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Love is the answer and you know that for sure

johnlennon_1974_gruen_webuseonlyThis is my tribute to two war protesters who greatly influenced me: John Lennon and my father. I wrote this piece after an experience I had when I bought one of John Lennon’s pieces of artwork. 

John Lennon (Oct. 9, 1940 – Dec. 8, 1980)
Hollis Perry (March 27, 1932 – April 26, 1999)

My father fought in a war and John Lennon protested a war. And after my father fought in a war, he protested them, too, and healed himself by growing tomatoes, carrots, and onions and giving them to neighbors. John wrote songs and drew pictures to order his thoughts about the chaos of life.  The artist and musician had as much influence on me as the man who was the warrior and the gardener. And in my youth, the warrior gardener took his “Working Class Hero” dollars and bought many of the vinyl albums for the daughter who loved the musician who sang about “Give Peace a Chance.”

I wasn’t prepared for my reaction at the visual reminders of a nation’s youth and later its sorrow when John was killed.  Then, I saw the piece and the tears in my eyes convinced me it should be mine.

The sales woman inquired about my interest and, of course, it came down to a business transaction. Because really that’s what the world is that we live in even though “all you need is love.” I was prepared to pay and asked about options other than the 12-months-same-as-cash advertised in the store. So the petite woman with the beaming smile said she would inquire on my behalf.

She returned and said “yes, it was okay to pay for ½ today and to pay the other ½ when I picked up the piece” on Tuesday.

Until the owner of the Vegas art road show overheard and in front of all of the people in the gallery shouted “NOOOO!” at the saleswoman. And me, the woman with a visceral and automatic reaction to bullies, immediately walked up to the small circle in the middle of the gallery and interjected “you are very rude.” And the 6’2”, 230-pound man said quietly and calmly to me that he was speaking to the petite brunette. And I stood a little taller and said to him that he was speaking to me through her because his answer was about my question and that he was exceedingly rude. And he apologized in a calm manner to me and I redirected him and suggested he apologize to the woman at whom he shouted. He explained his rationale as to why my proposal was not workable. And his reason for his no was not offensive yet his communication of it to the sales lady was which I reiterated for him. And then he replied, “It’s not necessary for me to apologize to her, she works for me.”

And he suddenly walked off and the third person in the small circle inquired if I wanted to pay by credit card. And I told her that I would express my response to her in the same way the gentleman expressed his answer to my question and that was “NOOOO!”

real loveBut I wandered to the front of the store where my tears first began to fall and considered the circumstances of the day I had planned to distract myself from the loss of my father and mother in the springtime. And the petite brunette came up to me and gave me a book of John’s that he had co-written with his son, Sean, as a way to make up for the scene. I apologized to her that she was the subject of such bad behavior and the woman and I hugged.  And after all was said, I decided to buy the piece because “love is the answer and you know that for sure.

 

Copyright: Brenda Henning, 2018

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Your Search For Meaning

thousand points of light
Photo credit: Richard Laeton: https://richard-laeton.pixels.com/

If you are too young to have experienced George W. Bush as your president, I hope the week’s reflections of his life will give you inspiration to find a way to be of service as a new wave of a “Thousand Points of Life.” If you are old enough to have lived under his presidency, I hope you will see the broader picture of his life and how he transformed a major loss into a greater sense of purpose for himself which he expanded to include the rest of us.

As President Bush was fighting literal war battles on many fronts during his tenure, he also formulated a vision for service to provide meaning to our time-limited inhabitancy on Earth. Concurrently, many civilian society leaders in business, church and academia were contributing to the theme of President Bush through speeches, sermons and books.

In 1994, a year after President Bush’s presidency, the book “The Search for Meaning” was released. Authored by Thomas Naylor, William Willimon, and Magdalena Naylor, the book poses questions based on the premise if you were stranded alone on an island, could you still find meaning in your existence even without connection with others?

The professional backgrounds of the three authors represent the broad domains of our lives: economic, spiritual, and emotional. Throughout the book they weave a series of questions to assist the reader in self-reflection on how to come to grips with individual purpose.

The 10 questions the three experts developed for self exploration are:

  1. Who am I?
  2. Where am I going?
  3. How can I prevent my life from being a series of accidents?
  4. What do I want to be when I grow up?
  5. How shall I overcome my separation from others, myself, and the ground of my being?
  6. What shall I do to resist the temptation to have?
  7. How does one learn how to be?
  8. Can I find meaningful employment?
  9. Is it possible to experience real community?
  10. How can I die happy?

President Bush in many ways is the embodiment of the answer to these questions.

“We can find meaning and reward by serving some higher purpose than ourselves, a shining purpose, the illumination of a thousand points of light … we all have something to give.” President George H.W. Bush

Love and light to you today as you live out your meaning and reward by naturally allowing the light of you to shine forth.

 

 

 

 

How to get out of hangover hell

I’ll be upfront with you. Some of you who are reading this aren’t really interested in getting over your hangovers until after New Year’s when you make your resolutions for the fifth year in a row to eat healthier, exercise more and cutback on alcohol and marijuana.  Until then, it might be daily indulgence of:

  • eating peppermint fudge brownies,
  • drinking peppermint Schnapps and
  • licking peppermint candy canes. You may not even realize you have a hangover until after the New Year’s as you will be in a daily state of mild inebriation. If that describes you then carry on and bookmark this post until Jan. 2. Just be sure to drink responsibly and have a designated driver to take you home from parties.

But the rest of you who are weekend revelers and really need to be functioning at your optimal level by Monday morning, here are some suggestions to try to see if you can speed up your recovery from over-indulgence.

  • Drink more water. This will help eliminate the toxins from your body. You know if you are drinking enough water if your pee starts to turn clear. If you are peeing yellow then you are not drinking enough water. Also, it’s important to drink ACTUAL water, not coffee or tea or soda made with water. The sodium content in soda will dehydrate you making it more difficult to flush out your system.
  • Get plenty of rest. As much as possible, go to bed at the same time every night and if you can make yourself do it, see if you can go to bed 30 minutes earlier than you normally do.
  • Okay, do as I say and not as I do. I’m setting a bad example writing this post at 10 p.m. So don’t do that. Make yourself put up your electronics by 9 p.m. Okay 9:30 p.m.  I know, that’s a tough one. It’s tough for me. So I feel your agony. But it’s important to do this so your brain doesn’t get its circadian rhythms messed up by confusing it with artificial lights.
  • romaine-lettuce-lasagna-1542823098571-1542823101006At mealtimes do the best you can to eat as healthy as you can to compensate for all of the non-stop sugar snacking. When you eat too much sugar you really do a number on your blood sugar which can spike and dip, causing you to feel jittery and shaky and develop severe  mood swings, including anger and sadness. So, eat more vegetables. Except Romaine lettuce. Don’t eat that now….
  • Deal with your emotions in healthy ways, such as writing in a journal, talking to a friend or visiting a counselor.  If you’re hungover, well, so is the guy in the next cubicle and that gets annoying dealing with cranky, hungover people everyday. So, acknowledge that other people may be getting on your nerves because their nerves are shot, too. Make a decision to not take anything personally during this time because the person flipping you off in traffic may just be having a pre-diabetic mood swing from all of the sugar he’s been eating and alcohol he’s been drinking. It really has nothing to do with you.
  • Remember to Breathe! Holidays are stressful and families–both our work families and our home families–can be hard, especially if they’re hungover. So, give yourself a little breathing room by actually breathing in a diaphragmatic way. This will deliver more oxygen to your hungover cells and organs and help them perk up. You can do that now by breathing in through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. Go ahead and try it now.

I hope these New Thoughts, Right Actions will help you have a holly jolly holiday!

remember to breathe!

Find the courage to give up what was lost

keysI misplaced — or lost — my keys, despite my ever-so-good intention to slow down and be careful.

Misplacing keys is common for me. Metaphorically, perhaps I’m afraid of unlocking closed doors to find only skeletons are on the other side. Practically, misplacing my keys causes loss of time and increased distress and anxiety. My distress is even greater when I make a commitment to be ever-so-careful of keeping up with my keys. I even made this commitment out loud to a friend this holiday weekend because I had more stress than usual. How did this happen, I ask myself. I was so careful. I PAID ATTENTION to my stress.

Like in the story of Franz Kafka and the lost doll, I console myself with his sentiment of “everything you love, you will eventually lose, but in the end love will return in a different form.”

love and lossWhen I’ve lost keys, love did return to me in a different form — it came through as Grace. Sheepishly, I admit my fallibility of losing a tool which helps me be productive. I’ve reported to two employers my carelessness with their property. Each time, the reaction has been, “by when do you need a new set of keys?”

Whew! No pink slip pushed under the locked door. Instead they understood that people make mistakes and I’m a people.

I have been like the widow in the parable of the lost coin. During Biblical times, married Jewish women wore coins as adornments and to keep intimate track of them. I have worn my keys on lanyards around my neck. Even with this personal connection, the widow lost one of her coins, and I have lost my keys. The widow swept and dusted her home until she found her coin. I retraced my steps and, oftentimes, my keys are exactly where I had left them. But not this set.

What about the times when I give up the keys for lost? My limited vision, memory, and mind blinds me from finding what is lost. This is symbolic of how I have had family members lost to various manifestations of illness. They became lost in their illness and so I became blinded by the illness and so lost sight of the person caught up in the illness. In the same way, I become so caught up in finding lost keys, I lose track of myself. Yet, God knows where the lost item or person is. I do not need to count the number of hairs on my head. God already has undertaken this task. God knows where the lost keys are and God sees the person who is lost in their obsession — whether it’s finding keys or finding their whatever.

When something has been irretrievably lost or lost for so long that the time it is taking to find it interferes with getting on with life, then I need to see a different solution. When my keys are replaced, they will be a shinier version. Sometimes healing an illness means shedding old ways, such as bad habits. God wants us to shed what we’ve outgrown.

I haven’t found the keys I lost this week, but I did happen to find the keys I lost a few years ago when I was cleaning out a closet. And when I look at these keys now, I see that like a snake that has outgrown its skin, I no longer need the keys or the doors they unlocked.

snake skin

Do you feel like you’re being tested?

Below is a piece I wrote a few years ago when I took a class through Mary Anne Em Radmacher. She is most famous for a quote that says:

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day, saying I will try again tomorrow.”

I took her on-line class in a period when I was processing a number of life events: my mother had recently died, my family had made a momentous geographic change, and I was learning information about the health of my children. And to top it off, I had broken my ankle, so for six weeks I had ample time to heal myself through writing. This was occurring right before my 50th birthday.

My humorous side revealed itself. How do you use humor to help you through a difficult period?

Dear Brenda,

You have been involved in an extremely rigorous testing period known as your 49th year. This is the year that culminates all of the learning you’ve been involved in just prior to entering your Jubilee Year. You are 85 percent complete in the testing period.

Your test questions are being randomly created by a computer in REAL TIME, so there is no way to prepare for the test. It will seem as if the test is being created by some gnome living in the backwoods of Montana who has no clue of who the hell you are. This is a safeguard to ensure you are not taking a duplicate test from some previous year, which you thought at the time was a year you were glad to be finished with. It is natural for you to feel nostalgic about those years.

You are not allowed scratch paper or a cheat sheet on how to answer the questions which come your way. You may access at any time, though, a large library of self-help books, but they won’t seem very helpful to you because you’ll think the authors of those books were endowed with some special characteristic which wasn’t doled out to you. While the concept of cheerleaders is noble, the quarterback has to take the hit anyway whether anyone’s cheering or not.

You will be allowed frequent Diet Dr. Pepper breaks during the testing period. Ignore the warnings of Diet drinks being harmful. Instead, enjoy these brief moments as a way to recollect your thoughts.

After you have answered a question, you may check with your fellow classmates for their answers. But you won’t be allowed to change an answer once it’s submitted. Also, your classmates are being given a completely different set of questions, so their answers won’t apply to yours anyway.

It may seem as if others are cheating or skating by on their test. In fact, this is true. Your pointing it out to the test proctor, though, will not change the test questions for you. Instead, the test proctor may give you additional questions if you take your mind off what you’re doing and focus on other people’s test process.

Certain questions may be written in such a way as to your not being able to answer them correctly. This is intentional. Give an answer anyway and move on. You may also see some questions which you believed could be answered perfectly by you and it will be marked as incorrect. In fact, those questions will be underlined and circled in red to bring attention to the arrogance with which you answered those questions.

One other thing: the test known as your 49th year may make you feel like it is stretching you beyond your capabilities. Do not be worried about this. Answer everything that comes your way, the best way you can, and move on.

Sincerely,
Your 49th year

P.S. There will be no class survey afterwards asking you for your opinion on how we may improve our process.

courage

What will you learn by doing?

“You learn to speak by speaking, to study by studying, to run by running, to work by working; and just so you learn to love God and man by loving. Begin as a mere apprentice and the very power of love will lead you on to become a  master of the art.” Francis de Sales

frances de salesYou learn to write a blog by blogging. You learn to sell by selling. You learn to account by accounting. You learn to counsel by counseling.

You can read any number of books or websites to learn strategies for improving your performance but the real learning comes when you actually do the work. And when you make a mistake–and you will–don’t get discouraged, keep going. A year from now, you likely won’t remember the mistake. And if a year from now you still remember the mistake, then you will have had a deep and life-changing learning which will help you develop humility and keep you teachable.

Steven Pressfield offers a free five-audio lesson on the “artist’s inner battle,” based on his book The War of Art. Listen to it, but then take a risk and practice what your “wild and precious life” is calling you to do.

women in hat

Happy Veteran’s Day to those who serve

My father, a Korean War veteran, was raised Presbyterian but he had a lot of Zen in him. He used to say things like: “if you pull a flower out of the ground, the moon shakes.”
hollis eugene perry
Hollis E. Perry served three tours as a paratrooper in the Korean War.

He served three tours in Korea. He quit high school to join the U.S. Army. The Army trained him as a paratrooper and he had a tattoo on his arm representing it. On his left hand he had the word “LOVE” tattooed, one letter on each of his fingers. He was proud military with a hint of hippie.

Ironically, after his military service he refused to ride in an airplane and he didn’t like to leave home very much. He also never owned a gun except for the last few years of his life. He bought a rifle when a drug addled neighbor across the street threatened him. But he hated having a tool used for killing in his home. But he was a realist and understood the horror of behavior that other human beings are willing to commit.
He belonged to the American Legion and served in the U.S. Army Reserves for many years, including at Fort Des Moines, when it was used for that purpose. He worked as a recruiter for the Reserves. He recruited many people because he had such passion and respect for the discipline the military taught him. Even though he didn’t recruit me to the military (much to his chagrin), he did pass along personal discipline to me and that I learned how to solve problems through him. In addition to his Presbyterian upbringing, he was raised on a farm, so he knew how to fix things. There were many an Iowa winter day he would have the hood raised on our cars working and swearing to start them in frigid conditions. Although he was Army he swore like a sailor.
He also taught me a lot about politics saying “follow the money” and that will tell you what people’s motivations are. He listened to Rush Limbaugh but he supported Democratic politicians.He owed a debt of gratitude to former Iowa Gov. and Sen. Harold Hughes who advocated for my dad to have his discharge from the army be ruled honorable. My dad had several situations in the Army involving alcohol and Gov. Hughes was a big proponent for people with this illness. War is not pretty so I have an understanding why many military people turn to alcohol to cope.
My father successfully overcame his struggle with alcohol and he gave up other habits that helped him cope with life’s stress, including his Pall Malls. He didn’t wear a patch, chew gum, or learn hypnotherapy. He decided to quit and so he did. He found the best therapy after that through gardening. He loved being in his garden and sharing his produce with neighbors.
The most important thing he taught me, though, was this: “it’s better to have nothing then a little bit of something.” It took me a long time for me to understand that koan. But  I understand now. It’s better to be on your own then to surround yourself with people who are only there during fair weather.
RIP. Sgt. Hollis Eugene Perry
flanders field

What cigarette smokers can teach us about mental health

You don’t have to give up all of your habits associated with cigarette smoking. In fact, you should keep some of them.

As a group of people who partake in socially accepted addictive behaviors, smokers tend to be the pariahs among the out right public addictions, such as overeating or drinking alcohol. Many a person who would casually drink a glass of wine over a business dinner would feign horror at the thought of smoking a cigarette. Yet, cultural and business policies begrudgingly tolerate and accommodate smokers. Legal consequences used as a deterrent to eradicate other types of addictions, such as narcotics or pornography, are non-existent for smokers. Even alcohol has a legal consequence if indulged while driving. Smoke and drive all you want without the police harassing you. In fact, the police officer passing you on the Interstate is possibly a smoker him or herself.

Instead, “if you can’t beat ’em join ’em” approach seems to be the antidote to the futile prohibition of smoking during business hours despite everyone’s acknowledged acceptance of how damaging smoking is to an individual’s health and to the health of those who ingest the chemical second hand. Even smokers joke about their “cancer sticks.”

Consequently, cigarette smokers are considered our culture’s socially accepted addiction pariahs.  And they are the most blatantly public in their addiction. After all, who stands outside their work place with their company attire partaking in other drugs? Overeaters and drinkers don’t stand in a huddle outside on their breaks to anesthetize their stress with sugar donuts and glasses of wine. Company policies are written to accommodate nicotine addictions. Other drug-related policies are written to fire you from your job if you are caught indulging on company time.

But there’s a lot to learn from a cigarette smoker as far as strategies to manage stress. Ask any smoker and they will tell you they believe it calms their nerves.  And some substances contained within cigarettes do provide a mental boost. The downside is the cost eventually outweighs the benefit. The cost is your life and it’s a slow, painful one once it’s past the stress reduction threshold. Smoking-related illnesses cost businesses about $156 billion in lost productivity and smokers $170 billion in direct related medical care.

So, what about the non-smokers? I know you’ve done the mental math. Have you worked with a smoker and wondered how long they spent on their smoke break? On average, smoke breaks for one person tally up to about 6 days out of the year, depending on the industry a smoker works in. The higher the stress of a particular career field the more smoke breaks people take.  What can we learn from people whose addiction is so powerful that complete areas outside of businesses and hospitals are set aside for them to indulge?

  • It’s good to take frequent breaks from your work. Sitting is the new smoking, after all. It would be fascinating to see how work environments changed up their stress levels if non-smokers took as many breaks as smokers.
  • Smokers walk more than nonsmokers. That’s obvious. If you work in a high rise building, for example, to take your break you have to go from your cubicle to the elevator or the stairs and walk to your smoking area and, sometimes, it’s across the street from where you work. Walking is good for you.
  • Smokers get outside more and absorb more Vitamin D from the sun. Nature is healing. You hear birds sing, feel the breezy wind, experience sunshine. And smokers are dedicated. They take their smoke breaks no matter the weather–tornadoes, hurricanes and blizzards. That is a nature break discipline the rest of us would do well to develop.
  • Smokers breathe. They also cough after awhile, but smokers know how to belly–or diaphragmatic–breathe. This deep breathing is known to affect the autonomic nervous system and calm it down to reduce symptoms of some types of anxiety, depression and reduce the cortisol–or stress chemical–loads on people. If you’re not a smoker but want to breathe like a smoker, inhale and exhale through a straw a few times.  You will notice the weight of air as it is forced further down to your diaphragm. Keep your straws from your drinks and it’s a double win. You can breathe like a smoker and save the environment.

So, you see, smokers can be a role model for the rest of us. And, maybe if smokers talked to enough non-smokers who used the same strategies for stress reduction, minus the cigarettes–it would encourage them to quit because all of us need friends.

 

 

Inches and seconds may be the only intervention

wabi sabi

For the past month,  I’ve been co-facilitating a free weekly support group for people who were affected by last year’s Hurricane Harvey. Group members recount stories of how they were rescued and the achingly slow process of rebuilding their homes because of bureaucratic red tape.

The purpose of the support group is to help participants develop a self-care routine that will help them calm down their nervous system that has been agitated because of severe stress. Losing your home because of flood waters, tends to make people anxious depressed and overwhelmed.

My co-facilitator and I were meeting at Starbucks on Monday morning to determine the approach we wanted to take at our next session. She was ignoring her husband’s phone call but because of his persistence, she took it.  He reported that her brother had been in a car accident and he was being transported by ambulance to the hospital. The anxiety and panic rose on her face and it was time to end our coffee meeting. Before she left, though, I asked her if I could pray for her. So I clutched her hands and asked God and the guardian angels to watch over her brother and doctors.

Later that day, she reported her brother was lucky. He was driving his truck and not the car, so he had the bulk of protection he needed to survive the impact of being rear-ended and thrust into the next three lanes of traffic. He was being released with minor injuries, but injuries unexpected and unplanned for on a November Monday.

Inches and seconds are often times all that stand between us and an eternally altered existence. Life continues to unfold and it doesn’t mete justice out according to who has already endured what or how charitable of a person you are. Seemingly random events interfere with our plans for the day or our life and we are forced to make adjustments.

Within an hour, life unfolded in a way for which we weren’t prepared. We expand and contract through the seasons of life as it forces events on us. If we practice it enough when life is calm, though, we will automatically remember to breathe when the day’s events are chaotic and unexpected.

 

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