Total Pageviews

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Moving On With Awareness

Hey All. 

As discussed on Wednesday, this past week was Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement.  Along with refraining from eating, drinking, and other activities normally taken for granted, Jews are encouraged to atone for their sins, perform acts of kindness and righteousness, and to find ways to avoid repeating the same mistakes.

Those of you who have been to services in synagogue on that holiday know that it's quite long and repetitive.  It's not designed that way because there's a test later, or because some snooty hall monitor wants to make sure you're following along with every word.  My understanding is that it's meant to provide a background for direct communication between ourselves and the Almighty.

So during that period of communication, I not only asked for forgiveness for my slips and foul-ups, I asked for a roap map, or a guide-post, to see how I could reduce, if not eliminate, further instances of what I'd done.  And wouldn't you know it, I received an answer.

The worst sins I committed this past year were not against other people, but against myself.  I'd been guilty of holding onto anger, worry, fear, and stress long after the causes of these feelings had disappeared or become resolved.  This is the equivalent of neglecting to remove trash from a full receptacle.  Too much buildup that can only be destructive (anyone seen "Hoarders" lately?)

The sad thing is, I'd blogged against this practice of psychological self-mutilation many times, but was guilty of doing the same thing myself.  So what was the way to avoid this?  Simple commitment and practice.

As my father still likes to remind my sister and I, our minds sometimes wander on their own, but we are able to control this wandering.  We can decide what thoughts occupy space in our heads, but when we don't, our minds will repetitively regurgitate thoughts that will never give us a moment's peace.  

So in that spirit, here's the guidepost I received:

(1) If the situation is still ongoing, do whatever is necessary to resolve it.
(2) If it is finished, or nothing can be done to resolve it, cease thinking about it.
(3) If at first you can't stop thinking about it, actively concentrate on other matters.

Not an easy task, but I know that life will be infinitely better if it's done.  The key is to practice it every time a negative thought rears its head.  After that's done enough times, it will hopefully replace the former stress out/stay angry/stay worried/stay paranoid/stay hopeless-and-then-find-out-it-was-nothing-in-the-first-place practice that traps us far too often.  And let's face it, having that reaction is just as bad as that kid who pulls a fire alarm when there's not really a fire.  Creates a whole crazy scenario that was completely unnecessary!

Well, it's been less than a week, but I have been attempting to put it into practice.  Yeah, sometimes an issue at work will enter my thoughts on the weekend when I'm not working, but if I can't think up a solution to the problem right then and there, and email or text a note to myself to fix it on Monday, then I get busy and active doing anything else but think about it.  Given my normal tendency to vege and chill whenever I'm able, this does not seem completely natural.  But if it gets me off of this vicious cycle, without yelling "Jane stop this crazy thing" like George Jetson, then so be it.  :)

That doesn't mean you get lazy and irresponsible and just blow off your work duties or family responsibilities.  It just means that there's a time and place to deal with them, and a time and place to NOT deal with them AT ALL.  A high school football team does not discuss its algebra homework in the huddle, and a business executive does not discuss his child support payments and board meetings.  Do likewise.

That's my piece, all.  Have a good Sunday night!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Record Is Closed

This evening, the 24-hour fast day of Yom Kippur came to an end.  For those who observe, this was our last chance to seek forgiveness for all wrongs we committed this year, and to ask for a chance to do it right this year.

In my profession, you usually get just once chance to make your argument or prove your case.  It's usually done "on the record," so there's always proof that you made it.  Only problem is, if you DON'T make that argument or offer of proof that you needed, and the record is CLOSED, YOU LOSE.

That means you can't bring it up for the first time on appeal -- can't sneak anything past judges at that level, for sure!

Well, I thought I covered everything as I was in temple last night and today, and made most of my peace with G-D.  However, during the course of the day, I did get a little curt and short with someone that I should not have.  I'm feeling a bit low about that, but the holiday is over.

That being said, the liturgy of this day says that the only atonement granted is for sins between you and G-D, which He is most likely to forgive.  Sins committed between you and other people?  You're on your own.

So, without bringing up any names or places, I would like to let this individual, who is a Facebook friend, know that I was wrong and I'm sorry.  I have no idea whether this person is in a forgiving mood, but I'm being sincere.

Of course, per my September 16, 2012 re-post, the ball would be in that person's court now.  If he/she is too good and full of themselves to accept my apology, my obligation ends.  By the way, this is why some people will tell you that NOT apologizing gets more respect than apologizing.  Far too many people see contrition as an act of weakness and groveling, and it emboldens them to rub it in the penitent one's face.

Accordingly, if my sincere entreaty is not accepted, then as far as I'm concerned, it's withdrawn, and my transgression is absolved.  It takes guts to admit that you made a mistake and you want forgiveness, but it takes little more than human decency to grant that forgiveness -- we're all human, after all.

Too big to forgive?  Take a gander at the book of Jonah, the lamest prophet in the Bible.  Went out of his way disobey G-D's own directive because he didn't want to see a whole nation of sinners forgiven.  Much to his chagrin, they did request atonement most sincerely, and it was granted over his objection, and G-D took the opportunity to rub it in Jonah's face so he'd finally learn!  Even after living in a whale's (or fish's) stomach for three days, the smell of the brine and seaweed did not alert him to the fact that forgiveness is available to all those who ask for it, and that nobody is so big to judge others not to forgive (except the Nazis, they'll never deserve it).

So now that the record is closed, and all is said and done -- I am sorry, but if I'm not forgiven, there's no real need to be.

Comment, y'all!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Victorious Video!

Now That Felt Good!

Hey All, it's Sunday night!

Today, I had pretty good race.  Ran in the 18-Mile Tune-Up at Central Park, and wasn't sure how I'd do.  Last week I tried to do 16 miles on my own crossing the Queensborough Bridge and back, but good old MapMyRun just wasn't cooperating that day.  Got a big fat "Auto-Pause" instead of an accurate tracking, so I couldn't really gauge how I did.

Today, however, felt different.  This was three loops of the big 6-mile loop of Central Park, including Harlem Hill!  I tried to start out slow and relaxed, but I fell in with a chatty bunch, including a pace group leader for other races who had a million stories to tell, and wound up doing a 9-minute pace along with them.  I worried whether I was wasting what I'd need for the end, and then took a mint chocolate chip Gu with a Powerade chaser as I began the second loop at Mile 6.  That sent a few bursts of energy through me, and I found myself coming close to 8-minute splits.  After a while, I just dialed in that pace and stayed with it as long as I could, although that second Gu at Mile 12 didn't hurt matters.  Towards the end, I felt myself slowing a tiny bit, but I reminded myself that the finish line was near.  Right on cue, I came within range of the PA system, reminding the runners still competing to stay in the rec lanes on the left side of the road and leave the rest of the park to everyone else.  Lady, you can remind us all you want, I'm coming in for the home stretch!  So as soon as I saw the turn on the 102nd Street transverse, I booked it!

Met up with that chatty bunch later, and we compared "gun times," and extrapolated them to likely marathon times.  Mine was 2:34, and I was pretty happy with that, but I wanted to wait until the "chip time" was available before logging it with good old MapMyRun.  After I did, and posted it on Facebook, I got a lot of likes and comments that made me smile!  :)

I'd like to thank everybody for the congrats and accolades, but this isn't the end by any means.  The first Sunday in November, I've gotta stare down 26.2 miles on a journey through the Five Boroughs of NYC.  So in between then and now, I've gotta do at least one 20-miler on my own, and then taper down.  I'll keep you all posted, of course.

But it's not all about me, you understand.  Another triumph today was that of a good friend of mine who competed in a duathlon outside Buffalo, and placed second in her age group!  As a prize, she was awarded a snazzy-jazzy plate specifically designated for second place in her age group, and a free jar of peanut butter, LOL!  I still think they should switch to Nutella, but that's just me.  :)

Either way you slice it, this really is a good way to start the New Year that many of my tribespeople are celebrating.  I've talked a little bit about new beginnings, about starting classes at a metaphorical new school, and making changes in life.  This race was one good way to get a jump-start on that, as I needed a little boost of confidence to get started on all of those things.  I hope to ride these new changes all the way to Marathon Sunday and beyond, and in other senses besides running.  This year I'm also going to be re-kindling old friendships, making new ones, and making vast improvements and overhauls to this part-time hobby I call my blog.  To the extent I can't see what can be done to make it better now, I plan to enlist expert opinions of those who know how to make these things successes, and continue to make great connections and spread a little extra confidence, self-esteem, and good old-fashioned happiness to all who read it.

Back to work tomorrow, peeps!  Monday awaits . . . .  :)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

A New Year With a Repost!

Hey All --

Since many of you might have missed last year's post regarding the Jewish New Year and the Ten Days of Awe.  So, in honor of this holiday, here is last year's post, with a few edits, and some emphasis added for good measure.


Some of you may be aware that this week is the Jewish New Year, and next week is the Day of Atonement.  This is the time of year when many devout Jews take into account their deeds and misdeeds, their successes and failures, and their strengths and weaknesses.  Many of you might not celebrate these holidays, but what I've got to say about it may be worth a read.

During the Ten Days of Awe, G-D is said to take into account each person's conduct throughout the prior year, and to decide what consequences he or she will or may not experience as a result of that conduct.  It is implied that if we've done wrong, we may face a comeuppance.  However, the liturgy of these days states that "Prayer, Righteousness, and Repentance avert (or lessen, depending on the translation) the severe decree."

You've seen me blog about misdeeds before.  The Four Principles tell us that we Exist, Matter, Belong, and Deserve, but they don't tell us that we're perfect.  Unless one of you is a divine super-being from another world, and chose not to enlighten me to this fact, then it's pretty obvious that we've all made mistakes this past year.  We've all opened our mouths and put our feet in them.  We've all forgotten things we should have remembered, and obsessed over things that were completely irrelevant, to our detriment.  We've all gotten too big for our britches and put our own desires over others' needs.  And we've all gotten so incensed in the heat of a disagreement, that we've done or said things that should not have been done or said, and can't be taken back.

The liturgy gives us a road map that might persuade the Almighty to grant us forgiveness:

PRAYER -- this can take many forms.  For those who are traditional, this could mean attending morning synagogue services and wearing tefillin as a "sign upon your hand and as frontlets between your eyes (see Deuteronomy Chapter 6)."  Or maybe going to church, mass, temple or mosque, and reciting the appropriate supplications seeking forgiveness.  Or maybe just finding a quiet park bench, overlooking a lake, and seeking a personal connection with G-D.

There's no one sure-fire request to make of the Holy One, but I would borrow the recommendation a good friend of mine once made.  Think of how it feels when you're with a good friend, you tell a joke, and your friend laughs.  If you can go to the park bench described above, and you can sense that a good friend is already there, listening to you, you may have already made the connection.  Depending on your surroundings, either out loud or silently, just ask for it.  Ask to be forgiven.  Admit that you're only limited, and did the wrong thing, and that you want another chance.  There can never be any assurance of what the outcome will be, but if you don't ask, it's guaranteed you won't get.

RIGHTEOUSNESS -- this is a concerted effort to do the opposite of whatever mistakes you made last year.  Did you zag when you should have zigged?  Zig and zig hard.  Did you forget too many details?  Plug some notes into your smartphone so you'll remember.  Did you chew out a subordinate at work?  PRAISE your subordinates and praise them well.

Did you insult someone just because you thought they were weaker or dumber than you?  Make respect and honor your watchwords, because you won't get as many free passes as you think you will.  

This part is separate from the prayer component because most of us don't need guidance to know right from wrong.  Most of the time, we just know.  Abraham knew that it was wrong to try to kill his son Isaac.  However, because he received a commandment from on high, and didn't know where He was going with it, Abraham didn't have the gumption to refuse.  Many of us have found ourselves in that predicament because someone "cool" wanted us to do something that wasn't.  Righteousness means standing up to those who would have you do the wrong thing, consequences be damned, and saying NO.

REPENTANCE -- this is the tough part.  This means admitting to someone other than G-D that you wronged them, and promising not to go that route again.  Only problem is, to borrow a cliche from several action movies, G-D forgives, but many people don't.  Some of them see repentance as a sign of weakness, and an invitation to browbeat, to upbraid, to rub salt in wounds, to take advantage, and to put you down in order to make themselves look more righteous than they really are.

Several of you have been reading my post from September 19, 2010 on New Day, entitled "The Fast He Wanted," which contains an even more concrete example of a refusal to forgive.  Here's the link, for those who haven't yet read it:

This is where the 24-hour Statute of Limitations can be used as a buffer.  Chances are, the bastion of self-righteousness that you're now facing didn't tell you that you'd offended them until days, months, or weeks had passed.  This means that any claim they once had against you is waived.  This means that you do not need to feel guilty over what they perceive to have occurred, and you are under no obligation to apologize.  However, to comply with the three steps outlined above, and just because it's good to "be a mensch," you must still apologize if you know you've done wrong.

The 24-hour Statute of Limitations does not prevent you from repenting for your sins if you choose to do so.  It does, however, bar the allegedly aggrieved from attacking you further, because they didn't timely state their claim.  And if they do choose to attack you at a moment of contrition, any obligation you may have felt to apologize and make whole evaporates.  That's right.  Their claim was waived ab initio, you tried to make good on it anyway, and they tried to take advantage of your good nature to state a claim untimely.  People who do that are completely undeserving of repentance, and over time, they'll learn that the hard way.

As for those who were timely, but are less callous and more accepting, don't let them down.  REALLY make good on whatever ails them.  Don't just say you're sorry, show you're sorry.  By money, by deeds, by actions, whatever it is, make them whole.  Even if you can't completely make them whole, your efforts and your intentions will be golden, and they will respect you for it.  And they themselves will be golden by their choice to forgive!

The reading of the Prophets for the Second Day of Rosh Hashanah comes from Chapter 31 of the Book of Jeremiah.  In that passage, Israel is compared to Rachel weeping for her departed children, and G-D tells her to stop her weeping, because her work will be rewarded, and Israel will be forgiven for its sins.  The message, according to some rabbis, is that as long as you have performed Prayer, Righteousness, and Repentance, there's no need to keep begging and groveling for forgiveness.  Without expressly saying so, Jeremiah is saying that G-D had his own 24-hour Statute of Limitations in those days.  Once you've said your peace go G-D, it's OK to feel free.

So let it be with you all.  Get it right with G-D, get it right with yourself, and ask to get it right with others.  Everything else should be a piece of cake!

A good holiday to those that observe.  And may those that don't observe take something good away from this week's entry.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Sunday Video

A Friendly Rivalry

Hey All --

As some of you may be aware, this weekend was Week One for the NFL.  Back to spending all day Sunday, Monday night, and sometimes Thursday night watching teams of super-developed athletes find ways to overpower, outwit, outgun, and out-man each other.

Usually this involves rivalries that get re-kindled several times each season between certain teams.  Many times, these rivalries are geographically based.  Today, Week One included a matchup between a team representing New York City and its suburbs (including Northern New Jersey), and one representing Buffalo and its suburbs -- a classic battle between Upstate and Downstate New York!

Since I actually had a few other plans this afternoon that would take me away from the 4th quarter of this game (which may have been the most exciting part), I was watching the earlier portions of the game by myself.  However, it just so happens that some of my friends in Western Upstate New York had gathered at someone's house to watch that game together, exhorting the efforts of my team's opponents.  Although we were separated by more than 400 miles, through the magic of Facebook, we experienced this game together, each taking good natured jabs at the other team's painful and obvious weaknesses, and loudly celebrating each team's scoring, or successful appeal of referee calls on review (now that they happen on every other play).

Even though my team managed to win this game, and my commentary proudly reflected that, there was obviously no real malice aimed at the other team, or the city it represents, or its fans.  It was nothing more than good old-fashioned pride on display as two teams who've struggled in the AFC for many years did their best to start the season right.  And yes, this would sound better if the NFL Films guy were narrating it, but they usually save that golden voice for playoff-deciding games, conference championships, the Super Bowl, and anything deserving pain-staking, artistic slow motion.

It's only me, but maybe if there were more people out there in the blogosphere who had friends in rival cities that could virtually watch games between their two teams together, it would just make the experience that much better.  In football, this could be all season long, but in baseball, hockey, and basketball, it could easily fit into the playoff schedule.  Imagine Skyping and Facebooking with "the other side" during the Stanley Cup or the Super Bowl?  Even if it were a blowout and somebody had to mail the winning team's fans something of value, it would be a shared experience that would make the game that much better.

So let's all try to make this happen during the season whenever possible.  And better yet, if the NHL manages to take a hint from other leagues and try to avoid this looming lockout, maybe throwing in a few regular season games as shared experiences may send a message to those owners and players that too many people love the sport for them to let labor disputes tarnish it.

Feel free to comment, all!

Monday, September 3, 2012

New School Video

A New Beginning

Hi All:

Those of you with children at home know that Labor Day Weekend coincides with returning to school.  This usually means starting a new grade, getting a new teacher, or even starting over at a completely new level of education, be it middle school, high school, college or beyond.  Some of you children out there might feel somewhat nervous or anxious.  Not because there's anything bad awaiting you on the other side, but because it's new, different, and unfamiliar.  Just enough to change the foundation your world is based on, make you feel uncomfortable, and somewhat uncertain about what lies ahead.

If I could get just a little bit personal, that's exactly what's happening with me.  I won't be getting into the specifics -- yet -- but I have a new beginning this week too.  Since many of you have been reading this blog regularly, I wanted to share a few of my feelings with you.  I'd be lying if I said I wasn't scared, even a little.

This was a new beginning that I chose for myself.  I had every reason in the world to begin it, and I still have every reason in the world to make it happen.  That didn't make the decision an easy one, and it's not going to make this new beginning feel like a breeze.  If anything, it feels a lot like the first day of school . . . for a semester that's going to last the rest of my life.

This new classroom I'm occupying has different rules than the one I was in last year.  It allows more freedoms, but also requires more responsibilities.  It teaches lessons for those who are mature, in age and in attitude, but it also reminds us that these lessons originate from mistakes and misunderstandings.  It allows new opportunities to grow and learn, but it also contains reminders of opportunities that were not taken, and lost.

Ultimately, I know I'll be using this classroom to learn from those past mistakes.  This could be a classroom where I'm the star pupil, and ultimately the teacher.  A classroom where I can learn exactly what I need to make better decisions, be they life choices or "little things."  My only problem will be my memories of last year's class, how to use them, and when not to use them.

Yes, we've all crammed for tests and developed photographic memories during our scholastic careers (three days before I took the bar exam, I could quote things chapter and verse).  But in this classroom, the idea is to not be stuck and stifled by everything that was remembered.  As an old Jedi Master once tried to teach his final student, I clearly must unlearn much of what I've learned.  Not easy at all, folks.  That's because to excel in this new classroom, I can't just ingest and regurgitate black-letter rules that are never questioned or modified.  In this new academic period, I'm forced to completely overhaul my attitude about life in general.  And that means putting the past in categories that me most -- as guideposts, as reference material, as footnotes, as anecdotal evidence . . . or better yet, as shredding.  And knowing where it all belongs.  And let me tell you, that means a lot of editorial work, and even more shredding!

I've cultivated a hobby, more like a mini-career, writing these motivational messages as a modern-day part-time philosopher.  I like to remind people of life-affirming approaches to address conflict and adversity while achieving the self-actualization that sometimes eludes us.  What I say sometimes sounds deep and profound, but I still put my pants on one leg at a time, just like everyone else.  I am no guru, no master, and no sensei.  I'm still flesh and blood, I still face challenges, and I still have feelings that are all too human.  I'd like to think that by sharing some of this with you all -- only some of it now, and some of it later -- I'll get through some of those lessons better than it would by merely going it alone.

One final note -- my close relatives and friends who read this blog already know what I'm talking about, and can read between the lines.  The rest of you, being the smart cookies you are, have probably already figured it out for yourselves.  That being said, I'd rather not comment on the exact reason why I'm starting this new school until I know that it's the right time to do so.  Until then, anyone who has a question to ask, or a specific statement to make about this situation, please email me, Facebook me, or Direct Message me privately.

(ya know, when I was in my old school, I never did go out for the cross-country team -- this could be my chance to pick up that varsity letter after all those years . . . . )  :)