jimowenswrites

Reflections on Life, Leadership, Mindfulness, Change, and other Important Stuff

Month: July, 2015

Some Thoughts on Courage

I’ve been thinking.

Don’t worry. I hear you. Some of you are saying, “Be careful, don’t hurt yourself.” Others of you are saying, well, less kind things.

The really scary thing about thinking is, when you do it right, you might be wrong.

Wait! What?

Here’s the deal.My tendency, and probably yours, is not to think the things I think are wrong. In short, we aren’t very skeptical of ourselves. So here’s what I’m thinking, even though I might be wrong. One man’s courage is another man’s cowardice. Sometimes.

It seems to me that courage is the ability walk in one direction when fear tells us to walk another. It takes courage to start a business, get married or change jobs because our heart and often, everyone around us, is saying “don’t be foolish.” They don’t always say it aloud but it’s clear how they feel. But it also takes courage to close a business, get a divorce or stay in the job you’re in. Courage isn’t always doing what other people expect of you.

Lately, there’s been a great deal of discussion around Bruce Jenner’s decision to become Caitlyn. Was he courageous? Some of you will say an emphatic no; others of you will say yes just as emphatically. Then we drift off course trying to compare his decision to other examples of courage or cowardice and we just sound silly, as if courage can be measured on some single scale. The problem is no one really has the answer to such a complex decision. In truth, I neither “have a dog in that fight” nor do I have the absolute capacity to know.

It takes courage to race into battle to save a fallen comrade. It takes courage to go through a course of chemotherapy and then wait on the scans to come back. It also takes courage to say “no mas” to another round of such treatment. It takes courage to raise a child. It takes even more courage to raise one with profound disabilities. But these are all different kinds of courage. Respecting one example of courage doesn’t mean we have to diminish another. We need not call one more courageous than another. We can be grateful for and respect both, can’t we?

But back to Bruce; or Caitlyn, if you prefer.

There is certainly a place for wisdom within the context of exercising courage. So with the proviso that opinions are like, well, you know, a certain body part everyone has, I will share a few of mine. What some people consider cowardice they often label other things. They call it foolishness, ignorance and sometimes, sin. But consider how much courage it takes not to label something. Consider how much courage it takes to “not know” and take off the judge’s robe. For just amount put down your outrage and your offense. Take a breath. See. Isn’t that nice.

You might wonder what prompts me to write this little tome. Have I been called a coward? Yep. Have I been called courageous. Yep. Which one am I? I’m not sure. I hope I’m courageous when it’s wise. I also hope I’m a coward when it’s wise. You know, like when I’m being chased by an irritable Rottweiler while I’m riding my bike. Six feet six and two hundred and forty pounds of middle aged man screaming like a nine year old girl may look a little disturbing, but I guess I’m a mixture of both cowardice and courage. Aren’t we all?

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Reunion

When she asked me why I thought we had managed to remain friends after all these years, when we have both lost touch with so many other friends, it took me a few minutes to answer. I really hadn’t given it much thought. But it was the right question at the right time. She thought I might have some elegant explanation since I enjoy writing and have often found it to be an outlet for the cowboy-philosopher-poet trapped inside this banker’s body.

“I think its because we met at that precious time after adolescence, but before adulthood, not yet bumped and bruised by life, still able to see the promise of the future, yet uninhibited by the need to seem like we had it all together.”

Maybe that’s right. But as I thought about it, I realized it was more than just that. It was because we both made the effort to stay in touch. Life seems to have a way of getting in the way of things we want to do or who we want to be; if we let it. Somehow in this small space of our lives we have avoided letting it get in the way of keeping in touch and caring about one another.

Oddly, or perhaps it wasn’t odd at all, she had asked this question a few days before I spent too much money to make an overnight trip to Northern Virginia where many of the friends of my youth were gathering for an impromptu reunion. One of our friends would be in town for a few days, flying in from Asia, and suddenly ten or fifteen people were pressing the pause button on busy lives to make time for one another.  Think about it. That’s pretty amazing.

There we were, a solider, a banker, an educator, and an entrepreneur and others all of us whose lives had taken us in different directions, mostly different from what we had expected thirty-five years or so ago. For a brief moment we were once again the “jocks” and vocalists and cheerleaders that we were back then. But we were much more. Time had worn away the meaningless definitions of youth that once gave us a sense of significance. Even in our youth these remarkable people, so important to me then and now, found ways to avoid excluding one another from our lives.

That evening didn’t happen by accident. Tom told Carin he would be in town and asked if maybe some friends might be interested in getting together. Carin made the effort to invite us and she picked the place. Kathleen, and Lynn, and Pat, and Mark, and so many others came that night. Gerry and Rick, Patti and Leslie were there too, even Nancy. Our lives have all been marked by loss and victory. Marriage. Divorce. Grandchildren. Illness. Even death. We shared our memories and plans just as we had so many times before. And we missed the friends who weren’t there.

It has been said that life is what happens when we are making other plans. But for one night none of us were making other plans. We were just living, enjoying the moment. Eckhart Tolle would be proud. We were enjoying The Power of Now. We made the effort. For some reason I’m sure we will see one another again because we will make the effort.

On second thought, I didn’t spend too much money to make the journey. What better way to invest it than in being with friends you love.

Guiltless Pleasure

In this world

Of fleeting pleasure

This is one thing

That’s hard to measure.

 

Without warning

It ‘oft arrives

At midday or afternoon

Or sometimes in late morning.

 

In a chair,

Or on a couch,

It’s true delight,

This brief affair.

 

When I awake,

And often wonder,

How much time

Did that take?

 

Did I snore?

My mouth agape?

Please kind sir,

I want some more.

 

Surely, I’m no fool

You must see

Though from these lips

You saw me drool.

 

If beside you

On park bench

Please let me doze

Oh, do be true.

 

Yes, let me rest

In this short moment

Enjoy precious sleep

For old dudes, naps are the best.

To Sit and Breathe

To sit and breathe

And just receive,

This world’s great peace

Find inner release.

 

To walk and listen

And see life glisten,

Creation all ’round;

Hear its sound.

 

To stare inside

And not divide

The good and strife

That fills a life.

 

To wait and greet,

This day so brief.

And bask within,

It’s glorious din.

 

To think of all,

Things big and small,

As life complete;

Precious and sweet.

 

To fret not in sorrow

For yesterday or tomorrow.

This moment now thrive,

‘Tis today; I am alive.