Friday, January 23, 2009


So where have I been? The blog sits waiting for attention. Waiting for a picture or two. Life has kind of just taken on a running of day into day.

I am adjusting. Adjusting to not being able to get Internet access accept when everyone is asleep and then feeling tired and unmotivated.

Adjusting to switching from my neat little car with cruise control, sunroof and great sound to the 10 year old "other car" in an attempt to not kill the good car with my 500 mile a week commute. The silver car, as we call it, is basic transportation. The radio and CD no longer work so sound comes from hooking the mp3 player through a little device in the cassette player for radio and tunes and hooking up a portable CD player to listen to books. With each bump of the road (10 year old shocks) the CD skips and pauses and I juggle the thing to find a place where it won't bounce. Wires coming from the cassette and charger, needing to remember to turn off the mp3 and charge it. It is so much more complicated and complex. But I will adjust.

Adjusting to having 5 new staff people just outside my office (having just relocated them from another office). Learning the dynamics of this group, helping them fit in with the larger group, trying to find the balance between them being very rigid and linear, me being not linear at all and very flexible but not wanting to be vulnerable of being taken advantage of or set up. I supervise the manager of this group but what I am finding and had heard is that when the staff don't like what their manager has told them or want to bend the rules a bit more than appropriate, they go over the manager's head and have in the past sometimes gotten their way. So I am having to be much more in coaching mode with the supervisor and in boss mode with this group as I don't look favorably on people who shop around to get what they want. We are all adjusting.

Adjusting to doing more volunteer work that is so much like "work" and doing it only because the program gives my kids and kids like them something they love doing but it requires parent leaders behind the scenes. Don't we all do that?

Adjusting to giving up some other volunteer work that I really like (most of the time) because it takes up more time and I am starting to feel fried.

Adjusting to not being able to run, now because of all the snow in the road and on sidewalks. Adjusting to the need to really find what is missing.

Adjusting to wanting to change or undo some things that it is just too late to do.

So I feel like I am adjusting a lot. I am by no means rare. I just happen to have a blog to write about it.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Rationalizing loss

The are so many ways that we try to make sense of loss, try to rationalize it, try to minimize it in ways that can become so very logical as to become cold and void of sensitivity and of the magnitude of legitimate feeling.

These are a few comments that I have heard from well meaning people trying to help:

To someone who has just lost a job…….well at least you are young and have your health or its probably the best and something will come along.

To someone who has suffered an injury……well it could be worse.

To an aging person who is suffering physical aliments…..well at least your mind is well and it could be worse or like ".....".

To the parent who has lost a child….well at least you have the two others. (yes I actually heard someone tell my parents this one)

To a family who has lost everything in a natural disaster……at least no one was killed.

To the child or spouse of a deceased person…..well now they are at peace or to a child who has lost their last parent……well at least now you don’t have to worry about them anymore.

In response to someone suffering a permanent injury following an accident….at least you are alive.

To someone who has broken up a relationship…..well it is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all.

All of these comments and responses to someone’s loss are very accurate even if some are totally crass and insensitive and believe me I have heard them all and not made any of these up.

In trying to make people feel better about their loss we sometimes don’t allow them to grieve what they have really lost; to allow them to go for a time to that painful and uncomfortable place to feel bad without restraint and process what has occurred.

In my way of thinking it is completely ok to be grateful that something is not worse or could have been worse while at the very same time truly and deeply mourn the loss that has occurred and of something that will never return.

Yes of course it could always be worse and on some totally rational level we know that and though that clarity of perspective is not easy and can take quite a while to get to. Though in the same way it could have also been better not to have happened at all. It is ok to grieve that loss for what it is independently of any qualifications.

The loss is bad enough without needing to feel guilty for the pain we feel and express. In our discomfort with the uncomfortable we sometimes want to lessen it when sometimes the best thing to do is to just let it be and let it work itself through.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

"It seems to be snowing a lot". I made that comment to my wife this morning to which she responded, "it really hasn't, its just seems to be bothering you more this year."

So I went back a year ago on this blog and sure enough there was lots of snow and it had been colder but there was also a January thaw about this time. I guess it is bothering me because as it seems to be snowing each weekend or a couple times a week I inevitably have to go somewhere, whether it be to drop off or pick up a kid or just to go to work.

Last weekend I got stuck trying to go up over the mountain to West Stockbidge, a two lane winding road going for about 3.5 miles then down the ridge along the other side, with a ravine on one side and ditch on the other, and 3/4 of the way up to the top, the tires just start to spin and slide. All the coaxing and rocking is getting me is sliding closer and closer to either the ditch or the ravine, neither of which is a good option. So as the snow continues to fall steadily I back down almost 3 miles of road trying not to skid, having to move out of the way as the trucks and heavier vehicles want to pass me to get on their way. May of them nicely stopping to ask if I am ok. Turning around is not an option as the only driveways are those going down the ravine to summer homes.

I've been stuck on this road before, years back coming home from Albany in another blizzard and I slid off the road and passers by pushed me back on. Its the easiest and quickest way to the other side but totally unpredictable in the winter.

So an hour later and with a very sore and stiff neck from turning it to see, I make it down to the bottom where I can finally turn around nerves somewhat shot. And then I head down a different way to a drive around this mountain to get to the town.

Then this weekend, and of course it snows and of course there is a required kid drop off for a school project, and this time I get stuck again and have to back down a very long driveway. And there was another snow storm on the way. So the nighttime pick up is tried with another car and its not so bad, though totally dark snow covered roads still is not fun when you've been stuck already that day and there is no cell service between the hills.

So what is the difference? My new tires that I have at least always thought of as new, well as I check the receipt they are actually 2 years old with 60,000 miles on them a 60,000 mile warranty. So that is why they worked last winter and the winter before and why with 30,000 more miles on them I am slipping around.

So I guess I have another project to put on the list, new tire. It seems a shame because there still is good tread just not enough for winter driving around here.

Such is life in the Berkshires.

Friday, January 2, 2009

A New Year

A wish for a happy, healthy, prosperous, and peaceful …..2009 for all who venture here.

For the past week or so I have been on slow speed. Rushing from an intense time at work into the relatively unstructured time off that I take between Christmas and New Years. This sends me slightly into not necessarily a free-fall but like a kite without a tail: wobbling around in the wind currents trying to find bearings and doing enough to stay up in the air. Isn’t that what vacations are about, regaining one’s bearings, trying to recharge? When thrown in with end of the year holidays that wobble can get a little too wobbly and I a little too introspective.

Traditionally as the calendar flips we tend to look back and to assess the year that has past. Was it good, was it bad, and are we glad it is over?

There was a lot of negative going on this year that seemed to weigh heavy. I’ve attended more funerals last year than I can remember in a single year, and I am not at an age where my peers are naturally dying off. The economy and the uncertainty that it has brought and the continuing conflicts around the world cast a heavy shadow far across the landscape, at least in my mind and world.

But even with these I would not necessarily call this a bad year for there have also been many good things that have gone on this year. My family is well and have been all year and we treasure the time that we spend with each other; the kids are both having a great year at school and having new experiences that I wouldn’t have dreamed of experiencing at their age; the excitement (and parent apprehension) of college shopping for my oldest (wow have things changed); meeting new people and having new experiences; while my work is stressful it is ever expanding and I have to keep reminding myself that this is good.

We have a tradition in our family, started several years ago when my wife read about it somewhere. Throughout the year we record on small pieces of paper good things that happen to one of us. Anyone can put one in and it can be something significant or as simple as a sleepover with a friend or the stub from a movie or play or concert. We collect these in a Mason jar and as the year progresses it fills up. Then on either New Years Eve or New Years Day the family gathers around the table and we pass the jar around, each of us pulling out a slip of paper and reading it out loud. We then transpose the list for posterity sake. It’s a fun tradition and also fun to look back at the list years later.

I don’t do resolutions. I do set goals but they are not necessarily based on the calendar year. Last year I set a goal to start to run, do a 5k under 30 minutes and a 10k under an hour and in the process get back in shape and loose some extra weight. I am pleased that I met these goals and it is only an injury that has sidelined me from running and I am anxious to get back and truly miss the feeling of going out for a 6 mile run.

Another goal was to work on writing and that is where this blog came from. I am one of many who became inspired by the writings of Sharyn on the Caleb blog and decided to give it a try.

Through this venture I have met some very nice people, not really met physically but in the virtual world. I have learned much more about the technology and about writing. I have really got to like having a camera around to snap things up when I see them, even if it was only me who thought the pictures were good. (But then I didn’t care if they were a slight bit fuzzy). I have learned that my writing in the beginning was more thoughtful and deep rooted and came from topics stored up and that my writings in the fall were more forced because they were forced as I was working to develop some discipline. In some cases didn’t write here or elsewhere because the writing was stuck and it didn’t seem to matter. I learned that this deep writing is something I want to get back to.

I learned that as I wrote as I thought out loud and wrote when my moods were not good, that there were people who very nicely became concerned and tried to help and this surprised me and caught me off guard, even thought this is a very public place to air your thoughts. [I have a wonderfully supportive wife and kids and a few wonderful friends but I am no longer use to that response from people I don’t know well and initially kind of suspicious (absolutely nothing personal–out there). Where the hell did that come from? Why do I go there rather than accept the genuineness of good people? I do know where much of it came from; the brutality of corporate employment/ unemployment [yes non profits can be brutal] has left me with bruises that have been difficult to heal and definitely more cautious.]

I learned that some people picked up on the writings that I did on other blogs and launched writing of their own off these thoughts and that was wild and exciting to see and read. I assumed when I wrote here and on other blogs that there was this tiny audience and that what I wrote was as much for me as the other person so when I heard from people I didn’t know who were comforted by my words or thought they were good, I was and am blown away.

Someone else reading this might again say, poor guy that he minimizes this so much, but that is not really where I am at.

As I said early on in the year, writing in this way is something new to me and I am not use to getting feedback in that way. Professionally I need to write letters, proposals and do technical writing and the best feedback you can get is that you have been successful in carefully choosing your words or that there was nothing wrong with it or that it was successful in conveying what you want to do or get. Not getting negative feedback in that sense is very positive in a backwards way.

So this has also been a good growth experience for me as has been the running and all of the other positive things that have happened. In that sense and in many other ways it has been a good year.

I am learning ever so slowly that adversity and challenges to me are not necessarily negative and the future not automatically something to be wary of. I am continuing to see the lessons in things that have not gone well and to put those lessons in perspective. This is good and a goal that I will continue to pursue and as well as to continue to work to again to be okay letting my guard down to let others in.