Saturday, July 25, 2009

Enjoying Life

I'm a bit rushed these days, but I'm trying to maintain a post per week here. Many doctor appointments, as health has suffered another setback. Not only do I have little strokes happening once more, but a scan shows some little bleeding in my brain. The combination of blood clots forming one place and bleeding in another makes treatment options something of a challenge.

Life is full of challenges. Somebody told me that getting old sucks, but it beats the alternative. I disagree. Getting old does not suck. Even with all of the challenges that it presents, I love being old. I get a kick out of being an "old guy." I worked hard to get here and I'm enjoying every single day of it.

I look in the mirror and I'm not surprised by what I see. I see an old guy. I see a guy that looks a lot like my father. Well, that's pretty natural, and I could do worse. The older he got, the more he enjoyed life. Me too.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Purpose of Relationship

When entering into a relationship, I would suggest that we should ask ourselves a question, “What is the purpose of this relationship? What role is it going to play in my life?” If the answer has to do with meeting needs or creating our own happiness, then some second thoughts about relationship might be in order.

Picture yourself at the center of a set of concentric circles. Let each circle represent a level of your “community;” of that which “is” but is not “self.” What constitutes each circle will vary for each of us, but for most the inner one is the spouse or significant other. The next might be the birth family, or a support group. The next the community and then, working outward, the city, the nation, the environment… Surrounding everything is that “power greater than myself” which guides and provides the strength for daily life.

In the process, then, of “turning outward from self, toward others and toward God” my sense of self embraces all of that diagram so that I am no longer the center of it; all of it is part of me, all of it connects me to God and is part of my guidance and strength.

What role, then, does that relationship fulfill, sitting there as it does as the inner circle in my diagram? Or, if I have already made that happy turn, what role is that relationship going to play when I place there into my life?

If I am focused on what the relationship is doing for me, then wants and needs become confused, my view becomes clouded by unmet expectations and the role of that relationship in my life becomes an inward one and it is blocking me from the rest of my diagram. In my focus on the relationship’s contribution to my happiness or perceived needs I am creating an environment in which the relationship actually makes me smaller.

As I mentioned earlier in the approach to profession, when I see the relationship as an opportunity to contribute to something larger than myself, then its role is an outward one in my life and that relationship becomes a bridge to a larger me and a bridge to God. And in the process my needs get met and my happiness is abundantly increased; not by the relationship alone or by my efforts, but by the relationship and by the larger environment to which the relationship connects me.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Unmet Expectations

There is a saying that the benefit derived from an endeavor will be proportional to the amount of energy or effort that one puts into the endeavor. That saying is applied to life itself, to relationships, to business enterprises, to learning opportunities… You name it.

I have no argument with that saying, except that it rather encourages a focus on the benefit to be derived. It sort of fosters a “what’s in this for me” way of thinking, albeit counterbalanced by a sense of responsibility to produce the effort required to garner the desired benefit.

Still, there is the Prayer of Saint Francis approach to life that leads to a peacefulness of a life free of unmet expectations. When one is focused not on the benefit to be derived from an endeavor, but rather on the reward of being able to contribute to that endeavor, then the endeavor itself becomes the reward, not by what it contributes to me, but simply by its existence. As such it cannot “let me down” because I am not measuring its delivery, I am but recognizing its being. I derive my reward simply by being a part of that endeavor.

Certainly when I practice my profession I derive from that an income which is my sustenance, the payment which provides for my needs. That is a reasonable and necessary expectation, and few professions fail to provide for that. What a profession may fail to provide is for “wants” which masquerade as “needs;” a better car, a new house, more or fancier clothing.

When I focus on the practice of my profession in terms of what I can contribute to it then my needs will be met and I will be at peace. When I focus on what my profession is giving to me I am at great risk of confusing wants and needs, of creating expectations that remain unmet and disrupting my sense of peace.

And the only thing that changed was the direction of my focus.