Archive for December, 2014

Your Little Piece of Heaven

December 15, 2014

With the holidays fast approaching and people bustling about, there’s a certain conviviality in the air. I’ve previously written about the feelings of stress or loneliness that can make themselves felt this time of year, but now I want to focus on the festive aspects. What’s your favorite part of all this hubbub? And, even more interesting, how has this changed over the years? What does this say about you?

 

It’s funny, isn’t it? When we were children, it was all about the presents. If I were to guess, I’d bet that this is no longer the part that thrills you as much. Personally, I love driving around at night, seeing homes illuminated with twinkling lights, imagining the good cheer manifesting within in. It feels… hopeful.

 

But aside from such images, when you think about it, what’s the first image that pops into your head when you think of a nice place to be? Who are you with? What are you doing? What are you feeling when you go to this place in your head? The answer you give today probably differs from the one you’d have ten years ago and is likely to change, again, ten years hence.

 

The conclusion to be drawn from this little exercise that I consider especially important is the that we’re continually changing, even when so much of who we are remains the same. These conundrums fascinate me. I am so much the way I have always been, but my view on life and my appreciation of what’s important has changed so much. Is this true for you as well? How do you think you’ve changed? Overall, are you pleased with your evolution?

 

I’m keeping this post short because it’s the holidays and you’ve got things to do, but I hope you’ll take a moment to reflect on this, reflect on how your answers have changed over time, and what all this reveals about the person you’ve become. Find the hope in your journey because it’s there, too. And if you need someone to point it out, I’m always here…

 

SOMETHING TOTALLY UNRELATED AND CYNICAL BUT I WROTE IT FOR FUN

MY HOLIDAY BREAK STARTS NOW—SEE YOU AGAIN IN 2015!

 

Riding Rudy’s Road: A Reindeer Reality Teaser

 

Strains of Jingle Bell Rock grow louder as Rudolph trots to the entrance marked “Break Room,” in faded red letters, pushing open the swinging doors with his antlers. He pauses, surveying his coworkers sprawled all over the beat up furniture, their hooves resting on white fur bellies. A Christmas Tree made of overturned red solo cups has been erected on a table in front of them.

 

Noisily draining his cup, Dasher emits a loud burp before flinging it at the discarded Toys for Tots box that doubles as a trash can. It hits the outside of the box, rolling across the glitter and paint spattered cement floor; a small trail of beer spills out.

 

Dasher!” Vixen whines. She scoots further away on the l-shaped sofa.

 

Come on, baby,” Dasher coaxes. “Don’t be stuck up. Let ol Dash give you a belly rub.

 

You’re so gross,” she replies, refluffing her chest fur. “Leave me alone.”

 

I’m right behind you every night, baby. We have no secrets.” He chuckles as she ignores him.

 

Comet canters past, silent with disapproval, and gingerly takes the dirty cup to the trash. Using a rag hanging near the Hoof Bath area, he mops up the spill, scrubbing vigorously.

 

Shrugging off the compulsory jingle bell harness, Rudolph clip clops to the keg for a an ice cold serving of Frosty’s Brew. He drains one and then another before pausing to scratch an itch. The others stare at him, inquiringly.

 

Rudy! Yo! So, how was it?” Cupid pants, looking up from his never ending series of TRX pull ups, a sheen of perspiration running down his flank. “I heard Petite Paula was your handler at the mall. Did she say anything about me?

 

Vixen shakes her head. “Bunch of steroided stags,” she mutters, crossing one hind leg over the other to inspect her hoof polish.

 

Forget Paula, how about Pretty Pete? He’s so dreamy,Prancer muses. “The way he strokes my legs with that brush before we start our night ride…” he drifts off, lost in thought.

 

Prancer’s identical twin Dancer nods in agreement, sighing as he checks Twitter for Pretty Pete Tweets. An Elf of the Month calendar hangs on the wall with previous months’ cheesecake pin ups haphazardly taped along the wall.

 

So, Ru, how was Nick’s mood?” Donder asks, taking a long drag on his e-cig. “Is he still being a little bitch about that wrong turn?”

 

It’ll blow over,” Rudolph replies, unscrewing his red nose and depositing it on the table. He rubs a sore spot where the artificially enhanced apparatus chafed his fur.

 

The guy’s on the rag,” Dancer declares. “Has been for 300 years. What a dick. Glad he’s not one of ours.” Prancer makes an approving sound.

 

It’s just that he’s stressed,” Blitzen counters in a heavy German accent, removing a piece of straw from his mouth to talk. “You don’t understand what it’s like to be responsible for a deadline. Bunch of fawns.”

 

Shut up, Blitz,” Cupid responds, seguing into squats. “We were late one time, ONE FUCKING TIME and you two have never gotten over it. One more crack like that and I’m gonna muzzle you.”

 

Yeah, you and what army of doped up goons?” Blitzen snaps, his eyes bulging. “You’re nothing but a piece of over baked meat. Coming to a Wal-Mart near you,” he announces in a fake American accent, “raw hide jerky for your dogs.”

 

The two reindeer scramble across the floor, preparing to do battle with their front legs. The clattering of angry hooves echoes against the cinder block walls.

 

Aaaack!” Dancer screams, hoofs flailing above his head, as their scuffle knocks over his solo cup Christmas Tree. “It took a lot of work to build that!” Rudolph’s nose rolls under the couch.

 

Dancer starts pawing to retrieve the glowing nose, but it rolls further under the couch. “Leave it,” Rudolph tells him. “Doesn’t matter.”

 

After Blitzen uses his antlers to poke Cupid in the balls, a painful scream fills the air. Vixen covers her ears with her front hooves, as she trots to the other side of the staff lounge to get beyond the fray.

 

Hey!” roars Donder, slamming his e-cig on the solo cup strewn table. “Enough of this!” He and Dasher work to separate the pair. The senior deer looks over at Prancer, “A little help here would be nice,” he yells. Jingle bells go flying.

 

Prancer rolls his eyes at his twin before leaping over the sofa to pin Cupid against the wall. Donder struggles to untangle his antlers from Cupid’s. Dasher mutters “Fucking Nazi” as he sits on Blitzen’s butt. The German reindeer flails his hooves in vain. Enjoying the spectacle, Dancer hums along to Jingle Bell Rock.

 

Just then, Santa strolls into the Lounge, trailed closely by three or four elves dressed in miniature Santa suits. On the back of each is bedazzled “Santa’s Little Helpers.” Displeased by the chaos, he roars, “STOP!” Everyone freezes, waiting to see what he’ll do next. He steps over the heap of panting combatants as he heads to the keg. “Bunch of lunk heads at it again.” He glowers at Cupid unsympathetically, “Oh, quit your groaning, Cue ball. Try growing a pair.”

 

It’s under control, Nick,” Donder assures him, letting Cupid go. “They’re just bucks.”

 

His boss exchanges meaningful looks with the shift supervisor. “Ok.” Clearing his throat, he surveys the room with steely blue eyes. “Paula, my list please.”

 

The comely elf scurries over, handing him a scroll with a solicitous smile. “Of course, Nick. Is there anything else you need?

 

Just your good will,” he replies, stroking her blonde head. “You look so pretty as Miss December,” he comments, pointing to the calendar.

 

Vixen snorts.

Solo Christmas

 

That Thing People Notice About You

December 11, 2014

There’s always something about you that makes an impression. If you have sufficient amounts of whatever it is, people often feel compelled to tell you about it. If it’s negative, they comment to others. What’s that thing for you? On the positive end of the spectrum, it could be your looks, sense of humor, the way you make others feel good about themselves, your affability, your leadership skills, your intellect. On the negative it might be the fact that you’re a control freak or are weird about money; maybe you have no social skills or you glom onto people or are so intense about whatever it is that you leave no room for others to breathe (well, not you, of course). Maybe you have a terrible temper or have a noticeable tendency to disappear when things get tough.

 

You’re not alone.

 

Of course, it’s always easier to appreciate the pluses and diagnose the negatives for others than doing so for ourselves. Despite the fact that we may, at least in theory, recognize what we do right and wrong, we have little in the way of genuine understanding when it comes to how impactful our behaviors are on those around us. And, to develop this point a bit further, it’s even harder for us to concede when we take a positive characteristic too far and in the wrong direction.

 

Take me for instance. Now, I expect that having read my blog, it becomes pretty clear that I have a definite opinion on most matters. I express myself clearly. This is part and parcel of my particular personality. However, it is these exact same qualities that have gotten me into trouble from time to time. Over the years, it has (ah hem) come to my attention that, perhaps, neither I, nor the situation at hand, is well served by my expressing my opinion in so direct and clear a manner. Perhaps it would be best if I not expressed my opinion at all. I repeatedly forget how intense I can be. I don’t appreciate that this forcefulness can be too much for others. I neglect to notice that many folks want a spoonful of sugar with their medicine.

 

See how that works?

 

The tempering of how we utilize our strengths (and our weaknesses) is an ongoing responsibility of being a mature adult. It’s why counting to ten before we speak, employing humor whenever possible, reminding ourselves that how we deliver a message is nearly as important as the message itself, and asking ourselves if what we want to say is truly helpful to those involved are all techniques we can employ when leveraging our strengths to best effect.

 

So, what are your strengths? Do you ever express them poorly? Do you even realize that you do this? What has it cost you?

 

Ok, so now that you’re fully sobered as to the risks associated with your positive qualities, I want to turn the tables on you. Think about something that people favorably comment on about yourself. Not your looks, not anything like that, but some behavioral characteristic, something you do or something about the way you are. For instance, you’re calm in a crisis, you’re friendly, your make others laugh, you’re a great mentor, you’re always there when the chips are down–that sort of thing. Whatever “it” is, I am here to tell you that people only comment on it because it makes a big difference to them. You doing whatever “it” is has had a powerful, positive impact on others. Pay attention to this because you are doing something important. Feel good about what they say and let it in! Trust that they’re telling you the truth.

 

If you’re anything like me, you may be afraid to believe compliments. You may diminish whatever it is for which people praise you, but I’m telling ya—they’re not blowing smoke! Let their adulation wash over you. Let the weight of their words settle onto your heart…

Compliments

 

 

What’s In That Special Sauce?

December 9, 2014

A long time ago in a galaxy far away, when I had a career and was lucratively employed, I spent an inordinate amount of time looking at resumes. I know a lot about how people present themselves on paper, in person, and in the eyes of others. Part of my job was to glean from such data points the “special sauce” that might make this individual a good fit for this opportunity. In every case, there was nobody who satisfied the ideal profile and several, wildly varying prospects who presented potential; but throughout the process, I would run into resistance from clients who refused to consider anyone who deviated from a pre-determined set of “acceptable” criteria, no matter how impressive their overall record.

 

Drawing from this experience, I believe that if you reflect on what you’ve observed over the course of your life, you may draw a conclusion similar to mine that, in general, most people unconsciously drift towards others like them. There are a whole host of reasons for this, of course, but (aside from the comfort of the familiar) the biggest motivation is that doing so reinforces the choices we made as good. We genuflect upon ourselves through them. “If they’re a smarty pants, then so am I! Yeah for ME!”

 

Oftentimes, we look for particular criteria as a short hand guarantee for a certain level of performance or prowess. Makes sense, right? But where people start getting lost is in the belief that there is only one acceptable path to success. They get nervous if they don’t see all the boxes checked off. I mean, how is it even possible for a square peg to accomplish the work required of a round hole, they titter, never once considering that there may just be a way. And, if you allow square pegs, what if a bunch of triangles and octagons start showing up saying they can do it, too? What happens to me, the appropriate-sized, perfectly smooth, beautiful, and well-rounded peg in such chaos?

 

Can you feel their fear?

 

Re-booting is not just about us changing and finding ways to alter our lives to better fit who we are today, but it’s also about expanding our horizons to consider, at least consider, that the foreign ways of others may be fine (or even better) in getting the job done. What happened to humility? Just because we haven’t thought of something, just because the path they’ve followed seems wacky, or their background seems, well, uh, inferior to ours doesn’t mean that it is. Time and time again, in both my personal and professional lives, I have seen Person A dismiss Person B because B didn’t behave or have the experience or perceive things the same way A did. A subsequently decides to feel insulted or compelled to derogate B simply because A cannot comprehend that things can work well any other way than how they’ve done it.

 

Do I hear any bells ringing? Any Amens? Has this happened to you? Were you ever ignored or diminished because you hadn’t checked off all the requisite boxes?

 

So, let’s turn this thing around: Have you done this to somebody else???

 

Adults are an insecure and lazy bunch, so we drift towards the familiar without even thinking about it. Many of us never consider the possibility that maybe X, Y, and Z aren’t necessary to accomplish XX, unless, of course, we’re the ones who don’t fit the mold—and then it’s easy to see how narrow minded the gate keepers are. What if your child wants to follow an unbeaten path? What if your in-laws have a very different approach to expressing affection than what you believe is respectful? What if someone wants to work for your organization but they lack the “right” diploma? What then? Is it so impossible to imagine they could excel?

 

A re-booter remembers that the “special sauce” may come from a recipe that we never imagined, using ingredients we’ve never knew existed. We’re not the only chefs in the kitchen…

Chefs

 

How Do You Walk Away?

December 4, 2014

As re-booters, we have come to understand that life changes all the time; the sand continually shifts beneath our feet. This is simply part and parcel of life and requires that we be fleet of foot. Of course, there are constants in the midst of continual change and for that we are grateful because they provide compass stars. We are able to orient ourselves (at least somewhat) on the basis of these steady elements in our lives.

 

But, sometimes, these constants change. These things or people we have grown to rely on, change, too. For innumerable reasons. It is then we can get ourselves in trouble when we fight to keep these things in a “fixed” manner when they are no longer that way. We knew him as “sunny Tom,” but the years have passed and he is now “unyielding Thomas.” Why this has happened, we can only suspect, but more often than not, we won’t get an explanation for it. We’ll never fully understand. But sunny Tom has faded away…

 

Trying to recapture a person or situation who is no longer in evidence is a misguided exercise. If you’re anything like me, hope can feed you for a long, long, long time but we often base hope on things that have nothing to do with reality. And, what makes it harder, we base our hopes on fantasy projections of other’s behavior that we will never control. We can’t control how they think about us today. We can’t control what their motivations or concerns are. We can’t do anything other than deal with who they are with us today.

 

Is the person you’re thinking of, how they behave right now, somebody you would choose if you first met them today?

 

For me, that’s a painful question because more often than not, I am inclined to answer, “not so much.” And I say this knowing how much I cared for these people in the past—and admire them today. A person can still be a good person, a career can still be lucrative, and no longer be right for us–or we for them.

 

Letting go of old ideas and preconceptions of who people are is tough. We can still like so much about them, but they aren’t who we thought they are, aren’t who we hoped they would be. Investing in a relationship where you hope they’ll change is a fruitless pursuit, and I say that as someone who’s passionately pursued that golden ring more than once.

 

Who is someone in your life who is no longer the person they were? Who, at this point, is no longer a source of comfort or support to you?

 

All of this is painful for me to write because I consider myself to be one of the most loyal people around. But, I’ve also seen what a waste of time and how painful it is to be Don Quixote running around chasing phantom windmills.

 

Acceptance of how things are versus pinning hopes on how things were or how they might be again is a lesson of supreme importance for re-booters. But, it isn’t all grim! Remember, such acceptance makes us more fully present in our lives today, helps lessen the level of frustration or disappointment we may otherwise incur, and makes room for new experiences, new professions, new people who are better suited to who we are today to enter our lives.

 

It’s ok to walk away. Doing so frees them up, as well as yourself.

 

Quixote

 

 

 

Stay in the Game, Kid

December 2, 2014

One of the things I love about winter days is how dramatic everything looks when sunlight pierces banks of dark grey clouds scurrying across the sky. The way the light illuminates shards of landscape differs from what we see in the summer. Luxuriating in such pockets of unexpected warmth when, all around me, winds blow through trees stripped bare of their leaves is a special pleasure, reminding me that not everything about winter is hopeless. There are reasons to keep going.

 

A few weeks ago, I had a most unusual dream where someone I barely know and who I consider ambitious to the point of being obnoxious—the very worst of those Washington creatures we see lampooned on tv—wrote me an email in which he said, “Stay in the game, kid.” Even in my dream, I recall being surprised by this message. I’ve thought about it often since then, obviously so often that I’m bothering to write about it here.

 

What is a message you’ve received in a dream that made a big impact? What did you do with that communiqué?

 

Folks are all over the map with regard to dreams, whether they have them or not, remember them or not, and put any credence in them…or not. I almost never remember my dreams, so the fact that this one was so clear cut has emboldened me to continue with my writing and not give up entirely on my formal job search, as anemic as it is. There’s a reason why I love The Little Engine That Could.

 

Often in life, we are asked to make an “illogical leap” of one sort or another. We can’t explain why we’re doing what we’re doing—we may not even understand it ourselves, but we reach a point where we become compelled to zag, leaving the zigs firmly behind. People look at us and think we’re crazy or suspect we suffer from some undiagnosed disorder, but there we go zagging away, having no clue where it will take us.

 

What comes up for you when you think about illogical leaps?

 

You may have heard about an upcoming film, The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, about the brilliant and tragic English mathematician Alan Turing. Turing was part of an extraordinary and motley team assembled at Bletchley Park that successfully broke the German’s Enigma Code. There is much to be said about this fascinating topic, but what I choose to focus on here is the connection between illogical leaps and breaking the code. Now, I don’t hold myself out as any sort of expert, but from my readings on the subject, what I discern is that the method by which the Enigma codes were set each day was a completely mechanized process—the randomness that so often accompanies how humans decide things had been removed from this process. Hitler didn’t trust people and wanted to eliminate any human influence in how the daily codes were created. And it was precisely because this arbitrary element was missing that the Bletchley team was able to crack Enigma open. Winston Churchill believed that what occurred at Bletchley shortened WWII by years, saving hundreds of thousands of lives. They kept at it, and eventually the key to the code revealed itself to them. “Stay in the game, kid. Stay in the game.”

 

My point is this: sometimes, the thing that will save us is the preference we can’t justify, the choice we can’t explain, the decision that makes no sense. You just keep trying. What happens next is anyone’s guess, but remaining rooted in a mechanized process can spell disaster.

Code breaking

 

 

 

 


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