Sunday, January 11, 2009

Mixed Feelings and Thoughts on Eternal Life

Is it possible to feel both good and bad at the same time? If so, how does one balance the two emotions to keep from slipping into utter chaos? That is the challenge I wrestle with at the moment.

The good feeling stems from the fact that my wife was promoted last week, on her birthday no less. I am happy for her and proud of her. She certainly deserves it. We celebrated the events (promotion and birthday) by going to dinner with our son to a nice Italian restaurant. No one can say we aren't doing our part to stimulate the economy.

The bad feeling comes from the fact that my best friend lost her job last week. It was a job she took because her existing job had been moved to my location and to me.

When she called to tell me what had happened, she went out of her way to make sure I wasn't feeling guilty about the turn of events. As she rightly stated, her old job was going away whether I was the one who took it or not. I have, though, managed to feel guilty about that fact since she and I first met.

At the time of her call, however, I was not feeling guilty. I have since started to feel that way a little. Somewhere inside me is the notion that this latest job would have worked out if she had not had to divide her time between it and training me. In my head, I know there were other reasons for keeping the old job while beginning the new one, but my heart can't quite escape the guilty feeling.

Worse still, her day had started with her having to have her 13-year old dog put to sleep. For those like her who are able to form special bonds with their pets, having to put a pet down is like killing one of your children. It hurts like hell.

When I was a boy, my cat got into a fight with two dogs and lost. I sat with him for an hour or so until he died. Then I cried for him and for me and what had been lost. Last week, I cried for my friend and for her loss because I knew a little of what that loss felt like.

One thing I asked my friend to hold on to was the memories of the times she and her dog spent together. I told her and I believe that as long as we hold the memories in our hearts, that loved one, whether human or pet, is never really gone, never really dies. I am beginning to think that is part of what eternal life is, what it means to live forever.

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Three Ages of Man

This is a topic I had considered writing about several weeks ago, prior to what could be termed my emotional meltdown. Somehow, with the onset of a new year and the reading I have been doing in the Conversations with God book series by Neale Donald Walsch, the time seems right to return to this notion and set down my thoughts.

First, let me say that I am not speaking of historical eras, such as the Industrial Age. No, the three ages of man that I am concerned with are internal components of each one of us. Those three ages are: emotional, intellectual, and physical. Together, the make up what could be termed our relative age.

In some respect, each of these ages are moving targets, and they are not always advancing upward, not even our physical age. For instance, how often have you heard someone say they feel like a kid again? Or, perhaps in the midst of an adrenaline rush, they are able to do something they had been unable to do for years.

For some of us, our physical age seems to advance exponentially rather than incrementally. I am 52, but there are days when I feel more like 72 due to occasional hip pain that extends into my knee. Stiffness in my back sometimes causes me to hobble around (at least until I am warmed up a bit) like someone much older.

With regard to intellectual age, how often have you said or heard someone else say "she's wise beyond her years" or "he has the mind of a child"? Then of course there is the child who is so brilliant mentally he or she is able to enter college at the age of 12 or 13. Physically and emotionally, this youngster is 12 or 13, but intellectually, he or she is 18 or 19 or even older.

Finally, there is the emotional age. Often, we hear about this age in a negative sense, such as when a parent admonishes a child for "acting like a two-year old." This age can also be impacted by trauma of some sort in the home, such as when a parent dies or when a child is excessively sheltered.

In my case, this is the age I have the most difficulty pinpointing. Because of my parent's divorce when I was five, followed by living in some fairly abusive relationships as a child accompanied by nearly complete withholding of human affection at times, my emotional age is nowhere near as advanced as my physical or intellectual age.

I often have trouble connecting with people or getting close to them for that matter. In fact, the closest friendship I currently have would likely have never developed if it had not been for e-mail. Face to face, I move much more slowly and defensively, to the point that most people don't take the time, and I don't blame them.

I also suspect that I can, at times, behave in a manner more befitting a 15-year old with a crush than a 52-year old adult. My emotional development has been stifled in some regards, so that it is sometimes difficult for me to know or to recognize when a line has been crossed and behavior begins to border on the inappropriate.

This is an issue I struggle with (as do many, I suspect) as I begin to get more accustomed to the simple idea of feeling and expressing feeling. The balance is not yet there, but with the help of friends, family, and professionals, it will come in time.

The Conversations with God books talk about the idea that there is really no such thing as time, that now is all there is. The implication in this is that each moment is made up of past, present, and future, and that they are in some ways interchangeable. When I think of the fluid nature of age when thought of in terms of the three ages I have discussed here, that whole notion seems to make much more sense.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Looking Forward to 2009

The new year is upon us, and what a year it promises to be. Global economic meltdown, war and unrest nearly everywhere you turn, in short, not much cause for celebration.

Yet that it what many people around the world did last night, and in my own quiet way, I was among them. On a macro scale, there may not be reason for optimism, but on a micro scale there is, for each new year brings another chance for renewal. This year, I intend to take it.

When I was younger and somewhat idealistic, I made New Year's resolutions, ten of them each year, systematically, right at midnight. As I got older and less idealistic, I stopped making resolutions because I found I was unable or unwilling to keep any of them.

This year, my 53rd on this planet, I have decided to make some resolutions again because I know in heart this year will not be like any other I have lived. For me, that will be a good thing.

The end of 2008 saw me begin therapy and begin a journey into myself. That journey will continue in 2009 as I work to tear down the inner walls that have kept me from achieving all that I am capable of, loving others more fully and more deeply, and truly being a part of the human condition.

I am lucky and blessed to have the love and support of a wonderful wife, Teresa, who has stuck by me through good and bad for 15 years. She has seen what was possible in me and waited patiently for me to see it too.

I am equally blessed to have the encouragement, support, and friendship of perhaps the best friend I have ever had. Heidi's encouragement and caring nature helped me to find the road back to myself and to begin the journey toward inner healing.

I am very lucky to have two truly special women in my life. For them and for the others who share a part of my journey, I want to make 2009 my year of change. I want to begin the work toward becoming the best me I can be. Toward that end, I have made six resolutions for the coming year:
  1. To be more open.

    This is a somewhat open-ended resolution, and it is meant to be. I hope to become more open to my feelings, to new experiences, and to those around me. I will work to not close myself off from others and make myself distant and unapproachable.

  2. To make new and more connections with others.

    I have had a number of wonderful people pass in and out of my life through the years, and I have managed to lose touch, lose connection with all of them. I am now fortunate to know some wonderful people, a few of whom I call friends, others whom I hope to be able to call friends in 2009. That will require me not closing off from others.

  3. To release the writer inside me and to make the time to write.

    For years, I have always said I wanted to be a writer, but outside of a few spurts here and there I did not write. I spent more than a decade in broadcasting because it gave me a writing outlet, but I never pursued much writing beyond that. Lately, I have begun writing lyrics and poetry again. This blog is also an extension of my rediscovered desire to write. In 2009, I intend to continue this blog and to extend into short stories and perhaps other fiction.

  4. To grow as a husband, as a father, and as a friend.

    These three areas represent my greatest shortcomings in the past, as I have not been all I could be in any of these areas. That will change in 2009, even as it began to change at the end of 2008. Teresa and Heidi have already given me opportunities to grow in two of those areas. My son will, no doubt, provide ample opportunity to grow in the remaining area.

  5. To open the door to my life and to be the change I seek.

    This resolution comes out of reading the Conversations with God series of books by Neale Donald Walsch, which I highly recommend. One of the themes that runs through these books is the idea of believing you already have whatever it is you seek and you will find that you have it.

  6. To take better care of myself and of the gifts I have been given.

    I have abilities I have never taken full advantage of or used to their fullest capability. 2009 is the year that starts to change. The care I speak of is three-fold: physical, mental, and emotional. I have begun the process toward taking better emotional care of myself, which will also help bring my mental side into better balance. As that occurs, I will then add in the physical component so that I can better enjoy the people and the things around me.
I hope 2009 also turns into a year of tremendous opportunity and growth for each of you.