(Because I’m “stepping away” from Facebook, I may post more frequent, shorter things on my blog https://leo.notenboom.org. For example the things I might have shared on Facebook might end up here. Or not. We’ll see. Interesting times.)
About a week ago I decided I really needed a break from Facebook. It was impacting my attitude, impacting my sleep, increasing my depression, increasing my anxiety, and decreasing my productivity. These are all things I’m normally extremely good at managing. But not here, not now.
Back in the day when I would look for a new position within Microsoft, one of my guiding questions was “what can I learn?” It was one of several criteria I used to evaluate opportunities. Rather than move to a new position doing the same thing, I preferred to find roles where I could both contribute and learn something new.
There wasn’t a plan, really; I wasn’t looking for something specific. I would just look at a job opportunity and see if there was something interesting for me to pick up. I think my career, both during, and post-Microsoft has benefited as a result.
It comes to mind because that approach feels like a huge opportunity in these “interesting” times.
Most meditation practices have you focus on your breath as part of the exercise. It’s always there (we hope), it’s always changing just a little, and it’s relatively easy to focus your attention on it. Some practitioners will say focus on where you feel it “the most” — being your stomach, your lungs, whatever.
When the monkey-mind isn’t successful in dragging me away from it, I focus on my sinuses. I find it absolutely fascinating what happens when I do.
In recent weeks I’ve run across at least two essays — one from a writer whom I respect greatly — that call into question those of us that try to maintain and share a positive outlook during these turbulent times.
The message seems to boil down to this: if you have the option of expressing some amount of positivity then you’re clearly not paying attention to what’s going on around you.
Tears were running down my cheeks. Serious, vision-blurring tears. Which was probably a bad thing, since I was driving at the time, and my path included at least one school zone.
It was probably around 2001 or 2002, and I was on my way from my home to that of my parents. My mom had just called with some situation that my dad, who had alzheimer’s, had likely gotten himself into. It was a crisis of some sort — small or large — but the severity of each had been increasing over time.
I’d be in tears again on the return trip home. It’s hard to drive that same road today and not remember.
Dealing with my parents as they aged, being the designated on-call crisis manager, was incredibly stressful. But it was also incredibly educational.
I learned a lot about myself, and life, in those tumultuous days.
At some point on our path the question changes from “What do you want to be when you grow up?” to “Where do you see yourself in five years?”
Same question, different words.
I could never answer either of them. Oh, I’d come up with something — “astronaut”, “lead engineer”, that kind of thing — but it was never a reflection of my true desires or goals. I had no idea what those were.
I’ve never really had life goals, and it’s worked out just fine.
Once you reach a certain age it’s natural to want to share experience, lessons learned, and advice with those younger than yourself. I’m no exception.
I also realize how frustrating it is to have someone older tell you what you should be doing, thinking, or valuing. Experience based lessons or not, it’s just annoying, and presumptuous if you’ve not asked for the advice.
Several years ago I installed both the Headspace and Insight Timer apps on my phone. They’ve been my go-to tools for meditation ever since; Headspace for Andy Puddicomb’s gently guided meditations, and Insight Timer for those times when I’m just looking for a “do it myself” approach. Both are great, though it’s Headspace I’ve purchased for others as gifts.
What I realized, through, is that when it comes to guided meditation — the phase I happen to be in currently — I kinda suck.
I’m naturally pretty good with spacial things — I can imagine how physical things are in relationship to each other, how things go together, that kind of thing.
That eventually served me well at my first job, as as a bag-boy at a local grocery store. Putting things in bags was one thing; anyone could do that. Putting them in efficiently, maximizing how much goes in, keeping cold things together, putting fragile items on top, making sure the bag wouldn’t weigh too much –leveraging my spacial reasoning, these were things that came naturally to me. They still do.
To me it was as much art as it was work.
Which is how work really ought to be; certainly the best work.
When we moved into our current home, over twenty years ago, we elected to enlist a service to mow our lawn and do some other basic maintenance on the large yard. We went through several services before finding one we would stick with for many years.
The most common cause of failure was actually very disappointing. While we expected the quality of the work to be the determining factor, it was something else entirely that had us more often than not looking for a new provider.
We ended up making our evaluation on what seemed the simplest of things: did they even show up regularly, as promised, to do the job?