Every Path Leads Somewhere But Some Paths Have No End

I have definitely been off my stride for a while now. Being retired does not mean having time to do all those things you said you would accomplish once you no longer had to report to the shop, or desk, or wherever that fiscal harness awaited. I have discovered that concept is a myth. On the other hand, don’t ask me to give a rational accounting of my actual time expenditures. You would not be convinced that I wasn’t goofing off and I would be embarrassed to own up to Richard’s Version of Reality.

Admittedly, I have been put off for the better part of 14 months by having to mentally deal with the incredible, apparent disintegration of the expression of what I had taken to be civility and relative forthrightness of our political process evidenced in our presidential campaign/election. I’ll not go into detail here, as the constant disruption of any semblance of due process and personal integrity by our elected and appointed officials is detail enough and can do without my feeble two-cents worth. (I will add some observations and commentary at the end of this post.)

Once the inauguration was over and this voyage of the USS Absurdia was launched, I was caught flat-footed as it were and spent hours trying to figure out what happened and why and more importantly, how was I going to order my own life going forward. I think I have worked out a plan of sorts.

Meanwhile…

Much time of 2016 was spent tracing family history, verifying family documents of birth, marriage and death so I could file for what is called Foreign Birth Registration in the Republic of Ireland. (Thanks to my grandfather having been born in Cork city and his son Raymond, my father having successfully generated 4 offspring, among whom I am the youngest, our generation was still eligible under Irish law, to apply for citizenship, no strings attached.) This was no easy feat, considering that, in true Irish-American Catholic tradition, we had very limited factual information who our forebears were, or where they married or died. There were many things adults didn’t share with children in those days. But that’s a whole other tale.

All documents were sent to Dublin for review and approval on June 6, 2016. With nothing important left to do; (mind you, “important” is used in the retiree’s privileged, relative vocabulary and not to be dismissed as “without essence and impact on one’s life and daily duties) we set off for another u-drive-it, 1300+ mile trip to Massachusetts and New Hampshire to visit family. We dillied and dallied and ate foods we hardly ever ate in Florida. Nothing extravagant or extraordinary – just not our usual fare as we like to eat as Romans eat and not upset their sense of healthy consumables. Diets can always come later.

Time dribbled on and eventually we landed back in Florida, picked up our accumulated bundle of mail but alas, Dublin had not been heard from. “Rats!” I said, the system was grinding slowly and surly the fine lads in Dublin’s Foreign Office were doing all they could to honor my request. Privately I was plagued with questions – What did I leave out? Were the documents all authentic, long form, stamped and sealed,??? etc.

Finally, early October, I got a very large envelope in the mail with my citizenship document and all the originals I had sent in nearly four months before. Honestly, I was slightly amazed as I thought that the FBR (Foreign Birth Registration) office might be overloaded, thanks in not small part to Yanks like myself who were answering the Government’s invitation to all who might qualify to submit requests, and the recent Brexit phenom in England.

Too bad, you other folks. I’m in, if not on my way!

Along with the official citizenship document was a very welcome application for a passport, which was already my next question and quest. Off again, along with a few more Euros, went an application to Dublin with the expected turn around time of about 6 weeks.

I should point out that once we were home from New England and the citizenship docs were in hand, we had more pressing and really important business to tend to. Vacation!! Pity the restless retirees. Back in the boring home surroundings we figured out we could still visit Denise’s niece in Texas and get our hands on the cute-as-buttons ten-month old twin boys before they lost their incredible cuteness and antics. Then if we could manage the itinerary carefully, we could still make use of nearly 2 weeks of time-share stuff we had mostly paid for already, so we went up to Myrtle Beach, So Car, and Destin Beach, in the Florida panhandle. We were able to get home with 2 days to spare before we had to fly – yes, had to – to Minneapolis to see 6 1/2 y/o granddaughter Hannah, with her first year’s introduction to ballet solidly behind her, perform in The Nutcracker, appearing once as a snowflake and once as an Angel. That alone was worth the trip but we were treated to one of the coldest days of the year, a brisk -24 degrees and 8-9 inches of snow. Oh, Destin, where are you now???

Then for the first time in almost 20 years we had Christmas day together with daughters Amy and Laura as well as grand kids Hannah and Ethan. Wonderful trip. Our presence at that particular time happened to coincide with Amy’s leaving MN for 5 days in the where?? the Florida Keys ?? go figure. Her partner, Wade, had vacation time and hotel lodgings already paid for on Key Largo and we were there, in St.Paul, to look after their 2 terrific dogs. Grand kids and grand puppies, all in one visit.The stars were certainly aligned. Except Daughter was in the Keys, Puppies were well cared for, fed and played with, but Mom and Dad we still in freezer shock and hoping it would not snow.

Back home in Fl 3 days after Christmas with a cold and sinus infection that would last 10-12 days. Bad enough to be ill but was also trying to brace myself for the installation of President #45 in a few days. Yet…I was truly elated. Jan 19, the day before the inauguration, my beautiful Irish passport arrived by FedEx. That made my day, my week, my month. I never dreamed I would have dual citizenship anywhere, with passport to travel, and the possible cure to any future malignant case of Trumpitis I might develop. The rest of this story waits to be played out. I’ll let you know.

Now, the other story. A couple of years ago, when I decided I needed something to bring a lot of family literature together, mostly written by my father and my oldest brother Ray, both of whom have departed us years ago but left an amazing amount of poetry and short stories and half a dozen novels behind, which, like the family information I had to dig up, were scattered among several family members, in boxes and closets from NE to MN. Besides taking up the challenge of constructing a blog of my own, I now saw a vehicle to bring all those writings out into the open. My father’s vast collection of hand written poems dated all the way back to 1962/63. Thankfully, my mother had typed the all on a small portable typewriter. Most of what  brother Ray had written was typed but in dire need of review and editing. My wife Denise did a great job of typing several thousand of his pages into digital format, along with Dad’s poems. Ray (jr) died in 1997.                              They needed to be given a voice.

So my plan for the blog was a modest one and my contribution was to be low-key, daily or weekly happenings that caught my interest and whose virtue or significance was to be left to any readers who stumbled up my”Path”. I was not interested in earth-shaking prose or political or religious debate. I wanted to find a mode of interacting with the times that meshed with my belief that being honestly human did not demand super human strength but only an attentiveness to the world around us, human and non human, all matter, all the universe and our desire to honor life wherever we find it.

As I pointed out in my opening remarks today, I have been put-off by the current political events and have spent many hours trying to get a better grip on where to stand today. I have concluded that it is more important to find a functional, personally satisfying response for my future, than to contribute, endlessly to the cries and lies that make up too much of our awareness today. The unleashed forces will work their purposes and the best I can hope for in my remaining years is to live a life of active love and compassion for every person I have contact with. A kind of embrace of life itself that will perhaps bring a sense of “being ok” in a world going berserk.

I am posting a recent article from the blog of my good family friend and incredibly perceptive author, Tony Equale and hope you make time to read more of what he has to say throughout his postings.

For my original blog posting (re-posted last summer) please click the link below.   (https://rharding0728.wordpress.com/2016/07/07/about-off-the-beaten-path/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true)

For Tony Equale’s blog post and comments see:

https://tonyequale.wordpress.com/2017/02/06/an-imperial-people/#comment-4597

Unwittingly, I have been mirroring his conclusions and expectation for the future:

     “If we are to have a future as a species it will have to be characterized by international cooperation, negotiation, and collaboration derived from mutual respect and a sincere esteem for all people as people.  We are never going to stop 63 million people from doing what they think is the best thing for them.  Our only hope going forward … and in the long term … is to help them to understand what the best thing for them really is.  They must begin to think of their well being in terms of humankind itself.  That is the enduring task, there is no alternative.” Tony Equale, An Imperial People.

How a Rucky Encounter With the U of F Women’s Rugby Team Rescued My Fading “Irish Celebration”

It certainly was a time for celebrating – Friday, 11/18/16 and I received notice in today’s mail that my application for Foreign Birth Registration has been approved and I am now an Irish Citizen. (As of 11/3/16, to be exact).

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Big deal, you say?

Why, yes.Yes it is!

Several years ago I set out to document my personal twig on the Harding family tree. Much of the “planting” and pruning had already been done by my daughter, Laura, but the  finer details of my immediate ancestors have always been a challenge in our limb of the tree. I set out to fill in as many details as I could, not having the foggiest notion of where to begin. I did not realize until a good while later that the Irish government was still offering citizenship to children and grand-children of Irish immigrants, with proper documentation. I’ll spare you all the details of a process that took months and a year or two to assemble that information. The notice of successful culmination was indeed cause for some kind of celebration. As to what kind, I had no idea and was not much engaged in thinking about it.

The Proposition.

That evening, out of nowhere, my wife announced, “I have a proposition for you”.

My ears perked right up.

“A proposition?”

“Or a suggestion”, she continued cautiously, seeming to sense I might be expecting something other that what she intended. ” An idea, proposal, what ever you want to call it. Something to celebrate you new citizenship”

“Such as,???”… says I…

“Tomorrow’s Saturday, we have nothing special to do, how would you like to have lunch at an Irish pub?”

“O.K., but I’m not up to speed on Irish pubs around here.” (No, really, I’m not), and my wife’s expertise in on-line scouting often leaves much to be desired.

“That’s OK. I found one, sounds good, only 6 or 8 miles from here.” She told me the name but it did not register with me. Rather than stare into a gift horse’s mouth before closing the deal, I said fine. Let’s do it. Probably have TV’s all over the place and we can keep an eye on the college football games.

The fantasy.

Against my own familiar cautions of not expecting so much that disappointment ensues, I imagined walking into a welcoming place of happy Irish folk and wanna-be’s, and me casually sitting myself at the bar, engaging the publican himself in friendly chit-chat and tossing out the reason for my being there today. I would proudly wear my souvenir Cork City rugby shirt, even though it’s a bit warm for Florida, but heck, I need to wear it more than just St. Patrick’s Day. Maybe he would be from the same Cork City or county as my grand-father. What a coincidence. Perhaps warrant an extra, free pint or a little heavier pour of the good stuff, don’t ya know. Let the good times roll; Guinness and some lively craic; [pronounced crack,(“Craic is a Gaelic word, with no exact English translation. The closest you get is “fun.” There’s the expression “ceoil agus craic,” meaning “music and fun,” .www.ireland-fun-facts.com/craic.html”]  with a round or two of “Danny Boy”, or “The Wild Colonial Boy”. I had to mentally stop short of picturing them carrying me out to the car, sober of course, singing “It’s a long way to Tipperary.”

“So,”, wife burst my bubble, “what time to you want to leave?”

Fearing a verbal land-mine and relying on years of navigating “time and best routes to take” questions, I suggested, “whatever you think is best – I don’t know exactly where this pub is so we should time it for a little before one o’clock and avoid the early rush lunch crowd and the later after-noon football gawkers.”

“Exactly what I was thinking,” she said. “Sounds good”. (picture here a kind of mental high-five for me.)

The Step Into Reality

I’ve been to enough eating/drinking places to have developed a sense of what lies ahead, and it is usually accurate. Said Pub was easier to find than anticipated and proved to be less than encouraging than my phantasmal pub-encounter. Hmmm, said I to me…quite a large place, even has out-door setting, able to handle large crowds. With only 3 cars in the parking lot, I secretly hoped scores upon scores of lads and lassies were on their way to celebrate with us.

Upon opening the door, still imagining a cavern of fun and rollicking songs, a woman’s voice called out from fifty feet away – “Sit wherever you like. I’ll be right with you.” The shout did not disturb the other 3 folks in the room, one at each length of the u-shaped bar; one glued to a TV, a young woman glued to her I-phone, and a tatted up young fellow who seemed to be glued to the edge of boredom and oblivion. Not a fiddle or a tin whistle to be heard anywhere.

We explored the tantalizing possibilities; to left of the bar was a small seating area and beyond that the huge out-door, not-yet-serving patio section. Neither was enticing and I had fleeting visions of having to leap over from my meal and catch the tattooed-one from falling off his stool.

To the right was a very large room with dozens of long tables, room for a hundred or more but not a customer in sight.

We gazed around in a 360 degree option scan. Let’s sit here. OK.                                              Bar tender/now  waitress appeared. Can we get the Gator’s or Nole’s game on this TV? Hmmm, she said – nope, not on this side. On the other side of the wall you can. OK says we, its a start.

Now we are right back to where we came in, just inside the doorway with nothing between us and the TV game except the entry way, but by now I’m figuring that that will not be an obstruction. If there are no warm welcoming crowds of Irish persons here to greet us, at least we can enjoy a good football game – maybe even the Irish of Notre Dame!

The Soup Gets Stirred

We gave the bartender/waitress our orders and since it was my day to celebrate I asked for a shot of Jameson’s with a little ice. I commented later to my wife that I think I was served a fifth of Jameson’s, as in one fifth whiskey and four fifths water, in a one ounce glass.

Now its about half past one o’clock and another, like us, elderly couple arrived and stood there, gazing from side to side. Knowing the situation and being of good cheer, we both offered that there was only one person on duty, who was waitress and bartender and she must be absent on very important hospitality missions. Please sit anywhere, she’ll be right with you, we said cheerily, feeling like publicans ourselves. They looked a little stunned but walked into the room with the not-so tune-able TV and waited…appearing to be skeptical of the soundness of our advice.

We now have our food and drink and are enjoying portions of the game. Time for celebrating is waning and its getting closer to two o’clock. My huge party crowd seems to have peaked at 7, or eight if you throw in the Serving Staff. As my gaze wandered ever so casually toward the front door, I could see bunches of people milling around, waiting to come in. My little Irish heart shouted, come in, join my fun, …..please.

Sure enough four or five young women in t-shirts and shorts  came in and did the “where the heck is everybody” stare. Denise and I are by now very familiar with the format and instructed them, “Sit anywhere, there’s only a waitress/bartender and she will be right with you” thing. “Try that big room right there… TV’s lousy but there are plenty  of tables. No, we’re not the owners but go ahead anyway. Enjoy!!

Now the crowd at the door is moving inside and I can see beyond the open door more and more groups of 6 or 7, athletic looking and fittingly dressed, young women are pressing into the pub. I can no longer count the number of celebration attendees. I should have sold tickets. What a day!

By now our waitress is bounding around, grabbing menu’s trying to keep up with all the people whom we have recommended be seated in the other room as well as a growing crowd, standing right near our table discussing what is to be done next. It seems the besought waitress has warned them that Saturday’s kitchen staff only comes in at 3 pm and all she can guarantee for the next 50 minutes will be sandwiches.

Correcting The Seasoning

By this time, beside immensely enjoying myself that so many people have come to join my celebration, and nursing my celebratory Guinness since the busy one arm paper hanger posing as Pub staff may never be able to fill a second one, an unknown gentleman has struck up a conversation with me and explained that these are women from the University of Florida Rugby team and he either has something to do with the team or his daughter was in the crowd of thirty or forty who seemed to be reaching critical mass of hunger about now and making plans to go somewhere else before returning here by three pm. I never did figure out who he was. Continue reading How a Rucky Encounter With the U of F Women’s Rugby Team Rescued My Fading “Irish Celebration”

Same Path. Different Perspectives

Same path, different perspectives.

 

In keeping with an earnest desire to find meaning in an otherwise lackluster universe, I  set out this week to walk my local path, (as I reported on last week), only tweaking it slightly by starting out in a different direction, adding about 10 minutes to my over-all journey.

I should point out that I live in a condominium complex (what else?) in Florida, one that is not high-rise and does not number thousands of “Units”(the places within a Complex where humans actually dwell). The entire Subdivision is separated into two distinct areas, I presume for marketing purposes, so one section could be sold while the second was under construction. The buildings are essentially the same size and style in each area, with no unit above two stories in either.

I’ll call the first area section A. While the buildings are essentially the same in both areas, those in section A, along with two story “duplex” and “?four-plexes”(my word), also includes single story “Villas”(a Florida favorite) not available in section B, and section A has a more spacious allotment of grass-to-concrete ratios plus a very limited boat launch and floating dock access to a 5 acre lake that section B shares but only indirectly. i.e after a walk of at least six minutes.

I live in section B but prefer to spend more of my walking time in section A, sort of where “the other half” live. Not that that amounts to anything. While A people may brag about landscaping and genuine Lake Front property,(see last week’s post re: FL lake front property; Paths and Turns Without Compass Envy, we B people gloat that we excel in humanoid density and vehicular parking space that assures that no matter how many residents, party animals, week-end visitors, etc. may be “on-site” at any given time, no one will have to walk more than 2.77 minutes to their abode. And should you be wondering about personal safety/security, each Section has an iron gate with individual unit code clicker for one’s auto that deters unwelcome stragglers with their potentially evil intentions from simply walking in and disturbing us. I must admit, however, that teen-age children easily by-pass such security with relative ease using the walk around or up and over method on foot, and vehicles that have no electronic access can still tail-gate an owner if they time it correctly and drive on in, and have, on more than one occasion, by-passed the tail-gating maneuver by carefully aligning the front end of their vehicle with the gate and steadily pushing on the gate. (Just flat-out ramming it also works, if the driver so chooses).

Now you have more information than you probably need, but I’m a firm believer in placing information in its proper context.                                                                                                      “Info, sans context, is confusing and useless”, rdh, 3/30/1976.

As I was saying, my ten minutes walk introduction was almost over when I came across a neighbor, Mister X (for our purposes here). [adding background for context, get it?]…We have lived here for four yrs, eight mos., more or less, and Mr. X lives in the next building over. We see each other occasionally, driving by, putting out trash containers, rare neighborhood get-togethers, etc.  My first thought was – “Oh no, he’s going to go on endlessly, usually complaining about living conditions in our complex Complex life here.” But then, in a kind of Zen, Be here, Be now moment, I decided to engage in a word exchange.

“Hi, ******”, I said. I remembered his name and the fact that his little dog that he was walking was quite tame and mild-mannered. Mr. X, not recognizing me, assured me that the dog doesn’t bite – but I already knew that.

Mr. X wondered did I live here. “Yep, right here behind us, second floor.” Not adding that his building was about 30 feet to the left of ours. “Been here almost five years.”

“Oh”, said he. “I’ve been here seven or eight. Hate it here. Don’t like being told what I can or cannot do on my own property. People always moving in or out. Four or five in the last few months. They all say ‘We’ll stay in touch’, and they never do. I own two other places, one a few miles east of here and another in the next town north of here. The only reason I stay here is my wife wants to be closer to the grand-kids.”

I should point out that both the areas that he mentioned are probably no more than five or ten miles from where we were standing, causing me to wonder just how close the Mrs. needed to be to the grand-kids. I know her to be both ambulatory and capable of driving her own car. But then, its only a fact, not a subject for my personal evaluation,(I’m trying to stay only in the here and now.)

I was not tempted to ask too many questions about Mr. X’s past or present and figured we both had our fill of self-disclosure for today. I remarked that I should be off, as I needed to complete my 30 minute walk somewhat on schedule.

“So add five minutes of conversation time to your schedule and you’ll be fine”, he helpfully observed.

“Exactly,” I said. I extended my hand and said, “Good seeing you, ******.” He shook my hand and said, “you even know my name” I refrained from a rude “Duhh” (no Zen in that) but I had seen him enough to wave to and  call out Hi ****, how are you. In reply I simply said I had a knack for faces and names, and would see him around.

During this departure exercise, ****** was busy winding little dog’s leash of some 20 0r 30 feet by my estimate, around his palm and elbow, such as one would coil up a length of garden hose or bow line of a boat. This is very interesting, as our HOA by-laws stipulate that ALL dogs must be on no more than an 8 ft leash and owners are to pick up all solid residue that their pets leave on common grounds. Most owners are compliant and in five years I’ve seen wandering dogs maybe once or twice and rarely have to avoid doggie doo-doo residue. But in keeping with ******’s dislike for unreasonable regulations, his 8 foot leash now consists of 2 or 3 eight ft lengths clipped together and always connected to the dog but usually not to the owner. My wife has cogently observed that he walks his dog on a leash – one that is trailed along behind the dog and the owner is somewhat compliant – and who could argue? The dog is on a leash.

“Later”, I said, and wandered off, mulling over the challenges of neighbor-acceptance and the  wisdom of “live and let live”.

I continued my usual path through section A, over to the boat launch – all was as it should be – the only boat I’ve ever seen launched was not a boat but a sizeable sea-doo or PWC, personal water craft, coming back from a test ride with a young couple aboard, who were visiting relatives, they said. (Personal observation- this was a craft that belongs on the Gulf of Mexico, not on this quaint little lake.) But then, least you think I’m too old and retired to appreciate things modern, I never complained openly about the fact that two-hundred yards from where I stood, someone used to commute from his real lake-front home with a sea-plane.  Ommmm.

Back up to my sidewalk stroll, where again, I almost walked into the Crane family, all four, feasting again on unseen live things under the dirt, only six or eight feet from where they were two days ago. Chow-on my friends.

Sure enough I soon came across the Barbados fellows power washing driveways with care and concentration. Father and son this time. I inquired of the father, who obviously was enjoying his role of supervisor while son buffed away on the concrete, were they indeed from Barbados or was that just a touristy license plate on the front of their truck.

“Yes. Been here since 1982. Going back for Christmas this year, first time in over twenty years.”

“Wonderful,” I observed. “Great time to be in Barbados”

Then,seizing upon the opportunity to clarify a sticky pronunciation problem I’ve had, ever since I heard someone of English extraction pronounce the island name as BARbados, I discreetly inquired if that was the proper pronunciation, or was it truly, BarBAdos.

I suspect he too suppressed a “duhh” urge and said,

“BarBAdos. Its BarBAdos.”

“Of course,” I said, and quickly put the blame squarely on the Brit that should have know better.

“Have a  great day, and thanks. Safe trip to BarBAdos.” And off I went, thinking I was having a very informed kind of zen experience today. Little did I know what awaited me!

A few minutes later I realized that I had used up most of my allotted time and most of my mileage. As I rounded the corner of the last building I would pass within section A and progressed  beyond some shrubs, I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw the missing Calico Kitty walking near a water-retention area. “Hello, Calico Kitty,” I said quietly, trying to not frighten her away. Then I saw a second cat, a black and white Tuxedo cat near to building, and there, big as life but not so tall, behind the screen door was the little old owner lady from the other day.

I waved to her and she apparently recognized me and beckoned me to come over.

-Aha, to my self.- A chance to explain my dilemma about what to do if I should spy her missing calico, apologize for my lack of clarity and to seize upon another Zen moment. What a day I was having.

Yes, she said, the kitty had come back and joined her Tuxedo friend and a third family member who, being perpetually shy, was in the bedroom, under the bed and not likely to show up. A happy three cat family.  Come in and sit she said. I was a little reluctant at first, being by history somewhat of the “under the bed” kind of animal, but my subconscious Zen thing kicked in, arguing, Why not, the poor lady is probably starving for a little human conversation.

“Thank you. I will sit for a minute”. She pointed to a chair and stepped into her home for a minute. She returned quickly and I stood and shook hands. “I’m Richard,” I said. She introduced herself as ****. (I thought about using her name here but in the interest of safety I choose not to, as it may become possible for some disgruntled NSA laid-off hacker to track down her location and presume upon her to part with some of the diamond accessories that weighed down her hand.)

We proceeded to have a lengthy chat – I was correct to assume she would love to chat with someone who said more than Meow and purred and slept a lot. I hardly ever meow.

In short order I learned the Calico often wandered about; the Tuxedo was rescued shortly after being born and abandoned and (I’ll call her Lill, (as in Diamond Lill I guess) was taken by kayak by my hostess to a vet and nurtured to a full life.

Infering in good investigative style that she must have an interesting past, I said,”By Kayak, you said…where was that,” I questioned.”

“I was living in the Keys then.” she ventured. Before that, my (now deceased)husband and I lived in North Carolina. Then we moved to Florida, (the next county north of here) and several other places in this county.

I was realizing that I could be in for a long haul as they say. Besides moving around a lot, we have many things is common – my wife’s French-Canadian lineage – Lill is from the Provence de Quebec; my younger daughter once owned a Tuxedo cat, and we had rescued a cat from a pound in NH, which cat, oh happy day, promptly delivered several darling kitties when we got her home. Lill has an adult daughter living nearby, sans children, and a son living in California, sans spouse. Endless opportunities were presenting themselves for further discussion, but I felt my Zen impulse waning and my “let’s have lunch” urge twisting at my stomach.

I moved the discussion to an apt close by saying how happy I was that her feline family was still in tact, but warned her that my wife had reported seeing a calico cat on her building’s roof, which she could hardly believe and immediately proclaimed with just, motherly contempt, it wasn’t her cat, and advised her that Missy Calico had better keep her distance from the woodsy area out back and not offer snacking occasions for ‘gators.

At the mention of alligators on the premises Lill’s eye’s opened wide in disbelief. I wondered to myself how someone so acquainted with Florida life could be in denial of gator reality in her back yard.

“Oh yes,” I assured her,” but they usually stay in the local ponds, but its best not to temp their appetites.”

She was grateful for the information and thanked me for stopping and chatting. “You must bring your wife sometime” she graciously offered.

I took my hungry feet back to the sidewalk, waved good-bye to a charming lady with lots of history and a chronic, residual back pain from having experienced a case of shingles, and headed for the little footbridge to take me back to section B.

Had I looked back, I imagine I might have seen at least one “kitty” staring after me with something of an evil eye.

Chill, kitty, I may have impaired your freedom to roam but could have,  inadvertently,saved at least one of  your nine lives.

Just another day with perhaps a small dose of Zen awareness.

Peace.

rdh

 

Illusion vs Reality II, The Dorothy Factor

One of the reasons I started blogging in 2014 was to challenge my computer skills and join in the fun of posting, light, inconsequential tidbits of personal observation of life in general. I often find the most quirky and “pause for reflection” items in the mundane moments of daily life.

I have no illusions about becoming a noted commentator on life as it happens or a first-order journalist or author. I’m trying to focus on the ordinary happenings that present endless opportunities for embracing and enjoying the ephemeral emotions of human pastimes and interactions. Perhaps my observations will strike a note or two among my limited number of readers and that would be recompense enough. Two or more notes, we all know, can form a chord, and from chords grand themes can arise. I have little more to hope for than fostering an occasional bit of harmony wherever it may be needed.

Writing for fun has been just that. I rather studiously avoided popular and trendy themes; the very things I’m trying to get away from. I prefer to offer items that will never be seen or heard on network news or found in major newspapers or learned journals. We have an almost counter-productive plethora of information displayed before us on a daily basis and I have no desire to contribute to garbage overload.

However;

Last week I did a post on Illusion and Reality that was a departure from my ordinary posts. Many of you know me as a rather reticent individual who could easily fit Abraham Lincoln’s observation that (loosely recalled) a man who has little to say is thought to be a fool – then he opens his mouth and removes all doubt. And so I plunge on ahead, at least for one more week, yammering on about illusion and reality.

I once had a supervisor in a mental health facility (I was a therapist, not a client), who was a U.S. Navy veteran, married to a Navy officer, pilot and instructor, and she had a great knack for summarizing complicated issues with a minimum of words.(Seems to be a military trait). On more that one occasion she said to me, “Richard, only the mentally challenged fail to learn from their mistakes”. I had the good sense to know she was pointedly referring to me, but took it in good spirits although it had little impact on my behavior.

She was also fond of saying, “Reality is not for everyone”. Now, that I could get my teeth into. Trying to assist in alleviating the tremendous variety of emotional disruption that presents daily in any mental health facility in the country is not an easy task by any means. Often, “problems” boil down to individual perceptions of what is happening in their lives that pushes them to impossible situations that seems to squeeze them into binds that leave little or no room for living the lives they have hoped for and desperately want to live out. And too often, the realty of their situations itself is way beyond their ability to escape from, far too threatening to even consider buying into. Thus, illusion is preferable to reality for them.

We all feel those kinds of binds from time to time. We strive to discover what is truly “real” for us and how can we implement knowledge or insight in order to make peace with who we “really” are and find ways to thrive and not just exist, as in a vacuum.

Can we live without illusion or is “realty” just a fierce and frightful illusion itself, subjective and necessary to human functioning.

We may not seek out a therapist or psychiatrist, but who hasn’t at one time or another at least wished for a significant “other” who can lead us to better times, or a gifted teacher, a guru, a prophet, a “Wholly One” of some kind. Our wishes usually go unfulfilled in the long run… simply because it was, from the beginning, a grasping at straws, or ghosts, or ideals that go bumping in those nights of depressive experience or despair.

Most of us I guess find a happy medium along the continuum of shared human experience.Ernest Becker, in his Pulitzer Prize work, “The Denial of Death”, places “normal” as the mid-point between the clinically paralyzing states of anxiety and complete schizophrenic withdrawal from “reality” at one extreme and an uncontrollable casting of one’s self into the exuberant -“I can never give enough of myself”- states of mania. Both extremes of course are forms of psychosis, often ending in self-annihilation.

Finding meaning, therefore, in an ever-changing, value shifting environment, is not an easy balancing act. It seems that we need heroes, saviors, benevolent gods, who are above and beyond our mortal strife. When we look at current events and human history at large, we see an infinite array of solutions, “ways” to live better, richer lives. The hucksters instinctively know what humans wish for and they have no problem creating and selling things that people think will give them, if not lasting solutions, at least some assurance that they are OK. Happily normal. Well balanced but only a breath away from personal chaos.

Back to Oz and that tale of a new reality, gifted only to those willing to pursue certain tasks, led by a determined individual who will not put up with the empty facades of any old display of success, emeralds or no. Enter Dorothy, guided by the Good and graceful Witch who will show her (and all of us confused humans, unable to find our way) the road to avoiding the Evil(and very inflammable) Witch and win the right to return home, new and improved, to the home where she(Dorothy and us) belongs. Where, of course, nothing really has changed, no one actually gained anything beyond what they already had.

So? Every year, should we choose, we can gather around the “tube”, with family and friends and popcorn and favorite beverages, and experience a new way to find quality living. Or, continue with observances of yearly holidays and/or holy days, or New Year’s resolutions, or diets, or soul-searching retreats, or team building exercises, gym memberships, fashion-shows, etc., etc. half-expecting that the rituals, well and faithfully performed, will bring us real, lasting happiness, aka, fulfillment. Oz,Dorothy and the Good Witch (0r; here add your favorite salvation scenario) will have shown us the Way.

One “Way” or another, the “Way” is just another illusion and leads me right back to my little old self, balancing artfully between impossible poles. Thanks anyway, Dorothy. You tried.

That great teacher of how to find one’s way, Siddhartha Gautama, The Buddha, put it bluntly to his would-be followers, “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him!”

To me, the truth lies in the paradox of it all. One can “knock one’s self out” in a quest to find the “real”…real life, real happiness, real me, etc. only to find that “reality” always eludes me unless I’m willing and able to admit that whatever I think I need, I already have. Better I should try to grasp the only reality available to me here and now – this body, this conglomeration of atoms, molecules, neurons, etc. (or as Stieg Larson has Lizbeth Salander describe Mikael Blomkvist, near the end of the Trilogy in {The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest}, as standing outside her door: “he stood there, all protons and words”).That’s us, folks. Don’t complicate it. Certainly there is some risk in embracing this constantly shifting”reality” that is me, but its seems to be the only alternative to endless, self-defeating Illusion.

I want to be disillusioned (which of course implies that I am already living in illusion and this again, is quite the opposite of being delusional), which I am convinced that I am not.

I know that “Reality is not for everyone”, (thank you Jane) and will refuse to further buy into anyone else’s proposed solutions or Dreams, with that impressive Upper-case D, American or otherwise.

Thanks for bearing with me. Feel free to comment. Please.

 disillusion – from Webster’s dictionary:

  1. transitive verb
  2. :  to free from illusion; also :  to cause to lose naive faith and trust

 To continue in a more lighthearted read, please check out this weeks Page from Raymond Joseph Harding’s short stories from our blog’s side-bar menu or simply click on the link below.
Thanks. rdh

Path? What Path?

 

 

 

 

Almost 18 moths since I initiated my “Off the Beaten Path” blog. No earth-shaking news here, just my occasional wanderings, on foot, by car, or plane, or very often, mental diversions that flow into or out of my experiences.

Along the way I discovered that we had numerous, and I mean numerous, pages of poems, short stories, even whole, unpublished novels, left behind by my father and my oldest brother, that were important enough to them for them to have written and through a process, quite outside our family consciousness that recognised their value, to have been preserved in folders, packets, closets, large plastic tubs, and heaven knows where else.

I have often referred to these items in past blog entries and have posted much of the collections here under  Family Literary items. We have saved the longer items for last as they take more time to data-enter and will take more time for the serious reader to actually sit down and read. Long reads seem to be losing favor among the rushed and haggard who struggle to keep up with FB, Instagram, Pinterest, and countless other sites, just to stay informed and mildly entertained. I promise we will publish everything we can put hands on hopefully before Summer of 16 ends.

As for me, I continue to bemoan the fact that my writing muse appears to have abandoned me somewhere during my wanderings and left me devoid of creative output. Writer’s block? Seems to have morphed into several blocks – maybe even a whole neighborhood.

What have I done to myself! I scream at the mirror of my laptop screen. Why am I waiting for some “outside input”? I’ve been sucking on the lemons in my life and not bothering to look for the lemon-aide recipe.

Recipe?! – for cryin’ out loud! A five-year old kid can make lemon-aide so don’t use the “no recipe” excuse.

AhHa. Eureka!

I’ve been blaming the freakin’ Muse for abandoning me; the lack of a Blueprint for holding me back; the Fear of writing something that looks like, sounds like, plays out like Duck Pooh in a clear water pond….. oh what a dolt I am.  Double dolt; a double dork doofus.

See, I’m supposed to be off the beaten path, different, independent, uniquely creative, living a vivid and vivacious life, full of vipp, vimm, and vigor and sit here complaining I have no compass. No Muse. No Buddha to point the way. But that’s the WHOLE POINT. People quote Siddhartha (that’s The Buddha) who allegedly said, “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him!”

Now, I’m not insisting that should you run into me sometime during my frequent travels you take the great man literally. Even he did not mean it literally. It’s a little difficult for some to get their brain wrapped around that concept.

I have brought myself to the mental state that there is no particular WAY that must be followed which will eliminate all Contention, Lost Muses, Over-productive Lemon Trees, or Duck Pooh for that matter, but I have not, by any stretch of my sometimes entertaining imagination, perfected the art, yes, it is an ART, of constantly re-creating my presence, my engagement with my environs, my living context, my trust that what I do is, in fact, what I am. And that this “being-here-me”, out of the innumerable humans who have ever lived, or infinite number of stars, or solar systems, or galaxies, or universes or millions of light-years of time, like those long forgotten poems, short stories and novels, will always have worth, because it is my way of doing me.

So there will always be lack of trust in my own process. Always faults and failings. But what counts is it is my path and my way and it is good.

Thanks to all who have ever walked with me.

 

Always the Journey – not the Destination.

{Much gratitude to Kathy Hammond and Janelle Mercer for the photo and the inspiration, and sharing their love.}

Permanent Stress Reduction, Segment 5: Clear Thought Procesing

nautilusChambered Nautilus Training Group

Segment 5

Clear Processing of Information

Thinking comes naturally. Everyone does it. Not everyone does it well.

This Chambered Nautilus program is designed to help participants process their ideas and problem solving techniques in a clear, logical, rational manner. There are skills and principles to be learned and used in developing positive habits of clear and constructive thought processing.

If rational information processing were all there is to it we would build a whole program on that topic alone. It certainly is important enough to be studied in considerable depth. However, our focus is on how the very thought process itself can be disrupted by a lack of awareness of the role that emotions play in information processing.

Segment 5 of our program, Clear Processing of Information, deals with basic tools of rational thinking. Other Segments in the Chambered Nautilus Training Group program demonstrate how the thinking process can be most effective when used habitually, and not slip into the kinds of unconscious emotional distortions we sometimes allow to cloud our thinking process. There are essential aspects of anger, stress, anxiety, fear, etc., that are significantly affected by the way that we think. It is very important that our thought process be well tuned to objectivity and valid information.

Elements of Information Processing;

(1.)  Increasing our awareness of how we think

We begin by emphasizing an important shift in awareness regarding our reasoning powers. We wish to emphasize the fact that the brain, as a part of our body, is intimately affected by other body functions and states. Pain, fear, anger, hunger all can have a strong effect on how well we are able to think and even what we actually think about. We’ve all experienced the “I’m so tired I can’t even think straight” moments.

The distinctness of thought (brain function) as opposed to the other body functions is apparent to everyone, but the degree of distinctness, we believe, is generally over stated.

The brain does not think in isolation. Thoughts are often challenged by strong feelings about a given topic, thus threatening the validity of our decision-making from the start.

We will use the term ThinkingBody throughout our presentations to remind everyone that we are thinking-bodies and need to have an increased awareness of the body’s influence on our rational processing.

ThinkingBody is an awkward word and sometimes we use the equally awkward BodyThinking because there are no current terms that work well with this perspective and the concept is completely fundamental to our program.

 It’s what is going on in the brain that makes all the difference.

Before going any further let’s look at a couple of ideas.

  • What I call reality is dependent on my personal perception of my environment and its events;
  • My actions/behaviors flow from these perceptions and my underlying beliefs;
  • It is possible to change my perceptions and beliefs and thus modify my behaviors;
  • Before I undertake serious attempts at change, it is important to clarify and understand my personal perceptions     and beliefs.

The road to change or positive adaptation begins at home, with logical process and clear thought processing. Clear thought processing should be my normal state of mind. Unfortunately this is not so for many of us. The need to proceed with good decision-making has to start with a sincere effort to un-muddle my own thought processes.

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Let’s look at some problematic situations that arise for most of us at one time or another and examine them in relation to our mental states of perception. Some of the situations might entail a wide mix of emotions and possible responses. Troubling events often provoke anger responses, frustration, blaming, etc. They may also present moral conflicts and dilemmas. The end result might be increased anxiety, insecurity, a loss of courage, heightened discouragement and reinforced negative suppositions and beliefs. Can these situations all be solved by using clear thinking alone?  Of course not.  Will I be better able to handle crises of frustration, anger, moral dilemma, etc., if I habitually operate from a thought base of positive, clear thinking? Absolutely. No doubt about it. Would you jump into an athletic competition – football game, bicycle race, a downhill slalom or a marathon without first training for it?

Why then do we think that because we have gone to school or trained for our jobs that we will automatically be fit and able to adapt to the almost daily changes that we confront us? Why are we surprised when we struggle and fail? Is it worth your time and effort to train your thought processes to adapt quickly, effectively, ethically in any situation? That is what Clear Thought Processing is meant to do.

We are way ahead of the game if we can operate from a calm, disciplined mind. Let’s look at some things like self-talk, rationalizations, irrational beliefs, irrational fear, and worry and examine the physiology of attention – the mind/body perception of phenomena.

We have already seen that where the mind goes so goes my interpretive response. In many cases, regardless of my state of mind, be it fear, anxiety, anger, a rush of joy, etc., the physiology of the response is roughly the same. How it begins and the pattern that it follows is remarkably similar for everyone, but most people are not aware of the process. Awareness creates solutions.

Take an example of a person walking down a street into the sun, a short distance from his destination but in an unfamiliar neighborhood. A figure appears, walking toward him on the same side of the street. Because the figure is back-lit by the sun low in the sky, the distinguishing features are not entirely clear. The subject’s interpretive response feels like this: a little quickening of the pulse, a slight tingling in the stomach, a slight increase in the breathing rate, maybe a little twinge in the fingers or knees, all of which symptoms increase noticeably as the person comes closer!

What emotions might this person be feeling?

Fear? The subject is in an unfamiliar area, the figure is not entirely recognizable, the perceived context is one of possible danger because of the unknown area, and it is getting late in the day, etc. Fear could easily be the feeling going on.

Anxiety? The subject does not like the uncertainty of the situation and wonders at the body’s response. It seems to be telling him something uncertain and he begins to worry that maybe he should avoid the on-coming figure, start walking back where he came from; worry that he won’t accomplish his reason for walking here in the first place, etc.

Anger? The subject is unhappy that he has chosen this particular route to walk and that his peace of mind in being interrupted by this stranger. He begins to scold himself for his poor decision and the resulting frustration.

Joy? The subject is not sure but begins to think that the person walking toward him is actually a special friend he has not seen in a long time and feels the anticipation of a happy encounter coming closer.

Nothing has changed in the environment outside the subject but we can clearly see that it is the interpretation that the thinker is putting on the scenario that determines the emotion, while the sensations are the same in each case.

The process is identical; the end result can very different. The subject needs to clarify the information before acknowledging the sentiment. It would be counter productive to run away from a harmless stranger or an old friend; useless to worry about what might happen because the possibilities are just about infinite; detrimental to one’s health to beat oneself up over a mistake that never happened, and so on.

The implications are far-reaching. We don’t even need the external stimulus to be present. Memory of an event, imagination constructing an event, all sorts of mental plotting can initiate the process and drive me to emotional distraction. Controlled emotional responses support clear thinking and positive outcomes.

Chambered Nautilus Training Programs continually stress awareness of the role that emotions play in our judgments. We think with our entire body.  We are ThinkingBodies.  Other Segments of our program emphasize these emotive reactions. This Segment 5 stresses the need for disciplined thought processes that are necessary to maintain the integrity of our ThinkingBody reactions.

Continue reading Permanent Stress Reduction, Segment 5: Clear Thought Procesing

Permanent Stress Reduction, Segment 4: Managing Anger

nautilus Chambered Nautilus Training Group Permanent Stress Reduction Segment 4 Managing Anger:      Rational Responses to Emotional Pitfalls   Mood, motivation, plans, imagination, self-assessment, all the things we think make us who we are or can be, are found within the constant flow of our consciousness, whether we are awake or asleep. It follows that much of what we feel or choose to do comes from perceptions of our own making. Before you saddle up, grab your lance and head off into the fields of problem windmills, its important to have some idea of what is going on in the “brain shop” between your ears. The more you recognize how your mental process influences your behaviors, the easier it is to apply that process in a positive, constructive way.  The Chambered Nautilus programs of Rational Response training will assist in recognizing your complicated thought processes. Anger, frustration, anxiety, etc., stem in one way or another from faulty thinking and an inability to figure out the real cause of our emotional concern.

  Ignorant humans that we are, we have some in-born need to find stability in a life, a world, that is constantly changing, minute by minute. We resist change when it threatens that  hard-won stability that we try to impose on our daily lives. Paradoxically, we welcome change when that same stability becomes too predictable and boring. We say we need to get away, recharge our batteries and get a new perspective so we can return to the battle of maintaining a meaningful stability. Some of our most important skills then, center upon our ability to deal with change. This is the fine art of adaptation.

Adaptation gets us where we need to be when change becomes necessary. By examining our thinking process will we be able to foster better adaptive skills. When we are skilled at a kind of “thought awareness” we can not only recognize when adaptation is necessary but also come up with the best tools or methods to deal with the change. How I respond to the world around me is easily prejudiced by the quality of my thinking. If my thinking is swamped with negative outlooks or “no-can-do” precepts that I may not even be aware of, my responses will likely be in the form of negative behaviors. What comes out in my actions always starts in the workshop of ideas. Positive ideas produce positive results. The following is a simplified example but it serves a purpose;  

  1. the need to adapt to a changing situation presents itself; (formulate your own example, big or small):

 I report to work one day and find the memo in my email that corporate beings in far-off Decision Land have made some substantial changes to how the company is to operate, beginning today, and have issued corresponding changes in the work flow. This is bothersome to me as I have been at my job several years, trained hard to learn the specifics, refined my techniques, so that I’m very comfortable with what I do and have a positive self-image and very specific hopes for advancement. Now every thing is about to change.  My response mechanism is being challenged.  If I’ve learned positive thinking techniques. I’m sure I have some choice in the matter. I know I have access to a variety of responses; how do I choose a course of action? My response behaviors generally depend on my personal beliefs, which I think are relatively stable and consistent – they represent me and the person I have become.  If my adaptive skills are not sharp enough I might find myself making a counter-productive response to the situation because I have been UN-aware, UN-conscious of the link between my belief system and my behavior.  The result of course would be negative and could reinforce the belief that I cannot adapt. This leaves me with growing problem of insecurity and self-doubt.

The next stage might well be depressed moods or severe anger at being a helpless victim of the “System”. Fortunately there are antidotes to careless coping skills,poor thinking habits, regarding stress, anxiety, or anger. Our system of study methods, available at this blog site, combine certain physically relaxing exercises with ways to examine personal thinking habits that influence our emotional responses. These methods of adapting our behaviors are further enhanced by  meditations that aim at reinforcing the changes that must become second nature if an individual is to achieve lasting change.

The system is presented in a number of Segments, which like a chambered nautilus, represent stages of growth that lead to effective adaptation in a sea of constantly shifting waves and currents. The very environment in which we live and thrive can also flood us with constant challenges to our survival.

Chambered Nautilus Training Group offers a complete program:   Segment 1  Program for Permanent Stress Reduction; Segment 2  A Guided Meditation to sustain Self Awareness, Segment 3  Physical and Mental Relaxation Techniques Made Habitual, Segment 4  Rational Response to Anger Segment 5  Clear Thought Processing. 

 Segment 4   A Rational Response to Anger

Table of Contents Part I.  Anger types defined – Key ideas [Pt. I] Anger characteristics Part II. Brief Analysis of Anger Process – Key ideas [Pt. II] Addressing the Anger Process – Part III.  Recognizing Thinking Styles in Myself and Others – Thinking Habits that contribute to negative anger responses – Part IV   Practice Makes Perfect

Part 1- Anger Types  

  1.    Anger.  It’s like a tiger in the closet.

Everyone gets angry and that’s a good thing. However, there are different kinds of anger and we need to be aware of anger “styles”. To keep it simple, anger is either “Just” or legitimate or it is “Unjust or illegitimate, i.e. it is out of control emotion. Legitimate or Just Anger is a natural function of the human response system and could be called Useful Anger. Without it we would have been devoured by our enemies a long time ago. Just Anger moves us to action when social wrongs for example become intolerable and we need to take strong action to set things right. Just Anger is helpful when dealing with negative and threatening situations. It is a part of the animal “fight or flight” response that is an instinctive survival technique of human nature. Unjust Anger , or Useless Anger is when our emotional response to a perceived wrong or threat is out of control. This type of anger can actually be harmful to the person responding to the threat. In both cases the emotional experience of anger can feel exactly the same.

The secret to dealing with anger lies in understanding how I perceive the situation and recognizing my ability to control my responses. Just Anger usually takes some time to develop and express itself. A person may not be sure how to address the anger provoking issues and must decide on the most efficient mode of action to effect change. Unjust Anger can be more sudden and usually arises from the daily, frequent, frustrating incidents that test my patience. I can be angered in no time flat by the slowness of the check-out line, the turtle-pace of rush hour traffic, or the insistence of young children, mine or others’, to do what they please and not what I am insisting they should do. My angry out-bursts can be totally out of proportion to the situation.

This kind of Unjust Anger has both a history and a pattern of emergence.  It is a learned response that I have acquired from my past behaviors. Lucky for me, anger is a process which means I am able to interrupt my growing anger and avert a possible over-reaction or loss of control. Unfortunately, bad habits of thinking and poor coping skills lead to a “shortening of the fuse” of unjust anger. They tend to disrupt the response process.  Thus, I need to explore my emotional history and my habits of how I think about what is going on around me.(See Segment 5 on Clear Thought Processing). Remember the principle: actions follow upon perceptions;my perceptions are unique and could easily be erroneous. it is essential that I know how I am actually perceiving the situation and what I am telling myself about what is happening.

Key Ideas Summarized – part I.  Anger characteristics.  

  1. there are different kinds of anger.
  2. Anger is a process that can be interrupted.
  3. Perceiving and assessing the object of my anger allows me time to choose how to respond.
  4. Unjust anger is a learned response.
  5. To be in control of my anger I must take responsibility for my feelings. People or situations that happen to me have no power to MAKE me angry. In reality, I allow myself to become angry. In this program we are learning how to choose a controlled response precisely because my anger is within my control.

  Part II.  A Brief Analysis of the anger process. Put two people in the same situation and watch as one calmly sorts out the issues and reaches some kind of solution while the other “goes ballistic” and escalates the situation out of control. The difference lies in how each person perceives the situation and what their possible responses are. Let’s analyze the perception-response process. Two things must be considered.

1). First there is my thought process. Am I aware of my self-talk?  What am I “automatically” telling myself about this situation? A wrong interpretation of the facts might make me a victim of my personal perceptions rather than a cool head who is able to resolve the situation.

2). At the same time, there is a physical, bodily, emotional response that tells me I am becoming angry and feeding into my response. I can learn to recognize this process and short-circuit it before it becomes a disaster. If I am quick to anger I need to be aware of the changes in my body that are driving my physical response to the situation. If my child or another driver on the road is not doing what I think they should, this is not usually a life and death situation that requires all my energies of “fight or flight” and does not require an extreme response on my part. When I feel my anger growing I need to take some counter-measures to offset my feelings before they grow into rage.  The typical physical, bodily emotional response is signaled by but not necessarily in this order:

  1. an increase in heart rate
  2. “butterflies in the stomach” nerve reactions
  3. tensing of muscles, alerting “flight response”
  4. more rapid and more shallow breathing
  5. increase in perspiration

These feelings are common to most people, in varying degrees of course. This is a process and as such it has a beginning and an end. Some people seem to be more “volatile” than others, some are more laid back. Regardless of one’s natural disposition, it is essential that as responsible individuals, we learn how that process works in our own bodies and what we can do in order to keep our anger response within manageable limits. Oddly enough, the bodily, emotional responses are the same in different stimulus situations. That means that when I feel a strong sense of anger growing it is essentially the same feeling, described above, as when I experience heightened anxiety, stress or fear. The good news is, once I have mastered the skill of controlling my anger with deep breathing and muscle relaxation, and calm self-talk I can apply this control tactic in a variety of emotional settings.

Once we understand our own response process we can begin to interrupt that flow and remain calm and safely “in charge”, displaying a level of anger that is not out of proportion to the situation.   Chambered Nautilus approaches controlling the process on 2 fronts. First, limiting negative self talk and secondly, inducing muscle relaxation to counter specific body reactions.

  Making use of positive self-talk. Self-Talk goes on all day in our consciousness. We constantly assess our situation, our work, our moving about, our relation to others in our environment. Most of the time, this is a rewarding experience. We keep on course and we feel good about ourselves. However, there are times when we feel threatened or frustrated by people or places or things and in our frustration we begin to distort our perception of the reality. “Why are the so many cars here right now when I have to be home in 30 minutes!”; “I just stopped in for a quick-lunch and that stupid waiter hasn’t bothered to even come near me!”  “If that driver cuts me off again I’ll run him right off the road!” We all know how this goes and can feed one’s level of agitation. In these scenarios I become my own worst enemy. I scare my self, put myself down, compare my self to others, and only succeed in escalating my anger, blaming others for causing my anger in the first place. I can easily get to the brink of saying and doing things that could have severe consequences for me. Negative self-talk is self-defeating and I have to be able to interrupt and extinguish it quickly.

  Interrupting self-talk can be difficult. First, I have to be aware of what I’m telling myself at any given time in an anger situation. Then I need to have an almost automatic positive self-talk response.   Positive self-talk says; “Wait a minute, I’m getting all worked up when I don’t need to” or “This is not the end of the world. I’ll make the most of this delay”, or “I’ve handled this kind of situation before”. The last thing I need is to lose my temper.” I can actually look at how I have typically responded in certain anger provoking situations in the past and then practice a “script” like that above, a few words that remind me that I can not afford to let my self go over the edge. With a practiced familiarity with my frequent anger situations and a mental stop switch to automatically throw, I will begin to master my anger responses in just about any situation.  

Muscle relaxation and calming breath. If I know what my most noticeable physical reactions are during an anger episode, I can also practice being aware of these bodily changes, just as I can be aware of my negative self-talk, thereby preventing further emotional escalation and risking disaster. We all know the phrase, “count to 10”. It really works if I take a practiced approach to using it. 10 is not a magic number. Counting should be done using a slow, controlled, cleansing or deep breath. Do this, by letting your shoulders relax, taking a deep breath by pushing the stomach down and out and filling the lungs slowly and completely and then doing a slow exhale. Doing this slowly and calmly is more important that trying to get to 10 so you can then scream at somebody. At least 4 or 5 breaths should do it.

The deep breath will help to slow the heart rate and put more oxygen and blood into the muscles to relax them rather than prepare them for a fight. Consciously relaxing the arms, fists, and related muscles will also induce over-all feelings of relaxation and lesson the stomach butterflies’ fluttering. A progressive pattern of moving the major muscles from toe to neck, contracting and releasing them  in series will improve the feeling of relaxation and can be done quickly. For detailed help on muscle relaxing and deep breathing, see our program Segment 3, on Relaxation.

Another principle to live by: I am always responsible for my anger and its consequences.

It is necessary for me to take ownership of how I think and what I do. No one can make me angry – if they are pushing all my buttons, I have to admit that I made those “buttons”. If I have a lot of hot buttons, it’s my responsibility to deal with them. If I can’t do that it will do me no good to blame other people or situations for any negative consequences

I make my self angry.  Few people want to believe this. We prefer “the devil made me do it” excuse but in never holds up in court. In reality, loss of control will always rest with me. Controlling self-talk and deep breath relaxation are deceptively easy measures to counter Unjust Anger. Deceptive, because they do have immediate effect and at the same time will not easily come to mind in an agitated situation. Practicing them is essential to make them as automatic as possible, especially if one is prone to volatile reactions. Being in control of my anger is certainly worth the time invested in learning self-awareness and coping skills. Continue reading Permanent Stress Reduction, Segment 4: Managing Anger