Appreciate The Garbage [on Merely A Thought Monday]

your past copyWe saw this phrase on a Baptist church signboard en route to the Des Plaines river trail: your past should not dictate your future.

I read somewhere that we spend the first half of our life stuffing a bag full of garbage and the second half of our life unpacking and sorting through it. If it is true that we must make mistakes in order to learn, then much of what we judge as garbage must also be the necessary ingredient for growth. Context is everything.

When we first met, Kerri introduced me to a song by Rascal Flatts called Bless The Broken Road. Our conversation was a shared soul searching about all things we’d done in the past and labeled as ‘mistakes’. These ‘mistakes’ set off chains of events that led to the really good things in our lives. One of them led to our meeting. “You have to listen to this song,” she said. God bless the broken road.

Forgiveness seems hard to extend to others but almost impossible to extend to ourselves. Mistakes. Garbage. Broken roads. Who really knows where a path leads? Who really knows the impact of any decision or choice? It is easy to look back on a choice and criticize it because it is also easy to forget the pressures-of-the-moment and future-blindness that factor into our choices. Hindsight is not as clear as advertised.

When we were young Roger told me that he didn’t want to have any regrets when he looked back on his life. At the time I agreed. Now, I know that a life void of regret is a life lived on a too narrow spectrum, a protected life. A life free of risk. And, that life, inevitably comes with one single but whopping regret: it wasn’t really lived.

The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

read Kerri’s blog post about PAST DICTATES

 

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Realize And Reach [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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A beautiful thing happened ages ago when human beings, gazing at the night sky, recognized patterns in the myriad of blinky bright stars. The recognition was so profound that it lit a roaring fire in their curiosity. It propelled them to do what human beings do. They studied the patterns. They mapped them. They philosophized about them. They storied them. They argued about them. They created models. They claimed them and named them. They projected onto them their thirst for meaning and order, their need for reassurance in a greater design. If there is pattern and predictability in the stars then there must be pattern and predictability in the arc of a human life! They navigated their ships and their days according to their relationship with the stars.

During my life in Los Angeles, for a few eye-opening months, I volunteered at a school. The students at the school risked their lives everyday to attend. They had to cross rival gang territory. In some cases, the students had to literally check their guns at the door before entering the building. Some of the faculty, in an attempt to help the students dream of a better future, used the phrase, “Reach for the stars.” One day, watching a class, I recognized that the students had a limited capacity to relate to the phrase because they’d never seen the night sky. In their experience, the meager few stars that they could see through the light and haze of the Los Angeles sky were less than inspiring. The staff took the students to a place where they could see the stars. The shock and awe of standing beneath the unobliterated night sky was profound. It reoriented them to a universe of possibilities more vast than the tiny gritty city that had always before seemed so large and given them context.

It is possible to reach for vast visions when you recognize how tiny you really are.

In a moment of uncertainty and confusion, 20 told us not to fret because the opportunities unfolding before us were in the stars. In the stars. Safe. There was pattern and predictability. Things were lining up and all we need do was play our part. These things were meant to be. Kerri and I held hands and stared, like our ancestors, into the myriad of blinky bright stars, feeling very very small. “Do you think 20 is right?” she asked.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about STARS

 

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Enjoy The Ride [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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There was that eye-popping day that I ran across the street, more geezer than man. Somehow, my knees and hips, rather than running with the ease I had always enjoyed, squeaked and creaked and rattled along. Although I made it to the other side without being hit by oncoming traffic, I was forced to face the fact that my appendages were aging. I needed to allow more time in my crossing.

And then there was the day that I was driving. My eyes, always 20/20, missed an exit because I could not see it. I blamed it on the oncoming headlights, a dirty windshield, a too busy mind. A paper thin veneer of denial. I knew I’d finally come to the day that my eyes were no longer hawk-perfect [vanity note: I still don’t wear my glasses unless I need to read subtitles at the foreign film festival or drive at night. Denial, although thin, is elastic stuff].

When I was a kid I was on a road trip with my mother and grandparents. My grandfather was driving and he was pulled over for speeding. When the cop came to the window, my sharp-as-a-tack grandfather transformed. Cranking down the window he was suddenly a doddering, hard-of-hearing, slightly shaky, clearly demented old guy. The policeman asked for his license and my grandfather looked in panic to his wife for interpretation and assistance. The cops next question was, “Is this man capable of driving?” We stared  blankly ahead. Grandpa dialed it back a notch and recovered some coherence and believability. He got off with a warning. That day I learned one of the primary advantages of aging.

Sometime since moving to Wisconsin, I crossed a magic line. Although I do not think I am old, I am, more often than not, seen as old. A grey beard helps that perception. I confess to looking into the mirror and seeing, not my face, but my grandfather’s. Actually, a mix master image of both of them. They stare back at me when I brush my teeth. I now brush my teeth in low light.

I find this new mask odd and slightly intriguing. Sometimes I wonder who this new face will become. Sometimes I wonder who this new face is. Mostly, I can’t wait to be pulled over. I know exactly what to do and only hope that Kerri will play along.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about There’s Nothing Wrong With Being Older

 

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sacred series: inner life. one of two versions of this image. it is one of the many benefits of aging is to look inside and see lots of color!

 

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sacred series: inner life ©️ 2017 david robinson

Open Your Hand [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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Asked another way, this question might read, “Why do we hang on so long to the painful stuff and so easily let go of the magical parts?” Or, “Why do we so easily focus on the obstacles and so rarely look for the possibilities?”

Sit in any cafe and eavesdrop and you will mostly hear tales of woe. Any good news editor will tell you that the stories of goodness are a much harder sell than the stories of tragedy. It seems we are attracted like moths to a flame to the struggles, the uphill battles, the pain-full disasters. It is the most human of activities, whipping up and diving into stories of calamity.

In a bygone era, when wearing my consulting cap, I loved doing an exercise with groups that revealed their addiction to blame stories. Blame-stories are like sugar. They are fun to tell. It is yummy to consume handfuls of it’s-not-my-fault or it-happened-to me and once the blame-story gets rolling, it blossoms into an endless dessert buffet. Everyone rolls down the line and loads their plate.

Hanging onto pain. Grasping onto regret. Whipping up conflict. Tug of war. It is so easy. Close the hand and make a fist. Shake it at the sky.

The magical parts? They happen. There’s no need to keep an accounting. Words are woefully inadequate in heart-matters so the story is harder to tell. An open hand is available for the next moment. An open hand is not holding on.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about MAGICAL/PAINFUL

 

 

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face the rain (certainly I will finish it this year…) ©️ 2019 david robinson

First, Enjoy [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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This is the season of firsts. The first glimpse of new shoots of green poking their heads out of crusty soil. The first robin. The first morning we are awakened by the woodpecker bending its beak on our neighbors old metal aerial antenna. Walking the muddy trails in Bristol Wood, Kerri gasped, jumped, pulling her camera from her pocket. I thought it might be a fox or possum. “What is it?” I whispered.

“It’s the first dandelion!” she exclaimed.

Our neighbors to the east wage a seasonal war on dandelions. Most of the folks in our neighborhood shudder at the sight of the yellow invader. One of our favorite summer rituals is walking around the corner to see if the retired man is standing sentry in his yard, armed with the latest in dandelion weeding tools. Old coffee cans strategically placed on his walkway hold the remains of the brazen few that dared show their yellow faces.

In our house, dandelions are not invaders. They’ve inspired songs. They are little yellow memory bringers. Flowers and food. Ray Bradbury. They are heralds of bare feet, hammock chats, cold wine and water balloon fights.

Each year, we enact a dandelion ritual. I am a fairly new suburbanite so I’m often uncertain of what to do and lapse into momentary paranoia. Standing in the abundance of dandelions that pop up in our yard, I fear that I should be more like my neighbors and declare a war. “Do you think we need to pull these?” I ask Kerri.

“Why?” she responds without looking at me.

“Everyone else is,” I say meekly.

“Now, there’s a good reason to do something!” she mocks me. “You? Conforming. Now, that would be a first!”

 

read Kerri’s blog post about FIRST DANDELION

 

 

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Enjoy The Hallway [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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Arnie’s mom was wise. She used to say that when one life-door closes another door will always open. But, the time in the hallway sucks. There’s nothing to do but enjoy the hallway.

Once, in a seemingly endless period in the hallway between life-doors, I wrote my friend Rob and complained that I felt like I was completely lost in the forest. He told me to sit down and enjoy the forest.

Sometimes it seems that life is one big location joke. Doesn’t it strike you as odd how much time we silly critters give to trying to locate ourselves. Who am I? What is my purpose? Where am I going? Life as one long episode of House Hunters. Gut job! In looking for location, in trying get somewhere else or be someone else, we miss the obvious: I’m right here.

At a seminar I heard a participant complain, “I thought I learned that lesson! I thought I was done with it. It keeps coming back!” The facilitator laughed and said, “That’s why it’s called a life lesson.”

Have you ever noticed that all of these life-doors only open into other hallways? No one promised that this maze would be easy. If I were me (and I am), I’d listen to Arnie’s mom.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about TUITION.

 

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Listen To Them [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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Saul taught me to look beyond anything I understood as an obstacle and, instead,  place my focus on the field of all possibilities. “Place your focus on the obstacle and you will deal with the obstacle. Place your focus on the possibilities and you will deal with possibilities.”

Tom taught me to choose my battles and to fight only those worth fighting. “You don’t want to die on every hill,” he said. “In life there are really only one or two hills worth dying on.”

Ironically, Quinn, one the best storytellers I’ve ever known, taught me not to make up stories. Pointing to the big tall bank building he said, “See those people up there on the top floor? They don’t know what they are doing, either. They’re just making it up, too.” Or, maybe, he was attempting to teach me to tell a better story about myself.

It is not an understatement to say that I am rich in guides, teachers and mentors.

Doug, a Vietnam vet and one of the best teachers I’ve known, one day called me into his office and showed me a tattered, ruined book of poetry. “I bought it in the airport on the way to the war,” he said. “It saved my life.” He told me the story and it made me weep. Doug taught me the power of art. So did Paul and Roger. My two MM’s (Master Marsh and Master Miller) continue to teach me this lesson. Dawson, too.

Kerri and I are in a period of change that is simmering with unknowns. It is not the first time in my life that the dense fog has come in. She asked, “What do you think will happen?” I said, “Well, ultimately we’ll die.” She punched me. “That’s not what I mean!” she groused, adding a second punch. “Geez.”

Later, after the double punch, we took a walk on the Des Plaines river trail. An elderly man came around the bend and said with great jest and enthusiasm, “I cleared the path for you! It’s all clear.”

“Clear.”  It’s a poetic term. It means ‘possibility.’ And I heard them, my chorus of teachers and guides. All of them. Loud and clear.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about CLEAR PATH

 

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