Friday, April 19, 2013

What Is 'Real'?

The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams is one of my all-time favorite books.  So simple, yet complex.  A short little read, but there is such depth to it.  It can be read and reread and always something new will pop out at you.  It’s one of those books that as an author, you think to yourself, ‘If only I had written that!’  Knowing, of course, that Margery Williams was the best writer of it because it was truly hers.  She felt it.  It came from her.  It came from her eyes and from her heart and from her soul.

One of my favorite passages from the book is a conversation between Rabbit and the Skin Horse on what is real?  How do you know if you’re real or not?  What does it feel like?  What does it look like?

The passage goes like this . . .

“What is REAL?" asked the Velveteen Rabbit one day... "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When [someone] loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."

"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.

"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."

"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.

"Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand... once you are Real you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always.”
― Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit or How Toys Become Real

“Once you are Real you can’t become unreal again.  It lasts for always.”

I think that’s my second favorite line.

Hannah has Bunny and Bear.  I can’t tell you how many times Bunny had her ears sown back up.  She had a whole new face put on, along with an arm and a leg.  But Bunny is Bunny.  For nineteen years, Hannah has loved Bunny, taken her on overnights and vacations and is at college with her as I write this.  Bear was the first gift my wife had given me when we had first started dating.  It didn’t take long for Hannah to ‘adopt’ Bear as her own.  Bear’s fur has disappeared in spots.  Bear’s button-eyes are a bit scratched.  I remember sewing some stitches here and there.  But like Bunny, Bear has been on sleep-overs, vacations and is at college alongside Bunny.

“Once you are Real you can’t become unreal again.  It lasts for always.”

I’d say that Bunny and Bear are pretty real.  I look at Bunny and Bear and I see Hannah.  I love Bunny and Bear because I love Hannah.  Bunny and Bear are as Real to me as Hannah is.

My favorite line from Velveteen Rabbit?

“. . . once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand . . .”

Pat was my secretary once upon a time when I was a counselor.  She had developed arthritis and was in so much pain that she had trouble walking, especially up and down stairs.  She used to say that she and her husband would grow “lumpy together.”  She would say that with a self-depreciating laugh, always poking fun at herself.

“Lumpy together.”

My hope for you this day, and each day, every day, is that you find someone in your life with whom you can grow ‘lumpy together’ with.  Because if you do, you will be forever happy, forever accepted.  You’ll find that you can carry on conversations in silence, with a look, with a touch.  If you find someone with whom you can grow ‘lumpy together’ with, you will know you are always loved.  Always loved.  Always!

Mostly, if you’re ‘lumpy together’, then I believe . . . “you are Real and you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand . . .” Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Tilting At Windmills

Don Quixote looked at windmills and saw dragons.  His trusty steed was an old plow horse well past his prime.  It was his quest, this Man Of La Mancha.  Slay the dragons!

Don Quixote begins as a loveable old man, perhaps delusional, but loveable.  But he upsets others, angers and frustrates them as he takes up his quest. 

He means well.  Doesn’t really accomplish much, though, does he?

I sometimes feel very much like Don Quixote and sometimes take up his quest.  And like him, I anger and frustrate those around me.  Sometimes, most of the time, I anger and frustrate myself.

I worry over this or that.  I fret over possibilities and probabilities sometimes to absolute distraction.  At times my worries can cause anguish and consternation in others.  I don’t mean to.  I don’t intend to.  But it happens.  

At times my worries cause me to lose sleep.  I don’t eat.  I snap at my wife, at my kids- those who I love the most.  I go into a shell and become uncommunicative.

And isn’t this the wrong path to take?  To not communicate?  To not reach out?  To remain silent and not ask for help?

And, what of the dragons that are in reality, only windmills?

Don’t we build small events and little worries into great and grandiose tragedies? Don’t we take a small worry, a triviality and make a mountain out of it?  And in the end, only to find that it isn’t so great after all?

We build it up in our mind.  We toss and turn in our sleep- if sleep comes at all.  We pop Motrin like Skittles.  Some might go for something stronger, more dangerous, more debilitating.  Only to find out that what we had been worrying about was nothing at all or at least so insignificant that it wasn’t worth the worry.

A dragon or a windmill?  A monster or nothing at all? 

Is it worth the mental paralysis we put ourselves, and perhaps others, through?  Is it worth the upset in relationships, the frustration we cause ourselves and our loved ones?  Is it worth the suffering and hurt we cause ourselves and others?

It just might be a windmill after all.  Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

Friday, April 12, 2013

And She Won?

Mike was a senior starter on one of my basketball teams.  He wasn’t the best kid on the team, but he was a great young man.  Lots of energy.  Lots of enthusiasm.  The rah-rah kind of kid each team needs to have and rally around.  I brought up Steve, a younger kid to compete for a starting position.  Of the starting five, Mike knew he was in danger of not starting.  Yet, it was Mike who told Steve to partner with him on shooting drills.  On the sideline, Mike would take the time to explain this play or that drill, what I might be looking for on this defense.  Mike wasn’t the captain, except by example.  Was Mike a winner?

Tiffany is a very successful college soccer coach.  As a sixteen year old, she landed on the Women’s National Team alongside Mia Hamm and the other stars who went on to win.  But at sixteen, she was scared.  It was Mia who came to her at that first workout and said, “When we run, I want you to run next to me.  You can do this.  I’ll help you.”  Mia didn’t have to do that.  After all, she was and is a star.  But she extended herself to this new sixteen year old kid and made her feel welcome, accepted.  Besides the medals and post-soccer honors, was Mia a winner?  Tiffany uses that experience to encourage and foster that same attitude in her older, veteran players to help the younger kids on her team.  Passing it forward.  Growing the attitude of acceptance, of family, of ‘us’.

I like to win.  I am competitive and I don’t like to lose.  Being the second youngest out of ten, winning and competition was bred in me early on.  Get to the dinner table late, you miss out.  Last cookie or piece of pie, better grab it.  Get to the car first or you’re sandwiched somewhere in the middle between the bigger kids.  As a coach, I don’t think I would have been as successful as I was if I didn’t have that competitive mentality. 

But I also learned that there is a way to win.  Sometimes, how we win is more important than actually winning. 

Meghan won the 1600 meter race at the Ohio High School State Championships.  She was the first girl in the last twenty years from her high school to ever win at state.  But it was after that race that made Meghan an even bigger winner.

You see, Meghan had to run the 3200 meter race after the 1600 meter race.  Towards the end of the race, one of the runners fell and collapsed on the track.  It was Meghan who stopped and helped carry that runner across the finish line.  And, it was Meghan who made sure that this runner finished before she did.  It was Meghan who finished last, not the runner who fell.  I pasted in the 2:42 minute link in this post because the story is inspirational and I thought you might like to view it.  If the hyperlink doesn’t work, you can copy and paste it into your browser.

But my question is, did Meghan win? I mean, beyond the first place in the 1600 meter, did Meghan win? Is she any less because she stopped, helped a fellow runner and ended up last . . . on purpose, or was she perhaps, more?  Was she weak because she stopped to help the runner, or perhaps, strong? 

Aren’t Mike and Mia and Tiffany and Meghan the kinds of people we want to surround ourselves with?  Aren’t they the kinds of players we want our own kids to be surrounded by?  To emulate?  To hold as role models and mentors?  It’s okay to be competitive.  Nothing wrong with that.  But perhaps it’s in the ‘how’ that’s important.  Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Speed Bumps And Hurdles

There is this one speed bump I used to miss every time I drove my daughter to and from college.  I swear it blends in and it is only after the jolt of going over it and landing that I realized it was there.  And, each time after the jolt I get “the look” from my wife.  So, I resolve to make sure I remember it the next time.  I have gotten better.  There are other speed bumps that I know are here or there and I purposefully go slower and take my time.  It takes time, but the ride ends up being jolt free.

Hurdles, on the other hand, take a lot more skill to deal with.  I’m rather short and I never, ever was a track guy, but I admire those whose event was hurdles.  They move so quickly, so gracefully.  And, at full speed!  They lean in, hunch down and seemingly without effort, fly over each one, only to continue the sprint to the finish line.  Even those who don’t manage to go over cleanly regain their stride and hit the next one and continue on as if nothing happened.  There is a certain artistry and grace involved, certainly confidence and coordination.  And, unlike speed bumps, hurdles are best taken at full stride and full speed.  If you break stride, well, you could end up wrapped around the hurdle rather uncomfortably.

Speed Bumps and Hurdles.

Two different obstacles, used for two different purposes.  Both deliberate and placed with design.

One, the Speed Bump, forces us to slow down, take our time, proceed with caution.  It is used for safety.  The other, Hurdles, are best taken at full speed without slowing down or breaking stride.  If we go too quickly over Speed Bumps, or if we go too slowly over Hurdles, we have unintended and unfortunate consequences.  Possibly painful ones.

There are times for moving slowly through life.  Taking our time.  Taking stock in our surroundings.  Surveying what is around us.  Being aware of what lies ahead.  There are times when we push on ahead at full speed.   Moving quickly without breaking stride.  Not knowing when to do what has consequences that are not necessarily beneficial to us, and perhaps, not beneficial to those around us. 

It’s best to learn before we set out on our journey . . . in life . . . where the Speed Bumps are and what Hurdles might be in our path.  Children, loved ones, a beautiful sunrise or sunset, a beautiful work of art or piece of music, a fine dinner: Speed Bumps.  Slow down, take your time and enjoy.  The report that’s due, the visit to the doctor’s office, paying the bills: Hurdles.  Get to them and over quickly.  Don’t even bother slowing down.  Get them over with and move on to the finish line.

The ability to distinguish one from the other, important, I think.  Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Tip Of The Iceberg

Most of us are familiar with the story and movie The Titanic.  Someone, whether it was the captain or a crew member, wasn’t paying attention to where it was headed and managed to hit an iceberg tearing a hole in the hull of the ‘unsinkable ship’.   As a result, there was a tremendous loss of life.

There are many lessons we can take from this story.  One might be, “there is no such thing as a sure thing.”  Another might simply be, “watch where you’re going!”

I’d like to go a bit deeper. 

Only approximately ten percent of an iceberg is visible and it sits above water.  That which we can see.  The really dangerous part, at approximately ninety percent, sits below the water.  That which we can’t see.  As I understand it, it’s that ninety percent that sunk the Titanic.

Because of my psychology background, I’m tempted to throw a little Freud at you but I won’t.  I don’t think it’s necessary.

But . . .

We’re smart enough to think of any number of directions we can reference when we picture an iceberg.  In a previous post titled Best He Had, I talked about how I made a rash judgment of another based upon what he was wearing at a job fair.  Unfair, unjust, and just plain wrong.  I have no defense except for poor judgment on my part.

This is what our society teaches- look gorgeous, dress for success, drive this car, wear this watch or ring or shop at this jewelry store, get on this diet, that diet, eat this, don’t eat that and on and on.

We are so much more than the ten percent others see.  I’m so much more than the title I carry, and you are so much more than the title you carry.  We don’t take the time to stop and see what is below the surface and like the iceberg, there is so much more to each of us that we don’t see.  Our hopes.  Our dreams.  What makes us laugh.  What makes us cry.  What gives us pause.  What keeps us awake at night. 

We are so much more than our outward appearance. 

And part of this is our fault because we keep these things buried inside.  We don’t share who we are except that tight circle we keep wrapped around us- if we even do so then.  We don’t give others the opportunity to get to know us, to laugh with us, to cry with us.  We don’t share our hopes, our dreams.  We don’t allow others to be silent with us.  We certainly don’t others to know our fears.  No, we mustn’t do that.

But . . .

Doesn’t sharing the fear we have make it less so?  Isn’t it more fun to laugh with someone?  Doesn’t hurt sting less if we have someone who will cry with us or at least, be with us while we cry?  Maybe hold us as we cry?  Isn’t it easier to share a burden with another?  It seems to me that if two or more people carry a boulder, it is easier to carry.  It seems lighter.  Magically so.

We are so much more than . . .

Don’t let society dictate what you can or can’t, do or don’t, should or shouldn’t.  Take the time to show others what sits below our surface.  Help someone discover for him or herself what sits below their surface.  You, and they, might be pleasantly surprised.  It’s better than ripping a hole in the hull and sinking.  Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

End Of The Rainbow

End Of The Rainbow

One year when I was living in California, there was a December when it rained for 27 or 28 straight days.  Not necessarily all day.  Not necessarily a driving rain all the time.  Sometimes just an annoying spit or two.  It was mostly dark, gloomy, and chilly.  There was no sun.  All in all, a very unpleasant experience. 

I can’t imagine what Noah had to contend with.  I mean, I never had to clean up after pigs or elephants, thank God!  I wasn’t cooped up with chickens or snakes, rats or mice.  I wasn’t tossed around on stormy seas.  All I had to do was go to and from work, dodge an occasional raindrop or two, and try not to get my clothes wet or ruin my shoes in a puddle.

For Noah, a bird showed up to let him know land was near. 

And a rainbow appeared.

Thank God for rainbows!  Biblically, a rainbow was God’s promise of no more serious rains and no more global flooding.  We’ve had floods- some small, some big, some catastrophic.  Nothing small is small enough for the family that lost everything.  But nothing of global proportions.

I don’t know too many kids who like rain.  I mean, being cooped up all day in the house, waiting for the rain to end.  Who likes that?  But like magic, a rainbow would appear and it would let us know the rain was at an end.  Finished!  Done!  And, there was a promise of sunshine!  And I imagine that more than one of us wonders, if there really was a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Hmmm . . .

I guess it depends upon what one means by a pot of gold.  Are we talking actual gold bars?  Doubloons?  Are we talking jewels like rubies, emeralds, and silver?  Hundred dollar bills?  That sort of thing?

Or is the pot of gold something even more valuable?

Is it the promise of the end of gloomy skies and dark times in our life?  Is it the promise that calm is coming to ease your pain, your suffering?  Is it that there is something better waiting for you?  Is it the promise of peace of mind, comfort to your troubled soul?

Whatever is at the end of your rainbow, know it was meant for you and you alone.  It’s yours!  Each of us has a different pot of gold.  No matter how much it rains, no matter how much it storms.  No matter . . .  

One just has to look for the rainbow.   Find it, and embrace it.  It’s always there.  Always!  And to put a smile on your face, remember, Noah had to clean up after elephants.  For a really, really long time!  Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!