Monthly Archives: August 2014

Running Inner Commentary

There was a noontime broadcast this week for Chicago’s current heroes – the team that won US Little League Champs, Jackie Robinson West – that reminded me of the worst trait of commentators.  Their inane blather to fill the air while we wait for the event, or the next stage of the event.  I’ve only watched Netflix or streamed shows on the computer for the past year and so I had forgotten.  But then it made me think of something else that I think is interesting.

 

There are parts of the brain that keep up a running commentary – did you remember to bring your phone, haven’t made an appointment to get your teeth cleaned yet, oops your cousin’s birthday is coming up.  This is the part of the brain that sometimes doesn’t want to cool it so you can sleep.  The part of the brain that spews your self-talk.

 

Notice how my brain commentary examples are slightly or definitely of a negative bent?  Your failings – real and potential – on a permanent loop inside your head.  Yippee.  Or how about; so busy, can’t keep up, busy, busy, busy.

 

sometimes my thoughts resemble my niece's zendoodle

sometimes my thoughts resemble my niece’s zendoodle

All of it just about as useful as the filler from those news commentators.

 

Do you ever stop and listen to these thoughts looping through your head?  Somewhere in the past few years I did start to realize how unhelpful these thoughts usually are and started to challenge them.  When the thought ‘you can’t do that’ came up I asked why not.  When they said ‘busy, busy’ I asked how productive.  And so on.

 

Not every day, but regularly enough that I think it has made a difference.  Of course sometimes I have to agree because I really do need to make that appointment for the dental cleaning and my cousin’s birthday is coming up fast.  Now if I could just get the thoughts to look up the number for the dentist and make the call.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

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Things I did Instead

I have a post that I have been working on for the past couple of days, but it isn’t ready to show yet.  I have other half done posts that aren’t even that close and time says it is up, post time is at hand.  Crap.

 

How many others have sat down to write today’s blog post and noodled on one thing until it petered out, and then fiddled with another until it seemed garbled?  How often have you stared at the screen for a little bit and thought about how you got farther today than yesterday when you didn’t even bother to open up a new post and stare at the screen?

public domain image

public domain image

 

When writing isn’t happening, eventually I stand up and wander about the house and:

  • Clean the tracks on the shower stall and the tracks on the sliding door
  • Water the indoor plants
  • Take inventory of the kitchen and bathroom for a grocery list
  • Pull out the lambswool tool and get rid of cobwebs
  • Go for a walk (and I’m even nice enough to bring my son’s dog along)
  • Collect quotes cut out from various magazines that have appealed to me and put them in the book that I keep for that purpose
  • Go through the pile of mail, flyers and papers that breed on the table
  • Ponder what to make to use up the 2 overripe bananas on the counter
  • Watch Sneakers or other dated, but still entertaining movies
  • Thought about going out to get plants for my 2 hanging baskets but then realized that wouldn’t appear to be writing in the slightest

 

And this is the post that you get today.  What do you get done when you are ‘writing’?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Rule Bound

Where do you stand on the role that rules play in life? Do rules create valid boundaries for protection of yourself, others, property?  Do rules hinder you from doing what you really want to do?  Do they offer guidelines?  Is the rule the most important thing, what the rule is meant to safeguard, or is it the spirit of the rule?  Do you think that rules should have a shelf-life, come up for periodic review?

 

I know people for whom rules are a means to an end.  The rules are to be applied or ignored in whatever fashion necessary to achieve the goal.  Perhaps sometimes just bent or loosely interpreted.  Creative thinking is liberally applied.

 

I know people for whom the rule is the ultimate.  The letter of the rule, the face of it – each rule stitched together with all of the others to provide these people with the comfort to get through all the moments of life.  No creative thinking necessary.

 

And I know plenty of people of varying stripes between these opposites.  And some who don’t seem to think much about rules one way or the other.

 

photo credit: Wikipedia

photo credit: Wikipedia

It couldn’t have been long after people started to congregate that it became clear that some sort of standard was necessary.  Rules were born.  And they can be found in nature – plants and animals have them.  Do this, don’t do that.

 

Rules serve a purpose except when there are rules for the sake of rules.  They help to create commonality and structure.  But they can and should be examined for validity.  (Old laws on the books can be very odd, and sometimes hilarious.)

 

I used to tell my boys that if they thought any of my rules didn’t make sense, they should tell me.  Along with why.  Scoffing at a rule is easy, but putting together a compelling argument why the rule should be removed or changed is important.

 

It comes down to one of my favorite questions – what is the intent?  If the intent isn’t clear, well hmmm….  But that doesn’t necessarily mean it is ok to ignore or flaunt the rule.

 

How are the bindings on the rules around you?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

There is Joy to be Found

It doesn’t seem possible for a person to get to my stage in life without experiencing dark, lonely and painful moments.  Perhaps it is possible for a small group of people with certain constitutions.  But then there are the rest of us, and for another small subset dark moments are entirely too common. They can become dark days, weeks, months and even years.

 

Like the majority of the population, my heart contracted when I heard the news about Robin Williams last week.  But I didn’t have to ask why, I knew that in that moment he just couldn’t find his way past the pain and the dark.  And I wished that I could have reached out and helped him to refocus, just enough to get through that worst moment, on some small bit of joy.  Or even just the knowledge that joy does exist and has power too.

 

There is always joy even though the cruelest aspect of dark moments is the way they work to rob a person of joy.  A pensive Robin Williams would appreciate the irony in the fact that someone who represented joy to so many wasn’t able to summon it for himself at a crucial moment.

DSC03856

I learned this lesson well the year that my father died suddenly and my husband left me the following month.  The dark loneliness was crushing.  But spring still came and brought delicate new leaves and tiny hardy flowers.  My children still laughed with their friends in the next room and the sound was a balm.

 

I have kept this lesson close in these following years as I have grappled with more trials, more dark and painful moments.  I have learned many things about this dark, this melancholy, this depression as it has been a companion for most of my life.

 

Mary Schmich, of the Chicago Tribune, wrote a thoughtful piece in which she said “Suicide is a mental health issue, not a moral failure”.  She also introduced her readers to a lovely poem called “Wait” by Galway Kinnell, which says in part:

 

Wait, for now.
Distrust everything, if you have to.
But trust the hours. Haven’t they
carried you everywhere, up to now? 
Personal events will become interesting again.

Buds that open out of season will become lovely again.
Second-hand gloves will become lovely again,
their memories are what give them
the need for other hands.

Wait.
Don’t go too early.
You’re tired. But everyone’s tired.
But no one is tired enough.
Only wait a while and listen.
Music of hair,
Music of pain,
music of looms weaving all our loves again.
Be there to hear it, it will be the only time,
most of all to hear,
the flute of your whole existence,
rehearsed by the sorrows, play itself into total exhaustion. 

He understands the dark.  And he found his own methods to find joy.  And he knows that sometimes when the dark and pain are working hardest to block out joy, the best method is just to wait and trust that the joy is strong too and will find a way to seep in and make things interesting again.  Given time.

 

Pain and dark do have power.  They are heavy to carry around and exhaust a person.  Joy is light and therefore seems inconsequential but it has power too.  Joy’s might is everywhere.  We have to be able to receive it.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Here You Go

Problem solving has been an important part of my job description for as long as I can remember.  I like to put on the detective hat and sift through things to find the parts that are important, put them together in the right configuration and arrive at a solution.  Sometimes it’s pretty straightforward to figure out and sometimes plenty about the situation is a bit ambiguous.

 

There is one thing about problem solving that got old a long time ago, but is part and parcel of the problem solver’s lot in my experience.  It is the person who makes it a habit to hand over partial information, or fragments here and there in multiple email or phone messages.  They want you to solve it, but they can’t be bothered to try to put anything together in any sort of cohesive single place.

 

public domain image

public domain image

I’ll take the person who isn’t sure what they want or need kind of problem over the person who dumps a mess every time.  Most times.  Every once in a while I use the big mess as an excuse to be left alone to puzzle it all into something coherent.  But mostly I see it as a different facet of rude.  That person’s time is more important than mine.  (Though I concede that there may be other ways of looking at it…)

 

Sigh.  Focus on the boost that I hope to get upon resolution and not on the drudgery of slogging through the junk. This is why there are stories of the really good stuff one can find hidden in junk.  Think of ways to prevent the junk dump from repeat offenders.  Get caught up in the chase for the best solution.

 

Don’t be a here you go, dump and run person.  Please.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Waiting Patiently, Part 2

Patience – endurance, fortitude, perseverance, persistence, forbearance, resignation…  Do any of us have enough of this trait in any given moment of our days?  I like this definition: ‘an ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay’.  Ah, a willingness to suppress – this implies that, if I want to, I can nurture this trait in myself.

 

Curiosity doesn’t have much patience with obstacles – it wants to know, and it wants to know right now.  Or wants to be or have or feel or experience…  Right now.

 

Having children requires a person to cultivate patience, Herculean patience in the face of unexplainable infant fury.  Empathy for their misery led me finally to patience.  It was my job to use my curiosity to understanding their needs and meet them if I could.  And soothe if I couldn’t.  Soothing requires patience.  Which comes in handy when the endless questions come, then the pushing of boundaries…

 

Gardening requires patience.  Plants grow even more slowly than children, but thankfully don’t have hours-long crying jags or want to know why.  I have one houseplant that I bought back in 1986 that is still going.  (My former mother-in-law even revived it from the mild frost-bite it got on a cross country trip.)  What will thrive, or make-do, or perish?  Why?  Patience is necessary to get these answers.

 

In our vegetable gardening this year, we are watching the tomatoes form and we are full of questions.  Impatient questions – how will they taste, when will they be ready?  Patient questions will get us there – how much sun, how much water?

DSC03854

Diligence is part of the definition of patience.  This one I understood from childhood on – because of its importance to structure and process and ritual.  Curiosity can’t really be sated without some understanding and application of methodology.  Where would I fit the new information if I didn’t have a means to categorize it in with the information that I already possess?  Diligence comes in handy to retain the information or experience that curiosity prompted.

 

Timing is an important component.  We bought the tomato plants in May, already a couple of inches tall, knowing that tomatoes wouldn’t actually be ready until sometime in August.  Now that it is August, the patience is wearing a little thin.  The ability and willingness to suppress our restlessness for our homegrown tomatoes is getting harder to apply.  But more crucial to a successful outcome.

 

There are so many places and instances where I can apply this patience I have learned, am learning.  At work, while driving, in line, when I’m out of sorts…

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

How Much ‘Summer’ in Summer?

August is upon us and the back-to-school ads have started to appear.  Gardens are about to produce tomatoes and cucumbers galore.  Leaves on trees are looking a bit tired and worn here and there after shining in their green spectrum from early pale to later deep green.  We still have a couple more months to go before the plants all go dormant for the cooler months.

 

I haven’t taken a vacation, or even devoted a whole day to summer activities, but I have vicariously enjoyed those of friends and family on Facebook and in-person telling.  And I have thought about what constitutes a summer moment so that I don’t miss them when they occur.  In early June, I wrote this piece about summer and the importance of noting this season.

 

Summer isn’t just a season, it is an idea – a representation of things to strive for like relaxation and laughter with friends and family.  It is nostalgia in a different form than what the holiday season brings forth.  The sound of children laughing in early evening brings me back to those moments in long ago yards playing tag or chasing fireflies with a group of other kids.  The joy of still being up and out in the dark when we would normally have been tucked into bed.

 

Enjoying the idea of summer in adulthood takes effort, a deliberateness that wasn’t necessary in childhood.  First we have to be conscious that this effort is even required.  Summer was spontaneous in our younger years and we might expect this to continue, we might feel discontent when it does not.

 

For several years in the transition from child to adult, I didn’t think about summer much at all.  Perhaps because I was busy figuring out what being an adult meant for me.  Perhaps because I was doing this figuring out in California, where the seasons are subtle and mostly all have the feel of summer.  It wasn’t until my children were old enough to have a summer break in school, and summers had the same rhythm they had in my childhood that I started to think about what makes summer.

 

Then I was divorced with two boys and a full time job and I had to make sure they had a summer while basically foregoing one for myself.  Or so I thought because I thought of summer as long stretches of unscheduled time to explore and enjoy.

DSC03845

Now summer comes in moments, sips, or bursts.  And I enjoy them.

  • Time on a patio with family or friends
  • The hummingbird that visits the Rose of Sharon in the corner of my yard
  • Watching the tomato plants grow and tomatoes form
  • The firefly that hovered in front of the dog and I on a late evening walk
  • The dragonfly that reluctantly posed for this picture
  • The little boy gleefully whizzing by on his bike
  • The sound of lawn mowers while I still laze in bed on a weekend
  • Thunderstorms clearing the humidity from the air

 

How much summer is in your summer so far?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

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