Friday, January 19, 2018

Something New to Work At (and Love): Me and Golf

"If you watch a game, it's fun. If you play it, it's recreation. If you work at it, it's golf." ~ Bob Hope

Five years ago when I retired from full-time teaching, my sweet wife said to me, "You need to get a hobby. If you don't, you're going to drive me crazy being around all the time. I can't be your "hobby". And as Deborah said this to me - in the most loving manner - I knew two things were absolutely true:
  • I did not want to drive my beautiful wife crazy (because I know she really loves me!), so I knew she was right... But...
  • I also had absolutely no idea what I might do as a "hobby".
I was so perplexed, I had to look up the definition of "hobby":"An activity done regularly in one's leisure time for pleasure." Hmmm....well...when I was single, I used to ride my bike a lot and travel in my leisure time. We still travel regularly, so I'm doing that. Grants Pass (where I live) isn't as safe a place to ride bikes around (crazy drivers!), so I've cut back on that. I read a little...but that didn't sound like anything new. I was stumped. What did I do in those hours that I wasn't working or at the Foundation?

Deborah was right. She had become my "hobby". In my leisure time, we were almost always together: at home hanging out or working out; or going out on the town, or shopping, or even doing chores. I knew it would be healthy for me to find something new to spend time doing. But what??

Deborah said, "Why don't you play golf? Isn't that what retired guys do? You can play with some of the men from the Foundation. They play all the time". When she first said that, I balked like a grumpy mule. "I'm not interested in golf. Don't want to", I neighed. She'd ask me why, and I usually replied - being the highly skilled male communicator that I am - with the mature, thoughtful response of "Because I don't want to". So what was behind this resistance?

I had golfed a little - mostly back in my coaching days.Many of my friends were avid golfers and I would usually join them for a round once a year.  One of them even sold me 25 years ago the antiquated clubs I had, hoping it would encourage me to play more often. But I never took a lesson; just kind of tried to teach myself the best I knew how. So subsequently, I wasn't very good (though my buddies often said I had "potential" because of my athleticism). 

I think the biggest reason I didn't like to golf was because it never seemed to me that golfers had any fun! Some of the guys I played with were often loud and obnoxious - and they took the game very "seriously" - cursing and muttering after any shot that displeased them. One "friend" (now more of a "distant acquaintance") - after rattling two long drives off nearby houses on a hole - slung his offending driver into the nearest pond. He then finished the hole in memorable fashion by missing 3 putts, and then snapping his putter over his knee and impaling the two pieces into the green as he stormed off. Yeah. Real fun. But Deborah - and Life - gently persisted.  And I'm glad they did.

Two years ago, my friend Doug approached me and said he'd be willing to give me some free lessons if I wanted to learn how to play. Doug was being kind, but I also knew he had an ulterior motive. He was putting on a small golf tournament as a fundraiser for the Foundation that summer and he wanted me to get involved and help him. So I took him up on his offer. The biggest initial reason I agreed was because I knew it was a good thing for me to CHALLENGE myself. I think the older we get, the less and less we seek out challenges: New things to learn, new activities that push us beyond what we think we can do already. But would golf become something I "enjoyed doing"? That remained to be seen.

Doug gave me lessons for a couple of weeks, and over the course of the next couple of months, began to invite me to come play with him. He was always very encouraging, plus he was an excellent teacher. He had been playing golf for over 50 years so he was talented as a player, but also as an instructor. His ability to give me simple techniques and drills helped my skills begin to grow for the first time. But what really changed my interest in the game was how Doug began teaching me that golf was a perfect "laboratory" for the inner life principles that we learn at the Foundation. 

He described this as "Letting Go Golf": a new approach to the game where instead of playing - filled with stress, fear, and frustration - only worried about our scores and how good or bad we played - we worked to use each swing, each moment as a chance to observe ourselves. A key phrase we used to remind ourselves to do this was "Begin Again": After each shot, take in any useful impressions we might have of it, then take a deep breath and start over. If an "inner judge" was criticizing what had just happened, we worked to catch it and let it go. 

One of the most fascinating things about golf is how it reflects the cycle of life. No matter what you shoot – the next day you have to go back to the first tee and begin all over again and make yourself into something.” -Peter Jacobsen

"Begin Again" helped spark in me a new love for golf. Deborah's dad and a friend gave me some nicer clubs to play with. I now play or practice every week. Deborah bought me all sorts of nice golf clothes and gear so I'm now a real "Joe Golfer"! Deborah has even started to learn to play too, so now we have something new that we share. 

I'm glad I was open to learning something new and accepting a new "challenge". I look forward to writing more about the lessons "Letting Go Golf" has been teaching me. So many new Pearls learned from something that's becoming more than just a "hobby".

“As you walk down the fairway of life you must smell the roses, for you only get to play one round.” -Ben Hogan

And I'm glad I get to share it and walk down a fairway or two, smelling the roses, with a pretty amazing partner!

Monday, January 15, 2018

A Wondrous Journey (Ch. 3): "Falling in Love in "Linens & Things"

"Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do...but how much love we put in that action." ~ Mother Teresa

As the New Year (2005) began, Deborah and I began to see each other more and more often. I would drive to Grants Pass 1-2 times a week to go to class at the Foundation with her. I had promised that I would keep attending with her at least once a week; usually on Fridays, so I could stay the night. But I was finding the classes so meaningful - and staying with her so enjoyable - that I was soon going on Wednesday nights as well. The things I was learning from Guy's talks inspired me and also challenged me. I could feel an inner longing that I'd had for a long time to be connected to something higher than myself, and to see things about myself, finally being filled.

We would go out to dinner when I got into town - nothing fancy, was Grants Pass! If she got off early from work, we'd go to "Matzukaze" for Japanese food: Vegetable tempura, Inari, and Chicken Katsu. Or after class, we'd go to "Applebee's" for Oriental Chicken rollups and "Perfect Margaritas" (Yum!). We would laugh. We would flirt. We would talk about what we had learned in class. Slowly, we got to know each other and enjoyed being a "couple".But what brought us together the most in the first 2 months of our relationship wasn't class at the Foundation or those dinner dates. It was an "adventure" (at least for me!) that was a true "leap of faith".

Deborah came and stayed the night in Medford at my apartment a couple of times. She said she enjoyed "getting away" - even to my humble abode. But it wasn't too long after her 2nd visit that she announced, "It's time to do some serious cleaning and remodeling here!". 13 years of bachelor life at 2190 Poplar Drive #51 were about to be swept and shook and dusted and shaken! And rightly so because I had to sheepishly admit that my "housecleaning philosophy" was probably best summed up as:

"A bright person can always think of something better to do than housework." ~ Ruby Lou Barnhill

I think Deborah was shocked when I readily agreed! I just knew I was ready for big changes in my dusty little life. I wanted to "sweep out the cobwebs" and start anew in so many different ways. And in answer to that wish, God had brought me my own "personal interior decorator" - in the body and mind of this cute, energetic Italian blonde!

So we began spending each weekend together, working at transforming the dark dungeon of my apartment into a cleaner, lighter place: a home to be proud of, as well as a suitable "retreat" for a pretty woman.

  • Deborah scrubbed things and waxed things that had never been touched by me
  • I ventured into each of my closets and sifted through boxes that hadn't been touched in a decade and begin discarding years of accumulated flotsam and jetsam. The hardest things to throw away were boxes of files from my coaching days. So many years; so much effort. And so much pain at the end. I needed to let go of it all, and I finally did.
Together we worked to "unclutter" my world and my walls. Down came the dozens of posters and calendars and photos that had lined my walls in neat rows, and filled my apartment with faces I could turn to when lonely. Out went all the Sports Illustrated "Swimsuit Edition" calendars that I tried to say were "art". 

And boy did we shop! Deborah had me buying things that I had never bought - or even heard of before: A duvet for my bed; 1st new curtains and towels in 12 years; Artificial flowers and a vase; Sconces, mirrors, even a "breadbox" (fancy!), and so much more.

We spent hour after hour in "Martha Stewart Land", and we had so much fun together! She would get so excited as her VISION of "The New Look" for my place would began to develop. "Oh look, Jonathan!", she'd say... "Wouldn't that look great in your bedroom?!" "This lamp would be PERFECT in your hall!"..."You MUST get some new sheets, Jonathan! Those ones are HORRID!" "Jonathan - this sofa really must go!". And my reply to her was almost always the same: "Yes, Sweetie. You're right!".

We laughed as we shopped, but in retrospect I also think we learned so much about each other. Deborah showed me her imagination and creativity. I was touched by her thoughtfulness: she was always careful not to suggest too "radical" of  changes for this cautious "client". I was impressed with her thriftiness - she was (and still is!) a bargain shopper "extraordinaire"! She was patient with me when I balked at a suggestion - and especially when I got grumpy and hungry at the end of an afternoon of house shopping. And I think Deborah learned valuable things about me too: how patient and easy going I was; that I was genuinely open to change and new ideas, and who knows what else (you'd have to ask her!).

We learned how to be A COUPLE in the aisles of "Linens & Things", "Macy's", "Ross", and "Fred Meyers". We laughed together. Worked together. We listened to each other's dreams and plans. We playfully teased and touched each other. Together, we "built a new world" out of my simple studio apartment. 

"A house is made of walls and beams; a home is built with love and dreams." ` Author Unknown 

The ironic thing was that after all this work, I only lived in my newly redone "bachelor pad" for another 3 months. In May 2005, we decided I'd move in with her in her house in Grants Pass. 

Looking back, though, I'm grateful for this time we spent together.  I think it was "practice"; a "rehearsal" for a life long bachelor to begin to learn what it means to share his life with a partner, a friend, a lover. I had had roommates before, but I had begun to learn the true joys of sharing a life - and home - with someone I LOVED. 

I had for the first time in my adult life - a home. And I learned that there's only one thing that can transform 4 walls and all within it into something beautiful and inviting. A woman's love.

A scene from our front yard - 2005
"Where is home?  Home is where the heart can laugh without shyness.  Home is where the heart's tears can dry at their own pace." ~ Vernon Baker

Sunday, February 14, 2016

The Music of Love

"You don't love someone for their looks, or their clothes, or for their fancy car, but because they sing a song only you can hear." (Oscar Wilde)

A song has been skipping along, innocently and happily, in my head today. It's a song I heard long ago when I was a boy and I always sang along to it when I heard it. It was by The Beatles (my favorite band - still today!) and it was called "I Will". Here are the lyrics:

Who knows how long I've loved you
You know I love you still
Will I wait a lonely lifetime
If you want me to, I will
For if I ever saw you
I didn't catch your name
But it never really mattered
I will always feel the same
Love you forever and forever
Love you with all my heart
Love you whenever we're together
Love you when we're apart
And when at last I find you
Your song will fill the air
Sing it loud so I can hear you
Make it easy to be near you
For the things you do endear you to me
Oh, you know I will
I will
It's a sweet song about love and about faith. I'm not surprised that it touched me, or that I still remember it today - I'm kind of an "old-fashioned romantic" at heart.

The song speaks about the magical power of love to touch us in an instant, yet change us forever. It's about knowing the beauty of love - not through thought, but in allowing its melody to stir a chord within us - a chord that leaps in happy recognition of its complement when it hears it. It is a song about an eternal longing, that one would make any sacrifice, wait any period of time - an eternity if necessary - to fulfill.

I'm sure the song has been the gentle soundtrack in my head all day today because it's Valentine's Day, and because I feel like such a lucky guy. Lucky to be married to a beautiful woman, whose heart and being has helped me learn what glorious "music" laid within me: waiting to be played, waiting to be heard, waiting to be shared.

Deborah at Carmel CA - Spring 2014
Thank you Sweetie for being my muse, my inspiration, and my soulmate. May we continue to allow Love to make us its instruments, and to help us always find the song within each other. 

McCartney and Lennon. Rodgers and Hammerstein. Great duos.

The two of us at Benham Falls (Cent. Oregon) - Summer 2015
But I'll take you and me. Anytime. Forever. You've helped me hear all of Life's symphonies.

I love you always.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

100 Walks Around the Lake - Discoveries Made These Last 5 Years

"Perhaps the truth depends on a walk around the lake." (Wallace Stevens)

Have you ever gone on a long walk - perhaps in the woods on a misty day, or along the beach in the morning sunshine - and just been so immersed in the beauty, in all that was new that you discovered, that you didn't realize just how long you had walked? "Wow!", you might say to yourself. "How did I get here? It seems like I just began".

That's what I was feeling when I realized that this was the 100th entry I had written. Though I began this blog over 5 years ago (5 years, 5 months, and 20 days...1999 be exact), it has often seemed like I just started writing it. And over that time, my dedication and interest in scratching away has ebbed and flowed. I began with a great flood of enthusiasm - entries of all sorts gushing out - and then in the last couple of years, they came out in just a thin trickle. But they still came, and I'm grateful for that.

I had boldly said in my 1st entry that I was starting this blog because:

"I want to use it to explore - to learn..I called this "Looking For Pearls" because I am interested to see what unexpected "lessons" I will learn from doing this.  What types of "gems", of insights, will I stumble across on this journey?"

So this morning I sat and reflected, wondering what I had learned from the previous 99 "walks around the lake". What had I discovered or stumbled across that was most meaningful to me? The answers that came to me were unexpected, which I think proves it has been a journey of true value.

"It is good to have an end to journey toward, but it is the journey that matters, in the end. " (Ursula LeGuin)
  • I have learned that I would never really have known myself without having done this. Each time I write an entry - each time I re-read a past one - I shake my head in wonder, thinking "I wrote this? Wow - Where did that come from?". The truth is it came from a creative, thoughtful, emotional, and spiritual part of myself that rarely expresses itself anywhere else. Writing invites those shy parts of Jon to come out and encourages them to blossom and grow.  The most valuable thing I've learned through my writings is not what I've seen about nature, or events, or other people. It has been the marvelous opportunity to discover my true self; to discover who "Jon" really is. And to realize that that journey of self-discovery never ends.
Me along the Deschutes River - July 2014
"No man ever steps into the same river twice, for it's not the same river, and he's not the same man." (Heraclitus)
  • I have begun to learn what it is I really love...and what I fear.  In looking back at what I've written over the last 5 years, I'm struck by how so little of what I wrote was "newsy". What I was drawn to write about were more nobler things. The titles of almost 1/4 of my entries included the words "Love", "Treasures", "Beauty", "Joy", or "Light". It's clear that writing helped me connect to something higher; something Divine that whispered to me. But I could also see in the great gaps between entries something else that whispered at times to me as well. Fear. Like a curtain descending on a stage, like the fog creeping softly down the hill in quiet cat steps, fear would sometimes tell me "Don't try to write. There's nothing there. If you write, it must be perfect. If you write, it's only good if someone else likes it. You don't have time to write. Just wait for the right moment". And sometimes I would listen. Sometimes I would let fear lull me to sleep. But Love would never leave me asleep too long. A gentle tap would always awaken my heart and stir me to try again. I'm grateful to learn of Love's persistence with imperfect me.
Jimmy Dugan: "Baseball is what lights you up. If you leave, you'll regret it."
Dottie Hinson:  "It just got too hard."
Jimmy Dugan:  "It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great."
(From the movie "A League of Their Own", 1992)

Writing is hard work - but it is a "worthwhile struggle". I've learned from writing, just a little, some things that only a writer can know. Writing takes discipline. It takes a willingness to sit down in front of the demanding blank page, and to hammer, and chisel, and pick, and dig to express something that you can't know before you've done this inner mining.  It requires honesty: with oneself, with what one sees, and with what one is really in touch with in that moment. The things that I've written that I've been most proud of have been produced, not by my imagination, but simply through my willingness to observe what was around me or in me all the time. Learning to be patient and to wait to be given something to write about is a challenge at times. It still requires that I "show up" and put forth the effort.  It can be hard and frustrating. But the hard is what makes it great.

Today I celebrate the journey I've made so far with this blog, and I renew my wish to continue on. I know there's much more I have left to learn and to discover; so much more that is waiting to be expressed.

"You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you'll discover will be wonderful. What you'll discover will be yourself." (Alan Alda)

So, off I go...around the bend...down the road...and over the hill. I'll let you know what I discover along the way.

Friday, February 12, 2016

A Lunch Date

"The great majority of men are bundles of beginnings." (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

My, my, my. It has certainly been a long time since I've sat at my desk - gazed out the window - and dared to wait until a trickle of creative thought slowly wound its way from my brain, through my fingers, and on to this blank page. For so long, I've felt empty; waiting for "inspiration" to come so I could then write. But that's not how it works. I've learned (but sometimes forgotten) that I must dare to scribble first - timidly and slowly if I must - in order to awaken the muse inside. I must dare to be a beginning; a work in progress.

It's funny. After writing that very first sentence, I actually felt a little shiver of excitement pass through me. It was like the dry "river bed" of my mind felt a spring flood wash through it and was refreshed and brought back to life. Not sure where it will take me, but you can come along!

How about for a Lunch Date? I haven't written one of those for quite awhile. A chance to just chat and muse. To talk about whatever's on my mind while fixing lunch for the two of us. I've got some Spinach Tortellini soup heating up (made by Deborah - best soup in the world!) and some ciabatta bread to sop it up with. Yum! (Or as the Italians say, "Mangia!")

So, as I'm stirring the soup, what shall we talk about?

"The hardest thing about any political campaign is how to win without proving that you are unworthy of winning." (Adlai Stevenson)

Politics, politics, politics. The 2016 Presidential campaign has begun in earnest, and Deborah and I have been deeply interested in it - more than we have been in the past. So far, it is a race unlike any in our lifetimes. Americans are deeply divided. The dominant theme expressed so far, on both the right and left, is anger. Anger at the current Administration. Anger at politicians in general. Anger at the rich. Anger at immigrants. Anger at those who "refuse to compromise". And because this dark emotion is what's ruling the day, two unlikely candidates are currently leading: a rich, egotistic billionaire for the Republicans (Donald Trump) and a cranky 74 year old self-proclaimed Socialist for the Democrats (Bernie Sanders). I can't see either of them winning the election in November. But all the other candidates (Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, John Kasich, Ben Carson, Hilary Clinton) have struggled to gain much interest from Americans. I'm hoping that someone who is willing to lead positively and intelligently - someone willing to do the hard, courageous work needed to end the bickering and distrust that characterizes American politics now - will step forward. That's someone I would vote for. Still waiting to see who that will be...

"Retirement is wonderful. It's doing nothing without worrying about getting caught at it." (Gene Perret)

Yes, semi-retired life is still good!  I'm still working a few days a week as a substitute teacher and am flattered that I've become a "highly sought after" sub. I've only worked at my 3 favorite schools this year (Hedrick, South Medford, Grants Pass High), but gotten all the work I could want. Very lucky! And when I'm not working, my days are quickly filled with working out at the Club, helping take care of our home, and a healthy share of just "putzing around" (as Deborah calls it!)

"There are worse crimes than burning books. One is not reading them." (Joseph Brodsky)

Finally found a good book to read. For a long time, I struggled to find any book that interested me (which just added to my intellectual atrophy). Out of desperation, I picked up a book that I'd tried to read a number of times, but was never able to finish: Stephen King's "11.22.63" And, miracles of miracles, I'm enjoying it now! It is a richly creative story about a young high school teacher who in 2011 stumbles upon a time tunnel that takes him back to 1957. He learns that he can change history when he goes back to the past (though not always with predictable results). His greatest mission becomes to go back and try to stop the assassination of John F. Kennedy in Dallas which he believes led to so much that is negative in the U.S. today. King masterfully weaves together American history, 1950's Americana and culture, as well as spine-tingling suspense (and a little horror) in this tale. Deborah is also reading the story (listening to an audio version of it) and it's nice to share our impressions of it.

You want to see a video that just cracked me up? It's called "Dogs and Bathtubs". Hilarious! Click on the link below.

"Dogs and Bathtubs" video

(A Lunch Date "discussion" doesn't have to be "all serious" !)

Well, it's about time to wrap this entry up and enjoy a nice chocolate truffle for dessert (a preview of Valentine's Day treats to come!). The sun that was shining when I began this entry has gone away, and now gray raindrops are spattering and splashing my window. It was fun remembering the pleasure of stretching my mind a bit again. I plan on doing it again soon.

"The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn." (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

I began with a little Emerson. A little Emerson to end with. Nice.

One acorn. One tentative scribble. One step. Out of each can come a whole universe. I'm glad to be reminded of that today.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Love Changes All

"They must often change, who would be constant in happiness or wisdom." (Confucius)

As I look out my window this morning, I see that Nature has said "It's time for a change". A thick gray, bone-chilling fog has settled into our neighborhood for the first time, and the bright sunny fall mornings I've been enjoying now seem a distant memory.

Looking out my office window this morning
But even as I blow on my frigid fingers and wiggle my icy toes here inside at my desk, I am glad for the change. I'm ready for the season of soups and sweaters; mittens and mufflers; the light of candles in every room; cheery fireplaces and snuggly flannel sheets. I don't mourn the passing of the bright beauty of fall into the grayness of winter. Change is inevitable. Change is good. Life itself is but a bridge of change: old to new, and back again.

But as I gaze out the window, an interesting question popped into my mind: What is it that causes me to change? What has driven me through the seasons of my life so far?

"Time is a brisk wind, for each hour it brings something new...but who can understand and measure its sharp breath, its mystery, and its design." (Paracelsus)

I suppose that some changes I've experienced have simply been the product of Time: What was once quick in me, has slowed a little; what was once thin, is a little thicker; what filled my life and days then, is now but a distant memory.

One might also say that it is Experience which has changed me through the lessons that accompanied it; sometimes painful. There have been many crossroads in my life - both professional and personal - where change has been thrust upon me, and I've had little choice but to admit that its time had come. Thankfully though, each time that I accepted the change - suffered the pain of what seemed to be lost - Life always gave me something greater in return: a more fulfilling job; new friends; a more honest understanding of what was truly important to me; and most importantly, Love.

And in writing that last sentence, I realized something. Real, lasting change in my life hasn't been a product of either Time or Experience. What these two things have produced has been mostly circumstantial. They have brought change to my life, but have they been life-changing? The true agent of change for me has been Love: Unconditional Love. And isn't that true for all of us?

"Where there is great Love, there are always miracles." (Willa Cather)

I can see that because I've been loved unconditionally throughout my life - by the Divine, by my parents, by my beautiful wife - my life and my very person has been changed, in ways I could've never engineered for myself.

Unconditional love is the source of all Life's miracles. It inspires courage in those who were once meek. It softens what once was hard. It teaches that if you stumble and fall, you can always get up and try again. It promises that even in a world that may seem dark and cold, you are never alone. And it grants the greatest rewards, ironically, to those who give the most away. I have experienced each of these miracles personally.

For something so powerful, you'd think it would make itself known in our lives through great deeds and memorable words. But I can see its power comes from all the little ways it can find its way into our lives and our hearts. Unconditional love can be found in:
  • The sparkle of an eye or the gift of a special smile
  • The warmth of two hands joined, whether in gratitude or affection
  • Simple words like "Please drive carefully" or, "Do you need a coat?" or "Welcome home".
  • Someone, who in a painful moment, stands with you and quietly expresses "I'm here for you", or "I forgive you".
"The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise, we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them." (Thomas Merton)

And, that I think, is the real miracle of unconditional love. 

It does not ask for anything in exchange for it to be received. It does not require a change. It sees all. It accepts all. It loves all. And because of that, unconditional Love changes both the giver and the receiver. What else in life has such power? Nothing that I know.

So, as the morning's mists slowly lift and slip away, I say a silent prayer of gratitude for being loved, and for being given the opportunities to express love.  Just as the blue skies and warm sun were always there behind the fog, so is Love always present in my life.

The Season for Love is always now. That's a Pearl worth remembering.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Be The Difference

"Hope begins in the dark; the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come." (Anne Lamott)

The sun is shining this morning - yet another beautiful day in a long string of them this fall. October has been unusually dry and warm. Deborah and I have been busy working, but still able to find opportunities to get away for little adventures, like yesterday's lunch date in Ashland and a stop at a local winery.

Paschal Winery and Vineyard, Talent OR
 There's no doubt. I'm blessed and lucky to lead a good life right now: filled with love and purpose. So you might find it surprising if I told you that also at times this month, I've felt unsettled; uneasy; even a little anxious. A part of me seems to be looking for some reassurance of some kind. But why?

Perhaps it's because the seasonal change from summer to autumn as been so gradual this year; some "circadian rhythm" within me has been rattled.

But I also know the world around me has seemed to be filled with more "darkness" than ever before.
  • Violence seems to be commonplace. Shootings and bomb threats at schools - both far away and in my own community - have become a weekly occurrence. I know that has touched me.
  • The political season is in full force: Candidates shouting for attention, and attacking each other, left and right. Anger, at times, seems to rule the airwaves now.
Then there are times in the day when parts of me creak a little more stiffly as I get up out of a chair, or ache a little longer after a workout that didn't seem so hard. And a part of me understands a little better Leon Trotsky's lament: "Old age is the most unexpected of all the things that happen to a man". 

But then I saw two things this week that helped me remember something valuable and lifted my spirits.

The first was this video titled, "Never, Ever Give Up". The link to it is below. You should watch it. I have several times this week.

Arthur was a middle-aged man who could've had every reason in the world to give up and/or feel sorry for himself. But he didn't. In the video, he says his life changed when he met someone who believed in him. But I think the most important change was one within. He made a choice to see possibilities in himself, instead of limitations. He chose to persevere, instead of feel sorry for himself. He chose to work hard, one day at a time - having faith that, if he did - change would come. And the result?

It did. Arthur made a difference: both for himself, and for others. I know he inspired me.

The second thing I saw was this photograph. It was taken a couple of weeks ago at the world premiere of a Hollywood film in Boston. Crowds had gathered to see the stars of the film arrive, and a photographer snapped this picture. What do you think stood out for me?

Can you see her? There in the midst of the IPhone-snapping, Instagram-sharing, Goo-goo eyed paparazzi around her is an elderly woman: Smiling and quietly enjoying the moment. Not trying to capture it for herself. Not trying to impress others by proving "where she is" and "what she's doing. Not doing anything to make herself the center of attention. Yet you can't help but see her. And because of that, she too made an impact on me. She made a difference.

Her example reminded me to not always make myself the "center of everything", and it's so easy to do so. Whether I'm feeling "on top of the world" while on a pleasant date with my wife, or worried about the news, or feeling a little self pity about getting older - in each case, I have to remember to watch the part of me that forgets that I'm part of a bigger world. Life is not just about "Me". Things change. I'm not meant to hold on to anything. I'm meant to grow from everything. And I can only do that if I'm present to the moment - not looking back to the past in regret or envy, or fearing the future.

The most important thing I learned from Arthur and the woman was even more inspiring. One person can make a difference. Each of their examples touched me and brightened my day. It all comes down to the choices we make. Do I choose to begin again when I've stumbled? What inner voice am I willing to give my attention to? What am I willing to be an expression of, right now?

One person can make a difference if they're willing to BE the difference.

Remembering that has changed my week. Remembering that has been the right thing for me to do. It has been the Pearl that brightened and reassured me.

Here's a toast to remembering it next week, and the week after too! Salut to "Being the Difference"!