Always the Case

I tend to be hot-headed, reacting with indignant anger and self-justification at the drop of a hat…or glove. Gaining enough control to consider before I act or blurt has been a long process.

I wrote this poem to remind myself to keep stretching toward maturity.


Peace starts with me

Even in the most war-like attacks

Even if I am innocent 

(Or adamantly claim to be)


Peace always begins with me 

With ego-less surrender 

To the words of perceived enemies

And territories unclaimed within myself


Where in quiet places I can mother 

Magnanimity and smother

The nasty instincts of instant gratification 

Protests to peace 

How to Know If My Conscience Is Really Clear

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Anyone who has struggled to sleep with a bad conscience knows there really is no softer pillow as that of a clear conscience, and that slipping into sleep with this caliber of peace is one of life’s greatest rewards.

Yet, still I have tried to justify and rationalize things I know are not right. And, at times have conveniently mistaken a clear conscience for…

  • denial and/or projection of guilt on someone else
  • ignorance of my responsibilities

A know a real clear conscience when it has cost me something.

Often, the cost is…

  • courage to seek the highest integrity against the pull of self-protection
  • a willingness to be quiet long enough to really hear
  • the disciplined work required to understand another’s point of view
  • owning my dark side
  • ego-obliterating apologies

The Expiration Date Is Written All over the Mirror

My expiration date is everywhere

As I look in the mirror

So what?

I smile at the future

However short or long it is

Because today

I commit to doing the most I can

With what I have even if

In a body past its prime


I can fret about what I have lost

Or am losing

Use my time that way

And my money 

For temporary solutions

Or I can get on with it

With a laugh at myself

For fighting with a reality

Too long denied and resisted 

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Unexpected Hope

If good news comes as unexpectedly as bad

If you hear a ghost-like call in the twilight of sleep

See a brief, peripheral vision

Hear a tune or catch the fragrance of a kind memory

Wake from a dream with a smile

Have an inexplicable break from pain

Or a fleeting feeling of joy

Will you explain it away

Or let it gently unclasp the chain

That darkness has wound

Tightly around your soul?


“Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable.” -Mary Oliver

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Why the Pendulum Swings

One chapter of Mark Manson’s book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, discusses the downside of the “affirmation culture” now advocated in schools and parenting. Believing that focusing too much on protecting feelings creates entitlement, Manson suggests the pendulum needs to swing back to the place where kids were allowed to experience the full force of failure.

So, before anyone gets the pendulum swinging, here is the confusing reality:

Both approaches are correct…but, only for half of the population…and, the reason the pendulum swings is because the opinion of the decision maker is tied to what works for their personality.

People-focused personalities thrive under the affirmation approach.

Task-focused personalities do not. And using it harms them, or at best, wastes everyone’s time.

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No swinging needed. Both work.

But one size does not fit all.

Love People. Use Things.

It is easy to slip into loving things. And, then, using people (to get or protect things) follows naturally.

It is also easy to justify loving things, because things, power, fame and money promise to make life so much more enjoyable. And, even though we might not really want to use people to get those things, it happens.

What happens after that is not pretty.

Happiness eludes us.

Simple joys disappear.

Peaceful sleep is more difficult.

Breaking the chain reaction is complicated.


We go back to our original purpose:

“Let no one come to you without leaving better.” –Mother Teresa


Whatever I don’t receive or may lose in life, love is the one thing I will always have to give.

Which is why Valentine’s Day is happy.

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Valentine’s Day Prep

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This quote is not encouraging us to be narcissists.

We are merely being asked to love ourselves so we can be psychologically free to love (our neighbor as ourselves), instead of being neurotically attached to how much others will be loving us.

Those of us who have lived through disappointing Valentine’s Days…

  • with self-pity
  • measuring how much we are loved based upon the gifts we received or didn’t receive, or
  • pressuring others to prove their love to us…

know that these behaviors are relationship landmines.

Best prep for Valentine’s Day (or any other day)?

In the true spirit of St. Valentine…

  • freely give the love you wish to receive.
  • plot ways to show others love.
  • enjoy loving without expectations.

Hard Knocks Knock out Non-Essentials

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“…self-pity separates the victim from reality.” 

It has taken me decades to understand how deadly this separation from reality actually is.

My own self-pity…

  • delayed longed-for change
  • stunted the development of courage
  • shunned positive action
  • drained my strength
  • cemented my immaturity
  • pushed extraordinary people away
  • made me common, boring, and unattractive

Who knew?

I must have subconsciously believed being the “queen of the whine” was my only alternative. After all, everyone seemed to do it.

Obviously, I had chosen role-models who didn’t know that hard knocks were to be appreciated for knocking non-essentials out of the way of a preferred and refined existence.

To Maximize Time and Effort

I can plow steadily ahead 

With passionate intent

Or I can listen first

At the feet of wisdom


I can plunge heart-first

Into painful obstacles

Or stand high on shoulders of giants

To see far past them


If I refuse the pain

Of patient humility

I will wish later for the sustenance 

Of its sweet and proven fruit 

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