Dogs Love to Play

I turned 54 recently and my dog Jack, 14; that translates to 72 in human years. I am grateful we’ve had the last 14-years to spend together. He has brought an immense amount of joy to my life.

20170729_200806We are both growing older. Jack spends the majority of his time sleeping on the couch, rising and finding a different spot to sleep. We still go for walks but they have become briefer. Instead of inspecting the neighborhood and everything, and I mean everything in it; we cross the street where he does his business and returns home. Gone are the days where he would sit outside with me while I read or completed therapy notes on the laptop. He does remain excited about the “walk around the house” Sunday morning when we retrieve the morning paper.

It is a sad thought that at some point he will no longer greet me at the door with his nub tail wagging but we will all reach that point in our lives. Death is one thing which we will all encounter. What we are unaware of the when.

I have learned so much from Jack. He has been an amazing teacher. Like so many moments which take place every day, there are those pearls of wisdom to be gleaned from the sea of life. Too many of us choose not to take the opportunity to see them as lessons.

Jack has taught me and then reminded me of the importance of “taking it easy” and gratitude for the things which I have

Life has a tendency to slow down as we get older. The things which we once saw as being on the list of “need to do” are often relegated to “maybe.” We begin to review our priorities seeing what is truly important and what no longer matters or matters as much. As a therapist, I feel sad for the individuals I see on a  regular basis both in my practice and simply traveling through life who don’t take the opportunity to slow down and reflect. We use this excuse “I don’t have any time” too much. We’re all busy but are we actually accomplishing anything or are we just busy?

One of the greatest gifts we have received in life is time and since we don’t ever know what our expiration date is, it behooves us to take every day and the see the beauty which it beholds. This morning as I was making coffee and getting ready to leave for work, my wife in the shower and my daughter had left already, I heard my grandson say, “Play with me Popi.” He was sitting at his little table and chair playing with his play-doh. I poured my coffee into a thermos and took a seat next to him playing make-believe with his play-doh. This ranks as high for me as sitting outside the other night watching the Notre Dame game with my son while enjoying a cigar.

Make sure you make time for those things in your life which are truly important. You’ll regret it if you don’t and no one likes regrets. Oh yeah, don’t blame others for the time you feel you don’t have and the time you don’t take for yourself.

 

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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

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

Anonymity & being Anonymous

I woke this morning with a heart full of gratitude for so many things. Today I feel gratitude for having the time at my job to take off and enjoy this beautiful summer weather we have been experiencing.

I woke this morning ready to start my day.

I was aware yesterday the NYS Office of Mental Health would be in the office today to review our program. Been there and done that. It doesn’t mean what it did in my career 20-years ago. It’s important, don’t get me wrong but I’m not in that top position anymore and I have to say, I enjoy not being in that position.

They came they saw and they reviewed. Today they’re in the office during which I spend the majority of my time and I’m off today. My boss is more than capable of managing what needs to be done, so the little bit of guilt which I have has been pushed to the side.

I was watching the Tour de France last night and I received a call from my dad asking if I was off Friday. I lied and said I wasn’t and he asked, “I thought you said you were off the next three Fridays?” I knew what was coming and I was right. I’ll be heading there sometime Saturday to “fix the computer.” Unfortunately, my dad is 79 and he often touches things he should never touch. I asked him what was wrong with his computer and he said: “there was a paper jam and when I tried to fix it a spring popped out.” Now we all know there aren’t any springs in a computer. Did I forget to mention my dad’s memory is beginning to fade and I am watching him become more and more confused. It’s sad. There are three kids and I am the only one who is ever called on for assistance. It’s not that I mind but there’s that anonymous thing again.

I thought about being anonymous. What a joy I think that would be. Not that guy in the mask anonymous but anonymous as in no one knows I’m there. No one knows I’m around. No one knows I exist. I want to do the job I enjoy and fade away into the quiet solitude of the night. My friend Henry Thoreau had quite a bit to say about solitude as did his counterparts John Muir and Ralph Waldo Emerson. One of the things I really enjoy about going on vacation is the fact that for all intents and purposes I am anonymous; at least for a short while. U2 wrote the song “Where the streets have no name.”

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I’m done. I’m going to cut the grass with my headphone listening to some Pearl Jam and enjoying the solitude of my relative anonymity. I’m hoping you enjoy your day.

Namaste

 

What the F*^ck?!

I greet you this day with arms outstretched in gratitude. It is this gratitude which is keeping me sane right now.

I woke this morning in a good mood. I made coffee, showered and walked the dog. The sky was gray with a hint of sun sneaking through just above the horizon. The weather forecast promised more sun and as I made the drive into my office the forecast was coming true. I have a general belief that we as a race of human beings are ultimately good people. I see goodness but sometimes I need to work extra hard to see even the

I have this problem in life; I follow rules. I’m not sure why I do it (sarcasm) because it seems that the majority of the world doesn’t believe it’s important to follow the rules.

I drove to work and less than two miles from my house I noticed a tailgater. Now I’m driving the speed limit through a school zone and this moron passes me. I forgot to mention there was also a double yellow line. The hits just kept on coming. The next moron was a tailgater through a construction zone and then another moron forces me to slam on my brakes as she, whoops, did I just say she, took off out of a parking lot and cut me off almost forcing the car behind me to see what the backseat of a Honda Element is live. There was a time when I enjoyed loved getting into my car and simply driving. many times there was no specific destination in mind. I just wanted to drive. I loved the freedom of going where I wanted to go when I wanted to go, to see and experience things around me. That love, I feel has been snatched away from me, from many of us. Very few of us are mindful enough within our daily lives to ewnjoy the simplicity that life can be. Instead we complicate things with our ouwn special brand of self-importance.

This is a piece I found from Waylon Lewis.

“I am sad because this world seems to be full of ‘wisdom’ that tells us to reject ourselves, to be something other, something better. I am sad because our culture demands palm oil, plastic, speed, sex…without regard for compassion, for love, for justice. 
  
I am sad because we have heard all this before, and our reaction is to escape, to relax into depression instead of relaxing into cheerfulness, into doing something about it. I am sad because ‘People watch Netflix more than they hang out with their friends, exercise, and read—combined.’ But, yet, I am heartened because community still matters. I have so many friends who show up and speak with passion, yet kindness. I am heartened because I—tired and defeated as I am, sometimes—will rise again tomorrow, and greet the day, and work hard again. I am heartened because there is so much kindness, and gentleness, and honesty, in so many corners of this world where greed and environmental aggression have not yet made their way. 
 
I am heartened because of you. You who care enough to read, and contemplate, and learn, and write, and share, and lead lives of mindful bravery. Good luck out there, sweethearts!” ~ Waylon Lewis 

This life that we all have been granted an opportunity to live can be an amazingly beautiful thing if we would simply choose to slow down and actually “live” this life.

whatmakes people

Namaste

Thoughts of a Thinker

I greet you with arms outstretched in gratitude on this beautiful morning.

I completed my first post surgical walk today. That’s not to say That I haven’t been walking, but there’s a huge difference between “going for a walk” with purpose and getting up from my desk or my couch. It is good to be back in this space. I know and have long ago accepted the fact that my running may not ever be what it once was. I have also accepted there will be a great deal of effort and time devoted to my progress.

I think when I walk. I think when I run. I do my best problem solving when I am by myself with the world relatively shut off. Thinking is one of the attributes of exercise which I enjoy. In his book “Walden”, Thoreau wrote, “A man thinking or working will always be alone, let him be where he will.”

This time alone with the birds is an opportunity for me to problem solve, long before the rest of the world becomes awake. The noise at this early hour is acceptable. I can hear the birds calling to each other. Time passes and I am allowed this brief interlude of solitude before the pace of the day begins to quicken and the time for thinking, at least for me, has gone. Now my thoughts are on autopilot. Being on autopilot is also a dangerous place for me to reside. It is necessary for me to check in frequently throughout the day and ensure I do not lose my way. When I need that time, I close the door to my office and take a few minutes before the next client enters to reflect. I also use my lunch hour to ensure I have even more time to remove the metaphorical batteries, place them back on the charger and ensure I have the emotional energy to traverse the remainder of the day.

Thoughts from this morning’s walk; which planet is visible in the southern sky? It’s Saturn by the way. Why do my healed incisions itch, especially the one on the inside of my knee? Why are my ears ringing this morning yet they didn’t ring at all yesterday? Why did the driver of that car feel it was important to run the red light? Where are they going this morning? Why do they believe they are more important than the rest of us who obey the laws? Why is Dunkin Donuts Closed at 5 AM? Why do they not open and allow their customers to travel 50 yards down the street to visit one of their competitors?  Surely Thoreau did not have to worry or think even in a more mild fashion about some of these topics. but think he did.

Thoreau was born in 1817. I believe that his thoughts today would not be to different from those he might have today. Thoreau, when he wrote his essay “Civil Disobedience” spoke of the importance of individualism. Thoreau expressed a belief in the power and what he referred to as an “obligation” of the individual to determine right from wrong independent of the dictates of society. Thoreau said, “any man more right than his neighbors, constitutes a majority of one.”

It is this belief which I share with Thoreau and reinforces my need for solitude.

Namaste

April 1, 2017

I stand before you with arms outstretched in gratitude.

It’s Saturday, April 1st. Well, that’s when I first began to write this article.

The first quarter of the new year has come to an end. I enjoy looking back over the last quarter to see what I’ve accomplished during this time frame. As a social worker the regulations which I must follow necessitate that a clients treatment plan be assessed every 90-days. I usually reassess a client’s progress at least once more during that time frame. This is also a practice I have adopted within my own life.

Goals are fairly simple things to identify if we allow ourselves that courtesy.  Whether it’s writing a treatment plan with a client or writing my own in my journal, I use the acronym SMART. SMART stands for Specific (simple, sensible & significant), Measurable (meaningful, motivating), Achievement (agreeable, attainable), & Relevant (reasonable, realistic, & results based). If goals aren’t written in a similar fashion, it’s questionable if they’re really goals. If they’re not goals, they’re probably dreams and if they’re dreams, it’s not likely we’ll achieve them. Dreams make us feel good and help us get through some difficult periods of time. Dreams are great things to have but if they stay dreams and re never converted to goals, they become useless. When this happens we can begin to feel that we have not been successful in our attempts to achieve whatever we have set out to achieve. Dreams can become goals, successful goals with the right planning.

In developing goals, we also need to have a clear understanding of the difference between needs and wants. Needs are the things we must have in order to live while wants are dreams. “I want a Ferrari” is a great goal but not a realistic one if I am employed as a social worker and have a mortgage and family to support. Goals such as these can spell disaster in other ways. I often hear people say how “depressed” they are because they cannot afford to make a purchase. That’s not depression. Sure there may be some small amount of sadness connected to this goal, this desire; but this is why it becomes so important to make sure the goals we define are in fact realistic goals.

Do you have the tools?

In developing goals, we also need to ask ourselves if we have the support and the tools we need to achieve our goals. Support comes in many forms such as financial and emotional. Emotional support can be found in the people in our lives with whom we have entrusted some support and within ourselves in the form of resilience. Support also comes in the form of financial. Do we have the financial means to achieve our goals?

It’s like this; I want to purchase a car. Is it a new car or a used car? What type of car? What is the cost of the car? What are the payments for the car? Do I have/make enough money to pay for the car, gas, maintenance, insurance, etc.? Through this assessment we go back to the drawing board and make the necessary adjustments so we have a better chance at success or sit back and complain about how bad your life is. How nothing ever works out for you. How the entire world is against you. Maintain this level of negativity and you are assured to continue to be unsuccessful in whatever you set out to achieve.

Goals are useless things if they’re not realistic if we don’t accept ownership for our part in their success. Conversely, we need to stop and assess our progress from time to time. If we don’t stop every once in a while to assess their completion, well then, we’re more than likely to fail. If you’re like most people you’ll blame others for your failure. This is a pretty common concept in society. I look at my schedule and my to-do list every morning. I ask a quick question. “Is this goal realistic to be completed today? Do I have the time and the resources necessary to complete the goal? If those answers are all “yes”, it remains in my schedule. At the end of the day, I assess what was completed. If a goal was not completed I ask the same set of questions plus “Was it a realistic goal? Is it still a relevant goal and if so when can I reschedule it for completion?” I look at my to-do list several other times throughout the day and do “mini-assessments” which include the above questions. On a larger note, I look at my week’s schedule every Sunday night and then assess my weekly to-do list. I ask the same set of questions and make the necessary adjustments. In my day-to-day journaling, I use Stephen Covey’s Decision Making Matrix which basically encompasses all of the above questions and provides a remarkably simple visual tool to help use ensure success in our goal setting. Remember, like any other tool, if we don’t use it regularly and make adjustments along the way, it won’t be successful.

Image result for covey decision making matrix

Lastly, you need to ask yourself what your investment is in any goals which you set. They’re your goals. Set them, monitor them and don’t allow other people to stand in your way of achieving them. There is a commitment to this process, to accepting we may not like certain things in our life and acceptance of the fact that we don’t like in which direction our life is going. Accept those things and make the necessary changes/adjustments and move on. You’ll find your life improving.

Namaste