Blogpost, self-reliance

The Bow and the Archer Must Bend

Archery is largely a lost art form. At one point, it was a staple of combat and a desired practical skill. Now it is largely relegated to a summer camp activity or something hunters do to “challenge” themselves. Although anyone could pick up a bow and arrow, very few people do. The skill is not as useful as it was and it’s not easy! The bow does not do all of the work. It is a force multiplier for sure but the archer needs to put everything in motion first. They must pull back against the tension and aim precisely at a target before allowing the arrow to fly! All of the power comes from the tension of the bow but the archer must bend as well.

Occasional interaction with a child is one of the best ways to see the changes in people. They morph into different versions of themselves over time. If you see them infrequently, the metamorphosis is obvious but they do not notice. We are in a constant state of flux. You are not the person that you were yesterday or even five minutes ago. How much of a difference there is between each version is up to you. No doubt the change that can happen in five minutes is minuscule regardless of the tension. However multiplied over time, any consistent action “bends” us. Like a tree in an area with constant wind, we begin to lean in a particular direction. There are all kinds of leanings that we can take but the person who bends often doesn’t notice the changes.

Life changes almost never come as fast as we may want. Rarely are we shot like an arrow toward our “targets”. Over time, the tension that we create brings slow results followed by bigger ones. The concentrated effort for an extended time period becomes a force multiplier. We are all bending in every moment. The question becomes whether or not we’re bending toward something with reason or if we are simply bending to the circumstances of our lives. Use the tension between where you are and where you want to be in order to fire yourself forward. Nothing and no one can do it for you. It’s on you to bend!

We are arrows to the action!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

What Are You Waiting For?!?!

“Just Do It” is the slogan from Nike shoes that most people know. The origin of the slogan is less well known. It was the final words of a death row convict before he was executed. Although the phrase has been on billboards and advertisements for decades, it’s not that simple! Is it? Doing anything takes a bit of will. That will can falter depending on what’s at stake. Everyday activities or actions of low consequence are easy! But what about the things that really matter? JUST do it! has two different perspectives depending on where the phrase is coming from. If it comes from outside, it seems to imply simplicity as if doing it is no big deal. Unfortunately when that voice comes inside of our own head, it tends to carry a different tone. One of pressure, possibly even anxiety because we know we’re capable and the only thing that’s stopping us is us!

The actions necessary to garner the prizes that we want in this life are usually not a surprise. We know exactly what we need to do or at least have a good idea. It’s also more than likely that we can estimate our possibility of success. So why do we hedge, delay, or even doubt? Because our present comfort is easier to accept than the consequences of leaping into the void! Unfortunately, humans can get comfortable with all manner of things. Certainty is the drug of choice for many people. It’s why watching the same movie over and over is a thing. The predictable outcome is intoxicating! It’s also less than fulfilling. It leaves us asking the question “what if?” That question is not an easy one to swallow because it conjures images of what might have been. At that point, the comfort of the known become less desirable. It’s an ache that is not easily soothed.

So what is there to do? Just do it! You know all of the reasons and the possibilities. What are you waiting for? At no point are the things that really matter going to show up without a price tag! There will always be something at stake. Possibly a bit of comfort, some effort or yes! Even a bit of your old picture of yourself. You cannot expect to get better things into your life while remaining the same. It just isn’t realistic. So let’s you and I agree right now that tomorrow we’re all in! Just do it! Because I can’t see any of the reasons not to but I can absolutely see why it’s necessary!

I’ve been afraid of changing!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

A House Money Life

Not sure that I’ve ever mentioned this on the blog before but I almost died when I was two and a half. I had meningitis and it was less than certain whether or not I’d make it. The only recollection that I have of the entire ordeal was the action figures that I got in the hospital. However it is not lost on me that I received much more than cheap toys through that ordeal. And quick shout out to Dr. Chi who was my physician. Almost anyone who grew up in the Hackettstown area went to Dr. Chi. Regardless, I got a second chance at life. I’m playing with house money and I know it!

There are several different ways to view playing with house money. It could be a time to be frivolous because it’s “on someone else’s dime.” Bet on long odds and throw caution to the wind! While this could be a way to approach the situation, exhausting house money ASAP doesn’t prove anything. The other extreme is to become extremely conservative and fear chancing anything. “Almost went bust in the past” could be a reason to never risk again. While I can understand the sentiment, the past does not equal the future. So hiding from possibility because of a near miss is just foolish.

My preference is to look at the entire equation differently. We’re all playing with house money and the house gave it to us! Therefore it’s ours! We can go optimistic or pessimistic with our bets but the wins and losses end up on our account. The house is not going to bankroll us forever. Regardless of how much or how little we were given at the beginning, we need to play it for all that it’s worth. We’re lucky just to be here, no doubt! Whether Dr. Chi saved your life or you’ve never had a sniffle, cough or fever; today is about all that you can expect. So do something with it! Build a huge pot if you like, or always play on the edge because that’s where the joy of life is for you. Just play! Ante up in the morning and see what you’re dealt. It’s not about luck! It’s a skill game!

“I’m just going to outplay the guy this hand!”

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

A Simple Souvenir

Whether it is an “I love NYC” t-shirt or a particular shell picked up off the beach during a family getaway, humans seem to be almost preprogrammed for the collection of souvenirs. Our memories are weak and without some tangible link to the physical world, they tend to fade. Unfortunately the mass production of souvenirs doesn’t particular make our memories stronger, it actually dilutes the keepsakes like a form mental inflation. When we take a photo of every moment and everyone has the same souvenir that you do, it takes away the reason behind picking up those artifacts in the first place. Our minds may not know what’s truly special when we have so many pictures and trinkets.

My box of memories. It was originally an 8 track cassette holder. Yep! I’m THAT cool!

It’s not an easy thing to decipher what moments are going to be really important. A baseball cap doesn’t appear out of thin air when you meet your best friend for the first time, although I’m sure someone somewhere is working on it. We sometimes have no indication whatsoever that a moment is going to change us forever. So we have nothing to carry with us. The reverse is also true that utterly meaningless events have gotten reinforced either intentionally or unintentionally. It’s not a perfect system and if we just go with the flow, McDonalds and Instagram are going to own the lion’s share of who we think we are.

I used to be so much more deliberate about collecting memories. For decades, I’ve had a box with pictures, cards and keepsakes. Some of it is trash at this point because the memories represented by the items weren’t worth keeping. However, some of them are simple and priceless. The shell that reminds me of a friend who has stood the test of time despite distance and turmoil. Ribbons from events that proved my friend’s theory that being “aggressively mediocre” can get you to the cusp of being great! Others that I won’t mention because it’s just too much.

The question that we may want to ask ourselves is two-fold. Do I have any simple souvenirs that can instantly bring me to the verge of tears? The second question is: If not, did I truly live? The items are far less important than the memories. So if you’ve got a storage unit full of items and your heart is empty, then I’d say you’re out of balance. However, if you have recollections of people, places and events that leave you in awe of the past, then maybe you don’t need the t-shirt!

A simple souvenir

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

The “Do Over”

Considering the reduced amount of free play with kids today, I’m not sure if it exist but in our playground games there was sometimes reasons for a “do over”. Some of them were legitimate but more often it was a way for someone to cover up their own error. It’s exactly the type of thing that you would expect kids to invent. Kicking, hitting, throwing a ball or doing some other activity is often difficult for young kids. Having to worry about other added variables creates less chance for success. So they give the kids (especially younger and less experienced ones) another chance. Other than policing abuse, having the do over built into a game can make for a better experience.

The do over rarely exists in adult life because we know that even a repeated attempt is a new experience. Our world is also not built upon “being fair” or people’s feelings. Life’s not fair, GET USED TO IT! It may not feel good but it’s usually true. We need to take opportunities when they are given to us and live with the results. That’s the place where an adult do over might be helpful.

Generally when results don’t go our way in the adult world, we tend to beat ourselves up about all of the places that we went wrong. This tends to be a downward spiral that is neither productive nor good for the self-esteem/self-confidence. What if we took the time to give ourselves a “do over”? A mental repeat but changing actions until a more favorable outcome came our way. “Where did it go wrong?” and “How could I have gotten it right?” are much more valuable questions than repeating “I’m such a f%$#ing idiot” 43,265 times. Perhaps in the ashes of that colossal dumpster fire, you’ll find some diamonds that are worth picking up and carrying forward!

No one’s going to give you a do over. You need to create it!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

You Never Know What’s Going to Stick

In college I visited Ecuador where I heard the leader of the CaƱari tribe speak about a variety of topics. One of the areas that she touched upon was their belief system around death. They tended not to mourn death but rather celebrate it as a part of the life cycle. So it was celebrated rather than viewed as a loss. That idea resonated with my 21 year old self and I tended not to cry during funerals or upon hearing about someone’s passing. The one major exception to this was when my dog, Kelme, died. I balled uncontrollably and the memory of it will always stick with me. He was very sick and need to be put down but even at his worst, he was still attentive to me. Trying to lick my face as he had always done. In the moment that he passed, he put his head down on the table and he tongue stuck out in one last show of affection. There are plenty of other details that I’m sure are gone but that memory has the ability to bring me to tears in an instant.

Kelme in his last few days.

Memories are far from perfect. They are at best half truth. We erase far more than we remember, emphasize things that we value heavily and only have one perspective to take in. Despite all of the self-serving mechanism, it’s still possible to get surprised by what sticks. I never imagined that my dog’s tongue sticking out in his last moment would be one of my most poignant memories. Yet here I am, typing through watery eyes based on a decade old memory. We don’t always get to choose what will be important to us. I had a very well designed belief system around mourning that lasted through two grandparents and other relations. Yet it was undone easily by a 30 pound animal. Because we just don’t always know.

The scripts that we create for ourselves inside of our heads can seem perfect. We know what we want from the world and how it should play out. Then the world gets its vote on how things are going to go. Despite our best intentions, sometimes we have to relent and accept that something got in that we didn’t expect. I truly believe that those things get in for a reason. Our plan for ourselves is not always as complete as we’d like to believe. Sometimes other forces intervene. I don’t exactly know why Kelme’s death affected me how it did, but I’m glad that it did.

“Can I handle the seasons of my life?”

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Lurking in the Shadows

Right before dusk, I started a walk down a path in a park. I knew it was going to get dark before I made it to my destination and back but I went anyway. As the darkness set in the trees and bushes that lined the path lost their detail and became shadow. Perhaps it is the lack of visual stimuli that heightens our sense of hearing in the dark or it’s a prehistoric defense mechanism. Regardless, I heard basically every sound that came from the trees and bushes. In this particular spot, more than likely all that was lurking in the shadows was some squirrels and possibly a groundhog. Despite that fact, I was very aware that I wasn’t “alone”. The shadows conceal so many things. Most of them mean us no harm but since we can’t identify them easily, it’s easy to fear the worst. The simple answer for my stroll through the park is to go earlier. The more complex problem is that there are things lurking in the shadows at all times.

We’re all carrying around things that are not put in the spotlight. On a subconscious level, we know that they’re there but either can’t access them or don’t want to. Often they are brought out into the open by circumstance or mistake. I don’t really think that our psychological baggage is out to get us. More often than not, the idea is to protect us from something by hanging out on the periphery. When it gets brought into the light though, it needs to be dealt with in some way. The first options of fight, flight or freeze are available and probably end with the issue returning to the shadows and not much changes. Curiosity and gratitude are great antidotes to so many negative emotions. Obviously a bear sized issue may require professional assistance. However even then, this is your life! Scars, pock marks and all! If there is an entire shadow world where you just don’t go, that’s choice to be made. However, it might be worth a look to see if there is some real estate that you want to develop.

Seeing past our own worldview and problems is extremely difficult. When the dust of the past gets kicked up in your face, it’s easy to get disoriented and act rashly. Perhaps sweeping up some of that dust from the past is the next step. The mental image that i have is of my brother working at the garbage company where we both worked. His job one summer was to sweep up the dust from the dirt parking lot. A broom, shop vac and other things were used. It was hilarious! Unfortunately his daily slog was not fun and gained him the nickname “Dusty”. Regardless of what you do with the dust, it belongs to you. You can leave it alone with the knowledge that it may get kicked up again. Shadows, dust, caves, closets, etc. there are so many places to hide things from ourselves. I don’t know that we can clean it all up but there’s certainly some work that could be done.

Shine the light on some of those shadows!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Lesser Known Heroes

The “Friendly Neighborhood Spiderman” eventually breaks out of the neighborhood, becomes an Avenger and travels to space. There was a certain point at which only people from a small locality knew about him. If he had stayed small time, would his contributions been less or just less well known? It’s a question of scale but do lesser known heroes, matter less? The likelihood of any of us having a global impact is pretty low. However, we all can have an individual impact at any moment. So perhaps it’s not scale but consistency that matters.

With so many of the things that we do in life, the opportunity for impact comes in almost direct proportion to frequency. Breathing, heart pumping, showing up, exercising, and so many other activities gain traction and get exponential returns based on their consistency. There is the possibility of overdoing it but most people tend to err on the side of never rather than too much.

So taking those two ideas and melding them together gives opportunity. Doing good for the masses is probably not happening and neither is the big ticket item of saving the world from cataclysm. The opportunity does exist for each of us to do our own small bit to help those who are within our reach. Perhaps that may even mean regularly saving yourself from yourself (yep, that’s a thing). Lesser known heroes are not any less important. They help to keep the world from falling into the pervasive chaos that no Avenger could handle. So whether you think of yourself as a hero or not, suit up and get to work. The world needs you! Ok maybe not the entire world, but definitely YOUR world!

Hero up!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

My Lazy Eye

We all have our imperfections. One of mine is my “lazy eye” that’s actually not the medical term for what it is but it’s a functional description. Generally it happens when I’m tired, my one eye will just lose focus and move to the side. It’s something that I’ve had for so long that I don’t give it too much thought. From time to time, I’ll point it out in my classes. Not because I want encourage ridicule but in the hope that other people won’t be so concerned about their own imperfections.

Owning up to all that you are is difficult. We are weird, inconsistent, preoccupied and insecure beings. Some people have the strategy of covering up all of their imperfections or at least trying to do so. Others overcompensate with strengths or outlandishness. I’m not really in a position to judge. None of this easy! Sitting inside of our own skin and feeling comfortable there is a full time job. Meditate, compensate, communicate, love your mate…. (Go INXS!) They are all viable options but finding one that works in all situations is tough.

The world is not always going to celebrate you for exactly who you are. However there are times and places where your imperfections are exactly what’s needed. Recognize and lean into those because your chances of generalized acceptance of your oddities is probably not on the horizon. Don’t be the fish who keeps trying to climb a tree! The world is probably never going to love you, it doesn’t do that for anyone. However there’s a possibility that you could love yourself and a lot of other people would too! Lazy eye and all!

F%&$ing Alexa was playing this song this morning and it was catchy enough to force me to write this post.

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Pay Attention!

This morning on my run, I was posting one of my typical Instagram videos. As I was walking, I heard a hissing. At that moment, I looked up from my phone and there was a goose accosting me for being too close to its chicks. By all means, I was in the wrong and should have been more aware of my surroundings. Sad to say, it happened again about a quarter mile down the path. A teenage girl with blue hair was off to the side with her pet lizard but I did not see them until I was about to pass by.

On a normal day, I would not have thought too much of these events. Luckily a friend introduced me to a documentary on Netflix called “My Octopus Teacher”. It’s the story of a man who visits the same site in the ocean for almost a year and “befriends” an octopus. In the beginning, he is less than perfect at reading the clues left behind and how to relate to the creature. Over time he understands what to pay attention to and just how much he had to learn from another life form.

Our world has a tendency to be so very loud and “in your face” that we often lose subtle or even not so subtle details. I know that I’ve bungled this majorly in recent weeks. It’s so easy to become enamored with your own perspective, objectives or desires that all details are lost. Therefore we end up with only a partial version of the world. We are always working with less information than is available but often the loudest signals are not the most important. Filtering that which is coming in becomes the paramount skill.

As I will say to my students from time to time, “it doesn’t take any cash to pay attention.” It looks like I need to heed my own advice. There is a full and beautiful world out there with subtlety that someone could spend a lifetime on. That type of beauty tends to get lost when we’re racing to the next thing. We can’t take it all in but figuring out what matters to us and paying attention to it is crucial!

Pete