Taking it all in

When the fruit is ripe - pick it... and enjoy
When the fruit is ripe – pick it… and enjoy

Constantly striving and struggling takes a toll. It takes an enormous toll, in terms of energy and insight and being able to enjoy your life. When you’re constantly GO-ing, when you’re focused on being active and reactive and pro-active, you lose sight of the good that you can let in.

Sometimes you lose the ability to let it all in. There’s a lot of good in the world, but we can be so busy fighting and pushing, that we’ve got nothing left for just sitting back and letting the good things be good — and enjoying the fruits of our labors. It’s no fun, being literally unable to reap what you’ve sown.

It’s like being a farmer in a country that never has a summer or fall. It’s work-work-work, year-round, without any hope of harvest. I used to know a farmer who lived in a northern area that had something like three months of growing season.  There was snow on the ground from September till May, and then the ground had to thaw. He was not a happy farmer. He was exhausted. Eventually, his barn burned, and he had to move.

I’m a bit like that farmer — but sort of by my own making. I have been pushing and striving and struggling for such a long time. Damage control. Chasing my dreams. Making the products of my imagination become real. And all that pushing has seriously worn me down… to the point where some days I can’t see the point of anything, anymore.

Then something occurred to me yesterday, when I was feeling down and blah:

I am actually living my dream.

See, when I was a kid, all I wanted to do, was be a writer. I wanted to write things that were helpful to others and provided insight into everyday life. I also wanted to be free of editorial control, so others would not tell me what to write, what to say (or not say), and I could do so on my own terms.

My goal for many, many years, was to become a freelance writer. And for a while I was doing that. But I ran up against problems with editors and schedules, and I could never seem to finish a job properly. Whether it was a freelance editing job, or it was technical writing, I was just not good at being independent and keeping it together.

I wanted to be independent. How I wanted that! And for a while, I was. On and off, I have “done my independent thing” and taken contract jobs, while managing freelance projects on the side. That’s what people did in my world of technology. And that’s what I did, too.

But it was always a struggle. And my writing wasn’t helped by the pressure to make ends meet.

For so many years, I felt like a permanent job was a millstone around my neck, that I was going to be pulled down by companies that didn’t know how to run themselves. That was actually the case for years, because I worked at companies that just couldn’t seem to figure it out. Now those companies no longer exist.

And for some reason, I thought that ALL companies were like that. Because that’s all I’d ever known.

So, for a long, long time, it was a double-whammy of pressure to make ends meet with companies that couldn’t keep their act together, the pressure to make it on my own — on m own terms — and the struggle to find the time and opportunity to write. I have written almost daily for decades, now, and it’s the one constant in my life. So, dealing with the pressures at work and all the existential difficulties that go with trying to make ends meet, keeping the dream of writing alive was pretty much a challenge.

It’s not that I couldn’t write. It just didn’t feel like I was a writer. It felt more like a task, than an art, and I lost touch with so much insight, over the years, because I was so stressed. If it wasn’t problems at work, it was  problems after another concussion — and the two fed each other, actually. I didn’t have the same sense of writing that I’d had in my 20s, before I had the mortgage and disabled spouse to provide for. It was nowhere to be found, and I thought the only way to get out of that was to get going on my own terms and live the dream of total, complete independence.

Well, now things are very different. And although the company I’m working for now is going through its own reorganization (who isn’t?), and my job and position may be very different in another 6 months, I feel more independent than ever before. It’s not so much the company, as it is my position. The job I have now is truly on par with the work I’ve done in the past, which is nothing short of amazing. I thought that sort of position would never come ’round again. I thought I was toast. But now I know I’m not, and I have the opportunity to focus on a whole new type of work that demands expertise and skill in much the same way that my programming did in the past.

And the best part is, while I am bone tired by the end of the day, it’s a good tired, and while it does wear me out, it also energizes me and gives me real hope for my future.

Plus, I can write again. I mean, I have been writing — a lot — for a number of years on this blog. And there’s no lack of projects I have in various stages of completion. But now it actually feels like I’m writing. It’s actually sinking in.

It’s important to let it all in, if only every now and then. It’s the thing that lets us see that all we’ve been working for, is actually paying off. That there is something to show for our efforts.

It’s important to let that happen.

So our world can open up again, and we can know that all is not in vain.

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Back to basics — again

Light it up

I think I’ve written about this in the past… how I was getting back to basics, after having gotten pulled off base by all kinds of busy-ness and so forth. Well, it’s time to hit “re-set” again, and get back to the fundamentals that keep me going in life. In the past months, I have really gotten off-track with just the most basic stuff — taking care of myself physically, which is the cornerstone of my daily success (or lack thereof). I guess the whole work situation got to me, and I got it in my head that, despite doing all I could to better myself, I still got caught up in the machinery of the Overlords,  backed into a proverbial corner by the economy and my attachment to my work… and no matter what I did, I couldn’t save myself.

They still took a good thing and made it pretty awful. It’s been years in the making, and I was a fool to not see it coming. I was so caught up in serving the common good, that I lost sight of the fact that the common good is owned — lock, stock and barrel — by individuals who are driven by such an all-consuming greed and hunger for power and the need to be “players” that it’s driven all sense from their minds. They are on a certain course, and they aren’t straying. No how, no way, and here I am, standing here looking like a jerk, bemoaning a fate that I backed myself into, while thinking happy thoughts about all the “possibilities” of this new world I’ve been shunted into.

And here I thought I was doing so well, when just the opposite of what I wanted was coming up behind me…

I tried. I really tried. But it didn’t work out. So, why bother?

Yeah, I’ve really been stuck on the pity-pot for days, now. And it’s getting tiresome. It’s so tempting, of course, to sit around and feel bad about how things have turned out, to get down on myself and tell myself, “Oh, what’s the use? I’m a lost cause with no real hope of redemption. I might as well just pack it in, make myself comfortable, and get used to sucking it up and swallowing my pride and all those other things that make my life marginally tolerable in the face of truly annoying circumstances.”

But that isn’t really like me. Even when I’m over-tired, like I have been, there’s still a spark that keeps lit, no matter what. It may get dulled by fatigue and agitation and chronic pain and just being so worn out from all the daily things I have to navigate and deal with — without a whole lot of help, on top of it — but it’s still there. I just need to remember that and find it again. And remember that wherever I am at that certain point in time, if I’m not in a good space, it’s probably because I’ve forgotten the most important thing of all:

It ain’t over, till it’s over. And it ain’t over yet.

As Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” I think I’ll print that out and put it up where I can see it regularly. ‘Cause someone like me, with so much on their mind, and so many dreams, and so much going on, has to remember that mindset on a regular basis. Gotta stay focused, gotta stay positive. Gotta stay on track and on point.

How to do it? Get the basics in place and keep them there.

  • Eat right, eat regularly. None of this late-night snacking. Gotta find another alternative to the junk food snacks that keep me going in the afternoon.
  • Get good rest. Don’t just hang around in front of the television till I can’t keep my eyes open anymore.
  • And exercise regularly — and I mean daily, not just intermittently throughout the week. Get my 15 minutes in on the exercise bike, followed by 10 minutes of lifting — either light or heavy. 25 minutes of exercise each morning is not a waste of time — it’s an investment, and it’s one I cannot afford to do without.  Believe me, I’ve tried. It started several months ago, with me backing off on the exercise… taking a break from the dumbells, either going more easy on the bike or not getting on the bike at all… and eventually getting to the point where I wasn’t doing any exercise at all in the morning, just having my breakfast, sitting down to check my email, then getting in the car and going to work and sitting all day some more. Then coming home and yes, sitting around yet some more.

Too much sitting. Not enough discipline. Not enough movement. And boy, have I felt it. My knees are starting to give me problems, and my moods are problematic. I’ve gained weight, too, which is bothering me — more because I just don’t feel as good as I used to, than out of vanity or anything like that. I just haven’t felt good, and it’s coincided with my lack of exercise, lack of discipline, lack of involvement in my own life.

Just living like a victim — which isn’t like me at all. I let myself slack off… and as I’ve spent less and less time focusing on my physical fitness, my thinking has become clouded, my head feels fuzzier than it has in a long time, and I have slowly lost the stamina I had built up. Not good.

And when I think about it, I realize that there’s more to it than my current job situation. I’ve also been listening to other people way too much. People who talk about how bad things are, how bad the economy is, how bad politics are, how bad off this country is. It’s all bad-bad-bad, everywhere I look, and everyone seems to be so unhappy and discontent and determined to blame others for their situation.

The only thing is, when I think about things, I can’t remember things ever being 100% great in my life. It was always something with me — always some real problem going on, always some drama, always some issue that had to be dealt with. Even when I had a “great job”, it was often a daily struggle to get things done and work with all the people around me, in the face of organizational upheavals and countless problems that came up in the course of each day.

And even when I bought my house and moved in, about 10 years ago, there were all sorts of problems that needed to be dealt with — a squirrel infestation in the attic, the adjustment to mortgage payments, the increased stress of property upkeep, the new neighborhood, the new neighbors (some of whom turned out to be aggressive, obnoxious a-holes)… I could come up with a complete list of all the things that were wrong all throughout my life, many of them totally legitimate. And lots of people I know would probably look at the list and say, “Yeah, that was pretty wrong.”

The thing is, looking back, I can see plenty of things that were right at those times. I was often just so focused on the wrong-ness that I missed the rightness — till later. And that’s how I feel things are at this point in this country. The Occupy folks are setting up all over this country, demanding some sort of change, and the 99% folks are making people aware of how bad things are for some people, these days. There’s a lot of upheaval going on, and there’s a lot of pain and fear and anxiety that are bringing out the worst in people. I think about all the cops who are being told to do such-and-such, in order to keep their jobs, and the things they’re going may or may not be what they really want to do, or what they would do, under different economic circumstances. I’m not excusing the behavior of police officers who pepper spray 80-year-old retired schoolteachers or hold people down while they shoot chemicals into people’s open mouths, but something tells me this is not what normal people do under normal circumstances, and I don’t believe for a moment that all cops are inclined to do such things. If anything, I attribute a fair amount of this to stress and the danger of them losing their jobs. Things are so tight — how can you defy your boss, when you’re on the verge of ruin, yourself? That kind of fear — and the fear for your family and your loved-ones whom you’re supporting — will make people do things that are way out of character.

Again, I’m NOT apologizing for the behaviors of pepper-spray-happy cops (and Wal-Mart shoppers). Nor am I apologizing for violence and destruction by protesting individuals. I’m NOT excusing any of it. I’m trying to understand the underlying causes, because I believe everything happens for a reason — and you can’t change anything if you don’t know why things are happening.

What I am trying to say — although it’s probably going to get buried or misconstrued in all the back-and-forth arguing — is that despite how bad things may look on the surface, there is always something positive happening somewhere. It may be a miniscule little shred of goodness, but it’s there somewhere. And for all the upheaval and hurt and protest and what-not, I think it would be even worse, if people didn’t speak up and speak out, if they were left all alone by themselves to struggle in silence and isolation, left to die unacknowledged and unseen. Tons of people are falling between the cracks and dying in isolation, pain and misery… which absolutely sucks. But there are also many people who are telling their stories and getting at least recognition (if not support) for what they are going through.

It’s a mix. There’s never just one side of things. And sometimes it takes a god-awful set of circumstances to jolt us out of our trance-like state of just putting up with whatever is there, because well, that’s just how things are, and we’re too tired to do anything about it. Sometimes it takes a really crappy political shift at work to wake a person up and get them to see that they need to make some real changes in their life. It’s certainly forcing my hand, and it’s forcing me to rethink my whole “career strategy” and look deeper into what I’m looking for — and I can do that now, because I actually have a job, and that job situation is motivating me to find out what else is possible that I hadn’t yet considered or worked up the courage to do.

It’s also motivating me to tend to my most basic needs — physical fitness that makes a good foundation for my thinking and my planning. When I don’t take care of that basic stuff, none of the other stuff has a firm footing, and I start to slide off the tracks. Not good at all.

So, that being said, it’s time for me to get myself in gear and get on with my day. Spend some time taking care of chores, get out in the day a little bit and clean up the garage, which is full of fall yardwork tools and implements, all strewn around ’cause I was in a rush last weekend… and make sure to get some rest this afternoon. I can’t beat myself up for having let myself get to this place. I screwed up, I know it, and now I’m getting myself back on track.

No one can stop me from having the life I truly desire, but me. And it’s time I got out of my own way.

Time for something different…

Different worlds in different minds

It’s pretty amazing when I look around me, these days. On one hand, I know people who are intently focused on the terrible things that are happening in the world. On the other hand, I have friends who flatly refuse to engage in any kind of discussion unless it’s positive and uplifting. I know people who are actively protesting against things going on in the world, and I know people who are fighting with all their might to hang onto the way things are and have “always” been.

To look at each of these groups of people, you’d think the world was in a completely different state — that they’re living in a bunch of entirely different and separate planets.

Yet, we’re all here. That’s the one thing they all have in common. Oh, one other thing – they are all pretty much convinced that their way is the ONLY way to look at things.

Personally, I could use a change. These different worlds certainly exist, but they’re not the only worlds that are available to us. And we’re free to shift in and out of our perceptions at will.

We can literally make (and re-make the world in any way we choose).

So, that’s where I’m taking myself today… and tomorrow, too. All this stuff going on at work… what-ever. All the stuff going on in the world… there’s something more to it than meets the eye, and who am I to judge, really. Certainly, I don’t want to stand by while people suffer needlessly, but I also need to be smart about how thin I spread myself, and see where I can make a real difference, and where I’d just be pissing in the wind.

The places where I can make a difference, are in my personal relationships with people, my personal relationships with myself. Doing no intentional harm to others, and being considerate to others, even when they are inconsiderate to me.

Giving people the benefit of the doubt. Approaching people with generosity and compassion, even when they really do seem to be assholes and either not know or give a damn about how they are behaving in the world.

If I stay stuck in my resentments and accusatory nature, if I take up permanent residence surrounded by my criticisms and issues, then whom does that help? My own version of how things are may be very different indeed from the fact of the matter, so it’s best I take my own rantings with a grain of salt. And not get too worked up over them. Tempests in teacups never got anyone anywhere.

Yeah, it’s time for something different. Something better. What can I do today that will get me into a better space and help me live my life, instead of fight it all the way?

Hmmm… let’s see…