Thursday, January 22, 2015

Possibilities in the Valley

“Impossible isn’t something that is true to a thing. It’s something that is true to the person doing it.”Source Unknown

Sometimes people can’t just leave well enough alone. I got up the other day in time to wake the roosters, as is my custom, and when I went online to check the news, it had changed. I don’t mean the news had changed (which I expect it to, otherwise it wouldn’t be news – it would be “olds” and that would be pretty boring. Come to think of it, the news IS pretty boring because – wait for it – there really is nothing new under the sun). What I meant is that they had changed the graphics, links, layout, and everything.

The people who supply me with my news had changed the way their front page looks. I don’t remember them telling me they were going to change it. I had no warning and, as a result, 2015 got off to a very rocky start for me.

It’s not that I don’t like change or am resistant to it. Heck, I change my clothes every day and shower so that today’s dirt will have someplace clean to which to cling.

When you get right down to it, I don’t even mind the changes that took place online when I wasn’t looking. They simply caught me by surprise and require me to hop around the front page differently than I did before. It is neither good nor bad; it is just different and requires me to respond differently – and that’s where the problem lies.

It isn’t that the news viewer changed; it’s that I need to. Me! Worse yet, I had to listen to my gray matter grumbling for hours on end about it.

“Pete. Pete. Pete! Wake up Pete! Something’s happening out there; you’ve got to see this. They’re calling for All Hands on Deck! Heck, they’re even waking up the gray-haired gray matter to lend a hand. It’s a real five-alarm disaster looming. Fonts have changed, graphics have moved around, and links are hiding where we’ve got to scroll around to find them. For Keith’s sake, Pete: GET UP!”

Let me assure my readers, you do NOT want to be alone inside my head when those cells get agitated. That is one dangerous neighborhood. It’s so tough I call it Noah’s Ark, because you either travel in pairs, or you just don’t go there.

Anyway, once I got past the first thirty seconds or so of sheer terror, panic, and horror, the frontal cortex, cerebrum, cerebellum, and rest of the Yee Haw gang settled down and started to work out the new patterns for finding what I was looking for (AKA football scores and previews of coming mayhem) and life returned to normal. I still don’t care for the new-fangled layout, but I’m getting used to it and should be fine until Christmas or thereabouts when they will no doubt roll out some new and improved way of irritating me to no end.

But that’s life, isn’t it? Things always change. In fact, one might even call such changes a “Public Service” as one’s need to adapt keeps the brain functioning better, just as working on puzzles is said to sharpen the mind (or as Nietzsche put it, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger” – which I would amend to say, “That which does not kill us DOES, none-the-less, make us crazier).

The fact is that while we may be resistant to change, change is mostly a positive thing in life. Changing good habits for bad habits leads to improvements in mind, body, and soul. Many people make resolutions for the new year during the first few days of January but struggle to keep them (for a wide variety of reasons).

That’s why I really like taking life a day at a time. I find facing a year to be an impossible task, but if I take things a day at a time, it is far more manageable.

It is like the old story of the big game hunter who shot and killed an elephant. Standing by his trophy he wondered, “How am I going to eat all that meat?” His guide answered, “One bite at a time.”

It’s not the “thing” that’s impossible, it’s the person’s attitude and THAT I can keep positive in this, our ever-changing valley.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Dignity in the Valley

“God wonderfully created, and yet more wonderfully restored the dignity of human nature …” rephrasing a portion of the Collect for Christmas 2 in the Book of Common Prayer

I am a fairly handy person. I like to think that when there are things that need to be done around church or home that I can usually handle them. Of course, I’m cautious and will generally downplay what skills I have so that the lower the expectation the lower the resulting disappointment will be.

Still, these successes, when they come, are sweet. More than sweet, they’re sometimes quite surprising.

One day I walked into the church mid-week (back in Michigan) and found the organist wandering around the organ like a lost puppy. “What’s the matter,” I asked, and he replied, “The organ doesn’t work. I turned on the switch and can see that it’s plugged in, but nothing’s happening.”

There wasn’t anything I could do, and he couldn’t practice, so he left. I had no idea who to call or what to do, and I knew our insurance wouldn’t cover an organ transplant, so I did what any “Tim-the-Tool-Time-Taylor” handyman would do; I grabbed a screwdriver and opened the back of the cabinet and took a look under the hood.

I found a fuse panel and noted one fuse had apparently blown. I pulled it out, took it down to the local hardware store, and got a replacement for less than a buck. I put it back in, fired up the noisemaker and, voila – musical tones! I called Marco, our organist, and with his skill-set, he confirmed that the device would actually play music, and we were off, running, and good to go for Sunday.

Life is like that. Sometimes things aren’t quite what we’d like them to be. We’re plugged in and everything seems to be fine, and yet it’s not.

The temptation is to look for the source of the problem externally – to blame the power company, for instance, for the lack of power. But as often as not, the solution to many problems is to be found internally. It simply requires the courage to pull off the cover and look under the hood.

A friend suffered a stroke some years back and was laid up for quite some time. He was frustrated and angry. How could this happen to him, he wondered. He spent some time angry with God and circumstances. He cried himself to sleep at night and snapped at his nurses and caregivers as they tried to take care of him. He was miserable.

But then one day he had a revelation. It was as if somebody had swapped out a good fuse for a bad fuse. He came to realize that with physical therapy his body was healing. He was gaining functionality. He was able to speak more clearly and realized that despite his uncharitable thoughts, words, and deeds, the work of his care-givers was having a positive effect.

They did what they needed to for him, but they also required him to do what he needed to do for himself. Their goal was not just the healing of his body, but the restoration and maintenance of his dignity. They no longer had to “push” him to do things; he began to push himself.

He had always heard that “pain is inevitable, but misery is optional.”

He didn’t know what that meant at first, but came to realize that misery is a state of mind. He was miserable by choice, not by circumstance. He could choose to wallow in self-pity (and be a miserable soul to be around) or he could choose to “not let it get him down.”

At the beginning of his crisis he’d had many cards, calls, and visitors, but as time went on, those began to fall by the wayside. At first he was upset that people were starting to “forget him.”

But then he realized he couldn’t force people to call or remember him, but he could reach out to them. He was quite capable of making phone calls and being a friend – and so he did, and so he was, and so he is – a friend.

People and circumstances can sometimes irritate us, but I’m happy to “re-fuse” the irritation and be happy instead. That brings music to my ears in this, our valley.