Monday, August 14, 2017

Of Death and Life On Vacation

Done much reflecting over the past two weeks …….

Periodically I think back to 2009 when I unexpectedly was removed from my job of 16 years.  Suddenly you feel worthless and unimportant.  You feel abandoned.  Your former company doesn’t want you.  Your former coworkers mostly shun you. And you avoid your friends because you want to hide just how badly you are messed up at the moment.  Since I began searching at the very weakest point of the job market, no one wanted to talk to me about being “valuable” again (one interview in the first eight months).  I felt worthless and abandoned. In despair, you wonder if your life will ever have meaning or worth again.

When you are in this pit your faith sustains you. It causes you to raise your hand through the mire and expect God to lift you out. Which he does, because he is God and He’s very good at such things.  You also then expect Him to immediately restore you right back to where you were.  But that’s not the way it works.  It took me four years of struggle to get back. Several times it was so arduous I wanted to quit, but I kept going until I made it.  Why does it take so long? Because you learn things in the pit you can’t learn anywhere else and you gain strength though the struggle back you can’t get anywhere else.

I was prompted to remember this during a week where I was interviewed (again) by the Wall Street Journal, interviewed for an hour on national radio and worked diligently on a lengthy, costly, analysis for a large, foreign, international firm.  It would appear that my work has some worth again.   And I don’t say this to brag at all. It’s just to illustrate the distance I have travel and how insipid those awful thoughts were in 2009.  I still view my circumstances with a bit of child-like wonderment, always cognizant of where this chapter of my life began.

And just so I don’t float away holding on to this magical balloon, there are anchors which keep my feet on The Road.  After this exciting, exhausting week, I fortunately began my summer vacation.  It’s often difficult for me to unwind, relax and turn my mind to non-work-related matters as my vacation begins.  That was not the case this year.

On the first day, I learned of the death of my classmate Bob.  He was a great guy who I was able to reconnect with a couple years ago.  There was a tremendous outpouring of grief and remembrance from friends and family on Facebook. Bob’s passing wasn’t unexpected, he had suffered a stroke a few days earlier.  It did shake me because Bob was a year younger than me.  It’s totally illogical, but those who die younger than you push mortality closer to your face than others.

Then early morning of day two, I was shocked and deeply saddened by the passing of my Canadian friend and colleague Claude. His death was totally unexpected.  He’s fine, we’re always corresponding on Facebook, and boom, he’s gone. I was shaken again, stronger this time, because Claude was only 53 years old.  I reflected on Claude and our friendship. I asked myself the question: What person do you know who is the most like Claude?  Who would you compare him to?  The answer to this question turned the shakes into a quaking. A deep quaking because that person stares back at me in the mirror every day.

This caused me to forget about work and meditate on more spiritual matters.  The conclusion?  Claude and Bob both followed my philosophy on life:  “Live your life in such a way that people are not sad that you died, but they are sad that you are not still here.” So If I’m still here, there must still be some important things yet to do.  Time to put more focus on those things.

While the beginning of vacation week was mournful, the end of the week was hopeful.  Two of my friends, Kris and Lori, are each beginning new positive chapters in their lives.  These are beautiful people who have made it through some brutally painful times.  I suspect at their low points they felt worthless and abandoned. However, these two women refused to quit and now they each have the opportunity to thrive.

What is our part in this?  I know it was true of Claude and suspect it was true of Bob, that it is our responsibility to help people in their journey down The Road.  When you encounter souls such as Lori and Kris, pick them up when they are down. Help them walk The Road as they recover. And lift them up when they spread their wings. Fly ladies, fly. 

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Weightlifters Thrive On Pain – Maybe We Should Too

Olympic class weightlifters must go through brutal training in order to achieve greatness in their sport. They must purposely expose themselves to great pain and risk on a daily basis.  In every workout they must push themselves to their limits and risk injuries.

The training must produce pain.  If it does not, then you are doing it wrong.

I’ve realized that just like the weightlifters, nothing difficult is ever achieved in life unless you purposely expose yourself to risk and pain.  This process is supposed to hurt, be difficult, and be uncomfortable.  If it’s not, you’re either doing it wrong or not trying hard enough.

As I pursue trying to achieve success as an author, it is painful, it is risky, it is uncomfortable.  This has recently caused me to complain and make excuses, but the weightlifter never complains.  He understands the challenges of The Road and literally presses on. 

It’s time for me to keep pushing, keep pressing, and expect and accept the resulting pain.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

When Crawling Is All You Can Do

I find myself in a six-month period in which I published my first book, was quoted in the print version of the Wall Street Journal, and organizations are flying me to exclusive resorts, so I may impart my knowledge to them.

I don’t say this to brag, I try not to even think about it, because things are moving so fast.  However, I do state it here to give you a perspective on the distance I’ve traveled.

Six years ago I had been unemployed for over seven months, with absolutely no prospects.  I wondered if my useful time on The Road was ending.  I had been knocked down. I was hurting. I was weak. I felt worthless.

I was struggling to crawl forward.  It was so difficult, I wondered if the effort to crawl back, the first step in getting back, was even worth it.

When we are crawling, we have a different perspective of The Road.  You see just The Road and nothing else, you are too close it.  You are looking down and you are not able to see the potential that is available down The Road.  The crawling is hard, it hurts and at times your breath is choked by the dust of your broken dreams.

But you have to crawl before you walk, and walk before you run, and run before you fly.  And I am so glad that I kept crawling.

So if you are crawling right now, you keep crawling brother and sister, as hard and as well as you possibly can.  Because The Road is long and there is still much for you to do.

And for us who are faring better, if you see someone struggling on this journey, please stop and lift them up. Dust them off and remind them that better things are possible down The Road.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Ellen's Story (Part 3) - Living Beyond the Pain

The second important thing Ellen with learn from her tragic experience, is a strong sensitivity to emotional pain in other people.  Unfortunately, you can’t understand and know this, without going through the intense pain yourself.  It is a pain so ravaging that you would not wish it upon your worst enemy.  It hurts so bad and so deep, that it is at times unbearable.

On the other side, you show more empathy to people in pain.  You also are much more hesitant to be the cause of pain in someone else.  Because of the tribulation you have encountered, you become less selfish, you become more caring, you are transformed into a much better person than you were before.

You also are better able to comfort others in distress.  You have experienced the worst and survived.  You have been to Hell, and returned.  Your sensitivity enables you to know what do, know what to say and know “how to be there” when someone needs you to be there.

Some people would say that is the reason why you went through the tragedy, but I would still say there is no reason for something this horrible to be bestowed upon anyone.  There cannot be a purpose behind this.  It is more the result of what happened. A result we do have control over after the utter helplessness of the awful event.  You see, we must all travel on The Road even after tragedy strikes without warning, but it is how we walk that makes the difference.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Ellen's Story (Part 2) - A New Perspective

Ellen has suffered the unexpected loss of her baby.  She has experienced enormous pain that has shaken her to the core.  Her soul has been ripped open.  While she can’t do anything about was has already happened, there are some concepts that she needs to understand which are important to in the recovery and restoration process.

The most important learning, is that you have a new perspective on everything.  You have lost something that is invaluable and not replaceable.  This enables you to understand what is truly important on The Road.  What things warrant your attention, your affection, concern, interest, focus and treasure.  This is an incredibly valuable trait to attain. 

You will now view everything in life through the lens this event. It becomes natural, you won’t even realize you are doing it.  It impacts how you view life and therefore how you live life.  You will be able to keep calm when others panic because you know what a “life and death” situation is and what it is not, because you have literally experienced it.

Jesus said “Blessed are those who mourn because shall be comforted”.  We tend to think comfort is something that happens for a limited time, in the short term.  But maybe this new perspective on life means the mourner is comforted the rest of his life.  Could the pain be temporary and the comfort long-lasting?

If you keeping looking back on the event, you grow bitter.  Your pain is extended and your strength is sapped.  If you are able focus on moving forward and use whatever beneficial things you are able to extract from your tragedy, The Road becomes smooths out over time.

Fortunately, I can tell that Ellen does indeed have this new perspective and she has acquired it much sooner than most.  She is back on The Road and that is a great thing.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Ellen's Story - Part 1

My friend Ellen’s first pregnancy recently ended with a tragic stillbirth.  She is one of the nicest, sweetest, women I know, so we try to find a reason why something like this happens.

The truth is, there is no reason for this (so please stop telling people, “everything happens for a reason”).  Ellen now knows there is no reason for this.  When going through your private hell after a horrendous event, you do ask “Why me? But then you realize that there is nothing so bad you could have done to deserve something so terrible.  You then also realize that in this random, cursed, world, there is nothing so good you could have done that would exclude you from this happening either.

Yes, sometimes God intercedes to prevent the consequences of the curse.  This happens so infrequently; we call them miracles.  And why and when those occur, there must be a reason, but it is way beyond our capability to understand.

The Road at times can be excruciatingly painful and confusing. Sometimes there is no reason for the pitfalls.  We cannot understand everything where we are right now, we can only walk on.

Friday, January 1, 2016

The Road Is Ahead Of You

My friend Caroline (pseudonym) said that she was so sad on December 31 that she wanted to cry and I knew why. I sent her this private message:

Okay, I have cried on the last day of the year a few times myself and I know why you want to. You are lamenting your lack of progress and achievement in 2015. But you are sad because you are looking into the past, back into 2015. Turn yourself the hell around right now girl and start looking into 2016. That is where your future is. 2015 is gone forever and you can't change that. But 2016 is where your future is and where your hope must live, so that is where you need to be focused. This is where the victory can be. Forward woman, it is the only direction that is worth facing.

Caroline is an intelligent, beautiful, woman.  Bad choices and unfortunate circumstances have made her lose her self-confidence.  The Road will not always be this rough her, she will win is she gives herself the opportunity.  But you can’t travel forward on The Road very well, if you are looking backwards.  You can’t go back, so why look back.  The Road is ahead of you, not behind.

This is a new year, look forward my friends, look forward.  Let’s walk together down The Road in 2016.  I think I can provide some assistance.