Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Look Into Your Own Heart

It sometimes seems there is always someone in our lives who tries to make us feel inadequate.  It can be a boss, a parent, a spouse, our children, our friends, or the world in general.  Just because I don’t meet another person’s every need does not make me inadequate.  I am at a point in my life where I am no longer apologizing for who I am.  If who I am is not your cup of tea, try another blend.  I am not saying that everyone has to like everything about me.  I know I am not everyone’s cup of tea.  I also know that some people think I am great just the way I am.  At my age I am probably not going to change much although I believe I am consistently trying to be the best version of who I am that I can be.  If I am not the perfect boss, employee, spouse, father, son, brother, co-worker, or wonder worker, that’s just the way it is.  In my mind I am more than all of these things anyway.  In fact, none of these things is who I am, they are merely what I am.  None of these things define me.  My being is more than what I am or what I do.  Don’t live your life based on what other people think.  Most of them won’t even be part of your life over the long haul.  Don’t misunderstand what I am saying.  I am not saying that we can all act anyway we want and other people just have to deal with us.  I am not encouraging anyone to be a jerk.  What I am saying is don’t let other people determine who you are.  Everyone else’s opinion is just a perception.  Look into your own heart and follow your own bliss.  Be the best person you know how to be and be grateful for who you are.  You will please some people and annoy others.  Some will love you and some will misunderstand you.  If you listen to your own inner voice your will know the path you should walk and along the way you will meet all kinds of people.  Some you will love and some you will simply tolerate.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Slow Down, Be In The Moment, Lower Your Expectations

After Brown Thursday, Black Friday, Buy Local Saturday, and Cyber Monday, the holiday season continues to pick up speed for the next week and a half.  Let me come out of the closet.  I am no Clark Griswold but I am no Ebenezer Scrooge either.  What I am is a person who often find the holidays difficult.  More often than not, I find the holidays a little depressing.  I have no identifiable reason for this since I have never had a bad holiday experience.  I think what is difficult for me and many other people is what I consider the unreasonable expectations for the holidays.  On a very basic level, most people struggle financially all year long.  The pressure of gift buying only adds to this challenge.  Another pressure is the mandatory happiness and joy we are all expected to feel.  On top of this is the busyness of decorating and trips to the Mall.  Whenever my granddaughter comes over my wife and I stress ourselves out moving the “Elf on a Shelf” around our house.  I am also a little sad because my granddaughter is growing up and I am not sure how much longer she will believe in Santa and little elves.  I think this year she is on the fence.  She does seem to get excited when the Elf moves from the shelf to the Christmas tree to riding bareback with one of the three Wise men.  One year she picked up one of the three Wise Men and asked me if he was the Burger King.  Through all of this I try to put on a happy face and to be appreciative and grateful for everyone and everything in my life.  If you are also a person who struggles with the holiday expectations, know that you are not alone.  My advice is to do what I try to do all year long.  Be in the moment and be grateful.  The holidays are well intentioned even if the demands and expectations are usually unrealistic.  I once read a holiday mantra from Joe Zarantonello at Loose Leaf Hollow Retreat Center that said, “Slow down.  Be in the moment.  Lower your expectations”.  Sounds like good advice to me.       

Friday, December 12, 2014

Do Not Expect To Be Appreciated

In whatever you so, don’t expect to get anything back, don’t expect recognition for your efforts, don’t expect your genius to be discovered or your love to be understood.  Do it for the joy of doing it, or otherwise it is just another ego trip.
-Dharma
 
Most of us are good people who try to do good things and who generally care about others.  We give our best and do what we can and much of it goes unnoticed or seems unappreciated.  Sooner or later we realize that we must do what we do simply because it gives us joy or because it is the right thing to do even if we never get any credit, recognition, or appreciation.  Ego is a big thing in our lives.  The desire to be loved and appreciated is equally huge.  Hopefully, we do feel loved and appreciated most of the time whether it be from family, co-workers, friends, or strangers.  Follow your bliss and all that gives you joy.  As St. Augustine once said, way back in the 5th century, “Love and do what you will”.  Do good works and even if there is no immediate gratification, I believe your goodness will come back to you.  History is full of famous people who changed the world.  Most people, however, labor day after day with little recognition.  Some plant trees under whose shade they will never sit.  What’s the point?  I think we should all strive to do what is good and right even if no one else knows we are doing it.  I think many of us will be remembered more from our eventual absence than by our current presence.  We all want attention.  We all want to be noticed.  We all want to be appreciated.  However, you may not get any of these things so don’t depend on them for your happiness.  How you act in secret, when there is no spotlight, says more about your character than most public acts. 
 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Christmas Anticipation

As Christmas Day approaches my inner child gets more excited.  Although I am confident I will receive some nice and thoughtful gifts, I find more joy in the happiness of others.  My wife and I are generous with our children and granddaughter.  I have the empty wallet to prove it.  Although many people think I look like Santa Claus, my wife is the real Santa Claus in our family.  Christmas Eve and Christmas Day used to be a lot busier for me.  There were parents, grandparents, and aunts and uncles to visit.  Now my wife and I are the older generation.  My mother is still alive so we go to her house on Christmas Eve, followed by a visit to a sister in law’s for my wife’s side of the family.  Christmas Day, however, I get to stay home and my brood comes to my house.  In years past I was very busy and a little stressed because I basically prepared the equivalent of the Frisch’s Breakfast Bar for my family.  Since my youngest son is now a priest and must be present at Christmas masses in the parish where he is assigned, my family Christmas celebration and exchange of gifts will not happen until Christmas afternoon.  This allows Santa and Mrs. Claus to sleep in a little and not be so rushed.  The best part of Christmas, however, is my granddaughter.  She still believes in Santa although she gets a little more suspicious every year.  To be honest, she is not 100% sure I am not really Santa.  When she was a little girl I went to her daycare center about this time of year dressed in a red hat and coat.  I created a small riot among the children.  Some thought it was very cool that Chloe’s Paw Paw was Santa Claus.  Chloe will be at my home this weekend so my wife and I will be busy moving the Elf on a Shelf when she’s not in the room.  She’s getting a little more suspicious and inquisitive about that Elf too. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

An Unfiltered Life

It is said that every time two people meet there are six people in the room.  For each person there is the person they think they are, the person the other person thinks they are, and the person they really are.  I was thinking about this after reading some thoughts on how to see life and reality unfiltered.  Let’s be honest.  Few of us see life as it really is.  Most of us see life and reality through a variety of filters.  These filters, much like the many layers of our personalities, have been formed throughout our lives by all the experiences we’ve had, the way we were raised, and, in many cases, by our education or lack of it.  It’s probably safe to say that few of us truly see things the same way.  In the work environment, for example, there are people who are very happy and content.  There are some people, however, who think they are in a concentration camp.  Some people are happy with everything while others are happy with nothing.  Our happiness is generally in direct proportion to our gratitude.  Some people are grateful just to wake up in the morning and realize they have been given another day of life.  Others people are never grateful for anything.  Why are some people happy and grateful while others are unhappy and feeling like nothing good ever happens to them?  Certainly attitude is a big factor.  Another factor, however, is how unfiltered your life is and how much you are able to see life realistically.     

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Acting Your Age

Yesterday one of my younger…much younger…co-workers told me that I don’t act my age.  What a wonderful compliment!  I hope I never act my age.  Like many of you I was born very young.  I grew in stature and maturity.  When I was an adult I got married, started a family, and, along with my wife, raised my sons into men.  Parenthood demanded that I be an adult.  When dealing with children someone in the room has to make the rules and keep everyone safe.  My wife and I did this to the best of our abilities.  Our children turned out well so I guess we did a pretty good job.  Now my children are adults.  As they have grown up, I have aged.  Keep in mind that I did not say I am getting old.  I am simply aging.  One of the nice things about aging in that in many ways you grow younger.  Admittedly the body isn’t what it used to be.  I am not as strong as I was in my youth, I take a nap every day, occasionally I lose my balance in the shower, and sometimes I forget why I went into a room.  The mind and heart, however, grow younger.  There is a lightness of being that seems to come with age.  The years of child raising and career building can seem oppressive at times.  The burdens of life can weigh you down.  As one ages you let go of things, you lighten your load, and doing this frees you.  Yes, I still have concerns and obligations.  Experience, though, teaches you that most crisis and challenges are merely bumps in the road that are quickly forgotten.  I am 63 years young and my “elderly” wife still tells me to turn down the volume on my music.  It’s tough living with an older person. (smile) 
 

Monday, December 08, 2014

Living Without Expectations

It is a rare experience for me to be disappointed.  This is not because everything goes my way or I get everything I want.  It is because I have few or no expectations about anything.  When you live with few or no expectations every good thing seems like a gift and every bad thing is not a shock.  I try to see life as neither good or bad.  Whatever happens, happens, and whatever is, is.  This may seem like a negative way to approach life.  Living without expectations does not mean you live without hope or dreams.  It means that you learn to accept life as it is, that you are grateful for life’s blessings, and that you accept life’s trials and challenges as part of the experience.  I tend to be optimistic and positive.  More often than not life does go my way and I do get what I want.  My life, however, has been relatively free of disappointment because I do not expect life to go my way and I do not expect to get what I want.  Living without expectations increases the potential for being "surprised by joy."  I believe that the more you expect, the more you will be disappointed.