Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Pay Attention--Really

I watched the movie "Deepwater Horizon" this weekend. It's based on the disastrous BP oil spill. That devastating event was totally human error. Taking short cuts. Not paying close enough attention to what was needed to get the job done correctly.

I thought about how many small and not-so-small problems start with not paying full attention to the task we're doing. Too often, people make mistakes in daily life because they just weren't paying attention.

Decades ago, I went through a frazzled period of relationship stuff. It was often at the back of my mind when (if I knew then what I know now) I could have compartmentalized parts of my life much, much better. During one of those distracted periods, I wrote checks for my monthly bills. Suddenly, my checks were bouncing all over New York City. Insufficient funds fees mounted, and I had noooo idea why. There were no automated banking features back then, so I finally went to the bank to see what happened. I'd written a check for the full amount of my checking account to the oil company! They just put in on my account. I was lucky they returned the extra when they found out my error. Since then, I've learned to shut off my problems when I'm working or dealing with money. I want my job and my money!

We're human, and sometimes we go through things that become all-consuming, and it's understandable to be distracted and make mistakes. But that's actually rare for most periods of our lives. For most days of lives, we aren't usually dealing with true emergencies and hardship. And still many are not "present" for large chunks of daily life.

As a society, we have adopted multitasking and distractedness as a way of life. We commit a slew of safety mistakes on a daily basis:
- talk on the phone while crossing the street with a baby carriage,
- check messages and social media while driving,
- make money transactions while checking a message or talking to a friend,
- chip teeth while using them as scissors or openers,
- put on makeup while driving,
- keep abreast of social communication while performing our jobs.

It's really important to start checking ourselves before the worst happens. Sometimes the worst is not so bad, but sometimes it can be life-shattering. If you don't know how to focus, learn how. If it's hard to stay away from social media, start training yourself. Tell yourself often that the most important thing is THE thing you're doing right now. Learn to control yourself.

Once you know you have common sense, make yourself use it all day long. Walk slower, breathe, make decisions about what you do with your mind and your body. Don't go around on automatic. If you do, the law of averages says that sooner or later you will be very sorry you did.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Sometimes it's better to forget....

A graduation speaker advised a group of graduating high school seniors as follows: "Never forget where you came from." It was very well received. The intentions were clearly honorable.

On the surface, I was okay with the gist of it all, but I ruminate and turn things over a time or two. So my authentic response is a lot more complicated--because society, communities, and families are complicated. In some cases, it's almost better to forget where you came from. Sometimes ties with one's past associates, family members, community dynamics, etc. can bog you down and keep you from gaining the traction needed to move forward in life. Sometimes where you came from is rife with drugs, violence, emotional or physical abuse, mental illness. Or sometimes it just wasn't a good experience, and there might have been some toxic overload going on.

Two Eckhart Tolle quotes speak to the complexity of one's ties to the past:

1) "Sometimes letting things go is an act of far greater power than defending or hanging on."
2) "A significant portion of the earth's population will soon recognize, if they haven't already done so, that humanity is now faced with a stark choice: Evolve or die."

So I'd like to tweak the guest speaker's message in order to incorporate some deeper truths: 

- Never forget where you came from, unless it was emotionally crippling. If it was, forget it as efficiently as possible, and start your future now.

- If you were raised in lousy circumstances, never forget where you came from, so you remember how to save yourself. (And if necessary, how to stay far far away)

- Never forget that you're incredibly strong, and sometimes your village is crazy.

- Never forget where you came from--in the context of how it can help you live a happy and satisfying life.

And I'll close with another quote (by someone I can't recall)--which basically says, Sometimes the best thing you can give to others is the example of your own life working. Which means, don't let where you came from have such a tight hold that, out of guilt, you try to save everybody, or you're afraid to be all you can be.

Stay tuned.....

Heads up! Mainstreet Rag's latest issue features an interview about my journey as a writer, and my short story "In My Soul." 

Here's the link to order a copy!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

We're better than this....

We're better than this! read a bumper sticker on a car in front of me. It grabbed me. Made me say, "Yes. We are. I am." Even before I figured out than what? So on New Year's Day, when everybody makes resolutions, that might be a great place to start.

Here are some things I know I'm better than, and I REFUSE to bring them into 2017:

  1. I'm better than getting annoyed about things over which I have no control. The other day my friend and I conferred about important things to put on our To Do lists. She offered one for me: "Remember what a good life you have." She's right. So when random things threaten to get on my nerves, I allow myself to focus on one of those wonderful things I have going for me, and move on.
  2. I'm better than assuming that I know what's best for other people. When someone complains or commiserates, I can listen, but I must allow them to feel what they feel. Often I try to talk a friend or loved one into feeling better. But I'm reading Marianne Williamson's Tears to Triumph: The Spiritual Journey from Suffering to Enlightenment. She suggests that we make the effort to understand what lessons our pain and distress can teach us instead of trying to escape them. And I agree. So my "fixing" conversations probably get in the way of other people's growth.
  3. I'm better than planning poorly. There's no excuse for overcommitting and overfilling my calendar. I'm beyond rushing to accomplish ordinary tasks, sacrificing quality because I procrastinated, or feeling resentment because I said "yes" to something that should have been a "no."
  4. I'm better than creating stress for myself. I'm busy, but focused and mellow. (That's the vision I want to hold of myself.) If I think before I speak or move in a direction, then I can cruise most of the time. Because we usually made the choices that led to the stress.
As usual, I come back to the same thing. Take time to know yourself, then honor what you know. Make decisions that feed your soul. You're better than being on automatic with your precious life.