“Oh yeah??”

This is a challenge – to Me.

Beginning right now, I’m going to do daily blog entries.

Why?

Glad you asked.

I MUST WRITE!

Any questions?

Oh!  You want more details?  Hmm. I get that.  Okay…

<I stand up, slightly hunched, eyes down at my shoes, and mumble> “My name is Lee Jackson, and I am a procrastinator.”

The “Real” of it is >> I can make dozens of lists and plans and goal sheets…and read all sorts of motivating and inspirational books…and listen to Tim Ferriss and all of his amazing guests (on his Podcast) discussing the keys to project completion and personal success…but if I don’t actually get off my butt and do the work, what good is all of this?

Three things inspired me to do a daily blog:

— 1)  Getting the crap scared out of me on Sunday while watching the Glen Campbell biopic “I’ll be Me” (see previous blog for how much that freaked me out).  This crystallized in me the reality of how quickly time passes.

— 2)  Every day I watch Casey Neistat’s Vlog.  He started it (and maintains it) as a means of doing something creative daily, to hone his creative chops, and to ensure he is never complacent.

— 3)  On the way to work this morning, like nearly every other morning, I was listening to Tim Ferriss’ podcast.  In it, he was speaking with Whitney Cumming (a comedienne) and they were discussing the difference between planning and doing.  For whatever reason, it spoke to my bones and served as an additional prompt for moving forward.

So, going forward, I’m going to write something here every day.  It might be just a few words (ex: thoughts of the day) or it may be a manifesto.  I’ll do my best to keep it in the framework of “To My Kids”.

Scared and excited.

“I’ll be Me”…

There are numerous musicians that served as strong inspirations for me from the time began playing guitar at 8 years old, through my pre-teen and teen years, and until today.  One of the Top-3 of those was Glen Campbell.  An singular voice singing amazing songs, not to mention his utterly jaw-dropping guitar skills.

So tonight, watching his biopic “I’ll be Me” – a documentary done by his wife and family as a means of sharing their love for Glen Campbell as he goes through the degenerative phases of Alzheimer’s disease – was absolutely heart-wrenching.  I’m not ashamed to say that I was in tears several times during the show, especially when I watched the part where his daughter Ashley speaks before Congress about the memories of her childhood that her father no longer possesses, the fact that he rarely even remembers her name, and that, during shows, he now often has trouble keeping up with her when they playing dueling banjos; all as an illustration of the need for more funding for Alzheimer’s research.

All I could think about during the entire show was, “Will my wife and kids have to go through the same process with me someday?”

It is times like that which remind me about the importance of writing regularly and often on this site to you, my wonderful kids. I want to be able to preserve my thoughts and feelings – while I can still express them….while I can still remember them.

When you boil a person’s life down to its core ingredient, for them, that ingredient is memory.  We all dream of sitting with our loved ones around us and basking, not only in their presence, but in all of the memories that led to that moment in time.  It is every experience in my life that created the person I am today.  But if those experiences vanish, if I can’t remember what you said to me 5 minutes ago, if the most precious people in my life are now all strangers, who am I?  What will I become?

In his final recording session, Glen Campbell couldn’t even remember from moment to moment. He had to sing a line at a time, read from a prompter held in front of him in the studio.  Then the producers stitched all of the pieces together during post.  The song (attached) speaks about the fading life-pictures of his life and how, in the end, he’s “…not gonna miss you”…because he won’t even remember you.

Please, Lord, let this never be me.

Angry about getting mad…

We all have our pet peeves.  My list is nowhere near as long as it was when I was in my 20’s (Is that personal growth? Or just an example of having a peeve about long lists?).  Anyway — for whatever reason, there are two that have stubbornly remained at the top of my list for all of my adult life.

>> #2 on the List:  I have little-to-no patience for Stupid People.  Now, if you know me at all, I am VERY sensitive and selective about the use of the word “Stupid”.  I hate it when people use it interchangeably with “Ignorant”.  They are not the same thing, and it’s normally an ignorant person who mixes them up.  An ignorant person simply doesn’t know something.  Taken a step further, the vast majority of ignorant people will eventually learn that “something”, but they remain ignorant until they do.  And then there is that small percentage of ignorant people who know they are ignorant, but refuse to take the time or effort to learn that “something”.  That is a choice — and we each have the freedom to decide whether it is a good choice or a bad one. Making a bad choice does not make a person stupid.  But a “Stupid” person is utterly incapable of learning something.  Many bigots fall into this category, but those aren’t the Stupid People I normally run into.  The common Stupidity I usually encounter is from co-workers or from people who know someone from my inner-circle.  Now let me make this clear >> You really have to work hard to make it onto my “Stupid Person” list.  I will give you every benefit of the doubt.  I will give you numerous chances to prove that you are simply displaying ignorance.  But, over time, there are those that have proven to me that they are incapable of opening their mind, of seeing outside their bubble, or learning a new way of seeing a situation.  So, only after you have put forth exhaustive effort to remain in your cage, then and only then will I finally place a figurative label of “Stupid” across your forehead.  Then, going forward, I will likely do my best to avoid any future interaction with you.  There are many other subtle points to this particular pet-peeve, but I’m sure you get the point.

>> But the Big #1 on my Pet Peeve List (mostly because of how frequently it happens) is >>> I hate being interrupted.

If I begin speaking (probably trying to answer a question you posed) and, shortly after I start talking, you begin speaking (supposedly to answer my answer), then it is glaringly obvious that you are no longer listening to me, and likely weren’t listening to more than the first 3 words that came out of my mouth.  Your mind is now 100% dedicated to getting your new point across and there’s a VERY high probability that your new and amazing and insightful rant will have little or nothing to do with the point I’m still trying to make cause – wait for it – I’m still trying to make it.  Notice the mouth still moving, sound still coming out, etc.

** My standard response to people who interrupt me?  Well, the first couple of times, I’ll stop talking, I’ll let The Interrupter finish, and then I’ll try to point out that their forceful rebuttal had nothing to do with what I had begun to say.  But of course, the normal response is to interrupt that sentence as well with a revised point.  Eventually, when reason and patience have been exhausted, I will simply continue to talk when the person interrupts me.  However, this usually prompts the rude Interrupter to talk louder (cause they’re still clueless that they’ve interrupted you and are now actively trying to talk over you).  So, I talk a little louder than them.  Then they get louder, then it’s my turn, and…  Well, you get the idea.  Somewhere in there, I will eventually say something like, “Can I please finish my sentence?”  This normally causes a look of hurt and offense on the face of The Interrupter.  Even though they are the one who originally did something offensive (and yes, talking over someone is very offensive, not to mention doing it repeatedly), now it’s all about them.  The Interrupter will now, depending on their level of comfort with you, express their feelings of offense and do their best to make you feel guilty for bringing their Interrupter-Behavior to their attention.

Now, inexplicably, I am often made to feel guilty for bringing the offensive Interrupter behavior to the attention of the Interrupter.

With Pet Peeve #2 (Stupid People), I’ve developed a nearly full-proof way of dealing with them.  I internally categorize them as Non-Communicative and I simply avoid communicating with them.  Problem solved (most of the time).

But with Pet Peeve #1 (The Interrupter), these people surround us and are constantly exerting an enormous amount of effort to ensure that they cannot simply be ignored.  Also, many of these people live on the border of being Stupid.  Even when it is repeatedly brought to their attention that they are Interrupters, you can see an internal justification process going on behind their eyes.  They are running through all of the reasons why their behavior is “not that bad” or “a simple slip” or many other perfectly reasonable scenarios where they come out as the wronged person, and not as the Interrupter.

So now, depending on your capacity for stubbornness (or cluelessness), you now risk being classified as two of my worst pet peeves > A Stupid Interrupter.

To be fair, my response to Interrupters has long been my biggest struggle.  I went from being run-over by them (because they are normally Alpha personalities), to actively challenging them (interrupt for interrupt), to – at times – dismissing them as Stupid a bit too hastily.

Now, I am very aware that the bulk of this post has been quite a downer.  I normally try to end my posts on a positive note, on a humorous note, or – if I’m firing on all pistons – a bit of both.  So, with that in mind…

I’ve learned (or re-learned) recently that – often – the answers to life’s biggest issues are actually quite simple.  And, in the case of my Top-2 Pet Peeves, the problem has really been >> me.

For example:  What is the big deal if someone interrupts you?  What’s the worst that can happen if you let them continue interrupting you?  The answer?  Lack of clear communication.  That’s it.  They won’t understand your point because they’re not listening, and in the end, the conversation will come to an end.

So why does this bother me so much?  Why does it grate at my nerves like fingers on a chalkboard?

Because I let it.

I recently had a conversation with a very nice person, but he is – at times – an Interrupter.  It doesn’t make him a bad person.  It doesn’t make him any less intelligent or less kind or less caring.  He just has some bad habits that serve to stilt communication.  When we went through the normal process of talk, interrupt, talk, interrupt, talk louder, interrupt louder, and so on, he took a moment to share his perception that I seem to be getting unjustly angry, loud, and impatient.  Talk about an epiphany!!  Because I respect this man so much, his words had an immediate and long-lasting impact.  He was expressing that he was seeing me in a way that I didn’t want to be seen.

I have long been cautiously proud of my ability to remain calm in volatile situations; for holding my temper when others have lost theirs; and for maintaining a calm voice when others were screaming to ensure they were being heard.  But my #1 pet peeve had effectively usurped years of hard work in a very short period of time, making me someone (at that moment) who was not worthy of respect.

One of my favorite old sayings is, “The only person you can control is your Self”.  I had forgotten that wisdom when it came to dealing with Interrupters.  There was the answer to my pet peeve – right in front of my eyes all along – but I had been too stubborn to see it.  I was being ignorant…almost to the point of being Stupid.

So I am officially removing these two “actions” from my Pet Peeve list.  They were on the list because, for decades, they had controlled me.  They no longer have that power.  My reactions to them are within my control. Now, I simply need to own that control and put it into practice.

My oldest pet peeves have now become my newest and most exciting personal challenges.

Game on!!

Now…if I could only figure out how to deal with people who are perpetually late.   Ah well.  One mountain at a time.

Spoiled by Circumstance 

Today is Father’s Day…and it was my birthday just a few days ago.  With the preemptive greetings that normally precede a birthday, the inpouring of greetings on The Day, the overlap of “Oops, I forgot!” and the early Father’s Day “Howdy”, and now the Official Greetings, that means that I’ve been showered with love for more than a week.

Should I be ashamed by the fact that I spent every day of that week+ with the biggest grin on my face and the best food in the world in my tummy (Thanks Sweetie!!) ??  Should I feel guilty for being spoiled by circumstance?

Naw!! 😁

Never Completely Grow Up

I’ll be 55 in two days.  Wow!  Saying (errr, I mean ‘writing’) that out loud still feels unreal to me.

What does a 55 year old act like?

What is a 55 year ‘supposed’ to act like?

I’ve seen too many of my friends become ‘old’ — some far ahead of their time.

I’m not talking about the physical ‘old’.  My hair fell out in my early-30’s.  My gut began to appear in my early-40’s.  My eyesight and hearing started to fade in my late-40’s.  I’ve long made peace with all of that.

I’m talking about the real ‘me’ inside.  Who is THAT person supposed to be at 55?

I keep picturing this wizened, soft-spoken, gentle-eyed person who constantly comes up with these amazing words of wisdom at the perfect times, who never loses his temper, who always has a ready smile for everyone, and who finds the positive in every situation.  And, even though I’m still doggedly working toward “that person”, I am definitely not there yet.

I still love to giggle uncontrollably over the same stupid joke I’ve told a hundred times.

I still love to watch cartoons with my son and daughter, and soon my grand-daughter…without bothering to pretend that I’m watching it ‘just for them’.

I still love walking around in a downpour, head up toward the dark sky, and enjoying the feel of the rain on my face, the smell of the air, the tug of the wind.

I still get up at 3am, wide awake, to listen to my wife sleep, to hear the creak of the house as it flexes from the force of the wind outside, and to simply walk around in the pitch darkness of my home without any fear of stubbing my toes because I know every inch of this place by heart.

I love playing with little babies and young children – sometimes for hours – as I rediscover the miracle of everything around me through their hungry, curious eyes.

The 55-year old person inside of me has his set of serious responses to serious questions….while the child still vibrant inside of me has a completely different set of sneaky, silly, innocent, and completely absurd responses to all of those same serious questions — and I never know which of the two will win-out from moment to moment.

I’ve been told several times to “Grow up!”…and I do try.  But I think one of the greatest things about being 55 is — I am old enough to make the executive decision that — I will never COMPLETELY grow up.

Happy Birthday to me!!

Finding Joy in Illness

i hate being sick.  But, no matter what precautions I take, the vitamins I gobble, the distance I maintain between me and anyone who sniffles or coughs,  it’s inevitable that – like now – I will get sick. 

But I must admit, there are certain joys and pleasures that are experienced only when you are sick. 

Food (specific foods) taste better when you’re sick. 

My bed feels especially cozy right now. 

When people find out you are sick, they normally do one of two much-preferred things: they are usually especially nice and caring, or they avoid you in order to preserve their own health. 

Yes, I’m sick.  But in a weird but welcome way, I’m happy. 

I don’t want this to last long, but – if I’m being completely honest – it’s not all bad. 

<cough!>

<puts on a pitiful face>

“Can I have some soup, please?”

“Feathers in the Wind”

This is not my story — I heard it (or a version of it) while watching a horrible movie with my wife.  The ONLY redeeming feature in the entire movie was this story.  So, I found a better version of it online – and I am sharing it now.  Says it better than I ever could.

There is a 19th century folktale about a young fellow who went about town slandering the town’s wise man. One day, he went to the wise man’s home and asked for forgiveness. The wise man, realizing that this man had not internalized the gravity of his transgressions, told him that he would forgive him on one condition: that he go home, take a feather pillow from his house, cut it up, and scatter the feathers to the wind. After he had done so, he should then return to the wise man’s house.

Though puzzled by this strange request, the young man was happy to be let off with so easy a penance. He quickly cut up the pillow, scattered the feathers, and returned to the house.

“Am I now forgiven?” he asked.

“Just one more thing,” the wise man said. “Go now and gather up all the feathers.”

“But that’s impossible. The wind has already scattered them.”

“Precisely,” he answered. “And though you may truly wish to correct the evil you have done, it is as impossible to repair the damage done by your words as it is to recover the feathers. Your words are out there in the marketplace, spreading hate, even as we speak.”

Passion Projects – P/P

Passion is vitally important.  Whenever you are in a period of your life when you realize that there is not at least one thing you are enormously passionate about, it’s definitely time to reassess your life and make the time to find AT LEAST one “thing” to focus your energies on.

I’m not talking about church or family or work or Core activities.  Those are topics all by themselves.

I’m talking about Passion Projects.

Passion Projects are those activities that, for a time (whether for a day or for much, much longer) consume a lot of your excess head-space.  They seep into your dreams, they drive you to imagine, and they sometimes even stop you mid-sentence because they’ve suddenly rushed into the forefront of your brain.

A little clarification here >> When I say “Passion Project”, I’m talking VERY specific.  For example: I’m passionate about playing guitar.  But it is no longer a Passion Project.  It (long ago) became a Core activity because I was able to incorporate it into who I am.  But, at times, there are certain chord progressions or songs or music-writing ideas that totally consume me and I can’t stop thinking about them until I make them a reality.  THAT is a Passion Project.

I’m almost 55 now and over the last 4 decades (or so) I’ve had countless Passion Projects.  Early on, I would occasionally stumble onto the realization that (at that period of time) I had no Passion Project in-the-works.  So, I would reset my head and MAKE the time to find a new project.  Eventually, after many of these accidental realizations, I got mad at myself for allowing those lulls to sneak up on me.  Why?  Because the circumstances that normally went hand-in-hand with that realization were always unpleasant – and completely avoidable.  I would be feeling unhappy and not immediately know why.  Or I would be feeling that “something” was missing and I didn’t know what.  I think most of us have those feelings at times but we don’t know what’s causing them, so we fill those empty spaces with other, less-healthy pursuits.  For me, though, I would eventually come to realize that it was because I had (for a time) stopped finding Passion Projects.  Once realized, it was almost always an easy fix.  There are SO many things I don’t know and/or don’t know how to do, so I simply need to pick one….and Go!

In my 40’s, I finally decided that I wasn’t going to allow myself to slip into that fugue state of “Not knowing what’s wrong” and got into the habit of regularly checking-in with my Self.  I began to actively ask myself weekly, “What is my P/P?”  By doing this at regular intervals, I was able to avoid most of those empty periods that used to sneak up on me.  Eventually, it became a very fun exercise of “What shall I learn today?”

I also aggressively began to surround myself (in life, in social media, etc.) with people who were passionate about “something”.  Especially those that were passionate about things that I knew little or nothing about.  Future P/P, right?

So – please – Always have at least one Passion Project going (…but never more than three.  Ask me and I’ll explain why).   You’ll be surprised how much brighter your day is, how much more energy you feel daily, and the number of times people will ask you, “Why are you smiling?”