Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Trail though the Forest...

One of the strategies that I am supposed to employ in my struggle with depression is to notice the little moments in life that make me smile. The idea, as I understand it, is for me to realize how many times each day I am basically happy. Hopefully it will be more than I assumed it would be and it may increase in frequency as I return to the things that lighten my mood.
I have always known that I do not enjoy a sense of accomplishment when a project is done, but it now seems that I get something positive from the process of getting to the end product. Don’t get me wrong, if I am building a fence on our property I DO NOT enjoy digging postholes, rather I get more from the planning and doing than from saying, “Hey look at the fence I built.”
Maybe a better analogy would be going on a hike. Like most of us, I enjoy the hike more than finishing the trail, but I carry that over into other endeavors. I like the process more than the achievement. When my friend and I plan a trip somewhere I feel the road trip is as fulfilling as the destination.

Maybe that is the point of religion maybe leading a moral life is its own reward with or without the promise of a paradise in the afterlife, maybe…

In my career I have lamented that I rarely, if ever, make a lasting difference especially for the students I serve. Instead of wanting to improve their situation perhaps I should seek my comfort in the day to day process of getting through the day keeping my students and co-workers safe.

So as I muddle through life I am more likely to enjoy this life if I look at it as a journey to be savored rather than a series of accomplishments on my way to the grave. To remind me of this my computer background at work is a forest path…

Friday, August 19, 2011

Words Left Unsaid

One of the truths about most people is that they often leave things unsaid. Some of those things are hurtful and should be left unsaid even if they are true. Many though are not hurtful and are left unsaid because of political correctness (a plague IMHO) or because they will lead uncomfortable moments. And still others are not shared because we think/hope that those close to us already know how we feel. I once heard the question/challenge, “If you were going to die tonight what would you regret having not said?…why haven’t you said it?”

Recently I had a health scare (for me) that required a routine (for the Doctor) medical procedure. I will say that the results of that procedure look promising, but we still have to wait 7-10 days before we are sure. This procedure required that I be anesthetized and that carries with it an inherent danger, they even make you sign paperwork stating that you understand the risk. Knowing this I took time the day before the procedure to write letters to those closest to me. As we drove to the hospital I told my wife where to find these letters, just in case. Now that I have come through this “routine” procedure, my wife feels that I should go ahead and send those letters out and I agree. So I will be mailing those soon, I promise.

“The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone.”
~Harriet Beecher Stowe~

p.s. If you don’t get a letter from me it doesn’t mean you aren’t important to me…maybe I plan to tell you in person.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Dangers of Vacationing

We all know that today’s lifestyle is hectic and overstressed for most Americans and that vacations are supposed to relieve that pressure, but what if vacations add their own twist to that stress? Su, Alex, and I recently took a whirlwind tour of some National parks in the west. And some of what we found may have backfired on the whole “relax” idea.

Our roadtrip was for 14 days total driving through Roswell, NM on to Flagstaff, AZ for a few days. Then we avoided the wildfires and drove to Madera, CA where we stayed a few days. From there we drove to Moab, UT and then on to Colorado Springs, CO for the last days of our trip. We saw the Sun Spot, NM Grand Canyon, Lowell Observatory, Sunset Volcano, Sequoia National Park, Yosemite, Arches National park, Wolves, Cliff Dwellings, Garden of the Gods, and Pike’s Peak. We called it endurance vacationing. (See “Travel Log” on my facebook page.)

There were times we were so tired and sore that we didn’t want to do anything, but sleep.

This week on ABC World News with Diane Sawyer there was a news piece about successful vacationing. It seems that shorter more frequent trips are more beneficial to the human psyche. It was also suggested that you do not plan your trip to end the day before returning to work, instead come back a day or two earlier and relax at home before returning to the mundane grind from which you were seeking escape. The reporter also found out that vacation where we are up and moving, active, tend to build more positive feelings than holidays where we sit and soak up the sun.

The stress was there but it fades like all stress eventually. What is sticking with me is the feeling that maybe I am in the wrong place (I’ve said that before, but hey she was cute with tattoos). Born and reared in Texas I have a certain pride in my state, but maybe I wasn’t meant for Texas. When I walked among the cloud covered Sequoias, in the cool damp mountains I felt a stillness, a peace, I had not known before. Maybe that is where I was meant to be. I will go back some day hopefully many times and try to recapture that feeling…vacationing can make us long for what we never knew was there.

““Remember what Bilbo used to say: It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.””

Sunday, February 20, 2011

My Cult

Today I watched “Inside a Cult” on the History Channel as I ate breakfast and later while vacuuming I thought about what my own cult would be like…

Instead of using the shamrock to show the Holy Trinity like St. Patrick did, I would use a pizza to show the symmetry of the divine. A pizza is a perfect circle perhaps representing the circle of life full of nourishment for the body. When this pizza is shared with friends it nourishes the soul with laughter and fellowship. The many ingredients represent the myriad of choices we face every day in life, each bringing a new flavor to the pizza as a choice brings new sensations to our lives.

Many religions limit our choices to good and evil, but so many choices in life are neutral. I personally dislike Bar-B-Que chicken pizza, I do not believe that BBQ sauce is a flavor that belongs on a pizza and yet I know several people who really like BBQ chicken pizza. Are they evil? No, they just wish to experience something different than I wish to experience. Pizza can come is so many forms including: savory, sweet/dessert, meatlover’s, vegetarian, deep-dish, ultra thin, stuffed crust, rocket hot, and cold next day. Whether you like pineapple, Canadian bacon, and mushrooms on your pizza or Italian sausage, onions, and olives you are still sharing in the circle of life and partaking of nourishment, body and soul, with friends. And the very next meal your choices could change thereby changing your experience.

Perhaps Big Lou’s Pizza in San Antonio could be something akin to a pilgrimage seeking a profound life changing experience by ordering the 42 inch pizza.

Then in my cult we would also examine Ben Franklin’s quote, “Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” As we drank this living proof we would again explore the many neutral choices in life represented in beer choices. Do you prefer Bock, Pilsner, Hefeweizan, Lager, or Ale? In the Bible bread is called the staff of life, if we were to examine beer we would find it is little more than liquid bread. I believe the Egyptians used beer as a means of preserving wheat.

Then by partaking of beer one possible progression would be that women would dance naked about a campfire which is, to me, one of the most intoxicatingly beautiful things in the world.

So in my cult our bodies are well nourished by pizza and beer, our spirits are nourished by the sharing of said pizza and beer and the laughter of friends, and on occasion we may be treated to one of the most wonderful sights in the known world…the female form by firelight.

So who wants to join my cult as I muddle through life?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

It has been a month since I have allowed myself time to sit and write. As is true for every one life has not stood still in that amount of time. So allow me to catch you up to where I am at this point of Muddling through Life.

On December, 10th our beautiful Great Dane, Jetta, was laid to rest. On December, 23rd my sore knee was re-diagnosed from a possible ligament or tendon tear to a broken femur and I was ordered into a brace and to non- weight bearing for 4 weeks. This situation has given me the much needed chance to take a break from working 72 hours a week between the 2 jobs. On December, 29th I began counseling therapy and medication for depression or dysthymia. And amid all this chaos I am continuing my endeavors to reconnect to those people from throughout the years that have been a positive influence on me.

While floundering through existence I find myself still looking for a purpose or meaning to life. I know I have written about the possibility that there is not a purpose to it all and some of us merely exist to support others. And yet I find myself still searching.
Is it possible that life has meaning simply because it exists…I am therefore I matter?
How can we take an ordinary life and make it useful if not for us then for others…a life of service. I recently heard the statement, “A life of service, there is no higher calling.” Do I believe this? I don’t know, but my believing does not make it true or false. I’m beginning to flounder again.

What has meaning in your life? Is it career or family? Could it be our interpersonal interactions? The smile you show to a stranger you pass in the hall? If I have a meaning or purpose in life it would have to be in those interactions with others, my family, my co-workers, and those I call friends.
It is where I feel the happiest and where I feel I matter.

Now how do I take that and make a life of it?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Another year...

2010 was not a great year for me and I am kind of glad to see it go.

In 2010 there was a change in my job situation, the money was better, but the students were not. So while I am earning more…I am defiantly EARNing more. I do not feel that I can make any sort of a positive impact for these students and I have a very strong lack of respect for the campus I am currently working on (there are, of course, exceptions to the lack of respect). I am still working the two jobs for a total of seven days/72 hours a week, no improvement there.

All in all the family is doing well. Susan, Alex, RJ(nephew), and mom are all in good health. They all seem to be fairly happy with what is going on for them.
Susan is coming to the end of her Master’s Degree in Psychology (Thesis to be defended by Dec 2011), Alex is 3 semesters away from his Bachelor’s Degrees (double Majors Math/Physics), and RJ is working for Texas State and solidifying his position here in San Marcos. That just leaves mom, she is 84 and seems to be doing fairly well. She is living alone, which bothers me, but she is adamant about staying independent as long as she can.

This year was a bit of an emotional rollercoaster ride for me. I lost 2 pets, Snoopy, the Rooster and Jetta, the Great Dane.
Snoopy was our longest living rooster and somewhat of a celebrity in my newsletters and his death was a tragedy brought about by shortsightedness and procrastination resulting in the death of the wrong rooster…I was at fault.
Jetta’s death left the whole family feeling a bit empty. Her kidneys began to shutdown and a week of medication was unable to bring about any improvement so she was put down 12/10/10 here at home. In addition to those losses I suffered a personal injury (broken leg) which took time to identify and has left me unable to work for now.

The positives for this year include that I have worked on rebuilding an important friendship, I have begun therapy (although I have little faith in psychotherapy), I enjoy my co-workers, Diablo has made it to 12 years of age, and our chickens are laying 9 to 12 eggs a day.
While these may not seem like real personal victories they are none-the-less positive.

So as I muddle through life I will not look back on 2010 with much fondness. Instead I will accept that another year of playing the common man so that the greatness of others would stand out in contrast has passed and I am a year closer to my inevitable end, whatever that may be.