How well do you keep track of your time?

Happy Halloween. See my post on Halloween, which I suppose I should have posted today but did not. I guess it has to do with my “obsessive personality,” the subject of today’s blog. Anyway, maybe how we deal with holidays also speaks to our personality. For me, keeping track of time is perhaps the most important thing in my life.

Keeping track of time! The concept of tracking time brings forth images of tracking some wild beast in the woods. Deer, moose, bear, cougars, tigers all leave very distinctive tracks. Time also leaves distinctive tracts. Time leaves physical as well as emotional tracks on all of us. Not to mention the tracks time leaves on the environment. Emotional tracks are evident in the greater cautiousness and fears we have as we age. From experience, once burned, we no longer want to get so close to the flame. Indeed, many of us will not even go near the fire again. Divorce, rejection, death, pain all leave emotional scars. For some of us they may never quite heal. Physical tracks show up as lines, creases, joint aches, hair thinning, broken bones and disease. I often joke that physically I am aging more like cheese then a fine wine. I am getting squishier and somewhat moldy around the edges.

Perhaps you see the ideas of tracking time through a different lens. Maybe you think of the need to track your minutes and seconds each day, a twist on tracking your dollars and cents. Certainly, if you watch your time carefully, you will have more of it. Mark down your time spent each day in an Excel spreadsheet and carefully log your corresponding activities. This last task seems somewhat obsessive to me and I am often accused of being a Type A personality. I once worked at a job where I was required to mark my work in fifteen minute intervals each day and log what I was doing during each interval. After I left this job, I decided I would never work for anyone again where I had to justify myself at this level of detail. It was simply an exercise in obsessive control and domination.

Type A personalities are supposed to be more compulsive and more aggressive than Type B personalities. I wonder if type A personalities are more prone to track their time? Are Type B personalities more prone to go with the flow? Do Type B people live more moment to moment? Are you a Type A or Type B personality? Do you go with the flow or do you track your time? Regarding the physical and emotional tracks that time leaves, how have you fared? What emotional tracks has time left in your life? What physical tracks do you see time making for you?

Is greed really good? Does it motivate or is it a Sin?

The phrase “hard times” reminds us of those days when things really were tough. They might have been when we had no money, no place to live, no one who cared about us, or when we faced all of the problems of the world alone. Studs Terkel interviewed hundreds of people for his book “Hard Times”, which told the story of the Great Depression through the words of the people who actually lived it. Many people still remember the Great Depression when unemployment rates soared to thirty percent and higher. It affected people not only in the US but in many other countries as well. Ironically and tragically, some people today still live no better than many did in the Great Depression. The world is full of areas where poverty and unemployment are rife and where “hard times” are the norm.

When we think of the hard times in our life, we may appreciate more where we are now and what we have now. This is a good thing. However, how often do we think of the hard times in the lives of others? What does the phrase “hard times” mean to people who live where there is no medical care or where starvation and disease still kill thousands? The “Great Recession” is “hard times” to those who have no job and are out of work and whose home is being foreclosed. Greed became good in the 80’s with Gordon Gecko’s infamous “Greed is good speech.” Thank God, the Wall Street Occupiers and others are now trying to return us to more commendable values. Greed is not good. Greed may not be the worst of all sins, but “it is the gateway to all others.”

It became fashionable to believe that: “They just need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. If only they had our work ethic or were more like us, they could have what we have. They could live the good life.” This logic assumes that all things in the world are equal and that all circumstances are equal. It does not take much research or knowledge to realize that this is not true. People do not always bring their hard times on themselves by ignorance or sloth. We cannot always control the world and events around us. Remember the quote by Rudyard Kipling “There but for the grace of God go I.”

Jesus Christ said: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Matthew, Chapter 5-7). He did not say “blessed are the hard-hearted, or blessed are those who pull themselves up by their bootstraps, or blessed are those who have the most.” Funny, how many of us can forget the help we needed or wanted when hard times were upon us. Can you find some way to share your good fortune today with others? What can you do today to take some hard times away from someone else? Be grateful for what you have today and see if you can share some of your good feelings and benefits with others. Let’s all work on rolling back the “greed is good ethic that has permeated our culture.”

How are our lives like a circus today? The first multi-taskers?

A three ring circus! The phase usually means something that is wild, crazy, chaotic, and unpredictable. In a three ring circus, you have multiple acts and performances going on at the same time. Today we often hear talk about multi-tasking, but circuses have been multi-tasking long before the word was even in use. Have you ever thought about the planning and coordination that must go into a circus? You can have clowns, acrobats, lion tamers, horses, dogs and jugglers all performing at the same time. Not an easy production to manage! When we think about the fast paced life that many of us live, it cannot compare to a circus.

Well, maybe our lives feel like a circus at times, but most of us are probably not quite at their level of complexity, not to mention risk taking. Lion tamers, acrobats, trapeze artists are all risking their lives each time they get in a ring. For many people, circuses seem exotic and exciting. Kids once dreamed of leaving home and joining a circus. Many movies have been made about circus life and the romance and drama amidst the big top.

Compare your life to a circus. Are you the ringmaster, a high wire artist, a clown or one of the support people that make the circus work behind the scenes? What part of the circus life do you live? Is your life filled with exciting drama, risk-taking, death defying stunts or mostly the daily chores of watering the elephants and camels? For some of us, life may be picking up the poop behind the horses. Real life is not always exciting and glamorous. What part of a circus would you add to your life if you could? What gets in the way? Have you ever thought of running away and joining a circus? What stopped you?

Do you know what it once meant to have a "Roman Holiday."

Have you ever heard the term “Roman Holiday?” Do you know what it means? Allwords.com defines it as: “An event or occasion when pleasure is taken from the suffering of others. Etymology: so called because days of gladiatorial combat in ancient Rome were public holidays.” Does this definition surprise you? Did you think the phrase had a more benign meaning? Perhaps, you thought it meant something like having fun in Rome while on vacation. Well, in one sense, it does, but the “fun” came at the death and suffering of others. Do we still take Roman Holidays? Some people might say boxing, football and many contact sports are enjoyed more for their violent elements than for the athletic prowess they display. Nevertheless, while we might enjoy these sports, it does not mean that we enjoy the suffering of others.

We may in fact enjoy violence, but I draw the line at thinking that many of us really go to events to see people hurt or suffer. In fact, I have a hard time understanding how even the ancient Roman citizens could have been so callous and insensitive. Perhaps, we would have to live in that era to understand why a Roman holiday would have been fun. Today, I think there is a greater sensitivity and awareness of obvious cruelty. Even in contact sports, I see little evidence of a Roman holiday.

Has the world really grown and become more caring or do I have my rose colored glasses on? Are we less likely to go on a Roman holiday? Do you want to see anyone hurt or get any pleasure from the suffering of others? Do you secretly hope to see a crash during a NASCAR race or do you want to see the acrobat fall during the high wire act at the circus? I will bet not. Why would you or anyone else want to see someone hurt?

What was tthe happiest day of your life?

What was the happiest day of your life? It is a lot more pleasurable to think about the happy times in our lives. However, finding the happiest of the happy may not be so easy. The bad times seem to be etched in our minds, but how quickly we forget the happy times! Taking a journey through my past to answer this question, my mind sorts through weddings, vacations, love affairs, graduations, diplomas, certificates, first kisses, jobs, sporting events and sundry other activities and accomplishments. Somewhat surprisingly, I cannot fasten upon any of these as the “happiest day of my life.” Why is this? Am I looking in the wrong places? What about those book contracts, those great pay increases, and those unexpected financial windfalls? None of these seem to do the trick either! What about those great people I have met in my life? Did they help me to have the happiest day of my life? I must answer no to both of these questions also.

So where then is the happiest day of my life? Why is it so elusive? Have you thought of your happiest day yet? What made it your happiest day? Was it easy to remember? Did you find it had much competition? Or perhaps, you are like me, unable to think of the happiest day in your life? Maybe, the happiest day of our life is still to come and we are just waiting for it? On the other hand, maybe yesterday was the happiest day of our life and we just did not realize it. Are you happiest when you simply live one day at a time and are thankful for the day you live? I think that each day that I can appreciate the smell of fresh air, the joy of a loving spouse, a good job to go to and excellent health is surely the happiest day of my life.

What was the worst day of your life? I will share my mine but time changes one’s perspectiive.

What was the worst day of your life? This is probably something you really don’t want to think about very much. I asked myself this question just a few minutes ago. It does not seem fair to ask you to think about it, if I have not done it. I thought about the day my first wife left me for another man. I had quit my job and moved back to her home state with her. She came out a few weeks early to find work and help get us someplace to live. We had both planned on doing this after we graduated college. I had to stay back to pack and get out furniture and belongings out. When I joined her in Wisconsin, things did not seem right. She seemed distant and cold. I spend the days looking for work.

One day I came home early one day to find her in bed with another guy. I hardly said a word. I took some clothes and moved to an apartment in a small town not far away from where we had planned to live. I wanted to be able to see my daughter as my wife had made it clear that she no longer wanted to live with me. I had no friends, no job and now no family. I called the only person I thought might be able to help, my mom. I asked her to come out and spend some time with me. She said she was sorry but she could not. My brother was facing a statutory rape charge and she had to go to court with him to help his case. I said I understood. At this point, I felt rejected by the whole world. Even my mother did not seem to care about me. I don’t think I could have felt any lower or worse. I had no job, no family, no friends and was living in a new town 1500 miles from where I grew up and where I did not know a single person. .

Now, looking back at that moment, I am thinking: “Well, if that is the worst day of my life, then things have never really been very bad for me.” I had not lost my legs or eyesight. I had not been diagnosed with incurable cancer. I had not lost any children or my wife. Indeed, my life was not really all that bad. I can think of many who have had it a great deal worse. By contrast, I did not have any right to complain. There will be many of you who have had days that make mine look like a picnic. However, in another sense, my worse day, your worse day is all relative. I felt like it was a very terrible day. I thought about suicide and I was depressed for two weeks. I could have checked out of this life. At the time, it seemed easier to do this then deal with a world where I was unwanted by even my own mother. It reinforced feelings of inferiority and negativity. Nevertheless, I did not check out and now ironically, I can look back and say that things have never really been terrible in my life. I have had bad things happen, but overall I have many more things to be thankful for.

Have you answered the question yet? What was the worst day in your life? What does it bring to mind for you? Have things gone from bad to worse for you or is your life getting better? If things are getting worse, where can you go for help? There are people who want to help you. There are people who will care about and love you. The worst day in your life can be the start of a new life where each day can only be better. Give life a chance. Ask someone for help. If you have already weathered the worst day of your life and things have only gotten better, then take some time to share your happiness and joy with a friend or family member. Many of us have blessings that the world would love to share.

What does "payday" mean to you?

Pay Day! What day that can bring more happiness or sorrow to anyone’s heart than “Pay Day?” The meaning of the day might seem self-evident, until you wonder where the word “pay” derives from. Just to enlighten you on some meaningless trivia, Dictionary.com describes the history of the word pay as follows:

The word pay ultimately derives from the Latin word pāx, “peace.” However, it is not the peace of the one who pays that is involved in this development of meaning. From pāx, meaning “peace” and also “a settlement of hostilities,” was derived the word pācāre, “to impose a settlement on peoples or territories.” In Late Latin, pācāre was extended in sense to mean “to appease.”

Thus, the word really means to enforce a settlement on a conquered people. Hopefully, today, our bosses do not impose a forced settlement on us and instead we get a bundle of loot. There are many who would disagree with this statement and with forced cutbacks and give backs becoming common, it would be hard to argue this point. Nevertheless, however it is received; it just goes from one hand in to the other hand out. Who among us does not have more bills than income? Until the “Great Recession,” the average American spent five percent more than they earned. This was true in much of the developed world. We were spending more than we were making. We have become a consumer driven world economy and it has become too extreme. We need a better balance between production and consumption and Green. Green is really a way of thinking about how our consumption and production will affect the world today and tomorrow. We cannot keep expecting other countries or other generations to shoulder the burden for our extravagance.

Come payday, you may be in the camp of happy people or sad people, depending on how much loot you have left over. Payday can be a relief in any case, if it keeps the debt collectors just one more week away. Sadly, it is harder to juggle bills than in the past. With electronic transfers and instant cash and all the other new ways of managing money, we often have very little time between the deposit of our pay checks and when we pay our bills. If you are doing on-line bill pay, you probably have your money taken out of your account in less than twenty four hours. Gone are the days when you could “float” a check for a week or so. In today’s world, paydays just don’t go as far as they used to.

How do you handle your pay check? Are you in the modern world of on-line bill pay or do you get cash and pay your bills with checks? Do you have direct deposit or do you still get to pretend that you are rich for a few hours? Do you look forward to paydays or do you dread the day?

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