When I was a guidance counselor in an elementary school I used to read a Yiddish folk tale to the students called "It could always be worse". the story begins with a man and his wife who live with their children in a small hut. The man goes to the rabbi to complain about the state of affairs in their small home and the rabbi tells him to go get a goat and two chickens and bring them into his house. Although the man questions the wisdom of this choice he does what his spiritual leader tells him to do, only to discover the small hut is now even more crowded than before. As you can probably guess this tale goes on until the house is teeming with farm animals and humans alike. It is at this point that the man goes back to the rabbi for the final time. The man throws up his hands and says says "Rabbi, I can't take it anymore. You have to do something or I will surely go crazy!"The rabbi very calmly tells the man to go back to his house, take all the animals out of his house and go back in. The man does as he is told (likely double time) and remarkably finds his house to be a quiet and safe haven.
The 3rd grade students to whom I read this story would often remark that the man simply realized that he didn't have it that bad in the first place. " he should have been grateful for what he had in the first place" was a common comment I often heard from these 8 year old students.
Yes indeed. What great modus operandi to live by!
It is easy to take the low road and complain about little things until things get worse or we see someone in more dire straits than we are. And then, if we are lucky, we realize it could always be worse.
Just for today my hope is that you are able to see all the good things you have in your life. And I wish for you no farm animals to be housed in your abode.
I have a dear friend and spiritual advisor, Theresa Pate, who used to remind me when I was a principal to stay calm. She, in fact, would quote Psalm 46:10 that says, "Be still and know that I am God." I remember confiding in her, "I'm honestly not sure I know how to do that." She looked at me quizzically and said, "What do you mean? You have a great relationship with God!" I laughed and said, "Oh, I don't mean that part. I mean I don't know how to be still." Ah, yes, the great problem of the busy people of the world. We have a tough time getting still.
I have another dear friend who keeps me sane and serene who swears by the benefits of meditation. I have frequently marveled at her ability to meditate. I am not positive I am ever that calm or still except when I am sleeping. Getting relaxed and staying still are luxuries I can't always see fit to afford....or maybe I just don't know how to do them.
Air travel does damage worse than just making us susceptible to everyone's cough and cold (and maybe even worse, right?). I get muscle soreness I never had before....okay, who's the wise guy who will say, "But it might be because you are older. Had you considered that?"
I find I need the help of massage therapy every great once in a while. Dave and I sometimes do couples' massages, but we then laugh and joke with the massage therapists and each other and we come away wondering, "Now, that may have been fun but how relaxing was that?"
I decided last Friday to treat myself to a massage, since I was in town for a string of days in a row. As luck would have it, the establishment was running a special that enabled me to get an extra half hour of treatment for no extra charge. What?? An hour and a half of relaxation. While normal people might whoop and holler over this, I almost had a panic attack. My thoughts ran to: what will I do for 90 minutes?? The therapist introduced herself, then instructed me to get as undressed as I would like and to lie down on the table. I will tell you that what happened next could only be considered a minor miracle: I actually dozed off while the therapist massaged my feet. I fell asleep!! I got still!! I also took some time to work through some thoughts I was having about my professional opportunities and do a little "vision" work.
After the massage, the therapist told me, "You were so much fun to work on. You were just like jello and let me work on you without any resistance. Some people push back. Some people resist relaxation. You were fun!" I could only imagine I was having an out-of-body experience---no one had ever told me that before.
Could it be that I am learning to live life one day at a time? Maybe even to relax a bit more? I like to think so. Maybe, just for today, we need to take time to relax, to dream a little, maybe just to be still....
I promise to think more about that---right after my next conference call and then right after I make that next airline reservation and then right after I finish my next edits. :)
For today, happy communicating!! Remember to take care of yourself!
Since I travel a great deal for work, time at home is quite precious. Translated, that means I have to wedge all my haircuts, nail appointments, and doctor visits into pockets of time between travel. Such was my day yesterday. I was long overdue for a visit to the optometrist, but had purposefully asked how long the exam would take as I had a conference call to schedule on the same morning. "You'll for sure be out of here in one hour" said the lying, I mean friendly, receptionist.
Knowing that my time is extremely valuable to all, I scheduled the conference call for 10:30, 1 1/2 hours after my optometrist appointment was scheduled. Surely that will be enough time, I figured. Are you wondering, yet, if perhaps being cooped up in airplanes with not enough fresh air for extended amounts of time might have clouded my thinking?
And so I was, at 10:25, having taken every possible eye test ever invented (watch the red star as it blinds you for the next five minutes, try to read the tiny print from 15 feet away.....without your contacts, let me touch your eye with what looks like litmus paper, and about 425 more....), the doctor came back with my trial pair of new multi-focal contact lenses. In essence, what this means is: you will be able to see somewhat far away and somewhat close up but only half as well as you would normally see far away or up close. Capiche?
The optometrist begins telling me about the structure of the eye and all its pieces and parts (I think I remember having to label those in 7th grade), as I fretted about the time. I was supposed to be on a phone call with my publisher in two minutes. As the doctor took a breath from excitedly telling me all I ever wanted to know about the optic nerve, I said, "Ummm..." That was all it took. He sat back on his rolling stool, and looked at me expectantly. "I am really sorry, but I have to take a phone call in about one minute. I mistakenly thought we would be finished in an hour." The optometrist looked at me with what could only be called disdain, and said, "Yes, but what could possibly be more important than your eyecare?" Wowee... how to answer that.
We finished up and I was able to take my call, albeit a few minutes delayed.
I began thinking about his question: in what do I place my highest priority? I try not to put my proverbial eggs in one basket because, frankly, I have lots of baskets, but I really believe his question is a good one, even if it might not have been completely timely.
We make time for the things that are important to us. There is really no excuse, for example, for saying, "I can't belong to a gym. I don't have time" when we make time to watch "Walking Dead". It just depends on what we are placing our priorities.
Today, since I am home for the week, I took sweet Rudy (our youngest Lab) out for a hike in Wild Burro Canyon. With the sun and the cool breeze enveloping us both, she flitted from one new scent to another, taking precaution not to stick her nose in a cactus (that lesson was learned a year ago). As we reached the top of the ridge, we sat down on a flat rock that overlooked the expanse of the canyon. She nosed my hand so I would be petting her fur on her neck. I told her I loved her and was happy to be with her. Why? Because, after all, what could be more important than this?
Am I supposed to have expectations or not? Who is to know when we are confronted with varying messages in our world? Add to that a bit of travel fatigue and I am in a real quandry.
Take Covey's quote:
“Treat a man as he is and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he can and should be and
he will become as he can and should be.”
― Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change
Doesn't that mean we should have expectations of people so they will rise to the challenge? But what about this quote?
“Expectations were like fine pottery. The harder you held them, the more likely they were to crack.”
― Brandon Sanderson, The Way of Kings
And what about this quote from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous?
"My serenity is inversely proportional to my expectations. The higher my expectations of other people are, the lower is my serenity. I can watch my serenity level rise when I discard my expectations. But then my 'rights' try to move in, and they, too, can force my serenity level down. I have to discard my 'rights,' as well as my expectations, by asking myself, How important is it, really? How important is it compared to my serenity, my emotional sobriety'? And when I place more value on my serenity and sobriety than on anything else, I can maintain them at a higher level - at least for the time being."
I have found that, for me and my life, it is safest when I give up my own expectations of the way people are supposed to act or supposed to be and just.....well, let them be. But wowee! that is sure easier said than done. I want for every training I do to be perfect. I want everyone with whom I work to get along. I want for my family to all make healthy choices. I want.....I want.....I want. The problem with that scenario is that "wishing doesn't make it so". All I can really do is take care of doing the very best job I can, help people when they have questions, and hope and pray they "get it" if they wind up on a slow road to nowhere.
I am grateful today for the ability to not have as many expectations of people and situations as I did 10 years ago. I also firmly believe that things (and yes, people) turn out the way they are intended to turn out, remarkably without my assistance.
Just for today, can you let go of the expectations you have about other people and about difficult situations in your own life and maybe take a moment to say the Serenity Prayer?
As I was in town for more than two or three days this past week, I scheduled another golf lesson. For those of you who have inquired, my golf game has pretty much gone like this:
1. I wouldn't quite call it a golf "game" so much as golf work.
2. Sometimes I hit shots that prompt Dave to say "Wow!" Other shots, he is silent but I suspect he is still saying "Wow" in a whole other context.
3. I seriously waffle between thinking this is going to be a fun retirement venture and thinking I might consider never retiring so I don't have to face the game of golf.
If you recall, my first venture with a lesson made me realize I should maybe focus on my lesson versus trying to make my golf instructor smile. It also involved me clarifying how golf clubs are labeled (what I thought was an "E" club turned out to be a "W" for "wedge" when turned the correct way). Exhausting, right? Yes, Dave said "Wow" when he heard.
This lesson, my instructor told me I was doing some things really well, but when I told her I just can't seem to get the whole "don't bend your left arm, but bend your right arm" thing, she stopped, stared at me, and said, "I think you need to stop thinking so much." She went on to say, "You need to get out of your head and just start to feel it. Don't analyze every little thing." I resisted every impulse to ask her to not just be my golf instructor but to become my life coach. All I could think was, "How much money could that cost---to get her to be my advisor and counselor in all daily life affairs?"
Frankly, that advice is spot-on for every aspect of my life. I teach a workshop to 60 people. 59 fill out the post-evaluation saying they learned so much, this was the best workshop ever, they were highly engaged the whole time..... but that ONE that says, "I didn't learn anything new." or "We could have picked up the pace" is the one I will analyze to the nth degree. Could've, should've, would've is the game I like to play. But honestly, what good does it do me? None! If there is specific feedback from which I can learn, fair enough. If there are patterns of comments people give, there certainly is a lesson I can learn. But sometimes people simply don't care for our taste in music, humor, delivery or personality. That doesn't make us wrong or bad....and it doesn't make them wrong or bad. Really.
But over-analyzing every little detail will derail us from our primary mission---to improve and hone our craft. Instead, we need to swing, knowing that the lessons we have been taught are now becoming ingrained in our skill, to the point we don't have to psycho-analyze every little piece every single time.
Just for today, perhaps we can keep our eye on the big picture: what are we doing well? what feels right? and then maybe take one piece of feedback on which to work on our progress in the coming days, weeks, months of our particular craft. Keep it simple!