Category Archives: Deep Thoughts

Breaking Strain

Once more into the breach…

(As the M3.6 earthquake rolls through and reminds us all what a rush adrenaline is…)

Okay, so that’s not Kipling. I seem to be mixing up my classic English authors and poets, as well as my centuries.

But before I had the crap scared out of me, I was thinking a lot about stress and workload and work/life balances. Which in turn reminded me of Kipling’s “Hymn of Breaking Strain.”

(It’s probably public domain which means I could re-print it here, but that isn’t the way I roll, folks. Take a few seconds and go read it. I’ll wait.)

Now go read it again. Think about what he’s saying. Feel what he’s trying to remind us of. Understand what he’s trying to teach us.

There will be days (like today, perhaps, or tomorrow) when all you want to do is lie down and take a nap. Remember when you wanted that pillow fort under your desk?

There will be days (see above) when you screw up and screw up bad and fail and you want to cry and punch something and run away and never come back.

We don’t just fail…

Abide the twin damnation- 
To fail and know we fail.

…we KNOW we fail! And yet…

In spite of being broken,
Because of being broken
May rise and build anew
Stand up and build anew.

…and yet we try again.

Today might suck. Tomorrow might suck worse. But unless it kills us, we’ll get up and try again the day after that.

Kipling couldn’t say it in so many words, but it said it so much better in his words.

We’re badasses! Even when we don’t think we are.

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In a random Twitter thing tonight someone I don’t follow and never heard of asked people to tell her things that they wish they had known or been told when they were 24 years old. (She’s turning 24 tomorrow.) Someone I do know and follow on Twitter had answered, I liked some of the other answers that were popping up in my feed, so I thought for a minute and answered. That answer in turn has been liked and retweeted a few time, which in turn got me to thinking.

I think there’s a huge perspective issue at play here. She’s looking forward, asking for pearls of wisdom from those who have been there, which is great. Advice is always easier to get than to actually put into play, but good for her for making the effort and asking an interesting question.

But my answer, given in the context of “what do I wish that I had known when I was 24,” implies that I know it now. But is that necessarily true?

Somewhere along the line I had the realization that while I might “know” what I was advising this internet stranger, it wasn’t necessarily something that I was doing yet myself. Or, at the very least, while it might be “wisdom” that I had earned, I couldn’t be sure that I had changed my actions to implement the lesson learned.

Could I look back in five years (ten years? two years?) and wish that right now I was keeping that advice in mind instead of waiting another two years (five? ten?) before acting?

Could be.

Perhaps this old dog should not just learn that particular trick, but practice it every once in a while.

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Where Can I Find A Six-Pack Of This?

I love the sentiment – couldn’t find this at either Costco or at the Liquor Barn, although it might be under a slightly different label at the latter.

Either way, it occurs to me that it’s not just “they” that are trying to do this. Even when we don’t have people in power like we currently have “people” in power, the tiny little things in the day can add up, from the ridiculous to the sublime. (Or vice versa.)

The secret is to find that aforementioned magical elixir.

We must be doing it, most of us at least. We still get up tomorrow and somehow get out the door and try again.

But it would be nice if every now and then it was a little bit easier than the day before. That proverbial “one step forward” after what feels like so many steps back and sideways.

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That Moment, September 5th Version

…when you realize that the primary reason you don’t just start primal screaming in the middle of your day (aside from the way it tends to freak out your office mates) is that you’re not sure you’ll be capable of stopping.

I know that it’s good that I’m not in Houston, still be underwater.

I know that it’s good that I’m not in Oregon, burning and choking on smoke.

I know that it’s good that I’m not in South Florida, looking down the barrel at the biggest, baddest hurricane in recorded history in the Atlantic.

I know that it’s good that I’m not in Bangladesh, where 41,000,000 (not a typo) have been affected by their worst flooding in history.

But some things still suck and make me want to build a pillow fort under my desk with a big bag of Oreos and M&Ms and a good book and hide there until it gets better.

Adults don’t get to do that.

Or so I’m told.

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Some days I find that searching for balance, calm, time, and a moment to breathe is about like searching through a cloud deck this thick for a 90% eclipsed sun.

Important to remember that even with the clouds and the odds against us, we DID succeed in seeing it.

Never stop searching.

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Where Do The Good Ones Go?

No, I’m not referring to the heroines, heroes, and saints who walk among us. I hope and trust that they end up receiving the praise, adulation, and rewards that they so justly deserve, preferably non-posthumously (pre-humously?).

I refer to those fantastic turns of phrase, puns, quips, witticisms, one-liners, and bon mots that spring full born to the lips at the perfect moment – only to be completely forgotten later when it comes times to relate them to others.

The ones that have your conversational companions, from the depths of their stunned admiration of your eloquent and timely articulation, manage to gasp only, “How long have you been waiting to use that one?” But you know that it wasn’t pre-meditated or planned, it was every bit as spontaneous as it was glorious.

Then you want to relate it to someone who wasn’t there and… a total blank. You remember laughing yourself sick, you remember the awe, you remember how the pun was so bad that tar and feathers were mentioned, but you can’t remember the phrase or punchline to save your freaking life. And neither can the others who might have been there.

Oh, they’ll vouch for the fact that it happened! But what was the topic of conversation? What led up to it? Maybe we can reconstruct something, jog one of our memories, bring back that flash…

Nada. Nothing. Zip.

Did it really happen? Or was it a mass hallucination, a distortion in the space-time continuum where our reality brushed up against or into superposition with another timeline, leaving only a vivid but fading memory of the emotion, the feeling, but none of the details.

So where did that “good one” go? Is it still off there in that other dimension, that other plane of existence? Or was it created by the simultaneous contact of multiple branes of spacetime, existing for an instant in all of them before being left behind by each of them, breaking away into isolation, trapped for eternity in its own bubble of Nullpunktsenergie, remembered but not remembered simultaneously, leaving behind only the sound of Heisenberg laughing?


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White Noise

What sound relaxes you? What sound can you have in the background that you don’t need to pay attention to, don’t need to necessarily be involved or engaged with on a conscious level, but which gives you a measure of comfort and familiarity?

A baseball game. Not even knowing or caring who’s playing, who’s winning, who’s losing. Just that cadence, that rhythm, that flow. The sound brings back childhood memories of happy places, evenings spent by the radio listening to the home team on the road, back before every game of the season was on in hi-def, back before you got more than the “game of the week” on Saturday afternoon and your cellar dwelling team was never shown. The color commentator and the play-by-play guy, chatting and chewing over stats between pitches, the steady tone as we get the out of town scoreboard, the rising pitch and excitement as a towering fly goes back, back, back…

Rain. The pitter patter of a gentle but steady soaking, brushing through the leaves of the trees, bouncing off of the patio outside the door. Perhaps some peepers or croakers off in the pond or stream, advertising for a mate.

Thunderstorm! (My choice for the evening.) All of the calming joys of a rain storm, but with the crack of thunder every now and then, echoing across the hills, shifting and reverberating from all around as the storm slowly moves past.

Surf. The constant and never ending cascading of water in motion, running out of time and space as a continent gets in the way.

Air traffic control. A newer one, related in spirit to the baseball game, but now also a happy place that I long to return to, the left seat of an aircraft and the skies where I need to be on my game and ready to join in that snappy technical repartee to safely get from here to there. It’s almost another language, a secret tongue that only those who work and earn their way can learn to speak and be spoken to. Listening is like listening to a radio station in a foreign tongue, one you once knew by have now forgotten through a lack of use, but one which is starting to come back by osmosis as you let the white noise in the background seep into your pores.

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