Friday, December 19, 2014

Asshats and Liabilities

Every so often a word comes into popular usage that is just so appealing in its ability to describe or the sound it makes when it rolls off the tongue or even the way it flows through one's fingers and onto page or keyboard, it becomes a new favorite.

This is true of the word asshat.

I confess that, as much as I believe in the free use of language as art, I would never want to censor the use of profanity or obscenity, as I believe that the judicious sprinkling of a few, well-chosen swear words over the vast surface area of one's body of verbal work can add interest, emphasis, and even style, upon occasion.

Think about it.  Depending on who a person is and her/his position, the well-chosen expletive can serve a beneficial conversational purpose.  Take David Letterman's occasional "Damn" or "for God's sake".  It punctuates and draws attention in the same way that a pinch of cayenne pepper makes a difference in a vegetable dish.  When we say "Amanda Fucking Palmer" we mean that Amanda Palmer is a seriously iconic performer and musician.

Yet, profanity and obscenity are often overdone and coarsened. When every other adjective is a four-letter word (I can think of many that exceed four letters, but you get the idea) the ability to season the conversation is lost.  The objectionable no longer shocks or exclaims.  It blends in and is lost; moreover the user loses credibility since the ability to use vocabulary is one of the measures by which we tend to pay attention to a speaker.  If language is saturated with profanity, meaning is diluted.

We suffer as the speaker loses credibility.

I do not employ profanity lightly nor do I enjoy the use of profanity as the major component of others' vocabulary.  I like my swearing concise and relevant.

Hence my attachment to asshat, implying, as it does, that someone's chapeau might be more suited to his derriere than to his head.  It's more humorous than its more insulting parent noun, and begs the hearer to snicker knowingly.

It also sounds intriguingly similar to ASSETS, which we all know are things of value.  They're the opposite of liabilities, which are debts we owe.

I seriously hope that going into the new year that you have more assets than liabilities and that you can tell your assets from the asshats.  Keep those who are definite assets close to your heart, and cast the asshats as far from you as you can.  Peace and prosperity to you and yours!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

A Strong Finish and Promising New Beginnings

In the olden days back when I still served the Presbyterian Church, (USA) as a religious educator, more than once I got very bogged down in tasks of varying levels of urgency.  The paradox often was that something could be urgent without being particularly important.  Sometimes, too, tasks could be clearly of high importance without seeming urgent in any way.

Every job has those urgency vs. importance issues.  Every job, likewise, has its significance issues, which sound like they might be the same as importance, but they're really not.  Something can be grandly important in the overall scheme of things without having much personal significance to the one who is charged with its execution.

Then there are those things we do because we simply must do them.  Into this category of neutral necessaries fall things like paying the insurance premium, changing the furnace filters, and checking the oil in the car.  They're not important in terms of achieving our long-term goals, and unless they're overdue they don't get to be urgent, and unless checking your oil really floats your boat, they're hardly significant.  Yet a life is made up of necessaries.  (Try not doing them for a year and see what happens)

I once discovered that my entire existence was made up of the urgent, the important, the significant, and the necessary.  What was it that was missing?

It turns out that what was missing was the joyful.  Those tasks or activities which one does which go beyond being simply significant in a life...the things that make you soar, the things that stir passion!

For several months I tried and refined an exercise to balance out those area of my schedule that were devoted to the urgent, the important, the significant, the necessary, and the joyful.  I used a very large (11"x14") calendar for a whole year.  In each day's box, I wrote appointments, tasks, office hours, visits with students and their families, my own personal time, and time for my art and personal spiritual development.  I also included uncommitted time each day to allow for the urgent, which don't often tell us ahead of time when they're going to confront us.

Then, I took highlighters and color-coded my tasks according to the areas they fell into.  Work or office hours were orange.  Personal time for family, recreation, and friends was green.  Art was hot pink, my favorite!  You get the idea.

After a couple of months I got used to seeing at a glance where I was over-committed, where I might need to pull back, or where I could add in some fun.  It was also quite apparent that I was liable to the same threats as so many of my families, both parents and youngsters...too much scheduled time, not enough play!  Sometimes I had a whole week devoid of pink or green.  Often I had more orange on my pages than Cal-Trans has on our highways!

This year, my prayer for this quiet winter solstice and holiday season is that we each can find the space and quiet for the joyful, for the significant.  I hope we can ratchet down the urgency penning us in on seemingly every side, and start the new year with enough space built into our lives that we will be strong together as we face its challenges and opportunities together.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Speaking of Strong...

I don't often find content that I think is worth sharing on my blog, but this article from  ANEA BOGUE, B.ED., M.A. is worth the read, especially as we think about the new year.  Hope you enjoy!

Let me know what you think.  The article is here:

Monday, December 1, 2014

A Stronger You

Do you think about strength?  What characterizes strength for you?  Is it toned muscles?  Is it resilience and the ability to rebound from exertion?  Could it possibly be flexibility and the capacity to adapt to new challenges?

Today in my morning pages, I noted that three times in the last two days my eye has been drawn to articles about strength.  They had clickworthy titles like "15 Things Strong People NEVER Do", "This Is How You Can Become a Stronger Version of Yourself", or "15 Things Strong People ALWAYS Do".

Apparently my inner wimpiness has somehow connected with the algorithms of the internets and called this kind of self-improvement material to my laptop.  It remains a matter or mystery to me how it got here, but this I know:

Sooner or later we all confront losing strength.

Muscle mass shrinks with aging.  Mental processes lag a little.  Joints wear. We fear every instance of absent-mindedness.  Even our ability to roll with the punches can flag as we become less adaptive to changing conditions.  (More set in my ways, I am.  I know, I know.  I still play CD's)

It is now December 1st, one month away from 15 years into the new century.  15 years ago, what were you doing?  Were you freaking out that your computer, your digital watch, your flip-top cell phone would crash?  (It's okay, everyone did, because Y2K)  Fin du siecle stuff compounded by not enough digits in everyone's computers.

I recall having very different ideas back then about living life.  I had not yet completed the Artist's Way.  I was still living in Salt Lake City, working for the Presbyterian Church and studying at seminary.  I was single, raising my two sons.  I lived 20 minutes from my mother.  I worked out at the fitness center 5 minutes from my house.

Except for the fact that I was broke all the time, worked about 50 hours a week, didn't have an art practice, and was deeply lonely, life was just fine.

As we're staring down the barrel of 2015, I recall how strong and invincible it felt to be me back then. Funny the difference a mere 15 years can make!

I realize that, as 2015 comes closer, I am redefining strength for myself and reevaluating its significance as I plan and imagine how I want to move through and experience the coming years.

When stripped down to its muscular essence, being strong seems more about wisdom, health, and adaptability than about independence, power, or achieving goals.  It seems that the process in which one engages, the decisions one takes, and the relationships one cultivates have a lot to do with it too.