Wednesday, December 29, 2010

I Contemplate New Year's Resolutions

I’ve been contemplating my 2011 New Year’s Resolutions. Last night T.R. and I were talking about them, in a general sense, and that conversation has been slowly spinning around inside of my mind, as such conversations tend to do.

At work we have some basic motivational tools – we use Mission Statements and Value Statements and Imperatives (and half a dozen other named things) to keep resolutions foremost in our thoughts. Like the New Year’s Resolution process it meets with greater or lesser degrees of success, depending on the perceived value and the ability to translate such general statements into specific actions.

I think the same challenge is present with any sort of New Year’s Resolution – it must be broad enough to allow for flexibility (given our general inability to predict the future) and yet at the same time specific enough to be useable. I had a pretty good resolution last year – Walk Simply (Write, Act, Learn, and Keep Healthy) and do it all simply. I was more successful than not, through I would have liked to have done all of them more, it was a good motivational set of resolutions that stayed with me through the year.

I would like to have something similar for 2011. My thoughts are running along a bit more complex of a resolution. First, at the high level, I would like to have a general reminder/directive to help me make decisions, especially when I am trying to decide which course of action to take. I am learning toward making 2011 the year of “Go, Do” as a general motivational directive.

I am also thinking about nestling underneath it a set of smaller, more focused objectives. One of the things I’ve been wrestling around with in a “general direction of life” sort of way has been the nature the life we live. I’ve spent a good portion of the year in an observation mode, watching the world around me, watching myself – my actions and reactions, my joys and sorrows, my interests and disinterests. I’ve been powerfully influenced by the overall trend toward simplicity, a journey which I plan to continue.

In general terms, we can divide our lives into “time spent doing things we have to do” and “the things we want to do”. Nestled between the two is “time between”. It seems to me that th e greater joy I have in this life arises, as I would expect it to, from the balance of “things I have to do” and “things I want to do”. As long as the balance is healthy and leans toward “the things I want to do” my happiness increases, my content rises.

There are a couple of factors that influence that balance.

First, there is the “time between”. We spend a significant amount of time between things. Finishing one, waiting to begin the next. That is a significant pool of time that we can tip toward “the things I want to do” – for example, we can fill it with socializing, writing, reading, music, game playing, walking, conscious observation, meditation – whatever it is we value, we can slip a lot of that into the time between. Having o bserved myself for the last year carefully, I really have a lot of space spent “between” – sometimes somewhere up above two hours a day – that is a lot of time. That is hundreds of hours a year. That is an enormous amount of unused potential.

Second, there is “half time”. Half-time is that region of our lives where we are doing one thing (or experiencing one thing) but thinking of something else, or perhaps even doing something else that detracts from the value of the time spent – it is time when you are only half-way there.

So, in terms of a New Year’s Resolution, I would like to capture a couple of things – first, using the “Go, Do” mantra, I would simply like to recapture a portion of the time between, and second, I would like to convert a portion of “half-time” to full time by working on focusing on the thing I am doing in that moment and not thinking about things I am not doing in that moment. That is what the “Go, Do” mantra is aimed squarely at.

So, the other areas where I was thinking about New Year’s Resolutions is a simply question – what is it I enjoy doing? When I “Go, Do” what am I going to “Go, Do”. I jotted down a handful of ideas of the other day, just the general areas I would like to focus more time in.

Relationships – quality time nurturing my relationships.

Poetry – both reading and writing.

Music – both listening and playing.

Exploration – both internal and external.

Exercise – both incidental and focused (as in a class or classes).

Movies – especially quality films.

Reading – good, quality reading, either fiction or non-fiction.

All in all, that is a pretty broad sweep for a New Year’s Resolution, so I may elect to narrow it down, or lay a theme into it or under it or around it. But it is a good start. The process of writing thing ent ry has allowed me to contemplate it even more and I can see the gems of the Resolutions of 2011 starting to shine.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Lesson of the New Chair

A little over a year ago the corporation came through and gave us all new chairs. Mine is right over there, sitting in the corner, holding my briefcase up. I never adapted to the new chair. I tried, once or twice, rolling it into place and sitting on it and fidgeting with the adjustments trying to get to fit as well as the old chair, but it just wasn’t happening.

Now, there may be something objective to that – it may be that the old chair is simply better than the new chair, but I doubt it. I suspect it is entirely subjective. The old chair fits because I decided it fits. I became used to it. I adapted to it, just as the little adjustment levers allow it to be adapted to me.

So, this year, I am going to try and switch over to the new chair. The old chair is nearing the end of its life cycle. It is a typical center post office chair and the seals on the center post are starting to wear out. There is a bit of a wobble in the chair. Not a lot, but enough that it’s noticeable.

So, today, as soon as I finish this I am going to move into the new chair. I am going to take the time and figure out how the little controls work. They are essentially the same controls as the old chair, they are just in different places and have different sensitivities. I am sure it will take me a while to adjust the new chair and to adjust to the new chair. Then, after a few days or weeks or months, I am going to slip into the new chair and wonder why the heck I didn’t do this sooner. I hope.

Because though subjectivity plays a large part in our lives, we should not forget that objectivity plays a significant role as well. Sometimes, one chair is simply better than the other chair, the form, the design, the fit, the function – all of these things have a strong objective component as well.

Years ago I had a very good office chair. It was an extremely high quality ergonomic chair that originally was issued to one of my co-workers by the health department here, given that my co-worker had chronic ergonomic issues. That chair was a throne. When my co-worker left the company the chair was still warm when I swooped it and grabbed it, wheeling it into my office and then proceeding to hold onto it for as long as I could. Simply put, that chair was objectively an excellent chair.

So, as I prepare to move into the new chair I want to conclude this little essay with an observation. It isn’t the observation that I thought I was going to make when I started writing. When I started writing I thought I was going to write a small essay on the power of perception and the influence of subjectivity on simple things, but I realized that wasn’t what I had to say this morning.

What I have to say is this – sometimes things are subjective and we can, by changing our minds about them, change the experience of them. But, sometimes things are objective and all of our mental games do not change them and do not change the experience of them. They simply are what they are.

So, when you are confronted with something that requires or desires change, remember to carefully contemplate it and decide is it an objective thing or a subjective thing? If it is an objective thing you would be far better off to simply change the thing. If it is a design and form issue, rather than try to convince yourself you are comfortable when you or not, or try and convince yourself you don’t care when you, why, in that case, just change the thing.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Three Days of Christmas

Well, all in all, it was a good Christmas. It was a quiet Christmas, largely by choice. As I mentioned earlier, I kept my decorations and preparations for the holiday to a minimum. I wanted to have a simple Christmas and I was successful. I slept well Christmas Eve, waking early on Christmas Day. I made the pilgrimage to Christmas Mass and then met a couple of friends for an assortment of quiches and a sort of buffet Christmas day breakfast. Okay, the only thing in the buffet was quiche, so it was a simple enough thing.

From there, I went home, stopping at the bank on the way (ATM’s do not require Christmas Day off), and then settling in at home. The plan was to watch “Avatar” on Blu-Ray, but as I settled in I happened to stumble upon another excellent movie that was playing on Starz. It was “Whip It”, with Ellen Page and Drew Barrymore. That is a great little movie.

When “Whip It” wrapped up, I headed over to Bob’s for an informal “Bachelor” Christmas dinner (well, I guess it was a Bachelor and Bachelorette dinner, since Brandy was there.) Christmas dinner was a broiled rib-eye steak, mashed potatoes loaded with bacon and cheddar cheese, stuffing, and a green bean casserole. The food was quiet tasty, though Bob later reported that the marinade used on the steak gave him heartburn. There was a pumpkin pie planned for dessert, but that never materialized. Following the pleasant little dinner, I made my way home to wrap of the day with T.R. and Bill Murray (Bill was in “Scrooged”). All told, it was a great little, simple little, Christmas Day.

On the day after Christmas Tyrone and I went to the Hickory Pit for breakfast and Tyrone out did himself eating pork-products. He had the ham steak and eggs, with a side of country sausage AND a side of bacon. I could hear his arteries clogging as he worked his way through breakfast. From there, I stopped at Fry’s and picked up some incidental things. I wanted to get some twist ties to secure computer cables since I was planning on re-arranging the furniture in both my office at work and my office at home.

Additionally, I picked up a pair of movies that were on sale and that are both worthy additions to my Blu-Ray collection – I picked up “Leon The Professional” (Jean Reno, Natalie Portman, and Gary Oldman) and “Escape From New York”, the classic John Carpenter/Kurt Russell team up. I circled homeward with a stop at CVS and a stop for a haircut.

After a quick pit-stop at home I headed back out to La-Z-Boy, when I bought a new chair (the La-Z-Boy “Charlotte” ), which will be delivered at the end of January. I’ve been meaning to replace my chair, since it has seen better days, so this was the opportunity to do it and it is my Christmas present to myself.

From there, I met Don at Santa Clara Billiards for a few hours of pool, and then it was off to meet Bob and Tony at “True Grit” over at Century 22, followed by a simple dinner at The Flames there on Winchester. I wrapped the day with T.R., and then followed the old adage of early to bed and early to rise.

It’s been quiet here at the office today, with one ongoing technical incident that the team is working on and a blessed change to actually think which at the office. I don’t have anything exciting planned tonight, in fact, I am looking forward to another quiet evening at home and perhaps a bit of DVR watching or maybe a movie. (Oh, and I did rearrange my office – I’m not entirely sure I like it, but it is different and I suspect it will grow on me.)

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Quiet Christmas Eve

It was a very quiet day at work today. No one called. I got one email and it was an automated system generated email. My team got one call on the Help Desk (and I let my analyst who was working the day go home at 9:00 AM). I spent most of the day simply reading, with a pleasant break for sushi (Hon Sushi in Mountain View) and a couple of games of pool with my friend Don (Don won most of them 5 to 2).

After work I stopped at Safeway on the way home and picked up the ingredients for tomorrows simple Christmas dinner over at my friend Bob's. I am very much looking forward to a quiet Christmas Eve and an equally quiet Christmas Day, through Christmas Day will involve some visits (the aforementioned dinner and probably breakfast). I might try and fit a movie in there somewhere, since there are a lot of films in the theaters at this time of year.

I was sitting here trying to remember the last time I had a simple Christmas evening - I did last year, as I was recovering from the toe surgery, but I actually don't recall much of it. Most likely I was sleeping twelve hours a day and dreaming of a hot shower. I still recall quite vividly the sheer pleasure of that first shower. I am sure my neighbors thought I was having wild sex I was moaning so much.

After I got home this evening I took a walk around the neighborhood, looking at the various Christmas lights and breathing in the cool night air. We had another day of sun between rain storms here, so the day was very pleasant and the evening was equally as pleasant. The walk was short and nice and it took me over 10,000 steps for the days, which is the target.

Tonight, I am settling in for a quiet evening, my simple tree lit and my mood expansive and relaxed. Merry Christmas Eve, whoever you are and wherever you are.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Sun Breaks Free

The sun found it's way to freedom following our first winter storm of the year, which happened to be right on schedule with the first day of winter. After seven straight days of gray and rain it was nice to see the sun, nice to feel it on my skin, nice to walk underneath it. I made it a point on the drive home to stop and take a walk through San Tomas Aquino River park and watch the rainfall runoff splashing down the river, then came home to a simple dinner of a ham and cheese sandwich and a salad.

We've reached the still point at work, that point during the Christmas season when virtually everyone is on vacation and so our workload slows to a mere crawl. I think I got three email today, all about the same subject. I had one meeting and missed another because I got a doctor's appointment time wrong - I had written it down right, I just got it tangled in my mind - fortunately the tangle was that I showed up an hour early, so I took advantage of the mistake to head over and have a nice sushi lunch.

I am looking forward to a very quiet and very soft Christmas this year. With input from my beloved T.R. I've decorated my tree very simply this year, indeed, I've keep all my decorations to a minimum. I've got a string of lights on the patio. I've got the tree up with a single ornament (a Hallmark Eastern Bluebird). I've got a simple wreath on the front door. That is it, and it is also all I need or want this year. This is a very minimalist Christmas, with an remembrance of what the season is about, the birth of Christ, our savior.

I am starting to turn my mind toward my New Year's resolutions for 2011. I haven't carved anything in stone yet, but I have some ideas circulating inside my imagination. I managed to keep 2010 a simply year, focused on healing. Besides recovering from the amputation of my toe last November, a long and slow process, I also had the second toe surgery, to correct the hammer toe that developed on the same foot, so I spent my share of time limping and healing this year.

I also focused on other forms of healing, starting (and maintaining) counseling sessions for work stress, which were probably long overdue. The sessions have been very fruitful and I feel like I have most of my work stress under control. It's no longer a 500 pound gorilla knocking the crap out of me, but rather a handful of imaginary monkeys picking at things. Oh, every now and then something will happen that sets me off, but the recovery time from the stressful incident is far quicker. I don't dwell on it - I recognize it for what it is and am able to deal with it far more effectively than I could just a few months ago. I've still got a ways to go, but I am headed in the right direction and most importantly I feel as if I have the tools to continue on the path of healing and on a "return to the center", so to speak.

I am looking forward to the New Year and I think whatever my resolutions may be, one of the key components if a more focused internal journey and a more expansive external journey. One of the things I've been contemplating on the internal side of that journey is to focus and dedicate the year to poetry. I was discussing with T.R. and one of the things I thought about was spending the entire year with Frank O'Hara (one of the great American poets - if you are unfamiliar with his work run, don't walk, to the nearest book store and buy or order one of his works, or the complete and unabridged volume, which I have).

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Learning To Let Go

I’ve had the blessing of a couple of quiet days here at the office. That quietude will continue through the holiday season as part of the natural rhythm of the business cycle. I like to use that time to think about things. One of the things I was thinking about yesterday and today is that in 2011 I need to focus on learning how to let go of the disappointments of life, whether they’re small or big. I need to learn to just let go of the things I cannot change. I need to learn to let go of past wounds that seem to ride with me. I need to let go of the inner critic and the inner censor. I need, simply, to learn to let go.

Brilliant Moon, Broken Sky

The full moon was shining brightly through broken clouds on the drive into the office morning. It was an amazing sight.

Brilliant Moon

Broken Sky

Balmy Wind

Monday, December 20, 2010

I Discover I Am Not Invincible Any More

It was an ordinary thing. I was walking from my office to the deli across the street when life suddenly intervened.  To get there from here you go out the back door of the building, through the turnstile, across the street and then across the parking lot.  In between the street and the parking lot is a small strip of hedge.  There are numerous paths through the hedge that people (including me) routinely take, rather than walking down to the corner where the sidewalk actually turns.  I cut through the hedge, like I’ve done thousands of times.

My foot right foot snagged on an exposed root.  I knew I was going down. I tucked in and protected my head.  I fell out of the small landscaped strip and onto the pavement of the parking lot.  The impact knocked the wind out of me.  I landed more or less on my left side.  My left elbow slammed into the small leather bound journal in my left inner breast pocket.  That journal in turn slammed into my ribs, just below the pectoral muscle. I lay there for a moment, stunned, and then slowly felt myself all over to make sure I hadn’t broken anything.  I hadn’t, but I gave myself a good blow to the middle left rib-cage, which subsequently stiffened up.

It has been getting increasingly better with each passing day, but it is an ache and a pain that reminds me of my age and the fact that I am not invincible anymore!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Spill (A Poem)

I am walking to lunch, jacket buttoned tight, sunglasses on

Contemplating who knows what because in a moment it’s

All swept away. I cross the street, I cross the sidewalk and I

Cut through the small hedge that lines the parking lot

Where my foot catches an exposed root and I have

A moment to realize I am falling and instinct takes over

Slapping the pavement as I hit. It’s still a hard fall, knocks

The wind out of me. I landed on my left side and in the

Pocket of my jacket is my small leather journal and it punches

Me just below the breast.  I lay there for a long moment, then

Roll over and stand up. I’m unhurt, except for my pride and I

Bit of bruising on the chest and a scrap where my left palm

Slapped the onrushing pavement.  I climb to my feet and sweep

The brown dirt from my arm, my knee, my thigh, my hair.

Lunch is a tiny little game hen, roasted squash

And scalloped potatoes with gouda.


Take A Deep Breath

There are some days where I just need to take a deep breath. I either get running to fast, get pulled into multi-tasking, or end up stressed out about something that may or may not be related to anything else. When that happens, I feel this pressure – this pressure to move and do.  At times it can become almost frantic.  When that happens, I just need to step back, take a big, deep breath, and then slowly re-engage, focusing on one thing at a time.  Today has been one of those days.


Friday, December 10, 2010

We've Come Seeking Clarity

Well, it has certainly been a while since I’ve written anything for the Floating World.  November was a busy month with about half of it spent on travel and the other half trying to get a full months worth of things done.  It flew by on falcon’s wings. Fortunately, here at work, we are slipping into the late December holiday season and one of the hallmarks of that is a tendency toward quiet days. 

As the year winds down there is a tipping point where people stop thinking about 2010 and start thinking about 2011 and so some things lose their urgency.  “It’ll wait” becomes a common refrain, or “let’s schedule that in January”.  Both are very good for those of us who spent a lot of time in customer service.  It’s a chance to relax and reflect, to take a deep breath, lift your head up and look around. 

I always appreciate this time of year precisely because it is a time of introspection and reflection.  I am not really sure what 2011 is going to bring me, but I am starting to contemplate it.  I’ll dedicate some time during the next couple of weeks to some serious introspection and review and then try and lay the foundations of 2011.  I’ve already been contemplating a New Year’s resolution and so far, the main thing that has appealed to me is a simple two prong statement:  “Be Active, Be Productive”.  I keep steering myself into a place of simplicity and those two simple statements reflect that movement. 

I am also feeling a need to focus inwardly instead of outwardly – and I mean seriously inwardly.  Lots of time for introspection, writing, reflection, and thoughtful review and analysis. T.R.’s constant encouragement to move toward a more simple lifestyle is very influential.  Each day it seems as if there is something that I can let slip away.  Yesterday’s necessity seems to become today’s clutter, and today’s clutter needs to go. 

I am not sure if I can find clarity, but I am looking for it.


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Waiting at Edgies

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Huevos Mexicana at Goodies II

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Sunday, December 5, 2010

At Edgie's

I sank the eight ball on the break!
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