Best Efforts

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August 10, 2022- In the midst of the confluence between the first COVID outbreak and the hurricane season, two years ago, I found myself on the floor of a large congregate hurricane shelter, in Alexandria, LA. I had been getting messages about that city, for about two months, so it came as no surprise that the Red Cross sent me there. What was surprising was that I managed to be on the floor, in constant motion, helping a variety of people with sometimes complicated concerns, for up to nine hours-and being able to wind down, getting enough sleep for the next day’s activities. There were no full days of rest allowed, though we did get up to three hours off, on one day of our choice during this two-week period. This was mainly because of the Shelter Manager’s assessment of the situation, which was not all that far off the mark. It was probably the most physically intense event that any of us had worked.

I was given a high rating on performance of duties, for that assignment. Even if that had not been the case, it would not have mattered much. I did my level best and felt that I had. No one else’s opinion really mattered, though the clients, who were mostly lower middle class people, of white, black and Hispanic descent, gave me a hearty thanks. That felt good.

Don Miguel Ruiz, in the fifth chapter of “The Four Agreements”, casts the agreement to do one’s best, across situations and physical states, as the prerequisite to overcoming the failure to keep one’s word, the tendency to take things personally and the making of assumptions. Since the latter three are themselves derived from self-doubt, and are only fed by the negative energy of others, the mindset that one has done one’s best diverts from such self-defeating practices. It sets the stage for a new set of agreements, which are proactive in building a world based on true personal inner peace and positive relationships.

The Universe, almost in keeping with the spirit that welled up in me, after I read that chapter, provided work for tomorrow, three substitute assignments for next week and a social gathering, across the state, on Saturday evening. The respite of about ten days has been sufficient and it will be reaffirming to be back in service.

Now, I need to put the trash out.

Flagellation

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July 15, 2022, Amarillo- The young lady had to be coaxed out of the women’s restroom, by her supervisor. Not knowing her situation, and seeing that it was none of my business, I just sat patiently and waited to place my order. Of course, had it been another twenty minutes, I’d have paid for my beverage and left, but there is a certain period of time that one can use for the exercise of patience.

Many of us, myself included, have variously been given to fits of beating ourselves up and being fearful of other people, who may or may not represent a danger. Most of the time, I have found that, in the first instance, a course correction is far preferable to self-flagellation. In the second case, a mix of fortitude and prudence carries the day.

The woman mentioned above seemed to lack self-confidence, and had to pull herself together to do the basic task of taking an order for a meal. She managed, as millions of us before her have managed, by just taking a few deep breaths and going forward. There simply would have been no other way, other than fleeing back into a “safe haven”, which probably would have cost her that job. My meal was competently delivered, as was the bill, once I had finished eating.

Truth be known, there have been all too many instances, in which I have timidly approached tasks which thousands, if not millions, of others have done-and done well, over the millennia, or at least over the past hundred years. Novel tasks also crop up, regularly, thanks to advances in science and technology-and I have looked at them gingerly, as well. A very small part of this has been because of people in my life who have cast doubt on my ability to walk and chew gum, simultaneously. About seven years ago, though, having come back from a visit to Europe and having managed to not get thrown in jail, or out of any given country, it really started to occur to me that just maybe sometimes the Boo-Birds in my life were wrong-deflecting and projecting their self-doubts onto little old me.

Then, I started to look at my life in its totality, up to that point. All the things I’d done right came flooding into my consciousness-and many of them were things that I would only have messed up by overthinking, or by wondering-“What would — do?” Some were huge things; most were small matters that just added up. I am now in the last stages of the longest road journey I’ve ever undertaken on my own, in a solid motor vehicle that some questioned would even make it to the halfway point. (It did, and there was the moderate maintenance that one would expect of ANY vehicle.) Newfoundland, and all points in between, were worth it. The affirmations I have received, from people who know cars better than I do, far outweigh the aspersions cast by those who doubt my abilities, or my judgement.

I hope young V is able to cast out her own demons. She did well tonight, in spite of her doubts and fears.

Alpha/Omega

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April 2, 2021- Every so often, I get a reminder about the commitment that I, as “an American of some affluence”, must have towards the poor of other parts of the world. It usually comes in the form of a veiled demand, but is at least offered with good wishes for my health and well-being. That stands to reason, as a sick person would hardly be able to offer anything to others.

My dealings with people who primarily view the world through a transactional lens are, of necessity, getting more and more limited. Even among those businesses I frequent, I regard the people therein as friends first, and means to an end second. One example is a local family restaurant, Zeke’s, where I sit at the counter, gab with the wait staff and other patrons, and comment freely on goings on. The same is true of Rafter Eleven, Synergy and, to a lesser extent, The Raven Cafe. It is increasingly true in the schools where I am taking on special assignments until the end of May.

My circle of friends trends larger these days, even with-and in some cases because of-virtual connections. The first and last, alpha/omega if you will, is compassion based on love. Those whose primary focus is transactional have a hard time seeing this-and there was a time when part of me was there. Much of my standoffishness had to do with lack of self-confidence, and a degree of self-loathing, as if I were not “good enough” for others. I suspect that is true of those who behave in this manner now. More’s the pity.

There is, to a good extent, the notion that failure to thrive is a Catch 22, a vicious circle. That realization came to me, about four months after I met Penny, back in 1981. Gradually, over several decades, the self-doubt has fallen away-so that even in the most harrowing of circumstances, the faint light has been in view.

I thought of this today, as the Mystery of Alpha/Omega from 33 A.D.: The Passion of Jesus the Christ, plays out in the minds and hearts of millions across the planet. His basis for everything was compassion, rooted in love.

The Road to 65, Mile 355: Positivity About Myself

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November 18, 2015, Chino Valley- I have a long history of self- doubt and second guessing.  My late wife had just about cured me of these, when her disease took her to the Spirit Realm, five years ago, next March.  On my own, since, I have had to face myself and look at the smiling, approving people in my life, while looking past the stern-faced ones.  The biggest task is letting myself be among the former.

It was a bit tough, this evening, after a good, productive but tiring day, to face a meeting with people who were stern-faced and all business.  I got it done, though I had to get hold of myself, as doubt began to slip back in. Rule Number One, anymore, is not to let detractors get a sense of any vulnerability I might feel.

So, here are three positives about me, which no one can take away.  First:  I am committed to bringing peace, safety and tranquility to the lives of children and other vulnerable people in my life.  Second, I am doing better at taking the time to get my tasks done properly.  Third, I take a larger view of things, so what I can do to help the wider society, in reaching its legitimate goals, is well-worth any personal sacrifice.

I am believing more in my abilities, every morning I have the honour of waking.