Flex Your Head

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 Ever take a look at the program running you? You know, the one reading this writing. It has to be asked sooner, or later, who is reading this stuff?

Program you say?

Yes, we call them expectations and assumptions. These are the pre-conceived, unconscious parameters that define what we experience. For the most part it’s not a problem. These assumptions save time and energy.

However, these assumptions do become a problem when we are doing anything but repeating patterns. Think of it this way. All of our experience points in the direction we are going in. The routine and monotony of daily life is so insidious it’s hard to even be aware of it taking over.

I had a good taste of it this weekend.

I was in Seattle for a seminar. I took the family so they could have some city time while I worked. My daughter and I woke up early to find a bakery in Pike Place Market. I also wanted to grab a coffee.

As we walked out of our condo we hit the streets and I was suddenly. . . Uncomfortable. There was dirt. Noise everywhere. People. Did I mention the people, in various states of disarray? From the walk of shame (singles staggering towards home after an unplanned sleep over) to the people who call the streets their home. Busses. So loud. Like shrieking banshees calling out for blood in the dimly lit and stinking streets.

Did I mention I am not a city person?

I went to University 15 miles outside of Washington D.C. At night I would look up at the orange sky stained from far too many lights. At times I couldn’t take it. I would hop into my car and drive into the Shenandoah mountains. I would drive until my eyes couldn’t focus. Pull off on a dirt road and then throw my sleeping bag down at the ground. I remember my eyes being so tired and the air cold. The feeling of my tears streaming down my cheeks as I looked up at the stars and the Milky Way. I recall, working my mouth into words as shooting stars carried my prayers with them on their nocturnal journeys.

What was that?

Oh yeah, people yelling at each other in an alley. We are moving quickly. We find that French Bakery right outside Pike Place Market. Order some baked goods and then head back to our condo.

As we are crossing the street a homeless person is talking to me. I turn my head forward, pretending he is not there. He stops walking. I am now looking at him. Tensing. Getting ready. I’m sinking into my knees, breathing deeply. This is all automatic. I don’t even think about it.

He’s now pointing to his wrist where his watch should be. The sound cuts in, “can you tell me the time?”

I blink my eyes a few times. Stare at my clock. The numbers aren’t adding up. Quickly I look up at him, “8:15.”

“Kid he says,” talking to my daughter, “Stay in school don’t end up like me. Listen to your Dad.”

He walks up the hill. I think about what he has said. I slow my pace. Take in the city.

My daughter looks up at me.

“Did he make you nervous baby?”

“No, papa. I’m glad we slowed down enough to help him.”

“What do you mean?”

“What do you mean,” she says jumping high into the air. “We’ve been running, pant, pant, ever since we left the condo. I’m out of breath. Pant. Pant.”

We hold hands walking up the street. I’m moving slower now. Checking things out. I eject the CD playing in my head: Cities are corruption in physical form. Listen to your Dad, I think. What have I been telling her on this walk?

The danger of our automatic responses is that they dehumanize us. When we act automatically, we are actually dehumanized. Not the rest of the world. The rest of the world is a living, breathing, growing thing spreading itself across time.

Take a moment today to check yourself. See if you are reacting or responding to your environment. Take yourself out of auto-pilot. Plug into real time. See what is actually happening, not what you think is happening.

What better way to celebrate the coming Holiday Season than with a new way to look at life?

See you all in 2014 and we thank you for your support this year.

What Words Did Your Year Write?

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One of the funny things about language, culture and economy is how certain words come in and out of fashion. These word you see are not just casual letters strung together. Words make definitions and these definitions define who we are and what we do.

Prior to the Industrial Revolution you bought goods at a higher price and you often waited a long time to get them.

The tradeoff was that you knew exactly who produced what you bought. You know how they produced it. You lived in the same town and reputations were forged over a lifetime.

The word craftsman was a beginning point for business.

Flash forward to modern times when we have an industrial-technological system producing goods on a dramatically larger scale.

The pluses or easy to see: lower cost, greater circulation, continual changes in the technology used to manufacture, etc.

The negatives are we no longer know who is making what or how or even where the producers live. While the materials are certainly better, their durability is not.

There’s a frenetic energy built into our current system. When people line up at box stores in the middle of Thanksgiving just to get a good deal for Christmas, it’s like robbing Peter to pay Paul. Awash in the flotsam and jetsam of the consumer mindset it’s easy to lose your footing.

Buzzwords on these sales are simple: prices slashed, lowest prices of the year. I perused a few advertisements and only found price-driven messages. There was not even a ghost of yester year. No hidden claims of quality or heritage.

The irony here is that producers are now returning to the craftsman model. Take Filson from Seattle. They are making by hand “heirloom quality” goods right in their shop in Seattle.

You see what they did there? They took a pre-industrial model and made it sell. They started making gear for prospectors and foresters over a hundred years ago.

People are paying up to $500 for a jacket that promises to “last a lifetime.” They don’t have sales. They don’t discount. They offer goods that do not fit our cultural norms.

And that’s fine. I absolutely love Filson gear. Wouldn’t trade it for anything. They have been doing what they do for over 100 years.

Besides having truly great quality, Filson made its mark by standing out. In a sea of technologically advanced and machined fabrics they offer handmade wool jackets. If you want rain protection, forget about Gore-Tex, they use wax. Just like the jackets I saw in Ireland back in the early 90’s.

Let’s take a lesson from Filson. Let’s see how your year stands out. Look back on this last 12 months. Take stock of the major events you experienced. Write a sentence about each event. What words come to mind?

Pick a word for each event and write it down somewhere to the side. Now don’t just pick any word. Find one. Dig deep in your word smithy and craft a word that speaks loudly to you.

Next look at the words. They will paint you a picture for the year. What did your sentences say?

An example of this could be:

  • Having a baby.                                             Joy
  • Not getting any sleep since the baby.          Deprivation
  • Getting a raise.                                            Money
  • Finishing that nursery.                                Accomplishment

 

String the sentence like this: 2014 was a year which married joy, accomplishment and positive cash flow. Tempered of course, by deprivation: sleep is hard currency at our house.

Review your sentence. How does it feel to you? Does it sound like you are making the best use of your time and resources?

Let’s look at it another way. Same events, different descriptors and mind set.

  • Having a baby.                                                 Prison
  • Not getting any sleep since the baby.              Injustice
  • Getting a raise.                                                Deserve
  • Finishing that nursery.                                    Debt

 

Let’s have some fun at the expense of our dear writer: 2014 was the year that imprisoned me in debt. I got what I deserve because there is no justice.

So, reader, who would you like to be? The former or the latter?

I like making these paragraphs. I read them as a summary or chapter review for what my year looked like. Being that it’s close to New Year’s day, it may be time to put pen to paper and see what story this year told.

Leave some of your sentences in the comments if you like. We are all in this together.

Your Guide To Thriving During the Holidays


 

The season’s upon us, it’s that time of year
Brandy and eggnog, there’s plenty of cheer
There’s lights on the trees and there’s wreaths to be hung
There’s mischief and mayhem and songs to be sung

  • Dropkick Murphy

Ah we are in the midst of it now, aren’t we? The lights are lit. The wreaths are set. Temperatures have dropped. The evening sky is filled with stars. Snow falls and the earth, you can almost hear it, grows quieter.

To nature we respond with?

One heck of a long, loud and big party.

It’s called the holiday season. Let’s take a look at how we put this part of the year together:

Step 1: Halloween. Sugar overdose. Less light in the evenings. Weather begins to turn sour.

Step 2: Thanksgiving, the 4,500 calorie meal. It’s darker than not at the end of the work day.

Step 3: Christmas Pre-Season. Lots of work, community and family gatherings. Too much food, drinking and not enough exercise and definitely not enough sleep.

Step 4: Christmas to New Year’s Eve: Most of us enjoy more time off and of course, getting prepared for the big blow out of New Year’s Eve.

Step 5: New Year’s Eve: The big night. Multiply all of the holidays by two and here we have it: excess on display.

The Finale: What do we have in January and February? Flu   season. You see we’ve been preparing for it since October, no wonder it hits us like a ton of Kleenex.

So is it the weight gain that has us down and out?

Nope, according to ABC news, we only gain about an average of one pound during the holidays. So that’s not it.

It’s not one thing. The lifestyle during this time of the year reads like a shopping list for the flu season. Imagine your immune system. It’s shopping at the store and here is the list provided by your lifestyle:

  • Eat the wrong foods
  • Drink too much alcohol
  • Don’t exercise enough
  • Don’t get enough sleep

Immune system to Self, “What are we shopping for?”

“A complete breakdown,” says the self.

You need to rest and you are just doing more. So we are just going to increase the pace until you can’t take it and you break down. That way, you will be resting one way or another.

So now, let’s look at the shopping list a little different. Let’s break it down in stages.

Food: You know you are going to eat too much, especially in the evenings. Eat a lighter breakfast, a protein shake for lunch and before you hit that party, drink a pint of ice-cold water. This cold water will help suppress appetite and fill you up a bit.

Drink: If you partake in alcohol, limit yourself to one drink on work nights. Weekend party? Have a couple and call it quits.

Body: Make a rule. If you have a day off, that’s one hour exercising. Doesn’t matter what kind: walking, running, snowboarding, etc.

Mind: If you have one day off, you have at least 15 minutes in the morning to meditate or pray. You also have 15 minutes before bed. Meditation and prayer operate as bookends. They will add closure to what could be a chaotic day.

This is the time of the year when we celebrate this wonderful life. Let’s take care of the body before it reminds us who is in charge.

Giving Thanks

Driving to school today my youngest daughter pointed to a house with a mural. The picture was of a turkey and two pilgrims.

Dad who are those guys with that turkey?

Oh, they are pilgrims.

They look happy.

They are. They are giving thanks.

Thanks for the turkey?

Yes, thanks for that too.

Why is the turkey still there?

What do you mean?

Aren’t they giving thanks to the turkey that they are going to eat?

Ummm. Yes.

Isn’t that bad?

Ummm. No, it’s especially important to give thanks for the lives that support us.

It’s bad for the turkey, she says shaking her head. If a monster were going to eat me and somebody took a picture and put it up on their house. I don’t think I would like it.

Well, yes. That’s a good point. But.. .

DAD!

Yes.

Do you think the turkey knows? Is it thankful?

No it doesn’t know. (In my mind, well yes studies show animals sense panic before they are, love this softener, harvested).

Dad.

Yes.

Are they hanging that picture up because we are eating turkey?

No it’s for Thanksgiving.

Oh.

She is silent for the last few minutes of the drive.

We should come here on Saturday.

Saturday, why?

Do you think they will have a picture of a pig and us?

No. Why?

Saturday is bacon day at our house. I’m thankful for that.

 

Giving thanks is never as easy as it seems. It’s a great idea this time of the year to spend some time reflecting on what has led us to this exact moment in time.

Giving thanks is reverse navigation. By looking back at the year and the things we can truly be thankful of we can assess progress, measure outcomes and get an overall feel for how the year went. I see Thanksgiving as a time of reflection. New Year’s is the time for planning.

Nice as it is, there is also a shadow side to giving thanks. Draw a list of things that were painful or hard to deal with this year. Look back hard at them. What part did you play? More importantly, what did you learn?

Successful people learn from their victories and failures. Which one will you focus on during this reflection? Both, I can hear it from here. Both will teach you the most because they are a complete picture.

Most often when I meet a truly successful person and ask them, what’s the recipe? They reply,  I do what other people don’t like to do.

What is it in your life that you could start doing that you may have been dodging? What would the outcomes be?

Play the table game. Go home and put on paper your greatest triumphs this year. Write them down and put them on dinner plates at your table. Next write your biggest failures or regrets. Put them on plates. Now for the fun, place two (one happy one sad) together and see what comes to mind.

For example, one of my biggest thanks is that my daughter didn’t wind up in the ER this year. One of my biggest regrets is that she has diabetes. Match these two up and what do I have?

A stalemate.

The fact that she has an incurable disease is weighed in balance by the fact that my wife and I are truly doing our best to protect her from the ravages of the disease.

This exercise balances that scale for me. My scale was broken for a long time.

How about you? What did you write? What did you pair together?

I’ll let you in on a little secret. I actually take the things I am thankful for and the ones’ that cause me pain and mix them up, dealing them out Vegas style. What comes together really makes me think harder about them than when I choose the pairings.

Stack up your cards and deal them out. Dinner is ready.

Photo Credit: Donal Link,  Thank you for your Boudin -Stuffed Turkey Recipe,  which is now our family tradition. Readers if you want to try something spectacular, click here: http://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes/Boudin-Stuffed-Turkey-Breast

The Road to Audition

I thought that for a little change of pace I would talk about my 3 most unique, awkward and hilarious circumstances that I have ever encountered, while auditioning for various roles here in NYC. You see, my buddy Doc P has just begun his journey and initial foray into the publishing world and in many ways the experiences are simpatico.

 

My very first audition was an open call for some background roles in a major motion picture. Yes, they even audition for non-speaking parts where you’re barely, if at all visible. Basically, even if you were to book the part, it would be virtually impossible for family and friends to verify you were in fact, part of the picture. It’s often referred to as a ‘cattle call’ and everyone and their brother from all walks of life, show up for a chance at the big break. 

 

On this particular afternoon, the line was wrapped the entire length of 26th street and back around 7th avenue, almost to MSG. That’s almost 6 avenue blocks… It was late January and it was fucking cold. Meanwhile, I’m dressed to impress, not combat sub freezing temps.  No matter, I thought, this is my chance and I’m going to stick this out. 

 

It was one long day, but it was buoyed by two girls I befriended on the line and a few strategically placed Dunkin Donuts that served as our oasis on the frozen concrete. The hot coffee and the open bathrooms were a godsend. The banter with the girls and the delicious coffee helped me to forget the cold and the interminable wait and finally, after 5 long hours we reached the building where the auditions were taking place.  Almost inside we were rejuvenated and anxious to strut our stuff. The door pushed open and out walked one of the audition coordinators. “Sorry folks that’s all we can see today, thank you for your patience.” With that the door was pulled close and we were left wanting.

 

I have only gone on one musical theater audition since I’ve lived in NYC and this experience may be partially responsible. It may also be because of my lack of interest…

 

I answered an ad in Backstage Magazine for an Irish looking male, between 25-35 years of age and a tenor vocal range. At the time I was qualified right across the board, so I eagerly sent my headshot and resume and shortly after received a phone call to come audition. It was a period musical set in the 60’s about growing up in New York’s Hells Kitchen neighborhood. The audition was at the writer/director’s apt (I know what you might be thinking, but not that unusual here, as many people have studios in their apartments) and was to be the next day.

 

I arrived the next day and the concierge rang the apartment and I took the elevator up to the 7th floor. I proceeded to the appropriate number and was greeted at the door by a woman who cheerfully informed me, that her husband had just got out of the shower. He emerged from the bedroom, still wet and hastily dressed and it was readily apparent that he had forgotten about the audition. It was also apparent that this was a one bedroom apartment with no studio and I was wondering where the hell I was going to sing. 

 

The man’s wife politely excused herself and left the two of us to the audition. As I was surveying the room, it was becoming even less clear as to how this was going to go down. The mystery was solved when he asked me to help move the coffee table that was resting on a rug in front of his couch, rearrange a chair or two and slide over his rug. Once this was accomplished, he plopped down on the couch and the audition began. I was literally 5 feet in front of him, belting out Maria(from West Side Story), which I thought appropriate given the circumstances and decidedly uncomfortable. Sixteen bars later, I awaited his reaction.

Normally, you’re given 16 bars of a song to sing and after you’ve finished they say thanks(maybe) and you leave the room. No feedback whatsoever. You either get called back or you don’t. This situation was slightly more complicated and bizarre. I was sort of trapped and he felt compelled to review my performance, American Idol style. He went over several aspects of my voice, what he liked, what he really liked and a few things he thought I could work on. Also, he explained the part had been filled, but that I would make a good understudy. He then went on to say that he would work with me privately on the songs from the show…for a coaching fee. Well, I politely said I was short on funds, but I would think about it. We shook hands and I never saw him again.

 

 

Recently, I was at an audition for a deodorant spot that was to run on the internet. The premise was a guy and a girl on their first date talking about how their day was blah blah blah. The girl had already been cast and I was one of three callbacks waiting to read with the female lead.

 

Well, she never showed, so we had to improvise…we took turns playing the girl while the other would be Romeo, played the male’s part. Needless to say, I was a wee bit out of my comfort zone, but we each took the situation in stride and had as much fun with it as we could. The director and producer really appreciated our efforts and it led to a separate audition for me later on.

 

Unfortunately I didn’t end up getting the part, but these experiences have led to some funny stories and perhaps brought me one step closer to realizing my dream: acting opposite Jennifer Lawrence on day. Morning Jay part 2 perhaps…

 

I look forward to hearing Doc P’s stories and experiences, as he moves towards becoming a published author and garnering the representation he deserves.

 

And for all: Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.

 

May the Th3rdforce be with you.

 

Part 2: Staying Together Is Even Harder To Do

 

After DC Space closed, the 930 Club became the center point for the music scene in Washington DC. The whole place was a ball of kinetic energy that night. We were all gathered for a Pixies show. Everyone was excited. Bodies cramming into bodies. The line was out the door. I couldn’t wait for the show to start.

The Pixies are a band very close to my heart. They are a weird, off tone, shrieking, intense, strange and catchy mess of a band.

Funny thing is, they didn’t even really play well live. Half the time they didn’t face the audience. But we didn’t care. We just wanted to hear the music, because that was what this band was all about.

This tour was in support of their latest album, Trompe Le Monde. They had enjoyed tremendous accolades from music critics and college radio stations alike. After several release they were set to take over the world. What happened instead?

They broke up after this tour.  Black Francis sent a letter to the band saying, I quit and that was it.

At their best, the Pixies were credited by Nirvana front man, Kurt Cobain, as being the only band whose lyrics are worth reading and the band that taught Nirvana their signature style of soft and slow, loud and fast.

What happened after the big break up?

The lead singer Black Francis, changed his name to Frank Black and started touring on his own. He ended up playing local bars in the Phoenix area: http://th3rdforce.com/?p=446

Kim Deal formed her own band, The Breeders. Both artists had some commercial success, but it was short lived.

Unlike Kim, Black Francis continued to make music. Some albums were good, some just plain bad. He fell for the UFO album concept. Note to reader, if you are in a band and you think it’s a good idea to have a UFO theme thing, just listen to Frank Black’s The Cult Of Ray, or the People’s Key by Bright Eyes. It’s a death trap. Don’t do it.

Neither Black Francis, nor Kim had anything close to the success they shared as a band.

Why did they break up?

It was simple, Black Francis and Kim made no secret that they didn’t like each other. Even though Black Francis was the leader, and driving force behind the band, the fans fell in love with Kim. One of my favorite concert moments was at this show.

It was one of those perfect moments. The band had just finished playing a song. I know it’s hard to imagine in a concert, but after that song, there was one perfect moment of near silence. My friend Andrew, screamed as loud as he could, in a beatlesque parody: We Love You Kim. She heard it. The audience laughed and she said a very soft, thank you.

Judging from the lack of success Back Francis and Kim achieved after the breakup it has become obvious that part of their genius was the friction between warring factions. How many successful bands have broken up only to have their members swim in a sea of mediocrity until that inevitable “reunion tour,” takes place after the wounds have stopped hemorrhaging?

Look for these moments in your own life. Where is the friction paying off? None of us like these situations. But these situations just might prove to be the foundry for our best work. Creative tension brings out the best in us because it pushes well beyond our boundaries into territory we can’t navigate by ourselves.

Listen carefully to the music in your life. Take a moment and ask yourself,  what is it telling me?

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

Safe bets rule most of our decisions in life. Safe bets are there specifically because it’s nice not to have to break ground each time we do something.

Earlier this summer my wife and kids packed up for their annual concert/festival tour. This trip is a yearly tradition for them. They get to travel for a few weeks.

This year they spent three days in Oregon listening to Yonder Mountain String band, the crowned king of the jam/new bluegrass movement. About 8,000 other revelers joined the fun.

I did not.

I was actually here, http://th3rdforce.com/?p=433, during all of that. On my own retreat, if you will.

Last Friday one of the key members of Yonder Mountain, Jeff Austin, was playing a very small local venue. My wife invited me to go. We had dinner and went to the show with some of her friends.

The band was very, very good. The band is actually a combination of a former member of Yonder Mountain String Band and Danny Barnes, from the Bad Livers, the king of progressive/experimental bluegrass.

Last time I saw the Bad Livers was at Bumbershoot in Seattle. Average attendance to Bumbershoot is around 100,000 people.

There was maximum, 80 people at the show Friday.

What compelled these people to leave their safe gigs? What made them leave a safe bet and wind up at a local pub on a rainy night in November?

 

I have to admit I was full of admiration looking up at these fine gentlemen. Although the band had only been playing a couple weeks together it was clear they were enjoying sharing the stage. And I’m a sucker for the upright Bass. Can’t get enough of it.

But then I started running numbers. It’s in no way possible to make a living playing for the few people gathered at the show. How do the numbers work? I felt a deep pang of worry for our balladeers.

This was entirely a project in its infancy. Sitting in on the show was literally having an eye on a newborn as it struggles to find its way in the world. I said a prayer for the lads as the show ended. Wishing them well on this venture.

Recently I took a big risk by going to a writer’s conference. I had never been to one before. I am quite comfortable in my Chinese Medicine world. I put on workshops. So to go, as a student, was a leap I was really worried about making.

Beginning as a newbie at 43 years of age, wasn’t what I had in mind. But to get that book of mine published, I would have to break new ground. And so I did. 

The workshops were great. Very fine, professional and enthusiastic teachers. I had a meeting with an agent. Totally blew it. Yep. Ever see Say Anything? That John Kusack movie. He has a habit, which reminds me of, well, me. When he gets nervous he starts talking continuously, making connections that don’t really fit and just not stopping for a while. So here I was, acting like a high school kid trying to pitch a book idea to an agent. Yeah, you know this book is about. . . .and I wove Dao De Ching hexagrams. . . Holy mountains in Korea. . ..  Ben Bulben in Irealand. . . Fugazi concerts, you bet. . . Do you get it?

What a mess?

Well, later on I had another meeting with an editor of a small press in Seattle. I bumbled my way through that one too. But you know what, something in the idea caught her attention. She asked to see the manuscript? Mine? You mean the one I wrote? 

I haven’t heard back from her, yet. I feel like those musicians must have felt before their first show. Not knowing what would happen or where the project would go, they still picked up their instruments and played like tomorrow didn’t even begin to matter.

Can you hear that music in your own life? What new projects or risks are you involved in? What is out there that you are specifically not addressing?What projects are you ducking?

Go ahead, make a list you have time.

Next week we will examine this same phenomena from another perspective: the combustive force of creativity, or why being uncomfortable just might be what you need.

Photo credit: Gratefulweb.com

Fake it ‘Till You Make It

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Mastery is a concept best left to the masters. Know any of them? Me neither, really.

Sure once you go on the deep six holiday it’s easy to be seen as a master. But if you are among the living then this is not really an option.

So what do we do?

We have to have a wide net of experience and friends. These friends with different experiences will force you to stretch yourself by adopting some of their positions.

Now, when I met my wife, fake it till you make it was not an option. I was very serious, focused and driven like a jackhammer. I poured myself into three careers: newspapers, teaching and medicine before turning 30 years of age.

That’s a lot of ground to cover. I felt really good and confident about myself. I mean who else has done all of this?

All of this fell completely apart when I met my first patient.

I was sitting in my office with no patients. Finally, like lightning on Olympus, the phone rang. I let it ring three times, so as not to appear desperate, and a woman said:

Do you do house calls?

No.

Oh, well I am friends with your mother and I know this is the first day your clinic is open and you don’t have anyone on the schedule. With that in mind do you think you could come over?

Hmmm, I said, looking at my schedule. Here’s the deal, I will only come over after regular business hours are over.

She laughed, gave me her address and hung up the phone.

At about 5:30 pm I show up at her house. Her husband is noticeably distressed as he opens the door.

She’s in here, he says, moving quickly down the hall.

I’m noticing the deeper into the house, the darker it’s getting. By the time we end up at the room we are going to, it’s almost hard to see.

Wow, I think, serial killed on my first day at the job.

He opens the door very slowly and quietly. The gentleness of his actions completely at odds with his physique and demeanor.

I see a woman sitting up in her bed. She has an IV pick in one arm. She barely looks up as we come in. I take a seat by her bed.

So here’s the story. I’m, let’s call her Jen, by the way. And you see this IV, well it has antibiotics in it as well as fluids. They change them out. When it’s the antibiotic time, I can’t stop throwing up. In fact, they don’t know if the antibiotics will kill me or the infection in the plates of my skull. That’s what you are here for. Can you help me beat this infection?

Um, I gulped, well, I.

Ha ha. Just so you know I that I know, I am your first patient. I imagine that you have absolutely no idea what to do with me because the best clinics in the country do not either. So there!

Well, I. Uh. How about we work on the immune system?

Take your best shot doc. And it better be good.

That began my relationship with my, as she calls herself, “infamous first patient.”

After treatment I immediately went out and called my old clinic supervisor. He was in the clinic. I was in a state of shock.

Roger, how’s it going?

Great. Tell me how are you . . . Ok, what can I help you with?

I told him about the patient and her condition.

That’s really not all that difficult, he said, she’s in enough distress that almost anything you will do will help her.

That’s it? I said, choking on the phone.

Yeah, call me back and let me know how it’s going.

I came back the next day to Jen’s house.

So how are you doing?

Me? Oh, I’m the same.

The same? You still feel ill?

Yes.

Oh, should I leave?

Leave?

Yes, you said it didn’t help.

I said I feel the same now. After treatment last night I did feel better. You conclusion is wrong, she said laughing.

That was the first time it became apparent that graduating in no way made me master of anything. Not even close. In fact, as she gradually got better it became clear to me we were both benefiting from this relationship. She helped me refine my expectations and together, she got out of that room, beat that infection and moved on in her life.

She stops by every year and announces herself to the clinic.

Hi I’m Jen, Scott’s infamous first patient. He saved my life. Where is he? I want to talk to him.

If I’m in treatment, it doesn’t matter for how long, she waits until I get out of the room, gives me a big hug, pinches my cheek and then is gone for a year.

Where would I have been if I waited to master infections in the frontal plat of the human skull? Where would I have been if I failed to take that first step? You know where, back at that single room office waiting for the phone to ring.

Attention reader. I am now dismantling from your nervous system the need to be a master of anything before starting your next project.

What is out there just waiting for you to take it on? What do you have that is just a decision away?

Pop, the bubble bursts and it’s OK to fake it till you make it because in the end that’s all we are all doing anyway.

Happy Birthday

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We made it!

We are one year old this week. Thank you for your support, your comments and your time.

For this week’s post Bill and I thought we would put up some links to our favorite stories over the year.

It’s fun looking at the statistics to see what you, our audience, enjoyed. Sometimes the data matches up, other times, not so much. Our top viewed posts was: Taking A Vacation From Yourself, http://th3rdforce.com/?p=377.

My favorite posts of the year so far are:

  • Winter Meditations: http://th3rdforce.com/?p=106. This is the post that got me back into finishing my novel. It reminded me most of what I went to Korea for.
  • Thin As A Razor’s Edge: http://th3rdforce.com/?p=231. This post really is about my turning point as an adult. It was my time in the darkness and finally, the light.
  • O Captain, My Captain: http://th3rdforce.com/?p=231 This post is an homage to our first mentor, John Keane. It reminded me that the best teachers do not exist in the past, they are guiding us to a better future.
  • Cutting Through The Static: http://th3rdforce.com/?p=207 This post plays with the idea between being an observer and a participant. Also, it highlights the dangers of assumption. I learned all of this at Children’s hospital.

Here is Bill’s pick:

So what are some of your favorite posts? What would you like us to write about? Please leave your answers in the comments.

PS

Every day of your life is a post. What we read on that wall is what is left of us. These are the tales our friends and family will tell long after we gone. What did your story tell about you this year? You have 2.5 chapters left before this year is a wrap.

Riders Of The Storm

Surfer Free Photo

There is a ton of excitement in the tight knit surfing community here on the northeast coast, with a Category 4 hurricane forecast to track well east of the US. This will produce large swells and a relatively rare opportunity for local enthusiasts to enjoy some tasty surf. In fact, a very good friend of mine is postponing his annual sojourn to Costa Rica in order to capitalize on this occurrence.

Several weeks ago he took me out on my very first surfing lesson. I’ve never felt less of an athlete, as I did on this afternoon. The more I pushed to stand up the further away I got from accomplishing this goal. My body was a taut mass of aggravation and I was actually getting worse on each subsequent attempt. My buddy, who is a rather accomplished surfer patiently explained to me that I would need to relax and let the ocean do the work if I wanted to get to my feet. Finally, after what seemed an eternity, I was able to briefly get to my feet.

To say this was a humbling experience would be akin to saying that Stephen King has published a few works of fiction. We here at 3F often talk about getting out of our comfort zones and doing something that makes us uneasy and well, this delivered on both accounts. However, as embarrassed as I was by my physical ineptitude, I was equally struck by a great sense of peace and recognition once I was able to get past my frustration and finally stand. A oneness with my environment began to develop once my ego and vanity subsided. I stopped fighting the current and let it go to work for me.

Afterwards, we sat outside and enjoyed a few Southern Tier IPA’s. He told me about a book, that an old surfer dude had referred him to years ago. It is called, Cloud Hidden Whereabouts Unknown by Allen Watts. He told me that it was an absolute must read, so I at my first opportunity Amazoned it. Watts takes a fascinating look at his retreat into the mountains of California and his discovery and following the watercourse way of nature, known in Chinese as the Tao.

Alan Watts helped create the Zen boom in America and which has become a popular theme with people seeking harmony with nature. Watts discussion of Taoism is particularly interesting. The Tao signifies the energy of the universe as a way, current, force, course or flow  which is as at once intelligence and yet spontaneous, but you don’t worship or pray to the Tao, because it is your own true self, your very energy and patterning of your bones, muscles and nerves. Lao Tzu’s  first statement about it is that it cannot be defined, for the simple reason that you cannot make what is basically you and basically real an object of knowledge. You can’t stand aside from it and examine it as something out there. Although then that we cannot define it, we must not assume that it is something bleary like the blind energy of 19th century scientists.

From our own point of view our heads themselves are blind spots but were it otherwise we should be looking at only neurons and dendrites and would never see mountains that meet the ocean. Of course when neurons and dendrites are seen from the inside they become mountains that meet the ocean.

Now, even though the Tao can’t be pinned down, it has a characteristic atmosphere that can be sensed in the lifestyles in people such as these surfing ethusiasts. It’s an ability to flow with or following with the wind or in this case waves. The whole object is generating immense energy by going with your environment. By following the gravity of the water and making yourself one with it. By applying this principle we learn the senselessness of trying to force ourselves upstream. Flow with the waves, it’s another way of saying chill out…get rid of tension and rigidity, bend with the wind and you’ll still be around after the hurricane is gone and the fair weather returns. It’s like the principles of judo, which uses the power and force of your aggressor to defeat him. He makes the move, you simply channel him using his own force and momentum to easily cause him to sprawl in the dirt.,

This idea can be applied to our troubles, our worries, surfing and situations that at first seem threatening and impossible, but which can if we flow with the storm, be turned into our advantage. A person with this kind of attitude and philosophy cannot be defeated. Even after he fails to stand up after dozens of attempts. He knows that he is a part of everything else, the very energy of the universe and that he can best live and achieve whatever ends he decides upon by going with the current. With ease and serenity never with tension, never with force or strain.

May the Th3rdforce be with you.