Expectations vs Reality

Life

There is a Taoist story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically. “Maybe,” the farmer replied.

The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed. “Maybe,” replied the old man.

The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. “Maybe,” answered the farmer.

The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out. “Maybe,” said the farmer.

Expectations are just that, expectations. They aren’t promises or guarantees. We assume we know how life will go. I have heard that women tend towards forecasting in relationships more so than men. We meet a man, and in our mind we’ve got our house picked out along with the names of the two adorable children we will have. When the relationship crashes, we wonder what went wrong. Maybe nothing went wrong. It could be that it wasn’t as perfect as we’d thought. It’s difficult to process the difference between our imaginary relationship or imaginary job versus the one that really exists. We need to be careful to pay attention to what really is happening around us, then we approach life face to face.  Where were you looking when the roof caved in? Did you notice the first drops of rain? Or the buckets on the floor to catch the dripping roof leak? Maybe you were were visualizing life in another town.

So what are we to do? I love to redecorate my house in my mind and our imagination has its purpose. How would we ever make any progress, whether scientific or mathematically? Visualization gives us our map of how it could be. We need to remember where we are right now.

Avoiding magical thinking

But while your intent is pure and your goal is to create magic, the most common mistake is to believe that the marketplace will agree with your good intent and support you. More specifically, that media intermediaries will clearly, loudly and accurately tell your story, that this story will be heard by an eager and interested public and that the public will take action (three strikes).

Or, more tempting, that ten people will tell ten people to the eighth power, leading to truly exponential growth (some day). Because right now, you’ve told ten people and they have told no one…

Only count on things that have happened before, a funnel you can buy and time you can afford to invest. Anything more than that is a nice bonus. – Seth’s blog

 

Pebbles in My Shoe

pebble

Some people seem like pebbles in my shoe. I’m walking along and all is fine. Dang it all, but there is something in my shoe. I pull off the shoe and brush out the offending pebble. With the shoe back on I start walking. Until another pebble gets in my shoe. Some days it seems as though life is just a series of offensive pebbles.

There are telemarketers and pushy sales clerks wanting your money. Late fees and long lines. Broken shopping carts and flat tires. If only you could just make them all disappear. These are the minor issues. What about the coworker who talks too loudly or the boss who misunderstands your jokes.

The fly in my ointment, the devil in the details, and the speck on my black pants.

Have you ever noticed that the more you list out the problems and label them as a nuisance, the more they tend to multiply like rabbits in free range? Snow that piles 3 feet high keeps you from driving to work or a sudden rain shower that spoils the ballgame , these can’t be planned for or altered.

From childhood we dream of our life with all the good times planned out in our head, but the path that we walk is our reality. The dream in our head is only a projected course. It’s all possibilities and potential realities.

“Man makes plans, and God laughs.”Yiddish proverb

There are people and events in your life that seem like obstacles. Somewhere between the time we’ve visualized where we wanted to go and when we actually get there, our path dead ends. How do we handle the pebbles? Get over them and keep walking? Or build a pebble wall of I can’t?

Instead of seeing obstacles as a pebble in your shoe, try seeing them as sand in the oyster. These inconveniences are the things that life is made of. The people who annoy you the most are not your enemy. They don’t have to be anything to you. Release the emotional grip you have on those in your life. There is no need to demand they act the way you wish. The anger that keeps you bound to your so-called enemy will only drain you of the energy you need to do more productive tasks. Look at that anger. Can you feel the energy it takes? Let it go and when you feel it again just look at it and let it go again.

Things that happen to us are simply the thing that happens. The pebble didn’t ask to be in your shoe. It didn’t place itself there to jump as you walked along the road.

 

I’m Not Dead Yet

candy

When I first walked away from Christianity, the one thing that scared me was dying. And the no-life-afterwards stance of Atheism. I felt like a child whose Halloween candy had been stolen. I’ve held on to the opinion that Atheists could be wrong. Denial in the first degree!

People like Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and Christopher Hitchens, have stripped away my belief in a separate soul, so what would be left to carry on after my body dies? Energy particles? It’s taken some time and lots of truth seeking. Richard Dawkins attitude has really helped with my perspective. Yeah, I may not have eternity in white robes, but I can live a full life and celebrate every day right now.

“We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here.We privileged few, who won the lottery of birth against all odds, how dare we whine at our inevitable return to that prior state from which the vast majority have never stirred?” 

Richard Dawkins, Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder

Denying truth doesn’t make it disappear. What happens after I die can’t be prearranged. The events are out of my control. Maybe I’ll be happily surprised with more candy or maybe I won’t. Either way it’s done. Richard Dawkins is right. We are the lucky ones.

Under Pressure

itspersonal500

You know that feeling you get when someone is watching over your shoulder? Or, you say you can sink a basket from the free-throw line? No pressure, right? Oh the deadline is Friday? For all of the discomfort it brings, pressure also can bring out the best in us. I’ve found the best way to motivate myself is to set a deadline. Even better is to tell someone about my deadline. If I can line up my goal with this type of pressure, I will almost always complete the task.

Here are my steps,

  • I have a thought or an idea.
  • I write it out either in Google Drive or in a personal notebook.
  • I decide what effort is needed, money or time.
  • I let it percolate inside of me for however long it’s necessary.
  • When the idea has built enough inside of me I usually get follow up ideas and at that moment I can plunge into the project.
  • I find tweeting my progress helps

My pitfalls

It’s easy for me to get lost in researching my ideas so, I try as best as I can to write everything out from the top of my head. Ad Lib if you will. Afterwards since the idea is written out I can edit as needed and add more details.

It took me a while to get comfortable with announcing my plans. Stating aloud “I’m writing a novel,” can lead to all types of feedback. Some think you’re bragging, but you’re not. Mostly I avoided it because seemed like too much pressure. It created that mind numbing turmoil in my head. Now if I don’t finish I am shamed. No one wants to look like a braggart or a fool, but people really have short memories. And they have their own lives to live. A week from now, their troubles will make them forget about the silly thing you stated. And when you actually finish the novel, run the marathon, or lose the weight, you feel the satisfaction. Isn’t that what you wanted?

Run for yourself, not anyone else. – runner’s world

suggested read:

 

The Passion of Hate and Love

Your-problem-isnt-that

There are old relationships that I feel scratching to get out of me, like a chick escaping from an egg. Or maybe I scratch to get out of them and their mental hold. I want to be over them, but they seem to hold on tenaciously, so I’m trying to understand in the best way that I know, by writing. To know someone, know who they love and who they hate. This blog post began as my effort to understand someone.

“I swear to you, then,” said MacIan, after a pause. “I swear to you that nothing shall come between us. I swear to you that nothing shall be in my heart or in my head till our swords clash together. I swear it by the God you have denied, by the Blessed Lady you have blasphemed; I swear it by the seven swords in her heart. I swear it by the Holy Island where my fathers are, by the honour of my mother, by the secret of my people, and by the chalice of the Blood of God.”

The atheist drew up his head. “And I,” he said, “give my word.”

The Ball and the Cross (1909), part II: “The Religion of the Stipendiary Magistrate”, last paragraphs

When I started reading the first paragraph of the G.K. Chesterton’s writing above, “I swear to you, then… swear to you that nothing shall come between us. I swear to you that nothing shall be in my heart or in my head…”  I thought he was talking about love, then he mentioned the sword, “till our swords clash’” and I had to start rereading it in a different context, which made me remember the line,

“There’s a thin line between love and hate. Maybe you’re confusing your emotions.”

Simone Elkeles, Perfect Chemistry

Forgive me for a moment as I share my thought process with a piece of my journal.

Your problem isn’t that you hate so strongly. It’s not that you love so passionately. Your problem is that you feel nothing. And you want to feel it, but it scares you. You’ve turned off your passion because loving something so strongly and wanting it so much makes you a prisoner of that desire and you’ve decided long ago that nothing or no one will hold you hostage.

You once said we hurry ahead of God, like children before their parents. Too excited to stay with the current moment. This was my problem you implied, because I wanted things to happen. I wanted God to move and do his work. I see your waiting and so called patience as not caring, and to me that’s the biggest flaw. To care hurts. We have to be close to someone to care for them. To hate or to love someone means they have power over us. They are the ones who we are open to. We don’t even see anyone but them. These are the only ones we are aligned with, those we love or hate. – JKW

Saddles

recite-14632--1294592755-1hi3fo2

Ever see a cowboy dragging a saddle behind him? It doesn’t matter how well constructed the saddle is or how long the cowboy has owned it. It could have been in the family for years. Maybe it was his grandfather’s, then his father’s, until finally it was given to him. A saddle is a proud thing to own. Well crafted, hand tooled. I have nothing against saddles, but…

There’s no horse. Faith is like dragging a saddle. Old habits die hard because they’re familiar. And familiar feels right. That first Sunday you don’t go to church feels empty. I felt like I’d missed a step in the stairs and I was going to fall headlong. If you’ve ever noticed, people who have strong beliefs are afraid to let go of them. It’s been in the family for years. Their grandfather was a preacher, their dad a pastor, and they’re a Sunday school teacher. To leave this legacy is like spitting in the face of your heritage. It’s also how you define who you are. Sometimes you feel you’re not special anymore. I know this because I left this heritage myself.

To say I lost my faith is somewhat of a misunderstanding. I walked away. I walked away because I was going through the motions, which I could still do if I wanted. I could walk into church and still teach. No one would know the difference, but it wouldn’t be true. The horse isn’t there and I’d just be dragging a saddle around behind me.

 

Does the Dog Walk You?

recite-926--1367957011-qugn1y

Walking a dog is supposed to be good for your health. What they don’t say is what type of dog. I had a dog, a 100 pound German Shepherd dog, that was difficult to walk. She pulled at her leash until she was hoarse. I’d listen to her wheeze and cough like she was a smoker, but it didn’t stop her. In my mind it didn’t make any sense. Why would she keep pulling so hard if it caused pain?

Ha! But don’t I do the same. This last week was a busy one, and the week before and so on. For approximately 2 months my office has been working overtime, catching up. Orders need entered and claims must be sent. You know how it is. We pull ourselves up and stop whining. And once the adrenaline kicks in we’re immortal. We can clean the closet, run a race, groom the dog, wash the car, mow the lawn, give blood, and feed the family. Right? Then it stops.

I realize I was like Crystal, my big lap dog of a German Shepherd, who didn’t know when to slow down. When your body and mind finally realized it’s exhausted, it starts shutting down. Some of us get headaches, others get the flu. As much as I’d like to preempt this, I also realize that I’m task driven and if it’s there, I will do. Just like my dog. I will pull at the leash and wheeze and choke the whole way. The best I can do at this moment is allow myself to crash. Ease up on the pressure I apply and like a fellow blogger put so perfectly, The Virtues of Lowering Expectations, 

When we expect ourselves to do everything  “to the very best of our abilities,” where do we think we’ll get more of the time, energy and focus necessary to be ABLE to  do everything equally well and at the top of our game?

  • Some of us will shut down in overwhelm, then beat ourselves up for our inability to activate, which makes things worse.
  • Some of us have discovered how to transform expectation pressure into a brain-stimulating adrenalin rush that allows us to slip into a getting things done perfectly state of hyperfocus that is just as disabling.

We wear ourselves down to a nub long before we realize we haven’t been functioning very well, so not much of anything was actually accomplished.

Finally exhausted, we slip into depressive ruminations when we can’t “make ourselves” keep up that pace.

There’s a book I read years ago called Three Black Skirts. Basically, it’s organization for young women. Keeping balance, it stated, was necessary for being healthy. I used to think that if I was going to do anything, I’d have to do it forever, such as writing 1000 words a day. I realize now that if something is more pressing, such as working overtime, then it’s okay to let up on other things. Balance is the key. I’m not abandoning an activity, I’m merely postponing or minimizing. Less wheezing. Less pulling at the leash. More at ease with life.

The Rhythm of Life

The-race-is-not-always (1)

In yoga, movements are measured by breath. Breathe in as you raise your arms, breathe out as you fold forward. Yoga is not about bending your body into a pretzel so you can impress someone. Yoga is feeling the flow and the rhythm of life. It brings rhythm to your thoughts, emotions, and body. The tide flows in and the tide flows out. The sun rises then sets. This rhythm changes the perspective of life if you let it.

This flow of life contrasts starkly against the rush of life around me. Yesterday, I watched a young motorcyclist weave in and out of traffic on a busy highway going at least 85 mph. No helmet. No protective gear. Just his ball cap shoved on backwards, young and careless. I’m sounding old now, but from my perspective, life is short enough. As I waited for my traffic light to turn green earlier today, the traffic rushed by me. I wanted to get out of everyone’s way and hole up in my home. I used to shop late at night. Groceries are so much easier to buy when no one else is around. Late at night life is quiet and life slows down. Here’s a couple of verses from a favorite song,

And when my mind is free
You know your melody can move me
And when I’m feelin’ blue
The guitars come through to soothe me

Thanks for the joy you’ve given me
I want you to know that I believe in your song
And rhythm, and rhyme, and harmony
You helped me along, you’re makin’ me strong – lyrics “Drift Away” Uncle Kracker

I think we sometimes miss the point of why we do things. For example, I write for the pleasure as I’ve before stated. I love the sound of words and the process of stating something clearly. It’s a thrill to say it just the way you mean it. It’s the process. Writing fiction is daunting, but the pleasure of watching your characters come to life is worth the push through. Inch by inch and row by row.

It’s not always the fastest who wins the race, or the strongest who wins the war, so slow down.

 

Wannabes and Discouragement

recite-30173--2145225500-1246whd

The problem with critiquing is in the measuring. When is it good? When has it passed good and into great? How do you know you’re improving? Enough? If I apply more effort will it help or hurt? With physical exertion, you know almost immediately when you’ve gone too far. Pain. Sharp. Sudden. Stop. That’s your feedback.

The only true measure of whether a piece of writing is any good is the impact it has on its intended audience.

Did it engage them? Did it move them? Did it change them?

All other questions are irrelevant.

Of course, this creates a problem for serious writers like you who want to hone their skills. Because by the time you publish your work and learn your audience’s reaction, it’s too late to make any changes.

And if your writing isn’t connecting with your audience, the most common reaction is no reaction at all:

  • No comments on your latest blog post.
  • No emails praising (or damning) your bold manifesto.
  • No reviews of your latest Kindle novel.

So where does that leave you? How do you get good? How do you know if it’s even possible? – 3 Habits Separate Good Writers Tragic Wannabes

The problem I have with the above excerpt, is the assumption that if you are really good, you’ll get noticed. And tons of accolades. But I have read poems and novels that are pieces of crap and there are plenty of comments. Has anyone out there read 50 Shades of Gray? It’s becoming a movie. The story line is cheesy and it was originally intended as a Twilight fan fiction. The media attention this book received was unreal, but it remains a poorly written book (not good, not great)

No comments

Which brings me to my point, I’ve read a lot of great, exceptional, and life changing blogs that I never comment on. Some have no obvious place for comments, see Seth’s blog And even some that do see receive only a few comments at best. Mostly (not always) the blogs I see with comments are encouraging a new writer to continue writing or comments shooting down what the blogger stated. You can’t write for comments and prizes. You write because it feels good, just as in running. I write because I must write. I must express myself. I need my voice heard. I feel like this lady: You Don’t Have to be Napoleon to Change the World.

It’s possible I took this article in the wrong light. I admit I can be a bit touchy sometimes, but if you don’t meet the criteria in his bullet list does that make you a wannabe? Or maybe it’s just my definition of Wannabe.  You tell me, am I being touchy, or is it insulting?