In Memoriam

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On this Memorial Day, I give humble thanks to all that have given their lives in the service of our country. I give specific thanks to my great great great uncle John Hussey, who enlisted with the Union as a Corporal on September 18th, 1861, Company F, 10th Infantry Regiment Indiana. He died in Tennessee far from his home, the very state where I now live, far from mine. Uncle John gave his life during the Civil War at the Battle of Chickamauga, on Sept. 19, 1863, at the age of 20. He is buried among the unknown in National Cemetery, Chattanooga.

Curiously we share not only the same name but also the same birthday, February 15. I am the 15th John Hussey in our line; my uncle was John the 12th. He was the oldest of eight children born to Joseph and Sarah Hussey in the Indiana township now known as Zionsville. He volunteered in service to a cause for which he felt great passion, and to which he made the ultimate sacrifice.

Rest in peace, Uncle John and all who have served.

Heaven & Hell

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The expression, “The world is going to hell, (sometimes in a handbag)” implies that some of us haven’t already been there. In my experience, heaven too gracefully finds its way into everyday moments.

Last Saturday, while racing our mountain bikes through the lush spring woods, my eldest son asked me, “Do you believe in heaven and hell?”

“I do,” I said. “Right now, here with you, I believe I am in heaven, though on my journey to this moment I have at times passed through what surely seemed to be the heart of hell.”

He smiled and offered, “Yeah, that’s what I think too.”

Heaven!  At least for now, in this precious moment.

Namaste

Happy-ish, Healthy-ish & Mostly at Peace

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Perspective, a personal view that we use to define the world; our individual interpretation of “life as we know it.” Outlook is for better or worse the determining factor in our assessment of reality. A proactive, positive outlook will undoubtedly set studier groundwork for one’s future than a negative one. I’m not suggesting that the changing of mind will completely change one’s circumstance, at least not immediately. However, I do believe that taking charge of perspective is powerful. If you’re happy and you know it…Awesome for you!  If you are not, shaking up your perspective inventory may be an excellent first step toward finding a better way to start, embrace and live the day.

I’ve taken a lot of modern life at face value. I’m trusting that way, which is not necessarily a ‘best practices’ approach. Conspiracy theories abound about government, food sourcing, education, family planning, etc.. It’s easy to laugh them off if you’re not prone to such leanings. I imagine though that some of the less absurd assertions in this realm hold at least modicum of truth. We are consumers of information, entertainment, calories, fashion, drama, propaganda, medicine, and escape, to name a few. These ‘goods,’ for better or worse, find their way into our personal ecosystems. Taking a closer look, a more analytical, research-based appraisal of what we take in, consume or adopt, often on blind faith, may be the key to avoiding pitfalls on the road to a ‘best life.’ But who has the time for that?

As far as I know, I’ve only been here once so I’ll have to rely on historical data and perception to tease out an approximation of the facts. It seems to me that a few too many cars on the road sport some form or another of “Fight such and such form of Cancer” stickers. No, we don’t see ‘Fight the Black Plague’ stickers, yet, but something seems off with the current state of treat vs. prevent. Big business benefits from both pesticide use and miracle cures.  Coincidence?  Possibly.

Historically speaking life is more comfortable and less violence now than it has ever been, current prison system enrollment notwithstanding. That doesn’t mean it’s time to clock out and accept the lot we’ve been given right? The advent of the information age means that taking responsibility for our own health and happiness has never been easier. Of course, there is the specter of the disinformation revolution to consider. The first American president was treated for his final illness by being bled with leeches, cutting edge medical tech at the time. We have access to far more information than his medical team could have imagined. Is this current library of bio-wisdom more accurate?  Hopefully.

Questioning the status quo seems a brilliant starting point in the goal of achieving unimpeachable personal health and contentment. The questioning our motives, perspectives, and assumptions ranks a close second in this quest, should we choose to take on the responsibility of thinking outside the drive-through box. We can sleep when we die, and the one certainty is that though we may dodge taxes, ultimately we will all sleep.  While we still breathe it is vigilance, interest, and inquisitiveness that will bend the arc of our lives closest to an outcome that is defined as Happy-ish, Healthy-ish and mostly at Peace. May the quest for these treasures be defined in my life and your’s by fortitude, patience and a super-sized pinch of good luck.

Namaste

Transience

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Transient: defined as that which lasts only a short time. Transience is the yin to the yang of permanence, or is it? Opposites in appearance yes, but is it not the case that ‘permanence’ is no more than a charlatan, a false idol, a lie? Permanence is the deception that gets us up in the morning allowing us to wrench meaning from the jaws of existential crisis. In that respect its a benevolent lie I suppose. Deception from inception all the same.

This moment is all we have.  It is all that is guaranteed, yet somehow it is difficult to appreciate the present without superimposing it over the illusion of the future… 

Pause for dialogue:

Me in mock exasperation, “Dude, stop licking my computer!” Our silver tabby cat Rubicon glares at me for a moment, goes back to licking the left corner of my screen then rubs her face on it.  She probably doesn’t give much truck to blogging or existential crises.

Unpause:

In the song “My Generation” the iconic British rock band The Who sang, “Hope I die before I get old.” What’s the rush. We were all born with punched tickets aboard the transient train. There are no doors, the windows are riveted shut, one-way tickets indeed! Whether the journey takes one across the Himalayas or the D.C. Beltway, our stop comes not when we are ready, but when it is. Each moment is precious, even when our moods beg to differ.   

Rubicon, the cat, stares at me from the brick porch in the dwindling twilight. I reach down and give a long, loving scratch to her sage kitty head.  Clouds pass lazily against the backdrop of the fading blue spring sky. Much as we pass over the ever fading light of individual experience. It’s early for fireflies, but I see one lonely boy broadcasting his premature beacon of hope over the hedgerow. On the continuum of time, he’s a fellow transient, making sense of things to the best of his ability along with the rest of us.

I watch the cat, the firefly, and the clouds follow their paths and am moved by their natural gift for unfettered being. All radiate the aura of simply existing here and now without shouldering the specter of discontent.  Its neither blockbuster entertainment, nor acclaimed indy cinema, but I leave the theatre of my evening with a full heart, and plenty to ponder.

 

The Composition Book

A road map of departures. Stories of ‘leaving’ silently scrawled while the rest of the house slept. Notes left as insurance against consternation in case someone woke to wonder where I was. Last thoughts left behind in case, god forbid, some unforeseen circumstance extinguished the hope of a safe return.

The practice of scribbling these notes has spanned many years. Though this ritual began when the boys were young and more situationally fragile, it has become a tradition in our home. Its use is a conscious act to make clear that which would otherwise have to be left to imagination.

The composition book had been rescued from landfill retirement at the end of some forgotten school year and repurposed in the role of a portable bulletin board. At its most useful it lays on the battered hardwood floors of our partially updated 1950 cape cod, in the hallway between the two old wooden bedroom doors of my beloved sons leaving answers, just in case there are questions.

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Raising a Healthy World

My Boys

It all begins with raising a healthy child I suppose. A child with a well-balanced sense of right and wrong, the ability to care, commit, engage and admit when they are wrong, and an understanding of reasonable boundaries for starters. These seem fitting attributes for one charged with the making of a new world. Where will this metaphorical child look for cues?

Caregivers/parents set the tone for every coming act on the global stage. Every parental behavior, no matter how small creates a butterfly effect that sends ripples through yet unwritten history. Therefore our responsibility as adults is not merely to our children but to an entire generation and the generations which they, in turn, will bring to pass. Our responsibility that is, if we have a legitimate interest in our legacy; our gift, or blight on the years to come.

“Respect your elders.” The popular expression makes my stomach turn. While I do believe respect is an important lesson I do not believe it can be instilled in a ‘one-way street’ fashion. In my experience, children learn far more from our actions than our ‘teachings.’ If we treat a child with respect, they come to understand it’s true nature, and more importantly its value. Seeing is believing.

“Do as I say, not as I do,” another gem. While listeners are sometimes hard to come by, mimics abound in the realm of childhood. The essence of a healthy future is founded on the understanding that “do as I do” is the curriculum far more likely to take hold.

Leading by example then is the forge on which tomorrow is wrought. What imperative does that place on this generation of caregivers? Will we pass on that which we learned as children? Were those lessons ideal? Are they all we have, the best we can do? Will we even know we are repeating the sins of the father or mother upon the son or daughter? Handing the wheel to the platitude “When I was a kid…” isn’t necessarily good enough is it? If it were, the psychotherapeutic business would not be enjoying its meteoric and seemingly endless growth trajectory.

Self-respect starts at home, as does healthy self-appreciation. These positive self-image elements spread like ‘good weeds’ from those who possess them. If as a child you were deprived of the installation of these qualities the accession from childhood to the role of parenting provides an opportunity to break the cycle, glitch the matrix, to rewrite the future. It takes effort, focus and commitment to step outside the negative experiences that shaped our collective past, but on the wings of counting to ten and choosing to be active rather than reactive it is the path to a legacy we can be proud of.

Remembering what it was like to be a child, the newness of the world in the absence of experience and accumulated wisdom is the bridge that allows for patience and the acceptance of childish behavior. How the hell else are they supposed to act for god’s sake? I submit that the showing of respect, the looking for the positive and offering affirmation, setting clear, reasonable boundaries, the giving of hugs and speaking the words “I love you” as often as humanly possible are the keys to achieving the sacred mandate of raising of a healthy world.

Namaste

The​ Pulling of One’s Own Weight

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See a need and fill it. Intuitive enough in a vacuum. Wants and needs form a never-ending parade in our minds, a Mardi gras atmosphere of self-serving, self-indulgent possibilities. When we leave the vacuum of self, entering the stream of shared needs the question becomes, will we rise up and put our all toward the task at hand?

Being social creatures, we find ourselves surrounded by communally shared challenges and opportunities. We function in teams, as families, communities, and colleagues. Looking back, most of us remember standing in a line on the playground as two designated captains selected teammates for schoolyard kickball. Getting picked first meant one thing, getting picked last meant something entirely different.  Friendships and cliques aside the factor determining one’s rank in the choosing ultimately came down to ‘value.’ That value was understood to be ‘what can a player contribute to the goal of winning!’

As we age, we leave the playground behind to find ourselves facing new games with higher stakes. Whether we were kickball all-stars, or deemed liabilities and relegated to the status of reluctantly chosen last round draft picks (your’s truly) becomes irrelevant as the games we play now are rarely decided by athletic ability alone. In adulthood, teams rise and fall on far more nuanced criteria.  

Some people seem to be born with an abundance of talent in one or more areas. Others of us seem to have been absent on the day that stuff was handed out. What to do if we find ourselves in the latter category? Watch “Rudy” for starters. Being of ‘value’ to those with whom we toil is no longer a simple matter of how the cards were dealt. Instead, it is a combination of what we have and what we choose to do with it.  

Picture four people in a metaphorical rowboat. It could instead be a tech startup, an operating room, a family or a fast food restaurant; but for visual simplicity let’s stay with the rowboat. Each team member has an oar in hand, two rowers on the left, two on the right. The scene could be a white water river challenge, a collegiate competition rowing final or a desperate escape from a sinking ship. In any of these cases, the best outcome would be achieved via equal focus and effort. Such mutual intention allows for the fastest movement in the direction of the goal at hand, defined by the craft traveling in a swift, straight line toward its objective. Our teammates rely on us to give our all, as we, in turn, rely on them for the same. If the boat veers from this course, turning or spinning to one side or the other, dashing the hope for team success; most often the missing ingredient is fortitude, ‘the pulling of one’s own weight.’

It Is Not All Good

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Warning: uncensored agitated grumbling to follow.

It’s not all good. If you think it’s “All Good “ kindly remove your blindfold, even if you only do you so long enough to scrape that historically inaccurate bumper sticker from your late model car, or perhaps fully outfitted, though not likely to ever leave the pavement jeep.

Life is suffering, and/or pretending that it is not. Life is amazing, peppered with awful, and sometimes the outright denial of the misery next-door, across the tracks, or within.  Life is a balance of the good and the bad.  Acceptance is the key to walking the line between the two, but it does not change the nature of either.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for positivity, but a dash of reality makes for a far more interesting if bittersweet life cocktail.  Drink up!