Time

I greet you with hands clasped together in gratitude for being given another opportunity to grace this earth. For being able to take another breath and enjoy the things in my life which brings a smile to my face. For my eyes and being allowed to see my beautiful wife, children and grandchildren and whatever else graces my view throughout the day.

I have spent quite a bit of time in thought thinking about how I spent this past Sunday. I was on call for Crisis Services. Despite this and my usual Pavlovian response as I nervously wait for my phone to ring; I decided to relax and spend the day the way I wanted to spend it. When I’m on-call I make no concrete plans because a call can come in at any time. As I grow older I see less and less value in filling each day with concrete plans. There are things which need to be done, tasks which need to be completed. Those will get done for there is little which needs to get done at that moment. I found the world will not cease turning if something is left undone.

Jack and I rose and we went for our usual Sunday morning walk. Before returning to the inside of the house, we perched ourselves on the front porch and based in the solitude of the morning. There is, for me no other time of day which brings so much joy. The morning paper was where it is normally tossed by the delivery read and the CBS Sunday Morning News was watched. There remained two cups of coffee in my thermos. I chose to take those outside and sit. To simply sit.

The morning paper was where it is normally tossed by the delivery person. It sat protected in its orange cocoon protecting it from the elements which may have otherwise disturbed my ability to read its contents with some modicum of joy. Jack watched as I ground beans for my morning coffee. As his eyesight fails at his age of 15-years, his eyes grow cloudy with cataracts, he thinks he is going to be fed again. I allow him to smell the freshly ground beans. he takes a quick sniff and turns his head away in obvious disgust as he realizes this treat is not for him. read and the CBS Sunday Morning News was watched. There remained two cups of coffee in my thermos. I chose to take those outside and sit. To simply sit. I have this new coffee an Instagram friend suggested I try. Don’t tell my friends at Death Wish coffee, but I really enjoy this smooth taste. All of the information if you’d like to find them on the Internet and give them a try is right on the bag.

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For those of us who reside in the year 2017, sitting and doing nothing is difficult. We all know this and many of agree using one of the excuses which make every hair stand on end; “I just don’t have the time!” First of all, this is Bullshit!!!! We have nothing but time. It is all in how we choose to spend the time we have. So, when done correctly, the ability to sit and do nothing productive, is, in fact, a momentous achievement. There are some people who see me doing nothing as defined in their terms because whatever activity in which I am engaging does not fit their definition of productivity. These are the people who would disagree with me. That’s too bad because I find reading, lying in my hammock, playing with my grandson, writing, smoking a cigar and drinking a couple fingers of a good whiskey are being productive.

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In the past, I had struggled with sitting quietly alone. I felt like I need to be in perpetual motion. It seems as though the minute I sit my brain begins to wander. My eyes also wander. I begin to see things around the house which may or may not require my attention. Most certainly those things do not require my attention at that time. My son joined me. We both noted it had taken him 4 hours to clean his car inside and out. It’s not that the car was that dirty, it’s that he stopped several times, sat and we talked.

I have a salve for my spirit. It comes in the form of silence, of solitude. When I am physically able to run, it comes in the solitude which I feel during a run and which accompanies my spirit for some time after the run has concluded. It also comes in the form of reading, journaling and smoking a good cigar. My entire professional life I have found myself chained to a calendar and a clock. Questions abound such as “Do I have enough time to do this or that?” These things have resulted in a perpetual feeling of anxiety; of being on-edge. When I apply the salve, which ever one I have chosen, the grip which anxiety has had on me begins to weaken. The difficulty arises when I do not apply the salve as often as is recommended. When I neglect an application, I feel out of place. My mind wanders and guilt, self-imposed guilt reenters or should I say I allow it to reenter. I regret now not doing more in my work life to disrupt that configuration.

Try it sometime. You might actually become addicted to “not doing anything productive.”

namaste

Fifty-plus

As I write this entry, my arms are outreached in gratitude for what I have seen, experienced and accomplished and for those accomplishments to come.

I sat across from my wife at dinner, I thought for a minute and said, “I like being over 50.” She looked at me and asked me what I meant. This August, the 28th to be precise, I will be exactly four years removed from the age of fifty.

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As I get older, I’m caring less and less about what people think of me. Of course, I still seek approval and validation to a certain extent. I don’t think that will ever go away, especially in this world we live in. I have traveled way too far down this road we call life to think about turning back now. Feeling regret, embarrassment, and anger while wondering if I did or said the right thing causes more stress and more anxiety. there is no time in my life for such time-wasters. I now fill my time with the things which make me happy. the other night I sat outside with my 25-y.o. son who miraculously still wants to spend time with me. We had an amazing conversation about our respective careers, disappointments, and life in general.

As I grow older, I find myself enjoying life more. I find myself having more energy for those things for which I feel a great deal of gratitude and for the beliefs, activities, etc. Which I have identified as “time wasters”, I have removed many of these things from my life. I continue to have little use for drama and chaos and spend a great deal of time

As I have spent some time thinking of this subject I became more interested and developed an interest in what some of the great thinkers have had on this topic. As always, I find myself returning to the journals and writings of thinkers such as Thoreau, Emerson, and Whitman.

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Karl De Schweinitz in his 1924 “Guide to the Art of Living” said, “Living has yet to be generally recognized as one of the arts” and as with any art, mastery at it is only accomplished through hours of deliberate practice.

I found there is a strange thing which happens once we stop giving a fuck. I tell people I’m happy because I don’t give a fuck and they judge me and look down their noses at me. I gave a fuck for a lot of years and it got me tired, stressed, anxious and on medication to help manage the anxiety. I won’t refer to anxiety like so many others by saying “My anxiety” because it’s not mine. I didn’t walk into any store, pick anxiety from the shelf, pay for it and walk out of the store with it. It’s not mine! I don’t want it! I noticed the more I stopped giving a fuck, the more I liked myself; the happier I was. hell, I can’t do anything about 99% of the crap we all make a conscious decision to worry about anyway. So why put the energy into worrying and give it more power than it deserves. If you don’t like the way I live my life, I don’t give a fuck! Go ahead and judge. Let me know how happy that makes you and I’ll let you know how happy I am.

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I am grateful for the guides, the mentors from whom I have had an opportunity to share life experiences and learn new, different ways of doing things. Walt Whitman said, “Life doesn’t give you the people you want, it gives you the people you need: To love you, To hate you, To make you, To break you, and to make you the person you were meant to be.” So many of us become so easily hung up on the belief that Whitman’s quote should read the opposite. Many of us believe we should have the people we want in our lives. What we want does not equate to what we need. In short, it is important to ask ourselves about our life goals and then to ask if we have the resources to attain these goals. My kids, years earlier laughed at the few number of friends which I had. I, on the other hand never had a problem with the small number of people who were lucky enough to make it onto and remain for some time on my friend list. In order to make the cut, you need to make sure you have some value to me. I would also hope I have some value in your life. This is not to say that I use people, but that I do not have time for those people who will seek to thieve energy from me and leave me drained and without a thought in my own head. As Thoreau once said, I wish to live my life deliberately.”

I am thankful for these gifts, for the happiness in my life and for the people who helped me reach this destination.

Namaste

 

I woke with my alarm this morning. Five AM. One of my favorite times of the day. I love and live for the solitude that this time of day brings.

I have been waiting for this day for some time. With it came some fear. I could taste it like bile in the back of my throat. you know that feeling you get when you think you might throw up. I wondered if history would repeat itself. Regardless, I got my ass out of bed and accepted the challenge before me.

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I also have a healthy level of denial about my age. I’ll be 54 on August 28th. I am thankful that I don’t feel my age and have to be reminded from time to time of my age. The reminder comes in the form of aches and pains from over doing it that I didn’t have at half my age. It’s a good reminder because it keeps from pushing farther than my body is capable and thus avoiding injury. As a result of the injury, I hadn’t run since April 6th. That’s a lie. I hadn’t run since July 15th of 2016. The original pain started the day before yet I pushed through it. Instead of stopping and taking a week off, I pushed through it and returned for more the next day. When I returned home after completing a 10-miler on the 15th, I sat on my porch feeling pretty happy there was no pain. Then I got up and heard a pop in my knee. The pop was followed by pain and a tremendously difficult time even bearing weight let alone walking.

It serves me right. I had been pushing myself through runs. the thought of getting up to run was even painful although this pain being emotional in nature was easier to deny. As time passed the pain also lessened. I thought I was healing and after repeated attempts to return to running even short distances, pain followed.

I sucked it up and scheduled an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon. The diagnosis was a torn meniscus. I pushed for surgery because his original treatment plan was unacceptable. I was not going to stop running. I was not ready to stop running. Surgery followed as did my first attempt, foolishly at running within one month.

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One year has passed since I ran any distance with the exception of after my grandson or up a flight of stairs. I ran or rather walk/ran this morning. To my surprise, there was no pain. Even better, the love that I had and had lost had also returned. it feels good to be on the path to recovery.

Namaste

I stood and walked toward my office door. I lingered for a second before gently pressing it closed. I heard the gratifying click signifying it would not open under its own power. I returned to my desk, removed my glasses, placed my head into my hands and vigorously rubbed my forehead. The left side of my head humming with pain. Rubbing my forehead briefly allowed the pain to go away knowing it would not return until I left the office. That time would come but not soon enough.

I sit at my desk and my back remains fixed toward the large windows which adorn my office. I am happy to have windows but on this day, not being able to see the sunshine might have been a better option.

The phone rings and I am made aware my next patient awaits. I stand and walk toward the window and see my Vespa through the window. For a split second I am lost in thought; daydreaming about the ride home which will be the most relaxing part of my day. Before I leave to usher my patient to my office, I call one of our nurses and ask for another “cocktail”, the medication which I know will help this throbbing headache go away and will allow me to hobble through the rest of the day.
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After my patient leaves, I begin to think about this session. I realized I have not consistently done the things which I have asked him to do in his recovery. I open my journal to reveal I have not written in it since June 20th. I felt like I had nothing to say; obviously, that wasn’t the case. My meditation cushion has been obscured from view, lying under a pile of opened but unread magazine and newspaper articles. I reached for one of my fountain pens only to find out the ink has dried from lack of use. The pen needs to be cleaned before it can be re-inked. I sigh and walk to the bathroom to clean the pen. As I am flushing out the old, dried ink; I become mindful of my need to flush out these same thoughts which are keeping me tied down. I have allowed myself to dry up and become unusable.

I re-inked the pen, my favorite; a Visconti Homo Sapiens with a nib which writes unbelievably smoothly. I touched the nib to the absorbent paper of my journal and watch as the ink and the words the ink has become, fill the page. Thoughts and feelings are pouring out of me like a water faucet which has been turned on high. I stop momentarily, in disbelief as I previously thought there was nothing there to come out. The clog has been removed. Thoughts and feelings begin to flow again, unimpeded.

Namaste

Summer paddle

I slipped the bow of my kayak into the glass smooth water. I quickly followed the boat and rejoiced as I felt the kayak free itself from shore and it began to freely float. I settled myself into the cockpit, gently stretching the spray skirt around the cockpit combing.
I reached behind me with my paddle and gently pushed the boat into deeper water. The memory of the paddle stroke quickly returned as did a smile on my face. The bow of the boat gently sliced through the water leaving a gentle wake in my path. The lack of even the slightest breeze leaving the surface of the water as smooth as glass.
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I paddled along the shore examining the wondrous nature laid out before me. The wake left by my boat finally reached shore and gently lapped at the rocks along the shoreline.
The sun, finally making its first appearance above the horizon began to warm my face. I knew at this hour I would have the entire waterway to myself.
As I rounded a bend in the canal, my boat bumped gently into the trunk of a small tree which had fallen and slipped into the depths.  A pair of ducks paddled silently in the other direction.
As I paddled into a more populated area the sounds of barking dogs began to fill the air. Several ran along the shore their stride matching my paddle stroke. When they tired of the chase they returned to their human companions. Flocks of Canadian geese took off from the water circled overhead and glided silently just feet above the water, passing within arms reach of me. This beauty caused me to cease paddling and simply be in that moment.
I reached my destination and began to paddle toward the put-in. Everything that I had seen on the first passing coming to life again as the sun found itself higher in the sky, shadows lengthening, a new perspective coming to light.
Namaste

The walk

I rose, my legs needing to move; feeling restless. I could not stand to sit any longer. I walked to the picture window, parted the drapes and watched as the sun began to slowly inch its way toward the horizon. I asked her if she wanted to go for a walk. She said “Yes.” We reached for our jackets and met at the car.

We drove silently for the Niagara River and the river walk which snakes its way along the contours of the river’s edge.

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We walked, hand in hand. Words were not exchanged; none were needed. I felt the pressure on my hand increasing as she gently squeezed it. I gently squeezed back. this was all that needed to be said. We walked the path, the setting sun warming our shoulders. It would be dark soon. I stopped and she took two more steps before our hands strained at the pressure. She stopped and looked at me. She smiled and asked, “What?” I said nothing as I pulled her to me, held her by the hips and kissed her on the forehead. I pulled back slightly and gazed into her smiling eyes. Every care in the world melted away in those few moments. The world could have collapsed around us and it would not have mattered. We were together and that was all that mattered.

Namaste

Pavlov on-call

I’m sure most everyone knows who Ivan Pavlov was. If you don’t recall the name or perhaps have never heard the name, certainly you recall the experiment he did with dogs. The experiment is often and simply known as “Pavlov’s dogs.” During the 1890s Russian physiologist, Ivan Pavlov was looking at salivation in dogs in response to being fed, when he noticed that his dogs would begin to salivate whenever he entered the room, even when he was not bringing them food.

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As a designee on the crisis services team with which I work, I am required to be on call one week approximately every other month. The on call time period begins at 5 PM Friday and goes through 9 AM the following Monday. It then continues throughout the week at 5 PM and expires the next morning at 9 AM. The last day is Friday at 9 AM.

During this time period, I become one of Pavlov’s dogs. Every time my cell phone rings, I am overcome by a sense of dread. I am afraid to look at the caller ID. Minimally it is a response to one of the phone aides and at its most involved It involves me going into the community to meet with the person who made the call to Crisis Services. This means the thought of making any plans become tainted by the thought that “I have to be anywhere in the county within 30-45-minutes.” Dinner in a restaurant is out. If we attend a family gathering I need to drive separately from my family. Movies in a theatre are out of the question. The other day as I was walking into a store with my daughter and grandson to purchase a bike for him, my phone rang. Before I even pulled it from my pocket, the thought of “Oh Fuck!” crossed my mind. After pulling the phone from the depths of my pocket, I tentatively looked at the screen and found it was only my son.

It’s Thursday evening and I finish this on-call tomorrow morning at 9 AM. I don’t mind the on-call but I’d be lying if I told you I’m happy to have it completed. There have been periods of time earlier in the week when there have been no calls and I have wondered if/when the phone will ring. The same will be true tonight until 9 AM tomorrow when I can breathe a sigh of relief.

What sometimes surprises me is I know all of this. As a social worker, I know about anxiety, how to respond to it proactively and what I do myself to increase anxiety. yet, like many other people, I can find myself neglecting what is important and going on autopilot. I have written about auto pilot before and while it can be a good thing, it can cause tremendous stress when we fail to look around us and keep tabs on our speed, direction, etc.

It’s that time again. I return to “on-call” status this Friday. Wish me good luck.

Namaste