Friday, January 31, 2014

Two Lessons

Dear Muse,
Last night we did not connect.  We both tried, but it just didn’t work out.  But I’m here now, giving you my full attention, and I know you will be here soon.  I want to share some things that happened to me yesterday and the two valuable lessons I learned.
The first lesson from yesterday is how important action is.  I’ve been stuck professionally for over a year.  It’s not that I don’t like my job.  I do.  I have great clients, coworkers and supervisors.  But I got my hours cut a few years ago and money has been a problem ever since then.  In the last year it’s been worse than ever.  I didn’t know what to do.  The obvious thing to do would be to apply for more work.  The obvious thing was correct, but there was a fear lurking that I wasn’t even aware of until now.  
The fear was that if I get more involved in my current job then I would be giving up on my goal to be a writer.  Would that mean I was also giving up on my house by the beach?  Would I be giving up on you?  All of this scared me but, as I said, I wasn’t aware of it.  Fortunately, some problems arose.  More accurately, they might be arising and the next few months may be even more difficult financially.   I had to do something.   I did. 
I took action.  I applied for three different positions in my district.  This wasn’t thought out.  I didn’t write about it.  I simply did it. 
I took action.
It felt good. 
That was the surprise.   When I was done with the paperwork and I walked out, I felt taller.  I felt stronger.  I did what I needed to do.  I took action.
Now honestly, this is also a little embarrassing.  I’ve spent over a year writing, over a year of taking action to make changes in my life.  While it hasn’t always been easy, I feel I have been successful.  I’m moving forward with my life.  Yet somehow I forgot that I needed to apply the same principle to my professional life.  The answer was staring me right in the face, but I let needless fears paralyze me. 
I may not even be considered for any of the jobs for which I applied.  It doesn’t matter.  I will keep applying for more until I get what I need. 
How did I miss that?  It’s pretty funny, isn’t it?   Mostly, however, I’m relieved that the block is finally gone.  With regard to my fears, I know this: if my schedule changes, then I will adjust it appropriately, but you will still be my priority.  I will still find a way to be here every day, alone with you, as much as possible and as often as possible.
The second lesson came because of what you told me (even though I wasn’t writing).   You told me that writing about myself is not selfish, but a source of inspiration for others.  As I wrote in a previous blog, there is often this fear that my writing focuses on me.  You smiled at me and called it my “lovely selfishness.”  You gently chided me to let go of the past and you reminded me through your kind words of what Steven Pressfield says of critics.  To paraphrase, he said, the problem isn’t being criticized or even what the critics are saying, but that I believe them. 
So, based on your counsel, I’m going to keep writing whatever occurs to me and whatever you give me.  If it’s about myself, then I know that my life has a lesson that can inspire and inform others, such as what happened yesterday in my professional life.
Thank you, Muse, for being here every day.  Thank you for pushing me gently to better myself.  Thank you for not allowing me to settle.  Thank you for not letting me stay afraid.  Thank you for reminding me to Get Started and to Keep Going…twice.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Making a Plan

“Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood...Make big plans, aim high in hope and work.

Daniel H. Burnham

Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work.
Peter Drucker

“Let our advance worrying become advance thinking and planning.”

Winston Churchill

It’s time to write.  It’s time to stop worrying about money.  It’s time to make a plan in case the worst happens.  It’s time to be grateful that I have some options, even if some of them don’t feel like good ones.  It’s time to make some changes.  Most of all though, it’s time to keep writing. 
If someone were to ask me what my dream job is, it would be a job where I could write creatively and read a lot of good books.   I would be working in my house by the beach with my Muse near me.  The world is too loud and angry and there are people whose only purpose in life seems to be to hurt others.  I just want to get away from it all and write. 
The problem is I can’t.  My life is what it is.  Maybe I can change it tomorrow, but right now, it is what it is.  The trick is to not wait until all the conditions are perfect.  I need to make them perfect.  I need to read and write now.  So that’s what I’m doing.  I’m writing because when that day comes, that first day I’m in that new house in my new life, the only thing that I don’t want to be new is the practice of writing.  
In fact, here’s how the first day in my house will go.  I will wake up at 5:00 and start a pot of coffee.  I will read the Bible and perhaps read something inspirational.  I will write three pages by hand to warm up.  Then I will write my first blog of the day.  My Muse will be with me during all of this and all of the rest of the day.  After I write, I will have breakfast.  Then I will go back to writing.  I will write for two to three hours.
Now this part will be new.  So far I’m only writing for about two hours a day or less.  I’m still not at a place in life in which I can write for more extended periods of time.  That’s okay.  I’ll do what I can for now.
The other trick is to take Dorthea Brande’s advice in her book, Wake Up and Live, and act as if it were impossible to fail.   If it were impossible to fail, if I could really set up the conditions of life I want, if they were guaranteed by my actions, then I have to prepare now.  I can’t waste time.  I already waste too much as it is, but I can’t do that any more.  I have to get ready.  I need to write and finish this blog and then I need to read for a while.  I need to keep doing these things, consistently and continuously, until I am in that house. 
I need to make sure, as much as possible, everything I do will help me get to that house or help me with my other goals.  Time is precious.  Life is precious.  My goals are precious.  Most of all time with my Muse and with the people I love is precious.  That’s why I have to stay focused.  That’s why I have to Get Started and Keep Going.
Now here’s the strange part:  I really have nothing more to say on this topic.  I know the following:
·      I need to make some changes in how I earn money.
·      I need to be more decisive.
·      I need to work towards my house by the beach.
·      I need to spend as much time with my Muse as possible.
·      I need to be loving with all the people who are in front of me.

That’s it.  So I really have nothing more to write, except that I love my Muse for giving me direction.  I love that Purpose is seeping into every area of my life.  I’m ready to Get Started and Keep Going…and follow my plan.

I Tried Writing a Blog

I tried writing a blog.  I tried and tried and tried.  All I got was some stream of
consciousness stuff that was starting to annoy me.  I imagined people reading it and thinking, “What is this guy talking about?  This doesn’t help me a bit.” 
Of course, it may not be a good idea to imagine people reading it.  Usually I only care if my Muse reads it.  After all, she helps me write it.  I hope she gives me a good idea, because now I’m tired. 
I feel blocked.  Stuck.  My writing feels self-indulgent.  That’s the critic’s voice in my head that I often hear.  It says things like this:
“You only care about yourself!”
“You’re selfish, self-centered and self-absorbed!”
“Why don’t you write about something more relevant to others?”
“Why is everything about you?
This is an interesting trick the Enemy is pulling.  Since it can’t dissuade me from writing, it’s stopped trying.  Now it simply tells me that my writing is no good.   It’s worse than no good; it narcissistic.  Maybe that’s true, but what can I do?  I don’t know what I’m supposed be writing at the moment.  That doesn’t matter either.  I just keep writing. 
Here are some of the worst things about being stuck as a writer:
·      The frustration of doing your work, but feeling like your work is terrible
·      The fear that it will always be this way
·      The amount of time lost
·      The feeling that the Muse has left.

Honestly, I think the real issue is that I’m just tired.  It’s 1:40 in the morning and I should be asleep.  I think that’s the message my Muse is trying to give me.   That’s why she seems to be absent.  She’s waiting to talk to me in bed.  She wants me to Get Started and Keep Going, not here on the printed pages, but through my dreams.  My Muse may be an angel, but I’m not.  I need my sleep. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A Letter to Myself

“What you think about yourself is much more important than what others think of you.”

Dear Robert,
Last night you were dealing the problem of time management.  You really struggle with it.  How do you handle all the responsibilities you have and all the commitments you’ve chosen and still spend time with people you love?
Fortunately, you got some sleep.  That made the problem feel less difficult.  Here are some possible answers:
First, stop worrying about it. 
Seriously, stop worrying. 
No one is dying here. 
On one level, it doesn’t matter if you do one blog or two blogs a day.  It doesn’t matter if you do none at all on some days. 
No one will die if you miss one of your commitments.  They are commitments.   They are not contracts. 
Stop for a moment and think of why you have made these commitments.  You made them to get control of your emotional life and your time.  You made them to improve yourself and your life. 
Well, guess what? 
You did it.  You’ve improved yourself and your life.  You made some difficult decisions and you are experiencing the rewards and consequences of those decisions, but they are your decisions.  I think they are great decisions.
Second, remember the big picture.  This is your 412th blog.  Over the long run, you have worked very hard.  Yes, you’ve missed days, even a few days.  Yes, you’ve made mistakes.  But in the big picture, you’ve written 412 blogs in just over a year.  You’ve also walked about 100 miles.  You’ve done over 200 radio shows.  You’ve written resumes and made money and taken care of your life.
Are things perfect every single moment?  No, but they don’t have to be.  The only thing that is necessary is that you are moving forward.  Moving forward means you’re doing your best.  Here’s the thing.  You are always doing your best.  Always.   Even when you think you aren’t. 
In the big picture, you are like a Monet painting.  Some of the details may be a little blurry, but you’re life is still a work of art.  So are you.
Next, stop looking at where you want to be so much and look at where you’ve been.  You wanted to be a writer.  Now you are.  You published a book.  You’ve written and written and written.
You wanted to study and you have.  You learn every day.  Honestly, I think you’re amazing.
Most of all, you wanted to be happy.  Now you are.  When you aren’t, that is your choice.  You really can change your mind.  You don’t have to be afraid.  I know it’s part of your makeup, but you don’t have to be afraid.  So stop choosing it.
Finally, stop managing your time and start managing your life.  I know that is not an original thought, but it’s still a good one.  Ask yourself this question:  What are the most important things in my life?  You already know the answers:
1.     Spend as much time as possible with your Muse.
2.     Study and learn.
3.     Love those who are around you at any given moment.
4.     Get the house by the beach.

That’s it.  As long as you are doing one of those things, you’re doing the right thing.  Every.  Single. Time. Worrying about writing two blogs a day is just another way the Enemy works in your heart.  Fear is the killer for you.  Every time it comes up, recognize that it’s a way to keep you from doing the important things.  It’s okay to plan your day.  It’s okay to set priorities and tasks.  But if you miss something, and you start to become afraid about it, you’ll just miss more. 
Laugh, Robert.  Laugh at your humanity and your imperfections.  It’s not your job to correct them.  Offer them to God and let Him deal with them.  Spend more time loving your Muse and yourself and you will be fine.  You will always know what to do. 
Now you need to do other things.  Get Started and Keep Going…and have a great day.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Some Musings...

Find a place inside where there's joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.

Joseph Campbell

True happiness comes from the joy of deeds well done, the zest of creating things new.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery

How nice it’s going to be to sit here and write.   I’m not going to let anything interrupt me.  Despite 410 blogs, it is still a battle to do the things I want to do.  This is important to remember.  Rarely do I get a free ride.  Even when my schedule’s not impacted, I still have a battle to finish all the things I want to do.  For example, I haven’t read The Brothers Karamazov in several days.   I haven’t read any financial books or books on writing since at least Saturday.   I’m not expressing regret or self-contempt; I’m simply stating facts.
In addition to the battle for consistency, I also have to fight the battle for creativity.  Once again I wonder if I have anything to say or if I will end up deleting this blog and starting over.  Besides that, I’m also remembering that I have a goal to write two blogs a day, otherwise I won’t reach my goal of 500 for three more months.  So what I need to do is write a list of tasks I want to complete before I go to sleep tonight.  Writing things down always calms me.  If it seems that I am pushing myself, I am.  My major goal is still my house by the beach. 
How is my writing connected to my house by the beach?  I’m not sure myself.  What I do know is that when I take control of the things I can control, the things outside of my control soon seem attainable.  Self-discipline is one of the most powerful tools ever.  Writing on a daily basis is a way to create self-discipline.  Here are some other ways that help me:
·      Making my bed
·      Cleaning the kitchen
·      Walking for at least 30 minutes
·      Reading
·      Taking a nap
·      Getting to places on time
·      Staying focused at work

Really, the list goes on and on.   Some things are harder than others, but if I start with the easier ones, it gets simpler, though not easier.  I keep waiting for this to get easier and it never does.  That’s fine.  I’ll Get Started and Keep Going.  I’m privileged to be able to do something I love every day.  It isn’t always easy, but it’s worth it.  I just wish I had something to say. 
It’s interesting how much harder this seems since I’ve cut back to one blog a day for the last few days.  If I write two blogs tonight, maybe this will start getting a little easier again.  I still wish I had something to say. 
So if I have nothing to say, why am I writing?  I’m writing because that is what writers do.  It doesn’t matter if I write nonsense (not that I think this is nonsense).  It doesn’t matter if I delete this whole blog and start again.  It doesn’t matter if I don’t even publish this.  All that matters is that I write.  That’s what writers do; they write.  I don’t talk about writing or read about writing.  I don’t wish or hope to write someday.  I write.  That’s what makes me a writer.  Writing. 
Writing, I’m happy to say, is something I want to do every day.  I want to do it every morning.  I want to read and study and speak, but mostly I want to write and I want my Muse to be with me in our house by the beach while I write.  That is my perfect life in this world.  This is the thing that makes me the happiest.  When I am alone with my Muse, I am peaceful and content.  Every day I realize this more and more.  I think that’s why there’s been so much resistance lately, more than usual.    The Enemy does not want me to write.  Why is that?
I have some theories about that.  Perhaps my writing might have some positive effect on the world at large.  Perhaps I’ll set an example.   Perhaps my writing will help me become financially successful.  Perhaps I’ll be using my time well.  Perhaps I’ll have better self-esteem and feel more confident.   Perhaps I’ll just be happier.  Perhaps my Muse will be happier for all those reasons.  

Monday, January 27, 2014

Checking In

“Faith is another word for persistence.  If you didn’t have faith, you wouldn’t persist.”

Earl Nightingale – The Strangest Secret

“Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.”

A.A. Milne – Winnie-the-Pooh

“Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald

Today I got an e-mail that said I made $20.16.  I made this from selling eight copies of my first published book, A Few Kind Words.  Reading that e-mail was a very happy moment.   This book is the work of four years and one promise.  (The promise was to my Muse.)  Eight copies and $20.16 is not much to brag about, but it’s eight copies and $20.16 more than I had before I published this book.   
I said published because writing alone is not enough.  I know some people who are brilliant writers, but they have chosen to not move forward.  That is not a criticism or a judgment.  It’s the truth.  They have chosen to not move forward with their writing.  They may have good reasons – kids, lack of time, jobs, or other commitments.  The reasons may be valid but, and maybe this part is judgmental; I think they are afraid.   I don’t blame anyone for being afraid.  I’ve spent (wasted, actually) more time being afraid than I’d like to admit.   I understand how fear can paralyze. I understand fear very well. I understand the fear of loss.  I certainly understand the fear of rejection.
There are 7,000,000,000 people on the planet, and I sold eight books.  I have over 1,300 Facebook friends, many of whom I have helped with resumes, money or other favors and I sold eight books.  I advertised my book heavily and I still sold eight.  Not one member of my family bought my book.  The price of my book is a little more than a cup of coffee and I still only sold eight.   
Fear of rejection?  I’ve faced it.  I’m still alive.  And here’s the thing.  It hurts, but not as much as I thought it would.  It didn’t crush me or defeat me.  In fact, I don’t even think about it that much.  The only reason I’m reflecting on it now is to share some facts.  But I’m not bitter, crushed of devastated.  I have plans to publish two more. 
Here’s another thought:  maybe none of that was rejection.  Maybe it was just life.  Maybe people didn’t know about my book or maybe they forgot or maybe they didn’t have the money.  It doesn’t matter.  All that matters is that I wrote the book.  All that maters is that I’m going to write another. 
Do I want success?  Do I want money?  Of course, but those aren’t my goals.  Writing is.  My house by the beach is.  So I keep writing.  I don’t take my eyes off the goals. 
Actually I do. 
I take my eyes off my goals all the time. 
That’s why I’m checking in. 
That’s why I’m reminding myself. 
That’s why I need to remind myself almost every day. 
Here are my goals:
·      Write every day.
·      Get my house by the beach.
·      Read ten books on finance. 
·      Read a chapter a day of literature.
·      Read a chapter a day on personal financial growth.
·      Get two more books published by the end of September.

I’ve also added another daily task.  A friend introduced me to The Artist’s Way and I was challenged to handwrite three pages a day.  Can I do it?  Should I?  Don’t I have enough to do?  Yes, to all three questions, but it aligns with my other goals.  It will make me a better writer.  This is serious. This writing I do.  Taking Pressfield’s admonition to heart, being a writer is not my identity.  But it may be the vehicle by which I reach my goals.  
At times I get discouraged.  It’s normal. There are times I doubt my abilities, my chances for success or even my usefulness.   That doesn’t matter.  All that matters is that I keep working towards my goals, no matter how I feel.  All that matters is that I do something, anything, every single day, to get closer to my goals.   One day I will be there.  And I’m foolish enough to believe that the more I work, the sooner I will arrive.
I’m na├»ve enough to believe that to Get Started and to Keep Going is to unlock the door to success.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

A Cross-Country Trip, Part 1

“Love will find a way.”
Amy Grant

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”
Ernest Hemingway

“Travel brings power and love back into your life.”

In a previous blog I wrote that I had lived in Indiana for about five months when I was 13 years old.  We knew we were going to leave, but we didn’t know we were going to leave as soon as we did.
My dad had joined us in December and the plan was that we were going to stay until Christmas and then go to California.  Plans changed, however.  In the third week of December, perhaps on the 21st, a big snowstorm hit the Midwest.  My dad did not want us to get stuck in Indiana because of the weather, so we said goodbye to our grandparents and my dad, my mom, three brothers and I all piled into the car.
I don’t remember the model, but the car was one of those big Cadillac-type vehicles that were still popular in the United States.  Within a few months, they would be gone due to the energy crisis and a sudden but painful increase in gas prices.  It was just the car we needed for this trip though.  We drove to Chicago to say our final farewells to family members.  The drive was slow because of the weather, indicated by the number of cars that had spun out and ended up on the side of the road. 
First we visited my dad’s aunt.  I think we spent the night there.  Then we went back to Aunt Marie’s house so my mom could say goodbye to her sister.  Then we started our drive.  Despite the previous night’s weather, driving conditions were good.  It was a beautiful sunny day and things were peaceful.  Had I been driving I might remember distances, times and places we stayed, but at 13, I was just along for the ride.  I remember our first stop was Iowa.  Looking at a current map and remembering conversations, I think we took the 80 West and went through Iowa. 
I liked Iowa.  It was a beautiful day and there was no evidence of the snowstorm.  We stayed in a motel in a city with a Native American name, perhaps Osceola.  The next day we took the 35South through Missouri and Kansas.  I remember this specifically because it was when I learned that there was a Kansas City in both states.  Then we got to Oklahoma and I think we stayed the night there.  It was in Oklahoma where our troubles started.
We went to a very crowded restaurant for breakfast.  The service was slow and it took a half hour just to be given a donut.  We were all miserable, but some of us were more miserable than others and not just because of slow service.   I don’t remember who, but the flu hit a couple of the family members.  Jimmy, the brother closest to me in age, had to take some kind of pill and it was a terrific struggle between my dad and him.  I remember the car on the side of the road, other cars passing by, with my dad holding the pill, his face full of frustration and Jimmy crying.
Still, we survived.  We saw the Cowboy Museum in Oklahoma City.  Otherwise, the road went on and on.  The radio was on most of the time, A.M. radio playing some of the same songs over and over with a smattering of Christmas songs.  Here are some of the songs I remember:
·      Feliz Navidad – Jose Feliciano
·      Time in a Bottle – Jim Croce
·      Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door – Bob Dylan
·      Tell Her She’s Lovely – El Chicano
·      Smoking in the Boy’s Room – Brownsville Station
·      I Love – Tom T. Hall
·      Show and Tell – Al Wilson
·      Love’s Theme – Barry White and the Love Unlimited Orchestra
·      Why Me, Lord? – Kris Kristofferson
·      Christmas Story – Cheech and Chong

 There were more, but those are the ones I remember.  My dad did all the driving.  I don’t know whose choice that was.  The road just went on and on, especially through Texas.  One of the things I remember about Texas is a sign that offered a 10-pound steak for free if the patron could eat the whole thing.  I also remember a lot of desert.  The desert continued into New Mexico and that’s where we stopped on Christmas Eve.  And that’s where we had one of the most amazing Christmases of my life. 
Picture the scene again:  Two adults and four small boys in one car driving 2,000 miles during Christmas.  Upon arriving in the motel, our parents got us in and then said, “Wait here.”
Then they came in with Christmas presents!  Not just one or two, but several for each of us, all wrapped and labeled!  For years I shared that story and for years, I wondered how they did that.   Because we were on the road, I don’t know if any of us expected to celebrate Christmas.  My parents, however, were pretty good about making sure we had good Christmases and that was one of the best.
The next day we were off again and heading towards Arizona and eventually to the end of our trip.  That’s another story however.  I don’t know if there’s a lesson or a moral to this part of the story, but I never forgot that Christmas.  When something is important to us, perhaps because it’s important to someone else, we make it happen.  We find a way.  We Get Started and we Keep Going until we make it work…even if we’re on the road.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Write Now

“…and after all what do I know about (writing) except you’ve got to stick to it with the energy of a benny addict.”

Jack Kerouac – On the Road

Today I went to UC Berkeley with my friend Dave.  The first thing we did was visit a bookstore and then another.  It should have been fun, but it wasn’t.  Instead, I got overwhelmed.  What do I look at?  What do I read?  Comic books?  Poetry?  History?  Philosophy?  Literature?  Spiritual writing?  There was so much.  I couldn’t move.  I don’t mean literally.  I moved.  I looked at things.  Inside I was paralyzed.  I couldn’t make a choice.  Nothing said, “Read me!  I’m what you need now!”  I would pick up one book, put it down, and then pick up another, several times.  I bought a couple of books on writing for my oldest daughter, whom I hope will be going to school there, but other than a comic book, nothing shouted out to me or even whispered. 
Then we went to another bookstore across the street.  It was four floors full of books and my anxiety increased.  Suddenly I was asking questions:
·      What do I read?
·      What do I need?
·      Why am I here on this planet?
·      What is the answer to all the questions of all the people with all their needs and wants and hopes and fears?
·      Who are all these writers and what was their purpose in writing all these books?  Did they want money?  Fame?  Or did they just need to get a message out to the world?

All these questions were coming at me in fewer than three seconds.  This is what my mind does.  It’s like being mentally mugged.  One expects to get mugged in a dark alley, but not in a bookstore.  Dave, a true friend and a friend who knows what I need, seeing my distress said, “Do you want to go somewhere and write?”
I declined, but I shouldn’t have.  We stayed in the bookstore for a few more minutes.  After finding a parking garage so that we didn’t have to worry about feeding a meter, we got lunch.  I thought about what had just occurred.  Here’s what I surmised:
First, when I have those panic attacks or whatever they are, I can do other things immediately.  I can tap or pray or ask for prayer or drink water or breathe or focus on my inner body.  I can meditate on something pleasant, like a flower or the beach or that play I was in during the 10th grade.  Just because I get to that place of panic doesn’t mean I have to stay there.  I can and should move on and move away from it.  When I say, “should,” I mean I have an obligation to myself and others to not stay in that place.  I don’t need the attention and I don’t need to create more pain for myself or others.
Second, and this is crucial, I need to write…a lot.  It keeps me calm.  It might stave off these panic attacks or whatever it was I had.  Writing keeps my thoughts in order.  It settles me down. It helps me breathe.  It helps me answer the questions, like the ones I had in the bookstore.  It makes me human.  Writing isn’t who I am; it’s what I do, but I’m not sure if I do it enough.  I need to do it every day, maybe twice a day, maybe more.  I look forward to the time when I’m on my house by the beach and I can write for a few hours without interruption.  But I can’t use waiting for that time as an excuse to wait.  I need to write now.  Right now.  Write now.  Sometimes I think God is testing me and seeing how important this really is to me.  Is it so important that I will write even if conditions are less than ideal?  Will I write when I’m tired or sick or hungry or stressed or heartbroken?  I will and I have.  But I need to write more.
There are a lot of things I do.  I’m a father.  I write resumes.  I teach English.  I’m a neighbor and a friend and a citizen.  What ties them all together for me, what brings me structure is writing.  I wonder if my deficits in those areas are connected with my deficits as a writer.  If I practiced focusing here more, would I be more focused there also?  Does one area affect the others?  Yes, they do. 
Every day I increasingly see the importance of this.  This is what I need to be doing.  A friend said this is my salvation because I’m creating with God.   That’s strong language.  Will writing save me?   No.  God will save me.  But this is where God meets me.  This is where He tells me to Get Started and Keep Going…write now.

The Hills of San Francisco

"In San Francisco, you learn to expect that anything will happen. It's out of the ordinary for something unusual not to happen."

Theresa Smith

San Francisco itself is art, above all literary art. Every block is a short story, every hill a novel. Every home a poem, every dweller within immortal. That is the whole truth.

William Saroyan

Earlier tonight I tried to write and I wasn’t doing well.  I was tired and I fell asleep.  When I woke up I looked at what I had written and I didn’t like it.  So now I’m starting again and hoping for something better this time.  It’s been a long day, though not a bad one.  I’m in San Francisco, visiting a friend, and I’ve done a lot of walking today.  That might be why I was so tired tonight.  After I woke up we walked some more and now I’m ready to give the blog another try.
San Francisco is an amazing city.  Over 800,000 people inhabit about 47 square miles.  There is so much to do and see here.  I like cities.  They fascinate me.  All the people and all the stories.  I like the dynamics of a big city.  I like walking around at night and seeing so many people.    It’s pretty amazing.  And I’ve definitely put in my walking time for this trip.  I was thinking of walking some more after I finish this blog, but I think going to bed would be a better choice.  I’ve seen a lot of the city today and I like it, for the most part.
Here are some things I like about San Francisco:
·      The diversity
·      The different neighborhoods
·      The lights
·      The ability to walk anywhere and get whatever you need
·      The efficient public transportation
·      The weather
·      The beauty of the city

There are two things I don’t like about the city:
·      The aggressiveness of the beggars
·      The hills, especially if I’m driving on them
Writing sometimes feels like the negative aspects of this city.  There are a lot of steep hills.  Steep hills represent three literal difficulties for me:
1.     When I’m driving and I’m stuck at the top of a hill with my car rear end facing downward.  When that happens, I’m terrified that my car will roll backwards and crash.
2.     Going down is just as scary because I’m sure that I will start going too fast and the car will crash.
3.     Walking up and down steep hills gets pretty tiring if I’m not used to it.

Sometimes writing feels like being stuck at the top of a hill and unable to move forward.  I’m stuck and I’m sure I’m not saying anything new or interesting.  That’s not as scary as being literally stuck on a hill in San Francisco waiting on a light or a pedestrian, but it’s still scary.  What if my writing crashes?
Other times it feels like I’m facing a steep decline, especially when I can’t focus on my writing.  I feel like I’m quickly going downhill with my time, energy and attention.  I’m getting nothing done.  What if my writing crashes?
Finally there are times when I’m walking forward, up and down the hills, exploring my mind and my thoughts and it’s fun, up to a point, and then it’s tiring.  I want to stop, but I can’t because I haven’t arrived.  Well, I can, but it makes the journey longer.
The hills are hard for me, but this is really a beautiful city and writing is a beautiful use of my time.  In addition, I’ve learned that drivers get used to the hills.  I don’t think there are any more accidents here than anywhere else.  In fact, the practice might make drivers better here, just as practice makes me a better writer.  I’m glad I’ve been able to spend some time here.  It’s a great place to Get Started and to Keep Going…even with all the hills.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Practicing Peace

“The life of inner peace, being harmonious and without stress, is the easiest type of existence.”
Norman Vincent Peale

“Success isn’t measured by money or power or social rank. Success is measured by your discipline and inner peace.”
Mike Ditka

“If you want peace, stop fighting. If you want peace of mind, stop fighting with your thoughts.”
Peter McWilliams

I’m in San Francisco!  I’m visiting a long time friend.  I have a feeling it’s going to be a good weekend.  San Francisco is an interesting city and I’m looking forward to exploring it tomorrow.  Right now, however, I’m looking forward to writing.  As I’ve said many times before, I’m grateful to be warm and comfortable.  I’m grateful for the warm cup of coffee I just had.  I’m grateful for the soft music playing.  Mostly though I’m grateful for the privilege of writing. 
I had an interesting experience on the flight here.  I’m reading The Power of Your Subconscious Mind by Joseph Murray.  I was reading the chapter called “Practical Techniques in Mental Healing.”  As I was reading I became aware of…something.  It was peaceful.  It felt like God’s presence.  I felt completely removed from all my problems, from all problems.  There was no fear or sadness or anger.  Just peace. 
It’s not good to intellectualize peace.  Sometimes if I think too much about it, it lessens the experience.  Still something was happening in my mind as well as my spirit.  These are the thoughts that occurred, as best as I can remember them:
·      God is a God of healing.
·      I have access to healing and perhaps the ability to be an instrument of healing for others.
·      God is a god of peace.
·      I have access to peace and perhaps the ability to be an instrument of peace to others.
·      It is good to sit and concentrate on letting go of life for a few minutes and allow God’s presence to enter. 
·      I think I let too many activities and tasks get in the way of just being still with God.
·      It was nice to just sit and practice the presence of God.
·      I don’t have to sit.  I can practice God’s presence while I’m washing dishes, just like Brother Lawrence describes in his book, Practicing the Presence of God.  
·      At any moment I can choose my state of mind.
·      The previous comment is easier said than done, but it’s still worth doing.
·      I believe love, joy and peace are the states of being that God wants us to experience at all times.
·      The previous comment is also easier said than done, but fortunately it does not rely on my efforts.  I can ask Him to give me His grace and the ability to be and stay in that state of being.

Being peaceful takes an instant to attain and a lifetime of practice to maintain.  So tonight, as I’m writing, I’m practicing peace by being aware of each thought as it comes.  Now I’m going to enhance that practice by getting some sleep.  Tomorrow I will Get Started and Keep Going…peacefully.