Blog Post # 261 – Stop Fighting It

Tangled up.

When I was young, we went on vacation at the Black River Lodge.

The Lodge sponsored outdoor movies, volleyball and float trips.

My father took my sister, Kerry, and I on a float trip.

We had a lot of fun heading down the river in an old, aluminum canoe.

With me in the front, my sister in the middle and my dad in back, we sometimes ran aground.

Once, we came around a bend and drifted into a bunch of branches.

The branches surrounded me in the front of the canoe.

My dad hopped out of the canoe and into the river to try and pull us out, against the current.

Instantly, he knew something was amiss.

The river water swirled around him and he felt himself sink in some mud.

Then he began to sink some more.

He started to thrash and kick a bit in a futile attempt to dislodge himself from the mud.

The more he fought, the deeper the mud.

Kerry and I were not entirely sure what was going on.

Our father was a pillar of strength, a former Marine and the toughest man on the planet.

But the water kept creeping up his torso.

Eventually, it reached his shoulders and we could see the water swirling around him.

We tried to push out from the tree entanglement, but no luck.

My dad kept kicking and kept sinking.

Then all of a sudden, he stopped.

He quit resisting.

The mud released him and he floated slowly to the surface.

The resistance turned out to be his enemy.

It was only when he quit fighting and let go that he saved himself (and us).

Sometimes, we struggle too hard.  We fight when we should relax.  We make things worse.

For today, let us look for opportunities to relax.  To not struggle.  To let nature take its course.

Watch ourselves float to the surface.

Peace.

Blog Post # 260 – Wake Up Angry

Some people wake up angry.

They then stay that way most of the day.

When something it happens, they view it through their anger prism.

They find ample evidence that the world sucks and that they deserve to be angry.

Everyone else is to blame for their crappy little life.

They believe, honestly, that the world is conspiring against them.

These people walk through their day looking for a fight.

You may see these types pop up in your Facebook feed from time to time.

Content not only to fight with their actual friends on social media, but they also spend time fighting with complete strangers.

Everything is bad, bad, bad and it is all someone else’s fault.

Anger is a state of being and it can be very hard to shake.

But why go through life like this?

Why surrender our sense of balance and of happiness to the whims of chance and the actions of others?

We can choose to be happy or we can choose to be angry.

It actually is a choice.

This may be hard to see when our anger entraps us and refuses to let go.

But if we center are make ourselves still, the anger may dissipate.

We may try looking for the good things in our day.

To turn the tide on our anger.

We can get out of that dark place of hopelessness and resentment.

I know this because I have done it.  More than once.

And if I can do it, I believe that you can too.

Find the good, ignore the bad.

Commit to finding one good thing in your day and hold on to it.

Let that be the prism in which you view your day.

And then tomorrow, find two.

Blog Post # 259 – A Lost Day

Note: I forgot to post this yesterday for some reason. I wrote it but forgot to hit publish. Appropriately enough, this one was called a lost day.

A lost day?

Sometimes we feel as if we suffered through a day without getting anything accomplished.

We only have so many days in a lifetime.

So it is natural to feel this way from time to time.

The trick, however, comes from observation.

Observing all of the good things in our lives.

The small, discrete moments of human interaction.

A micro-win in the day-to-day.

Sometimes it is an achievement to just show up.

Maybe that is the most that we could do that day.

We certainly do not want to have too many lost days in a row.

Lost days lead to lost years lead to a lost life.

There is a difference, of course, between unplugging from the grid and just mindlessly going through our day.

Sometimes reconnecting to the earth and our spirit may seem like a day of loss because nothing really happened, but that is far from the truth.

We need those moments.

The moments that we do not need are mindless moments – binging on television, video games, the internet, food or mind-numbing substances.

Those can truly lead to a lost day.

For today, let us be mindful. Let us strive to make today a day of meaning – in a small way or a big way.

If we are in a string of lost days, let’s decide that today will be different.

For unless we shift our mindset, we can probably add one more tally to our lost day chart.

Blog Post # 258 – Keyboard Warrior

Easy to talk tough on a keyboard.

Everyone seems to have an opinion.

Or two.

And they are oh so willing to share it.

Social media allows for idea dissemination and many of us take advantage of that.

Our opinions sharpen, our discourse weakens and very few of us are moved by the postings of others.

Digits and characters on a screen, however, will not save the world.

Will do very little in fact.

So, keyboard warrior, we ask – what are you going to do with your opinion?

What actions in the real world do you plan on taking?

How do you intend to contribute?

As Theodore Roosevelt pointed out, it is very easy to criticize the one in the arena.

The one doing the work, taking the risk and striving to change things.

So instead of writing another blog post or crafting your latest diatribe on Facebook, what if you actually took action?

Actually engaged with the world.

Until that time, your words are just words.

Action.  Implementation.  Concrete change.

This is what the world needs.

This is where we need you.

This is when you act.

We need you in the fight.

Are you in?

Or do you plan to simply hideout on the other side of the monitor?

Safe in your echo chamber.

Let’s go.

Blog Post # 257 – A Sliver of Clarity

We all get overwhelmed.

Running around all over the place.

Hustling from one task to another.

Find ourselves annoyed, befuddled and confused.

The A, the B and the C of modern life.

Our minds race.

Our bodies sore.

Our spirit gone.

Even so, even amongst all of the chaos, one blessing of being a human being is that we get these slivers of clarity.

A moment or two or three where we know what is right.

We know what to do.

The internal debate stops and our next step becomes clear.

Too often, this moment of clarity is short, fleeting.

But clear thinking is what we are after.

For me, my greatest sense of clarity comes shortly after I awaken, before the world gets moving on the day.

My mind sometimes sorts things out at night.

This is when I write.  When I try to meditate.

Sometimes clarity comes, other times it does not.

When it does come, it can charge me for an hour or two.  Help me focus on my next step.

I find that when I try to grab the clarity and to hold on, it evaporates.

Better to just rest inside the clarity, without boundaries.

To not try and direct it, but rather stay with it.

To let clarity run the show as opposed to me.

If I can get in touch with this part of me, everything else sorts itself out.

Blog Post # 256 – Pick and Choose

We do not have to fix everything.

The world does not depend solely upon us.

We could not remedy every injustice in the world, even if we tried.

Pick and choose.

So many tragic situations in the world.

Almost overwhelming.

Where to turn next?

Pick and choose.

At the same time, our lives should count for something.

We should strive to build something greater than ourselves.

Not simply focus on getting ahead ourselves.

Damn the consequences.

Are we really that self-consumed, that selfish?

As with so many things, the balance may be in the middle.

Not trying to cure all of the world’s ails.

Not focusing solely on our own little lives.

What if we pick one issue to take up?

Pick and choose.

A single cause.

A goal that will challenge us without consuming us.

To create a well-crafted solution that helps a limited number of people.

Unrealistic goals become pipe dreams pretty quickly.

A person focused on themselves grows lonely.

For today, let us not waste mental energy studying all of the world’s problems.

Let’s pick one instead.

And let us not stay within our own comfortable bubble – unchallenged and safe.

Let’s pick one issue instead.

Then take one small action to improve the situation.

To share a bit of ourselves to ease the suffering of another.

It is the least we can do, yet it is also so much that we can do.

Pick and choose.

Blog Post # 255 – Family, Family, Family

Family, family, family.

The boys and I went to Guns & Hoses last night, a boxing fundraiser for the families of police officers and firefighters killed or injured in the line of duty.

Our host – Mr. John Simon, my old boss and always mentor – always rents out a big suite at the event.

John has taught me a lot about being a lawyer over the years.

But last night, he taught the boys and I a different kind of lesson.

John’s dad, George, passed away about six weeks ago.

George Simon and John’s mother raised 7 daughters and 3 sons, including John.

George was an immigrant from Lebanon.

He ran the Simon Produce Stand at the Soulard Farmer’s Market for decades.

John and his siblings are some of the most successful people in the city.

John himself is the best lawyer that I know.

He’s also one of the greatest human beings that I know.

Maybe there is a connection there.

Whenever John finishes a big trial, he goes down to the Produce Stand and sells produce.

He is super humble.

Last night, John and the boys were talking about how much the boys fight with each other.

John laughed and said “that’s ok, that’s ok.”

He explained that he used to fight with his brothers and that John’s own sons fought all the time.

But then he said, “boys, I want to tell you something.  The great thing about the Arab culture is its focus on family.  Family, family, family.”

He asked the boys if they understood and they nodded a bit solemnly.

John said, “your parents will always have your best interest at heart.  Other people won’t, but your parents always will.”

He again asked them if they understood and they nodded.

It was the same way that John explains complex things to a jury.

John continued, “so when you don’t know what to do, ask your mom or dad and they will set you straight – every time.”

I could tell that John was missing his dad.  His dad always came to Guns & Hoses.

John said that in one of the last conversations that he had with his father, John was complaining a bit about a family goofball.  

George explained, “help him, John.  Help him.  If he were not a goofball, he wouldn’t need your help.  And he’s family.”

John asked the boys a third time whether they understood.  They said that they did.

Solemn lessons on the evening before Thanksgiving.

Family, family, family.  

That is what it’s all about.

Blog Post # 254 – An Introduction

You never know.

You never know someone else’s story.

Where they came from.

How they got here.

At least not until you ask.

An interesting thing happened in the days after the election.

For years, I have been passing through security at the federal building on my way to the immigration service.

The station is usually manned by three big white dudes.

They are always cordial, but they are usually talking about guns and/or hunting.

I figured that I knew for sure how they had voted.

The main security guard is a huge white guy with a loud voice.

I had seen him for years, but had never actually asked him his name.

The morning after the election, I introduced myself as Jim.

He knew that I was an immigration lawyer.

He said his name was Eric.

For the next couple of days, I would check in and say hello to Eric.

He would say hello to Jim.

On the fourth day, he said, “you know, I really respect what you do.”

He told me that his parents were both immigrants and that he was a first generation American.

I was floored.  I had figured he was a good old boy from Jefferson County.

I laughed to myself thinking that I had been racially profiling the security guards at the federal building.

Eric and I have had several more good talks since then.

It all started by introducing myself.

An actual conversation.

With live people.

Not on our phones.

Who can I introduce myself to today?

Blog Post # 253 – Fullness & Freedom

When I started this blog eight months ago, one of the reasons that I did it was because Seth Godin encouraged all of us to blog every day.

One specific byproduct of blogging every day that he mentioned was the fact that we would then be on the record.

On the record about our lives.

About the world.

About things that happen.

Instead of tightly holding onto our own ideas inside our brain, our thoughts would be out in the world – for comment, consideration and discussion.

There is a freedom that comes with a daily blog.

The freedom to write about what is important to you.

The freedom to say what you want and to say it with passion.

The freedom to explore different parts of yourself and to see what makes sense.

Sometimes, I write about what is happening in my life.

I write about small coincidences, big ideas and themes.

My life is very full.

A lot of times, my brain is full too.

With the election, I can see this blog covering more political topics.

And I am not sure how I feel about that.

I am passionate about many of the issues that the President-Elect and his party seek to change.

But I don’t want to let that passion consume me.

Or to have that be all that I think about, work on and fight.

I want to stay well-rounded and grounded.

And I want this blog to help me stay that way.

This is where I am.

Today.

So I thought I would share that.  Just like I always do.

Peace to all.

Blog Post # 252 – Small Human Interactions

We cannot underestimate the power of small human interactions.

Last week, our son had a basketball game at the Mid-County YMCA.

After the game, we ran into Dwight.

Dwight used to work at the Webster Y, until it closed last year.

Back then, we saw Dwight almost every day – either going to run on the treadmill, lifting weights or, more often, when we took the kids to swim practice.

Dwight was always busy – folding towels, checking people in.

But he always had time to say hello.

Dwight would ask how we were doing and often chatted with the kids.

When we saw Dwight this week, he came out from behind the counter and gave everybody a hug.

We know very little about Dwight outside of his role at the YMCA.

Don’t know if he is married or if he has kids or what.

But in those small human interactions that we have had with Dwight over the years, he has conveyed a very warm, caring nature with his soft voice and his smile.

These days, people are angry.  Blaming.  Bitter.

Not Dwight.  He was as positive and interested in our kids as ever.

He is a connection to our past – to when the kids were little and to when we lived in Webster.

But more importantly, he does his job every day with a smile and sharing his positive nature with the world.

We could all learn a thing or two from Dwight.

For today, let us try and bring some warmth to our human interactions.

To speak softly and listen intently.

To be a bit more like Dwight.