Category Archives: Connecting to others

A Measure of Success

SnowSnowSky

There are special souls born of compassion and placed into the lives of others for a special reason. They not only see their glass as half full, they are happy to give you their half just to fill yours up.

Their gift is to give. Pleasure is found in the ability to enrich the lives of others while asking nothing in return. Their purpose is well defined by the lives they lead.

“You can give without loving, but you can never love without giving.”

–Robert Louis Stevenson

Yellow Rose

In the mirror they see an ordinary person. In their actions they sense comfort and peace that only comes from following their natural path. They don’t feel as if they are special and they don’t need the recognition of others to know the value of self-worth.

They are not found on the forefront of life’s stage, they toil in the wings; their only goal to assure that all others have the performance of a lifetime.

“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”

–Winston Churchill

Christmas Snow

They generate kindness and encourage consideration for others; helping us to realize we all have our struggles and the journey we travel is difficult if attempted alone.

They don’t wait until Christmas or other holidays to give because they must breathe to live, and giving of themselves is the breaths they take each day.

“There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up.”

-John Andrew Holmes

Holidays are great times to feel that giving spirit rejuvenated, but I like to think about how wonderful the coming year will be if that same spirit is kept alive long after the holidays are gone.

“Successful people are always looking for opportunities to help others. Unsuccessful people are always asking, ‘What’s in it for me?’”

-Brian Tracy

I’ve never met a truly happy “taker.” I’ve never met a truly unhappy “giver” either. If my goal is success and happiness, it appears the intelligent road to take is the one that does not try to travel on the backs of others, but rather helps to clear the way for them to proceed.

As the New Year approaches I want to make certain I keep focus on the proven promise by a man who demonstrated its effectiveness may times over;

“You can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.”

–Zig Ziglar

Love the Islands But Don’t Be One.

Lostinthecrowd

These little birds don’t communicate like you and I. In fact, while watching them wander along the shoreline I never heard them make a single noise. And yet, as the waves would brush up onto the beach the entire group would move as if connected. Mesmerized, I followed their dance up and down the sandy promenade that mirrored the ebb and flow of the gentle water waltz. Occasionally, the group would stop and some members would plop down to rest, the others going on about their business with little regard for the setting few. Then, as quickly as they stopped, they jumped up again and meandered their way along the shoreline in search of the next best thing to find, whatever it might be they were looking for.

Although they moved as a group, it was clear that they did not have any specific pattern of interaction. Each little avian hunter appeared expertly focused on whatever tasty morsel it might find in the fringes of the watery diner and seemed oblivious to what the active peeper next to it might be doing. As an observer, it was fascinating to see this flock move as a unit, yet work as individuals. There was not an obvious collective goal, but it did feel like they had a strong desire to remain together. Interesting and fun to watch.

I know that many times in the past I also wandered through the day in crowds of people and focused on my own tasks at hand, unaware or maybe unfocused on the people surrounding me. It is so easy to get lost in myself at times. In fact, some of my loneliest moments presented while surrounded by the largest number of people.

I believe we’ve all been there at one point or another and truthfully that helps to consider that this feeling is never unique to just me. But how I deal with it is so much more important. As so well put by John Donne:

“All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated…As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon, calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come: so this bell calls us all: but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness….No man is an island, entire of itself…any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

Perspective is the key and understanding that although at times I may walk with blinders on toward those around me, and try to consider myself alone, as soon as I am willing to open my eyes to the synergistic quality of human life; I am no longer capable of being alone or lonely.

Passion and Water; A Reflection that Works.

BeauCopyr2010BAC

The elderly man shuffles slowly down a deserted street, fatigue weighing heavily on his shoulders. The broom he pushes falls without ceremony to the ground as he grabs to his hat. Gusting wind sends old paper wrappers and an empty can clanking down the empty street before it. Cigarette butts litter the sidewalk, mixed with confetti and slowly dying balloons. The dampness from a recent rain brings up the musty smell of wet cardboard into the air, rising from the nearby alleyway clogged with old boxes and burdened with evidence of population overload.

Two days ago it was impossible to walk this same path without being jostled about by the crowd. Not today. The holiday is passed and the parade is over. What was festive is now dull and lifeless with little to celebrate but the triumph of one more block to clean and the knowledge that another days work will be offered. The gentleman picks up his broom from where it fell, adjusts his hat and starts the repetitive motion of pushing filth once again.

Sometimes work is just that. Work. According to the Deloitte Shift Report in 2013, a whopping 89% of the workforce is not passionate about their jobs. 11% responded that they felt passionate about what they did for a living. Only 11%. Ouch.

I tried to be passionate a few times, but work got in the way. Too many people whose passion is themselves and they pay for it at the expense of others. I still hold onto promise and search regularly for the passion to make tomorrow’s work a focus of desire and not just a necessity. I need the hope. One day I hope not to need the job.

In the interim, I take pictures and reflect on the moments they capture. I use the memories of frozen pixels as a handhold to lift me from the struggles of today into the hopefulness of tomorrow. I see the storms of life and know they too shall pass, usually with a powerful sunset and the refreshing calmness that following a summer thunderstorm. I stare into the calm waters and see the reflection of clouds moving to their next adventure. I wait patiently for my next adventure as well.

The street sweeper continues to push his broom, knowing the next parade will someday come and go with celebration and fanfare. I will continue to find the reflections of optimism in the pictures I take and we will both wake tomorrow with a renewed sense of purpose.

Some Days The Fight Doesn’t Need To Be Part of the Struggle

Dock

Ouch. This was a rough week.

In the struggle of what I wish my life was like every day and the real life I have to deal with, real life won out by a large margin this week.

Times like this I have to go back to a very simple but favorite saying for encouragement, “They say it gets better in the end, so if it’s not getting better, it must not be the end!”. I’m not sure who “they” are, but I hope they have the wisdom of the ages to back up that prediction.

I strive to maintain a level mood, and most days I am very successful. I do this by drifting back to places like the picture above. This was taken on a small lake in North Carolina. I wandered out on this dock as the sun began to set over a very calm water. No wind. No sound. No distractions but my own thoughts. I was alone and void of pressure from outside. It required me to focus on letting myself get just as calm on the inside. This helps me remember that inner peace is something I can really get used to.

So much goes on around me every day that can really put a hurting on my emotional stability. Like others around me, I have to deal with illogical people; people who are smarter in their heads than they are in real life; people who challenge my integrity and my sanity at the same time. Add to that the noise of everyday living, the pressures I let others put upon me, and internal strife that I carry as baggage from the past; Kaboom. If I let it all have a piece of my soul, there will never be any left for me.

So I can’t let that happen.

I find my “dock” like the one above. I take a few minutes and realize that the only person I have to answer to every day is myself. I need to step back, breathe deeply and let out the frustration that comes along in dealing with other beings. We all have our daily battles. I am not alone and can’t survive by always being focused on just my struggles without taking a moment to identify my part in keeping these struggles alive, and how I chose to get caught up in group angst.

I need to ask myself: Am I trying the hardest I can to do the best with what I have and who I have to work with? Do I look to find the common goals I might have even with those who are selfishly only looking out for their own interests every day? Can I do something to make the people around me happier and try to improve my environment by improving theirs? Do I try to change the things I can’t and create my own internal struggles in the process?

This week I need to spend a few more hours sitting on the dock. I need to flush the poison of emotional sabotage from my system and breathe back in the realization that I don’t need to let others pick away at my soul. They can chose to do that to themselves, but not to me. My goal will never be to help them self destruct, but always just to help them get into a better place when I can.

I will get up tomorrow and do what I am able and as long as the end of the day lets me lay my head back down with my integrity and my character intact; I’ll be ready to do it again the next tomorrow that I may be granted access to.

The Singular Journey That We All Take Together or Unique is Relative

Fall Parkway

 Contemplating life can be a full time job if I let it consume me; and sometime I do.

There are so many people ready to share with me about what I am supposed be doing with my life and how I should be living my life, and what I am missing when I do it wrong, and how I can tell I am doing it right. But the real struggle is figuring out what is the right way and what is the wrong way to appraise all that this earth is supposed to be to each of the life forms as we struggle through another trip around the sun.

A quick trip to Google and a search for missives about life and its journey quickly brings up hundreds of quotes by famous and not-so-famous philosophers who want to share with me their thoughts on the road less traveled, and the road everyone travels, and the road that leads to happiness, or despair, or wisdom. Lots of roads out there for sure. So many paths I can read about. Which one do I take? It’s daunting to ponder.

Here is what I think. When I stop trying so hard to find the wisdom in the sages, it really boils down to me. Not in a selfish or self-centered way, but more in a singular-journey kind of way. This is my adventure to take. I walk a path that no other being on this planet will follow…and so does every person who wakes long enough to breathe the air and occupy the space they fill. I’m not saying I am alone. The journey I take may involve others. There may be guidance by the wise and the foolish and I may chose to follow both at times.  I may have a few people who walk behind me in places I visit or others who walk beside me for short periods. Someone may read the blogs I write and have an “ah-ha” moment that causes their path to change. I can still chose to follow the work of others in whom I have admiration. All of these things may happen, and yet the truth is, I am an individual and I am always going to think thoughts and meander through my day on a solo path that no other will follow as precisely as me.

Realizing this, the important aspect of this revelation is thus; to what purpose will my journey be committed? For it may be true that my course of travel will always be unique, it will very rarely be transpired in a vacuum devoid of others. I am part of a social network; and I don’t mean Facebook. My atoms will bump into other atoms that belong to other travelers. So I have to make certain that as I wander on my way I keep in mind the importance of the impact on other wayfaring strangers my actions will convey. My Journey is singular, but it will rarely be taken alone.

♦Photo Tip♦ The photo above was taken with the camera sitting on the ground in the middle of the road. One of the best ways to make photos unique or interesting is to take them from a vantage point that is much different from the eye-level location that just about everyone shoots pictures from. Of course, safety is paramount, so I had a second set of eyes standing next to me and watching for traffic!

I Fell Asleep a Leaf and Awoke a Starfish

StarfishLeaf

Comfortably resting on a sturdy branch high above the forest floor, I surveyed the nature scape that surrounded me. Life was simple. I provided shade for the creatures below me and turned sunlight and carbon dioxide into sugar energy for my tree while happily making oxygen. Those were easy days, hanging out in the sunshine.

Easy I should say, until that day everything changed. I went to sleep a leaf and dreamed I was a starfish. When I awoke, I had fallen from my tree and landed in a puddle. The experience was exhilarating, but now I’m wet and cold and want to be back where I belong. I fear that things will never be the same again.

Life is full of surprises. Especially if you are a leaf and unprepared for the changing seasons; but us human types have to be on our toes as well.

I know that my whole world can change in the blink of an eye. I can’t plan for every contingency, but I can learn to adapt to those surprises when they do present. The years of surprises and unexpected change have taught me that having the right attitude is just about the most important part of being prepared.

My attitude is one of the only things that I have complete control of every day. Circumstances and the world around me can bring changes in the weather, changes to my plans, and present me with new and exciting challenges every day.

But no one can affect my attitude without me allowing them to.

I used to make statements about how others made me mad, until I came to the realization that no one on earth has the ability to control my emotions other than me. Period. Others can act in a manner that has the potential to upset me, but happy, sad, or mad; all these are ultimately mine to decide and mine to control unless I give up that power to someone else.

…and between you and me; I don’t want to give that much power and control over my day and my spirit to anyone…

I am not a big fan of surprises and I don’t like to be upset any more than I have to so I work to face my challenges on an even keel. Sure, I still get angry and I still get sad, but I let myself feel those emotions when I want to or I feel I need to; not because someone else decided to try and ruin my day.

The leaf in our photo had a life changing event and now has to deal with it. Life in the tree is gone, but playing starfish for a while may turn out to be the next best thing.

I believe that if I control my attitude I maintain control of my satisfaction with life and I remain ready to take on the next best thing that shows up for me as well.

My Life Symphony; Conducted in a Minor Scale.

Heron at dusk The symphony of nature can be wonderful to hear. The melody is everywhere. Gentle cresting waves lapping onto an otherwise quiet southern beach. The single cricket playing a first chair solo in a distant wheat field. The chorus of bull frogs who echo their a capella rhythm across great distances on a hot summer evening. The sound of the wind as it plays through the swaying pines on cool spring morning. A serenade of rain drops across a tin roof with echoes of thunder rumbling in the distance. Nature conducts the tune in the chords of its character.

If your life was added to the music already playing around you, in what chord would it be played? I think mine would be E minor.

Major chords are just so happy. They resonate with fortitude, strength, and determination. They announce their entrance and need no resolution before moving to the next gusto of vibrato. I guess that there are days my life could be a major chord.  Those days when I have no choice but to stand and deliver what is expected of me. Those days when everything is falling into place with precision and timing. Those days I could pull off living in the spirit of a major chord.

Minor chords are much more moody, though. They tend to convey contemplation, a more somber emotion, and evoke a melancholy reply. They sound the call of the mystery and mark time for curiosity. They don’t always need resolution, but they can draw out a strong anticipation for the upcoming tone.  I think my life would be played in a minor chord; lost for periods in thoughtful consideration of what transpires around me, always feeling hope that the next note played will lift the tempo and the mood. Sometime life is so much of a mystery that a minor scale is all I can manage.

I have to be careful, though. I wouldn’t want to let myself fall out of tune and wander into the company of diminished chords; they can be unsettling. They create tension and emotional confusion, they long to be followed by a major chord, or even a transitional minor chord as they hang on the scale. No, my life is definitely not a diminished chord.

Why does any of this matter? Plato said it best, “[Music] gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and adds charm and happiness to everything”. The song of my life has meaning. The concert started long ago. I am allowed an occasional intermission to gather my thoughts, but the show must go on.

It is important to me that when the curtain closes on the symphony of my life, I want the audience to feel as if they have not wasted their time or money on the ticket for the show I provided. I do not get the benefit of an encore on this earth so I have to do my best the first time around. I am not sure what movement or act I might be on, but it is time to perform once again!

Chaos in the Butterfly Effect. A short story about connections.

A WanderingPixels blog remix.

MissEvans

A man wakes up early in the morning every day to go to work at a company he loves. He builds boats. He works with other people who build boats, specifically fishing boats. His particular craft, which he does well, is to hand-lay the air dried lumber planks that form the hull of the boat. He specializes in carvel planking, which he learned from his father who learned it from his father, who used the same technique when he built Tall Ships that crossed the oceans in earlier times.

The boats this man builds are used to catch shrimp off the coast of North Carolina. One boat in particular, the Miss Evans, spent many years in service bringing in shrimp that was served in restaurants up and down the East Coast. Some of those shrimp made it inland, traveling a few hundred miles on ice to satisfy the needs of Piedmont landlubbers craving a taste of the sea’s bounty.

Oregon Boats

In a small town in the central part of the state, there is a cozy diner that got a shipment of these delectable shrimp delivered only once or twice a year. It was news in this little town, and the arrival of the Miss Evans shrimp was always announced with fanfare. One particular individual was especially excited when the shrimp arrived. She had never seen the ocean. Confined to her bed by a tragic accident, she was limited in her ability to travel. Nonetheless, she appreciated good shrimp, and saved diligently to be able to purchase a few when they came to town. She never married and was focused on her trade.

Although immobile, she knew how to sew. She specialized in making jackets; heavy wool jackets that could keep a person warm and dry in the worst of weather. The fine detail and extra care that was put into her coats was well known. Each was handmade and crafted for the individual who ordered it. Although expensive by the standards of the time, she was only able to lovingly create 4 or 5 jackets a year due to the complexity of their needlework. Still, she had a waiting list of folks who wanted to own her treasured jackets that was pages long up until the day she died.

A gentleman from New England proudly wore one of those coats every day, weather permitting. He got the coat as a gift many years ago, from a friend who owned a boat building company. One of the workers had mentioned that his aunt made the nicest wool jackets, highly prized for their fit and finish. The owner had purchased a coat from Miss Evans and cherished it so much that gave a boat the same name, to honor her for the fine work she obviously took so much pride in doing.

Strangely;

The boat builder never knew a boat he carefully created had been named after his aunt.

The gentleman from New England later became president of the United States, wore the prized wool jacket at his inauguration, and now it hangs in the Smithsonian.

Miss Evans never knew that the shrimp she so loved came from a boat with her namesake, or a jacket she made became famous.

The owner of the boat building company eventually retired and moved inland. He bought a small diner in a central part of the North Carolina, where he serves shrimp when he can get it once or twice a year.


In the spirit of honesty; this story is a work of fiction. I created it while looking at the picture I took of a boat. And while none of it is true, the premise of the story line is not so far-fetched.

Edward Lorenz was a very smart man. His Chaos Theory, later leading to the term he coined– “The Butterfly Effect” describes how slight changes in one dynamic system can and will have an affect on other dynamic systems in proximity, which in turn will affect another, and so on. Basically stated, chaos is defined by Mr. Lorenz: “When the present determines the future, but the approximate present does not approximately determine the future.”

Fascinatingly confusing to try and think about for a simple mind like mine, but here is how I translate it:

I like to think that I have have potential for lots of unseen connections of some form or fashion. Most of my acquaintances and people I run into each day come from different backgrounds, perform different jobs, and cope with daily life in different ways. I think we all have a story to tell that brought us to where we are today. Although different in many ways, I think I still impact many people I don’t even know by what I say and do to get myself through the day. I wonder what type of tangled web I would discover if I could see all the lines that remotely tie us together as I wiggle through life every day.

I just hope when I flap my wings, like the butterfly in South Africa; I create something more pleasant than a hurricane.

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