Where do we go from here?

So for anyone who has put up with been reading this blog (and living with my long silences), you might remember my tales of the 5th Circle. For the uninitiated, the 5th Circle is what I called my (now former) employer. It is a reference to Dante’s Inferno. And, though I picked the 5th circle somewhat at random, if you look up the inhabitants of the different levels of Dante’s Hell, you will find a descriptor for the 5th level that describes many of the people I worked with with frightening accuracy.

But …

I am no longer a resident of the 5th Circle.

I escaped!

Woo hoo!

I have taken up residence in a new place. I don’t know yet whether it is heaven or hell (or neither), but it is different. In a better sort of way.

And for that I am most thankful.

But of course this means changes. A lot of them.

New boss with quirks to learn. New colleagues to learn to know. New office and procedures and policies and on and on. And of course, a new set of tasks for me to perform.

Also, we will be moving. Several states from here. Which means selling the house. Which means preparing the house to sell. Which means doing all of those stupid little things you always put off until “later.” Guess what? It’s now officially “later.”

Change and I don’t get on so well. But since change is the only constant in the universe, I’m doing my level best with it. Honest, I am.


I already know that this isn’t my ideal job. And I’m okay with that. It is a better situation. A better employer. Better benefits and pay, too.

I read so much on the interwebs of people trying to go from what sounds like an absolute shit hole (or at least one of the circles of Dante’s Hell) to absolute perfection in a single step. I’m sure that there are people who have done that. Just as there are people who do actually win the lottery. The odds look about the same to me.

What I’m trying to do (in concert with my significantly-better half) is to create a 10-year plan. If we pull it off in fewer than 10 years, great. If not, that’s okay too. The point is, we have designed a plan.

The plan is made up of our goal for our family. In our case, it is to be in a position to outright own a property on which we can live and grow most of what we eat (being vegetarians makes that easier than if you like to eat meat). So something like 10 or more acres. This needs to be in a specific geographic region for us. We’ve each worked in or extensively visited quite a bit of North America and a large number of places in the world. We have preferences. We also know about immigration constraints. Working with our preferences and constraints, we have picked a couple of regions, with a strong preference for one in particular.

Once the property is owned outright, we have estimated our annual expense needs. This allows us to gauge just how much income we need to generate in order to live the life we want to live. This includes some travel and computers, and stuff. We’re not looking to establish an ascetic monastery or anything. Still, these expenses will be less than our current needs are because of the gains we make by growing most of our own food and owning the property outright.

All of this combines into a tangible lifestyle that we both believe will put us where we want to be.

But this is potentially 10 years out. More if something goes catastrophically wrong in the interim. That feels like a long time. In so many ways, it’s really not. But it is. But it’s not.

It’s a spiritual tug-of-war.

Right now I’m working to settle in for the waiting. I hate change, but I’m also impatient. My personality is what one personality expert called ulcer-inducing. Apparently, I want too many conflicting things at once as part of my basic nature and way of viewing the world.

Yes, I’m weird. Still. Always.

The point.

Those who are seeking instant change might be better off with a lottery ticket. Instead, consider making a plan based on experience, facts, and genuine desire (that has been tested over time) and work toward it. There really aren’t any instant fixes. No good short-term ways of getting around the hard work that is change.

If the change is truly something you want and need to make yourself whole, then the wait is worth it. Perhaps the wait even prepares you for the change. And without the waiting the change would have less meaning.

I may hate change, but I have a plan to make big change. And that makes me happy, because every day I take tangible steps to move closer to that life I actually want.

I want to walk away from all of the levels of Dante’s Hell and live in the light of life.


On Sunday afternoon, we spent several hours in the company of some truly lovely people. We attend a Quaker Meeting, and Sunday was the annual picnic.

Now our group of Quakers puts new vigor into the term “a peculiar people,” and we adore them for it.

Anyway, at our little table we had ourselves (my significantly-better-half, the-cutest-baby-ever, and me) and three other folks from Meeting. At one point two of the women, who are both passionate about (and work with) abused/troubled kids started talking about the treatment facility where they both do some work.

As I listened to them talk, I admired each of them for the passion they had for helping these kids. Most of them are considered to be unsuited for basic education in the schools (for behavioral problems mostly), and all of them are heavily medicated on the kinds of drugs that scare the daylights out of me.

Caring for and working with these kids isn’t just a job for either of these women (one is a doc, the other a nurse); this is a passionate vocation to give voice to the needs of these kids and then to stand up and do something about it.

Then I got to thinking …

Most of these kids are considered by many people to be throwaways. They’re poor, most of them are black, and all of them need a lot more attention than most of us feel we have time to give to someone not related to us by blood.

So I wondered if I should find some way to help. Really. There are never enough people to help in this kind of work.

And then I remembered that while I feel bad about the situation these kids are in – through absolutely no fault of their own – I don’t feel strongly enough to do something about it.

And that’s when I started to wonder if I’m the worst person ever.

After all, I admire and respect these women and they care enough about these kids to do something … what kind of snail slime am I to not lend a hand and join in the work with them?


Then I remembered …

Those kids, while deserving of far more than they will probably ever receive, are not my passion. I will cheer on those women at every opportunity. I will donate what I can, when I am able. But getting my hands dirty with those kids just isn’t for me.

And that’s okay.


Because there are other things for which I have the kind of passion that those women have for the kids.

I’m not less because I can’t manage to give to every passion that catches my attention. In fact, I think I give more of myself in better ways when I can recognize that my energies are best spent with the things I’m most passionate about.

We all have passions.

We really do.

Now they do vary wildly from person to person, and it’s hard to not pass judgment on those passions held by others that I view as silly (NASCAR anyone?). However, when I start down that path, I end up distracting myself from the things that really matter.

For example, I know someone who is over-the-top passionate about NASCAR. Because of that passion, he has become very involved in some charity work that NASCAR advocates. That somehow makes NASCAR less silly to me.

What is your passion?

Mine is words. Particularly the way that words can be ordered in such a way as to incite change. Change in people (including myself). Change in policy. Change in the world. (Because really, my passion is to change the world with words, but that sounds a bit grandiose this Tuesday afternoon.)

Personally, I struggle a lot with this passion. Not trusting it. Not believing it’s real. And right now, as I’m thinking those negative things, I call to mind those two women from the picnic again. Their passion is as strong as mine. And as worthy. If they can roll up their sleeves every day and do stuff, then so can I.

The point.

I’m not entirely sure I know what the point of this is today. After all, the picnic was just two days ago. I’m still digesting.

What I do know is that everyone has at least one passion, but many of us ignore it, compartmentalize it, or try to hide it because we think it’s not worth being passionate about (or we think people will think we’re crazy for being passionate about whales, global warming, or the federal deficit – and maybe we are). But whether or not we’re crazy, without real passion in life, what’s the real point of getting up in the morning? Why not stay in bed?

Look your passion squarely in the eye, and give it a great big hug.

Love it for whatever it is.

And live into it.

Every day.

That’s what makes life worth living.

On being more than the sum of my inadequacies

When I look at the world around me, I inevitably compare myself to the people I see. In this entirely unscientific measure, I always end up wanting.

In comparison to those around me, I see only the ways in which I am inadequate. Often times, this perception runs directly counter to objective fact. Still, the facts be damned. I see myself as less. And frankly, I’m tired of it.

My baby girl

I want to become more than the sum of my inadequacies. I want to see myself as strong, confident, intelligent, capable, and someone my three-month-old daughter can admire. I want to be someone I can admire.

I don’t quite know where to start. It’s easy to say, “Stop comparing yourself to everyone around you.” It’s quite another thing to actually do it. We are taught from a very early age to make note of differences and to judge the meaning and import of those differences.

Three of these things belong together

Three of these things are kind of the same

Can you guess which things belong together …?

You’re hearing Mr. Rogers in your head right now, aren’t you? Come on, admit it.  (Sorry to those who didn’t grow up with him. Google Fred Rogers and you’ll see how influential he was.)

And while I’m sure Mr. Rogers never meant for the song to cause exclusion based on difference, it is a contributing factor – at least in my psyche.

And when I come out on the short end of the difference – which I often do … I’m kind of weird – it triggers in me a strong sense of inadequacy.

The really interesting part of this is that I know I’m not alone in this. Pretty much all of humanity struggles with a sense of inadequacy in something or other.

The question I have is:


The short answer is, I don’t know.

The longer answer is more complicated.

The root of the larger answer is that different does not equal inadequate. And also perhaps that the whole idea of “inadequate” is a false construct based on arrogant pride.

yes, I just posited that the feeling of “inadequacy” is based in arrogance and/or pride.


Because the inherent basis of inadequacy is a measurement – a perceived measurement at that – of one’s Self (or element thereof) over against someone or something else of which we can never have full knowledge.

And so we’re making assumptions about the value of someone else’s qualities as a means of showing how we are less. And yet, we are not living that person’s life. We don’t really know whether that person knows what they’re doing, or if – like us – they’re faking it as a means of survival.

We think we can know the heart and mind of another person.

We cannot.

Or at least I cannot.

Believe me, I’ve tried. It’s an exhausting endeavor.

Perhaps the solution is to ditch the whole comparison thing. I am me. You are you. I have my stuff. You have yours. Our stuff isn’t the same – even if it’s the same general thing – because I am me and you are you. We do not and cannot see the world in exactly the same way. It’s why 10 people can see the exact same event, and give 12 different stories as to what happened.

Maybe I am inadequate when compared to you . . . or you . . . or you.

But you know what?

I no longer give a rat’s ass.

I am me. And while me is far from perfect, I’m still someone that my little girl can look at and see as a distinct person doing the best I can with what I have.

And if that’s not good enough, then bollocks to you.

Also, hello again. I’ve missed you all. A lot.

Mind Churn

Have you ever gone through one of those times in your life in which you can’t calm down your thoughts for love nor money? I’m going through one of those periods right now. Or at least the past few days.

I’ve been awake nearly all night with thoughts swirling around and around and around. Nothing I did last night could get the neurons in my brain to calm down and shut the hell up.

More than just a night’s sleep

We attend a Friends Meeting (Quaker church). Yesterday, I couldn’t get my brain to calm down either. The whole point of the silent meeting is to be very present with those around you, collectively seeking God. It’s really a very cool experience.

But if you can’t get your mind settled down enough to enter into that time, you’re really just sitting on a hard wooden bench for an hour, waiting for the time to be done. And for the most part, that’s what I did yesterday.

I didn’t like it.

What to do?

Because I’m in the middle of this mind churn, I don’t particularly have an answer as to how to stop it. I know that it will calm down eventually and my mind will come to its senses and I’ll be able to sleep, to concentrate, to be part of Meeting. But not right now.

Even trying to write this entry this morning is proving quite challenging. I just wasted about 15 minutes of the 30 I have to write this blog post, fiddling with iTunes. (There’s a podcast I listen to while driving to the 5th Circle and I wanted to get the newest episode … which isn’t even there … which then “forced” me to look for something else to download, but what do I want to listen to? AARRRRUUUUGGGGHHHH!)

What I’m going to do.

I’m going to do my level best to be patient. Patience doesn’t come easily to me. It’s not so much about instant gratification for me as it is about doing something. Anything. I have tremendous trouble following the incredibly sage advice of Madeleine L’Engle.

Don’t just do something, stand there!

But that’s exactly what I’m going to do. I’m going to continue my morning routine of writing for the first 30 minutes after I get up at oh-dark-thirty, rather than stay in bed for that 1/2 hour because I didn’t sleep. I’m still going to make myself sit quietly for the first 10 minutes after returning home from the 5th Circle, because I need to do that to be a human being for the evening following a day in that place.

And I know it’s going to suck until my mind unsticks itself from this feedback loop of endless activity.

The Point

What does this have to do with anyone other than me an my neuroses?

Well, I suspect that I’m not the only one who suffers from mind churn.

Further, I suspect that I’m not the only one tempted to try to sit down and parse out the strands of the churn in search of some elusive Truth hidden within the churn. Assuming I’m not the only temporary nut case on the planet, let me just say that doing that won’t work. Been there, done that (more than once).

The best thing you can do (imo) is to keep following your routine, telling your mind that it’s okay to be upset for a time, but that it would be really helpful to your ongoing sanity (and ability to sleep!) if it would please calm down and be clear about what it wants and needs.

Eventually, that will happen. If nothing else, your mind will get tired of the churn going unacknowledged and will slow down and finally stop. And you will be able to think again, to sleep again, to concentrate again, to be truly Present with those around you again.

Seems a much better outcome than going bonkers permanently.

I’m just sayin’.

Trying NOT to Live a Rube Goldberg Kind of Life

You may or may not know the name Rube Goldberg . . . but I’m sure you’ve seen his work.

Rube Goldberg's Self-Wiping Napkin Invention

He’s the comic artist who devised all of those crazy complex machines to perform simple operations. If you’ve ever played the game Mousetrap, that’s a Goldbergian sort of thing. If you remember Doc Brown’s method of feeding Einstein, that’s another example. The most recent example sweeping the interwebs has been OK Go’s music video in which the fantastic machine is timed to the song.

In other words, he is the guy who came up with the idea of making the simplest of tasks as complex as possible. Or at least he’s the one who drew the pictures of them. We humans had the process of over-complexity down pat many, many generations ago.

Why do we do this to ourselves?

The short answer is, “I have no idea.”

I’m among those who regularly make things far more complex than they need to be. For whatever reason, my penchant for doing this is strongest in dealing with my personal “stuff”. My goals. My desire to change some things about the reality in which I currently reside.

I know what I want to change. I may even know the best end result. Where I bugger things is the process of getting there from here. I seem to create invisible (or metaphorical … take your pick) Rube Goldberg machines for changing my life.

The problem is that they’re not nearly as funny as his machines were.

What to do about it.

I keep reminding myself of Occam’s razor. It’s my geeky love of physics coming out.

The basic idea of Occam’s razor is that the simplest explanation or method is likely the correct one. Although this is not accepted as de facto logic in the world of science, it is taken quite seriously.

If, in the development of theories surrounding some unknown phenomenon, two scientists have two wildly different explanations and one is simple, while the other is wildly complex, if all other things are equal, many (if not most) scientists will gravitate toward the simple explanation.


Because with additional complexity in a system or idea, the more room you have for screwing things up. You enter in the possibility of false outcomes that are a result of some subsection of the complex explanation, rather than the phenomenon itself.

How  to apply to life.

When faced with an overwhelming situation, just stop. One thing I’ve found in myself and have observed in countless others is that we tend to make things far more complex than necessary when we rush.

As Mark Twain (or Plutarch … pick your source) is rumored to written at the end of a letter to a friend, “I’m sorry to have written such a long letter. I didn’t have time to write a short one.”

Take the time to sit with the problem, sort through what’s going on, and discern potential solutions. As solutions float up into your consciousness, don’t necessarily take the first one that comes to mind. Find some others, then sort through them to find the cleanest solution and implement that one.

Yes, I know first hand how very hard this can be, but I’ve also made the mistake of trying to solve my problems with a Rube Goldberg machine often enough that I’m starting to learn a new way.

The Point.

Life is complex enough without us creating a 30-step process just to wipe our chin as we eat soup.

Give yourself a break. Make things easier by taking a few minutes to assess your options before diving into a solution that may actually make things worse than they were before you implemented your fix.