Beauty

While at a dinner party at La Calle Doce in Dallas, we saw this beautiful girl celebrating her First Communion.  Her parents were very gracious in allowing me to intrude long enough to have them pose for this picture.  Just look at the contented faces and smiles of her parents.  This is beauty.

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Redemption

I’ve been thinking a lot today about redemption, especially about the many, many times in my life I have personally been forgiven for things I have carelessly, or sometimes purposely, done that have brought unnecessary pain or troubles to others. In the whole course of life, there have been far too many. The experience of grace is a cleansing of soul and spirit.

Redemption comes in many places. In my life I have experienced it from my wife and daughter, my mother and siblings, and from friends who continue to bless me with simple kindnesses and warm relationships. I become aware of these redemptive moments in the quiet spaces I have created for myself while reading, gardening, cooking, driving, writing, or simply chilling with my hands petting a dog on each side where I am sitting. Grace is truly amazing!

Serenity

Over against the world with all its turbulence, distraction and worry,
one should cultivate a style of mind that can reach through to an inner
stillness and calm.  The world cannot ruffle the dignity of a soul that dwells
in its own tranquility.  Gradually, this serenity will begin to pervade our
seeing and change the way we look at things.

John O’Donohue, Beauty: The Invisible Embrace

Certainty and uncertainty…finding a sweet spot

I like to think of myself as being spontaneous, even a bit compulsive, when it comes to living every day.  Those who know me well think quite the opposite of me.  To a large degree, they are right!

Rigidity

The more rigid side of me wants to know the rules to play by, whether it is at work, at home, or hard at play.  Along with my own willingness to play by the rules, I expect others to respect the fact that rules are rules, especially when it comes to things that matter, like the workplace, or in relationships.  I believe a certain amount of rigidity enhances trust, that it does not detract from it.  By trusting others to follow the same rules to which we oblige ourselves, we can gradually learn to rely upon our coworkers and friends, that they will not betray our trust.  With practice and experience, it deepens the level of friendship we can have.

Spontaneity and new relationships

On the other hand, rigidity can stifle opportunity for discovery, for relationships which our “safer” side won’t allow, for learning we can swim in the deep end of the pool after all.  When we open our lives to spontaneity, we open ourselves up to new and exciting adventures and motivation for living joyfully.  We discover the beauty of diversity, and we learn that people are people, not enemies vs. friends.

Taking risks

So, what’s the problem?

Whether we can see it clearly or not, allowing or creating new opportunity by stepping out of our comfort zones, involves fear.  We are afraid of risks.  Things like rejection, embarrassment, feeling “stupid”, looking too “fat, ugly, tall, thin… (fill in the blank)” are small, though overwhelming, fears that tell us risks are treacherous and can lead to bad things, and humbling thoughts.

Finding the sweet spot

The way of greater joy and peace, I believe, is to find comfort in those things that we truly trust and upon which we can rely.  Once we are sure of those things, which, by the way, has a lot to do with finding comfort in ourselves, we can gain the confidence that new risks won’t kill us after all.

By taking small steps into this scary new world, we find interesting people, richer relationships, and lots of new things to think about, talk about, and relax about.  This, I believe, is the right path for anyone finding themselves entrapped in a cocoon of safety, and often, boredom.

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Examples of lives well-lived

I attended the funeral of my great-uncle (maternal side) Saturday morning who died last week at the age of 98.  Until a few weeks ago he was living fairly independently and in great spirits.  His decline was rapid, and from the reports by his very large family, he was quite ready to meet death as a man of traditional Christian faith.

In January I witnessed the struggle of another uncle (paternal side) who passed away at age 86 from complications due to congestive heart failure.  He, too, faced death without fear because he possessed the strength of his Christian faith.  This uncle’s passing triggered my commitment to better health.

Both of these men left important, positive legacies with their families.  Both had seen the world change in unimaginable ways, and they both had adapted to the changes with smiles on their faces, and without getting caught up in the moment.  Both were grounded in a deep faith, a love of life and family, and a sense of contentment that I have rarely seen from anyone else.  Both knew how to laugh, to tell great stories, and to listen intently when children spoke to them.  Both exuded kindness in heaps.

The church was full today for the funeral of my great-uncle.  There was much laughter, and love overflowed.

Two take-aways for me

  1. Worthwhile legacies are not built upon good intentions or last-minute adjustments in one’s character in anticipation of death.  They are built over a lifetime of consistency, integrity, thankfulness, and contentment.
  2. The measure of success in life is in the quality, depth, and love one gives in all his relationships.

As I discover my own path in the aging process, I am more aware than ever before of the importance of love and integrity.  I have had many great examples in my family.  I have been blessed with great gifts.

Relationship triangles…avoid them!

Getting caught in the middle of a rivalry or an argument among friends is uncomfortable and can often lead to long-term conflicts, or even the loss of a friendship.  If we want to nurture relationships, we should learn how to navigate the treacherous paths of conflict.

Here are some strategies to elude triangular conflict

  • Know your role.  You are a friend to both of them, and whatever business is theirs is exactly that, theirs.
  • If asked your opinion privately by one party or the other, maintain neutrality relentlessly.  Your integrity is on the line.
  • Don’t try to fix the problem.  It is not yours.  Don’t offer “silver lining” arguments or diversionary tactics.  Be aware that this leaves you fewer options, and make a firm decision just to sit this one out.  Be disciplined about it, and keep quiet.
  • Do not be a carrier pigeon!  You are not a note-passer, a personal secretary, or a proxy.  Conflicts between two of your friends should be settled in an adult way with the two offended parties finding their own way back.
  • Keep quiet about it.  It is no one else’s business either.  Don’t be a conduit of information to third party observers.  Not only is it a betrayal of your friends, you have no control over the information that gets passed along.

Conflicts among good friends will usually end up being solved.  The path to healing is one that is really fairly simple, though it may take a lot of courage to get there.  When triangulation occurs, you being the odd one out, the path to healing gets very mirky.  It is no longer a straight path; rather, it becomes one that must meet your approval before it can be traveled.

A healthy life relies upon healthy relationships, and we have the best health when we extend our commitment to well-being into all areas of our lives.

Healthy eating and going it alone…it’s not that bad!

When I decided to change my eating habits and to limit my diet to whole foods, fruits and vegetables, whole grains and nuts, I knew it would impact others besides myself.  I also know from past experience that it’s easy to become an evangelist about a new diet, and evangelists can be downright annoying.  I didn’t want this to happen.

Your dietary impact upon others

  • When you eat a meal that is not the SAD (standard American diet) type, you call attention to the habits of others.  Without intending any negative consequences, there can be some sharp things said about your diet choices as others become more self-conscious of their own eating decisions.
  • Dining out can be tricky as your friends and family will either want to accommodate you in choosing a place to eat, or they will simply expect you to conform to them.
  • If you are the primary food prep person in your home, your cooking methods, as well as food choices, will impact those of your family.  The problem is the potential for massive household rebellion, and this can lead to giving up the healthy diet in order to conform to the others in the household.

Some basic rules for controlling the hidden messages in your diet

  • Let it be as private as possible.  In other words, after you’ve informed those closest to you that you intend to eat a different diet, and you have satisfied their curiosity about your reasons for doing so, just move on and do it.  It doesn’t have to be explained, and it doesn’t have to be understood by anyone but YOU!  Don’t preach it, just do it!
  • Have a plan in mind for how you can handle dining out at various restaurants where your friends and family like to spend time.  Almost any place will at least serve a salad, so it’s not a lost cause.  If you’re like me, these have always been the most sociable times with my wife.  We like to catch up on the day, listen to one another’s stories, and we genuinely enjoy our time together while others wait on us at the table.  Being a native resident of Texas, Tex-Mex food has been our favorite for many years.  I have a couple of things I know I can get in any Tex-Mex place.  The ingredients may not be quite as healthy as my do-it-yourself version, but as long as it’s within the general bounds of my diet plan, I can survive Tex-Mex places by eating a guacamole salad, salsa, and a couple of corn tortillas, especially if the tortillas are steamed, instead of cooked in oil.  Having something in mind ahead of time helps with the stress, for both you and your significant other(s).
  • When people ask you how you’re losing so much weight, and they will, tell them in the simplest terms possible, without using “should’s” and “must’s” and “always.”  Try not to elaborate unless they continue to ask for more and more details.  Limit your responses to their questions, and don’t go off on the research, the poor quality of other diet programs, etc.  Just chill…answer the questions, thank them for complimenting your weight loss, and just move on.
  • If you are the primary cook in your home, as I am, you must be willing to make one huge sacrifice to keep the peace, that is, be willing to continue serving up their favorites while preparing, and eating, the food that is preferable for your own diet.  It may mean twice the cooking, twice the dishes afterwards, and twice the time, but your willingness to do this, without complaint, will put an end to any conflict with the family regarding your new eating regimen.

Some interesting results

By using the strategies above, I have found that my friends and family have adapted a lot!  My wife now wants a salad in her lunch box every day…no problem, it makes me smile!

I found out by eavesdropping that a lot of people at work are making some healthier choices after some of them have asked me a barrage of questions.

The general consciousness of good health and nutrition in our household and in my place of business has been raised.  There is no doubt that my 60+ pound weight loss (to date) has made an impact, and I swear, I’ve only talked about it when asked a question.

Living a healthy life does indeed impact the world around you positively, though it may not appear this way at first.  Just follow the rules above, and hopefully, it will make a difference for you.