The Toughest Thing to Accept …

Let me start by saying this: honesty and accountability are inseparable and when you realize that someone you know, have loved and admired for the hope and promise they brought to your life; when you realize that you can no longer overlook the fact that they cannot be counted on do what they say they will do and will then deny they ever said it, it’s time to re-consider the relationship.

I’ve been so guilty of looking at relationships and the interactions involved through rose colored glasses that I was accused by my former spouse of living in oblivion. My explanation for it was, I thought, rather noble. It went, (well if I’m really “honest” I should say, “goes” present tense) like this: If you didn’t intend to hurt or mislead me with what you said, what then was the point in making a stink about it. Now, if your repeated the behavior a second or third time then I would simply point out to you that I was offended or hurt by the action. If on the other hand, your intention was to be hurtful or offensive, then I’d be damned if I was going to give you the satisfaction of knowing you succeeded by acknowledging or reacting to you.

I’ve taken great pride in my ability to ignore the faults and foibles of the people in my life. I believe it’s made me a better person. Of course I’m not perfect. I do allow myself the occasional foray into what could best be described as gossip. When I do, it’s generally with someone I know well and trust. But, that’s it. I just normally don’t partake in the exercise of peeling someone else’s layers back.

I was raised in that environment. Mom and Dad conducted their lives in honest and accountable ways. If either of them was ever guilty of wavering from that way of conducting their lives I never knew about it.

Having been married to the most honest and accountable person I’ve ever known for the last 22 years of her life, and having had few personal relationships outside of that relationship, I fell into the habit of assuming that everyone lived by the same basic principles. They don’t. And that realization has taken a certain joy out of relating to people in the course of my daily life.

It’s one thing for me to have developed a given amount of skepticism about the real intentions of people I deal with in my job. Try as I may to draw people out and discover their real goals and abilities to actualize their dreams for their homes, there is always that insidious suspicion that they aren’t telling me the truth. Occasionally I’m surprised though not very often. But that’s the reality of business today and I can accept that and cope with it. What I can’t accept and cope with is the same behavior in personal relationships.

Heaven knows I haven’t always tried to be honest and accountable. When I was drinking I was a consummate liar. I spent years covering up one lie with another and another … and another. When Marilyn finally forced me into AA and I stayed with it for fear of losing her, I eventually got to my fourth and fifth steps and was startled to realize that the damage I’d done while drinking was almost exclusively the product of dishonesty and a lack of accountability. That realization alone and the memory of that fifth step helped me realize how valuable honesty and accountability are. I never, ever want to go through that again and the memory of it has contributed mightily to my 22 plus years of sobriety.

Sadly, very sadly, I’ve learned from experience that the value I place on those two qualities is not the norm for many people. When people who have little if any meaning in my life are guilty of lying and unaccountability it’s of little consequence to me. But, when I’ve come up hard on the realization that someone I’ve trusted; done everything they ever asked of me; placed in their hands so many expectations for my life; when that person has repeatedly failed to fulfill promises and at times just plain lied to me it crushes my heart. Maybe I’ve totally misinterpreted, totally misunderstood, totally over expected … but after painful review I don’t think so.

And I hope that’s the last I’ll ever feel a need to say on the subject.

Use it or Lose it?

I’m not sure where this effort is going. It might last only a paragraph or two or it might turn into an epistle, but I’m going run with the thought anyway. For some reason I have been suffering from a form of writer’s block, known as … well, writer’s block. It’s been plaguing me for several months now and it bothers the hell out of me.

Usually, I’m full of ideas to write about. They come to me at all hours of the day or night and usually I’m able to flesh out the thoughts with very little effort. Lately, however, the ideas seem to be still born; lifeless as a corpse. To make matters worse, I’ve found myself urging others, some with a demonstrated ability to express themselves well, and others with life experiences that should be shared, to put pen to paper and share what they have with the world. I feel like an alcoholic who’s fallen off the wagon telling another alcoholic who’s never been on the wagon, what a great deal sobriety is … over drinks.

One of, although not my only reason for writing Dear Mom and Dad, was at my age the specter of the looming possibility of standing before God and hearing Him say, “And that one talent I gave you, what did you do with it?” Yes, I know that I’m kind of patting myself on the back to say that I have a talent for expressing my thoughts in writing, but facts are facts and I do possess the talent. It’s a God given gift.

I don’t believe that if we have a talent and don’t use it that it will be taken away and given to another as the parable in the New Testament says. I do believe, however, that it’s sinful, wrong if you prefer, to have a talent, especially a recognized talent, to let it go to waste. Not only is it sinful/wrong, it’s terribly sad. It’s sad because of the loss of joy that comes from making good use of a talent is never experienced. It’s sad because of the lives which will not be enriched by the experience of enjoying what you could have shared with them.

With this in mind, a thought occurred to me during lunch with a friend, who has a wealth of experiences from her job to share. She said she’d tried writing down those experiences but never got very far. She seemed to feel that she wouldn’t be able to express herself well enough. I found myself encouraging her to “just start writing.” I then went on to explain some of the ways to go about it, but the bottom line was … “just start writing.”

Of course you know what happened next. A not so quiet voice in my head, said, “Physician, heal thyself!”

A natural talent for writing is not necessarily a requirement for doing so effectively. In the case of my friend, writing down her experiences would be the tool for sharing the results of her real talent, which she has shared with the world for years. That, then becomes a matter of the level of passion one has for sharing ones talents and/or experiences with the world.

I have another friend who has more than one talent, but for one of those talents she has a true passion and it shows when she’s exercising the talent. When she is expressing that talent I become totally mesmerized by her and simply cannot take my eyes off of her. She has, whether consciously or unconsciously, managed to combine talent and passion in a joyful expression of herself which is truly beautiful to observe.

I have seen glimpses of that second talent frequently and look forward to the same sense of joy in observing that expression as much as I do the first. I believe that if and/or when she has perfected that other talent and mastered the ability to share it with the same passion she has for the first, that she indeed will be able to someday stand before God in full confidence of hearing Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have used what you were given very well” I hope to be in that audience when it happens.

In the meantime, I need to remember the admonition I heard frequently in years passed, that just as a professional athlete needs to go back to basic training once a year to re-hone their talent by simply suiting up and showing up and doing the exercises again and again, I need to suit up and show up at my desk and do finger pushups on the keyboard whether I feel like it or not.

And I will always encourage others to follow the path of their talents and experiences whenever I see an opportunity to do so. So, if you’re one of my friends who needs a push be ye forewarned.

Sharing … Who we are, What we are!

Have I changed so much? I mean, beyond that change from who I was, and still am on a certain level, to who I am? I have changed … I think. It has something to do with moving from a period of acquiring to sharing.

I’m thinking back to a time in my/his far distant past when sharing was the furthest thing from our mind … well, with the exception of sharing his/my dreams of future acquisitions with anyone who would listen. Those dreams were what author Wayne Dyer calls the psychology of “when”. It was a time when I/he had little more than dreams of future acquisitions and the satisfaction they were thought to bring with them, when they were acquired.

I can remember the moment when the realization struck that there would be no satisfaction in the actualization of the central core of those dreams … the never ending quest to buy the the place next door. There would always be a place next door, but there would come a time when the satisfaction of having acquired it would immediately be stifled by the quest to buy the next place next door. In other words, satisfaction would always, always be just beyond the next fence line … something akin to Sisyphus, his rock and the top of the hill.

The most interesting fact of this look back is that I have no memory of visions of dollar wealth, just land wealth. Did that thought result in a change of attitude about acquiring? Not at all! In fact, it only changed where I/he looked for satisfaction in acquiring. Part of the reason the original dream failed was because I/he realized the eventuality of the point of diminishing returns and that was an unacceptable result of acquiring. Each acquisition had to bring with it satisfaction which lasted and could be heaped upon the last satisfaction.

The quest continued for years until suddenly, and without warning, the acquisitions we had made; emotional as with the love from Marilyn, the home, the dollars; all began slipping away bit by bit until it was all gone. Did that end the quest for acquisitions? Again … not at all? It just started all over again from scratch, but this time it all slipped away more quickly. Sometime during that second period of acquisition, however, a subtle change began to assert itself.

It began with the writing down of my thoughts for the members of Tri-Ess and progressed to the writing of Dear Mom and Dad. It took awhile for the realization to sink in, that what I was doing was sharing things that had been fearfully guarded for a long time. The result for me of that sharing was the satisfaction I gained when people I didn’t know, as well as people I did know, began telling me that what I shared had a positive impact on their lives. I was stunned, actually, to think that the elements of my thoughts were of any real value to others; primarily I believe, because I was at the time writing for my own satisfaction; stunned but overwhelmed with gratitude at the same time. It never wears off. Each time someone tells me that I’ve had a positive impact on their life and thanks me for it, I’m still overwhelmed.

As time in this new and somewhat unfamiliar yet parallel universe has passed I have come to realize that the satisfaction and sense of accomplishment I wasted so much of my life on … acquisition of property, things, possessions, had never held the potential for satisfaction I found in sharing my heart and mind. But the real shock to me was when I began to share my time, personal and private time, with people God had been placing in my life, mostly as a result of the continued sharing of my heart and mind.

I used to imagine the satisfied sense of joy that I would feel when I looked out over my dreamed of vast land holdings. The only joy I remember in that respect was sense of pleasure gained when I looked over a newly plowed field at sunset and the peace that came from that. I now know that what I anticipated from acquisitions was to be found in the exact opposite … sharing, giving away of my gifts.

Christ spent his earthly ministry telling people of the joy they would find in giving all their treasures away to others. I always thought it only applied to financial treasure. It doesn’t. It applies to giving away, sharing, the treasures of who we are, what we are, the persons of whom God created us to be.