Poem – we were raised by an incompetent bully

Both of the days when we were
gone are in my head.
We were raised by an incompetent bully.

Perhaps that is redundant.
Perhaps he was incompetent at being a bully
so that means he wasn’t that bad
after all.

But then, we were young
and together
and that was all that mattered
to us.

We were alone, together
wild eyed, barefoot
screaming, and mute.
But we were happy
because we didn’t know enough
to know we should be miserable.

Perhaps that is the secret.
Don’t compare.

It is always Friday

There was a great sci-fi series called Farscape. There was an episode in the first season called “Thank God it’s Friday…Again”. In it, the residents of the planet were drugged into working every day. Every day they were told that the next day was going to be a “rest period”. Every day they worked joyfully, and then they partied at night. Then they would get up again and work hard in the fields again, thinking it was Friday, again.

It was genius, really. Convince them that they were almost there.

It was the carrot just out of reach.

It was the Promised Land.

It was retirement.

It was a vacation.

They were always living for some other time, some time other than when they were right then. They were happy because they were about to rest, but the rest never came. They were getting exhausted because they never really got to rest. They were duped by a society that drugged them into compliance.

Sound familiar?

Our society teaches us this. We are taught to live for the future. We are taught that there is a mythical tomorrow where everything is going to be better and brighter and happier. We are drugged by television “reality” shows and five hour energy drinks. We are drugged by too much of the wrong kind of food. We are drugged by ads that tell us “you deserve this”. We are drugged all the time and we don’t even know it.

I’ve heard of prisoners who were taught to meditate. They were taught not to focus on their lives that they imagined were going to be like once they were released. They were taught not to focus on what they had done to get in prison. They were taught to just be, in the moment, right then. Just feel the feelings that are happening right now.

We are all in prison and we don’t even know it. There is a prison without walls. It is the prison of culture that tells us that we aren’t good enough, and beautiful enough, not smart enough. It tells us that we simply just aren’t enough, no matter what.

We can do the same meditation the prisoners do. We can be, right here, feeling our feelings right now. We’ve been taught to run away from our feelings, from ourselves, from our lives. We spend so much time living in the past or the future that we never spend time actually in the now. Now is all we have.

So it isn’t Friday. It isn’t even Thursday. It is Monday, or Tuesday, and you aren’t there yet. It isn’t retirement. It is just your third year on the job, and you’ve got at least 20 more to go. It isn’t the Bahamas, it is the Bronx.

Be here now. Be right here. If you aren’t happy where you are, then you won’t be happy there either. If you don’t appreciate what you have, then why would you appreciate what you are going to get?

Stop living for the future. It never comes. When you get to the future that you’ve dreamed of, you’ll have spent so much of your life living in a fantasy that you won’t know how to just be in the moment, right then. It is better to start just being in the moment. Practice now.

Today is your “rest period”. What you have now is now. Enjoy it. Even if you are at work. Even if you are in a miserable marriage. Even if you are sick.

Be. Now. Here.

Be NowHere.


Verbal aikido – not engaging in the fight means you win

Nothing drives an angry person more up the wall than refusing to fight or be indignant with them.

I remember a time when I saw two homeless guys sitting on a bench. I was walking back from getting lunch at a barbecue place when I worked at the Chattanooga Choo Choo. One of the guys was black and one was white. They were doing fine, and then they started arguing, and one hit the other. I told them that they needed to make peace. I pointed out that they were friends (or at least friends enough to sit together in the first place) and they didn’t need to fight. They agreed, but then a little later the white guy got up, sidled up to me and started saying something racist. I didn’t agree with him – I’m on the side of peace. It has nothing to do with race.

He thought I was going to agree with him because I am white. He thought I’d be on his side. He was very frustrated that I wasn’t on his team.

A lady came into the library recently and complained about the lack of parking there that day. I told her there was a job fair going on next door. She said – so they have to park here? I said that lot is now full, and they are parking here now. She was still upset. I pointed out that this number of people going to a job fair just shows how desperate people are for jobs.

I was trying to get her to have some compassion, but it didn’t work.

She said that there are a lot of other places that have more unemployment.

This means nothing. Pain is pain, no matter where it is, or the amount of it. Just because another city has more unemployment doesn’t mean that the need isn’t great here. Her comment makes no sense. Really, she was just saying that she was inconvenienced.

Her inconvenience is nothing in relation to their need.

I could tell that she wanted me to get upset right along with her, and I wasn’t. I wasn’t freaking out at all. It isn’t “our” parking lot that “they” are taking.

I’ve also learned that one of the most amazing things you can do to someone who is angry at you personally (not at a situation) is to ask them to pray for you.

A lady came in once and asked me if we had a vending machine. I pointed out that we don’t have a vending machine because we are a library and you can’t eat or drink in here. She got very upset with me and started cursing at me. She finished by saying that she was a Christian.

I’m so glad that she told me because I would never have known based on her actions.

So I asked her to pray for me, and she immediately calmed down. It was like taking the wind out of her sails. How can you get angry at someone you are praying for?

I refused to get to where she wanted me to be.

This is all like verbal aikido.

Remember the phrase – if you wrestle with a pig, you’ll both get dirty, but the pig will have more fun.


There is an advantage in being disadvantaged.

Remember the story of the tortoise and the hare? The tortoise won because he kept going. The hare thought he had it made, so he didn’t try.

I see so many American parents not take the time to shape their children. They let them read or watch whatever they want, and it never is educational. They don’t take the time to work with them.

Then there are the foreign parents. They are getting educational materials for their children, even the toddlers. Their kids are expected to learn, and learn they do.

The problem? “We’re number one!”

We aren’t. We are number one in complacency and in blaming other people for our problems. We may not be number one in unplanned pregnancies, but we are far higher than any other developed nation. Our ratio of spending for military versus education is ridiculous. We may be number one in that.

This is not something to be proud of.

We think we are the best, so we don’t try. We don’t educate ourselves or our children in any real way. We teach them to pass tests, not to think.

Being second means you try harder. Being first means you rest on your laurels. Or pound your chest.