Sunday, August 17, 2014

Bees, Butterfies and Buffets

I learned about alliteration in sophomore English class when we studied Beowulf, and I was remind of that when I was thinking about a title for this post. But this post has nothing to do with Beowulf, although it was inspired by breakfast, bees, butterflies and buffets.

As we were enjoying our Sunday morning breakfast down on he patio this morning, there was a constant flurry of activity as the bees and butterflies hopped from flower to flower, sampling a taste of what each flower had to offer, then quickly moving on the another plant. It reminded me of going the "all-you-can-eat buffet" where you inevitably eat more than you should, or in most cases, need. I wondered, as I observed these insects up close, if they ever regretted going back for those extra helpings of zinnia, or bee balm, or cosmos. 

As the summer fades slowly towards autumn, their time is running short. The days are getting shorter and it won't be long before a frost warning is issued and their buffet will close for the winter. If I were one of them, I'd be going back to the buffet as often as I could and filling up my plate.

There is such beauty in the garden and in nature. Seasons come and go, each with a beginning and an end. We anticipate their arrival and mourn their ending. And like the buffet, when the season is in its fullest glory, we want all we can eat. And we never want it to end.

Beginnings and endings, with transitions in between. Such are the seasons of our lives.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

"There, but for the Grace of God,...."

Go I."

That phrase keeps ringing around in my head today since the news of the gifted comedian Robin Williams death  broke last night. Like so many others in this world I was shocked, stunned and then saddened by the news of his passing.

Does brilliance like his come with a price?

How can you make so many people laugh and be so tortured inside?

What could have been to done to avoid this senseless outcome?

I have no answers. Not going to even try to make sense of it.

The trite but true phrase, "it can happen to anyone"  is often heard at times like these. I take that to mean it doesn't matter how smart you are, or how much money you have, or how many people love you or any other virtues or assets you might have, when the world closes in and the darkness engulfs you and the pain is too unrelenting.......

I know this. It could have happened to me.

I was at a low place. Overwhelmed, lethargic, no longer able to medicate my feelings, trying to learn how to live life on life's terms. Feeling sorry for myself, feeling unlovable, feeling broken and worthless.

Yes, it was irrational. There was evidence all around me that was contrary to what I felt. At times I could move towards it, then it seemed to slip away and I didn't have the energy to chase it.

The days got longer. All I wanted to do was sleep. Thoughts of running away became pervasive.

And then I found myself sitting in the backseat of the car, down in the garage one evening. Sitting and wondering what would happen if I just started the engine. Would I fall asleep? Would I realize  how close I was before it was too close?

This was not how I wanted to leave this world. Not yet. I got out and went upstairs. The next day I called my therapist and made a confession. And it was at that time that I began to move forward into the light.

That was a long time ago.

I was more fortunate than many. My depression was short lived. It responded well to treatment. It hasn't returned.  What does return is the memory of that time and place and it returned again yesterday when the news of Robin Williams death became public.

There, but for the grace of God, go I.

I've heard believers and non-believers use that phrase. I'm a believer, although I know little about the Bible, don't attend church and claim no religious affiliation. I simply believe in a God.  I guess you could say I have faith.

What that phrase means to me is this: It does not mean that someone who takes their own life is without God's grace. Or that I have more grace thus I was spared.

For me, it means that I can find no other explanation other than the grace of God that saved me from a similar fate.  I understand it as a statement of the deepest humility. It is a simple, thankful recognition of God's inexplicable grace. It is a statement that leads me to compassion and forgiveness.

My personal belief is that depression, in it's most severe state, takes away our human choice. For to be human is to want to live. And a person who takes the action to end their own life is no longer in control of their own actions. At that point in time, the disease has taken over.

For those left on this earth after a loved one takes their life, there is incredible hurt and anger. It seems such a selfish, self-centered thing to do. 21 years ago I escorted 2 of my nieces to their father's funeral and stood next to them on the altar as they read letters of good-bye to him. Bob was a life long friend and my brother-in-law. It made no sense to me then and it makes no sense to me now.

Today, I'm even more aware of the power of grace in my life. And my hope for all of us here on this earth is that we will be a bit more graceful with each other because of the gifts that Robin Williams shared with  us.

That is the least we can do.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

A Slight Change in Focus

If you are a regular reader of my blog the past 12 months, you might notice that the title and web address of the blog has changed.

Why the change?

I began blogging back in 2007 at the suggestion of a colleague. I titled the blog "Funk, Flowers and Fun"- a weak attempt to use alliteration to create a theme. That initial attempt at blogging resulted in about 15 random posts written over the course of a year that no one read. And I mean that quite literally. Probably because I did nothing to market or promote the blog.

Then in January of 2013, I started over after deleting all of the unread material from 2007. A fresh start with a new focus and new material. 

I titled the blog, "Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart" which I took from a book by that name, a collection of essays on how to live a good life written by a psychiatrist.  I suppose that makes me a plagiarist. In the initial post of the newly launched blog I mused about the blog's theme:

"Did I grow old too soon? Did I fail to learn along the way?  I don't think so. That's my 2013 answer. Easier to say at 60 than at 30, or 40, or even 50."

I even chose "oldguyramblings" as the URL for the blog. Seemed harmless enough.

And off I went. 8 posts written between January and April and this time I actually shared the blog-I posted it on my Facebook page and a few people started to read it. 

But then the blog went dormant again. Nothing written or posted between April and July.

What happened next was more than a stroke of good luck. In August of 2013, a writer, Jon Katz, whose blog "Bedlam Farm" I had been following for some time, came up with the idea to sponsor a Facebook Group for encouragement and creative expression-a place where people could post their good stuff like blogs, poems, picture, art works and other creative endeavors. I jumped right in and started posting my blog on the "Open Group for Bedlam Farm". And to date, I've posted over 60 blog entries, numerous photos and many, many comments of encouragement and feedback to the other members of the group.

I heard a wise man once say that "audiences create performances". Boy do they ever.

I'll admit to being more than slightly intimidated when I first began sharing my work there. After all, there is some serious writing talent out there, say nothing for the sponsor of the group, Jon Katz, who has published best-sellers and is widely read. I felt like I was back in 9th grade Advanced Placement English class with all the smart kids thinking "how did I get here?".

It has been a fun and rewarding year creating and supporting the efforts of a community of artists. Many have become on-line friends. My blog posts have been read nearly 10,000 times. And recently the group was re-named the "Creative Group at Bedlam Farm".

Which brings me back to the new title of my blog. 

While it is a goal of mine to not take myself too seriously, I got to think of about the stage of life I am entering and how growing older in our world is portrayed. 

It happened when I saw an advertisement for a product the other day that was marketed as "an anti-aging" product.  It got me to think-"Why are we against aging?" 

Again, not wanting to take my self too seriously, I'm not ready to launch an all out war on everything that leads us to the fountain of youth. What I can do is live my life well as I age gracefully.

Rather than focus on my limitations, I will focus on my strengths.
Rather than bemoan the ways of the young, I will embrace their energy and inventiveness.
Rather than push back against change in the world, I will find my place within the change.
Rather than aging awkwardly or feebly, I will age gracefully.

I am not anti-aging. I am for aging. Gracefully.

My blog is now titled "Aging Gracefully-Musings on a Life Well Lived".

And I am not a rambling old guy either. Thus, I changed the URL for the blog to 

Thanks for reading, now I need to take a nap.