Thursday, August 23, 2012

Meant to be humble …

tub with amazing ocean view

“No one is disadvantaged before God”

Still unemployed, still looking for work that will pay a reasonable salary. The other day I was doing some job-search-related work on LinkedIn and checked out the profiles of some former co-workers. Some now have titles like Director, Vice President, Sr. Vice President, Executive Vice President. While I’m happy for their accomplishments (and they are very well deserved, indeed; very good, smart people), I wondered what happened to me? Not in a feeling-sorry-for-myself way at all; more like a self-examination of my career path, what choices I may have made, what actions I might have taken, what I might have done differently to achieve similar status and been more successful.

At one point, I was on the fast track toward a vice president position … then the company was bought out and new management brought in who had their own people. I’ve been in two other companies that were bought out, staffs were downsized, departments absorbed; another company closed in the dot-com bust; another had a major Reduction in Force in 2008’s economic downturn. I left another great job for a more attractive opportunity, then the director who hired me was promoted and his successor had a different vision for the group that didn’t include the role I had accepted.

Two friends gifted me with a couple of thoughts recently that helped me to get my head and heart straight and gain some wisdom and understanding:

One friend is having to close her business after pouring her savings, sweat and lifeblood into it. In talking about our situations last week, she said that her husband had told her “Maybe we’re just meant to be humble.”

“Meant to be humble.” That really struck a chord with me. I would love to have the nicer things in life, not too extravagant, but nicer. I love beautiful things that are simple and well crafted. That pic above just makes me gasp; the beautiful lines of the tub, the elegant floors and oh, yeah, how about that view? I’m not into fussy, ornate, busy; show me sleek, simple, perhaps with a bit of rustic, mixed with some happy color. In some ways, my tastes are already humble. But still, I would like to be able to purchase some nice towels, perhaps new dishware, re-upholster my Mom’s rocking chair, have some curtains that aren’t from Ikea, update the bathroom. I’ve never really had that “extra” that would allow me to have a nicer car/wardrobe/shoes/d├ęcor. I’ve always had to watch my budget. (My brothers and I joke “Why wasn’t Dad a rich shipping magnate?”)

As I pondered these thoughts about humbleness, another friend posted this illuminating thought on Facebook:

“No one is disadvantaged before God.”

It was as though the Divine meant those words specifically for me. Those who are vice presidents and those who are unemployed: before the Divine, we’re all the same. Wealth, titles, beautiful bathtubs—none of these matter ultimately. Those are things of the physical world, not of the place where our souls are. I was letting my ego lead my thoughts instead of the heart of my Divine self. There is ultimately a great equalizer as we move forward in our journeys. My friend’s husband spoke it so truly: We are meant to be humble people, all of us. None of us is disadvantaged where it counts. A little wisdom gained.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Little noticings …


On my walk this morning, I kept finding my mind wandering to what I wanted to get done today. I am mindful of practicing mindfulness and being in the present moment, though, so I repeated a quote from one of my favorite movies (Peaceful Warrior) to bring me back to the present:

Where am I? I am here.
What time is it? Right now.

I use this phrasing quite often. It seems that I’m often writing a To-Do List in my head. This phrase reminds me that I am not in the past; I am not in the future. I am only in this moment, right now. There is nothing else to do right now but enjoy the present moment.

I always love reminders to be present. Thich Nhat Hahn is one of the first teachers from whom I learned mindfulness. In the first book of his that I read, as an example he wrote about being mindful when washing dishes: feeling the softness of the soap bubbles, the warmth of the water, the shape of the plate, the slipperiness of its surface. (It so happened that shortly afterward I was washing dishes after a Thanksgiving meal and a relative asked me how I could stand doing so many dishes. I told him about being mindful and I’ve been teased ever since about “being one with the plate.” I think you have to know your audience when you share things like this.)

At the monastery where Thich Nhat Hahn lives, he'll sometimes ask the novices working in the kitchen "What are you doing?" to remind them to be mindful and present instead of wandering away in their thoughts as they work; to notice what they are doing, the things around them, the songs of the birds, the warmth of their bodies. My yoga teachers teach this mindfulness, too, reminding us to notice how a little adjustment of an upper arm opens up more space, how fully exhaling allows the body to move a little further into a pose, how our bodies feel after a round of Sun Salutations: our breath, body temp, suppleness. Little noticings that make us more aware of the union of breath, mind and body.

Yesterday, I took my granddaughters for ice cream. As we were leaving, I pointed out to the oldest that I liked the flooring, which had intermittent squares of blue, green and pink. "You always notice the smallest things, Nana," she said to me and smiled. I try.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Old Navy photos

080112 Dad's Navy pic - mailing tube

I wish I could share some happiness about my dad, but there’s been no change. Still no contact with him. I’ve sent him cards and my daughter has, too, but no response.

I sent him another card last Sunday with some photos. When my dad was in the Navy, he’d sent a photo to his sister Helen.  Helen is now in a home (Alzheimer's/dementia)  and when my cousin Chito (Helen’s son) was packing up her home, he found the photo and sent it to me. 080112 Dad's Navy pic full
It’s about 3ft long, a formal photo of a large group, maybe his ship’s crew? It was still in the original mailing tube, stamps and all. I took several photos, including a close-up of my dad. (It took me 3 days with a magnifying glass to find him in the photo.)

080112 Dad's Navy pic - centerI don’t have any expectations that my dad will respond, but I’m OK with me still reaching out to him nonetheless. I can love him without being loved in return. It still hurts to not have contact with him, but I can still love him.

We’re taught to love as the Divine loves, unconditionally. Not “I’ll only love you if you love me the way that I want you to.” Just “I love.”

080112 Dad's Navy pic - 2nd row, middle

(Dad is  in the 2nd row from top, middle, darker man to his right)

Monday, August 6, 2012

Narcissistic culture?

Most of us are familiar with the story of Peter denying Jesus when questioned after Jesus’ arrest: “I do not know the man,” he replied not just once or twice, but three times, trying to distance himself from the seriousness of the situation.
Would Peter’s reaction be different in today’s instant-fame-fueled culture?
“Weren’t you with that man Jesus?”
”Yup! I sure was! Had dinner with him just last night in fact. Check it out: I posted pics on facebook and tweeted about it, too. It’s trending so hard right now. I’ve got a bazillion retweets since the arrest.
Hey, if you know of any news organizations looking for a good story, I’ve got the inside scoop! For a price, of course!”
My July 31 post mentioned the seeming trend of people falsely attaching themselves to tragic events, getting their name in print or being interviewed on TV or even possibly selling their story to the highest bidder.

The quest for fame seems to be on the increase, possibly fueled by our celebrity-focused culture. (Why do we have awards show after awards show for entertainers but not for those who serve: teachers, military, police, fire and emergency personnel, etc.? What is it that we truly value?) Studies show decided increases in young people who aspire to be famous, often without any hard work or talent involved in the quest. They see people getting their own TV shows for no good reason (teen moms, reality TV, big brother, bachelors with multiple women to find “true love”) and think “Why not me? They’re famous and have no talent or skill; I can do the same thing.”

There are seven traits classically associated with narcissism: authority, entitlement, exhibitionism, exploitativeness, self-sufficiency, superiority, and vanity. One study found that the percentage of young people classified as narcissistic (30%) has doubled in the last 30 years. (What happened to humility and Andy Griffith types?) Another study reported a 40% decline in empathy in young people. Our youth are bombarded with messages about self-involvement, entitlement, vanity and fame and the rich rewards of being famous: TV shows, money, houses, cars, vacations, fabulous parties and their pictures in every tabloid.

So what do we truly value? My granddaughter’s summer reading list includes Fahrenheit 451. The assignment summary describes it as about a society where the trivial is valued above the truth, where out-of-context factoids are more widely dispensed over information and knowledge. I sometimes feel we could be headed in that direction, where bread and circuses are fed as entertainment to the masses, numbing them into complacency and acceptance of these disturbing trends.

I’m thankful there are many hard-working, intelligent young people in society who are not lured by this siren’s song of fame and narcissism; young people who are studying and volunteering with humility and caring, who don’t seek to attach themselves to events that might get them on the evening news. These are the people, though, who should be celebrated, whose stories should be told. Humility should be a trait we value above narcissistic self-involvement.

Further reading:

Have Media Created a Generation of Narcissists? -

Narcissism: On the Rise in America? -

The Mirror Effect: How Celebrity Narcissism is Seducing America -