Brain Care

Runaway brain. Thoughts, good or bad take over my brain sometimes. I love those little tickers you click to count something. Push the button and it adds one to the total. I wonder if I could set one of those up in my mind, to count my thoughts. CLick, click, click click. One of the first things I would measure is when does it slow down. And then I would want a clicker for both kinds of thoughts, one for positive and one for negative.

How many negative thoughts have I had over the years? And more importantly, what do they do to my thinking? And much more important is the recognition of negative thoughts and turning the brain clicks into a positive outcome.

To do this, I have to own the thoughts and their source. Recognize the emotion that caused the thought. Starting with the emotion is easier I think. I can name the emotion, therefore I can identify and clarify it. I can face it and deal with it. I can accept it or reject it, or deflect it. There is so much more I can do with my emotions, they don’t have to control me.

Thoughts are fleeting, here for a nanosecond, then gone. Emotions linger. I can care for my brain by recognizing how emotional I am and living off the fuel of those emotions. I think many of us think of emotions as our behaviors. Someone is crying, oh, they are so emotional. Someone is yelling, oh man, check out the drama.

No, those are responses or worse, reactions to emotions. I get bad news on my laptop email. I fling my laptop across the room. What happened there. A thought, an emotion, a response, no check that, a stupid reaction.

And my brain after that episode? A mess. So this is why I start with the emotion. It can be captured. Maybe that’s why the brain people are always asking, what do you feel?

Want to care for your Brain Box? What do you feel? What are you’re emotions telling you?

Answer You this, What Are You Thinking About?

If you’re like most people, you’re thinking about recent interactions with people and what those interactions mean for the next week or two. And like most people, they are probably negative thoughts, born of negative interactions, real or perceived.

Well, that just sucks. Glad I’m not you. Ha. Joke’s on me, because I do that too. The sleights, the probes, the innocent questioning, posturing, drama filled activities that make up a normal week are numerous, and can leave the most secure of us wondering what the heck we did to offend someone.

The older I get, the more I want to figure out what to do with those interactions. I don’t want them to control my thoughts or actions. I might want to be guided by them perhaps, but not controlled by them. I might want to avoid them, or I might want to gain the skills to go through them. You can only avoid certain people for so long before there is no one left to avoid.

So there is a trick that I go back to. It’s a simple question. Ready? Here it is. Do I really want to think about this?

That’s it. Then I spend a few minutes thinking about how and why I should think about it and I answer yes or no. Yes, I think some more about why the interaction is important to my future. No, then I begin parting ways with the interaction that had control of my thoughts. They are, after all, my thoughts. They may not be good thoughts or even correct, but they are mine. So I’m responsible to deal with them. Just me.

The next trick is learning the skill of focusing on what you want to think about. I watched some kids one time swipe the hat off of one of the younger ones then they played keep away with the hat and the one that wanted it back. They had power over that child and it really was painful to watch. I stepped in and stopped it.

Same thing goes on in our minds, thoughts get in there and play keep away, creating a painful powerplay in our minds. Go ahead, step in, you’re the adult. Thank like an adult, be the adult. What are you thinking about? What do you want to think about?

Today

I tend to take a lot for granted. That I’ll be here tomorrow, that life goes on, that I’ll feel reasonably well this week, that work will be, well work. I don’t have any of that yet, I do have today, safe to say.

Should I do today or let today do me? What does today do for me? Am I the same today as I was yesterday? Will I be different in the days ahead?

What will I pay attention to today? What will scratch my brain?

Can I nap, goof off, do nothing and call it a good day? One of the few remaining days I have left. Is today being well spent? Will I even look back one day and remember the quality of this day?

It’s my day, and right now, I’m just a miracle, a living breathing miracle, I’m alive. Knowing and being around people that die, sometimes one or two a day, makes my brain grateful for this day.

A little prodding for the day from Mary Oliver.

ttyl

Zoo's

So this year is one of our zooiest years in a while. The Cheyenne Zoo in Colorado Springs, the children’s zoo here in Lincoln, and the Omaha zoo. I noticed one thing they had in common. Feedable Giraffes.

You can stand at the same elevation as the Giraffe’s mouth, and tongue, and head, and horns and big eyeballs, and did I mention that strange, blue black, tongue.

What’s that all about? When I was a kid, you couldn't get near the giraffe’s. Now we can almost kiss them, feed them, heck burp them. Close and personal for sure.

Zoo’s are changing. Maybe you’ve noticed that they want you to experience the animals, not just see them and smell them.

I like it. The experience is more meaningful to me today. Memorable even.

At the Cheyenne Zoo with my date.

Time to Give

I wonder if Jesus would continue to walk instead of ride in a vehicle. I think he would stay with walking. The average speed of walking is 3 miles an hour. So if Jesus walked at 3 miles an hour and God is love, then Jesus loved at 3 miles an hour.

I don’t see much possibility for love at 60 miles an hour. We fly right by the people we can love, keeping time to ourselves instead of gifting it to those around us.

Let’s walk a little. We will love a lot more. This is the gift of time.

Can you Buy Happiness?

I wonder what purchasing power does for one. I mean, can buying something make you happy. And if it does, what does that mean for ancient people that foraged for everything and bought nothing. What does it mean for modern humans that are too poor, financially poor that is, to buy anything.

What do we feel when we make that purchase? Some power, some accomplishment, some pride that I have something to take home, to possess?

i worked hard for that money, now I can apply it to something of value according to those that assign value and I can bring that item home and bring value and maybe happiness into my home. 

Sounds like non-sense to me as I think about it. Happiness is so much more than what you can buy.

Thoughts and Chickens

Remember the scene in Rocky where his trainer has Rocky chasing chickens around the yard to catch them? It quickens him as he learns to anticipate where the chicken will be, and even how to control and capture the birds movements.

I think of thoughts that way. I’ve been thinking of how thoughts have their way with us. They control the brain, the bird pen as it were. And I’ve grown tired of that. Where do these thoughts come from? How can I take back my thoughts? Am I held hostage to them? Or can I take charge of them, catch them, even understand why I have them and use them?

Yes, I think I can. Hold that thought!

Food for Thought

Our thoughts judge us more than they judge others. Most people never hear our verbal judgments, they go unsaid but not unthought. Someone cuts us off in traffic and we yell at them, give them a good scolding. A piece of our mind.

All we really did was aggravate our own minds and condemn our own thoughts. We self judged.

The more important discovery is why our thoughts have so much control over our words and actions. That’s where we need to do some thinking.

Food for thought.

On Judging

To judge is to cross a line. Consider the lines in the road used to motor vehicles along safely. One line is white dashes.cross that line and you are in danger of hurting someone and your self. Your chances of recovery are high.

The solid white line means you’re about to take your vehicle where it should never be, off the road.

And the yellow lines; well you get the idea.

Our judgment of people is similar. We have never liked being judged and never will. Yet so many cross that line everyday. If it’s a brief and small crossing, then the relationship may recover, even grow.

Yet most judgments are not to build a relationship but to vent anger and displeasure, even fear.

Judging  others does little or no good for anyone and does a lot of harm.

Stay in your lane, get to where you are going and others will too.

 

The Truth

Truth. Now there’s a mouthful. I can’t find much respect for those that claim to have it, or preach it. It’s like they have the truth all bottled up in a can or jar, can open the lid at will, and out comes this mysterious gas, the truth. You and I can’t see it, we can’t smell it, but it’s in there according to our truth tellers.

The more I hear someone tell others they have the truth, the more obnoxious and dismissive I find them. It’s always been a bit arrogant to claim the truth can be owned or controlled., as if to say I have it and you don’t.

We have a saying in my church, “They can blacken your reputation but never stain your character.”

The truth is, the greatest truth that is, is that the truth is revealed in our character. When you can backup your claim to having the truth with a life lived in the shape of truth, then you might have something to crow about.

Unfortunately, some of the folks who claim to have the truth seem the least likely to know how to apply the truth to them selves and others. A life informed by the truth is the best spoke person for the truth. Want to preach the truth, let me see it working in you.

Life and/or Death

I wonder how often I have used that phrase, as in “It’s not a life or death matter”, is it? Now that I am so close to the dying everyday, so much more feels like a life or death matter. I mean, it’s either one or the other, isn’t it?

Part of it is black and white for me, cut and dried. You are either alive or dead. No argument there. My interest is about life mostly. What makes you alive, breath, blood, mind, feelings, sights, sounds?

I’m thinking more and more about my claim to be alive. I know my body functions, my mind thinks, my tastebuds react, my hopes are real. But all that is not a guarantee that I am really living, fully leaning into life.

Spending time this past week in Colorado gave me a chance to slow down a bit and rethink life.

My conviction of late is that I am most alive when I am serving someone, empowering them to live their fullest life. When I put more of me into giving than taking. I still have to take in, but I will get more when I give. And so will others.

Let’s call this the Giver’s Life. This is truly a matter of life and death.

Some Stuff Sucks But

I scooped up the domain a while back with those words in it. I’ve seen a lot of sucky stuff over the years. My daughter likes to say that “that sucks”, when referring to something that I would say “rots”. But I’m thinking she’s more hip than me with todays lingo, so Sucks it is.

I think about stuff that sucks a lot because I’m around people. People tend to complain about the sucky stuff a lot. And I don’t much care for all the complaining. So I added the “but” on the end. stuffthatsucksbut. See the but there.

Yea, I know life sucks, and you can talk to me about it for a while, before I toss you out the door. For many years I listened to suck stories. Still do. And I’m not gonna stop anytime soon, but I’ve got a couple of new policies.

If I listen to your “suck” story, then you have to listen to my “but” story. OK? Otherwise, go away.

And if I feel you are cheating and not really listening to my positive views, then yes, go away again.

So let’s get started, got a “suck” story?

Loss in our Family --Turk Schonert

My wife lost a brother last week, Turk Schonert.

His mother and brother feel that loss deeply as well.

I do too, as do my son and daughter and Craig’s family, his brother.

I wonder about loss like this. It affects us in painful ways of course. How much, how deeply, how long, how recoverable? Turk left a lot of fun and glitter behind him. Quite a few people remember him kindly and playfully and dearly. Do the amount of memories we have of someone factor into the depth of our grieving? Does knowing someone more deeply mean we grieve more deeply?

“Grief is simply love in its most wild and painful form,” says Megan Devine. “It is a natural and sane response to loss.”

I think so. I can’t measure it of course, but I see it in his family, the ones closest to him feel the deepest loss. That makes sense. But loss is not like a product that can be marketed, parceled out to different stores and sold to different consumers.

It’s more of a current in the air, a zephyr, a breeze that chills, an electricity that shocks, a glare that blinds. It’s unavoidable, but not containable, painful but hard to observe.

Turk was a great guy, fun filled, positive, thoughtful, generous and stoic in the best sense. My family had many good experiences with him, mostly revolving around football games and players. He invited us into his world, more identified with sports celebrities, and made us feel like we belonged there, always did in fact.

Celebrities seem to struggle with the divide they are a part of. They are often in another class, on a pedestal as it were because of their fame. I never saw that with Turk. To be sure, he is not that famous, unless you are in Cincinnati I imagine. Sounds like he’s pretty famous there. But I don’t think any of it made him much different than you or I .

He was often the life of the party when he was around my family, that’s true. But it was effortless for him and he really didn’t need to be or seek to be, he just was. I appreciated the way he included my wife, his sister in his life over the years, everything from Christmas gifts to sports talk to Super Bowl ticket’s in Miami on the 50 yard line for Deb and me. He knew how to include us and made us feel special. And he was good to my son and daughter as well. I would have liked to see him around for another decade or two, nobody will take his place in my family. The memories help and they heal and they hurt, I’m very glad we have so many good ones of Turk.

Who is responsible for me?

My son gave me two books for my birthday. Both have challenged me to rediscover Accountability for my life, ownership as it were. One of the challenges is simple; I can only get so far in life as I transfer blame to others for my current state of life.

Blaming others, whether they deserve it or not, all too often allows me to diminish my responsibility for my life. If it’s someone else’s fault that my life sucks today, then I’ll never really dig out of that suck hole. In fact, I will only dig it bigger and deeper.

I may not be totally responsible for everything that happens in my life, but I am totally responsible for my response to those happenings. Notice the word Response in relation to the word Responsibility.

One word for what threatens Responsibility is Reactionary.

Responding is a healthy Reaction. Most reaction is not healthy though, it is emotional reactionism or the improper use of reflexive empathy. It almost always includes blaming and shaming in order to regain balance and control of my life. Bitter, resentful, entitled reactions unsettle our balance, not stabilizing our footing.

Blaming may have its purpose, yet it is among the most destructive reactions in our lives.

Is there a better way? Yes. I’m responsible for me and where I will be. I’m not OK where I’m at. I can be better. And I’m responsible alone for my betterment. Just as you are for yours.

Thank you Michael for the books. I’m better because of your gift.

Anniversary This Sunday

Wow. Loving someone for 41 years amazes and thrills me. I visit with couples with 50, 60, 70 years of togetherness every week. Wow Wow. 

I’m so glad God gave us Twoness. Two people that join together and unite to become a powerful change in the world. 

My wife is using her beauty and power in many ways to make life better for others and she is awesome at it.  And me, wow, she makes me much more than I could have imagined. 

She loves me and I love her. Wow! 

Happy 41 Dear! 

Vacation Black Hills

Yes, we went to the Black Hills, Custer State Park exactly. Now, I'm a Yellowstone fan. Black Hills, they're OK, but Yellowstone is one of the top 3 in the lower 48. We've been to Yellowstone more times than I can count and it always rocks. But something happened this time. I tried the Black Hills and I liked it, yep, I liked it, maybe even loved it.

Why the change, you ask? Closer, easier to get to. Nice 8 hour drive from Lincoln. But all that shows is that I'm getting older and wimpier. I used to be able to do the longer drive in my sleep. Now I think, shorter, maybe I'll get more sleep.

So that's not a really great reason for me to say I loved the Black Hills. Here's another. My girls loved it. Nuff said. Actually, they loved the campground, the pine air, the scenery, the views, the animals(not near as many as you know, Yellowstone, but still quite a bit), but here is the clincher, the hiking trails. They came back very satisfied with the hiking. And that's a big deal at my house. Well, nuff said again.

For me, I think at this time in my life, anything that takes the stress level down is pretty important. And the Black Hills did that for me. Easy to get to, took some beautiful roads through some beautiful parts of Nebraska, and arrived at a beautiful place.

Probably do it again.

The Church Is...

They say the church is a hospital
I say it is a garden
They say it is for sinners
I say it is for plants
They say for the sick
I say for the growing

I wrote this some where back in the early 80's. Even then, my ideas about church were not mainstream. I guess I've always been a bit of a square peg in a round hole. I couldn't agree with what I thought was a simplistic view of church. And the hospital metaphor didn't work in many churches anyhow.It might have been a goal for some in leadership to bring healing to the members, but all too often, more hurt was brought than healing. How surprised was I when I found a church that was more healing than anything else. Not many of them. No, for me it was a place to grow. It took me a while to see that and connect it with discipleship, but disciples grow, victims may be healed but then what. I think the hospital metaphor falls short of what church is unless there is a growth metaphor to go with it. Psalm 1 is my inspiration for such growth. Just cleaning out some old files, think I'll keep this one for another 30 years. See what I think about church then.

Do you feel that?

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These are untidy subjects to write about. Feelings, actions, reactions, responses, responsibilities, perspective. They are all tied together and affect each other. We act or react often based on our feelings. We may have very little accurate information, but we go ahead anyhow. That’s because our feelings of fear have more control over our actions than our feelings of peace or stasis.

A glance or a look from someone is enough to set our minds into overdrive about what they are thinking or what did they say about me. Like a pinball, thoughts zip back and forth in our mind. They usually run dark and they end up negative. It’s a sort of threat assessment. 

If we’ve been hurt enough in life, then we’ve learned that people are the source of most of that hurt. It’s a wonder that some people ever develop healthy relationships after all the suffering they have been through. Changing our feelings is a tough process. To believe that everyone is not out to hurt you requires a courage to be vulnerable. This does not come easy. Not after repeated hurts. 

How do we let our guard down? We must get better information. We must learn the difference between reality and perspective. We must understand why we feel what we feel. How do feelings shape our actions and reactions.  

We would like to be seen in a favorable light, to have people positively impressed when they see us. That’s fairly normal. What’s not normal is living in fear that we will be seen negatively most of the time. What’s not normal is giving excessive care and thought to our image. Image management can severely interfere with living authentically.   

What do you feel right now? Anger, frustration, anxiety, courage, innovative, risky, hungry, happy, elevated, miserly, bouncy, musical, boundless, energetic, disgusted, vengeful, determined, disciplined, euphoric, depressed, wild, balanced, smart, wise, churlish, peevish, delighted, tired, or raring to go.

Is that feeling based on perspective or tangible information? Many of our feelings invade our mind from unchecked sources. We can feel disgust at politicians just because they are politicians. Is that healthy or warranted? Police? Teachers? Animal control? Criminals?

Examining why we feel, what we feel, where those feelings came from and who they are directed at, will yield a gold mine of information about “FEELING” better. 

Think about these words, perspective, reality, thoughts, feelings, actions, reactions, responses, living, hiding, authentic, fear and courage, love. 

We all have a certain amount of time to devote to living fully. Those who live the fullest gain clarity over their feelings, the origin of those feelings, and managing those feelings for happier, healthier lives.   

What were the prominent feelings of this past week and what are you feeling right now?