Tag Archives: Reflection

Pursuing Ideas

I have trouble getting my mind to quiet down.  Tick, tick, tick it goes – all the time.  Sometimes it is a gibberish jumble and other times laser focused on a single topic.  I think that is part and parcel of writing since writing begins with the formulation of an idea.

 

What makes a person a writer is the compulsion to write, to put that idea on paper (virtual or real) and pursue it, build it, launch it, nurture its growth.  Sometimes that idea that started out as a tangle of gibberish becomes a viable, wonderful thing.  And sometimes that laser clear idea collapses into useless mush.  For now.  (I don’t fully discard any post that I’ve started, it might have a seed for a future idea.)

 

Walking and driving distances are great for mulling ideas but lousy for capturing them.  I now try to remember to keep a recording device in the car on long trips, and can find myself chanting a couple of sentences when hurrying home from an amble.

more Jisco West

Waking up slowly is also fertile idea time.  My mind likes to tell me the things it has been pondering while asleep if I let it.

 

Sometimes repetitive tasks can bring forth a good thought or two that have been wandering in the back of my mind while my hands are busy.  It can be annoying when the thought gels in the morning when I’m getting ready for work so all I can do is jot it down on my way out the door.  And hope that I can pick it back up at the end of the day.

 

I like the discipline of posting regularly as a bit of pressure to complete an idea.  Although there are periods when too many ideas don’t pan out.  And nothing that I have previously completed appeals to me at the moment when I should post to meet my self-imposed deadline.  Sometimes my post meets the writer’s version of software developer’s minimum viable product.  And sometimes a post that I felt came together quite well is received with a thud or echoing silence.

 

What the writer writes isn’t always what the reader perceives.

 

Or maybe I am overthinking.  What is the right amount of thinking on any one topic, idea or issue?  My hat is off to the person who gets the answer to that one right more often than not.

 

Now that I am rounding up in a couple of months to completion of my second year blogging, I have been thinking about objectives.  (Different pursuit of ideas.)  My first objective was to set up a blog and see if I could sustain it past the average of 4 months.  Counting my first blog, I have certainly met that objective.  Then I thought a year was a fine goal.  Met, check.

 

As I became more familiar with the blogosphere, I realized that I wanted to find a community of bloggers, and I have managed to find or be found by others with similar interests.  Not quite a community since there is little cohesion beyond the fact that we are all blogging on WordPress.

 

Not being content with blogging for the sake of blogging, I have been wrestling with the open question of ‘now what?’.  I don’t have an answer for myself.  I will keep pursuing ideas to blog about while I pursue this larger idea.

 

Any suggestions?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Just a Little Reward

I was puttering in the kitchen and thinking about what I should write.  I have bits of ideas tucked here and jotted down there, but it was too much to go and find them to see if any appealed right now.  I happen to be working my way through left overs, which often seems to fall to me because my son prefers to make new creations.  (I kind of remember enjoying creating new flavors in the kitchen myself once upon a time.)

 

Mostly I don’t mind left overs and I really hate waste.  My reusable sandwich bag was a topic at lunch today among my coworkers.  (How easily it can be washed and how I wash it.)  But it can quickly become something I have to do if my son doesn’t join in and eat some too, particularly if he has made a batch of something way too large for us to eat in a couple of sittings.

 

One of my son's most recent creations.

One of my son’s most recent creations.

These led to thoughts of how we reward ourselves, if we reward ourselves and whether or not we should reward ourselves.  I happen to be reading a book that is set in the Middle Ages and this is making me think about how we are rewarded just by living in this century and not back then.  But I should just use modern context.

 

It is in my nature to use some sort of carrot to get myself to do something I don’t want to do.  For instance I can watch an episode of a show that I like after I make a call that I don’t want to make.  I don’t think of that as a reward, per se, but more of a prompt.  Delayed gratification.

 

My favorite reward for getting through a work week is the moment that I can turn off the alarm on Friday night, followed by extra time reading, a fine night’s sleep and then the luxury of waking up slowly and having a leisurely mug of tea Saturday morning.  Heaven.

 

My rewards might seem small to some, or decadent to others.  But the beauty of rewards are that they should be personal.  How do you reward yourself?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

The Passage of Time, Accumulation of Dates

Weeks ago I called my eye doctor’s office for an appointment.  I wanted the first morning appointment, which was more important than the day.  I was given Thursday the 11th and I accepted.  The date gave me pause as I wrote it in my calendar.  I participate in a group that meets on the 2nd and 4th Thursdays of the month so we met last night and as I prepared the agenda prior to last night’s meeting, and wrote the date, I paused again.

 

We accumulate dates that have personal meaning and broader social meaning.  Some are good – births and weddings – some less so – deaths and other endings.  It is hard to live a life and not accumulate dates, whether you acknowledge them or not.  A few can make a generation shudder, close their eyes and review the sights of the original moment when the date became etched.  Dates rarely carry meaning past a generation or two except as something obscure to memorize for a history test.

 

I’ve been to Gettysburg twice in my life so far.  The first time as a child whose father studied the Civil War era and passed on his interest in history.  The second I was there alone, as a stop on a trip to see family in Philadelphia.  I happened to come in to town on the same route that the Confederate soldiers had taken on a hot July day in 1863.  I was there on a hot August day almost 150 years later but the area retained an aura of the momentous occurrences of those 3 days in July that shaped our country.

 

I felt the need to try to express to those who never moved on from those quiet fields that we had learned something from their sacrifice.

 

Division monuments, photo credit Wikipedia

Gettysburg Division monuments, photo credit Wikipedia

This past summer we have been reminded that the hundredth anniversary of several significant moments of WWI have occurred.  This series of events that gave shape to a fair portion of our modern world, but is fusty and musty to most.  My thoughts turn to what we have learned from those events.

 

And the date that resonates for this generation, 9/11.  Although I overheard a father saying yesterday, with dismay, that his child was born in 2005 and had such different points of reference.   I didn’t personally know anyone who died that day.  If I know anyone who was somehow directly affected by those events on that blue sky, no cloud Tuesday, they haven’t mentioned it.  But it is a date that gives us all pause.

 

I ask my usual question, what have I learned?  How do you pause?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Now Resume Our Regular Life, Already in Progress

Do broadcast networks still say that?  It used to be when they had breaking news that they would cut into regular broadcasting to inform their viewership of that news and then tell us that they ‘now resume our regular programming, already in progress’.  I heard it often enough that the phrase echoes for me sometimes.

 

Last week I apparently tempted Fate when I wrote this piece.  (Although Fate may want to take a refresher course in reading comprehension – I was empathizing with people dealing with anything outside the norm of their regular lives.)  Fate is nothing if not capricious and possessing a strong sense of the absurd.  Not that anything truly awful happened to me, not last week anyway, but plenty of little and middle sized things were piling up to keep me just off balance from routine.  Mostly things at work.

 

Friday afternoon we looked out the windows of the office and noticed it was ominous, like deep twilight, and then the rain came along.  This has been such a regular occurrence in recent time that we got back to work.  This time my son called to ask me if it had rained heavily and I said it had.  He hadn’t experienced heavy rain where he had been, but was surprised to find trees and branches down all around our neighborhood and our power out.

 

I could see that the storm had been more intense as I drove north toward home after work.  More leaf and branch litter in the roads, and then I started to come across traffic lights without power.  (FYI treat them like a 4-way stop, please.)  And roads blocked by police cars.  Oh, my.  Now I could see big branches down and large wounds on trees.

 

I have 2 large cottonwoods in the front yard and 3 large maples in the back along with some smaller trees (plus 2 done-for ash trees).  I love my trees, but at moments like this, I cringe a bit.  But my son hadn’t mentioned any significant damage to our house and yard.

 

these will become firewood (taken through the screen because the mosquitoes are viscous)

these will become firewood (taken through the screen because the mosquitoes are viscous)

Our power was still out when I arrived, which is somewhat unusual.  We have been pretty lucky that it is rarely out more than an hour or two.  Thankfully I have a gas water heater and a gas stove… That has electronic ignition.  We can light the burners for the stove top, but no oven.  Don’t open the refrigerator too often and wait it out.  We did go out to eat, partly out of curiosity to see the damage.  And felt pangs of jealousy for all those who had power.

 

We played some Yahtzee by the light of lanterns and talked, then went to bed early as earlier generations often did before electricity.  Hoping that the power would be back over night.

 

The power wasn’t restored until around 5 am on Sunday.  Saturday became a struggle to maintain modern life.  My son’s phone had died, he needed to print something before work that evening, we could no longer access our internet because the back-up battery had died, the computer’s battery was running low and most ominous of all the fridge was warming up.

 

Have I mentioned before that my father was a professional Boy Scout for 33 years?  We figured out short term solutions to each problem, and it started to look like we were camping out in our own home.  My sister, bless her, has a generator that we got set up by Saturday evening and started the process to cool the fridge back down.  My son’s various finds like work lights and extension cords came in handy.

 

When the power came back on I had been in a deep sleep in a pitch black room.  Suddenly the small red glow from my bedside clock seemed like klieg lights and I had to chuckle at myself a bit how quickly I went from grateful to grumbly.

 

Electricity flows into our houses and we pay the monthly bills without thinking about how much more comfortable our lives are because of it.  My son kept trying to turn on light switches.  I kept forgetting to grab the lantern when I moved from room to room.  Thankfully it was a beautiful day in the high 70s, but when we got warm we wanted a fan…

 

I really needed a restful weekend so I could hit the reset button for this week at work.  At least I got a fairly normal Sunday.  I’ve had plenty of personal lessons in resilience, this was just the latest.  ‘Normal’ life resumed, for now.

 

(Disclaimer to Fate: I’m just telling a story here, I read an article on electricity in India, where it is not yet widespread or terribly reliable.  I get it, there is always someone doing better and always someone doing worse.)

 

© 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

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

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