Sunrise, sunset

A follow-up to Tuesday’s post: I was about to hit the snooze button the very next day, when I spotted a red glow through the closed blinds. A peek through revealed a gorgeous sunrise. I took it as a sign, and opened the blinds to enjoy a good long look at nature’s beauty. Then I went back to bed. Just kidding, I’m happy to say.  Did I get ya?

On the contrary, I turned the alarm off and got ready for work. I got there the earliest I have in a while. I quite accidentally overslept today, but still got to work a couple minutes ahead.  Momentum starting.

Then I was reminded by a news update that today was the first day of summer. It was a good day. Now, I’m watching the sunset on Midsummer’s Eve and enjoying the longest day of the year come to a close.

The lightning bugs rise up from the lawn to meet the day’s last light with their own. Earlier, my cat joined me in my chair on the deck, purring and padding my shirt. He has really soft fur, soothing.  I feel like I can do this. Working a lot, trying to write, keep house, take care of business, and myself.

I guess you have to find inspiration in the everyday beauty around you.  Find strength in the people around you, most of whom are dealing with the same things, or similar that you are. We’re all in this together. We can do it!

 

Photo credit: Eric Ritchey, Summer solstice sunset, 6/21/2018

Time to get serious (and this time I mean it)

I’m talking about discipline. Self-discipline, to be specific.  I’m 60 pounds overweight.  My old punctuality problem is back.  I’m not working out, and as you may have noticed, I’m not writing much. Ugh. It’s a constant struggle, isn’t it?

Part of the problem is that with my weight at my personal max, my sleep apnea is worse, and the lack of energy has made it very difficult to get other things done. I’ve had several naps rage out of control lately. I plan on 30-45 minutes and end up losing 3 hours, or more, even going so far as to reset the timer on my phone to sleep a while longer.

So, I’m not really blaming myself, or being hard on myself, but I am determined to push forward. Don’t worry, I’ll get medical attention for the sleep apnea worsening, but I’m not waiting for that to be wrapped up. I’m forging ahead with my discipline renewal now.

Am I setting myself up? I don’t think so. I’m very determined, tenacious, a little stubborn, perhaps. I know I can do better. You’ve got to do the best you can and allow for some minor slippage when you’re working on life improvements.  Don’t beat yourself up. The world does enough of that.

One thing I managed to figure out years ago, is that discipline is an interconnected thing. It’s hard to be disciplined in one area while completely lax in another. For example, sticking to a diet and exercise plan will actually help me work on my writing.

You don’t want to take on too much all at once, but you do want to have a brand spanking new mindset, one that accepts the reality of the occasional setback, but marches on relentlessly to the goal, knowing you’ll get there. That’s what I’m going to do.

Who’s with me? We’re all in this together, after all!  Go to it!

Bust that box, cont’d

To recap the first part, I’m talking about people who achieve some sort of personal growth or life change. The problem is that it can take time for that change to filter through all areas of your life. You wind up being put in a box, by yourself or by others, which stunts your continued growth, if you let it.

I’m still working on it myself, so I can’t give you a fool-proof, step-by-step plan to bust out of your box, but I can share what I’ve learned.

If you’ve ever wanted to pick up and take off for some place new and exciting to start over, be very careful. You might just end up in the same old box, just with different surroundings. In other words, if you’re still reserved and inhibited on the inside, then you’ll have the same old trouble with making friends, or building a life.

I’m not saying that a big dramatic step in a new direction can’t ever be the way to break out. It’s just that life often is more gradual, and most often, slower than we’d like.

If your box is being the shy, quiet one, then keep doing what you’ve been doing. You’ve beaten the shyness, now keep building.  Step further out of your comfort zone. Don’t let yourself fall back into the old passive spectator in groups.  As with anything, the more you practice, the easier it gets.

If your box is being the fifth wheel, always tagging along with couples for social outings, then you know what you have to do. Put yourself out there. I may be showing my age, but I think if you’re going online for opportunity, make it a site with actual profiles, as opposed to an app, where all your hopes and anxieties and internal conflicts are swiped away ruthlessly. Again, just my opinion.

Maybe the box you find yourself in is a little different.  Were you the bully in school, but you genuinely changed? Something may have happened in your own life that gave you a change of heart somewhere along the way and you apologized. I’ve had that happen. I was happy to forgive the person. Far be it from me to board up the windows on someone else’s box.

Whatever box you’re busting up, be tenacious. It may feel like no one around is noticing your progress, but they will.

 

 

Background image created by Kstudio – Freepik.com

A Closer Walk, Part II

Well, it’s almost a year since I joined my new church as a member, and over a year that I’ve been attending.  I still enjoy it, and I’m very glad I went back.

Progress report: I’ve gotten more involved with the church by making Facebook posts on behalf of the church on our page, ushering,  participating in a video interview, and I’m about to join the A/V team.  I’ve gone to a few game nights, Lenten soup suppers, and we even have a sci-fi lovers social group, which I’m in.  I think it’s so cool for a church to have that.  I’ve also met several other members interested in writing.  One of them even published a book.  So, I guess it’s fair to say that the social aspect is still a big part of why I go.

How am I doing in my “walk”?  For one, I pray more often, though not everyday.  When I do pray, I try to really focus on what I’m communicating to God.  I don’t just say the words in my head.  For instance, if I’m praying for someone’s surgical procedure to be successful, or for an illness, or physical and emotional pains to pass, I put myself in that person’s place.  I think about how I would feel as I talk to God about them.  I think that’s important so that you connect with the Holy Spirit rather than just rattling off a half-hearted request to a far-off God.  It goes back to my doubts about God hearing prayers that I mentioned in Part I.  I think that we’re connected to God and to one another through the spiritual plane.  The words are just the way we form our thoughts and feelings. They’re important, but not necessarily the part to which God responds. I believe He responds to our souls’ stirrings.

I won’t tell you that I don’t still have doubts about prayer and God’s involvement in our lives.  I do. But I feel a connection, nonetheless.  I think, sometimes, it’s hard to feel it with so many distractions and demands on our time. I push through it though as an exercise of faith.  Isn’t that what faith means after all? To accept what we can’t see, hear, touch, or even feel emotionally or spiritually, at times. It’s a process, and an enriching one.

One of the doubts that gets in the way of my personal connection with God is the conflict between my traditional upbringing, with its strict adherence to the letter of the law of scriptures, and my changing beliefs. Specifically, being gay and knowing that the Bible says things against homosexuality.  Sometimes I think that maybe the early church leaders “edited” the scriptures that had been passed down to fit their own beliefs and to keep control of the masses.  I watch the skies for the expected lightning bolt when I even think that. I’m still working through all that.

A recent development in that department came a couple of months ago.  My pastor writes occasional articles for the local paper, and who do you think saw one of them? My mother.  The pastor mentioned her same-sex spouse in the article. I never got around to telling my mom that the church I’d chosen was a gay church. The cat was out of the bag.  She wrote a bunch of scriptures down for me to look at and gave them to me when she was here visiting.  She mentioned the article and said “you know it’s not the Lord’s will”, regarding same-sex marriages. We briefly debated the issue and I promised I’d look at the scriptures.  I have yet to do that.

I will have to read them and prepare a response.  That will be Part III of this post, and hopefully an open discussion with Mom.

Workin’ hard

My fellow assistant manager is one of those people who is really cool as long as things go his way.  He is admittedly, more efficient than I am both at getting things done himself and utilizing the help he has to get things done.  I’m improving on both counts, though.

I don’t know if it’s because I’m too nice a guy that people don’t always bust a gut to get things done on my shift, or if it’s that I don’t give clear enough goals or instruction.  My counterpart is very aloof and doesn’t like to be bothered while he’s working on his stuff.  That’s not a good thing, but at the same time, I think he gives the associates clear assignments before he disappears.  It seems to work as far as getting things done, but it’s not my style.  I think management should be approachable and supportive.  I think I am those two things.  I just need to be more assertive, decisive and authoritative.  I truly don’t care about being liked.  It’s more of a confidence thing.

The best managers I’ve had over the years have been nice and approachable, but still commanded respect because they were clear about what they expected, and were not afraid to both delegate and to express disappointment and discipline when necessary.  I respected and liked those managers.  I strive to be like that.

It’s challenging to get on people’s cases for not getting things done sometimes because I struggle with it myself.  The job is fast paced and demanding, with CONSTANT interruptions.  But there are times when I’ve thought that I could work circles around someone and I am too gentle in telling them to pick up the pace.   Part of the reason for that is that I have a hard time relating to people who are not self-motivated like I have always been.  Many people will get work done when you give them a specific goal and check up on them.  The checking up on them is the key part for most, which I tend to lag on.  When I’m given something to do, I want to do it for my own sense of satisfaction upon completion.  I’ve had one or two associates like that in over a year as an assistant manager of a dollar store.  I’ve realized with some disillusionment, that even good workers usually need to feel that someone is watching to put the maximum into the job.  Maybe that’s fair, if they think you won’t notice either way; whether they bust their ass or slack off.  I know it’s on me as the one in charge.

People might think that being an assistant manager of a dollar store is easy, but there’s a lot more to it than meets the eye.  Like many businesses these days, discount retailers rely on minimal staff/payroll to maximize profit.  A “fast paced environment” means understaffed.  “Multi-tasking” means doing three peoples’ job (for less pay than your predecessor).

It is what it is, and I strive to do it to the best of my ability.  I feel that I am continually improving, but it’s frustrating, especially because I could be doing so much more.  I lacked support or guidance when I was younger.  (See Father’s Day post)  but I’m not blaming disappointments in life on my parents.  The choices I made and actions I took, or didn’t take, are mine to own.  That’s what keeps me going.  If I blamed everything on others, I’d be bogged down in self pity and bitterness.

So, I do the best I can where I am while looking ahead and trying to plan for the future.  That’s all anyone can do.