Bear was a dog that we adopted from a group called “Stop the Suffering” that rescues dogs from shelters. He had been left outside on a 6 foot chain year around and mistreated in other ways as well. When he first came to us he would not even look you in the eye or look up when his name was called. I am glad to say that after being with us for 5 wonderful years, he had become quite accustomed to (and enjoyed) the love (and bacon) that our family showered him with. He was a sweet old soul that has suffered immeasurable cruelty in his long life but did it quietly and did not allow it to make him anything other than a big bundle of fur that everyone wanted to pet and love on. Every one of our kids’ friends loved Bear and always stopped and petted him when they came in the house. He never made a nuisance of himself and rarely get up when folks came in. This is mostly due to the fact that he as nearly blind and mostly deaf. When we adopted Bear, we did it to give him a home full of love and try to make up for all the years of mistreatment he had suffered…and we accomplished that.
Bear’s health had been failing and his back legs were causing him great pain and he had a number of cancerous tumors as well. He was on 3 different medications and our goal was to keep him comfortable until he passed. When I arrived home last night, I knew something was wrong. After he ate he began to pace around the house and whimper. When I bent over to pet him, his entire body was shaking and he was panting furiously. Lisa arrived home from her show in Indianapolis just about that time as well. I had Bear outside to let him get some fresh air and he actually began howling. This was pretty incredible because Bear rarely barked. My guess is that he was beaten by his previous owners but he had only barked maybe a couple dozen times in 5 years and when he did it was a more of a yelp than a true bark. I can tell you that I had never heard a more mournful sound than his howl and it was obvious he was in a great deal of pain. Lisa and I came to the conclusion that we needed to call the vet and see if he would be able to meet us. It was a tough decision but we knew it was the best thing for him. The vet said he would meet us at 8 a.m. Sunday morning.
We gave Bear some more pain meds and he eventually fell asleep. We told Grace and called both Zane & Zach (they were away working and at college respectively) and told them as well. Lisa & I were awakened around 3 a.m. when lights came on downstairs. I asked Grace what she was doing and she said getting a drink but when I came out into the living room, she was sitting beside Bear stroking his head. I turned and went back into the bedroom and a few minutes later the lights went off and I heard Grace go back upstairs.
When I awoke the next morning and walked out in the living room, I saw a nest of blankets next to Bear and found out that Lisa had come out during the night and laid down with him for some time as well. After everyone said good-bye, I carried Bear out to the car and nestled him into the front seat in his favorite blue blanket. I carried him into the vet’s office and laid him on the table. The vet knew it was time and let me know the process. He would give Bear and tranquilizer and then administer the other drugs after that. He assured me it would be quick. As he prepared, I just kept stroking Bear’s head and telling him it wasn’t going to hurt anymore and soon he could rest. I could feel the tears running down my face as I talked to him. At one point I put my head on his and told him I loved him and that it would be over soon.
After he had passed I carried him back to the car and brought him home. I carried him and his blue blanket out the corner of the back yard under some trees. I then began to dig his grave. I had thought about where to bury him since his health began to fail and thought this would be a nice spot for him to rest. It was a beautiful morning and the sun was shining for the first time in weeks. I was talking to him and crying intermittently as I dug. I laid his blanket in the hole, placed him on it, and the covered him up with it. After I finished, Lisa came out and we talked for a few minutes and let our Odie (our other dog) run around the yard.
It is now 10 p.m. and I have cried 3 or 4 times throughout the day. There were various “triggers” and am sure I will for several days like when I come home tomorrow and realize he won’t be prancing around when I call for “Bear-Bear”. The truth is that while we did give him a home, he gave us much more. He taught us that regardless of what happens to you, you don’t have to let it make you bitter. He showed us that you can change and learn to trust people even after being beaten and abused for years. He taught us how to live and, more importantly, how to die. After the vet administered the drugs, he told me that Bear was tough and he kept fighting till the end. Bear never quit. Even when his legs wouldn’t respond, he kept trying to run…he would never give up.
We gave Bear a home but he gave us so much more.
I am currently reading 3 books from very different authors on very different topics BUT they all share an underlying theme. The books are:
While they are writing on very different topics, the underlying implications of all three books (in my mind) is that they all focus on uncertainty and how we should embrace it instead of fight it. As a side note, I don’ t think that I randomly selected these books to read but believe my reticular activating system was at work. I also did not read these one at a time but started them all simultaneously which is why I had this blinding flash of the obvious!
I won’t bore you with the machinations of my own feeble mind but will encourage you to wrap your own around the following statement from the epilogue in The Antidote...”There’s never any closure in an awe inspired life, only constant acceptance of the mysteries of life. We’re never allowed to know when this fantastic voyage might end…but that’s part of the life – disorienting chaos that makes this choice so thrillingly difficult”
Burkeman’s book is about the fallacy of positive thinking and speaks of the need for “openture” which is a concept developed by Paul Pearsall which is (more or less) the opposite of closure. This is also, in large part, the discussion in Antifragile but Taleb focuses on systems and things more than people. Godin applies it to us personally in the discussion of “art” that we each create (if we so choose).
Ultimately, the message is that we need to shrug off the need for control and closure and recognize that we while we can disturb the system we live and work in, we cannot control it. The ability to disturb systems and harness the energy to move things forward is a very different skill set and one we would all do well to develop.
Here’s to tossing the boulder in the pond and riding the tsunami that follows!
Lisa (my amazing talented wife) recently sent me an article on Adam Yauch from Rolling Stone magazine. For those of you who don’t know, Yauch was one of the members of the Beastie Boys and died earlier this year from salivary cancer at the age of 48. Below is an excerpt from the article.
Adam Yauch kept it going full steam. Teenage punk; semi-malicious egg-tossing prankster; underrated bass player; world’s first credible white rapper; beer-guzzling hell-raiser; pothead; acidhead; skier, skater and snowboarder; Buddhist; outspoken feminist; Tibetan activist; friend to the Dalai Lama; music-video and documentary director; indie-movie distributor; vegan; husband; father – he was all of these things, trading in outmoded selves like used vinyl when enlightenment beckoned. “If there was one word to describe Adam, it was ‘evolved,’” says one of his oldest friends, Matthew Allison. “He always took things further, to a level you never expected.”
I added the bold to the line above and find that simile (as opposed to a metaphor…I should know the difference since my undergrad degree is in English…if you don’t trust me, check out this link) to be profound. It seems so easy to say but to think about doing something like that and actually recognizing when it is time to “evolve” as a person. I know we can all intellectually understand the concept but there is a wide chasm between that and actually taking the steps to make it happen. Change is so important yet so incredibly hard to accomplish.
I certainly do not have any answers but I do wish for all of us that we learn from Adam Yauch and find the strength to trade in our outmoded selves and move on to the next better version. Perhaps the problem is our frame of reference? For some reason we think that once we become adults, we just play it out from there? We lose the ability to look at things as new and possible? We are so anxious to be “grown up” that we trade in possibilities for certainties?
Again, I am long on questions and short on answers. That is where I will leave this because that is where we all are and should be? Maybe the questions are more important than the answers…
If you have read any of my postings recently, you will notice a trend. That trend is that I am transparent in what I write and I am doing that for really just one reason…it is therapeutic for me. The funny thing is that God is changing me and it feels good to share that with people who don’t really know me because you can take what I tell you at face value without any preconceived ideas of who I am or have the baggage of having known me for 20+ years (30+ years for some unlucky souls).
Warning! Brief Tangent Ahead. This is something we all need to think about and that is that the hardest part of trying to change is not for the person doing the changing…it is the battle they fight with their friends and family who won’t allow them to change. This is not done maliciously but it happens because when someone we know and love is trying to change (good for them) it requires that we change as well (bad for us). We have mental constructs of our world and how it operates. Part of this process requires that we categorize people into, more or less, caricatures of themselves. Things like the “funny guy” or the “tough guy”…you know what I mean. Well, when someone tries to change, this may cause our construct to be altered and we are not really up for that so we (subconsciously) work to keep them in their current state instead of assisting them in their journey. OK, back to the topic at hand.
The one thing I can tell you (but cannot explain why) is that I am an extremely private and guarded person (in a face to face setting). I am not inclined to share much of myself with people and this is most likely the reason I am historically viewed as “stand-offish” and “hard to get to know”. Funny thing is that for those who do know me, they would tell you I am easy to talk to and extremely funny…quite a paradox I know. At this point you may be asking what any of this has to do with marriage and partnership but stay with me as I am preparing to tie this all together.
Lisa & I have been married for nearly 22 years and we personify the old adage that “opposites attract”. This is a woman who is going straight to heaven for having stayed by my side through all of the ups and downs (there have been quite a few of both). At this point in my life I have no problem sharing that I am a flawed human in the truest sense. Perhaps it is a because of my personality (some might argue that should be plural) that I am reserved and quite most of the time. I have often said I would not wish for anyone else to have to live in my head with my thoughts as most of them center on what I have failed to accomplish in my life and how I have let Lisa and kids down…but I digress. Lisa has said many times that she really doesn’t know much about me. She jokes that she doesn’t even know what I would get on a sub at Subway and that annoys her. The issue here is that I tend to be closed off and do for others but do not allow others to do for me. I thought for some time I might be a Puritan when I stumbled across this quote from H.L. Mencken, “Puritanism. The haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be happy.” You can imagine how much of a joy it is for Lisa to be married to me!
I see know that this is at the very core of marriage but see from an entirely different point of view over these past several weeks. This is not her fault but mine because for the past 22 years I thought it was my responsibility to bear the burden of running the family. For whatever reason, I did not share bad news with her and tried to make it all work out for everyone even if it meant that I had many restless nights. I never wanted her to have to worry about anything because I knew that there had been many times that our family endured hardships because of my decisions so each time I felt like I had to make up for it. (I may or may not have a minor martyr complex)
This is definitely neither what she wanted nor what should have happened. She wanted to share both the good and the bad and I was cheating her out of that and did not realize it until just this month. It is amazing what God shows you if you are willing to see and hear. I have to say that this was quite an epiphany for me and not something I take lightly. It has had a profound impact on me and I am working to change to ensure that we are partners from this point forward. She has always been a fantastic wife but she also wanted to be my partner…I just would not let her in. It’s ironic because she wanted to be a part of the very thing I was protecting her from…I immediately think of the “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry.
That is all changing now but it’s tough. It takes focus to share and communicate, especially when it has not been a part of my day-to-day activities over the past 22 years. It has been cathartic for me to really understand that I can share all of this with her. Most of all, it feels good to know we are in it together.
When does marriage become a partnership?
When you let it.
Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote, lived from 1547-1616 and was credited with saying, “The journey is the inn.” For me, these 5 words sum up my philosophy on life. It was certainly not always that way but I have learned a great deal over the past several years and now understand what he was trying to tell us. It also shows me that the human condition has not changed much in the last 400 or so years.
Over the years I have read many books, articles, and blog posts on success, achievement, and all that jazz but can tell you I now have quite a different point of view. It is easy to get caught up in the cycle of achievement and continue to strive for the “next” promotion, job, raise, bonus, or “insert your own answer here”. The fact is that it is never “done” and you will never “get there”. I am not saying you will not reach milestones but if the milestones are the rewards and you view striving to achieve them as means to an end, then you will enjoy far too little of life.
The best analogy I can provide is the following…
Lisa & I will celebrate our anniversary later this week (we have been married over 20+ years…she was a child bride..wink wink) and in all of that time, I have never bought her anything fantastic or taken her on some big getaway weekend. The reason is that I never wanted to wait for just one day each year to show her how happy I was to be married to her. I try to surprise her from time to time with flowers or wine because she makes my life fun and enjoyable every day and not just on our anniversary, Valentine’s Day, etc. I don’t want her to ever think that I don’t treasure what we have and that if I forget to tell her for 364 days, I can make up for that on our anniversary.
I believe this same approach is best for life in general. There are so many hackneyed sayings like “stop & smell the roses” but the reason they exist is because we continue to try to come up with ways to say it so we all will listen. Like many of us, I have experienced the stress of both working and not working and they each come with their unique challenges but the truth is that we tend to allow our focus to be hijacked and lose out on many wonderful moments in our lives. In reality the best moments in life are not those that are planned but the ones that take us by surprise when we allow our lives to unfold. I happened to be out of work during the latter half of Zane’s (our oldest) senior year of high school. It was not the best of all possible scenarios but because I was home many of those days, I was able to have great conversations with him in the middle of the afternoon that just happened. We both happened to be home and had the chance to discuss what was next for him. We would have definitely had some of these types of conversations regardless of my occupational status but I think it was the fact that I was there so much of the time that mattered. It was almost like God decided I needed to be there for him and decided He would make His plan more obvious since I was not getting the hint (like ensuring I spent enough time with Zane since I did not have a job).
None of what I am sharing is meant to be prescriptive because I am not so pompous (anymore…I certainly more than pompous till around age 35) to think I actually know what I am supposed to do let alone tell others. I can only share what I have experienced and hope it finds resonance for anyone willing to read it. Ultimately, this blog ends up being more of an online journal for me that I am sharing with all of you. It started out being more focused on intellectual and business observations but I am now finding it much more enjoyable and relevant to write about the things that occupy my mind on most days and those are definitely not business related topics anymore. I told Lisa just the other day that I no longer want my (next)job to define me. At 45 years old, I want the balance of my life to be defined in the terms of my faith and my service to those I love.
Thanks for joining me on this journey…
I thought I would provide an update on our situation given the very thoughtful comments I received after my last posting. For those of you who do not know, Lisa (my amazing wife) runs her own business. I had shared that we were on our way to Minnesota for a show and we had to turn around due Lisa having a kidney stone. She had the procedure to bust up the stone and I brought her home 2 weeks ago tomorrow. Everything went well Thursday but Friday morning I ended up calling the emergency squad to take her back to the hospital because she was doubled over with pain and we were worried there was a problem with the stent they had put in. Luckily it was merely blood clots due to dehydration so they sent her home with more pain medication and I was ordered to ensure she drank a gallon a water a day from that point on.
The good news is that Lisa is doing very well and her recovery continues to track in a positive direction. We are still unsure of exactly what has caused this issue to re-surface after her initial kidney stone episode 10 years ago but she has several follow-up appointments and I am sure there is more information to come.
Other great news is that Lisa & I have been able to spend a great deal of time together working on the store and that has translated into Urban Farmhouse looking pretty snazzy (if I do say so myself). We make a pretty good team…she buys great stuff and I am there to move it around. I know it sounds kind of easy but it doesn’t always work out that way. Like last week when we spent one evening putting up burlap & lights and hanging umbrellas from the ceiling throughout the back of the store. I would never have thought of doing something like nor was I all that enthused about getting the “big” ladder out in order to make it happen. I can also tell you with no reservation that it looks awesome and almost fantasy-like once we got it done. The real clincher for me was how happy it made Lisa and how excited she is about the store now. She has gone from dejected and overwrought at not being able to attend the Minnesota show to excited and energized about her newly planned Spring Open House. When you walk into UF now, you can feel something different and that something is Lisa’s passion…and that is a powerful thing.
Finally, I will bring this back around to the title of this posting. When last I wrote, I was unemployed and did not have any real idea of what was next. Well, that is no longer the case. After dropping Lisa off at the emergency room that Monday night, I came back home and began trolling the job postings. I found one that looked promising and responded to the recruiter who had posted it. On Tuesday, I received an email asking for some clarification regarding my experience and ended up talking to her on the phone later that day. She submitted my resume to the President of the company and that led to an interview that Saturday. Long story short, I accepted their offer this past Friday and will start April 2.
The irony here is that had we not been forced to turn around because of Lisa’s kidney stone, I most likely would not have seen that posting because we would have been busy with the show for the week. The additional blessing is that the company is in Newark, Ohio and the office is 18 miles from our front door. This is a HUGE win for us because all of my previous jobs were in Columbus and my commutes had been anywhere from 60-90 minutes each way. Now I can be at work in 20-25 minutes and that provides me with so much more time with Lisa and the kids. After I accepted the job last Friday, Lisa & I hugged and she cried because she could not believe all that had happened and how orchestrated it appeared to be.
We could not have planned it out any better than it was and that is because He was in charge and His plans are always better than ours. Sometimes, the problem is that we won’t get out of His way and allow His plans to play out. Sometimes, He has to do something that stops you in your tracks (like a kidney stone) to get your attention. I can assure you that we are listening now…
2012 has not been kind to my family so far.
- My position at work was eliminated on January 23 (there is a story with this that will take a series of posts in the near future to share)
- This makes the 3rd time in 8 years that I my job was eliminated. Hope it’s not true that each time this happens is takes 12-18 months off of your life expectancy because at the rate I am going…the math is not pretty!
- The week I was let go, I had to take Lisa (my wonderful wife) to the ER for a kidney stone (10 years since her last one)
- Various surprise expenses have popped up (major car repairs, dishwasher needs replaced, etc.)
- Lisa & I headed out of town yesterday heading for Minnesota so that I could assist her with a show for her business (Urban Farmhouse). This was hopefully going to be an opportunity to sell, sell, sell and get some great PR. We got as far as Indianapolis and Lisa was hit with another kidney stone. We then spent 5 hours in an Indiana ER and then had orders to head back to the hospital in Lancaster, Ohio (where Lisa’s doctor practices). We arrived there around 9pm last night and they admitted her and she is to have a procedure done tomorrow to bust up the stone.
I share this only so you can see where I am coming from. The title of this posting comes from Daniel 3:17 when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego told King Nebuchadnezzar “…O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”
The amazing thing here is that these three stated they were confident God could deliver them from the king’s punishment BUT IF NOT (because just because He can do something does not mean He will) they want the king to be clear they will not do what he asks. Now we all have things we want/need and I would bet we pray for these things from time to time. What I wonder is if we also include “But if not…” in the prayer as well. Do we let God know that regardless of what He chooses to do, we will always carry on in His name and pursue His will and not our own? That’s a tough one for me and I am not standing anywhere near a burning, fiery furnace!
I wear a purple wristband from our local F.C.A. chapter that reads, “Soli Deo Gloria” (For the Glory of God Alone) and it has served me well this past 6 weeks. There are times I rub it and pray that I am pursuing things in His name and not in my own. The majority of the time I pray for wisdom to understand what His plans are for our family and the strength to face what comes after “But if not…”