Saturday, September 29, 2012

A Great Question

I've been journaling a lot lately, more than usual actually, not that you'd know it by my blogging; but those pages, in my virtual journal, are not intended for public purview.  (In fact, I need to put it in my will that they're to be burned!)

I've had the long hot, unstructured days of the Utah summer and the impetus of some introspective reading to ponder a few provocative questions - questions that require significant reflection and potentially painful honesty.  Questions whose answers can be contradictory on any given day, and freqently muddled.  Occasionally, however, if I persist, press through the muck and the mire, I am rewarded with an "AHA!"  So, I keep journaling.

A particularly provocative question, by the author, Patti Digh, has been at the center of my ruminations. "What is the magic yardstick against which you measure your life?"  I've devoted more than a few pages to this question, partly because the standard of measurement, now that I've retired, is still morphing. And perhaps, because I really never took time to consider as broad a question until these past few months.  Too busy, too caught up in daily demands to think this philosophically?!?

I've dissected the success (or failure) of an event or a project; lost sleep considering the quality of a relationship; analyzed ad nauseum why I may feel the way I do at any given moment or think the way I do about a given issue, or person, or myself, but never this particular question.

It's a question I wish someone had asked me at other crossroads in my life.  I might have gotten over my divorce sooner.  Not been so hurt or angry when I didn't measure up to someone else's yardstick.  Not tried so hard to measure up.  I would have questioned not only whose yardstick, but why it sometimes felt as though the yardstick was longer for me than others around me.  I might have taken more satisfaction in my accomplishments.

As the saying goes, however, that's water over the dam.  One of the greatest opportunities of any transition is the chance to take the time to recalibrate the yardstick.  Perhaps to redefine the standard of measurement!  To answer this question, and others of a similar depth, consciously, clearly and confidently.  I'm taking the time and making progress.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Oh, I Get It!

"Your library is your portrait"     ~ Holbrook Jackson
I came across this quote while searching for a quote to stimulate a journal entry and, intrigued by the idea, decided to examine my library for what it might say about me.  Like a portrait or photograph.  What would it convey to a stranger looking at it for the first time?  Who would he/she think I am simply by checking out my books? (Is this why I check out other people's libraries - to get a better sense of who they are?)
Interesting exercise!  Obvious, I think, that I learn by reading.  Not everyone learns this way, I understand.  But I have books everywhere.  On shelves, in baskets, on table tops and piles on the floor.  And at least half are non-fiction, even on my Kindle.
I love to have choice, options, plenty of resources, multiple resources. No wonder it's been so challenging to cull my library, why I'm still at it after a couple years of schlepping shopping bags full of books to the local library.
My history is as evident in my books as in the wrinkles on my face.  Books from my teaching, training and coaching days; one shelf devoted to the non-fiction that has made the biggest impact on my thinking.  Topics I've studied vigorously.  Others long abandoned.  Some I think I should be interested in, but finally admit I'm not.  A record of interests past and present, some attempted, some not. (Why do I hang onto those cookbooks?!)
My abiding curiosity about the human condition is apparent in the bevy of self-help and psychology books that date back to the 60's and 70's, as well as in a preponderance of novels marked by strong and interesting character development.  No science fiction.  No romance novels.
But most of all, I finally get it - get why this culling process has been such a long drawn out affair.  Why some people can't even consider it.  Books have kept me company during the loneliest periods of my life.  Still comfort me on those nights I can't get back to sleep.  They've provided validation for unpopular opinions, challenged my biases, offered distinctions that cleared the cobwebs of anxiety and confusion, and  raised questions and insights that have led me down paths I might never have traveled.  Their authors have been friend and mentor, critic and coach. They've brought me to tears and called forth waves of laughter.
What would it say about me if I could give them up easily?
Yup, interesting exercise.