A Coat Too Large

When I had only 17 years to my age, almost half a lifetime ago for me now, I spent a day volunteering at the District 4 Headquarters for The Ohio Department of Natural Resources. There were three of us, and we were taken in the employees’ only section to an empty conference room where several boxes sat full of papers on the large wooden table. Our supervising officer showed us how to take a paper from box 1, fold it into a paper from box 2, slip them both into an envelope from box 3 and then use the little sponge to make the sticky stuff sticky and close the envelope.

For the next several hours we did just that. Fold, stuff, seal, repeat. Those little envelopes would be picked up later by the postal service and sent all across the state to former patrons, asking them all once again for their money and support to the ODNR.

There was no glamour. There was nothing exciting. It was simply something that needed done, and we were willing to do it in order to make the connection with the district officers. I even felt like I was contributing to a distasteful part of our society (junk mail) but I convinced myself these letters were much less junky than all those that were simply selling something. Yes we were asking for money, but it was for a good cause.

At one point, we took a break and spent a few minutes peaking through the nearby rooms. Its true that we were “in the back” in the employees’ only section, but we figured we sort of classified as temporarily in the employ of the ODNR, plus the rooms were on our way to and from the bathroom.

Well my friend Jerrod noticed a coat rack in the one of the other rooms, and hanging up on that rack was that unmistakable symbol of the Ohio Wildlife Officer, a forest green jacket. This one was the winter model, complete with the fur lining around the neck. We stood in awe for a second and then Jerrod took it and put it on. One by one we tried it on, the coat worn by those select few who had achieved what we all dreamed, to be a game warden.

I was suprised at how I felt when I put it on. I immediately knew that it was too large for me. I wasn’t ready to wear that coat. I was just a kid, and someone in that position had a heck of a lot more experience, wisdom, and age than I did. I was an imposter. Now at 31 years old I am learning more and more that I can never, ever, be ready for every situation.

I am learning the art of navigating troubled waters. I am learning to live with the flames close by. I am learning to walk in the light that I have, even when all else is dark around.

The Cabinet Of Curiosties

In the last few months I have been reading novels again. I read the first three of the Dune series; Dune, Dune Messiah and finally Children of Dune. I was surprised by the third installment and found it quite a bit more compelling than the first two had been for me. This post isn’t really about the Dune series though. This is the about the Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child Pendergrast novels. I’ve now read several of their books; Reliquary, A Still Life of Crows, White Fire, Cemetary Dance and The Cabinet of Curosities, and I am just now beginning to read Brimstone (the first in the Diogenes trilogy).

I thought that The Cabinet of Curiosities was fantastic. It kept me guessing right up until the end, the pace was enjoyable, the characters had heart. The experience of reading it was a pleasure. And yet, what I find most fascinating is that it was nothing exotic. The characters were attainable, the environment was not extravagant, and the names were (mostly) common. They didn’t have to create intercontinental political systems (G.O.T.) or a myriad of new kinds of creatures and experiences (H.P.), or a carefully constructed theology and thick plot (L.O.T.R.).

Preston and Child took the pieces of life we already experience, and simply looked at them in a new way. Maybe you could say that is what all authors do anyway. Relationships, values, virtues, vices…all those things we are already familiar with we look at from a new perspective when we read. Even so, I thought it was impressive that they could tell a good story in The Cabinet Of Curiosities without ever getting too exotic.

Further, I don’t know authors maintain the multitude of elements in their stories, and yet remain consisent. I have tried to organize my daydreams into an acceptible form for a novel, but they have always seemed to fracture and splinter within my mind, creating a plethora of frayed-strands and disjointed fragments.

Maybe it is the memory trip that Agent Pendergrast so often relies on. What if Preston and Child are actually telling us about their creative process when they describe Pendergrasts deep meditation.

When they weave the novel together, with the feints and intertwined characters, do they let Pendergrast himself show them the way the story unfolds?

Finally, the question that I have often asked myself. In the creative process, how much effort should I place on structure and method, and how much should I “let the block of wood tell me what it should be carved into”?

How does this all work?

This world of podcasting is incredibly curious.

I’ve listened to many hours of Tim Ferris (@tferris), and read one of his books. He has liked one of my tweets about him once.

I regularly listen to an ex-attorney, now-excellent-interviewer, Jordan Harbinger (@JordanHarbinger). Jordan tweeted at me. Once.

I have listened to almost all the episodes of EntreLeadership with Ken Coleman (@KenColeman). I wrote Ken a physical letter once, and he read it on the show. So that’s cool.

I listen, and reslisten, to Seth Godin on his podcast Akimbo (@ThisIsSethsBlog). In fact, I’ve listened to one of his Akimbo episodes at least a dozen times now. Seth doesn’t even know I exist.

I am a patreon for Bob Crawford and Ben Sawyer (@Road_To_Now). They have my name on their website, but they don’t really know me either.

How is it that these fellows and their guests (like Nilofer Merchant (@nilofer)) can have such an impact on my life when they don’t even know me? How queer that they occupy the same place in my mind as many of the people I have physically known, and yet I am nothing to them. That I know much more about them than I know about my nextdoor neighbors.

It is unbelievable to me that they can interact with me by their voice through the medium of a podcast in such a personal, real time, way. I suspect this is the same way people have always felt about their favorite authors, or newscasters, and more recently YouTubers, that in some way they know them. What queer relationships there are through the internet.

Luck

A client told me this past Thursday that luck was the moment “ability meets opportunity”. One of my old professors used to say that it was preparation and opportunity. I think ability and preparation are often married together when we feel lucky.

There must be a measure of ability given before that ability can be grown through preparation. It’s your starting stats in this adventure of life. For example, if I weren’t given the gift of life, if my parents hadn’t so generously given of themselves to care for me, I wouldn’t even be here at this moment. Therefore, we each have some ability. Just the fact that we are breathing, that you’re connected to the world wide web and reading this blog right now, you have some ability.

Ability seems pretty straightforward, you can (e.g. learn, listen, love, grow etc) or you can’t (e.g. be someone else, change the nucleic acid sequence coded in your every cell…).

Opportunity gets more complicated, because we often control other people’s access to opportunity. We don’t mess with their ability too much, but oh boy do we have influence on opportunity. To think of it from the perspective of Harry Potter, are you even invited to Hogwarts? What about the quidditch team? How about the Slug Club?

Am I the only one that felt the pain of Petunia when she didn’t get a letter and Lily her sister did?

Anyway, we can go a long way to making others feel lucky when we give them opportunities. And, just maybe, they will have the ability and preparation within themselves to match the opportunity. When that happens, when they get lucky, they rise to the occasion, and it’s a beautiful thing to see.

Sleep

I’ve heard it said that the night grows darkest just before dawn. In the nights I’ve spent entirely awake, and outside, I felt that was the case. I’m not sure why it feels that way though.

I frequently rise before 3AM with my current job, so I see many beautiful sunrises from their inception. The deep blue begins to fill the eastern sky sometime before is any easier to see the surrounding. There are quite a few times I’ve stayed up past three, but I think there are probably less than a dozen times in my entire life that I’ve been awake all night long. Most of those were in a pickup on I-70 and even then, I frequently napped for an hour or two at some point in the night when I “drove all night long”.

In thirty years of living I’ve only experienced a handful of entire nights with my conciousness. I sleep deeply, and often, these days. That wasn’t always the case though.

When I was a boy I spent countless nights awake, and crying, in my bed for the fear of monsters. The monsters I feared weren’t real of course. I knew that they weren’t real. I knew they were only in my mind. I knew they couldn’t touch me. The monsters were only imagined, but the fear was real. The pain of laying awake was real. The shame of carrying that fear was real.

That shame was lifted. Those fears shown to be what they were, just wisps of smoke. Now I sleep well.

Don’t let fear and shame steal your sleep as they did mine. Reach out to a friend. Ask God to give you peace. He will lead you on a path of peace, and that path may take you to deeper places in your own soul than you ever thought possible.

In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord , make me dwell in safety.
Psalms 4:8 ESV

Sleep well tonight, for you are safely in your Father’s arms.

Foundations

In my very limited coding experience, core function designs are passed downstream and they show up many times over throughout the code. Again and again, aspects of those core functions become important to the overall production.

The assumptions that are at the heart of a relationship make themselves apparent through our interactions all the time. Our assumptions about how someone wants to be treated, about what they expect from us, guide our choices. Assumptions are foundational.

Those foundations can be changed. They are not permanent. They are in fact moldable.

You can revisit and rework the basic pieces of the core code, the assumptions in a relationship, or even the foundations of a home. Just remember, if you decide to change the foundations, be prepared to have a shift in everything built on them.

Temporary Pain

Most of the physical pains in my life are only for a brief time. They don’t stay around me very long at all.

Hunger and thirst I feel every day, but before a couple hours are up I am able to get clean water and good food every single day. It’s never a question for me of whether or not I have to go one more day hungry. Sore muscles and aching joints have been common with my job, but a couple days away and I feel brand new.

All these are temporary and I expect the pain to be relatively short-lived. Just like my cold feet and runny nose today that felt ten times better when I got a warm shower. I don’t expect these uncomforts to linger.

But what if it did last?

What if I was cold like that every time I went to sleep, and still that way when I woke up?

I truly can’t imagine what the feeling must be when you believe you’ll never escape the pain.

Living with chronic pain must be like hell.