Present Tense

I’m all good…

As I continue to shift my consciousness, I’m happy to report that I have nearly stopped beating myself up about things that I’m bad at and have actually begun feeling grateful about the things I’m good at.

Being able to pat myself on the back for accomplishments without the corresponding ‘yeah, buts’ about my failings is a big step for me.  I suspect that a lot of you struggle with this as well.

It’s silly in this alleged “age of empowerment” for us to feel that we can only focus on where we fall short.  It’s considered impolite to brag about what we’re good at, but I think it’s healthy.  I’ll go first since being impolite has never really bothered me.

I am a very good radio host.  It took me a really, really long time to say that out loud and believe it.  I’m approaching my 30th anniversary in radio and I’m just reaching the point where I can feel like I’ve mastered my craft.  Can I improve? Maybe, but honestly, I think I’m very, very good at my job.  That doesn’t mean I  can coast or get lazy or cocky or obnoxious; in fact, I  think that I’m less cocky and obnoxious since acknowledging this.  I’m very good at what I do and I have nothing left to prove.  I believe it and know it’s true.

I’m grateful for my intellect.  I’m grateful for my unending curiosity.  I like to learn, particularly if I can see tangible results.  I tend to completely immerse myself in a subject or process until I feel like I have a working knowledge.  I’m a dabbler; I have a vast store of knowledge on anything that interests me.

For instance my husband and I used to brew our own beer and it was really good.  It was a time consuming process and when I say that I don’t have any patience, I know that’s not true.  Making beer is a long, detailed process.  A batch of beer takes at least 6-8 weeks from start to finish.  Good home brew requires and demands patience and attention to detail; two things I used to believe that I lacked.

I spent the past year learning how to bake bread by hand.  No bread machine. All kinds of breads.  It’s a lot like brewing beer because it’s a fairly specific process, with some leeway for creativity.  Beer and bread are living organisms, thanks to the yeast. Kinda cool.  My bread is very good and I am proud when I pull a fresh loaf out of the oven.

I’m a good writer.   I have no desire to write a best-seller or a novel.  I just like to write short-form, first person biographical essays and post them for everyone who wants to read them.  There was a time when I thought that unless you were going to write a book, there was no reason to write or publish.  Now, I just write because I have thoughts and experiences that I’d like to share.  It’s not to make money or become famous.  The saying is “write what you know”; so I do.    I think it’s brave to post what I write on the internet, where anyone on earth can read it and know me; to open myself up to criticism, mocking, judgement. None of that bothers me.  I’m good at it.

I’m a good athlete.  I always have been.  I was never picked last for teams in school.  In fact, I got picked before some of the boys.  I’m competitive and I like to win.  I’m a GREAT slow-pitch softball pitcher. Seriously.

Does this seem kind of egotistical and self-aggrandizing to you? It probably would have to me a few years ago.  How dare anyone trumpet the stuff they think they’re good at?  We all have “things” to work on!  Nobody is perfect or better than anyone else!! Right?

Wrong.  We beat ourselves up over our shortcomings. We can’t take credit for our brilliance and talent because if we do, we’re shoving it in the faces of people who aren’t as happy or accomplished.  We must not accept compliments.  We must point out all of the things that we aren’t good at, to prove how humble we are.  In fact, we point out our shortcomings so often, that we define ourselves by who we aren’t or what we can’t do.

I reject that.  It’s taken me a long, long time, but now I’m gonna toot my horn.  I’m good at a LOT of stuff.  I’m good at stuff that I haven’t even tried yet!  Oh, yes I have my shortcomings and my faults, but I’m sick of focusing on them.  The more we focus on our negatives, the more others focus on them and that sucks.  Make a list of everything you’re good at. Post it on your ‘fridge or your desk or your mirror or your Facebook or Twitter.  Then, make a list of your shortcomings….and burn it.

March 25, 2012 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Dog spelled backwards…..

 

Yesterday, my beautiful boy-dog Junior chewed up my prescription reading glasses for the second time in a month.  I was extremely irritated with him for the better part of the day and then I realized that all of us are not defined by our mistakes and poor judgement.  I know that I routinely chew up plenty of other people’s stuff and am grateful for their forgiveness.

So, I decided to re-post this from last fall to remind me that Junior’s qualities far outweigh his naughty tendencies.

Our dog Junior turns 1 year-old on Sunday.  My husband and I are throwing him a little party, mostly so that we can have an excuse for dessert, but there’s another reason:  I want to celebrate his spirit.  Junior has a zest for life.

We’ve had a lot of dogs over the years and like people, they’ve all had distinct personalities.  Skelo was all business, Kodiak liked to wander, Samson worried, Chili is a pleaser and then there was Feta.  She was a 12-pound,  black and white Jack Russell Terrier with a massive personality.  There was no dog too big to challenge, no person that she couldn’t charm, no hole too deep for her to explore and no naughty trick that she wouldn’t try.

Feta was one of those dogs that you never forget and never get over losing.  She was fierce with the local wildlife, but so sweet with kids and if you were sick, she nestled in next to you and wouldn’t leave until you were well.   The most important part of Feta’s life was fun; she wanted to have it and there was no consequence too severe to curb her high jinks.  Whether she was swatted, yelled at, chased with a broom, or banished to her crate, she’d come right back, look you in the eye and do exactly what she wanted to do.

She died a little over 4 years ago at the age of 15 and I’ve written about my regret at letting her linger too long.  The last year of her life contained very little in the way of fun or even pleasure.  She wasted away, which is the last thing her little soul would have wanted.  I think about her everyday and so when my friend sent me a photo of a little black and white male Jack Russell from her latest litter, I was smitten.

He looked so much like Feta in the photos that we started calling him “Feta, Junior”.  When he came home with us, he was christened Junior.  Although he physically resembles his namesake, he is much sweeter than Feta and lacks her snarkiness around other dogs, but he has her sense of humor and fun.  My husband and I like to say that Junior is “Feta without the f**k you attitude.”

Junior is our ‘free spirit’  dog.  He will suddenly zoom around the yard in circles, with a canine grin on his face.  He’s always busy; dragging a log, digging a hole, shredding tissue, flipping a stick in the air, taunting his housemate, Chili.  Junior loves to swim so much that we bought him a kiddie pool that he’ll splash in for hours.

During a recent trip to Michigan, while we sat on the dock at a friend’s lake house, Junior ran in circles, detoured into the water, paddled around, ran out of the water, spied the tetherball court, punched the ball with his nose until it wound around the poll, then he unwound the ball, ran back into the water, and on and on for an hour.  If it looks fun, he does it.

That’s what I love about him; it’s what I envy about him. Junior has no internal editor saying “don’t do that, you’ll look silly”.  He just does.  He lives completely in the moment.  Aside from his habit of murdering rodents, he could be a pretty good Buddhist.  I want to be Junior; he’s my zen, hippie hero.

We haven’t had a birthday celebration for a dog since Feta’s first birthday.  We just didn’t figure any of them would ‘get it’.  Happy Birthday, Junior.  Feta would approve….and then she’d steal your cake.

March 21, 2012 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , | 6 Comments

The only thing we have to fear……

We live in a time of fear.  Fear brought on by global events, national events, economic catastrophes, other viewpoints, other religions, no religion, health care, no health care…you name it, we’re scared of it.

Life has been chugging along on our big blue marble for thousands  of years for us humans.  And before we-of-the-huge-brains came along, things chugged along without us.  Why are we suddenly so freaked out by everything?

I have a few theories.  One is that we’ve seen such huge technological advances over the past century, that we tend to believe that technology can fix all that ails us.  We are so smart that we should have solved all of the problems by now and when it occurs to us that we haven’t and won’t, it’s kinda scary.  And frustrating.  One solution begets another round of problems.  We don’t like that.  We humans don’t have the control over our world that we’d like.

Despite our best efforts to eradicate pain, suffering, war and disease, the universe remains infinitely powerful and troublesome and that makes us nervous.  I also think that it may be the catalyst for so much of the religious fervor that is bubbling here in the U.S. and around the world.  If we can’t solve all of the problems, maybe a deity can.  Science has let us down, so let’s turn it over to God and go whole hog into religious zealotry. Screw science and technology.  Let’s demonize our fellow sinners, as a sacrifice for the gods.

I’ve been re-reading my favorite book on Buddhist teachings by Steve Hagen, a zen priest.  It’s called “Buddhism Plain and Simple”.  It’s my favorite because I tend to think that spiritual beliefs should be plain and simple.  Fear and unease is referred to in Buddhist philosophy as duhkha;  the concept is that we often feel uneasy about the world around us, particularly because much of life is out of our control.  Buddhists don’t believe that the lack of control is good or bad, but just “is”.  To overcome this feeling of unease or suffering or anxiety or duhkha, you accept reality as it is.  Simple.  The tired phrase, “it is what it is” was probably uttered by Buddha thousands of years ago.  A  Zen parable called “Maybe” illustrates this simply and succinctly.

The older I get, the less fearful I am.  When I was young, I was incredibly selfish.  I did what I wanted to, without weighing how I affected other people.  I’m not proud of that, but there was a nugget of fearlessness in my behavior, mostly due to the fact that when you’re young, you really do think you’re invincible and immortal.  Even though I look back and cringe at some of the things that I did that adversely affected others, I am grateful for my bravado.  I never would have had my radio career without it.  I was willing to take risks to achieve success and was humble enough to learn from my (many) mistakes.  Plus, when you’re young and starting out, you have nothing to lose.  I often say on my radio show that your 20s are your ‘mulligan’ or your do-over decade.  If you’re gonna screw up, do it then so that you’ve got plenty of time to regain your balance and momentum.

Now, my fearlessness comes from knowing that my fears are rarely realized in the ways I’ve imagined.  Obstacles get tossed into your path and you go over or around them.  The next day dawns and you move forward. You learn with time and age, that you’re stronger than you think you are.  I have recognized and begun to accept the concept of duhkha.  There is a lot of stuff that just isn’t within my control and wishing and hoping and praying ain’t gonna make it so.  Accept what you SEE and KNOW to be true and the fear begins to dissipate.  We all end up in the same place in the end.

Accept the inevitability of  life/death/time/change.  It’s amazing how clearly you begin to see.

Morbid? No.  Freeing?  Yes.  “It is what it is”, friends.

March 18, 2012 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Kinda proud of me….

 

I’m very happy to share this with you.  I am a guest contributor to Jennifer Boykins’s new blog “Life After Tampons”.  It’s about growing up, without growing old and how we all need to face our fears.  I preach the gospel of fearlessness as often as possible. Now, keep in mind that doesn’t mean we never fret or worry or have bouts of anxiety, but those things all come with a fearless (and lets face it, fearful) life.

Read my contribution and those of the others HERE

March 14, 2012 Posted by | Musings | , , , , | 6 Comments

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