Archive for March, 2012

occupy time and space

03/29/2012

Do you ever wonder why we sometimes get incredibly mad, frustrated, annoyed or upset? I mean really: why?

The other day at work I found a coworker doing his best to slack off. He made no apologies for it, then proceeded to leave early without doing everything that needed to be done. My personal belief is that he left early for fear of my wrath; however, bearing no empirical evidence that this is the case, this cannot be confirmed.

Regardless, I was angry. I yelled at him – in front of our manager. I was tired of putting up with this employee’s poor work ethic that I snapped. Do I regret my reaction? No. It’s in the past. Could I have handled it better? Most definitely.

But the problem isn’t that I snapped at him. That’s the symptom. The problem was the source of that anger. Why does it exist? Why do I care? A typical mindset would say something like, “What he was doing was wrong!” And, from that mindset’s perspective, they’d be right. Right?

we all have our stories

This concept deserves a moment in the spotlight: every individual has his or her story. That being, every individual has something going on in his or her personal life of which we, being the other individual, have no knowledge.

For instance, what if that coworker, the object of my mighty wrath, had recently lost a relative? Or a close friend? What if earlier that day he’d received some bad news that put him in a funk? It could be anything. We all have those moments where something in our personal life affects our performance in other aspects of living. Some more than others, but it’s inevitable that this happens to everyone.

It goes without saying that this coworker could simply be viewed as lazy. No questions asked. But is he lazy in other parts of his life? Whenever I hear him talk about cars, his base of knowledge he views as common sense blows me away. (Keep in mind, this is coming from a guy who just two years ago learned how to change a tire) If I broke down on the side of the road, this coworker is someone I wouldn’t mind stopping to help me out. Then I’d be grateful to him, right? I’d feel indebted and associate value with him.

But isn’t this all subjective anyway? Do I really care – I mean really care – if my coworker is having a crappy day? For most people, we only care if it affects our own day. Sure, we can show compassion, we can feel sorry for them and offer what sympathy we have it in our hearts to offer. But when we go home and say hello to our children, watch a TV show, or have sex, do we really care?

I, for one, don’t.

Am I wrong? No. Slightly insensitive? I don’t think so.

Because I have my own story to live. Do you care about my story? I mean really care? Probably not, or else you’d be thinking about me a whole lot more. (It’s cool, by the way, if you are)

an occupation of time and space

I would love to live my life with the mentality that I am simply occupying time and space.

Think about it. If that is our primary mentality – the occupation of time and space – how could we get mad? Does it change the fact that we are where we are, doing what we’re doing? When 50 all ask us for different things at the same time, why do we feel overwhelmed? You’re still going to be where you are, living each second, each minute, each hour. Why spend those transient moments in a stressful state of mind? You are where you are and it is what it is. We’d still be standing in that same spot, at that same time, working with the same people.

This may seem simplistic, but 1.) I think we make things too complex as it is, and 2.) it’s a good starting point.

So the next time we get angry with someone, perhaps we can remember that they have a story that made them who they are, influences and forces we could never understand.

And the next time we get stressed our feel out of touch, perhaps we can realize that no matter where we are or what we do, we’re doing two simple things: we’re occupying time, and we’re occupying space.

The next time we’re feeling stressed our overwhelmed, no matter the cause, perhaps we can try to think this:

the will to live

03/20/2012

“This business of being a writer is ultimately about asking yourself, ‘How alive am I willing to be?'”
– Anne Lamott

I had my first anxiety attack two months ago. It was not a good feeling. For those of you familiar with anxiety attacks, you’ll understand the understatement.

I fell to the floor. Overcome by fear. By doubt. By misgivings generated by my own fear of the unknown. Of questions unanswered.

And it was the best thing that ever happened to me.

affirmation

That anxiety attack preceded a second attack two days later. I was at work when I felt it start to set upon me. There was no collapsing this time around. There was no giving in. So I did what came naturally.

I found a quiet space and I wrote.

Within 50 words the knot in my stomach had unraveled into something akin to utter contentment. Before I was halfway down the page of my little journal I was soothed. All was literally right with the world. Well, my world anyway.

It’s moments like these, moments of intense crisis and panic that can be a determining factor in our lives. I’m not one to degrade the day-to-day, the pleasures of breathing in and out, or the supposed banality of daily living. But sometimes there come moments in our lives where we are defined by crisis. Where we see what we’re truly made of and what it is that truly matters in our lives.

For me, that answer is writing. I knew it before. I know it now.

a life of action

A book rests on my shelf entitled Way of the Peaceful Warrior. (if you haven’t read it, I recommend it – the ending seems a farce but the messages within are invaluable) One of the quotes of that book spoken by the protagonist’s mentor, whom he’s sardonically dubbed “Socrates,” is, “A warrior’s life is that of action.”

Now don’t think warrior in the classical sense — the sword-wielding, armor-bearing, rebel-yelling warrior — but rather someone who consciously strives to live the most virtuous life possible. And in the above quote, much of the bare essence of that peaceful warrior is revealed.

In hindsight, my anxiety attack was brought upon by my own inaction. December was not a fruitful month for me in the way of the written word, and this came to a head in early January when I was unable to come to terms with my own idleness.

Now I’m not saying don’t stop to smell the roses. If anything, this “life of action” encourages you to do just that. To take in all that is around us as we move forward in our lives, not living a life of idle speculation. Take advantage of all that beating heart has to offer us. Experience anything. Everything.

For me, my primary course of action is writing, and getting unforgettable experiences under my belt to feed that continual need for something new, for something creative, for something adventurous (define adventurous in your own terms).

I write to live. I live to write.

Not everyone’s answers are so simple. I’m sure mine ultimately aren’t. But for now, it’ll do.

What’s your answer?

advice is an ugly word

03/01/2012

“Let me give you some advice.”

When was the last time someone said that to you? And what was your reaction?

Simply put: nobody wants to be given unsolicited advice. Nobody wants to be preached at. Nobody wants to be talked to.

People want to ask for advice before it’s received. People want to be talked with, not talked to. There is a difference.

As Seth Godin might say, the difference is whether or not people have given permission.

It’s a delicate balance that finds itself even more precariously perched thanks to Twitter “gurus,” Facebook feeds and blogs. In the age of immediate gratification, the interwebz and social media, giving unsolicited advice is an easy trap to fall into when it’s just 140 characters away.

Why don’t we simply listen to people’s problems without the “Here’s what I think” response? Who are we to think we know anything about someone else’s situation based on five or ten minutes of conversation?

Bottom line: everybody has their stories that are unique to their own personal development that we can never fully comprehend. We can never know everything about a person or a situation, and only our pride and arrogance tell our egos otherwise.

Perhaps we should recognize this fact before we bring it back to number one.

I would say, “There’s a reason we have two ears and only one mouth,” but then I realized that regarding the keyboard this point is lost, as we also have 10 fingers . . .