Heck, I think that just waking up in the morning is such a blessing. It means that I get to enjoy another day in God’s incredible creation and experience the ceaseless diversity and wonderment that waits for me.

Quit Playing God

When I sit back and point out all the sins of others, look for opportunities to criticize them, and getting angry that they don’t do as I would do, or think as I think, I am playing God. It is not my job to pass judgment on everything that others do. So many of us take on the roll as the General Manager of the Universe. We actually believe that everyone should act and do as we expect them.

If taken too far, this causes resentment towards us in others and bitterness in ourselves. I believe that the root of bitterness is anger. When anger is closely held onto and unforgiven, it results in bitterness. Bitterness is a focus on the faults of others. We focus on those faults because we won’t forgive and we are sure that the person is going to once again let us down, or anger us, or hurt us in some way.

If we are not careful, bitterness eats at us, consumes us, and affects those around us. The solution is simple. To realize that I am not perfect. That everyone has their bad days, bad moods, and deal with their own situations. Often what they do or say has absolutely nothing to do with me. Once I realize that I have no real control over the universe and everyone who inhabits it, I can give myself a break from managing the universe and realize it’s just not my job.

Can’t I influence others? Yes, I can. But in the end, everyone is a free will creature and will do what they will do. I can pressure them, but if I push, they have three options: be pushed, push back, or just ignore me. It’s still their choice. They may do what I think they should do, but in their time, not mine.

Fred Rogers wrote in The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember, “Part of the problem with the word ‘disabilities’ is that it immediately suggests an inability to see or hear or walk or do other things that many of us take for granted. But what of people who can’t feel? Or talk about their feelings? Or manage their feelings in constructive ways? What of people who aren’t able to form close and strong relationships? And people who cannot find fulfillment in their lives, or those who have lost hope, who live in disappointment and bitterness and find in life no joy, no love? These, it seems to me, are the real disabilities.”

The solution is simple, to give up the anger, the judgment, and forgive. But even though it is simple, it is hard to do. It is hard for us to let go. It is hard for us to allow the world around us to be outside of our control. But peace and joy lie in our ability to let go and forgive. Anger without forgiveness is a bitter poison and a cancer that eats us alive. Will Davis Jr. in 10 Things Jesus Never Said: And Why You Should Stop Believing Them, wrote: “Once you decide to forgive, you initiate the healing process. Forgiveness gives your soul permission to move on to the higher and healthier ground of emotional recovery. Forgiveness is to your soul what antibiotics are to infection. It is the curative agent that will help to fully restore your soul. It doesn’t immediately remove the pain of defense but it does start you on the road to recovery.”

So, if you are weary from running the universe, take down your shingle, leave the office and let our Maker do the job. Relieve yourself of the anxiety and disappointment that others will not follow your plan, your expectation, your will on your time.

I am happy not to be in charge of the universe. It is too much responsibility. The help is unreliable because they will do what they do. They do because they are free will creatures just like me. They are imperfect just like me. They suffer emotions, uneasiness, fear just like me. And I hope that they feel joy, happiness and contentment, just like me. I hope that I don’t steal their joy. I hope that I remember to always see their value as God’s child with God’s heart. As Dieter F. Uchdorf said, “There is enough heartache and sorrow in this life without our adding to it through our own stubbornness, bitterness, and resentment.”

We are all imperfect. Do not be bitter, be better. Forgive whoever you might be angry with and then forgive yourself for just being human. There is so little in our life that we can control, but we can control our own actions. We cannot control the actions of others, even God has surrendered controlling his children because He wants us to choose. That is why we have “free will”, and so does everyone else.

The Certainty of Uncertainty

As much as we might like to think we know what the future holds, we really do not. Anything can happen to keep us on our chosen path or derail us. We need to be prepared for uncertainty as much as we can be. Of course, we cannot cover every possibility. A town less than an hour from where I live was struck with torrential rains and gale force winds. When the storm was over, homes were flooded and damaged. This came as a great surprise. The news showed the residents coming together to help out with assistance coming from other areas as well. We just don’t know what might happen tomorrow.

Each time I drive by a serious accident on my way to work, I hope that there were no fatalities. There are times I am surprised that the driver lived. Even though I don’t know the driver of a fatal accident, I cannot help but think of the profound affect that this accident had on the family. The sudden death of a family member leaves the family confused, angry and anxious for the future. It is never hard to face the loss of a family member.

Other losses, such as a loss of a job or career, can cause just as much anxiety. Even when we get news about a severe or terminal medical condition is a loss. Again, we never know what might happen. But one thing we can do is live in the moment. Knowing that we are in someone’s heart, their thoughts, and prayers can be comforting. It is important that we look inside ourselves for strength. It is also important that we look to others for support. I certainly hope that you have those persons or organizations to give you support when you might need it. If you are a religious person, seek out God. Your faith can be your comfort, even if you have to be angry and shout at God at first because you just can’t understand why. It’s okay, God has very large shoulders.

Whatever might come your way, I wish for you speedy healing. If it is a door that closes, remember that every exit door is an entrance to somewhere else. We cannot know what will happen tomorrow. We need to plan for the unknown, but live in the present. It is paying attention to the now that builds the bridges to tomorrow. We might not know what is around the bend in the path, but what we do can determine the road.

Peace be with you.

Who am I?

In my workplace, they have announced that there will be layoffs soon. This will be the third time in 4 years. This time it is a little different, the previous layoffs were for staff reductions. The current layoff is due to outsourcing the department that I work in.

We still don’t know when, just why. As I try to uplift my fellow employees, as I was their supervisor until the last layoff, I try to focus on their talents and potential. During one very serious discussion, we spoke about who we were. There are lots of long term employees who are nervous about the upcoming cuts. I have 30 years in service. With so many years in service, many are unsure what they might do, or even can do. I reminded them that they are not what they do. Something I had to realize several years ago.

I shared with them that I once was very ill and that I felt that I could not continue working the position that I had. I told my manager at the time that I could not continue in that position and understood perfectly that he would need to replace me. I was ready to move on to whatever path awaited me, but my manager offered me another position that was less physically demanding and I remained with the company.

I came to grips that what we do isn’t necessarily what we are or who we are. Employers will find others to fill our positions. But the person we are cannot easily be replaced. I am a: father, son, brother, husband, friend, citizen, uncle, nephew, cousin, student, teacher, mentor, mentee, worshipper, and even a sinner. I am all these things. So even if I am chosen to leave my employ, I am still me. I will just have to seek other ways to use my energy and talents. I’m thinking about going back to school. But I will have to wait and see what will happen. Until then I will concentrate on who I am, my potential, my talents, my passions. I am me.

Choosing Stress

Stress can be both good and bad. When people read or hear the word stress, they usually think of the bad type of stress, at least I do. Do we choose stress? Not on purpose, I don’t think. We tend to react to stress, thus making an automatic choice to allow the stress to rule over us. Although we cannot choose what happens to us each day, we can choose our response to those stresses. Some situations are really unavoidable for us.
For instance, on my way to work, I can have a great ride but often there are traffic obstacles. I can let these delays upset me or I can just accept that these things are inevitable. I realize that I cannot control the universe and that things will happen no matter how much I might wish they would not.
Too often we react to stress as a victim and suffer through it. In reality, it usually is a waste of time to be upset. It generally steals your joy and prevents opportunities for moving forward. Allowing stress to eat at us eventually takes its toll. Stress can cause many problems in our bodies, Continuing stress can affect: your weight;, your mental health; increase your blood pressure; raise your cholesterol; headaches; stresses your immune system; and your digestion.
We can take steps to alter the situation or take steps to change the situation. We can realize that we might not be able to change it so we accept it and try to learn from it. And if possible, we can try to avoid it. These are all ways we can respond to stress. Each one of these responses will vary in success depending on the nature of the stress.
I would rather choose peace whenever I can. Most of the stresses are beyond my control. I realize that most of it isn’t even directed at me, I just happened to get in the way. My most recent stressor involves not knowing what is going to happen with my work. But not knowing isn’t always bad. Whatever happens, there will be something to follow. What might look like an ending might be the beginning of a new adventure.
“Letting there be room for not knowing is the most important thing of all. When there’s a big disappointment, we don’t know if that’s the end of the story. It may just be the beginning of a great adventure. Life is like that. We don’t know anything. We call something bad; we call it good. But really we just don’t know.” – Pema Chodron
Sometimes stresses are hard to avoid and we choose to stay with the situation or the persons who stress us. This might be a job situation or even a loved one. We need to examine what we can learn, decide what we can do, and maybe even have to make the difficult decision to remove ourselves from the situation or grin and bear it.  It isn’t always  a sign of weakness to move away from a bad situation, it can be a act of great strength and resolve. It might even open the door to a new and wonderful adventure.
There is sometimes no easy choice, but in the end, we still get to choose how we respond to stress, even when we don’t think we are choosing.

Choosing Joy and Contentment

It is cold here in upstate NY. I don’t like the cold. It had snowed for a week. The snow ended yesterday. Am I thankful for the snow? No, not really. My wife ran off the road last Thursday night and we had to get a tow truck. I am thankful that she is okay. I am thankful for all those that stopped to offer assistance. I am thankful for the tow truck driver who extracted the car. But I would rather that she did not have to go through the event.

I still don’t like the cold. It causes my joints to ache and my legs to hurt. But I am thankful that I am still mobile and still can work. Looking at the bright side of things, just like the spin doctors in the public relations arena, can help us choose joy.

Choosing joy is not easy. It takes lots of practice. I am still and always will have to practice choosing joy. Even though it is our own responsibility to choose joy, outside influences can certainly make it easier or harder. There are those, whether intentionally or not, seem to relish stealing our joy. Sometimes they are having a bad day. Sometimes they just want to share their misery. Sometimes they just might be jealous. And sometimes, it can be me.

We often can be disappointed if we have expectations as to the outcomes. We can impose our expectations on others based on what we believe, our experiences or our sense of right and wrong. We can also impose our expectations on others because of the way we think. What seems logical to us ay not be logical to others. Understanding that we control precious little can also help us choose joy by not allowing ourselves to be caught up in things that we cannot control. This is where contentment comes in. We can choose to be content by living within the control of our situation. We can control our responses. We can choose ways to cope with our situations. We can be in control of ourselves while realizing we cannot necessarily control what happens around us.

Again, it isn’t easy. It is a journey. Mother Teresa demonstrated to us that even when she placed herself amongst the poorest, the sick, and the dying, she could find joy in the love and caring she brought to others. Her example inspires others to do the same. I am sure she struggled and faced her own frustrations. She held on to her faith and hope.

But, What If I’m Not?

We have just passed Thanksgiving Day and quickly moving towards the Holiday seasons. It is this time of year that we are reminded to be thankful and grateful for what we have. But, what if I’m not?

Life has its challenges. It has its darker moments for everyone. What if, at this time of the year: you lost someone close to you; you lost your job; you had a medical emergency; you lost everything? What if things just aren’t going well at all..

Hey, it happens. There will be times that will steal our joy and plunge us into the darkness of sadness, anxiety and anger. But these things, too, will pass. It is these times that you find yourself a quiet place, then scream, shout, cuss, curse, cry and just let it all out. But just for a little while, a few minutes or so. Expressing your anger, grief and disappointment to God will let you blow off steam. You will get it off your chest. Does this change anything? Not really. But it does give you a point to move on.

And for being grateful. You can still be grateful. You can be glad that you survived. You can be impressed by your strength to move forward. You can count the blessings of your friends and family. I try to be positive most of the time. But life gets to us all. It is okay to be alone, get mad and yell at the wall. It will clear your mind. And its okay if you break down in tears and let it all out. It is part of healing and moving forward. What is not okay is staying in that place and wallowing in the pain.

So I get it that you might not always be thankful. Life is hard. It doesn’t always make sense. But you get to choose to move on, to go forward, to cope and make it better. And no, I cannot always understand the depth of pain people can feel. But I know that it is never the end. It might be tough right now, but remember, that there is the power to pick yourself up, maybe even with a helping hand. There is something, somewhere that you can be thankful for even if it resides in tomorrow.

So what if you aren’t? It’s okay, there will be another moment where you can. Life is a journey of hills and valleys with lots of intersecting paths. Hope to meet you there.

Looking for Joy

   We all experience things that steal our joy. Fear, worry, anger and stress are common elements in our lives that steal our joy. Our economic stresses can permeate every part of our lives. We worry about job security and adequate income. Constantly flowing bad news from our televisions and radio cause us to fear the world we live in.

The Affordable Care Act has caused worry for many and relief for some. My medical coverage has had to change because of the ACA. Because of my zip code, I was offered an equivalent policy that did not include my doctors or hospitals. To keep the care that I have grown comfortable with, I chose a less efficient policy.

The stress that steals our joy the most is that over situations that we cannot change or have no control over. These things can be anywhere in our lives. Work policies, school policies, new schedules, pressures at home can all cause stress.

Sometimes, the joy stealer comes from within us. We might feel inadequate, just not good enough. We are all different. We all have our own skills and gifts. None of us is great at everything. We all deserve to give ourselves a break. Do we have flaws? Of course. If  it something we cannot change, then we need to accept that it cannot change. If it can change, then we can work towards improving that. This gives us the confidence and self-esteem that we need to defeat the things in our life that steal our joy.

Anger gets in our way. Sure, people and even family push our buttons. But we have to realize that anger can rob of us of our joy, our relationships and even our health. Anger is not always bad. Sometimes it is good to be angry. But mostly, it does not solve anything and usually makes bad situations even worse. Forgiving those that anger you frees you from the control that they have from pressing your buttons.

So how do we get our joy back or find the joy we have lost? Instead of focusing on what is wrong, we should seek out what is good. Look for the good things in life, in others and in ourselves. We are responsible for our own joy. It is our choice. Always do your best, but even the best of us cannot live up to other people’s expectation. You always want to improve but you still have to be yourself.

Know what you can and cannot do. Try new things out of your comfort zone. If you succeed, you improve your confidence. If it didn’t work out, you still have improved your confidence because you know you tried, you learned that it was difficult, and you learned where you need to improve if you want to tackle it again.

Life will sometimes let you down. That is just the way it is because there is so much that we cannot control. We can learn from all these times, both good and bad. Having expectations of how everything should be will definitely lead to disappointment. Again, even if people don’t live up to your expectations, be patient with them. They may need nurturing, guidance. It could even mean that the person cannot meet your expectations. Your expectations may have to change.

Bottom line, your joy can be be stolen by others, but joy is found within yourself. You don’t have to let others steal your joy. This is a difficult skill to learn. It is one that I struggle with. Even those of us that try to stay positive all the time allow others to steal the joy we have. It is up to us to return the joy to our hearts and minds by trusting in ourselves, trusting in God, and being thankful for all the good in our lives. Look for and find the joy in your heart.