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Archive for August, 2010

 

“He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion.”

Unknown- 

 

Why old dogs are the best dogs

“They can be eccentric, slow afoot, even grouchy. But dogs live out their final days, says The Washington Post’s Gene Weingarten, with a humility and grace we all could learn from.

Not long before his death, Harry and I headed out for a walk that proved eventful. He was nearly 13, old for a big dog. Walks were no longer the slap-happy Iditarods of his youth, frenzies of purposeless pulling in which we would cast madly off in all directions, fighting for command. Nor were they the exuberant archaeological expeditions of his middle years, when every other tree or hydrant or blade of grass held tantalizing secrets about his neighbors. In his old age, Harry had transformed his walk into a simple process of elimination—a dutiful, utilitarian, head-down trudge. When finished, he would shuffle home to his ratty old bed, which graced our living room because Harry could no longer ascend the stairs. On these walks, Harry seemed oblivious to his surroundings, absorbed in the arduous responsibility of placing foot before foot before foot before foot. But this time, on the edge of a small urban park, he stopped to watch something. A man was throwing a Frisbee to his dog. The dog, about Harry’s size, was tracking the flight expertly, as Harry had once done, anticipating hooks and slices by watching the pitch and roll and yaw of the disc, as Harry had done, then catching it with a joyful, punctuating leap, as Harry had once done, too.

Harry sat. For 10 minutes, he watched the fling and catch, fling and catch, his face contented, his eyes alight, his tail a-twitch. Our walk home was almost … jaunty.

Some years ago, The Washington Post invited readers to come up with a midlife list of goals for an underachiever. The first-runner-up prize went to: “Win the admiration of my dog.”

It’s no big deal to love a dog; they make it so easy for you. They find you brilliant, even if you are a witling. You fascinate them, even if you are as dull as a butter knife. They are fond of you, even if you are a genocidal maniac. Hitler loved his dogs, and they loved him.

Puppies are incomparably cute and incomparably entertaining, and, best of all, they smell exactly like puppies. At middle age, a dog has settled into the knuckleheaded matrix of behavior we find so appealing—his unquestioning loyalty, his irrepressible willingness to please, his infectious happiness. But it is not until a dog gets old that his most important virtues ripen and coalesce. Old dogs can be cloudy-eyed and grouchy, gray of muzzle, graceless of gait, odd of habit, hard of hearing, pimply, wheezy, lazy, and lumpy. But to anyone who has ever known an old dog, these flaws are of little consequence. Old dogs are vulnerable. They show exorbitant gratitude and limitless trust. They are without artifice. They are funny in new and unexpected ways. But, above all, they seem at peace.

Kafka wrote that the meaning of life is that it ends. He meant that our lives are shaped and shaded by the existential terror of knowing that all is finite. This anxiety informs poetry, literature, the monuments we build, the wars we wage—all of it. Kafka was talking, of course, about people. Among animals, only humans are said to be self-aware enough to comprehend the passage of time and the grim truth of mortality. How, then, to explain old Harry at the edge of that park, gray and lame, just days from the end, experiencing what can only be called wistfulness and nostalgia? I have lived with eight dogs, watched six of them grow old and infirm with grace and dignity, and die with what seemed to be acceptance. I have seen old dogs grieve at the loss of their friends. I have come to believe that as they age, dogs comprehend the passage of time, and, if not the inevitability of death, certainly the relentlessness of the onset of their frailties. They understand that what’s gone is gone.

What dogs do not have is an abstract sense of fear, or a feeling of injustice or entitlement. They do not see themselves, as we do, as tragic heroes, battling ceaselessly against the merciless onslaught of time. Unlike us, old dogs lack the audacity to mythologize their lives. You’ve got to love them for that.

The product of a Kansas puppy mill, Harry was sold to us as a yellow Labrador retriever. I suppose it was technically true, but only in the sense that Tic Tacs are technically “food.” Harry’s lineage was suspect. He wasn’t the square-headed, elegant type of Labrador you can envision in the wilds of Canada hunting for ducks. He was the shape of a baked potato, with the color and luster of an interoffice envelope. You could envision him in the wilds of suburban Toledo, hunting for nuggets of dried food in a carpet.

His full name was Harry S Truman, and once he’d reached middle age, he had indeed developed the unassuming soul of a haberdasher. We sometimes called him Tru, which fit his loyalty but was in other ways a misnomer: Harry was a bit of an eccentric, a few bubbles off plumb. Though he had never experienced an electrical shock, whenever he encountered a wire on the floor—say, a power cord leading from a laptop to a wall socket—Harry would stop and refuse to proceed. To him, this barrier was as impassable as the Himalayas. He’d stand there, waiting for someone to move it. Also, he was afraid of wind.

While Harry lacked the wiliness and cunning of some dogs, I did watch one day as he figured out a basic principle of physics. He was playing with a water bottle in our backyard—it was one of those 5-gallon cylindrical plastic jugs from the top of a water cooler. At one point, it rolled down a hill, which surprised and delighted him. He retrieved it, brought it back up and tried to make it go down again. It wouldn’t. I watched him nudge it around until he discovered that for the bottle to roll, its long axis had to be perpendicular to the slope of the hill. You could see the understanding dawn on his face; it was Archimedes in his bath, Helen Keller at the water spigot.

That was probably the intellectual achievement of Harry’s life, tarnished only slightly by the fact that he spent the next two hours insipidly entranced, rolling the bottle down and hauling it back up. He did not come inside until it grew too dark for him to see.

I believe I know exactly when Harry became an old dog. He was about 9 years old. It happened at 10:15 on the evening of June 21, 2001, the day my family moved from the suburbs to the city. The move took longer than we’d anticipated. Inexcusably, Harry had been left alone in the vacated house—eerie, echoing, empty of furniture and of all belongings except Harry and his bed—for eight hours. When I arrived to pick him up, he was beyond frantic.

He met me at the door and embraced me around the waist in a way that is not immediately reconcilable with the musculature and skeleton of a dog’s front legs. I could not extricate myself from his grasp. We walked out of that house like a slow-dancing couple, and Harry did not let go until I opened the car door.

He wasn’t barking at me in reprimand, as he once might have done. He hadn’t fouled the house in spite. That night, Harry was simply scared and vulnerable, impossibly sweet and needy and grateful. He had lost something of himself, but he had gained something more touching and more valuable. He had entered old age.

In the year after our move, Harry began to age visibly, and he did it the way most dogs do. First his muzzle began to whiten, and then the white slowly crept backward to swallow his entire head. As he became more sedentary, he thickened a bit, too.

On walks, he would no longer bother to scout and circle for a place to relieve himself. He would simply do it in mid-plod, like a horse, leaving the difficult logistics of drive-by cleanup to me. Sometimes, while crossing a busy street, with cars whizzing by, he would plop down to scratch his ear. Sometimes, he would forget where he was and why he was there. To the amusement of passersby, I would have to hunker down beside him and say, “Harry, we’re on a walk, and we’re going home now. Home is this way, okay?” On these dutiful walks, Harry ignored almost everything he passed. The most notable exception was an old, barrel-chested female pit bull named Honey, whom he loved. This was surprising, both because other dogs had long ago ceased to interest Harry at all, and because even back when they did, Harry’s tastes were for the guys. 

Still, when we met Honey on walks, Harry perked up. Honey was younger by five years and heartier by a mile, but she liked Harry and slowed her gait when he was around. They waddled together for blocks, eyes forward, hardly interacting but content in each other’s company. I will forever be grateful to Honey for sweetening Harry’s last days. 

Some people who seem unmoved by the deaths of tens of thousands through war or natural disaster will nonetheless grieve inconsolably over the loss of the family dog. People who find this behavior distasteful are often the ones without pets. It is hard to understand, in the abstract, the degree to which a companion animal, particularly after a long life, becomes a part of you. I believe I’ve figured out what this is all about. It is not as noble as I’d like it to be, but it is not anything of which to be ashamed, either.

In our dogs, we see ourselves. Dogs exhibit almost all of our emotions; if you think a dog cannot register envy or pity or pride or melancholia, you have never lived with one for any length of time. What dogs lack is our ability to dissimulate. They wear their emotions nakedly, and so, in watching them, we see ourselves as we would be if we were stripped of posture and pretense. Their innocence is enormously appealing. When we watch a dog progress from puppy hood to old age, we are watching our own lives in microcosm. Our dogs become old, frail, crotchety, and vulnerable, just as Grandma did, just as we surely will, come the day. When we grieve for them, we grieve for ourselves.”

From the book Old Dogs, text by Gene Weingarten and Michael S. Williamson, based on a longer excerpt that originally appeared in The Washington Post. ©2008 by Gene Weingarten and Michael S. Williamson. Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster Inc.

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Thank you to my good friend, Mert Parsons for sharing this article.

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“For sale: baby shoes, never worn”

Ernest Hemingway

(In response to the question, “If you had to sum up your life in six words, what would you say?”)    

 This got me to thinking, what would I say? Perhaps you’ll find this to be fun, too. Play around with this a little bit and write down your thoughts. If you have some good ones, please send them to me. I’d love to hear them!  

6 word Memoir:  Write your life story in 6 words. No more, no less, just six words. It can be funny, silly, deep, light, poignant, vulnerable, whatever you want, whatever captures you and your life. You may have several you like or maybe find one today and change it tomorrow. Give it a try . . .  

Here are some examples:                                                                                                                           

Writer Dave Eggers: ” Fifteen years since last professional haircut.”  

Singer Aimee Mann:  “Couldn’t cope so I wrote songs”  

Comedian Stephen Colbert: “Well, I thought it was funny”  

Amy Sohn: “Gave commencement address, became sex columnist”  

Joan Rivers: “Liars! Hysterectomy did not improve sex life.”  

Other Entries:  

  • Being a monk stunk.  Better gay
  • Made first million mistakes before 30 
  • I don’t know where we’re going
  • Not quite what I was planning
  • Unexpectedly, however belatedly, accepted at last
  • Lived like no tomorrow; tomorrow came
  • Small fish in a big pond
  • Made others laugh.  I Still hurt. 
  • Saving sense to make my cents. 
  • Found true love.  Married someone else.
  • Quiet late bloomer, still quietly blooming.
  • Mom died.  Found faith, healing hands.
  • Took everything in.  Relished simple pleasures. 
  • Cyclist seeking sky.  Found family, friends.
  • Miss you Dad.  You’d be proud. 
  • Life-long ranger.  Better than anything. 
  • Always felt better in New York. 
  • Born looking up at the stars 
  • Wasn’t noticed so I painted trains. 
  • Reality continues to ruin my life. 
  • Broken home, broken heart, new beginnings. 
  • Life’s too short, make some music. 
  • Born a loser, Die a legend 
  • Life’s too short not to tease. 
  • Taken but loved by different families. 
  • Life-long friends.  Always be there. 
  • I still make coffee for two. 
  • Macular degeneration. Didn’t see that coming.

  And don’t forget . . . send me yours using the comments below!

BTW – Mine today is: Living life out loud, trusting trust.  

For more fun, get the book by the editors of the story telling magazine SMITH…

 

Thank you to Gillian PS Khoo for sharing this with me.

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We Cannot Deny Our Part

 

“We cannot, with integrity deny our responsibility for stewardship of every part of the whole.”

Scott Peck

 

My book, Your Survival Strategies Are Killing You! is about the eight principles you must follow to thrive in life and at work. Today, I’d like to share some of my final thoughts found on the last page:

“Conscious members of society now realize If we keep doing what we’re doing in this world, we’ll continue to have what we have. Given the current state of our human affairs and the condition of our fragile planet, this is concerning news. Operating with our current context of “kill or be killed – it’s a jungle out there”, we are doomed to extinction. To create different results, we must think and act differently. The time has come to fully utilize our God-given, inborn power of reason to elevate our thinking to a higher plane.

I ask you to carefully consider these questions:  If each of us embraced the eight principles [contained in this book] and committed ourselves to live and express the beliefs and behaviors of honesty, integrity, accountability, win/win, acceptance, commitment and agape love, would we have a different workplace? Would we operate differently within our families, neighborhoods and communities – and would that make a difference?

If we realized that commerce and a commitment to conscious awareness aren’t mutually exclusive, would this affect our state, our country, our continent? If corporations, government leaders, and we, as individuals took responsibility for our environmental footprint and the health and well being of the community in which we live and work, is it possible we could have a different world?

Can we afford to sit back and shake our heads at the state of affairs around us when we are capable of making great change?

Reflect on those who didn’t. Think of Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa just to name a few. Better yet, think about Rosa Parks who defied the rules of segregation and launched the civil rights movement in America. Consider Candy Lightner who founded MADD when her thirteen-year-old daughter was killed by a hit-and-run driver. Bring to mind the heroes of Flight 93 whose courageous sacrifice likely saved the lives of countless numbers of people. Remember your favorite high school teacher or coach or someone in your personal past whom you admired and respected. World famous or not, they were all just people – like you and I. The reason they stand out, however, is because they played a bigger game than most. If you examine their lives carefully, you will see that their thoughts, actions, and deeds exemplified the eight principles.

If we are to truly survive as a species and thrive as a society, we must shift from a Survival of the Fittest context to one that supports Survival of the Wisest, because

 

Only the Wise will Thrive

   

When published in 2007, Your Survival Strategies Are Killing You! placed #3 on the amazon.com Best Seller list (two under Harry Potter). It has never left the Work/Life Balance Best Seller list. If you would like a copy, click here.  If you would like an autographed copy, click here.

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Who Owns The Truth?

 

workable: viable, possible, practical, doable

unworkable: impossible, useless, hopeless, unthinkable, inconceivable, impractical, unattainable”

Collins Thesaurus of the English Language

 

POV: None of us own the truth, we tend to think that our reality is THE reality, but if we really look at it, I don’t own the truth and your reality isn’t THE reality, you simply have your own perspective and I have mine. You have your reality and I have mine and neither is more real than the other. Instead of thinking in terms of being right or wrong about an opinion, idea, or point of view, may I suggest a new approach? Let’s  think in terms of “workability”.

By “work” what I mean is, “1) Does it produce the results you are looking for?  2) Does it generate the experience you are looking for?”

When we come from a framework of thinking of “right” and “wrong”, we get positioned, take sides, get resistant and stubborn and the fight is on! Does this approach to discussing differences or even heated disagreements, work? Does it produce effective results? I think not. It creates stalemates, animosity and separation and the problem is not resolved. So rather than identify a person or an idea or a point of view as right or wrong, let’s ask “How can we communicate in a way that will work?” “How do I need to think and operate differently so that it works for both of us?”

If an attempt to do something doesn’t work then it’s not considered a mistake or a failure. It doesn’t make the person “wrong”. They simply did something that didn’t work. There is no critical judgment about it, but rather, there is a practical judgment about it. That’s all.

It isn’t good, it isn’t bad, it simply needs to “work”. Most of us want a climate of creativity and cooperation whether it is in the workplace or at home, where people feel free to explore, express ideas, try new things and be heard without any concern for criticism. The only criteria we need to look for when entertaining an idea, a point of view or a suggestion is, “Will it work? Does it make for a better relationship, smoother functionality at work and produce the result we are looking for?

If you are bothered about the way something is being done or if there is a problem with an individual or a performance or a communication, or if something is annoying you about a family member and you are feeling uncomfortable, unhappy frustrated, or angry – that would be considered as something that’s “unworkable”.  It’s not right, not wrong, it simply “doesn’t work for me (for the company or for my relationships).” Let’s not slip into moral judgment because all that does is create resistance and defensiveness and besides, who are we to morally judge another anyway? All we want is workability.

This point of view can also be applied to one’s own behaviors. If I find myself feeling overwhelmed, out of sorts and maybe complaining a bit, I stop, look in the mirror and ask myself, “How’s this working for you, Martha?” “It NOT WORKING for me!!” I say. I’m not getting the results I want, nor am I having the experience I am looking for. At that point, I need to stop my actions, reactions or inactions and ask myself, “What will work?” I then need to make the appropriate changes. Nothing to be right about, to defend, hold on to, no agenda to prove, simply let go and do what works. That’s all.

To achieve this, we need to check our egos at the door. Self-righteous ego protective actions can throw a wrench into the best laid plans. Let’s rise above our egos and show the world how mature adults conduct themselves while achieving a goal, producing phenomenal success and communicating effectively. Let’s not sink into judgmental “right” and “wrong” thinking. Let’s simply ask ourselves “what will work?” And go do it.

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“Keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.”

Author unknown

“Their marriage was good, their dreams focused. Their best friends lived barely a wave away. I can see them now, Dad in trousers, tee shirt and a hat and Mom in a house dress; lawn mower in his hand, and dish-towel in hers. It was the time for fixing things. A curtain rod, the kitchen radio, screen door, the oven door, the hem in a dress. Things we keep.

It was a way of life, and sometimes it made me crazy. All that re-fixing, eating, renewing, I wanted just once to be wasteful. Waste meant affluence. Throwing things away meant you knew there’d always be more.

But then my mother died, and on that clear summer’s night, in the warmth of the hospital room, I was struck with the pain of learning that sometimes there isn’t any more. Sometimes, what we care about most gets all used up and goes away …never to return. So ..While we have it …it’s best we love it … And care for it …. And fix it when it’s broken … And heal it when it’s sick.

This is true …For marriage … And old cars … And children with bad report cards … Dogs and cats with bad hips … And aging parents … And grandparents, aunts and uncles and friends. We keep them because they are worth it, because we are worth it.

Some things we keep. Like a best friend who moved away or a classmate we grew up with. There are just some things that make life important, like people we know who are special … And so, we keep them close in heart and mind and spirit.”

Thank you to my cousin, Susan, for sending me this story. Author Unknown.

 

“It takes a long time to grow an old friend.”

~John Leonard

What/who are some of the blessings you have in your life you need to treat with care?

 

 

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The field of consciousness is tiny.  It accepts only one problem at a time.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupery

“A lecturer, when explaining stress management to an audience,
raised a glass of water and asked, ‘How heavy is this glass of water?’

Answers called out ranged from 20g to 500g.

The lecturer replied, ‘The absolute weight doesn’t matter.
It depends on how long you try to hold it.
If I hold it for a minute, it’s not a problem..
If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my right arm.
If I hold it for a day, you’ll have to call an ambulance.
In each case, it’s the same weight, but the longer I hold it,the heavier it becomes.’

He continued,
‘And that’s the way it is with stress management.
If we carry our burdens all the time, sooner or later,
the burden will become increasingly heavy:
and we won’t be able to carry on.’

‘As with the glass of water,
you have to put it down for a while and rest before holding it again.
When we’re refreshed, we can carry on with the burden.
So, before you return home tonight, put the burden of work down: don’t carry it home.

‘You can pick it up tomorrow.
Whatever burdens you’re carrying now,
let them down for a moment if you can.”

Author Unknown

 
So, my friends, put down anything that may be a burden to you right now.  Don’t pick it up again until after you’ve rested a while.

 

“Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop.”

Ovid

Thank you to my friend Jim Irvine for this article and picture.

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