Friday, April 18, 2014

Introverts Unite!

I’ve never kept it a secret that I am an extreme introvert.  I love my privacy and solitude.  This doesn’t mean I hate people.  I like people but as an introvert I often find people exhausting and my experience is that most people are best enjoyed in small doses.  Group activities are often very stressful for me.  I don’t apologize for any of this.  It’s who I am and it’s the way I am hard wired.  As an introvert I am not anti-social.  I am just very comfortable with myself and I am happiest in my own little world, a world that is mostly inside of me.  There are a lot more people like me than many people realize, especially extroverts.  Extroverts tend to think everyone is an extrovert.  Introverts don’t always get noticed.  Our quietness sometimes makes other people think we are standoffish or mad about something.  I also think introverts are sometimes perceived as weak.  I am generally quiet and non-confrontational.  However, I am also very passionate and can put up quite a fight when provoked.  If introverts are the kind of people that hate to be the center of attention, extroverts are the kind of people that seem to demand attention.  Where other people often exhaust me, extroverts get their energy from being around others.  A crowded club or bar would be hell for me.  In general, extroverts usually hate to be alone.  Introverts tend to be introspective thinkers.  That doesn’t mean we are smarter than everyone else although I tend to think we are (smile).  Introverts usually think before they talk.  Extroverts often talk before they think.  I hate it when my cubicle is out in the open, especially in a high traffic area.  Whenever possible I try to be in a cubicle in a corner with as much privacy and solitude as I can find.  I am much more productive and a lot happier.  We live in an extroverted world so there is not always an understanding or appreciation for people who prefer a quieter, lower stimulation environment.  When I am sitting alone in my cubicle, with a cup of coffee and some good music, I am as content as a pig wallowing in the mud.  These thoughts remind me of a favorite quote by a musician named Robert Fripp that goes “Me and a book is a party.  Me and a book and a cup of coffee is an orgy”.  Yeah, I know I sound boring.  I don’t care.  Just leave me alone and take your party somewhere else.  You’re invading my personal space. (smile)    

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Fear Of Not Measuring Up

Once a friend sent me some thoughts about something called the "fear of not measuring up".  In a competitive and driven society such as ours, we all suffer from this fear to some degree.  There are a million ways for it to manifest itself.  It's the fear that you aren't smart enough or aren't pretty enough or aren't successful enough.  It's the fear of not being able to "keep up with the Joneses", that you don't drive the right kind of car or don't live in the right neighborhood, that you didn't go to the right school or you're not a supermom and on and on and on.  It's the fear of being inadequate.  Let's be honest.  Some people are smarter, more successful, and better looking than the rest of us.  That's called "Life's Not Fair".  However, the rest of us are not doomed.  I think we all have unlimited potential if we have the drive and initiative to take advantage of the opportunities given us.  On the other hand I am someone who believes in the idea of contentment.  I always want to be the best possible version of myself but, quite frankly, sometimes I am too tired to be.  I have more stuff than many people but much less than many others.  I can honestly say that I am very content with my standard of living.  I have everything I need to live comfortably and to be happy.  At this point in my life I think more about how I can do with less than with always wanting more.   I'm not a genius but I am far from stupid.  I am happy with who I am and I don't feel inferior to anyone.  I am not perfect but I know I am a good person.  I don't have to beat everyone else in order to feel like I am successful.  It really all boils down to these few questions.  Are you happy?  Is there love in your life?  Are there people and things you care about and other people who care about you?  Are your basic needs being met?  If yes, what more do you want?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Rise Up And Be Thankful

Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn't learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn't learn a little, at least we didn't get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn't die.  So let us all be thankful.
-The Buddha
These words of the Buddha probably do a good job of summing up most of the days in our lives as well as remind us to always be thankful.  Of course, whenever we look back we can remember reasons to be happy and reasons to be sad.  Every year we experience new births, rebirths, conversions, transformations, and new ways of seeing things.  Most of us also experience some type of loss.  Relationships can change and sometimes fall apart.  People we care about leave our lives or sometimes die.  Some of us are better off materially and financially and some of us are worse off.  Some of us are in the spring or summer of our lives and others are in the autumn or winter of their lives.  Some of us are gathering in the harvest of our lives while others are letting go and simplifying their life.  Doors close and windows open.  The unfolding of life, year by year, is the great mystery in which we all live.  Each morning is the threshold of a new day with new possibilities.  If yesterday wasn't so great for you, today can be a time of new hope.  A few years ago I saw the Rolling Stones perform at Churchill Downs.  Keith Richards, a member of the band and a guy who should have died ten times by now, looked out on the crowd and said, "It's really nice to be here.  It's really nice to be anywhere"!  I share his sentiments.  I'm really happy to still be here and I try to remind myself that these are the good old days and the best days of my life are still ahead of me.  Begin the rest of your life now by seizing the day and living with a grateful heart.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Conversations With Chloe

Yesterday I visited my mother.  My granddaughter, Chloe, went with me.  On the way to Chloe’s home after our visit I told her that my mother was 84 years old.  She looked at me and said, “Wow, she’s really good at living”.  This made me laugh and I thought it was a great way to look at aging.  Even though the general population is getting older, thanks to the baby boomers, our culture is usually obsessed with youthfulness.  I think it is a good thing when people, especially children, experience multiple generations.  Most people's perceptions of aging are changing.  There are approximately 75,000,000 baby boomers and for the most part we are kicking and screaming against pre-conceived notions of how older people should act.  Sometimes when I have the music cranking, and I am jumping around while playing air guitar, I think “I shouldn’t be do this.  I’m 63 years old”.  Then I keep on doing it.  After my conversation with Chloe yesterday I now realize it one small way I try to be good at living.  We had other interesting conversations over the weekend.  Sunday morning her stomach hurt a little but after going to the bathroom she felt better.  This led to a discussion about what poop really is.  After I explained it to her she said, “Paw Paw, you are like a teacher and a scientist”.  One question that really caught me off guard, however, was when she asked me why people commit suicide.  I explained that as best and as delicately as I could.  All of these Chloe questions and conversations are part of the reason I love being a grandfather.  Sometimes the questions are tough and I choose my words carefully but I think such conversations are what the old should be having with the young.  I am not just a guy who sits on the floor and plays games or who takes her to the movies.  Part of my role is to help my granddaughter understand the complexities of life.  No matter what she asks I always tell her the truth as best I can.  I don't try to BS her.  She is getting older, smarter, and more perceptive by the day.  I love being with her.  It keeps me on my toes.         

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Weekend Is Here!

Today is Friday and the end of my work week.  It is a beautiful morning and I am feeling pretty good.  There will be lots of excitement in the air today as workers in the surrounding area make preparations for tomorrow’s “Thunder Over Louisville” air show and fireworks extravaganza.  Yesterday, and again today, the sound of sonic booms from military jets flying over the river will rock my office.  Tomorrow’s events are the beginning of the Kentucky Derby Festival.  In my hometown this is huge.  It is the unofficial beginning of spring, and after the winter we’ve had, people are ready to party.  Derby time in Louisville is as much a holiday season as Christmas.  In a perfect world employers would just shut down and give all their employees a two week vacation.  Since I am stuck in my office today I am hoping for a quiet and uneventful day.  I would like to ease into the weekend.  At some point I will venture outside and take in the weather and all the activities.  I am pretty sure the hot dog vendor will be there and today I will not resist the urge for a bratwurst.  When I get home today I need to rest up for my granddaughter’s visit this weekend.  One has to be in shape and well rested for Chloe.  I should also be seeing my son the priest.  He will be traveling home today from San Francisco.  His car is currently parked in my driveway and I’m afraid I am going to run into it.  Even though he is a priest I am not sure he would forgive me for that since it’s a new car.          

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Teachable Moments

I think every experience in life is a teachable moment.  These moments are not only an opportunity for me to teach others but also an opportunity for life to teach me.  In the work environment we often use the term “coachable” moment.  I don’t really like this term because it implies to me that the events of a particular moment always need to be corrected.  Some experiences are what they are, and while some mistakes may need to be corrected, mistakes are not the only soil from which a learning opportunity sprouts.  I also believe what a former teacher of mine, Richard Rohr, once said, “The moment is as perfect as it can be”.  All of life is a never ending learning experience.  It doesn’t matter how old you are or how many degrees you hold, life will continue to teach you.  Sometimes I think I know everything I need to know but life keeps enlightening me with even more knowledge and wisdom.  As I’ve said before, in recent years my granddaughter has been my teacher.  Like most children, she is a natural Zen Master.  When I am with her I try to see life through her eyes and I try to let my inner child appear.  Sometimes, when I let go, I can be a nine year old child.  When this happens I can see life with a renewed freshness and not through the eyes of a tired, slightly jaded, sixty three year old.  Today, for example, I am not feeling it.  It’s Thursday and that is the day of the week when I start running out of gas.  I hate to feel this way.  My fatigue is part physical, part emotional, and part spiritual.  The teaching of the moment is that I need some personal renewal.  I need to regain my excitement about being alive.  I need to fill up the gas tank of my soul with some high octane gas.  Sometime when you are my age and you’ve been doing everything in your life for a very long time, it hard to find a gas station that gives you the energy that you need.  The good news for me at this moment is that my Zen teacher will be spending the weekend at my house.  She never runs out of gas.  If I can’t keep up, she will drag me along.  She’s exhausting and energizing at the same time.  I wonder what she will teach me this weekend?     

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Happiness Lost & Found

I almost experienced complete and total happiness yesterday but then I talked myself out of it.  It was the middle of the afternoon and I felt the need for some fresh air and exercise.  I went outside for a walk.  I noticed that the dogwood trees were blooming.  They may have been blooming for a few days and I was asleep at the wheel.  I stood and looked at them for a while and then I continued my walk.  Soon a wonderful aroma came wafting through the air from the grill of the hot dog vendor parked outside my office.  I could feel myself being seduced by the thought of a freshly grilled and piping hot bratwurst.  However, as I was reaching for my wallet to see if I had any money, I returned to reality from my semi-conscious state and I resisted the urge to buy a bratwurst for the simple joy of consuming it.  This is the closest I have been to complete happiness lately and what did I do?  I threw it all away for the sake of health.  I did experience some happiness on Monday.  It was a typical beginning to another work week.  I wasn’t in the mood for work after four days off.  To make it even worse, it rained all day.  I did find some relief in the thought that I was going to get out of work earlier than usual.  As soon as I had that thought, the telephone rang and it was my oldest son saying “Dad, do you think you could pick up Chloe from school today”?  It was a bittersweet moment.  On the one hand it meant driving across town in the pouring rain on a day I thought I would get home early.  On the other hand it was an opportunity to see my granddaughter and that always bring me happiness.  I agreed to pick her up.  When I showed up at her school I hit the school bus and car rider rush hour which must be a daily hell for some parents.  I found my way into the school and quickly located Chloe in the sea of children.  She ran towards me tossing her back pack like a basketball player on the free throw line.  We walked to the car and talked about our day.  After getting in the car I asked her about an argument I had heard she had with her step mom.  She told me her step mom got mad when she rolled her eyes at her after being told to do something.  I told her I understood and that I often did the same thing when her grandma tells me to do something.  It was a true bonding moment for us.  Any time I get to be with my granddaughter is a happy moment for me.  For complete and total happiness I need to have Chloe with me the next time I walk past the hot dog vendor.  Then we can both buy a bratwurst and look at the blooming dogwood trees together.