Looking Inside For The Answers

I’m struggling internally with something.

There’s a man who’s a good friend of one of my best friends. I don’t really know this man very well at all. I’ve maybe had one meal with the guy…ever. I’ve never spent any real social time with him. I couldn’t tell you things he likes or what’s important in life to him. I know him because we belong to the same men’s organization. He has cancer.

Lately, my friend has been including me on an email of about four others because the man  has not been doing well. What I believe is my friend sees me as someone who is compassionate. And, usually I am. And, there’s the struggle.

I just don’t feel compelled to spend any time with this man. I don’t know him. OK, I know who he is, but I don’t really know him. If I found out he had died, I wouldn’t be sad. I wouldn’t go to his funeral. This is someone I would classify as an acquaintance, not a friend, and a distant acquaintance at best. Yet, my friend, the one I would go to any lengths to help if he were in need, has included me on this very short list. My opinion and my fear is by not spending time with this other man, I’m disappointing my friend. While that’s not something I want to do, I also feel I wouldn’t be true to myself by spending time with his other friend. Would I spend time with my friend under other circumstances? Absolutely! It’s purely and simply not wanting to take time out of my day to spend with the other guy. I’ll come right out and say those feelings come from a selfish place. In the last 13 years, I’ve been in the hospital four times. Three of those were when I had heart catheterizations. The last time was when I had my cervical discectomy. I never heard anything from this man. Not a “Hey, how ya doin’?” Not a “Get well soon.” Not a “How are you recuperating?” I don’t feel compelled to reach out to him any more than I believe he felt compelled to reach out to me. Yes, selfish. Yes, resentful. I’m just another traveler on the same road.

I wonder if my friend is in need of my company while his friend is dying. That’s an awareness I’m coming to grips with as I write. I also believe that’s why I’m in this battle with myself. It’s all about how I should or should not be spending time comforting my friend. Can I comfort my friend without providing an appearance at his friend’s bedside? I believe I can. What I want and have wanted to do is to have a conversation with my friend about all this. He’s a very intelligent man. My belief is by being truthful with him, I am also being truthful with myself, and he will understand my position.

What if he did ask me to spend time with the other guy on his behalf? Honestly, I don’t ever seeing him doing this. Yet, in my mind, without his ever having said so, I’ve invented this exact conversation. So what would I do? If he asked for that, I wouldn’t have any hesitation in doing it. Because, he’s my friend. Not the other guy. And, I’ve said that enough times here, to realize there’s a part of me wanting to be a better, more caring human being. That’s really who I am. How I see myself. The struggle isn’t really about my friend; the struggle isn’t about spending or not spending time with this other guy, the struggle is about how I see myself. I don’t want to be this selfish, resentful me. That’s a part of my past that kept me alive at some point. It’s not who I am today.

What, then am I willing to do? For me. Not for anybody else.

I’m willing to own I have a friend who cares enough about me to include me in something special to him. I’m willing to own if he sends me another email, I’ll go. Not for the man with cancer. Not for my friend. For me. Because it’s what I want others to do for me when I’m in that place. It’s the right thing to do, because ultimately the reward is what I give to myself.

There’s a big take-away from this for me. When I wrestle with something, it’s almost always going to be about me. Not my friend. Not his friend. Me. If the battle is internal, that’s where the answer will be as well. There will likely be many more times in my life when I think otherwise. It’s the way I fool myself into believing there are other reasons for my struggles. In the end, if I look hard enough and deep enough, I’ll find the truth. And really, that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?

Consolation

Photo Illustration © Donny Hornstein

How Am I Changing? I’m willing to look inside for the answers.

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Isn’t It About Time Folks Like Boehner Found Someone Else To Blame?

I am so sick of all the Obama bashing, starting with the second term campaign through today.

During the campaign, I actually lost a friend who would not agree to stop sending me his Obama bashing emails. I pleaded with him several times, simply requesting he stop sending me his propaganda, my word, about Obama. This was his reply: “I’m sorry you don’t have a desire for truth (other than the truth according to Donnie (sic)). If you choose to drown in ignorance, I will not cast you a line. (Actually, I would, because that’s the way I am…” And, even though he declared this would be his last email on the subject he continued. Ultimately, I chose to disallow his email address (yes, that’s possible) from reaching me. I’ve never heard from him again. Not even after the election. I just have a difficult time believing a friend would choose to continue flooding (my word, again) me with his bullshit than accept my request to stop. The Universe always comes around in whatever way is best for the individual. I’m accepting in this case, the best for me was to allow the friendship to dissipate.

I continue to see on Facebook and other social media venues folks I know and otherwise like, bashing the President over many of his decisions. Many times, those decisions have held up on closer scrutiny.

For months and months folks in the media and elsewhere continued their speculations and to insist the Obama Administration was responsible for gross misconduct regarding Benghazi. On August 4, 2014 the House Intelligence committee cleared the Obama administration of any wrong doing. “Just so we’re clear, this is a Repuplican-led committee with GOP members outnumbering Democrats, 12 to 9.” See: http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/yet-another-setback-benghazi-conspiracy-theorists-0

Of course, after the Benghazi situation, there was the Bergdahl affair. All the naysayers were up in arms over the President’s actions of freeing prisoners in return for Bergdahl’s release. One of the better pieces I read in that regard says: “And Bergdahl has neither admitted his guilt nor proclaimed his innocence as yet. There’s been no Article 32 hearing, no trial, no court-martial. The military and the intelligence agencies haven’t even begun his debriefing. All we know for certain is that an American soldier was taken captive by the enemy, held for years, and returned as part of a prisoner exchange. That’s it. That’s what we know. We don’t know what events led to his capture, not all of them, not yet. We don’t know the details of his captivity. We don’t know the particulars of his release beyond the broad details that have been published in the press.”  From the same article: “Last time I checked, the punishment specified for violation of UCMJ Article 85 (or Article 86 depending on Bergdahl’s intentions) isn’t to throw him to our enemies!” See this article: http://aattp.org/negotiating-with-terrorists-bowe-bergdahl/

Need more proof of President Obama’s successes while in office? How about an increase in jobs since he took office? Gathered from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, you can see it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jobs_created_during_U.S._presidential_terms

How about changes in the stock market under our last several Presidents:

  1. President Ronald Regan: “Equities climbed 54 percent during his terms in office.”
  2. President George Herbert Walker Bush: “…equities still managed to climb nearly 30 percent during his term…”
  3. President Bill Clinton: “Equities climbed nearly 150 percent during the Clinton Administration.”
  4. President George W. Bush: “Equities fell 46 percent during the Bush Administration, largely thanks to the financial crisis.”
  5. President Barack Obama: “Through the beginning of August, equities have climbed about 78 percent.”Read more: http://wallstcheatsheet.com/stocks/presidential-stock-market-scorecards-reagan-to-obama.html/?a=viewall#ixzz3AprTEQJN
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© Donny Hornstein

Will someone then please explain to me, like I’m three-years-old, so I can understand, why this irrational behavior by the Republicans and Tea Party continues?

Here’s what I make up about this. Many of the folks who continue bashing Obama, whether it’s someone like John Boehner, Ted Cruz or just someone I know on Facebook, are really closet racists. Read that again. Pay attention to me saying it’s just my opinion. I often wonder if someone Jewish, like Joe Lieberman, or a woman such as Hillary Clinton were to get elected if the bashing would be just as widespread is it is with Mr. Obama. In all honesty, I don’t know; but it is sad to believe it would be.

Have we as a society grown no further than to believe if a minority person enters the White House he or she is open to any and all public ridicule? Have we actually lost all respect for the position of President?

I have to admit, it’s been a cultural shock, not insurmountable, but nonetheless a shock, to see the First Lady reading an award on the Academy Awards. Or see a cameo of the President in a commercial feature film. The times they are a changin’. However, even with that  my judgment is the folks who refuse to give Obama an even break should look in the mirror and ask why they feel so compelled to continue bashing the man. Please.

If you intend to comment on this post, and I encourage you to do so, please, please do your research to back your statements. Post links, not from opinionated blogs, but from real news sources to back your position. If you don’t it’s just more fodder to add to the pile.

How Am I Changing: Sometimes I want to give a voice to my reactions over things which continue to annoy me. This is one of those sometimes.

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Tears from I don’t know where

This morning, I had something happen which has happened before. It always catches me off-guard. I started crying seemingly out of nowhere.

It really wasn’t out of nowhere. I’d heard a story on NPR’s StoryCorps. It’s called, “After A Traffic Stop, Teen Was ‘Almost Another Dead Black Male.’ Have a listen (warning, there is some graphic depiction & language):

After hearing this, I teared up, well aware of the sadness I was feeling, but didn’t start crying. My judgment about this is the sadness was not only for the young man assaulted, but that he was discussing it with his mother who happens to be white. She says, “I thought that love would conquer all and skin color really didn’t matter. I had to learn the really hard way when they almost killed you.”

What happened next to me, was what caught me unawares.

I walked into a room where my cats have a tendency to puke a lot. Sure enough, one of them had. I have two cats and one of them is very vocal. I’ve had to work hard to remind myself often while living with this guy, “He’s just being a cat.” I have to admit, sometimes when he starts his vocalizing and doesn’t quit, I want to run away and hide. This time, though, as I’m on my hands & knees cleaning up the mess, listening to Moochie being Moochie, I was overwhelmed. It must have been triggered initially by the story, above, but I just started crying – uncontrollably. As I’ve said, this has happened before, and each time it just catches me in a way I hardly expected. It ended almost as quickly as it began.

Now, let’s take into account what’s going on in the world right now. There’s the shooting of an 18-year-old African American male in Ferguson, MO. Honestly, this hadn’t impacted me in any particular way. Not until I heard about the Missouri State Trooper who’s taken over governance of the situation. His walking with the protestors, getting all the militarism out of it, gives me hope for authority in our country. (Yes, yes, I’ve been bucking authority ever since I can remember. So this was a really good thing for me to learn about.) More directly affecting me has been the apparent suicide of Robin Williams. This seems to have taken a huge segment of our society not only by surprise, but where there is a tremendous grieving over this loss of a man. Me, included.

It’s an odd thing, really. I never met the man or saw him live. Yet, there is this profound sense of loss. I wasn’t a fan of the latest show, ‘The Crazy Ones,’ but I have seen and enjoyed many of the movies Williams was in. So, why is it I’m in this funk about his death?

Way back, when I was a photojournalist, I made this photo:

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© Donny Hornstein

 

The woman in the middle had just arrived on a tragic accident. Her son and two other boys were killed by an unseen train. The boys had been waiting for a west bound train to clear and when it did, they darted across the tracks, not knowing an eastbound train was right behind. The medical examiner had just pulled back the sheet for her to identify her son. The photo was made with a fairly long lens, from a decent distance away.

This picture ran front page on the paper I was working for in Iowa. The morning it ran, the newspaper was trashed by other local media and readers calling in about. It created quite a stir. The accusations ranged from ‘will do anything to sell more papers’ to much worse. It was the morning after that which tied everything together. One of the newspaper’s opinion editorial (OpEd) writers did a great piece on the reaction. He essentially said he understood the reactions AND there was nothing like a shared community tragedy to cause the community to come together. If the photo caused one parent to have a talk with one child about the caution necessary when crossing a dangerous place like railroad tracks, it was worth all the bad mouthing the paper received for publishing it. At the time, it was one of the most eloquent pieces I’d ever read in OpEd.

I suppose that’s the situation with the Robin Williams tragedy. There’s nothing like a shared community event, however small or large, to bring so many of us together. I know I’m not alone in my sadness. Several days later, it’s still a high point on the news and in social media. I’m astounded. And not.

I think when I don’t grieve outright, that grief will find another route to come out. It seems like that’s what happened today. Hearing the story from both the young man and his mother on NPR, and then having a crying cat, just triggered the grief in me wanting to come out. So, it did.

Another life lesson for me. Grief, like so many other things in life will find a way. If it’s not addressed head-on, it will find the path of least resistance and just ooze out – like a crying cat while cleaning up puke.

How Am I Changing: Lessons I’ve thought I’ve learned will come around again if the Universe senses otherwise.

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Don’t think of all the misery. Be aware of the beauty and joy as well.

The title of this blog is a play on something Anne Frank said. Her quote is, “I don’t think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains.”

I’m thinking about what I write about. It reminds me of the personal work I’ve done during the last 13 years. I’ve done writing about anger. Writing about fear. Some writing about sadness. So I asked myself, “Where’s the joy?” Certainly there are persons, places, ideas, events and so on bringing joy to my life. Why don’t I write more about that?

It’s kinda funny – as in ironic, actually. As I finished that first paragraph, I started thinking about some of the events which brought sadness into my life. Be gone sadness, anger and fear, today, is about joy, and by gosh, that’s what I’m going to write about.

So, what are some of the things I’m joyful about, anyway? I’m so happy to say I have a wonderful relationship with my older brother, his wife and their kids. I know so many persons who have horrible, even non-existent relationships with their siblings. I cringe each and every time I hear about it. My brother and sister-in-law, (she’s really my sister from another Mother) are examples for me of how two persons can survive and thrive together for many years. This December, they will have been married for 44 years! I have a cousin and a dear friend, both gay, who’ve been in long term relationships as well. It brings me so much joy to see couples who’ve made the commitment and stuck to it.

I’m also joyful about my niece and nephew. My niece, well, she was the first baby I ever held. I was tricked into it. Have you seen the recent commercial where a gal is holding a baby, she has to go do something, so she turns to her brother-in-law and hands the baby off? Later she comes back and says she can take the baby back. He replies, “I got this.” That’s just about what happened with me. Only that wonderful brother and sister I’ve been talking about connived together to make it happen. I got this. I was the only member of the family for quite a while who could rock that little girl to sleep (cold hands, warm heart.) That little girl, by the way, turns 40 this year. Oy!

My nephew, now that’s a whole other story. I know there’s a cruel, mean part of me. My nephew got some of that as a youngster. He would run and hide when I would tease him, so I would tease him more. At some point, the part of me that is loving and caring stepped in. Then, we became really good friends. Today, we talk quite often. He’s a bit of a geek, so we can talk about geeky things such as computers and smartphones. I even, <cough> learn stuff from him sometimes <cough>. I’m so grateful for him and his wife as part of my life. They are just a joy to be around.

Friends.

“I cannot even imagine where I would be today were it not for that handful of friends who have given me a heart full of joy. Let’s face it, friends make life a lot more fun.”
–Charles R. Swindoll

What Mr. Swindoll says pretty much sums up the happiness I derive from friends. In 2014, I have to say if it weren’t for <cough>Facebook<cough>, my life might be a bit emptier. For instance, I have friends on FB from my high school days (a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away). For some of them, I bet we didn’t say a hundred words to each other back then. Now, I can’t imagine how we weren’t closer all those years ago. Then, too, there are the folks I’ve known since grade school who are still my friends (you know who you are.) One friend really comes to mind. This is someone I was really close to my second go round in college. Then there was a 25 year absence. Once we reconnected, it was as if no time had passed. I look forward to talking with her regularly. And, if it weren’t for FB, we might not have.

There are also my friends in my ‘real world.’ Not many, but the few who are there, I know I can count on and they know they can count on me. Although I’m a bit of a recluse, it brings me great joy when I spend time with these folks. Great friends….priceless.

Regardless of what else is or isn’t going on in my life, I go to movies. A lot. I’m joyful I get to go to about 60+ movies a year. I tend to like action, shoot ’em up type films. Films like Taken or most of the Marvel movies. But, I also like movies that touch my heart and my soul. Films like Seabiscuit or Begin Again or The Help. I have no hesitation to tell you I cry a lot in movies. Oddly, I don’t like comedies very much. Those goofy films with Adam Sandler or Will Farrell. However, every once in a while, I’m sure someone in the theater is looking around for the odd guy guffawing out loud. That would be me.

I like to travel. I don’t do it enough. And, even though I’ve got status on American Airlines, I often don’t take the time to see a city I’m traveling to for business. Reminds me of a friend. This guy is very high up the food chain for a certain card game. He’s been all over the world playing the game. He’s played with some awesome celebrities. And, yet, the only thing he’s ever seen in many decades of doing this is the ballroom in the hotel where the game is being sponsored. I don’t want to be that guy for the rest of my life. I want to see things like Mount Rushmore, the Taj Mahal, the holy land. Most of all, I want to re-see all the parts of Scotland I rushed through in my youth. And…..wait for it…..I will.

I’ve always loved books. I’ve bought and held unto many. Many, I never read. Don’t get me wrong, there were many I did read; just many more I didn’t. I don’t know why. I know I’m not the only one like this, but ever since the Kindle, I read lots more. On planes. In restaurants. At home. Everywhere. And you know what I’m reading most? Many of the books I bought earlier in my life which I can now read on my Kindle. I’m sure someone has done a study on this, somewhere. Why is reading on an electronic device easier than holding a book in my hands? Turning each page. Hunting for a character introduced earlier in the book I’ve forgotten when he’s re-introduced (that’s one reason I do like my Kindle, it’s so much easier to search than a ‘real’ book.)

I would really be remiss to not say food brings me joy. You know that old expression, “Some eat to live, others live to eat” ? Well, I’m the latter. I L-O-V-E to eat. I’m lucky. I don’t have the current American obesity disease. Probably because I’m also very OCD or ADD or ADHD (ask my ex, she can tell you which one is the true Donny) But, I’ll freely admit, given my druthers, I’d eat like Michael Phelps in training. Imagine! 12,000 calories a day! Wow! (Of course that assumes one is burning 10,000 calories a day in workouts.)

Lastly, as a tag on to my little rant on eating, let me say I’m joyful for my health. I’m six years older than my Mother was (of course, her death was not natural). And, while I’ve had a couple of big fixes, three angioplasties and a three-level cervical discectomy, I’m really pretty healthy. I work out. I would also agree with one of my teachers: Tai Chi saved my life. Learning to slow down, breathe and take an hour to figure out nothing else but where my hands and feet are has been one of the great joys of my life.

(I’m saying this next thing as much to me, more, than you, the reader.) Take the time to be aware of the joys in your life. Cherish them. Get rid of the stuff which brings you no joy. The effort for both is, for me, clearly the same. Give me more joy.

How Am I Changing: I’m looking at all the emotions in my life. Please remind me when I stay on one too long.

 

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What to do when things look tough

This has been a tough year.

Since November of 2012, I’d been suffering with a loss of feeling in my hands. Typing was almost impossible and dictation software, well, I was correcting more mistakes with my hunting & pecking than I was getting right. I was losing strength. I was dropping stuff. It was really making me crazier than I am naturally.

For a year and a half, I saw my internist, who prescribed meds, then sent me to have an electromyleogram done. Lots of black & blue and his conclusion was carpal tunnel syndrome. Following the EMG doc’s advice, I saw a hand surgeon who did carpal tunnel release surgery on my right hand. Of course, $2,500 later, it was worthless. I mean not even 1% improvement. Back to the internist (it’s now December of 2013) who finally sends me to a neurologist. Finally, I get diagnosed (after an MRI) with degenerating cervical discs in my neck. Nice, not!

In between times during this segment of my life I saw an acupuncturist, a chiropractor and a physical therapist. But, it’s the neurologist who leads me to a neurosurgeon. He tells me I’ve got severe degeneration and really need to have surgery to get this fixed.

Now, I’m OK with the surgery, but the last time something like this happened was in 2001. I was working for IBM. I needed an angioplasty. Had it. But, after two months in post-cardio rehab and a second angioplasty, IBM put me in a group of 1,500 and laid me off. So, when the talk of a three-level cervical discectomy came up, I was a little gun-shy about talking to my present employer.

In late March of this year, 2014, I told my boss I was going to need the surgery. A couple of weeks later, he told me to go forward with it. A week or two after that, he calls me one morning, Good Friday to be exact, and tells me my employer is terminating my position. Now, to be fair, I’d been working for this company for about seven months and my utilization (I’m a mobile employee who gets billed out) was nearly almost nothing. Nonetheless, when he told me my job was being eliminated, I went dead silent. Now, anyone who knows me well will tell you that doesn’t happen very often.

Let’s start with some good news. Had the surgery the last week in April and almost immediately things began to improve with my hands. That, was a miracle I am grateful for.

Now, the bad news: After a week of medical leave and two weeks of vacation, my employer stopped paying me. I mean nothing. And that’s how it is now in early August. I’ve watched my bank account dwindle. I’m getting that old fearful, nervous feeling about money again. Hence the title of this writing: “What to do when things look tough”

Well, there’s always when the going gets tough, the tough get going. And, to be honest, I’m trying. But, I’m not hitting 500 balls a day yet. I’m scouring the web for jobs, I’m trying new things I can do from home but so far, not much has been happening.

If you’ve followed this blog for a bit, you’ll know fear is a primary response of mine and I can feel it grabbing for me right now. It’s kind of like being Harry Potter and feeling the dementors circling. (Where’s my patronus when I need it?)

When I first learned of my pending unemployment, I thought, “OK, one door closes, five doors open.” Perhaps that was too grandiose. Perhaps while my mouth was saying that, my brain and everything else was telling the Universe, “Really, how about if one door closes and another one opens…sometime, but maybe not as soon as you’d like.” Now, that seems real to me.

So, what do I do when things start looking grim? I keep my spirits up. I write. I keep searching for something to make all this change. It will.

And, (I would have used but, and realize that effing word negates everything in front of it) why do I keep falling back on the same old responses? Why fear? Why negativity? Because, they’re comfortable; like an old worn blanket. And, (this time I mean and) I believe it’s time to get a new blanket.

When fear becomes my dominant re-action, that’s what I do. Become afraid. Play dead. Curl up in a ball and do nothing. And what does that buy me? Exactly, nothing! It’s time to put the kettle on the stove, boil the water and make some damn fine tea! With honey!

George Santayana is credited with saying, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” I think oftentimes that’s true. I don’t remember how fear leads to a void where nothing happens which is positive, so when faced with a choice, fear often wins out. The result is the same as it has been the last umpteen million times I’ve made that choice before. Nothing positive. It’s comfortable, therefore it’s still a choice available. What has to happen so that choice is no longer the ‘winning’ choice? I believe it’s the same thing which allowed me to put anger in it’s place. For a very long period of my life, I often chose to be angry about something. After many years of looking at that choice, I realized it wasn’t really anger I was choosing, it was avoiding sadness or fear. And believe me when I say it wasn’t a macho thing I’d learned as a little boy. It was anger was OK (my Dad could be a very angry man) and fear and sadness hurt. When I accepted the fear or sadness or both, the number of times I actually became angry diminished considerably.

Now, the time has come to put fear in its place. This is what the tough do when the going gets rough. Not necessarily get going, although that may be the right choice in certain circumstances, but find the courage to move forward. Like a shark. Not attempting to fall back on the comfort zone of fear. So, it’s about recognizing the fear, thanking it for all the times in the past it has helped me, then asking it to move aside to let my new friend courage drive the train. I don’t think it’s about trying to banish fear; just use it when it’s productive, not when it’s comfortable.

How Am I Changing: I’m willing to look at the things keeping me stuck; I’m willing to take small steps to move around them. Hopefully, many of those small steps will move me along on my journey to my final destination. And for me, that looks like being the best me I can be. Today, tomorrow and for the rest of my life.

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Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure

(Ed. note: I finished this more than a year ago. Why I continued to not publish it, I’m not clear on (see the part on “not good enough.”) )

Goal missed. Being kind to myself, priceless.

A little more than a year ago, I said I would write three posts in the next two months. I failed to keep that commitment to myself and to you, the reader. I have a couple of choices. I can beat the snot out of myself for missing my goal, or I can be kind to myself, admit I’m human with all the warts and freckles, and move on. I’m choosing the latter.

A question I’m asking myself right now is what was more important to me than keeping my promise to write? The simple answer is I’m a procrastinator. And, I’m lazy. While I’d rather be busy than sitting around doing nothing, that’s exactly what I chose: Do nothing.

There still is a part of me who thinks, no one will read this. No one really cares. But, taking the elevator down one more level, the answer is still: I’m not good enough. As I examine my life, I know that’s a worn out fable. Not true. Absolute lie. So, what’s the payoff to me to keep holding on to it?

By continuing to draw on that very old excuse, I get to stay small. Invisible. “As I was walking up the stairs, I met a man who wasn’t there. He wasn’t there again today. I wish that he would go away.” (From the film, Identity) I also remember a quote often attributed to Nelson Mandela, but which really comes from Marianne Williamson:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves: Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Who are you not to be?

Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking, so that others won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us: it’s in everyone.

And, as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

My desire here is to liberate myself from the fear. To manifest my greatness in all the glory I was meant to share on this planet. And yet, knowing this, there is still an undercurrent of fear which often shows up in my life. Play small. Stay in the darkness. Why? Because if I let my light truly shine, my arrogance might overwhelm me. I might become a real braggart. I might get to the point where even I don’t like me. What may also be true, is I might become more humble. I might like myself even more. I might banish the “I’m not good enough” to a place where I am able to acknowledge that part of me, but realize it’s an old story which simply isn’t true any longer. I might, I might, I might.

Where do I go from here? That’s such a powerful question. Not only does it apply to my writing, this writing,  but it’s a question I really want to look at daily. Where do I go from here? What’s the next step? Where am I going with the time I have left on planet Earth? Who do I want to travel with? How do I want others to see me? How do I really want to see myself? How do I want to be remembered when I’m gone? So many questions. Alright, I’ll do my best to answer some of them.

I want to be remembered as someone who made a difference. Sometimes, that difference might be about work. More often, it will be about how I made a difference in my own and other’s lives. Will I bless others and will I allow myself to be blessed? Not just on the surface, but deep down in my very core. Imagine, I ask myself, how would life be different when I live a life of purpose? Will those around me see me? More importantly, will I allow me to see myself? I’ve done that to a degree over the last 13 years. Perhaps, now, today, it’s time to ramp that up a little more. Be bigger. Be bolder. Be as magnificent as heaven intended. I want to make a difference.

I want to see myself as a man of integrity. When I make a commitment to do something, I  do it. No excuses for why I didn’t do it. Just get it done as said. I’m usually pretty good at this. I falter. I’m not a saint. Yet, some of the simplest things, like writing three times in two months, sometimes present the biggest stumbling blocks. Why is that? Why is it easier sometimes to do the harder things and the easier things present the greatest challenges? All good questions to struggle with moving forward. Like a shark; move forward, or die.

I want others to see me as a good teacher and a better student. I’ve always been the latter. Only recently began working on the former. I’ve had great role models from which to learn. Persons who lead workshops. Persons who teach kids. Persons who run successful businesses. All these persons I’ve either studied or been allowed to learn from. All great teachers in their own right. Seeing the light turn on for a student is one of the most rewarding things I’ve done in my life.

To be seen as someone who cares about others. And to be seen as authentic. No BS. Telling it like it is; with compassion. I had a great lesson in this recently. A man I know and was spending a weekend with, along with more than 40 others, was just triggering the anger in me over and over. He also triggered another friend of mine. I would have been like a gunfighter of old. “Let’s meet in the street at noon and have a gunfight.” What I saw my friend do was to approach the man creating the trigger with compassion. I was in awe. What I hope for myself is to have learned something about the compassionate way the man was approached. If I am able to do this part of my life better, what a more fulfilling life I will have for myself!  (Unfortunately, the guy creating the trigger continued throughout the weekend to behave exactly the same and nothing ultimately was resolved.)

So, in the end, as I publish this, finally, I’m recounting Nelson Mandela’s words: powerful beyond measure. While today has been a sad day, it is the day after Robin Williams’ alleged suicide, I’m choosing, at this moment to think about how powerful his life was and how lucky I was to be witness to some of it. Not his private moments, but his public ones. The moments when seeing him on screen I thought, “What a great talent.” There must have also been great pain there, too. I can only hope his choice was powerful beyond measure for him. For me, it’s just a day to grieve.

How Am I Changing: I can choose to let my imperfections show; the writing doesn’t always have to be perfect, the relationships don’t always have to be the way I want. And, it’s OK to grieve publicly.

What about you? Is there something you want to change? How about finding something small to start? It’s just an idea.

 

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Hit Five Hundred Balls Until Your Hands Bleed….

It’s been four months since I wrote anything for this blog. Four months.

When I ask myself “Why?” and am really honest with myself, it’s because I have lofty goals for this blog. I want one million readers. And I haven’t been willing to do the work necessary to make that happen. Hence, the title of this blog.

It comes from a story about Gary Player, the golfer.  “Many years ago the legendary golf pro Gary Player was hitting balls off the practice tee one morning, and the first ball he hit went 280 yards straight as a bullet.  A guy in the gallery just within earshot said, ‘Man, I’d give anything to be able to hit a golf ball like you.’  Gary walked over to the guy and said, ‘No, you wouldn’t.’  The guy said, ‘Yes, I would.  I’d give anything to hit like that,’  Gary said, ‘No, you wouldn’t.  You wouldn’t be willing to do what it takes.  You have to rise early in the morning and hit five hundred balls until your hands bleed.  Then you stop, tape your hands, and hit five hundred more balls.  The next morning you’re out there again with hands so raw you can barely hold your club, but you do it all over again.  If you do that through enough years of pain, then you can hit a ball like that.’  Player won more than 160 professional golf tournaments and is a member of “the big three” — along with Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer — who dominated golf through the 1960’s and 1970’s” (Bob Merritt, 7 Simple Choices for a Better Tomorrow, p. 136).

I haven’t been willing to hit enough balls to hit like Mr. Player. What I mean is, I haven’t written every day as I originally thought I would. After about five months of writing sporadically, the blog had fewer than a dozen followers. I got discouraged. I gave up. I thought, “This (blog) really isn’t going to go anywhere. No one really cares about what I’m writing.” And, this was pure BS. There were a handful of persons who ARE interested in me and this blog to read each post as it has come out. The problem is, I wasn’t doing enough to grow the village to raise the child.

I made up stories. I saw a friend writing her blog about a personal tragedy in her life. She has more than 500 followers on her blog. What I didn’t think to research, is how much she’s done on other blogs she has. She’s been hitting five hundred balls for some time. So have many others I’ve met in such places as Triberr.

There have been other times in my life where I’ve had lofty expectations, only to let reality teach me otherwise.

I remember when I went back to the University of Missouri to go through the Photojournalism program, I thought I knew it all. Cocky as all get out. Fortunately, I had a wonderful teacher in Angus McDougal. He was one of several professors who showed me what I didn’t know. It was an incredibly humbling experience. When I got to the premier course at Mizzou at that time, called, of all things, Photojournalism, Mr. McDougal taught the art of picture stories. How to tell a story through the use of photos, with the text of the story to elaborate the pictures. I had a pretty difficult time at first grasping this. To the point that one day, I walked into his office and told him I was going to quit the program. I think he was truly astonished.

McDougal sat me down and closed his door. We reminisced a bit about the past. Only a year or two before, I had been that cocky SOB who knew everything. He told me I had talent, I just need to be patient and nurse it. He could have accepted my resignation and laughed. He didn’t. He said with hard work and dedication, I’d make it. He gave me back my dignity and a reason to stick with the program. I did. I went on to have an ‘interesting’ career as a photojournalist. I made some really good picture stories at the papers I worked for. Problem was the cocky SOB was still running the show. I wasn’t a very good employee and got what many with the cockiness get – fired. But, I digress, that’s another story.

I want this blog to be successful. I don’t know if I’m willing to hit five hundred balls until my hands bleed. I want that, but I’m not sure I’m motivated enough to make it happen. As I’m writing this, I want to make a commitment to write a certain number of posts in a given time period. I’m scared to do that. I’m scared about a lot of things in my life. Fear has always played a dominant role in how I live. In some areas, I’m less afraid than I used to be. In other areas, fear still runs the show.

So, to the question at hand: I’m committing to writing three posts in the next two months. That’s not so hard. It felt good to say. Small steps. I see too many around me try to conquer their fear overnight. Including me. It didn’t develop overnight. Why try to battle it to the death overnight? Perhaps after I reach that goal, I’ll have the courage to take on a bigger goal. And then, a bigger goal after that. Maybe, just maybe I’ll get a million readers. And, if I don’t, that doesn’t mean I’ve failed. It just means I have to continue hitting more balls until I get the results I want.

What about you? What goals are you telling yourself you can’t/won’t do because……  Are you willing to make a small commitment to yourself to take a baby step. I hope so. I’d like the company.

How Am I Changing: I’m willing to own my fears and take small steps to get past them.

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Protected: Honesty, Not Always the Best Policy?

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First, Do No Harm….

This is a vital part of the Hippocratic Oath as I understand it. How does that apply to an IT trainer/consultant? It seems to be a lesson I’ve only just recently taken to heart.

One of my shortcomings, has been for a very long time, this angrily, impatient guy who has the ability to lash out at the most inappropriate times. For instance, I might be working with a client. Someone who’s actually paying me. One of two things might unleash this Mr. Hyde. The first might be the project is not going well. I’m having difficulty completing the task I’ve been hired to do. The client, or someone else present, asks a simple question, such as “How’s it going?” Rather than simply say, “Not so well,” or “I’m facing a bit of a challenge here,” that person is likely to get a snippy answer or, in many cases, even worse, a look saying, “Get away from me now! Leave me alone!” The second scenario might be the client asking me a few questions about other things they need done, and I haven’t completed the first one yet. Same likely response. The end result is not good. I can immediately tell I’ve insulted someone or at the very least hurt their feelings. Neither of which is how I really want to be seen. I’ve been working on this for at least 10 years. Getting better, but still don’t have it whipped.

How does the title of this blog come into play? Well, a couple of days ago it was Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. I don’t usually go to the synagogue on this day. I choose to do something else which I believe will be valuable to both me and the persons around me. For the last couple of years, I’ve met with my friend Bruce. He’s a very wise man; I think it’s important to have wise women and men in my life.

We were talking about ways in which my Mr. Hyde has a tendency to show up. Bruce, is also a Warrior, that is he’s done the New Warrior Training, and we’ve spent quite a bit of time together in that forum. Bruce asked me where in that part of my life I’m best. I knew he meant times when I’ve facilitated another person through a process to help them heal an event from their life which may be kicking them in the head after many years. We often refer to this as Carpet Work, because it’s usually done on a carpet. The carpet is just a symbol of a safe place to do the work. I really believe one of my heavenly gifts is to act as a facilitator of this work.

Bruce went on to say, when I’m ‘on the carpet’, no matter what’s happening, I maintain the ability to guide the person I’m working with through their work. I don’t get flustered if it’s not going the way I ‘think’ it should. I don’t get flustered if someone else in the area starts asking me a bunch of questions or is making a bunch of suggestions. My goal, in this moment, is to help this person get resolution on whatever they happen to be working on. Most importantly, I work very hard to do no harm.

The next question Bruce asked me, a feather could have knocked me down. “What’s keeping you from bringing that guy, the one on the carpet, to the rest of your life, especially your work?” I almost started to cry.

“I’m afraid in my work, when I’m getting paid, someone will see me as incompetent if it’s not going well. I’m afraid I’ll be ridiculed.” For the other scenario I’ve mentioned, someone asking me a lot of questions, that’s about my challenges around multi-tasking. I’m usually not very good at it. Solving one problem at a time works best for me. So, when someone is asking me a lot of other questions, my concentration on the current problem becomes diminished. Again, I think I’ll appear incompetent if I don’t get each problem solved in the order begun.

My wise friend continued. “When Mr. Hyde wants to come out, become the guy on the carpet. Step back. Ask yourself, “What would he do?” Would he get angry or belittling?” I knew the answer was no. It was an ah-ha moment. Now, if only I could put it into practice. And, I did, the very next day.

I was working with a client. A fellow I’ve worked with many times before. He asks a lot of questions while I’m working. And, this particular job was one I hadn’t really done before. I’d also done something I don’t usually do: I’d quoted him a flat rate for the project.

While I was working, he started asking questions. First, do no harm; that’s all I wanted to remember. Sometimes, I would stop what I was doing and ask him if he wanted me to stop the first problem to deal with the newer problem his question propagated. He  always said, “No, let’s solve this other one first.” Sometimes I would stop after he stopped and I’d tell him I hadn’t really heard what he said because I had been concentrating on the first problem. Would he mind repeating what he’d said. He did. Do no harm. It was working.

Finally, we got to a place in the project where I was about to do some physical work with his laptop. I was going to replace his hard drive. For a lot of folks who do what I do, that’s no big deal. For me, I hadn’t really done it before on this computer model. I was nervous.

I’d watched a good video on the subject. I’d made notes. I started. Much of what the video showed was spot on. Some of it had some minor detail differences. But, when I got down to taking the old hard drive out, there was, for me, a big difference. The video had said there might be some tape on the hard drive cable. Just peel it away the video said.  It turned out, the cable, what they call a ribbon cable (very, very thin and easy to break) was  actually attached to the top of the hard drive with an adhesive. Whatever happens, do no harm. At worst, I’d have to buy the guy a new cable. It all worked out beautifully. I stayed calm. Replaced the drive. Put everything back together. Started the computer up. At first, it choked. I thought from the clues the computer was giving I might have not seated the memory chips correctly. Re-seated them. Perfect! And, even when the guy came in and said, “How’s it going?” I said to myself, do no harm. And, I didn’t.

At the end of that day. I felt great. Mr. Hyde stayed at home. The client had asked me how much he owed. I told him I’d quoted him a flat rate but it had taken twice as long. I was good with whatever amount he felt was fair. He paid the full amount! (He’s really one of the nicest clients I have.)

How Am I Changing?: When I don’t allow the fear to ‘control’ me, life is good. I’m blessed and so is everyone around me.

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Apathy isn’t always about not caring…

It seems like I’ve always had the ability to piss persons off just by looking at them. I’ve talked about this before in the post called Putting it in Context.

Mostly, I believe, this is because I learned to be incredibly apathetic about my environment. I believe this began around age five when my maternal grandfather died. He was the human I was closest to at the time; even more than my mother or father. It’s been 55 years, yet I can remember the event as if it were yesterday (don’t ask me what I had for lunch yesterday, though.)

I was playing on the sidewalk in front of our house on Blue Hills Ave. in Hartford, CT. My grandfather, or Zayde as I called him (it’s the Yiddish word for grandfather) was sitting on the front steps of our house. My brother was playing just down the sidewalk from me with one of our neighbors. Zayde, got up from the steps, took two steps in my direction and fell down, dead from a heart attack. He was 72.

I didn’t cry. In reality I didn’t really understand what was happening. What I do know is from that moment on, both my parents agreed there was the Donny before Zayde died and the Donny after.

While I didn’t comprehend death, I seemingly did comprehend Zayde wouldn’t be coming into our house any more. There would be no more trips to the drug-a-store as he called it in his broken English. There would be no more protecting me from my father’s temper. No more foraging for wild blackberries so he could make his “women’s whiskey.” No more anything. With my one real ‘friend’ gone, I retreated more and more into my own world and there weren’t many allowed in that space.

One way, I believe I learned to keep others from getting too close, allowing me to have a place in my heart for them was to be indifferent if not just outright hostile toward them. And, it was fairly effective. There were a few persons who were given permission to see me as the loving being I am. The operative word is few. Letting too much of the world get close meant if I trusted larger numbers of persons I would ultimately get abandoned or hurt and my ‘risk manager’ just wasn’t about to let that happen. We’ll talk more about the  risk manager in another blog.

The outcome of all this ‘protection’ I was affording myself was not only lonely at times, but in order to effect the outcome of no one getting close, I also pissed off quite a few persons. Up to this point, I’ve been describing my history. Who I am/was and how I got there. Once I became more aware of my inner landscape, of who I really am, I began letting the walls down a bit. There was still a lot of protection from my risk manager, but he got the message not everyone was dangerous and had to be kept out. Working on this behavior, excepting it as a part of me but not letting it run my life was one of the changes which allowed me to become the trainer I am today. You can substitute the word teacher, I just don’t want to create the image of someone in the traditional educational system, K-12. I teach IT professionals how to support Apple technology.

And that’s what lead me to this post. In June of 2011, I taught a class in Music City. This was a five day class (as opposed to many of my classes which are only three days.) In this class I had a young fellow from Georgia. Honestly, I cannot recall having done anything which might be considered untoward behavior to the guy, but something must have occurred for him because before lunch on the third day he had sent several emails to the training center with complaints “as to your (my) demeanor, attitude and professionalism in the classroom.” I was blown away! Not only had this not happened to me as a trainer before, it hadn’t happened in other areas of my business life for many years. I took it pretty hard. I talked to the training center officials, assured them I had no idea what might have happened but I would apologize to the entire class. I did just that.

Just a little later, the students must have received an email from the training center asking them about how the training was going. My guess is the center was looking to see if the incident was isolated or if the whole class felt the same way. Another young fellow in the class, reading the email, looked up at me and said, “That does it. I want the number of the training center right now!” I provided the number to him and he called the project manager. “I don’t know what you’ve heard, but I want you to have another perspective. I think Donny is doing a wonderful job in the classroom. I think, and several others think he’s a great teacher who is clearly passionate about his work. I appreciate everything Donny is doing for us and I don’t think there’s anything the matter. The individual you heard from is not representative of our class. He shows up late every morning and only seems interested in meeting his wife for lunch.” He hung up. I was so moved I almost started to cry. I couldn’t remember the last time someone had stood up for me like this.

On the fourth day, the ne’er-do-well called me out of class in the morning. He told me he thought it was extremely inappropriate I had apologized to the class. He said he was going to request a re-do of the class with another instructor. I said that was his prerogative. Nothing more transpired between us the rest of the day. He sat through the class playing with his iPod Touch. My thought was, “He’s paying for this class. He can do whatever he wants.” I left him alone.

In the classes I teach, each student at the end of class gets to evaluate the class from the perspective of the classroom, the materials used, the training center in general and of course, the trainer. That’s me. In the rating system used, 1 is bad; 5 is best. The students can also leave comments in any of the sections being rated.

Day five. Last day of class. Most of the students have been great. Then, there’s the guy who’s been a challenge. No iPod today. Well, at least not in the same manner as Day four. We get through the day without incident. End of the day. Evaluation time. I’m resigned I’ll get pretty good marks from most of the class and probably 1s from the guy from Georgia. Oh, well, it’s only one guy in one class, I’ll survive.

As Mr. iPod is finishing is evaluation, he looks over to me and says, wait for it, “I gave you all 5s.” I’m thinking, “He’s lying.” But, he calls me over, wants me to see he’s on the up-and-up. Once again in this class, I’m floored. I ask him if he still intends to take the class over with another instructor? He says, “Nope. I’m good. The first three days were very different than the last two. You (me) changed and I got what I came for.”

Human nature. Go figure. Maybe the first three days he was having trouble with his girl friend. Maybe he wasn’t getting enough sleep. Who knows. What I tell myself about this, is once again, I managed, without trying, to piss someone off (I made it about me; kinda crazy, but sometimes that’s what I do.) Whatever it was that changed for him, I’m grateful. I don’t like those 1s.

I continue, each day, to watch how I show up. I really don’t want to piss anyone off. And, the lesson here is sometimes, it just happens. Can’t be helped. If it happens because the old me shows up, and he does, I take a lesson from my friend, Willie. I ask for a do over. I explain I don’t like showing up like an asshole and if the person I know I’ve offended is willing, I attempt to make amends. Just a simple, oops. Each day is a trial. Most days, I win.

How am I Changing? The part of me who is apathetic and indifferent to others and doesn’t care if I piss someone off was/is valuable. It probably helped me survive a lot of stuff I might not have otherwise. Perhaps there’s still a place for that ‘me’. But the me I want to show up most days, is more open of heart, empathetic and understanding. Changing for the better; not just for others, but especially for me.

 

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