Tag Archives: thankfulness

double take

The Best Advice So Far - double take

Yesterday, already behind schedule for the morning, I emerged from the house to find my car completely covered … with caterpillar poop. My parking space is beneath a large maple tree inhabited, it would seem, by thousands of inchworms. And the tiny black pellets don’t just brush off. Oh no — they stick like tar.

Add to this the fact that it’s been overcast or raining for more than a week now. And last night’s downpour only made matters worse, turning the worm poop into a tenacious sludge that now also filled the rubber ravines around all of the door seals.

For weeks before this, the car was buried daily beneath a clogging downpour of yellow buds from the same maple.

I got in and maneuvered the muck-mobile closer to the hose then, using the highest pressure the nozzle afforded, I did my best to power wash the goop away.

Tick-tock. Tick-tock. This was all making me even later.

As I worked my way around the car, I noticed …


reverse

The Best Advice So Far - reverse - one yellow rubber ducky swimming the opposite direction in a line of black rubber ducks

We’ve all seen those bumper stickers:

HOW’S MY DRIVING?
555-123-4567

Ever called the number to report that the driver is, in fact, currently driving respectfully and obeying all traffic laws?

After all, the sticker doesn’t say, “Call if I’m driving unsafely or otherwise annoying you.” Yet isn’t that how we tend to read it?

(Yes, I really do think about these things.)

“I want to speak to a manager.”

“Let me talk to your supervisor.”

“I’m going to email your teacher.”

In my experience, these statements are rarely followed by …

“… to let them know what a great job you (or they) are doing.”

It seems to me that perhaps many of us have become naturals when it comes to complaining, while becoming more and more uncomfortable with giving praise where praise is due.

In my last post, where I wrote about crying during a late workout, I mentioned incidentally that there was only one other person in the gym at the time: the overnight employee on duty.

Well, his name is Joe. Let me tell you a bit about him.

If you’ve ever worked the night shift, then you know …


’tis a gift

The Best Advice So Far - 'tis a gift - open hand showing silver stars

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the seeming ever-presence of sea glass in my world, along with five ways that it reminds me of what’s important in life. Well, it occurred to me in the last few days that many of my pieces of sea glass were gifts. And that got me noticing anew the many other gifts that I see around me on a daily basis.

In this particular case, I’m not talking about “gifts” of the figurative or abstract sort, such as sunshine, our sense of taste, or the emerald sheen of a beetle’s wings. I’m talking about things that have actually been given to me by other people in my life.

Allow me to list just some of the gifts that lie within 10 feet of where I sit writing …


the grumbles: part 2

The Best Advice So Far: the grumbles part 1 - many purple sad-face balls

Today’s post is a continuation of last week’s discussion on complaining.

If you’re coming in late to the game, I highly recommend reading the previous post first, since it lays some groundwork about what constitutes complaining and what does not. However, I’ll sum up the gist of it.

My friend Chad shared something with me that had resonated with him recently:

“Complaining is a waste of time
unless you’re telling someone
who can do something about it.”
 

And that got me thinking. It occurred to me that not only does this statement warrant some self-reflection, it also allows us to redefine terms this way:

Complaining: sharing negative information, thoughts or emotions with someone who cannot do anything about the situation

I’m a firm believer that virtually everything we do in life is done because of some perceived gain. In other words, there are reasons behind most of what we do. This says nothing of the existence of ideas like altruism, which would simply be doing something based on a perceived gain for another person. My point is that we tend to believe “If I do this, then that should happen — or at least there’s a high enough likelihood to make it worth my while.”

Quid pro quo.

The problem with perceived gains, however … is that “perceived” part. You see, perception offers no guarantee of aligning itself with reality. Yet, since most of our perceived gain system becomes automatic, even subconscious, we lose track of asking ourselves, “Is what I’m doing here actually working?”

The Best Advice So Far: Complaining is a waste of time unless you're telling someone who can do something about it.

With these ideas as a springboard, let’s take a closer look at why we complain. Then, for those who are suspecting that complaining isn’t getting us where we had hoped it might — and in keeping with the theme of The Best Advice So Far, that “You always have a choice” — I’ll offer some thoughts about breaking free of the “grumbles” and trading them for greater overall peace and happiness.

Before you even continue reading, however, I want to pose a challenge …

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the grumbles: part 1

The Best Advice So Far: the grumbles part 1 - many blue sad-face balls

I’m a little embarrassed to admit it, but I found myself growling out loud this afternoon.

We got another 14-or-so inches of snow yesterday, which in and of itself was quite spectacular. Not only did the blizzard cause whiteout conditions where I could not even see the trees at the back of my yard, it was also accompanied by booming thunder and lightning that, in moments, lit the world in white fire.

Unlike last time, I was actually prepared for this one. The night before, I’d tucked my car parallel to the back of the house, quite close to the wall, so that the plow would have maximum access to the rest of the lot the next day. I then pulled the car cover on; and to assure that the winds — predicted to be 20-30 mph with gusts up to 50 mph — didn’t sweep up underneath and parachute the cover clear off, I’d even though to open the trunk and hood, and then close each on portions of the car cover, securing it firmly in place.

As the storm raged outside, I congratulated myself on how clever I’d been and took comfort in knowing that, as soon as it subsided, I’d be able to just walk outside and slide that snow-laden cover off, leaving my car gleaming and untouched while the poor schmucks around me labored at brushing and scraping their own buried vehicles out from under the piles.

Friday, I slept in a bit. There would be no need to get out early to clear the car off, thanks to my brilliant planning the day before. So I finally headed out at noon to remove the cover and snow, and to get out and about my day.

Upon stepping out onto the porch, it was immediately clear that this storm was worse than the last. The snow was the heavy, wet kind that was going to be hard to shovel or move at all. It was equally clear that the new plowman had done a shoddy job, leaving about a third of the lot piled in snow that should have been pushed much farther back, and thereby eating up one of the four parking spaces. I felt bad for the landlord.

I turned the corner and …

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digging out

The Best Advice So Far: digging out — Erik with *yuck* face standing in front of a mountain of plowed snow

Last Saturday, we were told to expect the first “real snow” of the winter season here in New England. Meteorologists predicted 4 – 8 inches. Though not exactly fun, we’ve had worse. Much worse. As the sky turned slate gray and the first flakes began to fall, I settled in to finish writing last week’s post, read a bit … and, of course, nap.

I had plenty of food to get me through until the next day when I’d head out and re-up my stores. In fact, I thought, I might even be able to manage a late-night workout, once this thing fizzles out.

Well, about midnight, I did venture down to brush off the car and head out to the gym.

Only the door didn’t open.

Moonlight shone blue across the surface of deep, deep snow. (We were later to find that the official reading was 16 inches.)

Crap.

Still, determined, I tromped back up the stairs, got out of my workout clothes, slid some old jeans on over sweatpants and donned a hoodie under my overcoat. Then I headed out to show that snow who was boss.

Things had wound down to little more than brittle flurries. That was thanks to the fact that, as my phone alerted me, it was now 2°F — too cold for much new snow to form.

I grabbed the shovel and became aware as I looked around that the drifts on the porch weren’t the worst of it by a long shot. I cleared the porch but couldn’t tell where the platform I was standing on ended and where the steps began. As I shuffled toward the invisible edge, I had that feeling of wading out too far into the ocean and taking that first step that drops into the abyss.

I plunged downward and was suddenly knee-deep in the stuff. It was abundantly clear that I’d be going nowhere tonight.

I slogged toward the car. As the frigid wind howled, I assessed. There’d be no place to shovel the snow other than into the hedgerow. Just too deep to throw it anywhere else.

I’ll be honest: the “hearty New Englander” in me began to crack. We were barraged the winter before last with a freak series of unrelenting blizzards that lasted months and dumped a total of over 11 feet of snow, and I felt the edges of PTSD tapping on the frosted glass of my resolve. Despite the gloves I wore, pain was already shooting through freezing fingers. And no amount of sniffling was now enough to stem the flow of snot from my nose.

It was not only deep, it was heavy. The snow brush bowed as I ran it across the hood of the car, sending vibrations up my arm (my hand itself being numb) that I knew meant beneath the smothering snow, the car was also encased in ice. Then that first swipe was interrupted as the Lincoln ornament snapped off and catapulted somewhere into the bushes, lost (sorry, Mom).

I’m not sure if I started crying at that point, since my eyes were already stinging and watering furiously …

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back to reality

back to reality — plane departing against golden sunset - The Best Advice So Far

On Wednesday, August 31, at 7:20AM, a car turned the corner onto Bent Grass Drive and pulled into number 6793.  My luggage was already in the driveway. I locked the door for the last time then clicked the button to close the garage. As the driver loaded my things into the trunk and back seat, I stood for one last lingering moment, saying a silent goodbye and thank you.

When I heard the trunk and door slam shut, I took a deep breath, willed the sting of tears from my eyes, and reluctantly turned my back on the place that had been my home for the last full month there in Naples, Florida. Even as the car drove slowly away, I couldn’t seem to pull my eyes from the side-view mirror until the house and yard were out of sight.

I had truly been intentional, each and every day of my stay, to appreciate moments — the sights, sounds and experiences around me. Most often, I’d even voiced those thoughts aloud (whether anyone was there to hear them or not).

What an incredible sunset.

Just listen to those cicadas.

Isn’t that great egret majestic.

Yet as we made our way between the palm trees that lined Crowned Eagle Lane and then turned left onto Wildflower Way, I found myself breathing differently …

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