Posts Tagged ‘randy hasper’

I pushed back the overgrown hedge, chopped at the tangle of old growth, peered in and, “What’s that?”

It’s interesting isn’t it, how the past lurks and shuffles, and twines into the present?

Underneath the overgrown lantana and rampant morning glory hedge was a forgotten thing, planted years earlier, suppressed and neglected but still alive — a gorgeous purple-and-dark-green-leafed Japanese honeysuckle. Lovely! 

It was still there, underneath all those covering plants, its white and purple blooms hanging out of the back of the hedge like a girl’s slip. I’m glad I found it. Next week, I’ll dig it up and replant it below one of the new redwood trellis in the backyard. It will thrive in beauty there.

It’s so interesting. The past just keeps showing up, sometimes pretty and charming — like a lost vine — sometimes ugly, like a past, ruined relationship. 

I woke this morning slightly tormented by something someone hadn’t done for me recently, something I had expected would be done, something that would have been loving, appropriate, pro forma and also classy. 

I couldn’t shake it. 

It’s interesting how the past hangs on, like an old vine, planted in previous seasons. 

This morning i pulled up an old irrigation system in my yard, cut the soft black tubing into pieces and put it in the garbage bin. Previously, I had tired to patched it. That didn’t work — too many breaks and holes and old repairs. So I replaced the entire line. Much better. 

Sometimes it’s best to chop up the past, and toss it out, and start all over. 

I find this kind of sorting of the past to be a constant issue for me, to shed it, to toss it,  and build a new present, or to bring it with me, to bring my past with me and replant it  in a new place in the present. 

But the relationships of the past are not like the things of the past. They won’t be tossed,  like an old irrigation system. Our people remain with us. They won’t be tossed; they persistently remain.  

I have one particular past relationship that was ruined by jealousy and competition. I find that it won’t be fixed, and it won’t be tossed and I can’t forget it, the harm of it, the devastation.

I find that we are who we have known, and we are to some extent, what we have done with other people, and this can’t be undone, and so we bring them along with us wherever we go. Old water tubing can be dug out, and forgotten. Old relationships can’t.

But here is the thing. Every person we have ever known has mostly likely both added to and subtract from our our relational acumen, our relational knowledge. Some have harmed, some done good. But if we so choose, we can learn from each past relationship, learn what to do, or learn what not to do, ever again. 

We are our people, the people we have known, our enemies, our friends, our family, our acquaintances, our ghosts. We can  gain from the gains they brought to us, and we can gain from the losses they brought to us too. We can take even from what they took from us. 

And here is what I know. All things work together for good for those who take the past in their hands, who hold it gently to themselves and who love. For those who cover everything in love and in the forgiveness love brings us, for those who replant every thing in love, for those who in some way tend to and care for all their  Japanese honeysuckles, then there is redemption and love and God.

I could see around the next corner — there was a continuous line of cars and trucks and buses moving very slowly — rush hour traffic.

I logged in on my laptop; the numbers were still greyed out. The account hadn’t yet funded — money, the ever stressful issue of money.

I sat at the long, heavy, dark board room table and looked down the line of board members on both sides as we sat bemused by the the tension between paying our employees well and providing affordable services to the underserved — decisions, decisions and more decisions.

I sat in my chair looked him in square in the eyes; he was looking me square in the eyes, and I said, “When you are with people be present, put your phone away, listen, focus on them. This is going to be something you will want to work on.” It was an evaluation, an  employee evaluation, and with it went the stress of balancing affirmation and correction.

I am stressed. I have been for a long time. All of are. Being responsible is stressful. Not being responsible is stressful. Life is stressful.

What to do?

Recover. Take time to recover.

We all need to recognize that we all need to recover, to heal, to repair, emotionally, physically, spiritually from the labor and anxiety and stress of life.

To do this park. To heal we must park ourselves; we must park ourselves in safe, beautiful, quiet spaces and we must sit with ourselves, and honor our need for rest, our old donkey’s need for rumination, for chewing, for reflection, for aloneness, for recovery.

Yesterday, I did just that. I went to the park, and parked, and sat by the lily pond, and took in some the music from the cool, longhaired musician playing an electric guitar for tips, and walked over to the art museum and ogled the Bruegel they have there, “The Parable of the Sower.”  And I sat some more.

I am learning something. After years of hard driving and achieving and succeeding, I am learning to listen to my body, to respect my body, to let my body tell me —  the amped up, productive, hard-driving, anxious, image conscious me — to settle down, and rest. 

Here is the deal. In each of us, our mind, body, spirit, and emotions are all connected and for for us to heal one is to help to heal all. Current somatic therapy emphasizes listening to our selves better, paying attention to what our bodies need, paging attention to what our bodies are speaking, what our bones and muscles and nerves and skin is telling us is needed for life, for a truly good life.  

I need to do just that.

My body is talking, all the time. Often I have failed to listen. I tell others to be present and yet often I am not present to myself. I am hungry; I deny it. I am anxious; I ignore it. I am tired. I push on.

For years my body has been saying, “Rest. Please, rest me. Please, just sit with me. Please sit with me and listen to me. Please cloister yourself away, please hide away for a time from traffic, money, decisions, evaluations and stress, and sit in gratitude for what has been done, for what is, for who you are, for the gorgeous, spectacular simplicity of being.”

I have listened; I am learning to listen better now. I am sowing. I am living within the parable of the sower. I am sowing more tranquilly —  a more robust tranquility — within my own lovely, sacred, intimate, garden borders.

I am sitting more, doing nothing more, doing nothing but recovering — which is a big something — healing from life more in a large, safe, friendly, soft, warm pile of quiet self-awareness and gratitude.

 

This week I fell — for a few days — into a negative mental loop. 

Around and around I go; where I stop — I don’t know!  It was an up-and-down and circle back around — my crazy mind. It was a rocking and rolling emotional session based on what someone else either had or had not done.  It was about expectations. 

Great!

Wheeee! 

Fun! 

Not.

What to do?

I didn’t know what to do — even with all my personal experience with my own brand of mental chaos, even with all my seasoned and supposed wisdoms and emotional acumens — I couldn’t figure it out. 

I have always found that I am — to myself — the most difficult puzzle that exists. So it is for all of us.

I did some research. 

University of Oxford Professor, Mark Williams, teaches that we can move away from negative mental loops by paying attention to our direct sensory experiences. When we focus on what we see, hear and smell — in the everyday salient and the “Oh, so very” beautiful right-now! — we leave little room for obsessive, negative intrusions.

The “Coming To Our Senses” approach has the ability to calm-water our roiling minds. It can ground us in immediate, beautiful and grateful realities.

This morning I put one of my current favorite songs on YouTube and watched and listen to a worship band worship. The simple gorgeous piano chords, those lovely lead voices, that backgrounded rhythm guitar — so orderly, so positively patterned, so soothing, so pointed toward God.  In the moment, using my eyes and ears to experience beauty, I forgot the week’s negativity and trauma.

Better.

I am better — coming-to-my senses better.

This morning, I also called my daughter. She was on a walk with her Australian Shepherd. She texted me a picture of the dog resting for a moment in some of the first spring flowers of the season. We went together on a fun, quick internet search of the name of the wild flower. It was the Scilla siberica, a beautiful ground flower with bright blue petals and lovely green, spear-shaped leaves. As we searched — and trade texted pictures — I was lost in the moment, lost in the little flower, lost in the mental curiosity for life I share with my daughter, and I was at peace with the world. 

I came to my senses! 

One more thing. 

In my morning’s research I also ran across the work of Dr. Daniel Siegel.

Psychiatrist Daniel Siegel, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine, offers what he calls, the “Name It To Tame It” remedy for negativity. The idea is that when unhelpful thought patterns and emotions overcome us, we can respond by naming the narratives we are creating and thus rob them of their power. 

Cool! 

So this morning, I named my current mental zoo. I called it my “The Expectation Loop.”  Sometime, I overly expect people to care for me. And sometimes I expect a competence from others that simply isn’t there. And sometimes I fall into fear and anxiety about what others expect back from me. Wow! The Unrealistic Expectation Loop — that’s my beautiful mess. 

And so to apply Dr. Siegel’s work, this morning I name my kind of crazy. This week I have been suffering from the “Crazy-Making Expectation Loop.”  To tame it, I name it, and I work to free myself of it. I think it through. 

If I don’t express my expectations, then I can’t expect others to meet them. If I don’t let others express their expectations of me, then I can’t fulfill them. If I have unrealistic expectations — perhaps based on my own past unmet needs — I must recognize those, and not let the past trigger my present when what is happening right now is not the same as what happened before. 

Thanks, psychiatrists, professors, you mind-experts. You help me, get sane, or more sane. 

I’m still a puzzle to myself, but with help, I am gradually beginning to understand myself,  better, and I am — just perhaps — coming to my senses. 

The morning after, yup.

The party was awesome, the coolio-gentlio were present, and some really good food, and beverages, and fun conversations encased in the buzz and soft hum of people who really like each other.

The final service — pretty awesome too, the big crowd, friends young and old, the fun speech, the roars of laughter, the wiping of tears, the loving goodbyes.

It’s the morning after I retired now, and “How do you feel?”  they want to know. So do I.

Well, “Stunned” might be the most accurate descriptive. Even for socialites like me, there is a point of systems overload.

Also, “Grateful!”

Who gets a good ending? Not everybody, an ending you get to script, one where you leave at the top of your game, one in which you leave with a legacy — and loved, that the thing, loved!

It was a rescue and a rout, on both sides, with the divine writing the story and filling in the blanks, and ranks and bankity-bank-banks — also the transformio-ations far and wide.

The morning after?

I’m tired, that will pass quickly; stunned, that will go in a day or two; grateful — that will last the rest of my life.

“You have to have a label, to get services,” I said, looking my friend in the eyes and repeating a truism I had heard years ago.

But it is true.

My daughter got services when she got labeled —  seizure disorder, brain damage, disabled, slow.

Ouch!

Deep ouch!

But this is what we tend toward when things deviate from the norm. We tend toward simplistic labels — mental illness, addiction, autism, brain damage  — and we like the labels very much, because we can pin simplistic solutions on these simplistic labels and feel like we have done something.

But simple labels don’t always well represent complex realities, and labels may lead us to apply wrong, overly simplistic solutions.

“She’s autistic.”

“He’s an addict.”

“Cancer patients tend to …”

“The low functioning  … ”

“The sexually abused  …”

“Males  … ”

“Latinos  …”

Really?

It’s that simple?

Really?

Broad labels, one-word simplifications of reality have resulted in some of the worst human behaviors on earth — racism, genderism, overly heroic and invasive medical treatment, neglect, fear, violence   — which ironically are themselves overly simplistic labels.

Take the autistic thing. It’s not simple. We refer to a person being on the autistic spectrum, thus admitting that there is a range, that there are differences within the label, within the diagnosis. But reality is much more complicated than even the ranging, reaching, inclusive idea of a spectrum.

I know a person who has been diagnosed as autistic but was also sexually abused as a child. Plus she is in a family that lacks resources, plus her siblings are disabled, plus her single mom has to work full-time. Is there a label for this?

The best we might say to even get started is, “It’s complicated!”

Yes, it is complicated. It’s complicated and a team of  helpers and specialists are needed and a complex treatment plan is needed. To help this person and their family recover and thrive, we must help them grieve, and help them understand all they are dealing with. We must team up, pray, find and learn compensating behaviors, discover social solutions, discover medical helps — really uncover all the relevant solutions in all the relevant arts and sciences.

Yes categories and labels help us to understand similarities, understand experiences we have in common,  understand kinds of realties, but too often labels short change understanding and keep us from needed, nuanced thinking.

The family with a complicated reality is in need of more than one label and more than one solution. A concerted, integrated multi-solutional effort is needed.

What are we saying?

The sciences need to cooperate with each other better. The helping professionals in various fields need to team up more.

And, as we work with people and families to try to help them — perhaps because of our own areas of specialization — we must not overly simplify their problems, or the solutions.

If we want to help, if we want to be a helping person or helping team for someone’s spiritual problems, social problems, physical problems, resource challenges and mental problems then we must open up our minds to the full and complicated contexts of their situations.

And we could do with fewer labels.

A person or family in difficulty may well need a multi-solutional response — yes to prayer or other spiritual helps, yes to recovery groups, yes to doctors, yes to therapists, yes behavioral specialists, yes to medications, yes to financial support and yes to a supportive family and community.

Complicated — it’s the solution to complicated.

I approached him in the mix of the crowd without caution, despite being aware that others were avoiding him.

I offered him my sincere compliments, then asked the obvious questions, got the somewhat negative perspectives I was expecting, filed his judgments under “that-has-merit and “I get that,” and thus and so and nevertheless — plus therefore —  the conversation went well.

With her, she approached me — as she almost always does — with a fresh complaint. I fielded it, commented on what I could do, suggested that she take some responsibility to solve the problem, noted that she didn’t pick up on that, again repeated what I would do, and thus and therefore and nonetheless, plus a bit of however, we parted. She was smiling.

People — what to do with them?

Well, you love them, but one other thing too. You approach them, talk to them, engage them with no need to get anything from them. I don’t mean the people on our everyday teams, the people we supervise, the family who supports us. Of course we have increased expectation of our close ones; of course we need them; of course there can be conflicts when they don’t come through.

But people at large, acquaintances, new folks, the people in our outer circles, those we serve, those we help, those who look to us for something — they are perhaps best engaged in a preplanned way, with us deciding ahead of time that we are full, that we are okay, and that because our tanks are full, we can and we are going to listen to and affirm them. If we have no need of their compliments nor any defensiveness about their criticisms, we can be smooth with them.

It’s this: get full. Get okay with yourself. Do this by assiduously loving yourself. Figure out how to fill your own tank, and fuel up.

This matters, because when we don’t need someone to fill our tanks, to affirm our existences, to justify our beings, then we are free to let them be and say and feel what ever it is that is in them. With no personal agendas of our own, we can field other people’s agendas somewhat objectively, remain fairly untriggered by their comments and perhaps do them the most amount of good.

Want to be smooth with people, and better with your precious ones too?

Be smooth — that is okay — with yourself.

Personally smoothed?

It’s relationally smooth.

Recently, I was asked by someone I don’t know well if I would do them a favor. It was a time-consuming and stress-inducing favor. I said, “Yes,” and my stomach tightened.

This month, my daughter has been in need of rides — at night, late —  to get home from events she has gone to. I’ve said, “Yes,” every time. “I’ll go get her,”  and when I have gotten back home after an hour and a-half of driving in traffic, I’ve often wished that I hadn’t had to do that.

Done. Cooked.

Favor fatigued.

Last week, I set up a process where I am going to help someone fund raise. Meetings are required. My own money will get involved. I’m taking a bit of a risk with this. I’m wondering how it will go.  But I want this person funded. They do a lot of good.

So it seems, on reflection that I have said, “Yes,” a lot lately to doing favors, for others, not basing this on what they have or haven’t done for me, but simply on being kind, helpful, gracious, giving.

And as the favors have complicated —  and favors do complicate, often morphing beyond the original expectation or request — I have felt the duress, the tiredness, the time-consuming, mid-stomach tightening of them.

It’s interesting.

To be gracious, to do favors, to give grace —  to do what you don’t get anything back from but instead give something up for just because someone else needs it, or asks  — it isn’t always easy.

Someone criticized me last week. I put it aside. I won’t hold it against them. I will favor them. I will give them grace. The truth can be raspy; grace quite ghastly.

Grace or giving grace or giving favor — when we think of it in Biblical, Pauline, God-given sense — is often defined as “unmerited favor,” as if it is a kind of letting someone off the hook, like saying, “Oh, it’s okay what you did that was wrong you still get a star” a sort of stepping back with a hand out, a kind of not bringing punishment, a not bringing consequences, a sort of mind-trick that badges those who didn’t earn a badge.

That is far too passive a definition.

Grace isn’t a step back, a step away, a kind of giving up on bringing consequences,  something merely in the mind, an attitude adjustment, a quick and easy hand out, a dime.  Grace is a step forward, right into the middle of mess. To give grace is to thrust oneself smack into the middle of the action — and stay there.

Grace takes guts; grace takes agency; grace take work; grace takes a type of forbearance that bears forward, that bears gift.  Graces costs — plenty.  The one receiving grace may relaxed, may feel relief, may feel suddenly special; the giver won’t necessarily. The giver of favor and favors, of grace and graciousness, that giver gives, and in doing so runs out, and doing so holds back, on doing something easier — not giving, not helping, not forgiving — in order to do something harder.

When God gave grace to us in Christ, God worked his tail off. He suffered the giving. He didn’t do what would come easiest and quickest, something like saying “Solve your own problems! You created them.” He gave up his life to give his grace.

Grace — this stuff is expensive, and yet that is precisely why it is worth giving, and receiving. Grace is akin to diamonds, gold, big bucks. Grace costs a lot, because grace does a lot.

I’m rethinking the favors I’ve committed to. I’m turning away from any feelings of being used, of wanting out. I’m committing again to just do them, to just follow through, to suck it up and put out, even when I don’t feel like it, because grace is not a feeling; it’s a behavior, an action and an agency that changes the world for good.

Of course, my being gracious to others will be hard work. Of course doing favors will involve stress. Of course forgiving will exhaust me. And of course — it will be worth it.  Grace will retain and add value — it always does; it always will — a ton of it.

Grace has often been called a work, “a work of grace,” because it is work, that changes lives.

It has and is changing mine.

One constant in life has been well noted — change. You can count on change; you can build on change; you can take change to the bank.

Everything changes.

Last year my mom died, I moved. My daughter got married. She moved. I initiated a succession plan at work — for my own position. The staff team I have spent years gathering and nurturing  —  they are moving on to new things. A lot has changed.

Change, for me, has worn several faces.

The first face of change — it’s scary. That long, looming, lonely look that Father Change throws my way is lined with fear and with anxiety and with grief.  I grieve. I’m losing something; there it goes. I’ve lost it.  What will life be like now? What will life be like without my mom? Without the house. Without work? Without my team? The water I just jumped into feels a bit cold. Did I jump, or was I thrown — a bit of both.

Life throws us as we jump.

Great.

The second face change wears is the face of curiosity, the less fearful face of “this-is-interesting, maybe-this-will-be-okay, well, fine then!”

During my move into the new zip code, the new change zone, I find that I adjust, I get used to new feelings, new realities, I ask questions, I gather information, I get excited, I make new choices, I form new relationships. I let go, I adapt. I step in.

Lately, I have been mentoring my replacement at work, the new leader, the new nonprofit CEO. I like it. I like empowering new leaders.  I always have always liked that thing where you give someone an opportunity, you bring out the best in them, and you watch them thrive.

I leave a whole string of empowered people in my wake. I like that.

And lately, and lastly, as I approach my own retirement — it’s coming with the spring this year — I find myself more reflective, more calm, quiet, kind to others, kind to myself.. I am content with what has happened, with the then and the now.  I sit in the past; I soak in the present, I grow porous toward the future. I find myself grateful — extremely grateful — for my life.

The third face of change — it has a calm, quiet contented face. Life here doesn’t feel transitional. I’ve arrived somewhere new; it’s good. I have moved from discomfort to acceptance. I am incorporating new realities into my daily life; the surrounding water is warm, the new — it is becoming the  familiar.

Did someone change the ambient temperature of my life?

No, I adjusted.

What to think of all this?

Well, again, change —  it’s certain.

It will happen again, and again and again. Change stutters.

A couple of thoughts.

When I lose — and I will lose more things ahead —  I will sit with my losses, I will feel them, I will know them and I will befriend them.

And as new things enter my life, I will communicate, communicate and then communicate — with my inner circle, with my loves, with my precious ones. I will apply the talking cure — to myself. I will talk out my feelings of discomfort. I will talk out my fears; I will talk about my excitement, and I will talk my way through my lovely changes.

And lastly, I will commit to remaining flexible, plastic, stretchable, open, exploratory, positive, curious —  fascinated!

I will change, within the changes that reside deep within the changing changes, of my constantly changing life.

The devil is in the details; so is the divine.

In other words, microcosmic stuff matters — atoms, quarks, corners, specks, chips, flakes.

It must; it’s everywhere, the particulate.

Recently, we installed dark hardwood floors in our home. Suddenly we notice tiny bits of white stuff — flakes, chips, particles — on the floor, everyday! Was the wood magnetized? Was it sucking white stuff out of the air?

Nope, it was always there, the small pieces  — tracked in from the outside, falling off our shoes, the litter from things dropped in the kitchen, the tiny residuals from snacks eaten in the family room  —  we just didn’t see it in the former, light carpet.

Yuck!

What to do? Vacuum more, sweep more, dust more; otherwise, we are living in a trash dump.

I’m currently building a wall at the front of the house. Millimeters matter. If the first course of block isn’t level, the next course won’t be and the error will worsens as I go up.

But, fortunately, this think concerning detail all works in the opposite direction too. Sweep everyday, adjust the level constantly, pay attention to detail and we then live with the good, clean, safe, healthy and beautiful — constantly.

I recently had to have a potentially hurtful conversation with someone. I suffered — for several weeks — as I literally extruded the right words from my brain, finessed the right tones out of the air and perfected a perfectly efficacious linguistic and proxemic  demeanor.

It worked, the conversation; it went well; it had the desired result, because I had paid attention to detail.

Today, I’ll bring to exact level some decomposed granite in the backyard to prep for some beautiful wedge shaped stone pavers that will make up a new circular patio. Tomorrow I’ll order eleven new double paned windows for the house, measured to an eighth inch, for a precise, weather tight fit. And then in two months, I’ll do a bigger thing — I’ll retire from a profession I’ve practiced for thirty years.

And when I retire, I’ll do that carefully too. I’ll handle my people carefully, my precious people carefully, with finely measured responses and with finely tuned and bubble-leveled affirmations —  as I have learned to do with everything.

The molecular matters.

Slivers and morsels and smithereens and iotas matter — especially when it come to each other.

“Everybody lies,” he said and laughed.

Cynical, I thought. Too much time working in the Social Security Fraud department.

Now I don’t, disagree.

They do — lie.

We do. I do. We lie first to ourselves. We don’t and even can’t tell ourselves the whole truth about ourselves.

The truth about myself?

Recently, my wife reminded me that I tend to be dominant. It’s true. So does she, thus we make a great match —  two really strong people not easily told what to do. It works for us. We don’t — and can’t — run over each other very much. And so we allow for a fair degree of autonomy and independence in the relationship and we talk a lot, process a lot, keep everything current — criticism and praise. That is how we can tell we love — we’re honest.

But when other people tell me the truth about myself, sometime I deny it. Why? I’m not sure they love me, know me, care for me, and I fear motivated feedback, manipulative feedback, especially the negative stuff, but even sometime the positive. What are they trying to get from me with their frothy compliments?  Such guardedness, such suspicion,  closes me up to others,  but sometimes others —  even strangers and casual friends —  know me better than I know myself.

Simine Vazire, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University, has discovered that we are better at assessing our “own internal, or neurotic traits, such as anxiety, while friends are better barometers of intellect-related traits, such as intelligence and creativity.”

Cornell University social psychologist David Dunning, PhD has found that, “People overestimate themselves.” The least competent performers inflate their abilities the most,” seemingly based on ignorance of their own abilities.

This seems to be in part a cultural phenomena. Americans tend to overrate themselves; East Asians tend to underrate themselves. Sounds about right. In American, everybody gets a star in school.

Perhaps one of the biggest reasons for American overconfidence lies in our tendency to avoid giving each other feedback. Many of us are really quite closed when it comes to giving and receiving feedback. We tend to hide our assessments of other and ourselves — particularly negative assessments  — to gain a surface and veneered aura of public peace and acceptance.

We seem too much afraid of each other, and not skilled at delicate, nuance conversations that can promote deep bonds. We hold back, then gush, then attack, then hide; we are passive and aggressive, and we spoil things.

I can tell this is happening because people are always telling my something about someone else that they won’t tell that person. Triangulation seems rampant in our society. It is because we are chicken! And because we simply won’t face and do what works. Honesty works. Dishonesty — it doesn’t.

My bother told me a while back he thought I was a bit of an elitist about food and technology and material stuff. It stung, I considered it; then I told him. “You’re right, I am.  Sorry I offended you with that. I’ll work on it.” I am, working on it. We are closer now.

Can we do this with each other?

We can.

I’ve finding more and more that it is best to “go there,” and let other go there too, to bring up the issues that lie between us, to invite conflict, to gently talk about difference, early, before they inflate. It is best to be honest. It is best to be open. It is best to realize that I need others to properly assess myself. If I include them, then I can can get better at important stuff — at truth, at love.

Lies don’t work. Ignorance doesn’t work.

What works is gentle, safe, loving, ongoing dialogues about what is true — that works.