Yesterdays, Todays, and Tomorrows

A friend of mine posted the other day on facebook something she overheard in the hallway at work….

“I have more yesterdays than tomorrows.”

It prompted her to think of her own life, and her own mortality. It resonated with her enough to post it (and she’s not one of those let-me-post-every-single-moment-of-my-life people.)

Then yesterday, there was a phrase in a book I was reading….

“You have more tomorrows than yesterdays.” 

And that one resonated with me.  For two reasons; first, I immediately remembered my friend’s post from the other day, and second, for me, this was absolutely true.  I’m 39 years old and I have decades yet ahead of me. And it gave me one of those “aha” moments. 

But then I wondered, what about today? What does it matter how many yesterdays you’ve had and tomorrows that you might have if you’re not paying attention to today?

It made me realize that I spend a lot of time on the other side of today. 

Sometimes I’m musing about my past, and the influence it had on me, and the part it plays in who I think I am now.  If I’m not doing that I tend to think alot about tomorrow.  For example, right now I’m thinking about furniture, and planting vegetables.  Now, that’s not something that matters today, currently I’m touring full time, and it will be that way through the end of the year.

But I like to analyze (others who know me might say “over-think”) and I like to plan. 

I like to feel as if I have an idea of where I came from and that there is a form for where I’m heading to.

Now, don’t misunderstand, I’ve never been one of those people who always has a 5 year plan.  There is a certain element of “go with the flow” that I have found absolutely essential to not completely losing my mind on a minute by minute basis. But all the same, I like to feel as if there is a pattern somewhere.  A piece of tapestry, perhaps, that I am a part of that may not make much sense now, but sometime down the road I’ll get a glimpse of the pictures on that tapestry and at least a little bit will make sense.

That takes a certain willingness to take a regular leap of faith. And I guess the reality is I’m not always ready to leap. I suppose that’s just a part of doing the best I can with what I have. On a moment by moment basis.

The Tao of Pooh

poohOk, so by now we should have all realized that my hamsters are numbered three (and the number shall be three, not two, not four), and therefore they do not run in conjunction with eachother, but typically in opposition. This is the only way I can explain the blog post that follows. If you have not realized this, you have not properly read my blog, and I therefore assign you homework. Go back, then it will be clear.

So, while trolling facebook, I ran across a link to this: http://www.rantsfrommommyland.com/2013/01/a-letter-to-my-kids-because-im-40-and.html

It’s awesome. Go read it, and then come back please.

Now, I don’t have kids, but I do have two fairy god-daughters (and they really think I am a fairy god-mother, it’s awesome–my oldest of the two, even at 12 years old, still stoutly persists in the belief that I really am a fairy godmother), two other non-fairy god-children (one of whom is named after me, bless her cotton socks), and a niece and nephew that I adore, and a bunch of “my” children that actually belong to my dearest friends but I would steal in a heartbeat because they are so great. So, with all of that likely un-necessary back-story, hopefully you get why I get this Mommy Rant and applaud it.

I WISH when I was a kid that someone had written this letter to me. Well done, rantsfrommommyland!

But it got me thinking, since I didn’t have a letter like this when I was a kid, what did I have?

Well, I had a mother who, although significantly unwell, introduced me to worlds of language and people and tolerance and music that most other “traditional” mothers likely never would have…and as a result, my cultural reference is significantly rich. It did leave me a bit linguistically confused when I’m fatigued, though – as I tend to short-circuit and speak in multiple languages in a single sentence, but hey, #firstworldproblems, right?

I also had a father who, while not always physically with me, imbued me with two very important philosophies:
1. The only time you can’t do something is because you’ve convinced yourself that you can’t. You can try anything at anytime.
2. This is a direct quote — “I don’t care if you flip burgers at McDonald’s, as long as when you get up in the morning you are excited about what you are going to do.”

PRICELESS. These contributions to my development were priceless, no matter how they came about. And I’ve shared my dad’s pearls of wisdom with more employees and protegés than I can even begin to enumerate.

Regardless of the nuggets of wisdom that my individual parents gave or allowed me (and there is a difference), there was a point in my 20s where I realized I still had the overwelming feeling that Ms. Miner mentions — of feeling that someday, someone who had the instruction manual that I was convinced was out there but that I never received, someone better in the know than I, would figure out that I HAD NO CLUE.

So, loving synchronicity — because it was pretty much at the exact same moment that I was given a copy of the Tao of Pooh–I had several epiphanies simultaneously. Now, honestly, this should have caused an immediate aneurism, however, having long since been a fan of the wisdom of A.A. Milne, (since way back in my single digits), this hit me right smack between the eyes like a fire truck going Mach 10. So I take Ms. Miner’s opening gambit, and, rather than challenge it, would like to add my personal two cents of relevance, thanks to the efforts of Benjamin Hoff (http://www.benjaminhoffauthor.com/).

Quick disclaimer – Mr. Hoff, I make no gain financially from using your properly cited quotes, and therefore hope not to tread on your copyright, but should you find this an issue, please feel free to contact me ASAP, as no offence, intrusion or otherwise bad form is intended.

So, with that out of the way, here we go:

“Do you really want to be happy? You can begin by being appreciative of who you are and what you’ve got.”
― Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh

Yup. Absolutely. Later I also learned from the wisdom of Bill, “Do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy.” To me, both of these ideas go hand in hand. One, if you are willing to HONESTLY look at where you are and what you have, and I’m not talking about things here, that should be enough. If it’s not, think about Bill’s idea – are you having the argument because you just think you NEED to be right? Is it really that important? Sometimes it is, sure, but most times, compromise and empathy is the key to happiness.

“Lots of people talk to animals…Not very many listen though…that’s the problem.”
― Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh

Can’t like or agree or stand up and shout “YES” enough to this. Perhaps because of my non-traditional upbringing, my constantly seeking cues for how to actually relate and be present as a two-legged, perhaps…who knows…but the best lessons I have learned in life have honestly come from my fascination with animals. Dogs and cats traditionally dislike eachother, for example, and apparently for good reason, if you ask a cat, but an orphaned puppy will still be taken care of by a mommy cat. Because it’s right. You can try and convince me that animals are a lower life form, but honestly, we’re just jealous as two-leggeds, because we think it should be more complicated. The critters have it right.

“The surest way to become Tense, Awkward, and Confused is to develop a mind that tries too hard – one that thinks too much.”
― Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh

Abso-freaking-lutely. Talk to my hamsters. They know.

“Things just happen in the right way, at the right time. At least when you let them, when you work with circumstances instead of saying, ‘This isn’t supposed to be happening this way,’ and trying harder to make it happen some other way.”
― Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh

I like to think of this as the “River Equation.” So here’s how it goes. In my hamster-driven head, there are always two options.
Door #1. Go with the flow (thank you John Candy) whether it makes sense or not; OR
Door #2. Paddle furiously in the direction you think you are supposed to go, which is invariably upstream, until you become so tired that you have to go with the current (flow) ANYWAY. In the end, you rock up right where you would have been to begin with, but now you’re covered in bruises, you need therapy, and it took you an interminably long time to get there.
I know, because I consistently try both ways, and when I succesfully go with Door Number One I am infinitely happier, and feel marginally more wise.

“There are things about ourselves that we need to get rid of; there are things we need to change. But at the same time, we do not need to be too desperate, too ruthless, too combative. Along the way to usefulness and happiness, many of those things will change themselves, and the others can be worked on as we go. The first thing we need to do is recognize and trust our own Inner Nature, and not lose sight of it.”
― Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh

Add to this only: the things we most dislike in others is usually a reflection of what we, ourselves, manifest….and greatly dislike about ourselves. How do ya like them apples?

“Rabbit’s clever,” said Pooh thoughtfully.
“Yes,” said Piglet, “Rabbit’s clever.”
“And he has Brain.”
“Yes,” said Piglet, “Rabbit has Brain.”
There was a long silence.
“I suppose,” said Pooh, “that that’s why he never understands anything.”
― Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh

Mmhmm. The day we think we know it all we know the least.

“We don’t need to shift our responsibilities onto the shoulders of some deified Spiritual Superman, or sit around and wait for Fate to come knocking at the door. We simply need to believe in the power that’s within us, and use it. When we do that, and stop imitating others and competing against them, things begin to work for us.”
― Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh

‘Nuff said. Religous or not, it doesn’t really matter. If you don’t listen to your own inner voice you will always regret it. However, I do have a caveat on this…remember the voice of FEAR (False Evidence Appearing Real) is always louder than the voice of truth. ALWAYS. Trust me, I’ve tried to disprove this many times.

“How can you get very far,
If you don’t know who you are?
How can you do what you ought,
If you don’t know what you’ve got?
And if you don’t know which to do
Of all the things in front of you,
Then what you’ll have when you are through
Is just a mess without a clue
Of all the best that can come true
If you know What and Which and Who.”
― Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh

Yep – if you don’t have a clear idea of what to do then WAIT. When it’s clear it will make sense. Gut sense. Heart sense. Honestly, you’ll feel it. Otherwise you’re just deciding to do something to make a decision for the sake of making a decision and not necessarily think. Which is a sorry waste of time and energy.

“Wisdom, Happiness, and Courage are not waiting somewhere out beyond sight at the end of a straight line; they’re part of a continuous cycle that begins right here. They’re not only the ending, but the beginning as well.”
― Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh

And the middle…if you’re not willing to take the leap, follow your heart, and trust….well….why do anything? Life is not linear. Not even evolution is linear. GO WITH THE FLOW….

“The wise know their limitations; the foolish do not.”
― Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh

Truer words were never said. Give me a team of people willing to admit “I DO NOT KNOW” and I can achieve anything. Give me a team of people who must say “I KNOW EVERYTHING” and we are all doomed. The only stupid question is the one you don’t ask.

“A way of life that keeps saying ‘Around the next corner, above the next step,’ works against the natural order of things and makes it so difficult to be happy and good.”
― Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh

Same as the idea that the grass is always greener on the other side….or why some think it is important to “Keep up with the Joneses” (whoever they are). If you’re always looking out, and never looking in, then you have no idea where you are and what you really have.

“The Christmas presents once opened are Not So Much Fun as they were while we were in the process of examining, lifting, shaking, thinking about, and opening them. Three hundred sixty-five days later, we try again and find that the same thing has happened. Each time the goal is reached, it becomes Not So Much Fun, and we’re off to reach the next one, then the next one, then the next.
That doesn’t mean that the goals we have don’t count. They do, mostly because they cause us to go through the process and it’s the process that makes us wise, happy, or whatever. If we do things in the wrong sort of way, it makes us miserable, angry, confused, and things like that. The goal has to be right for us, and it has to be beneficial, in order to ensure a beneficial process. But aside from that, it’s really the process that’s important.”
― Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh

Follow your heart, don’t do something just because you think someone else thinks you should do it. Unless you really aspire to a life of feeling empty and taken for granted.

“Now, scholars can be very useful and necessary, in their own dull and unamusing way. They provide a lot of information. It’s just that there is Something More, and that Something More is what life is really all about.”
― Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh

If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it. Go read the Desiderata. Take it to heart and run with it. My mother was a scholar, a brilliant one, and she frequently had no idea what she really had around her that was worth celebrating. It’s a very sad way to live, and while she showed me many opportunities she could never take them herself. For that I will always regret that because I was her daughter she could not likewise receive the gift that she did not know she gave to me.

“If people were superior to animals, they’d take good care of them,” said Pooh.”
― Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh

Picture me standing up and applauding and doing that super annoying, ear-piercing two-finger whistle (not that I can actually do it, but if you can picture it, that’s what I’m doing). That’s me, right now.

“When we learn to work with our own Inner Nature, and with the natural laws operating around us, we reach the level of Wu Wei. Then we work with the natural order of things and operate on the principle of minimal effort. Since the natural world follows that principle, it does not make mistakes. Mistakes are made–or imagined–by man, the creature with the overloaded Brain who separates himself from the supporting network of natural laws by interfering and trying too hard.
When you work with Wu Wei, you put the round peg in the round hole and the square peg in the square hole. No stress, no struggle. Egotistical Desire tries to force the round peg into the square hole and the square peg into the round hole. Cleverness tries to devise craftier ways of making pegs fit where they don’t belong. Knowledge tries to figure out why round pegs fit into round holes, but not square holes. Wu Wei doesn’t try. It doesn’t think about it. It just does it. And when it does, it doesn’t appear to do much of anything. But Things Get Done.
When you work with Wu Wei, you have no real accidents. Things may get a little Odd at times, but they work out. You don’t have to try very hard to make them work out; you just let them. […] If you’re in tune with The Way Things Work, then they work the way they need to, no matter what you may think about it at the time. Later on you can look back and say, “Oh, now I understand. That had to happen so that those could happen, and those had to happen in order for this to happen…” Then you realize that even if you’d tried to make it all turn out perfectly, you couldn’t have done better, and if you’d really tried, you would have made a mess of the whole thing.
Using Wu Wei, you go by circumstances and listen to your own intuition. “This isn’t the best time to do this. I’d better go that way.” Like that. When you do that sort of thing, people may say you have a Sixth Sense or something. All it really is, though, is being Sensitive to Circumstances. That’s just natural. It’s only strange when you don’t listen.”
― Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh

My entire life is composed of doing the best I can with what I have at the time, and later, realizing, that as long as I could stay out of my own way it eventually made sense. Someone wise once told me a story of how they had spent their whole life trying to get all their ducks in a row only to finally be told that those ducks weren’t their’s. Whether it’s a Mallard in the local fish pond, or a rubber duckie in your bathtub, or your kids, or your dry cleaner, really, the only duck that’s really yours is YOU. The other ducks will either get in line with you or not, but it’s not up to you (sorry ’bout that, welcome to life). Generally, going through life with the mantra “it’s not my duck” is NOT actually about denying your responsibility, but accepting ownership for what is.

“A clever mind is not a heart. Knowledge doesn’t really care, wisdom does.”
― Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh

Wisdom is not to be underrated. We think we have wisdom when really we still have so much left to learn. The day we die is the day we believe we know everything. At this rate I am far from dying, and excited by what I have left to learn.

“When you discard arrogance, complexity, and a few other things that get in the way, sooner or later you will discover that simple, childlike, and mysterious secret known to those of the Uncarved Block: Life is Fun.”
― Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh

This refers back to my own post https://asthehamsterwheelturns.com/2013/01/01/in-search-of-awe/

So, bottom line? Go back to the basics, embrace Pooh, joy, awe and splendor. If it feels like it’s too hard, you probably created the problem yourself. If someone really annoys you, pay closer attention, there are big lessons there. You may not like them, but they are there all the same.

And finally, thank you Ms. Miner, for inspiring this rant of mine.

If Your Dreams Don’t Scare You They Are Not Big Enough

I saw this recently on a Facebook wall post….and in my head, I cheered “hear, hear!!!”

And then I thought about what it really meant.

And a part of me felt short of breath, a part of me felt elated, and a part of me felt…terrified.

You see, my dreams are big, and they do scare me…and I try to pretend they don’t. But I suppose the big secret to being willing to dream is being willing to follow through, no matter how scary it might seem.

Years ago, whilst in the presence of some very wise folk, I was told that FEAR is really
False
Evidence
Appearing
Real

The first time I heard that, my heart stopped for a moment, and when it restarted, it went at hyperspeed.

You see, I grew up feeling I was always on the outside looking in. It’s not a unique experience, although I wish it was. Not because I want to be a martyr, but because it SHOULD be a unique experience, in my mind.

I grew up feeling that way because I grew up very poor. My second grade teacher bought me my first raincoat. My elementary school made special provisions to accept me at the school well prior to anyone else, so that they might give me some breakfast without the other students knowing. I am the child of two parents who loved me with their whole hearts, but couldn’t love eachother. As a result, and due to the “legal perception of proper parenting” at the time (and that is in quotes for a good reason), I was kept in the care of the one parent who was least able to truly care for a child. Now, do not misunderstand, it was not for lack of love or desire, it was for lack of ability. She was not well, and that is the most honest way to describe it. Her perception was skewed, her concept of mothering from a foreign place. She was not evil, she was altered. She was wired differently. It was only after several years of my own feet walking the earth that I finally came to understand that, and find some peace.

You see, in my view, a child cannot and should not be able to understand mental illness. The unfortunate reality is that many times, a child must understand just that, in any way they can. So, as my parents divorced in 1978, when I was 5, the concept in the courts at the time was that the child should stay with the mother. And whilst my father did everything he could to change that, that is where I stayed.

Now, as a boon from the difficulties, by the time I was 14 I spoke three languages fluently. I never perceived something new as “I cannot do that.” However I did believe, fervently, that I was somehow alien. I had missed some instruction manual to life. As an 8 year old I could relate to 40 year olds and discuss anthropological theories and philosophical doctrine…but I could never understand why purple was the “IN” color, or why everyone thought I was weird.

Of course, I was surrounded by children. Who don’t understand what is different. The only differences I ever really had was that I was poor and that my mother was ill. My clothes were out of fashion, I was skinny and I didn’t understand other kids…well, I was weird. I celebrate that weirdness now, and the strengths that came from my childhood, but it did leave some scars along with the blessings.

It left me wondering why I should have things. And as I went through my early years “things” translated directly to security. I wasn’t a normal kid who would make a list of “wants” for Santa. I was a kid that knew hunger, and cold, and living in a car. In many ways this prepared me for the “real world.” The difference between NEED and WANT was very clear. Like I said, this is something that is very unfortunately a common experience. I truly wish I could say it was my own, but that would be ignorant.

So, feelings of security were folly, purely because my Ma was driven by whimsey and a vivid imagination and, yes, true madness at times that meant that constancy, predictability….my perception of “security,” were things best not counted on.

So what happened?

I became someone who out of necessity learned that adaptability was key. You never knew who would greet you in the morning, so put on a brave face and find the willingness to roll with it. To demand something to be a particular way was futile.

My mother had a very real concept of “THEY.” They were very real, and always just at the door. As a result, I became someone who rebelled at the idea of Chicken Little. I just refused to believe that things were always bound for destruction, it was just too exhausting. I discovered the concept of cautious optimism, and that worked for me. And it still does.

But now, as an adult with several decades under my belt, I find some of that preparation for unpredictability still sticks.

Things go very well in life for me, and I find myself richer than I thought I could be. And when I talk about rich I’m not talking about money, although I do ok on that front. For me being rich is to find myself in a job I enjoy that enjoys having me do it, but mostly to find myself surrounded by a family across the globe, both inherited and discovered, that helps me walk when I am weak and encourages me further when I am strong. Yet I find myself nervous about that – anxious that these things might suddenly go away…that this is too much, this is too rich, and surely it cannot last.

I find my dreams create my nightmares…if I let them.

Dreams should be big…the plans we make for ourselves will inevitably fall short of what is possible. We shall never know what we are actually capable of, not if we’re truly honest with ourselves. If we think we do, then we think we have nothing left to learn, and that is true poverty.

So go forth, dream big, and if it’s scary, then you must be doing something right.

The safest path will always cheat us of our best…the best that we don’t even know we can deliver.

Do your dreams scare you? I hope they do — for I believe I am finally beginning to learn that scary dreams that you are willing to still reach for are the true sign of wealth.

OK Charlie Brown – What is Your Football?

Really.

We are ALL Charlie Brown at one point or another, so I ask you:
When are you at your most Charlie Brown moment?

I don’t just speak of the quintessential AAARGH! that we all remember from the PEANUTS comics, I’m referring to the solidity of the football NOT BEING THERE, and Lucy, and the perception of humiliation.

And perception is key.

Personally, because I am an overachiever, I have several footballs. And likely, several Lucys — depending on the day. So here are the highlights.

1. YOGA. Yup. It’s a football. Sometimes I am able to distract my Yoga-Lucy enough to persevere. Othertimes, she wins. She lives in my bed, and pillows and Duna….she is evil. She also, apparently, resides in my couch, which I refer to as the Evil Couch, and which sucks all motivation out of me in a nanosecond as soon as I stretch out. I think the YOGA-COUCH-Lucy might have a super-power.

2. PAMPERING. Yup. It’s a necessity, we should all do it. For me it’s acupuncture and actually doing something to the hedge that masquerades as my hair. For acupuncture, however, I seem to have found an anti-Lucy…only because I am travelling with someone who I unequivocally count as the best acupuncturist ever, and she forces me to make appointments and then comes to my apartment. Bliss. For the Hedge, however, positive results are not so common. I CONSTANTLY want to fix it but the Hedge-Lucy masquerades as WORK and defeats me easily. Now, it should be remembered, I just referenced myself as an over-achiever. I typically work 60 to 70 hours in a week, and that is reason for therapy. I have improved, it used to be closer to 80 hours, but I digress. As a protest against WORK-LUCY I am going to have my hair trimmed (with hedge trimmers, I expect) and colored tomorrow. This will be the first time in 9 months that I have actually attempted to go to war with Hedge-Lucy (whom I believe is the same as Work-Lucy) and have vowed to actually make this important. This is mostly because my split-ends have entered the realm of “weapons of mass destruction” (mostly because my hair reaches to my belt) and I just cannot stand it anymore. Plus, I am now not allowed in several pubs in London due to the dangerous quality of my hair. Pimps and Pinups in London have earned this special task….they better do well.

3. NUTRITION. Yup. I still seem to follow my collegiate habits of the quickest food wins the prize. Meanwhile, I’m almost 40 and feel pretty sure that I should have overcome this habit by now. And the ridiculous part of it is, I LOVE TO COOK. I drool over new recipes in the highest element of cooking magazines. These are all things my Aunt taught me so that I could cook well without thinking about it…yet, I will still buy a pre-packaged Tesco’s dinner without blinking. And Cooking-Lucy laughs maniacally as I walk out of Tesco with pre-packaged dinners but not a single piece of fresh produce. Really. I can hear her.

So, here’s what I say….DOWN TO LUCY!!! Whatever form she may take for you…she is not to be listened to. So let’s take a vow together that whatever form she takes (and yes, leave it to an Irish girl to lump Lucy from the Peanuts comics into the same realm as the Ban Shidhe)….SHE WILL NOT WIN.

If you do not take this vow, she will always hold the football. Just ask Charlie Brown.