It’s sad

I do my best…every single day. Some days are more difficult than others but still I reach for my smile and ensure it is firmly affixed. Sometimes, that smile, loosely attached, loses its grip and falls off between my bed and the shower. I realize by my quiet that this has happened. As soon as I recognize its absence, I begin to sing or hum and the smile returns.

 
I grew up with a father diagnosed with Polio. I recall from a young age the limp which accompanied him throughout his day. At the time I did not know what it was or why it was there. It was part of my dad and I love him. As far as I was concerned it was another part of him to love.
 
I took my share of lumps in the school yard because of that limp. I look back and like my dad am thankful for that limp. He always told me that limp was a gift. He had learned from his father to never allow anyone to tell him what he could and could not do. He used that limp as a constant reminder that life is difficult and full of challenges. Challenges are made to be overcome; at least that’s what he told me. I have learned this is true.
 
That advice has served me well these many years. I feel lucky to have grown up with a father with such a point of view. Sure, we didn’t do the things that most boys did with their dad’s, like throwing a ball around. My dad struggled to do those things and as I grew older I recall him apologizing for what he could not do. I always told him “It’s alright.” I know today throwing a ball around was not something that was important. Mt dad gave me a far more important gift; the gift of introspection and love. Like most, this was a gift that I did not realize was a gift until many years later. It is also a gift which has served me well in my marriage (26-years), my two children (Marissa 24 & Stephen 20), and in my career as a social worker since 1985.
 
I have recently spoken with several individuals who attitude has been “poor” to say the very least. I have found it to be blaming, condescending and most troubling, laughing at those less fortunate. I confronted the tone first with a disbelieving facial expression. This response was not met well nor was the response to my direct verbal confrontation. I have learned to accept, as difficult as it has been to accept not everyone perceives these situations in the same fashion as I do. I am forced to remind myself I grew up with the understanding these behaviors were not acceptable and as a result I do not treat others in such a manner.
 
As Thich Nhat Hahn says, “I smile, breathe and go slowly.” In the space between each breath I recall this poem by the same Zen Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hahn, “Call Me by My True Names.”
 
Call Me by My True Names

Do not say that I’ll depart tomorrow –
because even today I still arrive.

Look deeply: I arrive in every second
to be a bud on a spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with wings still fragile,
learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
in order to fear and to hope.
The rhythm of my heart is the birth and
death of all that are alive.

I am the mayfly metamorphosing 

on the surface of the river,
and I am the bird which, 
when spring comes, arrives in time to eat the mayfly.
 

I am the frog swimming happily in the clear pond,
and I am also the grass-snake who, approaching in silence,
feeds itself on the frog.

I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks,
and I am the arms merchant, 
selling deadly weapons to Uganda.

I am the twelve-year-old girl, 
refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean 
after being raped by a sea pirate,
and I am the pirate, 
my heart not yet capable of seeing and loving.

I am a member of the politburo, 
with plenty of power in my hands,
and I am the man who has to pay his “debt of blood”
to my people,
dying slowly in a forced labor camp.

My joy is like spring, 
so warm it makes flowers bloom in all walks of life.
My pain if like a river of tears, 
so full it fills the four oceans.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and laughs at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up,
and so the door of my heart can be left open,
the door of compassion.

Thich Nhat Hanh

 
As a social worker and sentient being, I practice compassion everyday. My meditation practice has taught me to be strong in the face of adversity and Mindfulness has taught me to remain in this moment. This is the gift given to me by my father and it is only right that I return this great gift by passing it on to others. If you do not wish to listen to what I say, perhaps I can be a better leader by demonstrating and sharing my gift of compassion with you.
 
Namaste
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Walking and Thinking

Walking and Thinking

Early afternoon and the blue sky, covered now and then with pillow like clouds being pushed by a breeze which reminded us that winter was recently left behind. As I walked the stone road along the edge of the lake with my dog, the temperatures in the high thirties with a windchill pushing it down into the low thirties causes me to grit my teeth and be thankful I carried gloves with me.

I walked the stone road until I reached the bend in the lake. I sat on the edge of a smooth granite slab, my legs dangling over the edge, feet almost touching the water. Jack, my dog walked to the edge and sat beside me. The slab warmed by the sun. I watched as fish rose from time to time and the breeze blowing gently across the water’s surface causing small ripples.

This time of year, on this side of the lake few others venture allowing me the solitude which I sought. I became restless after a few minutes, thoughts racing around in my head. I unzipped my backpack and retrieved my journal and fountain pen. I began to write about the activities of the week which had just ended. The double bombing Monday morning at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, the explosion at the factory outside Waco, Texas and the activities on Friday which saw one of the alleged bombers killed and the other taken into custody.

As a social worker and also as one who cherishes his sanity and the solitude which he creates around him; I found myself not paying much attention directly to those actions, but they remained in my thoughts. Why would someone do such a thing? This is a particular thought which I allow to come and go, never allowing it to spend much time in the forefront of my thoughts because I know anxiety and poor sleep will not be far behind.

It is times such as these that I turn to my long deceased friends Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, John Borroughs and Ralph Waldo Emerson to help me make sense of such things. They are of little direct help other than to remind me that there are some things in life for which logical sense will never be made. Instead I turn my tangled web of thoughts to those things which I can understand; nature. The solitude and solace provided by nature begins the process of untangling those thoughts. Here things are much simpler, as they should be. Henry thought a walk spoiled when he couldn’t out-pace the town and its news and when his mid was not successful shedding that news and those thoughts.

I began to think of my walk as spoiled so I retreat further into the solace and solitude brought to me by my walk in nature. I focused my breath and with shaky hand wrote and wrote; thoughts streaming forth as if from a faucet left on. Here amidst the pine trees and the rippling water I can breathe again. My breath comes easier, more rhythmic. Here my tangle of thoughts continues to unwind.

After a short time my thinking becomes increasingly clear. I can hear the chirping of nearby birds and the ripple of the water as the breeze, now more noticeable continues to disturb the once placid surface of the pond.

The walk has done its job. My thoughts, slowed to a snail’s pace are now clear. I acknowledge there is no sense to be made of this past weeks events and it is better to leave them where they began. I cap my fountain pen, close my journal and cinch the cord tight around the smooth leather binding. I sit for a few more minutes and decide it is time to go. Jack and I make the return walk to our car; my heart and head lighter from this walk.

It is humbling to know these thoughts will return again. It is comforting to know I have the woods in which to walk to help make sense of what I can to lighten my load.

Namaste

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