Sunday, November 25, 2007

Be Gentle With Yourself

Be Gentle with yourself and others....

This is so obvious, but it comes across in a "duh" moment this morning more than I can say. I will admit that I have been pushing myself through life and not necessarily taking good care of myself, and being self destructive in some ways, many ways.

So, I am reflecting on breaking things and thinking a little differently about that:

A recent clogged drain found me attacking the problem boldly: I thought I was doing well, because I hate plumbing, and yet find myself thinking this is a chore I should be willing to at least try to tackle before I call a plumber. So, plunger, snake and drain cleaner in hand, I could not unclog the drain. I stupidly tried a wire and poked a hole in the bottom of the drain trap. Dummy! The next morning, I woke up and thought: "I can loosen the trap, and fix the drain problem." Well, the first nut loosened easily, but the second did not turn at all: What turned instead was the entire pipe: it broke off near the wall. Well, this is an old house with old brittle plumbing...What did I expect?

Since the sink was in the spare bathroom, I just left it be until the day after Thanksgiving, which was a day off from my employment. I really did not think that I would find a plumber open, but what the heck. The first one I called was open, much to my surprise. About an hour and a half later, he showed up. He even put little paper booties on his feet so he did not track mud and slush in the house from the wet outside. He quickly replaced the drain, discovered it was not the trap that caused the clog, and snaked out the clog. That was great, and he gave me the senior discount on my bill, besides. What did I learn from this? Among other things, I am reminded that having the right skills and the right tools makes many things easy to do. And, I do not always have the right skill or tools.

Yesterday, while multi-tasking, talking on the phone with a friend, I was rolling the TV around as I often do. More than once, I have tipped the TV, but caught it. Not last night: Amazingly, the TV continued playing, and had missed landing on the stack of CDs I had put on the floor. The color was off. My friend suggested buttons on the remote, and I got out the instruction manual for the TV. It suggested, when the color was off, shutting off the TV and unplugging it for 30 minutes. That did not work, but I did not mind watching black and white TV. I realized, this morning, part of the reason I did not mind is that I watch a LOT of History Channel, and they show a lot of old black and white footage. I realized that, after having the TV unplugged overnight, and having the color restored this morning when I turned the TV back on. To the History Channel.. And, started watching black and white history footage interspersed with now color restored footage. The TV is working, with a slight ghost on one side of the screen. (I have not tried the DVD or VCR.) A reminder to me to be more gentle.

My thinking about having a possibly broken TV was interesting: I still have the 13 inch black and white TV I purchased in 1978, after working for a year on a stipend, as a volunteer for Catholic Family Service. Although my salary was very small, I felt rich compared, and appreciated being able to purchase and watch the television very much. The other TV I own was purchased in 1988. And I still appreciate it. So, my thinking includes that I have certainly gotten my money's worth out of televisions, and in the grand cosmic scheme of things, if this one was broken, or if it does not last very long, having been so damaged, so be it. But that shows, also a change in my thinking over the years: Have I been able to advance my thinking to be less concerned about material things or am I just enough financially comfortable to be less concerned about if the television breaks. To be honest, it is the latter. I have been blessed with comfortable (not extravagant but not poverty level) financial circumstances.

So paying for a plumber and replacing a television are not what I was planning to spend money on this month, but so be it, I can afford to do it..... Lesson not learned.

This morning, trying to get a coffee cup off the top shelf of the cupboard, where I store spare porcelain cups, I was neither being gentle nor careful, and I jarred loose a cup from an incomplete set that I rarely use. No big loss: but the message is clear: I have be more careful with myself, with my possessions, my relationships, my life. I need to be more gentle with my world, and not ride so roughshod through life, not caring how I impact others. Not caring that the self destructive practices of my life do impact negatively on the lives others, not caring that even though I have plenty, I need to steward what I have, and to share more. Lesson heeded, can I put it into practice?

This morning, when I signed on to blog, I did something I do not normally do, and clicked on to an unknown blog "Attitude of Gratitude." The name intrigued me. The writings are about gratitude, and about someone who is working on sobriety, and has been for some time. Lesson heeded, can I put it into practice?

I know I need to take better care of my life: tend to chores at hand, be more mindful, steward my self, my body, my resources, my relationships. Spend less time twiddling life away, take more time being a better person. I can do that.... Lesson heeded, can I put it into practice?

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A Moment in Time

I do not know why this thought came to me today, but it was with me when I awoke this morning. It occurs to me that when we meet someone, sometimes we meet them as they are, at a moment in time, and that really does not reflect who they are as a person in sum total....

It is true that our life experiences shape us into being who we are, but we do not always project those experiences in our moment. That is one of the many reasons that first impressions are so dangerous and unhelpful in terms of who people are, and in terms of defining what our relationships should be.

I am thinking of having met someone who was later in his life: he seemed well settled, well established in his life. As time went by and I learned more about his background, I realized that just a few years previous to our meeting, his life had been upended, and he was really just still starting over when I met him. That was obvious to the other people I knew, who knew him, and who introduced this person to me, but I came to learn that about him over time... And to realize the person I knew was very different from the person others, who had known him longer, knew.

Recently, I spent a weekend visiting a friend and her husband. This friend had, since I met her some ten years ago, gone through some very major life changes. Visiting with her, her life seemed very settled. Yet her story, and that of her current husband, is full of starting over. He had to start over, forced by not one, but two tornadoes, which destroyed most of his worldly belongings. Yet, he did, and he built new relationships along the way, while keeping relationships from the past. What a wonderful lesson to learn about life. His life today is very different than the one he might have expected, hearing the story of his past. My friend has been through the turmoil of difficult relationships with children, two other marriages, struggling to find herself when she was so lost and literally suffocating in a failed relationship. The lesson from both their lives is the "attitude of gratitude" with which they live, and how it projects into their lives. The moment in time of knowing them does not reflect their struggles negatively. It projects, instead, their attitude of blessing with which they live life, and is truly a reflection of their faith.

I recently had the opportunity to have a chance meeting with a co-worker, someone I have chanced upon, from time to time, outside of work. His current work is a "before retirement" career which is very different from what he has done in his earlier life: He has a professional degree, worked in that career, has his own business, and now, has the government job and career. Knowing him at work projects a different person than the one he really is. Getting to know him a little outside of work results in a very different picture. I work at a prison, and this is a lesson I learn, over and over again, as I learn about many of the correctional officers with whom I work. Many have good educational backgrounds, and have moved into work as correctional officers for the retirement benefits their previous careers did not offer. This chance meeting with the co-worker is not the first time I have learned this about a correctional officer. But it is a lesson about which I need to be reminded, over and over.

When we meet someone, what does that moment in time reflect about who we are?