Thursday, March 28, 2013

Love and The Decision

Someday, at some point in our lives, we have to make a decision about how we continue with the time we
have left. We have reached a point that things need to change . We have to leave the past behind. We begin in new directions.

Pain, on some level, brings us to this place. Pain brings dissatisfaction and discomfort. We look at our life, even little parts of it, and we need to truly decide that we will make this change. From losing weight to changing careers, our discomfort in any part of our lives moves us into the decision to make our lives different.

For the record, I have never liked the tone of this concept. I always felt that if you had to “make a decision” about something you had to do something unpleasant. “Make a decision” sounds a little too much like “stand up straight” “take out the garbage” and “do your homework.” When somebody tells me that you have to “make a decision” in order to get your life on track, I feel I'd really rather not. I'd much prefer a decision come to me instead of me coming to it. I am more of a “wait for circumstances to change” kind of a guy. I want things to effect me. I'm not the guy that effects things.

And yet: I know that there is a force within us that leads us to activate change. And it truly exists in the heart of the decision. We decide about this thing or that since about the age of two. Usually, at that time, our decision making prowess comes out of us in toddler sized fits of rage over how you hate peas or don't want to go to bed. These are decisions. Impulsive as they may be and not really helped by a developed process of thought, these really are decisions.

I mention this because you're used to making them about everything, every day, from the mundane to the pretty important. They come automatically and, in many cases, reflexively. They tend to bypass the thought process. You don't have to decide to brush your teeth, drink your coffee and go to the bathroom. Many of these decisions are just part of our routine, about who we are.

So when we reach a point where we need to put the past behind us and begin something new, the decision we make is not equivalent to whether I should wear a blue shirt or eat chicken for dinner . There is more considered risk. You are basing your decision on moving away from the old. You are deciding to move against the things you've been doing and moreover, deciding to move away from the person you've been.

You are, then, deciding on becoming the person you wish to be. You are deciding on honoring the essence of what you see as important, as vital, and as good. You are beginning a new life, charting this new path and, as the brilliant author and teacher Joseph Campbell once said, following your bliss.

Go fearlessly into the future. Now is truly the time. Set your shoulders, take a deep breath and begin. Make every day a day that you do one more thing to follow your new path. This is such a short trip. Decide today to be let go of the person you've been and become the person you've always wanted to be.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Love and April Fool's
I have never been a big fan of April Fool's Day. I never thought I was that big of a jerk. You know the kind I mean: the ones that will put the thumbtack on your seat, the bucket over the door, or the glue on the toilet paper. The ones that will stand back and wait for you to scream out in pain or freeze in catatonic shock, then drop into fits of uncontrolled laughter at your expense.

And I did use the word “jerk” in describing those who pull of these kinds of stunts. Maybe I'm overstating their character just a little, so let me put it in this context. The behavior that results in putting somebody else through even a little pain so that you benefit is at least shortsighted and, if you just call it as it is, it's a little cold. You may not go through your life being a jerk but, if you really get into that kind of humor, you might be sliding toward the dark end of the “jerk” scale. You might want to look at that.

I just don't get it. I never have. I was never able to see the humor in somebody else's pain. I never really got slapstick humor and when I was a kid. I don't like to watch people being hit, scared, tripped, or pushed. Seeing somebody get hurt always made me wince. It didn't register with me why others would get pleasure out of that. And I absolutely never understood why somebody would laugh at someone else's pain.

I don't want to sound overly serious. I think I have a pretty good sense of humor. I generally look at life with a smile on my face, or at least I try. But when I see somebody hurt, my first impulse is to ask them if they need help. I have never felt the urge to laugh.

So when I see April Fool's Day coming around the corner, I'm bothered. I don't look forward to witnessing the pranks pulled on others. I don't like to see the anxiety associated with the manufactured fear then the relief that come when the fear has passed. There is very little good that comes from this when you're the one being made to look the fool. When it's you that's receiving the pain, April Fool's isn't funny.

So I would ask that, this time around, be mindful of the feelings of others. I know it sounds a little bland, and I don't mean to. I actually do laugh, a lot, and sometimes frequently. I just don't laugh when pain is deliberately inflicted to someone else. That whole “do unto others” thing cuts down on that.

Enjoy the day as it is any other. It's the start of a new month. Maybe this might be a good idea to make a monthly resolution. For April, resolve to cause no one any pain. And see what kind of smiles that brings to your face.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Love and St. Patrick’s Day St. Patrick’s Day is just around the corner and it is a holiday that was encrypted into my DNA. I was born and raised on the North Side of Chicago, a city with one of the largest Irish American populations in the country. So when you are given the last name of McShane in Chicago, your cultural comrades in arms number into the hundreds of thousands. Consider green your favorite color. On St. Patrick’s Day, it is the color of the Chicago river, the color of your clothes and the color of beer, the beverage of choice on this Irish day of celebration. So it humbles me to tell my listeners that, last St. Patrick’s Day, I was arrested and charged with a DWI. Driving While Intoxicated. I was jailed for the evening, picked up, and spent about five thousand dollars in legal and court fees over the next six months. As a result of this incredible lapse in judgement, I lost my job. My day job, outside of my writing and counseling, was working with a Hospice. I enjoyed that job as much as any I’ve had in the last thirty years. And because I couldn’t drive, I couldn’t see the clients from the Hospice. I was let go. Throughout the following summer, I have been looking for employment. But because I had a DWI, any job involving driving has been exempt. And, when prospective employers do a background check on my qualifications, the DWI always shows up. I understand how people, when seeing that on my driving record, think “this guy’s got a problem. He’s not worth hiring.” The courses that I participated in as part of my sentencing involved chilling statistics on the deaths, injuries and accidents that occur through drunk driving. Stories from parents that have lost their children to drunk drivers numbered in the thousands. In one class, I met three parents who suffered this unspeakable loss. Their words brought not only tears but perspective that resonated in the hollow of my heart. One day of binging in celebration could’ve cost me my life and the life of another. Instead of you listening to these words on a Sunday morning, I could’ve have easily been writing them from prison. It cost me my job, my savings, a great deal of my personal reputation, and my future. I know that you hear these messages from everywhere. I know that, like me, many of these stories seem removed from your reality. But right now, my friends, you are hearing the voice of one that dodged the bullet, that for the grace of god would be another statistic of death and tragedy on the California highways. One more guy that drank too much, got in his car, and died. I know that this space is supposed to be one of motivation and insight. Those of you who have listened or read my stuff over the years have come to expect something a little less morose. But if I any of you can pause before you take a drink and drive a car, consider your self motivated to save the life of another, including yours. Consider yourself holding the insight of consideration for the safety of yourself and thousands of others with whom you share the road. If you drive, stay sober. If you drink, stay home.