Improving the New Year You

I am taking a different slant on my New Years resolutions this year. After all these years, I finally realize I am who I am. All the resolutions and changes over the years have not changed Me. I have my faults, many of them. I also have my talents, many of them.

It has become obvious over the time, no matter what I do, my faults are still here. So are my many talents. If you take a good look at yourself, you will find the same thing. You can change your looks to some extent. You can pretend to be someone different, and try to act like them.

In the end you are who you are. The real you comes through each and every day. Instead of trying to be something we are not, the time has come to be more of who we are. Instead of working on some boring changes which never last, it is time to work on improvements of things about us we can do even better.

Take a few moments and write down what you perceive are some of your obvious faults. This list is pretty easy. Now, on a separate piece of paper, or open a new document. Take a longer time and write down those things you do better than anyone else you know. Stop when you have identified three to five items. Your list may take seconds or it may take longer. Time is not important, this is not a timed event.

Throw away or delete the list of your faults. Your list of perceived faults is going to be with you the rest of your life. That is the way life is. A leopard can not change its spots, and we can not permanently change who we are. Nor should we want to.

Now you should only be looking at your list of items you are good at. These are what you and I will be working on over the next year. Decide which of the items on this list you enjoy the most. This is our first priority of the New Year.

Do some creative thinking about how you can do this one thing better. How can you change or modify what you do well and do it even better? It should be fairly easy to come up with a short list of ways to improve what you do well.

Once you have a list of how to do your number one choice even better, do the same with your remaining items. Draw up a short list of how you can do these things even better.

Make what you do well better instead of trying to change into someone else.

Do what you do well better instead of failing to change yourself into someone else.

This idea make me excited! I hope it makes you excited too? Instead of trying to fix something that I think is wrong with me, or wrong in my life, I am going to work on making what I enjoy about me even better!

Is it making sense? I have found, every New Years, I have made some resolutions. Maybe go to the gym more. Do a better job at my work. Clean out my closet, and keep it clean. We both know these resolutions turn out to be boring and they do not work. I quit trying to do boring things! I am going to work on doing things I enjoy, learning how to do them better!

Now, for your part. Work on your list of things you do well, and your ideas on how to do them better. Doing this is a lot more fun than starting another year with another list of resolutions you give up on in a month or so, because they are boring. You will not spend the rest of the year thinking about how you failed at something you really did not want to do to start with.

You did not fail to complete last years resolutions. You did what is natural. They were boring and they were not about you. They were about someone you thought you should change yourself into. You are not that person. You are you! Stop now and reread this post. Start making your list of things you do well. Write down your thoughts on how to do those things better.

Without even trying, you will find yourself getting excited about your list. You will find you are excited about the changes you want to make. This is about you and who you are. Not some silly idea of changing into who you think you should be. That person will never exist, no matter how hard you try.

Keep notes on your progress, and let me know how you are doing. I want to hear about you becoming better at being you! Happy New Year! Happy You!

On Earth, as it is in Heaven

If you have watched the movie, “Heaven is for real”, you can relate to this post. Or maybe if you have watched this movie recently. Myself, I think I have watched it four or so times this month. The movie may have really reached out and grabbed me. Or maybe there was nothing else I wanted to watch in the moment. Maybe it was planned that way just for me.

Not so much the little boy and his visit to heaven, but some of the ideas in the movie reached out and caught my attention. One of these ideas I find fascinating. The part where the Dad comes back to the church to preach again.

He has a few words written on a sheet of paper. He doesn’t seem to have any real idea what he is going to say to fill in the rest of his talk. I won’t do any quoting as I probably have it out of context, but two ideas from this scene really made an impression on me.

The first thought is, if we were all in heaven, would we be doing anything differently than we are right now? This is something many people (I think) have not given any serious thought to, other than perhaps when we say our prayers, if that is something we do, or we go to church services.

What would we be doing different if we were in heaven? I really do not see many of us competing with the angels in the singing department. Nor do I see many of us in a church setting for most of our waking day, every day.

SwingingSomething that really stuck out for me was the phrase, ‘On earth as it is in heaven’. This, I thought, is something I never really gave any thought to. If we are average people trying to do the right thing, is what we do and how we manage our day akin to what we would be doing in heaven?

Would we have a family we love to be with, work of some type we want to do. Places to go and people to see? What would we be doing if we were in heaven right now? Would we be friendlier, more caring, more responsible? Better yet, what are people we think are in heaven doing right now if that is where they are?

Does technology exist in heaven? Computers, telephones, Internet, cars, television, radio? Are the musicians out of work in heaven? What about those of us who may barely squeezed past the gates? Are we better people in heaven, having insight not available to us on earth? Would we have sex, love, and rock and roll, an expensive car to drive, gourmet meals every day if we choose them?

Is it our responsibility to bring heaven down to earth? If it is, we could do better. We have our moments, some of us have our days, months, years, and decades, but they are isolated pockets in our day to day world.

Maybe that is why the idea is brought up in the movie about there being no time in heaven. Maybe we are bringing heaven to earth, but it is a very, very slow process?

Our lives and health are better than they have ever been. Maybe as we live longer, we grow wiser, make better decisions, and do better at making our life here as it is in heaven. I would like to think so. If we are living healthier, longer lives, and all we are doing is existing, living day to day, focused on ourselves, is that enough?

What do you think about us here on earth, and heaven being some place else? What is the earth, heaven relationship?

Except Your Life Can Be Better

When I was a small child I thought I would do something big. I would change the world all by myself. Give the world a gift that would make the world a better place. I was going to do big things.

I decided instead, actually it was decided for me, the world was not ready for what I was going to do. I decided that I would not do that thing I was going to do to improve the world.

That decision left me with nothing to do. I had no real goals. I had no urge to accomplish a certain thing. I had no interest in making world size changes. This was confirmed by my two doctors, speaking to my parents while I was in the room with them. ‘He will be OK at many things, but he will not be really good at any one thing.’ It was decreed in that moment, or so I believed, that I should be a jack of all trades and a master of none.

I went through some years trying to do just OK at everything. Never trying to excel at any of them. What was the point. I already turned my back on what I could have done. Those mighty men in their white coats decreed my future. My parents believed it, so who was I to think differently.

As a child, I noticed some people lived their lives emotionally stunted. They matured to a certain point and then stopped growing. People were very good at this, but not that. Some people knew how to manipulate others, but did not have it in them to use that manipulation to help others.

Other people were strong spiritually. They could have moved mountains if they weren’t scared to try. I think they never had the thought to try. They could move mountains if they wanted to, but something was in the way.

That something is the word ‘except’. I would be a rocket scientist, except I’m not smart enough. I would play in the NBA, except I joined a gang instead. I would go to college,  except I am thinking about dropping out of high school.

Except is a powerful word. We all could create the life we want, and surpass all our dreams, except. Except something got in the way. Except, we went this way, instead of sticking it out. Except, the other was was easier.

When I thought I was old enough to make a difference, I had forgotten what I was capable of. I forgot that I had the ability to change the world. I might have remembered, except for whatever reason I chose not to listen to myself tell me I could have a different life. Except for those rare moments when I remembered what I thought I would do, and think, “Yeh, I could do that, but this is easier. Everyone expects this of me.”

We have the power in us to change our world. Except we keep forgetting we can change the world. Except it is easier to treat every day as the day before. Except we now accept that ho hum and boredom is good enough, except when we remember we do not have to live this way.

We have something in common with cats. You can not make a cat go anywhere when standing behind it. At least not without the cat wanting move. The old saying is, “Like herding cats.” Neither can you push a limp spaghetti noodle.

It’s sort of funny on some level. I have known this all my life, but I thought if I said the right thing, wrote the write words, I could, through sheer willpower change the world into a better place. Except, like a stubborn two year old, I refused to see that there were few exceptions to how the world worked, and herding cats or pushing limp noodles takes a lot of energy.

Except for when I forget, I am giving up on changing the world by pushing. I am one person, and I can not by my words or sentences change you or anything. Except I am sure I will forget this thought, and say more, and write more.

Instead, I will continue to grow myself. I am as long as I am alive, I am a work in progress. I try this, and I do that. As I fail often, success seems to be more frequent. I like to think I am figuring it all out, except I spend time trying the same things over and expect different results.

It is okay to be different. Except when I forget. Except when I forget I am not here to change the world by myself.

I now accept new ideas as possible and correct, except when I forget. Once I remember, I give a new idea a try, except it doesn’t always work for me the way it did for another. Stuff happens, or not.

Everything we know about the world we live in is probably only partially true. Maybe we get two thoughts right, and one thought wrong. Maybe we play games with ourselves so we can pretend this is how is is, except when we choose not to pretend.

From here on out, except when I forget, I will lead by example. I will no longer try to herd cats, and push limp spaghetti noodles. I will continue to make my life what is best for me.

Except I hope you to come to feel this way too, and join me. Except I hope you decide to add excitement into your life. Except I hope you fail once or twice before making your life the best life possible.
When I was a small child I thought I would do something big. I would change the world all by myself. Give the world a gift that would make the world a better place. I was going to do big things.

I decided instead, actually it was decided for me, the world was not ready for what I was going to do. I decided that I would not do that thing I was going to do to improve the world.

That decision left me with nothing to do. I had no real goals. I had no urge to accomplish a certain thing. I had no interest in making world size changes. This was confirmed by my two doctors, speaking to my parents while I was in the room with them. ‘He will be OK at many things, but he will not be really good at any one thing.’ It was decreed in that moment, or so I believed, that I should be a jack of all trades and a master of none.

I went through some years trying to do just OK at everything. Never trying to excel at any of them. What was the point. I already turned my back on what I could have done. Those mighty men in their white coats decreed my future. My parents believed it, so who was I to think differently.

As a child, I noticed some people lived their lives emotionally stunted. They matured to a certain point and then stopped growing. People were very good at this, but not that. Some people knew how to manipulate others, but did not have it in them to use that manipulation to help others.

Other people were strong spiritually. They could have moved mountains if they weren’t scared to try. I think they never had the thought to try. They could move mountains if they wanted to, but something was in the way.

That something is the word ‘except’. I would be a rocket scientist, except I’m not smart enough. I would play in the NBA, except I joined a gang instead. I would go to college,  except I am thinking about dropping out of high school.

Except is a powerful word. We all could create the life we want, and surpass all our dreams, except. Except something got in the way. Except, we went this way, instead of sticking it out. Except, the other was was easier.

When I thought I was old enough to make a difference, I had forgotten what I was capable of. I forgot that I had the ability to change the world. I might have remembered, except for whatever reason I chose not to listen to myself tell me I could have a different life. Except for those rare moments when I remembered what I thought I would do, and think, “Yeh, I could do that, but this is easier. Everyone expects this of me.”

We have the power in us to change our world. Except we keep forgetting we can change the world. Except it is easier to treat every day as the day before. Except we now accept that ho hum and boredom is good enough, except when we remember we do not have to live this way.

We have something in common with cats. You can not make a cat go anywhere when standing behind it. At least not without the cat wanting move. The old saying is, “Like herding cats.” Neither can you push a limp spaghetti noodle.

It’s sort of funny on some level. I have known this all my life, but I thought if I said the right thing, wrote the write words, I could, through sheer willpower change the world into a better place. Except, like a stubborn two year old, I refused to see that there were few exceptions to how the world worked, and herding cats or pushing limp noodles takes a lot of energy.

Except for when I forget, I am giving up on changing the world by pushing. I am one person, and I can not by my words or sentences change you or anything. Except I am sure I will forget this thought, and say more, and write more.

Instead, I will continue to grow myself. I am as long as I am alive, I am a work in progress. I try this, and I do that. As I fail often, success seems to be more frequent. I like to think I am figuring it all out, except I spend time trying the same things over and expect different results.

It is okay to be different. Except when I forget. Except when I forget I am not here to change the world by myself.

I now accept new ideas as possible and correct, except when I forget. Once I remember, I give a new idea a try, except it doesn’t always work for me the way it did for another. Stuff happens, or not.

Everything we know about the world we live in is probably only partially true. Maybe we get two thoughts right, and one thought wrong. Maybe we play games with ourselves so we can pretend this is how is is, except when we choose not to pretend.

From here on out, except when I forget, I will lead by example. I will no longer try to herd cats, and push limp spaghetti noodles. I will continue to make my life what is best for me.

Except I hope you to come to feel this way too, and join me. Except I hope you decide to add excitement into your life. Except I hope you fail once or twice before making your life the best life possible.

Truly Blessed and Grateful

I was getting ready to step into the shower this morning and I started thinking about how wonderful life is, and how grateful I am for everything in my life. I get up in the morning and use the toilet. I flush the toilet. I step over to the sink and turn on the water to a temperature I prefer. I wash my hands with soap. I turn off the water and dry my hands on a soft clean towel. I walk out of the bathroom.

Later I go back into the bathroom and turn on the water to take a shower. When the water is warm enough, I step in to the shower and I am washing with soap I prefer to use. I rinse off with warm clean water. I turn off the water and dry off with another bigger clean soft towel. So on and so forth.

A few generations ago and even today, for much of the world these things were and are not present. There was no finished bathroom, no running water, no soap, no clean dry towels. People when they did wash-up, usually only had enough water for their hands and face. There wasn’t enough water to wash any more and they preferred not to anyway in Europe at least.

They must have stank. Think about the simple fact of using the bathroom to blow your nose. If you do not have tissues in your bathroom, at least you have toilet paper. Toilet paper is a recent addition for the bathroom. I do not know what people used before, but it was not toilet paper, and there were no daily showers. There was no deodorant, toothpaste, and other items of cleanliness we take for granted. If people wanted a shower, they stood under water that was falling via gravity.

I had the fortune of touring a castle in England one summer. The bedrooms were upstairs, and one had a toilet. The toilet which I am sure was a relief over what the rest of the people used – a bucket – was simply an addition built into the castle wall. There was a seating area of stone which I am sure had wood over it back in the day. The bowl was simply a foot wide hole that dropped perhaps twenty feet before it ended.

After the hole ended it was just the wall of the castle. I could see in my mind the collection of human waste covering the wall below the ‘toilet’. I remember my first thoughts as I looked at a medieval toilet. It must have really stank in that room when the air came up the toilet from below. Modern plumbing is something we never think about. We never think about the journey water takes to get from the source to the tap or the shower head all heated and ready to use as is. We never think of the planning that goes into making a working sewer system for a neighborhood, district, whole city.

The towels we take for granted are of a quality never imagined a few generations ago unless money was no object. Soap was a rare commodity unless it was lye and ash soap,  or another harsh mixture that damaged ones skin as much as it cleaned it. Underwear was stiff and smelled awful I am sure. Who knows how many accidents it’s owner carried around on his or her underwear, or whatever passed for underwear.

I thought when I see someone out in public, and they do not look very clean, or their hair is a little oily, I will try to imagine what they would have looked like in an earlier time when people shaved their heads to evade lice. How their clothes must have stank because there were no clean clothes to change into. How the only part of their body washed in the last days was maybe their face and hands. How heir breath must stank from lack of toothpaste, toothbrush, and the basics of preventive dental care.

City streets doubled as sewage systems. Every bit of trash and bodily waste was thrown into the street to be washed away by the next rain. The streams and rivers next to towns and running through cities were sewage lines. The water would not be fit to drink. Disease would be rampant, as there were only the simplest medicines available.

People would have swollen jaws from abbesses under their teeth, running sores that would not heal for whatever reason. They would literally stink because they would not or could not clean themselves. They would be bald, and they would be unkempt, because there were no mirrors for the common people to see themselves.

Animals would be butchered in the streets, their offal would be everywhere. Rotten food would be thrown in the street as there was no way to keep food fresh. Diarrhea from contaminated food would be more the norm than not. Everyone drank alcohol because the water would kill you. There were no sweets, or soda to eat and drink. Bread had particles of stone in it left over from the grinding. People ate off of wooden platters called trenches. They had horrible mouth infections called, (did you guess) Trench Mouth.

All that came from a few minutes while taking a nice warm shower and enjoying the feeling of the warm water on my skin. It is not hard to be grateful about my life when I think what life could have been like under different circumstances. I am truly blessed and grateful.

As Friends Leave

Friendships have been formed and later torn apart throughout my life. The first time it happened, I thought what was happening was tearing my world apart. Then friendship disaster hit a second time and I did not know which friend leaving was the worst. My mind spun in circles trying to decide if one is any different than the other.

When I was young, I knew less of the world and how life works. I had a friend, that had been a friend ever since I could remember. We shared a lot of our days together. We had our childhood victories, and fights. We got mad at each other sometimes for a few days, and then made up.

I had a second close friend too. We were also very close. My second friend and I got along famously, never fought, and our joint interests kept us close. We would play ball, explore the woods, and do all things young boys do when they are together.

My second friend’s Dad was in the military. I did not know what that meant other than a new boy showed up in school one spring day the year before. Because we were in the same class, we played together at recess and found out we lived close enough we could play together away from school. We became fast friends over the next year.

I found out a little about life in the military when I went to play with my friend one day. He was pretty quiet, and after a few minutes he told me they were moving (again). I asked him where he was moving too. My family had moved too, but it was always around the town we lived in. He said his Mom said it was a long ways away and we would not see each other again, probably.

My oldest and longest friend became ill. I never knew it, and I do not know if he did either at that time. he started to have trouble running and doing some other things boys do. Eventually he could not come outside any longer and play. His Mom would not let me in the house to play with him. I did not know it at the time, but he had been sick for a while. His illness progressed to the point he could no longer walk, and some time later he could no longer talk.

I would knock on the door and ask about him, and his Mom always had the same answer. He was in the house, he couldn’t come out, and I could not come in. Later that year, his Mom quit answering the door. I did not know why and I couldn’t think of anything we did that had him in that much trouble. I did not understand what I did that I could not even see him in his house.

I learned from a neighbor later that year my friend had died. Both of my friends leaving me in the same year was devastating to me. I could not distinguish between one friend moving away and one friend dying. They were both out of my life forever, and it hurt.

Now, so many lifetimes from those days, when two of my best friends left me, the memories of them grow dim. I can remember vaguely what they looked like, but not of what we talked about, and how we spent our time, or what made us best friends. I still miss them.

Life is one big circle if you pay attention. We just move during our life to a different part of the circle. This friendship loss of the circle has repeated itself on occasion since my childhood days. One friend goes this way and one friend goes that way. A few friends have left by dying. The feeling loss is always the same, only my perspective changes.

When I think of those friends now long gone from my life, I hope they each found something better. The friends that moved away, I always hope they found new close friends, and went on to accomplish great things with their lives. My friends that never had the chance to move away and make new friends, I always hope they closed one door and opened another that is an improvement on what they had.

Once more, one friend is leaving one way, and a second friend may be leaving by another way. How I feel about my friends and their leaving has not changed over the years. What changes in the perspective of my friends is my feelings about my friendships, and the cycle of our lives.

I also have learned over the years, something about the friends that have moved on in their various ways friends come into and out of our life. Even if there is no other door to open, or a new chapter starting in their book of life, unless I lose myself and my memories, I will never forget them.

All my old friends live on in me and with me in the warmth, happiness, and steadfastness that good friends give to one another. They still teach me the lessons they had to show me. I am always very grateful they came into my life when they did. I am also occasionally sad their stay in my life was so short.