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Musings Opinion

Words Matter

(Image: Keflavik Airport, Iceland. Its contrast to my post struck me.)

A few years ago, I wrote a couple of blog posts about the lack of interactive and thoughtful discourse (part one & part two). I’ve been thinking about this topic again recently as I’ve watched the ability to have rational conversation deteriorate in America with little visible hope that our behavior will change in the near future. We recoil any time we hear or read something that conflicts with our worldviews. Instead of pausing to absorb the message we took in and understand where that person or group is coming from, the new “proper” response is to lash out and tell them why they are wrong. How dare someone disagree with me!

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Musings

Constants

“If you’re lost you can look and you will find me
Time after time
If you fall I will catch you, I will be waiting
Time after time” – Cyndi Lauper,
Time After Time

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Musings

Being a Good Single Friend

Post header image added mostly because 30 Rock.

I’ve been spending a fair amount of time recently thinking about the dynamics of relationships, specifically between those who are single and those who are married (or dating for a long time) and the stuff that arises in that space. The obviousness of give and take and compromising is a given, but to stop the conversation there is too simplistic. Perhaps I first need to take a closer look at myself and ask, “How am I or how can I be a good single friend? How can I best be there from where I am?”

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Musings Opinion

Single Connectivity

Featured photo: Single malt Scotch for a post from a single guy’s perspective.

The older you get, the more complicated and nuanced life becomes. Now that I’m in my prime, there are types of relationships with one another that I find become more difficult to start, build, maintain, or even understand. Many of us know or learn through experience that friendships are easier to make (and walk away from) in our younger years. Often little thought or premeditated plans are put into them. It can start with the most basic of event based coincidences like being at the same playground or being put on the same dodgeball team during gym class. From there, the smallest of sparks ignites a new friendship just like that! And for the most part, these sorts of situational-based sparked friendships are still made throughout college. As an adult, you wonder why we make it harder on ourselves. We know friendships will change. But oh how we nostalgically look back at the simpler days!

Many of our friendships are forged in the midst of being in the same place at the same time, frequently revolving around our age or place in life especially during the high school through our mid-20s. We do life together as we figure it all out in a collective confusion. These shared times and spaces create experiences that come to shape and define who we are and memories we hold onto and remember quite vividly.

Major life events are called that for a reason.  They ripple through and touch every element of yourself,  your family, and social circles. They look safe enough on the surface. Right after graduation, Will gets a job offer on the other side of the country which means you only see him during holidays. Jimmy got into that masters program which means evening classes and less time to hangout. Bobby joins a sports league which infuses your core social group with new and fun faces. Jenny starts dating Brad and as they get more serious you start calling them “Benny” or “Jed”. These choices and life moments change you, even when you’re not the one going through them. It’s always interesting to think about the impact the decisions others make affect us.

Of those events, one of the biggest is when you or your friends find significant others. Hanging out starts to feel… different. What you talk about when you’re all together starts to change. You hear the occasional “we” instead of the “I” when one of them speaks. Depending on the couple, the conversations turn to “let me see if he/she is free too” even though you were only inviting one of them. Oops.

Then dating turns to marriage. The wedding and reception day come and it’s a wonderful celebration for all. A new union is very much worth having a big party for! No matter what anyone may try to do to avoid the inevitable, those relationships take a drastic shift and will look and feel very different. There is no avoiding the winds of change.

So what do you do when life trajectories aren’t on the same path anymore and you stop sharing some common goals, interests, and perhaps most importantly, free time?

There’s a number of challenges along the way for which I have found no straightforward answer yet. How do you deal with not being as close to your best friend as you once may have been? What’s an appropriate friendship level with your friend’s spouse who you didn’t know as well before they were married? How do you handle the logistics and nuances of married friends with kids?

More questions and thoughts coming soon! Feedback and response again is welcome, whether in the comments section or privately.

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Musings

Current Status: Single and Present

The beginnings of a more public exploration into searching for and understanding connectivity

I’m not sure I’ve had any preconceived notions about what life would be like in my 30s. Well, that’s not entirely true. A long long time ago (back in my 20s), I would have told you that I would probably be married, probably have a kid or two bearing my last name and hopefully some of my better genetic and personality traits, and have a job I enjoy. If you’re keeping score, I got 1 out of 3. A .333 batting average in baseball is pretty good actually so by those standards I’m doing pretty well. For those interested, my bubble gum trading cards will be available for purchase online soon with collector’s editions available in the fall.

I am thankful that I have friends and family who don’t nag me about certain things like relationship status, to which I leave that categorized as “single and complicated.” I attribute the nag-free zone I’m in to distracting them with checking off a number of items on the “Life Stages to Hit to be Considered a Fully Grown Adult” list and with pretty photos in large canvas print format. I became a master of deflection and distraction from myself, even if some friends are finally catching on to and at identifying my schemes. These milestones, or Life Events as Facebook would have us label them, haven’t been done in any significant or specific order. But that’s OK as long as they’re done at some point, right? I got some good ones done:

  • College degree? Check.
  • Good job? Check.
  • Bought a house? Check.
  • Personal blog read by tens of people? Check!
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Musings

Listening When Interrupted

Earlier today as I was about to head out for my weekend long run, it started to drizzle. Not knowing if it was going to turn into a harder rain, I stepped back inside for a few minutes to wait it out. During that time, a good friend called to catch up and share some good news (great news, really) that is so many ways life giving and life changing. It was encouraging and a blessing to hear how after months and years of struggles and prayers, things are moving down a positive and right direction. The excitement and happiness was palpable even over the phone; energy and life was evident in him that I haven’t heard in a while.

It started recently for him one restless night as he took some time to get away and reflect. The next day, he got the news about the doctors finding a kidney donor match (yes Dave, this post is about you.) All of this gave me pause tonight as much as the light rain gave me pause from doing my run this afternoon to take some time to journal and do some reading and reflect on my own life. Schedules don’t always go according to plan, but in those moments when you’re interrupted and plans are shifted, be open and listen to what’s going on. Often it’s in those unexpected and unplanned moments that we can be changed the most.

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Musings

Our Connected World

(This post has very coincidentally been posted the same weekend as Sense8 premiering on Netflix.)

There is no shortage of commentary about how the Internet and technology has provided us connectivity to other people and how It is reshaping our world, allowing us to communicate with others whom we may have never met otherwise. While this has generally been a great advancement for humankind in spite of the rise of the Internet troll, I’ve been pondering about how our online and offline interactions and activities have great reach, both seen and unseen.

No matter how many times we say “it’s my life” or “why does what I do matter to anyone else?”, it still have immense value and absolutely matters! Regardless of who you are, everything you do influences someone or something else, often in ways we don’t recognize in and positive and negative ways.

Consider the following scenarios that are obvious and perhaps more subtly influential:

  • That day when you don’t apply yourself at work like you should could mean missing out on a new opportunity for a client or inspiring colleagues to do better.
  • Choosing to not pickup the phone and call your old friend to catch up means the difference between strengthening old bonds and letting them weaken just a little bit more.
  • Every book and article you read continually shapes your opinions and perspectives. It forms the basis for our knowledge, but we also must be careful not to fill it only with perspectives we agree with unless your goal is to have a narrow view of the world.
  • My choosing to run more inspired a friend to pick it up again and sign up for a race this past spring, along with others trying to improve their speed and stamina. All this was spurred on by a friend who a year and a half ago somehow convinced me over Indian food that I could train for and run a marathon.
  • Your decisions on who to date or marry (or later decide to divorce from) are some of the most obvious influencing acts we have on ourselves but also our circles. Bringing a new person in changes the relational dynamic. Thankfully, I’ve been fortunate to have friends who have found great spouses that I gladly also call friends. Their presence has frequently enhanced the existing friendship.On the flip side, I’ve seen and experienced the struggles when relationships fall apart or take a destructive route. The emotional turmoil of a divorce on children and relatives is not easily quantifiable in the short and long term. Or seeing the emotional & psychological aftermath of being in an abusive and hurtful relationship play out in how we interact with others for months and years to come.

I’m not saying anything earth shattering or revolutionary, but I’ve been struck by the ever connectedness of my own life as I continue to find parallels between “my worlds”. There’s lessons I need to apply across the board for the bettering of myself and everyone else around me. (Example: apply a better training schedule & routine to reading and writing/blogging similar to the discipline I use to train for a race.) Similarly, there’s probably something happening right around you that you should be paying attention to. What is that thing for you?

P.S. If you have Netflix, check out Sense8. As of this writing, I’m 3 episodes in and am really enjoying it.

Categories
Musings Opinion

Ask More Questions & Listen More

Questions

Often times I need to take a step back from everything and ask myself, “is there an overarching theme or pattern happening in my life?” It’s fascinating to see how various facets of my life are intertwined usually to teach me – and maybe the world – something.  That current “something” is that we don’t know everything. We think we do so often, assume a bit too much, and because of that often miss something critical. We must ask more questions. It is a significant step to understanding of all manners of things, especially ourselves.

At work, I try to teach and encourage those on my team and around the company to not take anything at face value. Too often someone takes a task or project request and runs with it. At surface level, everything seems straightforward. But peel back even one layer and finding out the “why” that is driving that request and you learn that on-the-surface craziness has some context and reasoning you can support – or at least acknowledge. Or you ask your client to expand on an idea and all of a sudden a great idea is sparked to take the project to a new level or a future potential issue is avoided.

In relationships, questions are the basis for learning more about other people. You know what everyone’s favorite topic is?  What they know best of course: themselves. In my life, I have had many conversations with people without uttering much beyond my name, where I’m from or live, and a gloss over of what I do. How? By continually asking questions about just about anything they want to talk about. I’m amazed by how much others like hearing their own voice. I tap into this by keeping the focus on the other person with questions crafted and carefully selected for them.  When I’m not in the mood to talk about myself, it’s a powerful deflection tactic that works on at least 80% of people I talk to (a couple close friends are on to me.)  The only problem? When I do want to share something about my life, people still like to talk about themselves even when I’m not asking them anything. This cumulatively results in only one person feeling like they are known better; often times that person is not me. It can lead to a sense of isolation or not feeling cared about.

When it comes to ourselves, how often are we asking the really tough questions in a way that results in action or real insight? The right questions can be uncomfortable to respond to. Why? Do we not ask them because we don’t care about other people or about ourselves? Or is it because we’re afraid someone will ask us about stuff we don’t want to talk about? Maybe it’s why I direct a lot of conversation focus back to other people.

One of the worst things we do is assume we know everything we need to know from work to friendships. Without questions, we are left to assume what we don’t know, and Assuming takes you to dangerous places. So don’t be too taken aback if I ask lots of questions. It means I care and I don’t want to miss something along the way.