Category: Don’s Blog

Tips for Fishing and Living # 101!

Tip # 101

“Many go fishing all their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.”

Henry David Thoreau

There’s another old saying, one quite similar to this fishing quote that goes: “if you don’t know where you are going, any road will do.” Some people find their particular road to be a rather long and arduous one. They take quite a while to find their way along the road of life. Others seem to know fairly early on where they are going and what it is they’re destined to do; and then there are those that never seem to find their way at all.

As this is my last Tip (All 101 Tips for Fishing and Living are now available at donpaglia.com and will be available in printed form soon) I’d like to offer a few final bits of possible wisdom. Maybe you’re seeking a newer, better, horizon.  Hopefully you’ll find some of them useful as you seek a joyous and wondrous way along your own unique journey. Take what you like of these. I offer them in no particular order and without any intentional connections, although I am sure many can be viewed as such. Here goes:

  • To succeed in life go about by being focused on what it is you want, while also open to adapting to continually unlearn old and ineffective ideas, as needed. An openness to learn new things makes us come more alive.

 

  • Don’t operate from autopilot doing the same things over and over; things that didn’t work yesterday or haven’t worked in a good while. Anything new or different will seem at first odd or unfamiliar, but over time they become the new familiar ways.

 

  • We all get the same twenty-four hours each day. How you spend your time is how you spend your life. You won’t find an extra hour on the sidewalk like you might find a quarter. To add something new and unfamiliar into your day you have to push it into the already existing 24 hour day, and allow other things to adjust and/or contract in order for this newer priority to take hold. Defend your time as if your life depends on it. It does.

 

  • Accept your authentic self, as that is where your true happiness resides. Give up fixing you. There is nothing to fix; nowhere to go. Self-acceptance and self-compassion can go a long way on our road to greater happiness.

 

  • You can’t control everything or much of anything, or choose the circumstances of your life. We only get to choose how we respond to the circumstances of our lives. To this extent we get to have a powerful say in the matter of our life.

 

  • Worry is a waste of time, a misuse of our imagination. Don’t do that. Also, negative thinking, and expecting the worst takes a huge toll on our emotional and physical health. In addition, whenever we say bad and critical things to ourselves we are doing a form of gossiping. Stop that.

 

  • Recognize the magic within the ordinary, and discover there is really only the extraordinary. Life is amazing and precious. If you are still breathing, then you are still alive. If you are alive you have more to contribute. Happiness resides in providing the world with our gifts and talents.

 

  • Without action our ambitions and goals, no matter how clever or brilliant, remain just pipe dreams. Instead of investing in a career, build your life exactly as you dream it to be by taking your dreams seriously and bringing them into reality.

 

  • Love your life right now and be responsible to create the very life you want. Whatever your life is like today is merely a result of all the various rituals, practices and habits you have been doing up until now. If you want a better future start doing new rituals, practices and habits now and replace those that do not advance the life you say you desire.

 

  • Be on the lookout for great books. If someone mentions a book that inspired them this may be an important sign for you to read it. Books can change your life. Also include a YouTube, a Ted Talk, a blog, or podcast someone mentions to you. “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” Be open to possibilities of what and how a teacher may show up and offer you exactly what you need.

 

  • If you don’t believe in yourself, nobody will. This requires stopping any and all negative thoughts and self-criticisms. It is okay to look at our past, just don’t get stuck there. In a sense there are no mistakes; there are only learning experiences. Use them by building upon them.

 

  • Usefulness, contribution, and experience are what makes life meaningful. The secret of happiness is in giving to others and being a contribution. Our community will often tell us what our purpose is. It’s a matter of learning how to listen and respond accordingly.

 

  • Life is unpredictable, non-linear, or often doesn’t go exactly as we planned. Learn to flow with it. All people are either in crisis, about to go into crisis, or getting out of crisis. This is why we can say that life is a school of learning. It is our ticket to growth and wisdom.

 

  • Be your own best friend by taking 100% responsibility for everything that happens in your life. It’s not that this is true by the world’s standards. Rather, it is a very powerful way to live. A best friend holds you to a high standard; stays with you through thick and thin; and calls you out when you are not living up to those high standards.

 

  • Stop trying to please everyone. It can’t be done and it keeps you from what’s essential to you. Practice loving yourself first, and then see what happens. When we are in a good place it is amazing how available and how generous we can become for others. We can also liberate ourselves from those that are toxic and not good for our own health and well-being.

 

  • Life offers a privilege, opportunity, and responsibility to do more of what brings out our best self while providing value for others. We call this a win-win situation. Try starting each day with gratitude that you are alive and have this fantastic opportunity of this new day.

 

  • Thoughts become things. What you think you become. To make the most of life focus on making smart choices and you’ll have better outcomes. Stay focused on what it is you want; never on what you don’t want. This alone can radically change your life.

 

  • Be intentional as everything has consequences. Our thoughts (and our words) have power. Be your word. Speak only with integrity. Refrain from using words against others and against yourself.

 

  • Human beings are not separate nor are we over nature, or against We are to be in harmony with nature. Therefore, connect with nature to stay connected with the universal laws operating around us and within us.

 

  • Opportunities come to us if we go after them. When we think we deserve them we suddenly find them. When we are in a breakdown we actually are in the very best position for a breakthrough. Start by asking yourself, “What’s good about this apparent negative situation?”

 

  • When something turns out not exactly how we want it to keep going forward in the face of obstacles. Even when life gives us lemons, we can figure out how to make lemonade from any seemingly not-so-good situation.

 

  • Your chosen purpose in life is the motivating reason to get up each morning. Make up a great and compelling reason, then go out and live it.

 

  • You are the best one to know how to run your life. It is wise to do some checking in with trusted others in order to confirm that your instincts and intuition are in sync with their thoughts, as well. In some cases they might disagree with you. Pray, reflect, study, weigh the pros and cons, and ultimately decide what you are to do. If you are in agreement with what others are telling, go do it, and celebrate. If you don’t agree but you see merit in this other perspective, alter your actions accordingly. In the end it is you who must take action(s) aligned with the outcome you seek.

 

  • Don’t look or wait for permission to become your Best Self. Under any circumstance, by simply avoiding self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret, you’ll transform your life. If you do your best there is nothing to regret. If it was not your best, go about doing your best to repair any mistakes, and keep going from there.

 

  • Today – Right Now – is the perfect day to take action. It is never too late to have a happy childhood – a happy life. This may require you to jettison long held beliefs that do not serve you or no longer serve you. Having resentments about another person is like you drinking poison and hoping the other person drops dead.

 

  • Write your own story by choosing how you want everything to play out in the end. How do you want to be remembered? Go live that life to the full. Figure out what makes your life worth living; then design that life and live it out.

 

  • A worthwhile life comes about by continuously growing. Be a life-long learner. We are either growing or we are dying. Each of us learns in our own separate ways. Embrace learning. This learning is never complete or finished. If you think you already know everything then you are closed off to new possibilities. Instead embrace the belief that there is always more to learn, ways to grow, and things to discover.

 

  • God is Love and we are made in the image and likeness of God. Therefore we are Love as well. In our relationship with our God we are the Beloved. Learn to take in this Love and to embrace it. In doing so we discover who we are: God’s Beloved. This also gives us our purpose: To express this God given Love out into the World. Enjoy the journey.

I suggest you pick a few or maybe even just one or two of these thoughts that happen to strike a chord; then ponder them in the coming week(s); and practice living them out. Who knows what extraordinary things might come from such actions?

Note:

Thank you for your readership, occasional comments, and words of encouragement. I will be taking a short break before I start on a new blog project. I’ll keep you posted.

All the best.

Don Paglia

Tips for Fishing and Living #100

Tip # 100:

 “The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope.”                                                                 

John Buchan

I love that this SECOND TO LAST Fishing Tip has to do with hope. Hope is not just some idle wish or a “wouldn’t it be nice If only…” sort of thing. Hope is an active engagement with an eye on the goal. It’s working at a soup kitchen while envisioning a world where everyone has enough to eat. Hope is a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain outcome. It’s the strength of someone’s desire that causes them to continue to take action(s) toward that desired outcome.

A long time dear friend who died a few years back, was such a person of hope. Without fanfare he lived his hopeful way in such a way that no one would have called overly religious or pious. What he often said and did was profoundly holy and religious, however. He was a faith-filled person living out his absolute conviction that each of us shares a common humanity, and therefore all people are entitled to a common and equal dignity.

The now deceased priest, writer, and sociologist, Andrew Greeley, believed that being Catholic has little to do with how one practices his or her religion. Rather it has everything to do with seeing the world in a particular way. Greeley maintained that Catholics see the world as, well, Catholic. An authentic Catholic person is compelled to see the sacredness of each and every individual person by virtue that each of us is created by the Creator.

This means that Catholics do actions of charity and social justice work not because those we assist are Catholic; rather we so do because we are Catholic. This isn’t an exclusive idea. A Methodist, or Jew or Muslim or any spiritually centered people do what they do for the reasons they hold in their hearts, as well. One’s inner convictions have everything to do with activists seeing this intimate connection with all other fellow humans, regardless of any common shared faith. It is our common shared humanity that prevails and where we are able to facilitate the message: hope springs eternally.  

Poet Alexander Pope in An Essay on Man (1732) first coined the phrase, “Hope springs eternal in the human breast.” Originally we find it in the Book of Proverbs where the author describes that human nature always finds fresh cause for optimism.

My friend, I previously mentioned, saw his own shared connection with each and every person he encountered. He lived his life advocating for the voiceless and the down-trodden, and by helping whoever needed help. He did so quietly and without need for acknowledgement. He did so because, for him, it was the “logical thing to do.” It was an “of course” way of living.

Whenever we do what needs to be done our actions enroll others into this work and/or into similar work, as well. If we are reflective people we think “How should life be?” Then we ask, “Why isn’t it this way?” Finally we take on the next logical question: “What are we to do to repair it.” This gives us purpose and direction.

The world is a little less for having lost my old friend. And we are better for having had him the time we did. We are still here and there is still plenty to do. My friend lives within me and the many others he touched. Each of us are still alive in order to carry on the good work that must be completed. It is said that we are either part of the problem, or part of the solution. To not step up, to remain passive, and not assist in ways we can, is to become part of the problem.

Hope is the essence of being American; it is our stance as this young nation takes on doing amazing things. With the exception of Native Americans, we are all immigrants. Some are more recent immigrants; some go back quite a ways. All of us are here recently, or our ancestors came here before us for a better life – to escape persecution and oppression, to raise a family, to make a difference – to be part of the American Dream. Initially many found it to be oppressive and had to deal with very difficult obstacles while starting out. But they persevered. Unfortunately many new arrivals face these same problems today.

Our ancestors persevered – they persevered for us. They had hope for us. We, who are their descendants, come from courageous people – people who sacrificed so we could have a better life. Many of our earlier ancestors did not get to enjoy the fruits of their sacrifices. But they carried on in the hope that we – their legacy – would have that better life even if they could not.

I am aware that I get to live my ridiculously amazing and blessed life because my ancestors got on steam ships in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s and came to America. They endured hardships and heartaches. How I live my life today is my way of honoring them. My family and I are the endowment they laid out for our benefit. They hoped for this.

Whenever I go into a neighborhood grocery store or a small bodega I can envision my own Italian parents and grandparents in these Asian or Hispanic people or first generation immigrants who are now working in their labor intense family businesses. I experience a family sacredness present in the ordinariness of these family enterprises and of these hope filled people. I am profoundly touched as I am reminded of my own heritage. It also makes me feel compelled to welcome these newcomers to our shores.

Because I know my ancestors were helped by others who at that time were more grounded in American society when my people first arrived, I am bound today to tangibly support the seekers of our American life. We know many are presently being oppressed but this is a huge mistake. America becomes only richer by including – never excluding – the many cultures and the rich diversity of peoples into our commonly shared humanity called America.

If this global pandemic has shown us one thing it is that this Corona virus treats all humankind the same. We do know that the poor (too often it is people of color) have done worse in this pandemic largely due to the lack of health care in general they are afforded and to the limited resources they have to be healthier.

This latest emergency relief bill is intended to help the poor and those who have struggled the most from the economic problems stemming from this pandemic. It is financial aid to the people at the bottom rather than taking on a trickle-down theory that did not and does not work. This is a stark shift in our approach toward serving the masses. There is still much more to do. But as a start it does give me hope.

America, when we are at our best, is a place we can be proud of. We have always been a resilient people. We have utilized our American ingenuity to make our world better and to restore us after tragedy and setbacks. We falter, however, whenever we allow greed and selfishness to prevail. Most of this comes about out of fear. Right now we are seeing a terrible racist assault on Asian-Americans. It is an ignorant and unacceptable injustice. Whenever we allow fear to take over and think it is everyone for himself/herself we fall very short of our ideals. 

We are not going to make our nation perfect, but we can improve and make it better. The Japanese have a term called: Kaizen. It is a term meaning “change for the better” or “continuous improvement.” It is what Japanese businesses have built their strategies upon regarding processes of continuously improving all operations and all employees.

Ironically Kaizen was brought to Japan by American business and quality-management teachers, and most notably it became a part of The Toyota Way. Today it has spread throughout the world. With my work with married couples I get them to surrender romantic notions of achieving marital bliss and notions of living happily ever after, to this idea of each partner striving for continuous improvement and of growing in his and her capacity to love the other more masterfully. 

This is my hope for us all. It is my hope for our society: that we learn to love in ways we have yet to master. My hope is that this is your hope, as well. May we join together in a reinvigorated perpetual series of occasions for hope.   

Tips for Fishing and Living # 99

Tip # 99:

“Three-fourths of the Earth’s surface is water, and one-fourth is land.  It is quite clear that the good Lord intended us to spend triple the amount of time fishing as taking care of the lawn.” 

Chuck Clark

Some would also argue, and do so fervently, that because we have two ears and only one mouth we ought to be listening twice as much as we talk. That being the case one could also suggest we preach more powerfully by our actions than we do with any of our words. 

Getting back to the water notion, we humans are also made mostly of water. Our bodies contain up to 78% water. That’s a lot of water. These days we make much about being sufficiently hydrated. We can live much longer without food than we can without water. Today NASA’s Perseverance is probing Mars looking for signs of water to tell us if life is or was on this distant planet. Water is essential for life.

While I am always leery of those who know exactly what the good Lord intends for us to do, if I were to venture on this topic I’d say, “Perhaps the good Lord intends for us to be happy.” Overall, I think the point with this Fishing Tip is that we are to “Seize the day” by doing the stuff we deem important. It’s up to us to figure out what this looks like and what we think is important. It likely has a lot to do with going after what we really desire, and not allowing fear to keep us from actualizing our desires.

Two old films that relate to this theme:

First one is Defending Your Life with Albert Brooks and Meryl Streep as the two main characters. In it each dies and goes to a Disneyworld-like holding Station to be assessed as to whether or not they lived their lives out fully. The basic question each must answer: “Did you do all you wanted to do in your life, or did you allow your fear to keep from doing so?” I think it is pretty clear Chuck Clark (author of the above fishing quote) is chiding us to spend our limited time here on this planet doing exactly what we enjoy doing. This does require us giving up the myriad of shoulds we carry about, as well as, our numerous fears and apprehensions. It requires us to jettison everything that doesn’t float our boat (water related metaphor intended!), as well, and to go after whatever it is we desire.

Second film is Shirley Valentine. This old film is about a middle-aged woman from Great Britain, a wife and mother, who is unhappy with her life and decides to take a vacation to Greece with two women friends. When it’s time to return home she decides to stay. During her time in this small shoreline town she re-discovers Shirley Valentine – the person that got lost and buried over in the roles she’d been living. As she gains more confidence in her re-discovery of herself regarding her own desires and what makes her happy she remembers that version of herself. She starts to embrace this Shirley Valentine and begins to feel alive.

There are lots of other choices besides choosing between going fishing or doing lawn care. Perfectly manicured lawns are highly over-rated. Around our neighborhood more lawns have been converted into vegetable gardens and perennial gardens. Throughout the pandemic and with our need to isolate, gardening has become a renewed joy that had gotten mostly lost in many people’s frenetic pace in our so-called modern world. More and more formerly front lawns and back yards have been transformed into creative expressions of one’s self. We see things such as: container gardens on fences, and on porches, and upper deck planters, and new gathering places complete with fire pits, and more.

Whatever your “it” happens to be, if you find joy and satisfaction doing it, then go for it. I have an old Nike placard that reads: Just Do It. I would argue that many of us create ingenious ways of stopping ourselves from doing those things we claim we want to do. We tell ourselves limiting thoughts. It can start as an inner dialogue about how impractical our ideas seem. We go about inventing reasons to not do it. This is called being reasonable. If that is so, then why not be unreasonable?

A life of bliss is more obtainable than we imagine. Yes, it most likely requires some serious hard effort on our part. It likely requires letting go of some older and ineffective behaviors. We have a friend that never completed her college education. She thought she was now too old. She calculated it would take her five years to finish by working full time and going to school part time. She said how old she’d be by the end of the five years. I asked her, “So how old will you be in five years if you don’t do this?” She got started and loved every minute of it. Since then this achievement landed her a whole new career path and opened up many new and exciting horizons.

This last year we witnessed our youngest grandchild learning to walk. Initially she got herself up by standing against a chair or some furniture. Then she’d let go and quickly fall; When this happened she’d get back up again. Essentially she kept doing this until she mastered standing on her own. Then came stepping and falling. Then came walking a few steps. Now she runs about very sure footed, with only an occasional fall. She was undeterred.

She didn’t know there is some reasonable limitation as to how many times she should or could fall before she was supposed to give up trying. Nobody gave her the memo about that. So she just kept doing these things until now she rarely falls and gleefully walks and runs about.

She was unreasonable. What a great role model for all of us! It helped that her parents kept watchful eye on her without being over-protective or by projecting their own fears and anxieties. All of us provided lots of smiles and expressions of encouragement – something we all can give too one another.

According to Wikipedia, “water is an inorganic, transparent, tasteless, odorless, and nearly colorless chemical substance, which is the main constituent of Earth’s hydrosphere and the fluids of all known living organisms. It is vital for all known forms of life, even though it provides no calories or organic nutrients.”

When you think about it water’s pretty amazing. Some scientists claim that water is older than our sun. All of us know that water can be liquid, solid (ice), and vapor (steam).

I’m closing in on the final remaining Tips for Fishing and Living (going for 101), and so I have just a few opportunities left to push fishing as a metaphor for living a reflective and contemplative lifestyle. If there is any silver lining with this terrible pandemic it is that many of us have been forced to slow our lives down. With this we have had opportunities to become reflective about our lives and our world. More people have come to realize we ought to not go back to business as usual. The pre-pandemic society had much dysfunction; it did not facilitate us becoming our best selves.

Before I go get myself a thirst quenching drink of water I leave you with this New Serenity Prayer published by America Media. I think it is fitting and useful. It is all about letting go of trying to change others and to instead focus on our own growth, evolution and the amazing journey we are all on:

“God, grant me the serenity

To accept the people I cannot change,

Which is pretty much everyone,

Since I’m clearly not you, God.

At least not the last time I checked.

And while you’re at it, God,

Please give me the courage

To change what I need to change about myself,

Which is frankly a lot, since, once again,

I’m not you, which means I’m not perfect.

It’s better for me to focus on changing myself

Than to worry about changing other people,

Who, as you’ll no doubt remember me saying,

I can’t change anyway.

Finally, give me the wisdom to just shut up

Whenever I think I’m clearly smarter

Than everyone else in the room,

That no one knows what they’re talking about

Except me,

Or that I alone have all the answers.

Basically, God,                                                                                                                                  

Grant me the wisdom

To remember that I’m not you.

All Together Now: “AMEN.”

Tips for Fishing and Living # 98

Tip # 98:

“People who fish for food, and sport be damned, are called pot-fishermen. The more expert ones are called crack pot-fishermen.  All other fishermen are called crackpot fishermen.  This is confusing.” 

Ed Zern, 1947

There was a lot of controversy when the Olympics began allowing professional athletes to play in the Games. Up until then the thinking had been that so-called amateurs play sports for the love of the game, whereas professionals did so for money. I don’t think it’s all that cut and dry. Wherever you come down on this dispute it does seems important for all players to love whatever they’re playing or they shouldn’t be playing in the first place.

Nike once ran an ad campaign with the phrase: “Do you have the Love?” Of course their contention was that if you did have the love you’d buy their sportswear. Nevertheless it made a great point. And it applies to all of the things we do. I’ve often quoted the saying: “Love what you do; do what you love.”

Regardless of the professional vs. avocational argument, most would agree that athletes, like everyone else, need to pay the bills. But it still behooves them also to have the Love. I’ll grant you we do overly pay many sports figures outrageous amounts while we’re still debating a minimum wage for a massive amount of regular folks: people having difficulty trying to raise a family with a 40 hours a week job that keeps them below the poverty level.

An ideal job is the one that you would do even if they didn’t pay you to do it, assuming you could afford to do so. If we don’t find any fun within a job or activity we’re doing regularly, then we’re really being one of those crack pots that the above fishing quote mentions.

Old joke:

Q: What do you call the study of psycho-ceramics?  

A: The study of cracked pots.

Speaking of crackpots, here are an assortment of thoughts – musings – on the topic of craziness. They’re not in any particular order, so here goes:

  1. The American Psychiatric Association has The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5). This latest addition is the product of over 10 years of effort by experts in all aspects of mental health. In it there are diagnostic descriptions of various psychological disorders, with nuanced sub-descriptions, as well.

I contend we are all a bit crazy. Each one of us is difficult to live with. If you don’t think you are a little bit crazy then you are REALLY crazy. While third-party insurers rely on diagnostic mental labels, I say throw the entire manual out the window. Instead we can simply state that all of us suffer from one common malady: A thought disorder. It is our thinking thoughts that messes us up.

  1. When we go about thinking thoughts and believing these thoughts are true and accurate we get duped. We get hoodwinked. To make things even worse we think these thoughts are Therefore we don’t ever question them. “I thought it, so it must be so.” We think or say our thoughts and then we go about doing a lot of crazy stuff without ever checking to see if this is sane or not. Most of the time, on some level, we know we’re being a bit crazy. Most of the time our crazy actions turn out to be harmless or relatively harmless; but not always.

 

  1. I tell my buddies we’re all bozos on the bus. It’s meant to be humorous. It’s just a kinder way of reminding us that we are each a bit crazy. I am encouraging us to lighten up. Denial and arrogance are our worst enemies. So is righteousness; which is why we tend to become furious at people who disagrees with us. It’s the same reason some of us can relax only when we are working.

 

  • To keep doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results is famously called insanity. It is delusional. Crazy. I think people think this applies to everyone else; just not them. We sometimes get on a tread mill believing whatever we are contending with, that if we just tried harder and persisted longer we’d somehow get a better result. I’m not against hard work and persistence. At some point, however, we need to take stock and realize that sometimes the ladder we’re using to climb is leaning against the wrong wall!

 

I’ve chided parents that complain how their child must have some kind of learning problem because they’ve told their child 100 times to do something or to stop doing something, and the child is still not heeding them. I then ask, “So what makes you think that on the 101st time he/she is going to change?” In other words, who has the learning problem?

 

  • When all is said and done it does help to be a little bit crazy in order to live in this insane world. This may sound like the opposite of everything I’ve said. It’s not. We are healthy human beings when we recognize our particular aspects of nuttiness or our own annoying peccadilloes. The people who don’t see this are the really scary ones. They are the ones that are absolutely crazy.  

 

  • Creative thinkers initially are often written off as being crazy. People that have created paradigm shifts in society or brought about a breakthrough in science, medicine or technology were at first ridiculed and written off as kooks. Actually first they are ignored; next came ridicule. Finally, they are greeted by an overwhelmingly friendly crowd with, “Oh, of course you are correct. We couldn’t agree with you more. As a matter of fact we always suspected this, as well.”

 

  • Sometimes the reason folks are called crazy has more to do with their being out of main stream thinking, operating from their unconventional thinking, or it’s just that they are doing things differently from the ways ordinary people think and do stuff. This business of being unusual, or out of the ordinary takes courage. Misfits and outliers aren’t usually rewarded.

 

  • They pay a price just for being crazy differently, differently than most conventionally crazy people. Other words for these people are: nonconformist, maverick; original, eccentric, bohemian; dissident, dissenter. Society has little tolerance for these people. We are people who do not tolerate folks being out of the main stream and yet they are so important for the advancement of our species.

 

  • I am trying to be a bit light hearted and playful perhaps, while also attempting to make a few points. Being super serious is another way of being crazy. Why? Because whenever we are being very serious – or being significant – we are in fact being anxious. It’s usually not easy to recognize our anxiousness. But we can notice our seriousness. Our seriousness is a red flag that ought to prompt us to think: ‘Ok, I’m being very serious here so I must be feeling anxious right now.’ Then when we realize we are anxious we need to then realize we are no longer responding to what is going on; rather we are being reactive. Reactivity comes from creating a perspective that is bumming us out. We’re now operating out of the reptilian part of our brain.

 

  • This reptilian part of our brain is great when you are in a burning building and you need to get out of there in a hurry. This is the part of our brain that contains our fight or flight It gets you running to the nearest exit! In this case it is an appropriate acute anxious reaction. You’ll grab your belongings, find yourself out in the parking lot, and now in a safe place.

 

  • But when we operate from a chronically anxious place – meaning we tolerate being regularly anxious – then we are not allowing our mammalian brain to help us find useful and creative solutions to our problems. We’ve locked out of that part of our brain designed to help us figure out complex stuff. And that, my friends, is crazy. That’s how we behave just as crazy people do.

 

  • If you explode into a fit of rage, screaming and ranting at someone or something, this is an action of someone being crazy, at least temporarily. If you prefer we can call it behaving immaturely. If and when you do eventually recover, and ideally dwell on this unbecoming behavior, you may try to figure out where this all insane behavior comes from.

 

  • Acting like a reptile by overly reacting is just plain crazy and it is worthwhile sorting out where this version of reactivity stems from. This is the work one can engage in by using family systems thinking and by investigating our family of origin issues. By not doing this work we do not then benefit from our greater intelligence. Instead we are doomed to repeat these off-putting ways and remain immature (crazy).

 

  • If you become upset at someone for their words and/or actions, you are likely to see this as a matter of a simple cause and effect situation. This is not the case. As infuriating as that behavior may be to you, the central argument is an emphasis on our own responsibility for our own reactions. “You make me angry” is seen as an essentially misleading statement.

 

  • This other person does or says this thing and you get angry is nearer the truth. That’s because ultimately nobody makes you angry but you. I’m not saying that people should not be angry, or that they should pretend not to be angry and bottle up their feelings. It may be absolutely appropriate for you to feel angry and even feel that this relationship needs to end. However upset you may feel at the time, it is simply not true that this other person has made you be angry or upset.

 

  • The feelings you are experiencing depend largely on the way you have chosen to interpret the situation. This way of interpreting is inside of you and is stressing you, rather than as an objective reality floating about in the air around you. It is the person you are at that moment.

 

  • This turns out to be very good news. While we cannot control or determine most of the circumstances of our lives, we can learn how to respond in more powerful and effective ways. None of us got to choose to be born; where to be born; when to be born. We didn’t get to choose a whole huge list of things. The only thing we get to do is choose how we respond to these various circumstances. I am building a case for all of us to live more reflective lives. These are the keys to the kingdom/queendom.

 

  • AA people speak of “stinking thinking” as the universal addiction. They are correct. All the substance addictions – alcohol, drugs, food, gambling, etc. – are simply the more visible forms of addiction. Actually all of us are addicted. We are addicted to (a). Our own habitual ways of doing anything, (b). Our own defenses, and most especially, (c). Our patterned way of thinking. The way we process our reality, which is hidden from us in the moment, is at the heart of our addiction problems. A reflective life can open us up to getting sober (less crazy).

We each are on a journey. It is meant to be one of discovery and growth. None of what I have presented is meant to discourage. Just the opposite.  

“Once begun, a task is easy; half the work is done.” Horace

Since we are on a journey why not embrace it and have some fun uncovering new and exciting possibilities? Why not take on becoming crack pot-fishermen and women?

A three-step approach:

  1. Get clear about what kind of state of life you ideally wish to be in. Joyful? Peaceful? Alive? Calm and serene? You decide.
  2. Recall a specific occasion in the past when you were in that state.
  3. Practice re-living it as vividly as you possibly can until it becomes your normal way of being.

Enjoy your amazing journey, you adorable crazy you.

Tips for Fishing and Living # 97

 Tip # 97:

“There’s no taking trout with dry breeches.”

Miguel de Cervantes

As a kid I was part of a small band of neighborhood boys that played together – street ball, whiffle ball, football – as well as other fun stuff that young boys do. This included things like fishing, camping, hiking, playing made-up games, and most importantly, building a fort out in the nearby woods.

We lived on a newly developed street next to a large wooded area that backed up to a local golf course. Houses were in various stages of completion on our brand new dead-end street. We dumpster dove after the workmen left for the day grabbing discarded scraps of lumber and other materials for our fort.

It was a pre-adolescents’ paradise. We constantly expanded our customized hideout, always improving it based on whatever items we commandeered from construction sites. Our fort was more of a clubhouse where we gathered. We loved thinking we were hidden from adults, as well as, girls.

It was during these formative years I concluded there were two types of people. Some of my friends told us about really cool things they intended to go do, or to go get. Usually this did not happen. Eventually we called them big mouths or dreamers. We mostly ignored them or made fun of them since they were all talk and little or no action. Then there were those other guys. Some in our group said very little about whatever they were planning. Instead they went out and did it.

It’s important to have dreams. It’s also important to take action(s) to bring about those dreams. Dreams without actions pretty much accomplishes little to nothing. Actions taken without a guiding vision can become idleness or just busy work. The trout are always there for the taking, but you do need to step up (or in) to take them. When it comes to trout fishing, if you want them you need to actually wade out into the waters.

Fishing, metaphorically speaking, means we often have to get our hands dirty. It means rolling up our proverbial sleeves and doing those things that can actually manifest our dreams.

So what stops us? What prevents us from wading out into the stream of life? In one word: Worry. Worry is a big part of our problem. We worry about all kinds of things that could possibly happen were we to take a chance and go do something we want to do. Worry and fear.

We have great imaginations, and this works both for us and against us. Too often we misuse our imaginations, especially when we do those worst case scenarios in our head. It requires us to use logic to defeat our worrisome tendencies. By logically knowing that our doubts and fears should not even be in our heads this becomes a great place to start.

We worry because we are intelligent. Therefore the way to defeat worry and fear is with logic. Our logic can tell us that we can calculate the odds of what we worry about to see a better horizon. So here goes:

  • 40 % of the things we worry about will never occur. Repeat: NEVER. It is a major waste of our energy to do so.
  • 30 % are things that have already happened. Worrying about them won’t change anything.
  • 12 % of all worries have to do with needless imaginings about our health. I have a headache so do I have a brain tumor? I have a scratchy throat, so do I have Covid-19? I forgot my password, so am I getting dementia? You get the idea. It’s worth checking these things out, but not worth worrying about them.
  • 10 % are the petty-little-nothing worries we have about what other people think or might think. Since we can’t do anything about this it is also a total waste of our energy.

Therefore:

  • This leaves only 8 % of our worries as legitimate concerns. It is this small percentage of things that are actually essential and legitimate concerns. These are the very things we can do something about, especially if we are not wasting our energy on all those other items.

In other words, stop wasting time and energy on things that are never going to happen or we cannot do anything about or we cannot control.

A personal example:

When my wife and I were getting ready to retire, I started worrying that we’d not be able to financially afford me no longer working full time. As we were getting closer to the final day of my job ending, I had a terrific breakthrough:

I reassured myself by recalling that my God had, so far, seen us through every single stage of our lives! We had managed to get married quite young, have children right away and eventually have six of them, purchase a home, purchase another home, and live through each stage of family life up until this new stage we were now about to enter: called retirement.

As I reminisced I reasoned that since my God had indeed always been there throughout all those previous times, there was no reason to think that now, suddenly, God would not show us the way in this stage as well. It made no sense to think otherwise. We were creative and resourceful and had always been willing to work hard, and to learn what we needed to grow and develop within each successive stage of life. This stage would be no different. So I relaxed. I more calmly stepped into this new stage of life to discover how this one would unfold and see what challenges and opportunities we would encounter. That was eight years ago. So far so good. In fact it has been a wonderful journey. 

I do not mean to imply we blindly stepped into this stage passively. We had worked hard, managed to save some for our later years, and had also built upon some investments. We have always lived within our means. We had converted our first home into an investment property, and I continue working part time doing what I have always loved to do. Without worrying we have been freed up to be engaged in the managing of this stage of our lives as it now unfolds.

I also think that retirement is a misnomer. Time is precious and finite. At this stage of life it seems more so. All of us still have much to do. We have an obligation to give back to others; to pay it forward, as the popular saying goes. There are generations not yet born, that will be shaped by the moves we make today and the actions we take, no matter our age, physical condition, financial situation, color, gender, emotional state, or our beliefs. What we do matters to all of us.

I am still discovering what I am presently called to do. I am open to seeing new possibilities. Right now, one of the things I am committed to do is helping couples and individuals create an awesome life. And as they do so, they, in turn, offer so much to others. Sometimes I ask married couples to bring to our sessions a photo of their children. Then I point to the photos and say, “I am working for your children; that’s who I am committed to helping.” I am helping these children by getting their parents to be adults who are each more capable of being responsible, mature citizens who know how to take care of themselves in the world, and who also know how to love their children’s father/mother.

As we sadly enter into the one year mark of this global pandemic, with the staggering death count of over 500,000 deaths here in America alone, and as we slowly pull ourselves through this terrible crisis, we need to reflect. Some questions we may wish to consider:

  • Who have I been during these troubling times? How have I shown up in this time of this global pandemic?
  • Have I become a better person for it? Have I diminished my capacity to be a life giving individual? Am I operating the same as I was prior to the pandemic?
  • What have I learned about myself and what I can take from this atypical time for the future?

Perhaps a useful way of focusing us with practical steps for us to go about making a difference is to utilize this process for our consideration (Adapted/modified from previous work in Catholic family ministry):

  1. Start with an awareness that understands. This basically means for our purposes we first broaden our understanding of what is going on around us and within us by using sound and intelligent information. This requires active listening. This listening needed must be a perceptive listening, trustingly, and compassionately listening to what people are saying and, more importantly, meaning. The core to perceptive listening is doing so with great reverence and respect, as well as, without judgment.
  2. Bring a genuine caring that enables. Such caring is forward thinking and is committed to enabling others to bring about positive and productive results. Caring that enables doesn’t leave others feeling passive and powerless. Instead it fosters activating their gifts and strengths, as well as, their problems and needs. This caring is one of empowerment. Also it is about bringing a genuine affirmation that we enable others. Often this requires us to validate our own and other’s successes. We are more likely to build upon past accomplishments.
  3. Build up with an agency of service. As an example, today there is a huge need to feed the hungry. Therefore, soup kitchens, places providing meals, and food pantries are rising up from people committed to serve. The point is that we match our gifts and talents with the felt needs and concerns that arise.
  4. Build upon the three previous points to create structures that facilitate. Sometimes we build structures that debilitate rather than facilitate. We have institutions that may have begun by facilitating the needs of people, but have devolved into being primarily focused on sustaining the institution itself. Also this one is not about building buildings; it’s about arranging various elements that can be put together in order to more effectively carry out our intentions and purpose. A simple example is this: If I, Don, am willing to meet with married couples I must be willing to offer some evening hours to accommodate the reality of working people. Today it means I must also be willing to meet with them online.

I contend we are each here to make the world a little bit better than what it was before we got here. We do so by utilizing our various gifts, talents, experiences, and leanings. We cannot do everything; but we can do something. Together we can do much. 

To go beyond wherever we currently are we need to be creative. “Creative” means I don’t know anything yet, but suddenly I have the insight for the next step, only the next step. This requires surrendering and a letting go of our attachment to illusions: mostly our fear. Then we enter into a movement without knowing exactly where it will lead us, but knowing it is leading us to a new place where everything is good.

We ought to be more than ready to re-immerge from this unpreceded winter’s slumber with new urgency and greater conviction to make a difference. It is time to participate in our democracy. It I time to participate in community.

Put on your waders and head out to those fishing streams to live a fully engaged life. It’s time to stop wishing and go fishing. I think we’d do well by realizing that what we are fishing for is love. It’s also what we bring along with us. It is in everyone, if only we learn to look closely.