Category Archives: letting go

Changes for the better

Last week, my wife and I helped my son move from our home to his own apartment – his first. He was dealing with the nervousness and excitement of the prospect of living on his own. He now would be making his own decisions, preparing his own meals and taking care of his own place. It was a task that he was looking forward to, but at the same time, just a bit unsure of himself.

We all go through times like this, whether it is a dwelling place move, a new job, or opening a new business. These opportunities mix nervousness, fear, excitement, and joy. Each time we overcome even a small obstacle it boots our confidence. It can boost our self-reliance, and if we do need help, it can shine a light on who can help us and who really cares. It is a very broad learning opportunity.

My wife has been an empty-nester before, but this is the first time for me. I am very proud of my son for making this leap. We did our best to set him up with the basics that he needed to help ensure that he would succeed. I went on a strenuous hike with him yesterday at Stony Brook State Park in Dansville, NY. It is a beautiful park and very well maintained. We had a chance to talk while we climbed up and down steps more numerous than I cared to count.  My son told me that he is excited about his new life but that he missed me. I admitted, gladly, that I missed him too. But I assured him, that no matter where we were geographically, I would be there for him. This was especially true since just the night before, I went to the hospital with Brandon as he cut his finger with a knife so deeply that he required stitches. He was preparing a salad for his work that night. I am so glad that he is carrying on good eating habits. I know that he will do well. Knowing that will make my transition to becoming comfortable as an empty-nester that much easier.

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.

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.

Is Messiness a Character Flaw?

Hi. My name is Harry and I am a slob. If you were to compare my life with the Odd Couple of years past, Felix Unger and Oscar Madison, I am very much like Oscar. Also, like that same couple, the other side of the relationship, my wife, is neat and organized. I do not go out of my way to annoy her with my disorganization but it happens that way.

For some people, a bed freshly made in the morning is the perfect beginning of the day. It makes all things right in the world. Humanity can continue on its journey forward. But it really makes no difference to me if the bed is made or not. It doesn’t even occur to me that an unmade bed has any impact in my day.

Clutter does not bother me. I do not like filth, but I do not mind clutter. I have always been disorganized. I was always scolded by my teachers for being disorganized. I could never remember the combination to my locker (so I jammed the lock, so it wouldn’t fully lock). My desk at work is a mess, but I get my work done, meet deadlines and exceed expectations. Albert Einstein quipped, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”

“We have a tendency to think of messiness as a character flaw, but these people are generally more productive than neat people since they spend more time getting things done than they do straightening up,” David H. Freedman explains. “Plus, they’re often more imaginative than neater folks, since creative people usually find a bit of clutter to be stimulating and expressive.” David Freedman and Eric Abrahamson were co-authors of the book, A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder – How Crammed Closets, Cluttered Offices, and on-the-Fly Planning Make the World a Better Place

So, is messiness a character flaw? Maybe, but I do not think so. Are messy people immoral? You know, the whole cleanliness is next to godliness thing. I do not think that is the case either. I honestly think it is just how my brain works. It just may be that I am constantly distracted by more interesting things, at least more interesting than tidying up. Or, maybe, the cost of tidying up may be less than the potential benefits. On one occasion at work, an employee was filing daily order papers, in order, after entering them into the computer system. The organizing, sorting and filing took about an hour out of her day. Almost no one ever needed to see those papers. I changed the system to a 31 day file, where she simply stuck all the papers in the file, unsorted, by day. Searching once in a while took a few minutes to half an hour, but it saved 20 hours of filing each month.

Neat people are fine too. The organizations help them feel in control. I know I control very little and I am in no way interested in being the general manager of the universe. My wife has files and places and she likes to know that everything is where it should be. I depend on her organization skills and am very glad she has them. As a side note, almost everything I put in a place so it would not get lost ends up never found. I almost always forget where that perfect place was. Oh well, it certainly is safe from me.

I think the difference is personality and how our minds are wired. I have accepted that I am messy. I am happy to be me. If you are neat, then I am happy that you are. It would be really great if we were accepted as we are. Sure, we have flaws, we all need to improve. I do make the bed because it makes my wife happy, not because it means anything to me. Making the bed really is an act of love. Besides, I’m just going to mess it up again later when I crawl into it. Such is life. This is Oscar, signing off.

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.

Another Round of Layoffs

Yesterday, I hugged some co-workers  as they were processed out. It was their last day. They were victims of the latest cost saving measures and right-sizing of my employer. A year ago my position was deemed no longer necessary, but fortunately, I was able to move from a management to a non-management position. Although I was not overjoyed at first, it actually has been a blessing. I now have more time to dedicate to projects and get overtime pay for over 40 hours.

I certainly hope that those let go yesterday will find something that they can be passionate about. The transition of our economy to whatever lies ahead is going to be tough. Our parents, grandparents and maybe even great grandparents went through a transition out of the Great Depression. Even though I do not think we will experience the Great Depression as our ancestors did, I still think it will be tough. We have been accustomed to much more than our ancestors had. This will probably lead us to be impacted more as we have to do with less.

These are uncertain times. Everyone knows that there will have to be cuts, now or eventually, but at the same time, no one wants to feel the pain. That is understandable, that is human nature.  I believe that industry and jobs will come back. Will they look like they did before?  I don’t think so. We are a resilient people. We have, and always will have, talented entrepreneurs whose passions will shine. It can be hard to keep positive in our current environment, but keeping alert for opportunities, even from the most unlikely sources, is vitally important. Necessity is the mother of invention, and we definitely need the creativity. My very best wishes go out to those who must start a new chapter.

Tarry a bit

Yogi Berra stated, “when you come to the fork in the road, take it.” This is sage advice. It does not tell you which way to go but that you should go forward.

Times in our fast paced life can easily be tumultuous. We are sometimes so busy with the little things in our life that we forget to live, and we can unintentionally neglect what is important. We can also be so busy making a living that we forget to live. There was a time when I worked a full time job and two part time jobs to support my family. I know I did the right thing but I also missed out on quality time with my two young sons. This is time I can never get back. Kids grow up so fast!

In Proverbs 46:10a it says, “be still and know that I am God.” Sometimes, when we are faced with too many stresses, opportunities or paths that we are overwhelmed, we are paralyzed by fear or uncertainty. We might even be fortunate enough to have too many blessings to choose from. There are times when we should stop, tarry a bit, and seek the will of God in our life.

We have to balance our responsibilities with the people and things that are important to us.  This isn’t always easy.. We have tough choices to make. To make these decisions, we must take our time, seek counsel, and pray for direction. What is it that will lead us to our potential? How can we use the natural talents that we have to bring many others and ourselves joy. Our talents were meant to be shared.

So, when you come to that fork in the road, take it, but tarry first for a bit and choose the path that is best for you. God bless.

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Born to Earth, Born to Eternity

I have been away from the blog for the past three weeks. I have been busy in and out of the hospital with Theresa and her father. Fortunately, Theresa is getting better. Unfortunately, Theresa’s father passed away on the 18th. He was 96 years old. In his life, he touched many lives. He worked as a lawyer and served on planning boards throughout the area. Theresa is one of eight. He worked hard to support his large family.

I could tell the lasting impact he had on his children. Not only was he surrounded by his children in his final days, but was visited numerous times each week for many years prior. He had a long, wonderful life on earth, and I have no doubt that he has begun his new life in the eternal as well. He will also continue to live here in the hearts and minds of those who loved and knew him.

Religions, or the lack of, have strived to explain or answer the question as to what happens after death.  Some believe that there is nothing after death – we’re here and then we die and that is the end of the story. Some believe in the journey of the soul to be transferred into the body of a newborn. Others believe that the soul is reborn into any creation, not necessarily human. Others believe that souls spend eternity in Heaven or Hell. Often people believe a combination of these, not really sure what to believe.

I believe that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. Jesus died for all of us. There are those who defiantly resist God, and they will be dealt with as God sees fit. It is not my place to judge.

Funerals are for the living. They are a ceremony, not only to celebrate the life of the one is no longer alive on earth, but to support the family and say our goodbyes. It is part of the grieving process. Theresa’s father’s funeral was a positive one. I enjoyed listening to the memories and stories. Even though there were lots of tears and crying, it was wonderful to learn how he had touched the lives of so many people.

I was in the Army and so was Theresa’s father. He had military honors at the graveyard. A musician played taps on a very soulful bugle. It brought a tear to my eye. The carefully folded flag was presented to Theresa’s oldest sister.

Charles Spurgeon said, “When the time comes for you to die, you need not be afraid, because death cannot separate you from God’s love.”  I know for sure, that even in death, Theresa’s father will never be separated from the love of his family and friends.

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Letters from the Past

Tonight, while I filed a business letter, a file that held letters that I had sent to my family through the years popped open inviting me to read. The letter at the top of the file was one that I wrote to my father a month before he passed. Even though he lived with me, I still found it comforting to write him a letter.

I spent a little time skimming through the letters beginning with the one at the bottom and moving forward through time. I enjoyed reminiscing but was amused at what I found important to impart in the letter at the time seem so unimportant now.

It reminded me of the challenges that present themselves everyday. There are some very serious, sometimes gruesome challenges, but the vast majority of things that worry us, bother us or annoy us really don’t amount to much years later. Many don’t amount to much even days later.

Say you encounter a surly cashier that really dampens your day, do you really want to spend a lot of time being aggravated by that. Will it have any lasting effect on your life an hour from now or a day from now or even a month from now? If you reacted to that cashier with a smile and wished them a great day, you just may have made a lasting effect on them.

Besides realizing that many things that seemed important then are merely moments in my past, it was an enjoyable stroll through time. There were also some treasured memories in there as well, especially those letters that recalled day trips with my children or family events. It was never “things” that were important, it was the time spent with loved ones.

I guess I better start making more memories. I hope that all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and reflected on the blessings that abound around us.

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