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[School of Life video: “We often think that the best way to have friends is to be deeply impressive and accomplished. In fact, the route to true friendship always flows through vulnerability.”]

The Revolution Starts Here and Now

“We waste so much energy trying to cover up who we are when beneath every attitude is the want to be loved, and beneath every anger is a wound to be healed and beneath every sadness is the fear that there will not be enough time.

When we hesitate in being direct, we unknowingly slip something on, some added layer of protection that keeps us from feeling the world, and often that thin covering is the beginning of a loneliness which, if not put down, diminishes our chances of joy.

It’s like wearing gloves every time we touch something, and then, forgetting we chose to put them on, we complain that nothing feels quite real. Our challenge each day is not to get dressed to face the world but to unglove ourselves so that the doorknob feels cold and the car handle feels wet and the kiss goodbye feels like the lips of another being, soft and unrepeatable.”

–Mark Nepo

“I am a lover without a lover. I am lovely and lonely and I belong deeply to myself.”

Warsan Shire

My father and I haven’t spoken in years. And as I see friends post testaments to their dads today, I can’t help but be touched by sadness and no little envy. After the abuse and dysfunction of my childhood, it’s been a hard journey realizing that the best relationship I can have with my father is no relationship at all.

To each of you who have had painful or abusive experiences with your father, know that you’re not the only one. Fathers are human, too. And sometimes they fail spectacularly and often. It’s what we do with the aftermath of these experiences that defines who we are. Despite everything, I still love you, dad.

“Letter to a Dead Father” by Richard Shelton

Five years since you died and I am
better than I was when you were living
The years have not been wasted.
I have heard the harsh voices
of desert birds who cannot sing.
Sometimes I touch the membrane
between violence and desire
and watch it vibrate.
I learned that a man
who travels in circles
never arrives at exactly the same place.

If you could see me now
side-stepping triumph and disaster,
still waiting for you to say my son
my beloved son. If you could only see
me now, you would know I am stronger.

Death was the poorest subterfuge
you ever managed, but it was permanent.
Do you see now that fathers
who cannot love their sons
have sons who cannot love?
It was not your fault
and it was not mine. I needed
your love, but I recovered without it.
Now I no longer need anything.

“The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.” –Norman Peale

Unfortunately, this has been true for me of late. At work, I recently received some clear messages that I needed to buckle down and create a fundraising work plan to help us through a tough economic climate. (It’s rough out there for us nonprofits, let me tell you.)

And while I’m down with planning, the thought that I needed to do my work in a significantly different way…let’s just say it didn’t sit well with me at first. But enough time has passed that I realize the merit of the feedback I’d been given.

It’s come down to swallowing my pride and realizing that I don’t have all of the answers all of the time. So, while I think I’m still a pretty good nonprofit manager, it doesn’t mean that I can’t be better still.

The Norman Peale quote above really helped crystallize things for me.

Dudley Moore, Photo taken at the 43rd Emmy Awa...

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“Everyone who drinks is not a poet. Maybe some of us drink because we’re not poets.”

–Arthur

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“The point is that deity does not live in the remote heavens, nor stay hidden and exclusive in cloisters and grottos no matter how appealing. The godpower must come out and be present with us where we are, where we live and act and feel, here in concrete and plastic, in airplanes and freeways and tenements and brutality and cancer and chemical additions and need and threat of nuclear war. Here is where we shall find, locate and establish the gods to help us on this continent of mixtures and dishevelment to help them feel at home.”

Judy Grahn, The Highest Apple

After reading the following wonderful post by Alain de Botton on gratitude, I started to think about my own views on the subject. To me, gratitude is about attending to a moment and noticing — really noticing — what we have. Appreciation is part of it, to be sure. But something of an exchange happens when gratitude is expressed (even silently). We give acknowledgement in return for pleasure. Perhaps gratitude is really directed at that particular moment in time, that unique experience, and the mindful realization that we’ve experienced something precious.

Alain de Botton on Gratitude

One of the differences between religious and secular lives is that in the former, one says thank you all the time: when eating, going to bed, waking up etc.

Why does the secular world tend not to say thank you? At the most obvious level, there seems no one to say thank you to. But, more importantly, offering thanks for relatively minor aspects of life risks appearing unambitious and undignified. The sort of things for which our ancestors bowed down, we pride ourselves on having done enough work to take for granted. Would we really need to pause for a moment of gratitude at the oily darkness of a handful of olives or at the fragrant mottled skin of a lemon? Are there not greater goals towards which we might be aiming?

In our refusal, we are attempting to flee a sense of vulnerability. We do not say thank you for a sunset because we think there will be many more – and because we assume there must be more exciting things to look forward to. To feel grateful is to allow oneself to sense how much one is at the mercy of events. It is to accept that there may come a point when our extraordinary plans for ourselves have run aground, our horizons have narrowed and we have nothing more opulent to wonder at than the sight of a bluebell or a clear evening sky. To say thank you for a glass of wine or a piece of cheese is a kind of preparation for death, for the modesty that our dying days will demand.

That’s why, even in a secular life, we should make space for some thank yous to no one in particular. A person who remembers to be grateful is more aware of the role of gifts and luck – and so readier to meet with the tragedies that are awaiting us all down the road.

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