"Lorum Ipsum"

Latest

September 11, 2001

During the disputed Presidential election of 2000, I registered with CNN for email alerts on breaking news. For about a month between November and into December of that year, I would receive numerous emails from CNN with news alerts. After the Supreme Court decided “Bush vs. Gore,” the email began to peter out and after George W. Bush became the 43rd President of the United States on January 20, 2001, I received close to no alerts going forward.

For me, the morning of Tuesday, September 11 began much the same way Monday, September 10 had. I drove the 20 minutes or so to work, arriving at about 8 AM. I fired up my computer and geared up for my day. At 8:20, maybe 8:30, I drove out to some client sites – pick-ups or deliveries or whatnot – and arrived back at my office at maybe 9:15. As I logged back into my computer, a string of CNN alerts appeared on my screen – the most recent at the top. I remember reading through them in chronological order. At first I was stunned, then shocked, and then scared.

In our small office, we were all glued to our computers – trying to figure out what had happened. A small television was set up in our conference room and we just sat and watched in amazement. Our offices were directly across the street from the Massachusetts State Police headquarters, which in turn was next door to the Massachusetts Emergency Management Authority. Military armored vehicles blocked access to each compound. The air space over the Boston suburb was silent – no incoming or outgoing flights allowed. It seemed like the world had stopped, save for the emergency response going on across the highway. My cell phone provided sporadic availability – the limited cell coverage at the time was clogged from use. The dial-up internet was slow – bandwidth being taxed as millions logged on to find out news.

It was a time of unbridled fear. I wanted my loved ones close – almost irrationally so. I couldn’t keep my 6-year old daughter any more safe than could her school, but I wanted to be the one keeping her safe. I worked for two Sikh gentlemen and with a host of Indian nationals; knowing an attack of this magnitude could not have come from within and realizing quickly that news outlets were speculating on Islamic extremists, I was afraid for their safety. Sikhs have no relation to the Islamic faith, yet they wear turbans as some Muslims do. I was afraid for ignorant retaliation – those who may be inclined to retaliate will not take the time to figure out who is the enemy. I was afraid for my employees, any one of whom could be the target of xenophobia and attack. I was afraid for the wellbeing of the business – if ownership didn’t feel safe making calls, and if clients were reticent about meeting, the company would shortly begin to fail. I remember telling one employee to be careful, not to display his Quran – horrible advice to have to dispense. Last, I was afraid for my country and what direction it would take.

We had assigned spaces in our parking lot: My space was the last in the row of our assigned spots. After September 11, I noticed the car usually parked in the assigned space next to mine had no longer been there. As it happens, the woman who owned that car and the owner of a business located in our building, began a business trip to Los Angeles the morning of September 11 onboard Flight 11 from Logan Airport. She died as the Boeing 767 crashed into the World Trade Center. Less than a month later, her company died without her guidance.

I would watch videos of the planes striking the World Trade Center over and over, and I sometimes felt overcome with this existential angst – but for the grace of God go I – and anger. I couldn’t fathom making the choices some were forced to make, between jumping out a window to certain death or remaining in a building waiting for certain death. I thought about the babies and children aboard those ill-fated flights and could only hope their parents could have somehow controlled their own fears to comfort their children. And I thought about my own child and the world she would be living in going forward. I wondered about my own strength in the face of adversity and how I would respond.

When air traffic resumed, we were subject to more intrusive security checks – and that was okay. We accepted it, the world, after all, had changed. It didn’t take much, though, to realize that it would not be long before we wouldn’t tolerate long security lines at the airport gate. It didn’t take much to realize how woefully unprepared we were as a nation to combat an attack on our own soil, and it didn’t take long to realize that to ramp up our preparedness, the government would have to take a more activist role.

Some ten plus years hence when I can stomach watching those video clips, I still hurt and I still fight back tears. So many innocent people lost because of random chance – they took a flight they just happened to book or went to work the same way they always did, or responded to an emergency call as part of their job. Countless more who made slightly different choices and were spared. The realization not everything is under your control – that the smallest choices can have enormous consequence – is a constant message.

I realize, too, that I cannot remember the slightest thing about my day on September 10, 2001. I was probably upset the Patriots had been smothered by the Bengals the day before, but other than that not one blessed thing. I remember September 11, 2001 in almost scary detail, and I think it sad that I spend so much time going about my business that I don’t take the opportunity to make sure I’m making the most of my time. And much like the rest of us, I resolve to change that, but quickly slide back into the old habits of complacency. I just hope it’s not another 9/11 event that jars me – or anyone else – out of their complacency. God bless the United States of America.

Robin Williams

Tonight, Robin Williams is dead.  A man responsible for so much joy found life so intolerable that he felt he had to end his.

Truly a comedic genius.  So completely outrageous, and zany, he leaves me in a sad place.  How someone who could see the world in such humorous terms, apparently couldn’t see his own life through the same lens.  While “The Crazy Ones” was alright, it was still humorous.  How someone in such a dark place could be as humorous as he was in that show eludes me.

To be sure, someone who commits suicide doesn’t find himself in that place just once for a short period of time.  It’s a long term pain.  It’s a place so dark and so awful, but even then it takes time to come to that place where you decide there is only one way out of it.

Williams accomplished more in his life than most.  His body of work is incredible – from Mork & Mindy, to Mrs Doubtfire, to Jumanji, to Aladin…name it.  His work made me laugh, and made me think.  And now, I watch an interview with him – zany, funny, smiling – I can only think about the pain he must be hiding.  It astounds me how someone who accomplished so much couldn’t see how much he meant to others – not just the faceless and nameless masses, but his own family.  I live – and perhaps am alive today – for my kids and family.  I’ve felt hopeless, and I’ve been in dark places, and I’ve questioned my own existence.  It astounds me how someone as accomplished as Williams could feel the same.  But worse.  He took that one more step.

“No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world…”  I used to think Robin Williams was both funny and deep.  Today, I’ve come to find he was funny because he was deep – and he used his own pain for leverage.  Consider: “Good people end up in Hell because they can’t forgive themselves.”  Imagine his own personal hell that had him take his own life.  “I used to think the worst thing in life was to end up all alone, it’s not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people that make you feel alone.”  Imagine what his family is feeling tonight.

Godspeed Robin.  I hope you’ve found your peace.

With All Due Respect…

“With all due respect.” The phrase is supposed to acknowledge that the parties of a conversation do not agree on a particular point, and such disagreement is not due to any disrespect. It further indicates there is a degree of admiration due to the listener.

A skillful speaker of English, however, can successfully twist the phrase into a slight in and of itself. The truly beautiful part of using it against the listener is that there is nothing in particular about the phrase that should engender anything from the listener other than a polite response; it almost creates the obligation for a polite response. If you’re the particular sort who takes great pride in knotting someone’s boxers in a bunch, you can lay that on your listener, say something that completely contradicts what they have just represented and they will be left with the sense that you were speaking to them with respect, yet you have come up with something utterly offensive.

This of course can cost a few social points in that you have specifically stated that you don’t mean to be offensive – and clearly because you gave all due respect – and yet your own social filters were unable to screen out the patently offensive comment. However, if the target of your social incorrectness is somewhat more socially inept than are you, you can easily skate on this point with all of your social correctness chits in place.

You can also use the phrase to indicate how little you actually do think of the listener.

When speaking with someone you clearly do not respect, stating that you’re going to make a point to them with all the respect due them, is a bit like offering the sleeves off your vest. Say you’re talking to someone with whom you are actively engaged in an ad hominem attack. In the phrase “with all due respect,” you’ve now embedded the meta-message, “and you’re not due any respect.” “With all due respect, I think you’re a pusillanimous puke.”

In my opinion, the most personally satisfying use is the time when the object of ridicule has no idea he or she has been identified as not having been due respect AND having received the offending comment having been initially disarmed by the that initial faux-acknowledgement. It’s a beautiful Machiavellian double-entendre where that individual may actually compound the insult by acknowledging that what you have said could be true.

The skillful turning of a phrase can be one’s best psychological defense from perceived attack or one of the best implements with which to bludgeon one’s despised other in a socially tactful way.

And so, with all due respect, I must now bid you adieu as I do have some other affairs to which I must attend. My hair needs washing and my socks are due for their matching. I’m sure you understand.

To Be Honest With You…

How many times have I sat in an interview with a candidate or sat in an automobile sales office, or in some other meeting on a sensitive topic where the person with whom I’m speaking says, “To be honest with you…”?

Now, I’m sure the expression is mean to address the idea that what has been asked or that which has been otherwise addressed, is somehow sensitive or somehow difficult to answer – particularly for a sales representative trying to sell me an automobile who wants to recenter the conversation away from potential issues or additional costs. Particularly in the case of an interviewee telling me that he or she is going to be “honest with me” though, I immediately note that something other than the complete truth is about to come my way.

It’s a verbal cue. It tells me instinctively that the person saying it feels they haven’t built sufficient credibility throughout the conversation – or relationship or body of interaction with you – to sufficiently express themselves. OR they’re flat out lying, putting some undue spin on what they’re telling you, or telling you something other than what one might reasonably consider the truth. An interviewee saying “to be honest with you” to me is essentially telling me that “I haven’t been honest with you up to this point, but please accept what I’m about to say as truth.”

In either case, now the listener is focused on a few things other than that which the speaker is expressing. Bingo. That speaker has redirected full attention away from that which he or she has expressed to you. While you’re thinking about whether they’re about to fabricate something out of whole cloth or if your relationship is something other than wholly honest, this person continues talking.

If you’re a sales representative trying to sell a car, this may be a good thing.

For an interviewee, this is potentially fatal. As a job interviewee, it is your ONLY job to be communicating who you are, what you are about and why you are the right fit for the organization. Your ONLY job is to communicate a positive message about yourself, TO ANSWER QUESTIONS. “To be honest with you” screws that up. I’ve now got MORE questions about you. I’ve now got MORE questions about what you’ve already told me. My pace and track has been derailed. Does that mean you won’t get a second interview? I don’t know – it depends. Do you want to take that chance?

It’s loaded. Don’t bring a loaded phrase into an interview, lest you shoot yourself with it.

Dents, Dings, Scars, and Things

Every dent, every ding tells a story. I grew up watching the Boston Red Sox on television, and by the time I was 14 years old, I finally had the opportunity to see them play in Fenway Park for the first time. My friend’s dad ran a grocery chain and had tickets from the Coke distributor – my very first game was witnessed two rows back from the visitor’s dugout on the third base line. Those seats are now worth some $85+ dollars. Back in 1984, not so much.

It was the first time I had seen Fenway and the wall up close. The “Green Monster” has dents in it covering decades of baseball games. With each dent, a story is born. The story of each is lost to time, but each one has a story. There’s the September 2, 2001 game at which I sat in the right field bleachers where at the bottom of the 9th inning and 2 out, a perfect game was broken up with a line drive off the wall. To the best of my knowledge, no one ever marked the dent made by Carl Everett’s line drive.

There is no telling what each dent means, but those stories are there.

The same is true in any work of human art, any random encounter one may have. A visit to the Museum reveals a world of story. Certainly, there are visitors who go to see Rodin’s statues and gaze upon the inherent beauty of the man’s work. I, however, wonder what must’ve been going through the artists’ mind and how he controlled his hand in the creation of his work. To know another human’s hands has touched upon a piece of stone, of clay, and scultped a work of art. What was the context, what was the motivation that fed through that artist’s hands to create such a work?

A glance upon the bumper of any random car. A scrape, a dent, a ding. The car next to you held together with duct tape. There’s a story if you’re willing to accept it. The man at the convenience store who can’t find the additional change or the sight of the faded tattoo on his arm. There is a story to each of those things.

The scar from a channel of stitches on the body of a person who has undergone surgery. Certainly, there’s a story to be told if you’re willing to hear it.

Listening is one of the hardest tasks we as humans as asked to do, those who can internalize and appreciate the story behind the marks upon others, understand what it may be like being in the shoes of another.

The world is full of similar examples. Take a look at the car next to you tomorrow morning. Who is driving it? Where are they going? What is the story behind the vanity license plate?

Take a few minutes to observe that which comes from without. There may be great treasure awaiting you.

The Unheralded Unassisted Triple Play

Though relatively unheralded in baseball lore, the unassisted triple play (UTP) is a far more rare occurrence than the perfect game. There have been 23-perfect games in the history of professional baseball – and as anyone who was paying attention to the 2010 baseball season, we know Armando Gallaraga of the Detroit Tigers was hosed of a perfect game on an umpires’ untimely gaff. There have actually been several more games that could in theory be perfect games, but by a 1991 rules redefinition they were written out of the records books. A 12-inning perfect game was wiped out by a 13th inning meltdown in 1959, for instance, as was a 1995 perfect game being thrown by Pedro Martinez only to have the lead off hitter in the 10th inning bring it down.

However there have only been 15-unassisted triple plays in baseball history. Consider this: for the number of possible opportunities for this to occur – generally 17 or 18 times a game multiplied by the 2430 MLB games a year – and you begin to see how truly rare a feat this is. In theory, there would be 4860 opportunities (number of games multiplied by the two pitchers on either side) to throw a perfect game every year, but there would be somewhere in the vicinity of 43,000 innings a year for there to be an unassisted triple play to be executed.

The first unassisted triple play recorded in the history books was having been executed on May 8, 1878 by Paul Hines, but there is some controversy as to whether or not Hines could have executed the “unassisted” portion of the “unassisted triple play” by virtue of where the runners were on the basepaths and how the play is actually described, but under modern rules it would not have been credited as such, and is not included in the list of UTP’s.

And as rare an event as the unassisted triple play is, not unlike the statistical glitch that was the 2010 baseball season for perfect games, they seem to come in clumps. 6 of the first 7 unassisted triple plays occurred in the 1920’s – 2 each in 1923 and 1927 – and the last 5 have occurred in the last decade – there was some 41-years between that last on in 1927 and the next one in 1968 and 24-years before the next one after that. The two 1927 unassisted triple played actually occurred on consecutive days, by two Boston players – one each for the Red Sox and the cross town Braves.

Of the 15-UTP’s, two have happened for the Boston Red Sox and two have happened for thePhiladelphia Phillies – not surprisingly since these are two of the oldest teams in professional baseball. What is somewhat surprising is that two other ancient teams – the Cincinnati Reds, the oldest team in baseball, and the New York Yankees – have never had one executed on their behalf, while one of the newest teams in baseball, the Colorado Rockies, have and only one has happened in the World Series. Most surprising to me is that the World Series UTP did not involve the Yankees, the most prolific representative in the World Series.

NHL’s Original Six

Anyone familiar with the National Hockey League (NHL) knows the “Original Six:” The Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, and Toronto Maple Leafs. These 6-franchises are the legacy of the “original” NHL teams before the league doubled in size in 1967 to 12-teams.

Growing up, I had the opportunity to watch the last two active players from the “Original Six” era play -Wayne Cashman and Rogie Vachon – but I missed watching the last player in the NHL until 1967 who played for an NHL team that was not part of the “Original Six,” Ken Mosdell. How could someone have played for an NHL team that was not part of the “Original Six” before the league expanded from the Original Six?

With not so much research, one finds that far from being the “original” six, the NHL began in 1917 with 4-teams only two of which – the Montreal Canadiens, and the Toronto Maple Leafs ‘- remain. The only other member of the “Original Six” with a claim to the mantle of “original” is the Boston Bruins, founded in 1924 as the first US based NHL team and the only other team in existence when the NHL became the only league competing for the Stanley Cup. The remaining members of the “Original Six,” the Chicago Blackhawks, New York Rangers and Detroit Red Wings – were formed in 1926 as “expansion teams.” Further, while the name “Ottawa Senators” may sound familiar to modern day NHL fans, the team eventually became the St. Louis Eagles before ceasing operations.

As it happens, then, the “Original Six” turns out to be a matter of a bit of marketing and truly only differentiates between the wave of modern-era expansion teams and the teams that comprised the NHL for the quarter century between 1942 and 1967: Like so much in life, the definition of the word “original” depends on one’s starting point. The “Original Four” were the Canadiens, the Montreal Wanderers, Toronto Arenas, and the Ottawa Senators. A fifth team, the Quebec Bulldogs, was technically a member of the league, but did not compete until 1919 and The Arenas were a “temporary” team created by the owners of the Toronto arena to replace still another team as ownership of that team was in dispute.

For 25-years from the founding of the league, it was in flux with teams folding, moving, withdrawing from competition, forming, and even cancelling competition for the Stanley Cup due to a flu outbreak; From 1917-1942, the league expanded and contracted due to economic forces of the Great Depression and the outbreak of World War II. In this era, the league ranged in size from a low of 3-teams when the Montreal Wanderers withdrew, to a high of 10-teams from 1926-1932.

By 1942, the “Original Six” were the remaining teams, and represented a much different league than that which began operation out of the demise of the National Hockey Association (NHA). For the second 25-years of the NHL’s existence, this stable of teams remained constant and became the basis of the expansion of the league. While not wholly inaccurate – after all, the league is not calling this group “Charter Members” only “Original Members.”

Consider this for a moment: that temporary team without even a proper name, the Toronto Arenas, won the Stanley Cup in the NHL’s first season and evolved into the Toronto Maple Leafs. It is interesting then, that the team created to fill a void, became the first champion and one of the two oldest franchises in the modern league.

Perhaps more interesting is that the NHL itself was created as a temporary solution while the National Hockey Association (NHA) sorted out its business dealings. In the meantime, it has grown into a 30-team league and a history just a few years shy of a century ‘” a longevity surpassed only by the two leagues of Major League Baseball.

REFERENCES:

Do Original Six teams still matter in the NHL: http://sports.espn.go.com/nhl/columns/story?id=2773591 
Toronto Arenas: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toronto_Arenas

Original Six: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Original_Six 
History of the National Hockey League (1917-1942):http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_National_Hockey_League_(1917%E2%80%931942) 
NHL Expansion History: http://www.rauzulusstreet.com/hockey/nhlhistory/nhlhistory.html

The Old Woman and Hockey: A Bond

Growing up, I lived across the street from an elderly woman, Minnie. She was the stereotypical “old lady” who just didn’t like kids in a neighborhood just crawling with kids. Frankly, we were all a little afraid of this large, scary woman who really didn’t like us. My family moved to the neighborhood when I was 4, and for the next 6-years I pretty much lived in fear of this woman.

1980 saw the US Olympic Men’s Hockey team defeated the heavily favored Soviet team to advance to play for the gold medal – “Do you believe in miracles?” At age 10, I had no idea what had happened, but I knew it was something big. Jim Craig, the US Goalkeeper, was from Massachusetts and was a bit of a crush for Minnie. To this day, I have no idea how I came to be in her favor, but it was like a thaw had occurred. She began to share with me her significant collection of Sporting News back-issues, and fostered in me a love of the Boston Bruins. What a pair we must’ve been – the elderly shut-in and the junior high student standing together on her front porch, with nothing apparently in common, talking about the Bruins.

I don’t think I ever learned the origin of this love of hockey – whether it was simple infatuation with the hometown hero or if it went back to a childhood in the Canadian Maritime Provinces – but it was real and it was genuine. She taught me to love Rick Middleton and Terry O’Reilly…and the Bruins.

She did not live to see the 1987-1988 Stanley Cup Finals, and perhaps it is just as well given the way her beloved Bruins fell to the Oilers, in 4 ½ games. With the arena air-conditioning battling to control the rising temperature, the electric system in the Boston Garden became overtaxed and ultimately failed. The 3-3 game was canceled in the second period. In the next game, the Oilers won their 4th Stanley Cup on home ice.

I thought about her the day of Game 7 of the 2010-2011 Stanley Cup finals. I can picture her large frame in a drab housecoat and slippers cheering on Tim Thomas, Shawn Thornton, David Krejci, Zdano Chara, Milan Lucic, and Mark Recchi, although I can also imagine her sometimes ribald commentary about how to actually pronounce some of the names and asking “exactly what is a ‘Canuck’ anyway?” There might even be a play on the phonemes that the slang for “Canadian” and the slang for carnal activity share in common, although I cannot say for certain. I got to share a bond with this woman in a way that I think she had not allowed herself to share with anyone in a very long time.  

So here’s to that elderly woman, long since deceased who was doubtlessly cheering on the Black and Gold “B.” Godspeed Minnie, and God Bless.

VIDEO: 
Game 4 1987-1988 Stanley Cup Finals: http://youtu.be/7yTVfJNQQiw

Getting Through Airport Security

The announcement over the airport PA system reminds the traveler not to accept packages from unknown persons and to keep a watchful eye over his/her own luggage, “in this time of enhanced security.” Any frequent air traveler has come to be weary of the TSA security checkpoint, after all no one really wants to deal with having their belongings or person scrutinized, but more often than not it is prolonged by other, unprepared travelers.

Here’s what you can do to speed yourself through TSA security.

1) Empty your pockets before getting in line. I carry a soft-sided bag, anything in my pockets goes into the side pocket – change, keys, wallet, belt, phone, everything. Make a plan and remain consistent about where you stow your belongings – travel is difficult if you lose track of your wallet. In line, I unbuckle my belt which either goes into a bin with my jacket and shoes or it goes into the bag.

One quarter in your pocket will double your time in the screening area. You’ll set off an alarm, the TSA agent will ask you to check again, and through the machine you go again…or through a hand screen.

2) Know how many bins you will need to screen your belongings and pack your bag appropriately. It sounds like a simple thing, but you know you have on a jacket, you’re wearing shoes and a belt, and carrying a notebook computer. The jacket and shoes can go into one bin, the computer goes in alone. 2 bins. Have change in your pocket? Watch? Grab the correct number of bins to avoid having to reach back or otherwise disrupt the process. Put them down on the table in front of you. Down goes the soft bag, which goes on the conveyor first, then my bins slide in right behind it. Maybe you’re carrying liquids – you’ll need another bin for these.

3) Wear slip-on shoes. Unless you’re a minor or a senior, you’re taking off your shoes in the security check point. Do yourself a favor and make it easy on yourself to not only take them off, but get them back on once through the checkpoint. Thigh-high boots, laced up dress shoes or sneakers take some time to remove, but getting them back on is a chore. Your goal is to get through the security check point as quickly as possible, and that means collecting your belongings after having been screened. The jacket comes off, and into a bin. The shoes come off, and into the bin with the jacket.

4) Notebook computers have to come out of their bags and go through the x-ray in a tray by itself. I carry my notebook in my soft-sided bag, packed right on top and the last thing I put in. Once at the security checkpoint, I unzip my bag, drop the computer into a bin alone. At this point, it’s almost one swift motion.

5) Once cleared through the checkpoint, be prepared to collect your belongings. The bag comes through, then the bin with my shoes, then the computer. I grab my shoes and slip them on – if you regrettably decided to wear those boots, or dress shoes, you’re carrying them away and putting them on in another area after having walked around a small section of the airport in your stocking feet. The notebook is taken out of its bin, and back into my bag. I now have my belongings and can now move out of the screening area. A short walk out of the screening area, the belt goes back on and the contents of my pockets are then replaced. If there’s a time crunch, those items are already stowed in the bag, and you can retrieve them later.

6) Be polite. When approaching the first agent who reviews your boarding pass and identification, be polite. Look the agent in the eye, answer questions when asked, smile. Their job is to make sure you’re appropriately in the area; your goal is to get screened as quickly as possible. There is no reason not to be polite. 
7) Know what you can and cannot carry onboard. Know how much liquid or gel is permitted to be carried; and do not carry any prohibited items. Since there is an evolving list of items that are prohibited, if there’s a question in your mind about what you can carry, check with the TSA first. Their “Prohibited Items” list is available at http://www.tsa.gov/traveler-information/prohibited-items.

If you’re thoughtful about what you’re carrying through security and come to the checkpoint with a plan for getting your belongings (and yourself) through the checkpoint, you will save yourself and your fellow travelers time. 

Blah

I don’t write nearly as often as I used to nor, quite frankly, as I would like.  There was a time I would write to explore ideas, or to give myself a creative outlet, or if nothing else, to keep myself sane.  There have been times when I have been ridiculously creative or depressed and needing an outlet.  I’ve traveled an interesting journey in discovering myself, and writing has served a solid purpose in helping me explore those feelings.

Over the last few years, I’ve found differing purposes that have held my attention.  I no longer spend a hundred hours a month commuting to a stifling job and therefore no longer spend that time circulating ideas in my head – creating existential questions begging to be answered.  I’m largely free to explore ideas of interest in the context of my job – a job with the twin benefits of at once being highly entrepreneurial while also being one where I have a consistent and predictable salary.  I’m actually paid for my opinions and the analysis at which I am very good.  The best of both worlds.

It’s with this in mind, then, that it occurred to me that after some 10 years of self directed writing that I write most of my work at night.  For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a night owl.  There’s no one around to distract my attention, and as such, I can focus my efforts without interruption.  The house is quiet.  The external demands minimal.

I am without a doubt an introvert.  I used to take this time to recharge my batteries, to get out all of that “STUFF” in my head.  I now spend a lot of time alone and as such my batteries are generally charged up.  This has served me well, as I cannot remember the last time I felt so emotionally healthy.  I have a better understanding of myself, my limitations, and my strengths.  It’s in this context that writing takes a backseat, because I have the time to think and process and just be alone that I’ve never had before.

There are times, though, that I still need to process out in writing.

When I was in college, I had an Op/Ed column in the school paper.  I wish I had been forward thinking enough to save some of the pieces, but alas I wasn’t.  Every week there was a column put out there – for ridicule or praise – in front of my 4,000+ fellow students and faculty.  And there was always this weird sort of dichotomy where I would read what I had written and question my work, but when I read it in the paper – as though someone else had written it – it felt “right.”  It was in black and white on newsprint.  It had to be legit.  Writing served as a really good way to force some construction around my ideas and communicate them.

Now, I realize a good portion of what makes me tick – middle age seems to have had that effect.  When there’s a lot going on around me, I start to shut down – there’s so much to process, over which I have no control.  With all that environmental noise going on, I focus on one thing at the exclusion of everything else.  As the noise increases, my field of vision – or hearing – decreases.  It takes work to filter out all that “stuff” in the environment, so when something deserving of attention requests attention, it’s often difficult to get it.  Essentially, I’m capable of focusing on one thing at a time and when I focus, I do so effectively at the exclusion of everything else.  Sometimes so feverishly that I fail to notice things I should – like the effect I’m having on those with whom I’m having a conversation.  I have to force myself to make sure I’m not driving home my analysis at the expense of alienating those who have so graciously engaged me.

What makes me feel badly is when someone who deserves my attention doesn’t get it and is hurt by that.  It also makes me feel badly when my headspace and need isn’t acknowledged.  It’s important to get my attention to discuss something so I can respect your feelings, but it’s equally important that my need to be able to focus is respected.

I want to be engaged and to listen, but I also want to be respected and not belittled.  I process information my way, you process information your way.  It would be great if we could just figure out who we could process together.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 106 other followers