Sunlight Shining Through Cloud

Archive for September 2012

You know how a song gets stuck in your head and you can’t get rid of it? I’ve had thoughts banging around in there causing synaptic overdrive: “I’m bad.” “I’m worthless.” “I’m a failure.” I had been programmed. I could no sooner dismiss, forget or replace these thoughts than I could convince myself that “Mary had a little armadillo.”

I was taught that any outward display of emotion was an annoyance to others and was to be avoided at all costs. I was taught that boys don’t cry.

Yet, I did have value, somehow, and I knew it. And when it came time for me to make my way in the world, I needed to fight through the fears, work longer and harder, be better than everyone else.

My God-given value was communications, a gift used with great success in the radio and television industries. These were working environments tailor-made for me, and I thrived in them. When regulations changed in the 1980’s, however, the environments changed too, and I made the decision to leave; a decision both correct in its time and haunting to this day. What might I have become had I stayed?

I have since adapted my communicative skills to other industries and self-enterprises with varying degrees of achievement – thankfully more positive than not. Through it all, I wrestled with my embedded problems and worked harder to succeed despite them.

As long as I continue to draw breath, I will have to toil with problems — as do we all — whether embedded or occasional. My experiences over the past decade offer a good case-in-point. After two downsizings, a recession and two-and-a-half years of caring for my parents in a place that wasn’t home and had fewer jobs than most other places, I was beat … financially, emotionally and physically. I had no capacity for conducting meaningful and important relationships. Every part of me felt awful. I was making poor decisions. I said hurtful things.

When I arrived here in the Oil Patch in February, I was good and broken. Scared. Disoriented. Weak. I honestly felt that this could be the end of me. I could choose to let that happen or I could seek help.

I sought help.

In the hands of an excellent counselor and with lots of contemplation, I learned to identify my problems; and there were more than a few. You might think that I then literally or symbolically walked away from them, but I did not – the programming runs too deep. At first, I angrily objected to the notion that I had to have these problems at all. I had done nothing to deserve them, after all.

Yet, here they are. I must deal with them. I’ve been taught to consider each problem as it arises, and to then put it in its place behind me as I drive my bus. Translation: my problems are no longer permitted to drive; only I can … my problems are merely passengers. Passengers are important, but they need to stay behind the white line while the bus is in motion.

It reminds me of the way I stopped smoking in 1984. After seventeen years of enjoying the act, (and the growing social-outlier status), I reached for another cigarette. But this time, my inner voice said: “I’m smarter than this. These things are gonna kill me. But I’m not going to quit. Instead, I declare that, as of now, I am an ex-smoker.” And for the next two years, every time the urge came to light up, that voice laughed and said: “Hey! … you’re an ex-smoker.” I haven’t picked one up since.

My bus has doors, and passengers move on and off. I have had to learn to hold on to things lightly. This is particularly hard for a person who’s lost just about everything (even problems are possessions in a weird way). But hold lightly I must. And if they don’t want to be held, I have to let them go. I’m still struggling with that. But if I want to drive forward, the passengers must take their seats or exit the bus, no matter how much I might want them to stay.

Today is my 60th birthday. Too bad it took me this long to learn how to drive.

Too bad.

God only knows how much time I have left. But I have control over how I spend it. So with halting steps at first, then with growing confidence, I will choose to live my life Happy.

Giving and Dependability: these are my most-closely-held personal values. My personal mission statement remains unchanged: ‘I will have a positive impact on the lives of everyone I touch.’ Anything that violates these principles or that pokes at one of my embedded issues is unwelcome. Happy will always be in front of me.

I will express my emotions because they have merit. And I will temper their expression with maturity and love.

I’ve already jumped out of a perfectly good airplane (3 times!), so maybe this year I will do something even sillier … like learn how to dance.

My forecast for the coming year is a good one – because I will continually steer toward Happy. I’ll start right now:

Happy Birthday to Me !

God, give me style and give me grace.

God, put a smile upon my face.

  –  Coldplay, ©2003

I haven’t written in a while and your questions are piling up. Here are the answers.

Spiders and snakes. I see them so frequently that they greet me by name. The nightmares stopped about a month ago.

The Green Bay Packers, because someone told me Minnesota doesn’t have a team anymore.

She’s doing well … better than I am, really.

Big Sky plates. It’s one of two designs that don’t cost extra. Montana has 235 license plates. If they got creative, they’d have more.

A nice Greek restaurant with white cotton table cloths. But I’d settle for a Taco Bell.

“4GFred” because I was first in my company to convert. I’m not getting more calls from friends, though. A puzzle.

102,477. My mechanic thinks we can squeeze another 50,000 out of it. I’m praying for another snowless winter.

Minimalistic. There’s not a lot you can put into an 8 X 10 space without the claustrophobia whooshing back.

Old underwear – that’s what I’m sending you for Christmas. Got to get rid of stuff. I’ll wash them first.

Oil Patch. I would’ve used denim, but oil is easier to find around here. Nobody will notice.

Two more sessions. After that, I’ll have to figure it out on my own.

Nodding Donkeys. But some people call them Rockinghorse Pumps or Sucker Rod Pumps, Thirsty Birds or Popping Johnny’s. (Get your mind out of the gutter!)

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