Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Tuesdays at Forty: Overwhelmed Into Inactivity

When I was in the 7th grade, back in middle school at Scandinavian Middle School, I had a class--I think it was History--in which the teacher would assign us essay questions every day.  We would get the list of all the questions at the beginning of the week, if I remember correctly, and we'd have to turn in each day's questions on the day that they were due. You couldn't just write, verbatim, what was in the book either.  You had to write it in your own words.  I was sick one day and didn't complete the questions for that day which meant that I had to do both that day and the following day's questions when I returned.  This caused me some anxiety and I ended up being sick the next day too.  So, then I had three day's worth of questions to complete when I returned.  This made my anxiety worse and I ended up being sick AGAIN.  I went back to school the following week, hoping that the responsibility from the previous week would be ignored or forgotten.  It wasn't.  My teacher told me that I needed to complete the questions for the previous week.  More anxiety ensued.  It was a terrible cycle.  I think, by the end, I had nearly two week's worth of questions that I needed to complete.

My mom couldn't figure out why I was so sick all of the sudden.  She asked me what was going on and I, with great reluctance because I knew she'd be mad that I wasn't actually *sick*, told her.  She asked to see the list of questions; asked if I had my book; then said: "Well, you better get started.  You're not coming out of this room until it's done."  Of course, I huffed and puffed and moaned and groaned about how unfair it was but I was actually quite glad that she had put her foot down.  That meant I could no longer put it off.  I DID get those questions done.  It took me two full evenings, after school, to do so but they were done and the burden was lifted.

Why do I share this?  Because I've been kind of going through something similar.  There's been so much that I need to do, that I was overwhelmed into inactivity.  The only things that I was doing was going to work and helping out at the bookstore.  I hadn't really done anything else.  I think part of the overwhelm was that, in order to do much of it, I needed to pay for various aspects for it to get done.  The reduction in my income has caused me some stress but these things need to get done so I need to do whatever I can to get the means to pay for them.  Ironically, doing what I need to do to increase my revenue streams is on that list of things to do which was put off because of being overwhelmed by all the things that I need to do.  Are you seeing the cycle here?

So, where do I start?  With the things that don't actually cost me money to complete.  And that is where I am now.

Have you ever been overwhelmed into inactivity?

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Tuesdays at Forty: A New Normal

For the past two decades, I've had to be at work at a consistent time on a regular basis.  It was either 6, 7, or 7:30 when I was dayshift; 3pm when I was swingshift--which I haven't been on in more than a decade; or 6 or 7pm when I was on nightshift.  For a few years, there might have been a stint on graveshift and having to be at work at 11pm but that was as shortlived as swingshift.  Of course, there was that six month stint of deployment where I had to be at work by noon, but, for the past six months or so, I haven't had to be at work at any particular time.  And, for the past 3.5 months, I haven't had to be at work at all and was on vacation for much of that.

I've been home from that vacation for two weeks now.  And other than the occasional shift at my part time job, for the most part, I have no job.  Not any job like I've been accustomed to for 91% of my adult life--20 of the past 22 years, you do the math.  It's just odd.  Before, I would stress if I was up until 1 or 2am.  "Oh, shit!  I have to be at work in seven hours.  I better get to sleep." And then toss and turn all night.  Now, being up until those hours is quite the norm (it's 12:48am as I type this) and then I get up between 9 and 10am.  Every day.  Just surreal.  Even when I have to work at the part time, these hours of "awake" don't have any negative effect on my shift.  I'm kind of working swingshift when I do work so I guess that's why.  But, still, although my "awake" hours are pretty consistent, the demands on my time aren't.  Hell, there's barely any demands on my time.  

I really like this new phase.  This New Normal.  Being unshackled from a set schedule, among other demands from the previous phase, is quite awesome.

Nam Myoho Renge Kyo

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Tuesdays at Forty: Long-Traveled and Unshackled

I recently finished up two road trips, totaling more than 11,000 miles.  The first took place in the month of April and I traveled through pretty much every state south of Delaware, to include Florida and Texas (which aren't southern states, if you ask anyone who is from either of them lol).  The second was a cross-country trip that encompassed every state along the I76, I70, I80 route between Delaware and northern California.

I did learn a few things: passenger vehicle drivers are, mostly, idiots when it comes to driving around big rigs (tractor-trailers, for you eastern folks).  They seem to think that they can cut in front of an 18-wheeler and hit the brakes like it's no big deal.  They also don't realize that it really isn't safe to drive with only one car length between them and the trailer when that truck is trying to pass another truck.  Do they think that being closer make the truck drive faster?  Their sheer presence will "push" the truck faster?

I also learned that truckers, nowadays, are asshats.  I was taught the art of headlight communication at a very young age, having ridden passenger on long roadtrips with my mother, my father, and/or my grandfather.  They taught me well.  Unfortunately, it's, apparently, a lost art now.  In all my travels, these past two months, my headlight communication was acknowledged fewer than five times.  In 11,000 miles.  Do you know how many trucks I drove near in that time?  Thousands.  And fewer than five acknowledged my "Hey, it's safe to move in front of my vehicle in order to move out of the way of that douchebag who's climbing up your ass."  So rude.

My biggest "lesson" though wasn't really a lesson so much as a realization.  For 20 years, I've had to worry about fitting a specific mold: Must be this physically fit, must not have a waist larger than X, must conform to this dresscode.  For the first time in 20 years, I didn't have to fit that mold.  My first act of rebellion: I dyed my hair purple.  Bright, vibrant purple.  It has since faded to a deep plum but it was beautiful that first week.  I haven't worked out in months and I relaxed like crazy on what I ate.  As a result, there is more of me to love but, you know what: I don't have to fit into that mold any more.  I don't have to worry that I will lose a career because my waist is 41" and won't be down to the required 35.5" within a month or so.  The irony: I will probably lose it faster because I'm not stressing losing it.  I can do whatever sort of physical fitness that I want.  I don't have to run, do pushups, or situps--required elements of the AF PT test.  I can swim.  I can walk.  I can ride a bicycle.  Hell, I can just do yoga for the rest of my life, if that's what I want to do.

My time is my time.  And I can live it deliberately, making choices to do things that I want to do.  What are some things that I want to focus on?  Strengthening my faith, helping out a friend in her bookstore, and getting more involved with the local chapter of Team Red, White, & Blue.  There will also be some physical activity and eating well in my future but I don't make any specific declarations because I tend to not stick to those declarations when they're made.  I'm just going to do my best to find contentment in my life and help others do the same.

Take care!

Me, rocking my TeamRWB t-shirt.

Nam Myoho Renge Kyo

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Tuesdays at Forty: My Faith is Nichiren Buddhism

My first exposure to Buddhism, in terms of going to a gathering/meeting, was about ten years ago shortly after I arrived at Dover AFB.  An Air Force Chief told me about the group that he was a part of and I attended as his guest; but only that one time.  A few years later, a friend of mine reintroduced the idea of it when she called me a Bodhisattva of the Earth.  I was intrigued and sought to learn more.  I started attending weekly chanting sessions and felt a welcoming that I hadn't felt in a long time.

Now, I have to be honest.  I was wary of this welcoming.  I had felt something similar when I first started attending "success meetings" in mary kay.  And those turned out to be all facade--mary kay is big on "fake it 'til you make it" and I didn't want this new feeling to also be a facade as well.  One key difference between the two is that I could actually express my concerns to my Buddhism group.

Unlike the mary kay meetings, my concerns weren't dismissed or poo-poo'd away, I was allowed and encouraged to express my concerns.  The other big difference: my group didn't want anything from me; except to help me find my own personal happiness.  I didn't need to buy or sell anything.  I didn't need to recruit anyone into the group.  My attending meetings and gatherings wasn't a reflection of how successful they were but, instead, it was about my own personal growth in the faith.  As a result, I WANTED to share my journey with everyone.  I didn't have to manipulate conversations down a path to which I could share anything.  If it came up, sure, I shared but, in most cases, it was just me and my outlook that conveyed that something was different in my life.

Now, each day, I'm excited to see the growth of those whom I've introduced to the faith.  They see, like I did, that there is no judgement in the following of Nichiren Buddhism.  Through chanting, you control how you react to changes in your life and you're able to realize even more options to the decisions that come your way.  The mere act of chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo helps to center you and helps you to tune out the distractions of the day.

I offer up this clip from "What's Love Got To Do With It" to show a nugget of what is entailed in our chanting sessions:

If this post piques your interest, you can search on the SGI website for more information or search "Soka Gakkai Buddhism (local city/state)" in your favorite search engine.