Tag Archives: freedom

Mother May I?

There can really be a lot of gates in this world.  Just a variety of places where you need to stop, seek out permission/validation/approval before you can really do… well… anything.  It’s not exactly the kind of thing that inspires you to go bigger, reach higher and do tremendously amazing things, is it?

In some cases, the world of permission is just an inherent and unavoidable part of life.  I think of life in the corporate world that I know oh-so-very-well.  My workaday life is filled with policies and permission and forms and approvals processes.  You cannot do what I do (company ethics officer) and avoid that in any way… and honestly, you shouldn’t avoid it anyway.  Can it feeling limiting to people at times?  Of course it can, but it’s just a fact of big corporate life that one needs to accept and move on from.  It’s part of the understanding of being in Corporate America and if it’s something that causes you such an enormous amount of heartburn and stress, you will probably need to find a workplace more conducive to your style at some point, because I don’t see it all changing anytime soon.

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Ahh… but what about the life outside of work?  You know, that area in our personal lives where… in theory at least… we finally have the chance to freely choose what we do, where we go, what we read, with whom we associate and so on.  What about there?  Surely within the bounds of the law we must be unfettered in our ability to make our decisions, no?

If only.

Whether due to religious/social/family norms, we do still tend to live a lot according to the wishes of others.  Some of this is just lubricant to keep the gears of the relationship machine running smoothly.  Oh, you know what I mean.  The dinner you go to with your in-laws even though you would rather be home, feet up and soaking up a massive college football showdown in the SEC.  The helping a friend to move into a 3rd story walk-up.  It’s a lot of little things like this where you need to do someone a solid… but truth be told, you would probably like to do something else entirely.

But what about beyond that?  Are we limiting ourselves from things that would honestly make us happy because we worry too often what “others” (however it needs to be defined for the situation in question) will think?

Oh believe me, I do this as well, but I am getting just a tiny bit better about it all the time.  I still care (more than I probably should) what my parents may think about certain things I want to do or whether my friends or colleagues might find something I enjoy odd (pushing a Prowler in the snow, anyone?).2009-12-31 11.50.16

But damn… the more I move away from caring about a lot of the minutiae about who might… GASP!… judge me poorly and more about whether something will add a positive to my life… darn it all if I don’t end up being happier.  In a way, one method I can use to spot areas where I might find more happiness is listing out things that my friends and family might look askance at.  Chances are there are more than a few perfect nuggets in that list of things I darn well should be doing.

So take that as a little exercise for yourself as well.  Don’t alienate your loved ones just for the sake of being a complete jerkweed.  No one likes that guy and he’s just a completely ponderous fool (and we all know at least one of these dudes).

Find your Prowler in the snow.  Push the hell out of it.  And revel a little more in the fact that while no one else gets it… you love it.

Memorial Day 2010 – Reflections, Thoughts and A Swift Kick in the Rear

Today is a doubly reflective sort of day for me.  First and foremost, it’s Memorial Day and secondly, I’m getting ready to travel to London on a red-eye out of JFK tonight for a work conference all week.  Memorial Day makes me reflect for what are, I think, fairly obvious reasons and travel always makes me reflect because I know I will be encountering new places, peoples and experiences.

In thinking of Memorial Day, it can be a lot of different things.  It’s a day of rest (well… at least it should be) and BBQs and taking a few minutes to think about the ultimate sacrifice that over a million Americans have made to protect freedoms that most of us just flat out take for granted.  That last part almost sounds cliched, but it probably sounds that way because sometimes the things that are just so obvious tend to get slapped with that kind of unfair tag.  But honestly… how often do any of us think about that?  I mean genuinely and honestly stop for a moment and reflect on the fact that people have died so that you can I can live a fairly uneventful life where we get to raise our kids, go to work, enjoy our weekends and be who we want to be without a lot heck of a lot of interference.

I took a look at the source of all knowledge… Wikipedia, obviously… and found this entry on total U.S. combat casualties over the course of our country’s history.  It’s sobering stuff to look at, especially when you see the Civil War estimates that the war claimed the lives of 2% of the entire population of the country – 625,000 people with close to 600 dying every day.  If that doesn’t give you a moment to pause, then there’s nothing a whole lot I can do to help you at that point.  Just take a moment… even just a quiet 30 seconds… to appreciate the gift of the freedom you enjoy if you live here in the United States.  We are very, very far from perfect, but you would be hard-pressed to find a place much better.  I believe that with all my heart and want our country to stay that way.

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But I also had a slightly less lofty moment of reflection today that had less to do with our freedoms as a people and more to do with what Memorial Day has meant for me personally the last few years.  As a baseball coach, Memorial Day was the day every team, club, organization and such in the town I coach would get out and march.  It’s complete mayhem, but also a lot of fun… except I’m not there this year.  Rather, I am in the midst of doing a bunch of last second packing, e-mail checking and planning before leaving on my trip to London and so I missed the parade this AM for the first time in 4 or 5 years… and I hate that fact almost more than I can say.

There was really no good reason, excuse or explanation for my not being there.  Yes, I really am pulling a whole bunch of things together right now to prepare for my trip… but seriously?  That couldn’t have been done Saturday?  Or yesterday?  And this frustrates me to absolutely no end because that parade is now a bit of tradition and I’m missing it for just no good reason at all.

And all this for one simple and unassailable reason: I just need to do a better job of getting my act together.  Period.  Oh sure, I could go into a very grand and verbose post about how I am a classic introvert who recharges my batteries with alone and quiet time or that I have been very busy with work and blah blah blah.  Those things would have been both true statements… but also really and truly piss-poor excuses.

So in some ways, the fact that I do a better job of reflecting when I travel is probably a good thing so I can reflect myself into fixing my little red wagon and not missing out on things that are most important to me in life… because that often ends up being the end result.

But fear not… this is not a post about wallowing in self-pity and whinging over what has gone before.  I can only take that in myself for about 5-10 minutes before I find it annoying, so Lord knows none of you should have to soak up any of that a second longer.

Because on this day of memorial and day of reflection… I am putting myself back on track with 2 things more important than any little silly gripe I may have:

1) That when people have given their lives so you have the luxury of blogging at home with your feet on the table, it’s best to take that solid shot of perspective with a quiet nod of sincere thanks; and

2) That as long as there are nephews in the world who get a kick out of walking in parades (and hitting bodybuilder poses while waiting for them to start), then there is some real good in the world to make you smile.

And a smile is spreading across my face right now.  Happy Memorial Day 2010, everyone.

Your Pathetic Little Box

It’s a place each of us knows to one extent or another.  Maybe you have been there your whole life, always struggling to peek out and hoping to find a moment to break free.  Maybe you have broken free, only to return to its dispiriting, but oddly comforting enclosure.  Or maybe you have freed yourself from it and only look back on it as a constant reminder of where you will never stay.

That place?  The place I’m thinking of is that box of expectations people try to place you in and keep you in.  You know the box I mean.  The one where your boss expects you to play the dutiful toadie, when deep-down you know you have ideas that can make a difference.  The box that your parents tucked you into when they told you that girls don’t play tough sports or get sweaty.  The box that your high school English teacher steered you into (maybe with only the best of intentions) to pursue a career in some safe, generic career that you wake up to each day, staring at the ceiling and thinking, “My God… do I really have to go in there today?”

Your all too comfortable, but still pathetic, little box

To one extent or another, most people will spend some amount of time in their lives in that box.  It’s pretty hard not to.  Very few people are completely comfortable with living 100% outside of the expectations of other people – it’s pretty much human nature.  Sure, it may be on small things such as not wearing your Marilyn Manson “Antichrist Superstar” t-shirt to Christmas dinner because, as much as you love the alter-ego of super-nerd Brian Warner, it makes Mom horribly uncomfortable and she just wants to have a nice holiday.  But that is a small concession for the greater good of family unity.

What I’m thinking of are the greater concessions… the ones that nag and claw at your conscience… the ones that, when you give into them, you feel beaten, broken, used or just flat-out fake.  The concessions to the views of others when, even if those expectations come from a good place, you personally know they are not right for you… and you still go along with them.

I hate that box… and as I sit here typing this post and looking back on all of the “you’s” I just used… that could just as easily be replaced with “I” in many of those spots.  I do it – I know I do it… but I don’t like it.

So that’s where my little epiphany came from.  It’s not exactly Jonas Salk and the polio vaccine, but this one is mine and I think it might be handy, so take it down a few notches, people.

I am going to find a cardboard box and slap my name on it with a Sharpie and then write all over it.  What will I be writing?  All of the things that other’s seek to impose upon me as their expectations that, truth be told, I either just don’t believe in or just don’t want.  The purpose of this box is twofold: (1) I want to get out in a tangible medium all of those errant expectations and (2) I find I need physical/visual reminders of things I am trying to stay mindful of.  I tend to fall a little too easily into the trap of having a good idea and maybe even writing it down, but not having it in a place of seeing it all the time to keep me on track so it becomes habit.

The 2nd step after getting the box all ready is one that can vary by person, but it’s too display the box in the most prominent place you use when you need a moment to break out of expectations.  For someone aspiring to be a writer instead of an accountant, maybe the box is at home next to the spot where she writes her short stories.  For me, it’s my home gym because I am such a firm believer in transformation of yourself in mind and spirit through pushing your body.  I want to see it to remind me all the time of the things I am looking to work past and leave very much in the dust.  Hell, I may even give that stupid box a swift kick across the room every time I set a PR.

I am doing all this because with each passing year, I have a restlessness that only increases about tolerating that damn box and I want that box nearby so I never, ever forget.  Does this all mean I am somehow getting braver? Hmm.  Not too sure… but I am definitely getting more defiant about who I am and what I want to be and the notion of not being authentic to how I truly see myself is just becoming more and more unacceptable.  I can’t be fake about who I am and I can’t just let it slide when someone is looking to force me into being something I’m not.

So I will create my box and I will set it where I will always see it.  This may work great.  This may be hokey as hell… but then again, anyone else finding this hokey is trying to put me back in that damn box… so I just don’t care anyway.