I Can See Clearly Now

This year is winding down. Looking over my shoulder at the tumultuous path, I can’t believe we made it this far. So much has happened in our little world that has forced us to focus on things closer to home and on the people who matter the most. Left struggling with what it takes to get along in a world that is no longer as welcoming or friendly as we imagined it to be, we have misstepped and stumbled a few times. But we never fell, we always managed to right ourselves and keep plugging gamely forward.

At the end of one year and the beginning of another most of us take time to assess where we have been and where we think we would like to go. Plans are drawn up and goals are set. Optimism rises as we set what is done aside and look out towards the unknown where all things are possible.

Studying on the plans from this time last year, I find I am holding a shredded collection of hopes and dreams. Nothing could have prepared any of us for what this past year delivered. I am hesitant to pull out a planner and set goals for the new year. Life is fragile. We are not in control. Basically, we are along for the ride and no matter how hard we try to steer, there are forces greater than ourselves that ultimately direct our path. What makes or breaks a year is how we handle what we could not know was headed for us.

The Neanderthal lived through tumultuous times, their world often dominated by a harsh climate and the constant struggle to survive in a world that was not nearly as friendly as the one we inhabit. The climate affected their food supplies and forced them to learn to adapt. The ability to adapt to changing environments has become less of a thing for us, but no less important for a successful outcome. The ability to let go of one’s expectations and embrace reality enhances one’s ability to survive. The ability to use reality to sharpen one’s skill set will allow one to thrive.

This past year has been a challenging one. As the months passed, and I stopped fighting against the changes that arose things began to settle. I have learned that the only thing I can see clearly is what is right in front of me. Accepting that all I really have is the moment in which I exist, has been liberating. Trying to look beyond this moment leaves me feeling overwhelmed and distraught. Trying to hang onto what has passed leaves me exhausted and saddened. Taking a deep breath and embracing the moment I am in is the only safe space left for me. In this moment I am free to just be. I am free to make it the best possible moment I can. I can share my moments, I can lift up or tear down, I can laugh or I can cry. I can share a burden or try and haul it all on my own weary shoulders. I can reach out or push away. One thing will lead to another and what I do will define me.

Wherever this year takes us, it is important that we keep our heads up and our focus on what we can see clearly. We cannot delve into the unknown with any certainty and no matter what we think we know, tomorrow will always be unknowable. Each day will offer us plenty of challenges and grace us with opportunities to shine or to dismay.

Gratitude 2022

Everyday when we engage the world around us, our attitude has more influence over how we fare than almost any other variable. There are instances throughout the day we make unconscious decisions about our circumstances that cause us to veer off the track we would prefer. Life is not simple. Things are not black and white. We press forward on autopilot and often end up nowhere close to where we want to be.

On top of that our world seems to be geared towards maximum stress. Some stress is beneficial. Stress pushes us to perform. There is an optimal level of stress where we actually perform our best. Too little stress and we aren’t moved. Too much stress and we freak out and can’t function well. Our world right now seems to be pushing us towards that place where we will struggle to perform.

When everything seems to be going wrong and no matter how hard we try we just can’t seem to get it under control, what can we do? How can we reset when circumstances are beyond our control? How can we get ourselves to a place where we can still our thundering hearts and ease our worried minds?

Looking outside ourselves for a magical or medicinal cure, sends many down a pharmaceutical pathway that may not ever address or correct the path. Taking ownership of our emotions and asserting our dominion over the thoughts that plague us is not easy, but it is doable. Many of us live as though we have no control over the one thing we can control, our minds. Our thought life can make or break us. When I learned that just because a thought popped into my head I didn’t have to entertain it, I took a big step towards freedom from a self inflicted bondage I hadn’t realized I held the key to.

One of the first steps to reigning in our thoughts and emotions is deciding that no matter how we ‘feel’, we are going to find something to be grateful for. Gratitude is a game changer. Instead of embracing the negativity and looking at all the things we do not have, why not take a deep breath and consider what there is to be grateful for.

Everyone’s list is going to be different. Each of us values things a bit differently. But everyone reading this is breathing. Everyone reading this can see. Look around and start claiming the good things for yourself. Lift up your head and turn your back on what is holding you up. Make a list of all that is good. What makes you smile? What gives you comfort? Who do you get to share your time with? Who can you uplift with a word or a deed? What do you have to be grateful for?

Lost in the Mundane

Life rolls on hour by hour, day by day in a mostly ordinary way. Looking out my windshield at the world, I wonder where we are all going in such a hurry. Life seems so frenetically paced anymore and our purpose oblique. We get up and get busy. We need to do this and we have to get that done, and there’s just not enough time in the day to get it all done.

Looking at my day’s I am struck by their ordinariness. Pay the bills, get to work, clean the house, feed the dogs, etc… as I move through the hours I tend to get lost in the mundane. My greater purpose is suborned to a relentless pressure to bounce from one task to the next. So many little things to do, so many tasks to get done, I feel the stress as I measure my success by what I complete. So often, I do not meet my expectations of myself. Maybe it is time to pause and reevaluate what is actually important.

There was a day, back in the day, when I was going to be somebody, I was going to do great and wonderful things…and then I met reality and began to live the life I have been given in the little corner of the world where I settled. The days pass and sometimes I look up and wonder what happened to that idealist? What became of that purposeful young person? And in this great and wonderful world we share, just what is a purpose for one such as I?

How many of us are lost in the mundane, rising and falling with no greater purpose and than to get through another day? The lives of the Neanderthal were purposed on survival. Food, shelter, basic necessities drove them from day to day; however, our lives have been blessed with the basic necessities leaving us time to pursue other things to fulfill our purpose. We all need a purpose. What are we pursuing? What is important enough to get our attention and lift us from the morass? What lights a fire in the heart and drives one forward with passion and purpose? Is it enough to wake and get through another day?

We get to define success these days. In a world circling relative truth what value can we we ascribe to our notion of success?When I become lost in the mundane, I force myself to stop and look around me. I have a comfortable home, pets I love, successful sons, a good spouse to share the days with. I have family, friends, a decent job. I read, write, listen to audio, adventure some in the great outdoors. I have things I look forward to and things I do not. I try to be a positive influence in my little corner of the world. Perhaps, that is enough…what do you think?

Autumn is Rolling In

The Autumnal Equinox is here, Summer has ended. The days are getting noticeably shorter. There is a coolness to the nights promising an end to the stifling humid summer air. Swimming pools have closed, school buses are rolling and the rhythm of daily life is settling in.

With every seasonal change a sense of anticipation rises. What will the season hold for us? Change drives us forward or dumps us backwards. Are we prepared? Autumn is historically a season of preparation. It is a reminder that nothing stays the same and darker, colder days lie ahead. If we want to survive them, we must prepare.

The Neanderthal survived in a much harsher climate than we have faced. The changing of the seasons held life and death for them. To live, preparation had to be thorough and focused on pure necessity. Warmth, some type of food preservation, and shelter that could withstand the bone-chilling cold of their winters. The taming of fire and the shelter of limestone caverns made survival possible. The preparation for the long cold winter carried out over the warmer seasons made survival probable. Without a deep intrinsic knowledge and understanding of the world and environment they inhabited, they could not have possibly lived the centuries they did.

Autumn is a season of transition, a time of evaluating where we have been, how successful our efforts have been and where we are headed and if we have what we need to get there and survive it. We still have time to get things in good order before winter. In my lifetime this season of transition has taken on more of a mental and emotional flavor centered on celebration of the harvest season without actually having to physically harvest anything.

As we move through this season of transition, it would be in our best interest to understand the world we live in and see it through eyes unclouded by the miasma of conflicting information birthed by conflicting ideologies. Reality is where we live. Reality is what we walk into when we set aside our TV and devices and interact with our physical environment. It is our neighborhood, our interactions with folks, our jobs, our families, our churches our communities. Reality is where we shop for food, where we toil, where we hug one another and laugh and cry.

The cold, dark days of winter are coming. We must prepare our hearts and minds. During this glorious season of cooler weather, hay rides, pumpkin spice everything and beautiful displays of color in our mountains let us embrace the change that is inevitable and claim it. We have the most influence on what is ours, this time and season belongs to us!

An Introvert Pretending to be Extroverted, Vending at Festivals.

Stepping outside one’s comfort zone is never easy. The higher the motivation and greater the passion for the thing that drives one to expand one’s horizons; the easier it is to take that step into the unknown. Stepping into the unknown is a venture that inevitably leads to personal growth. Growth can sprout from obstacles and difficulties surmounted or disasters one must learn from then recover from. Almost everything about starting a business and building a brand from scratch has been a challenge promoting personal growth.

One of the things we have been doing to get our merchandise out there for people to see is setting up at different vendor events around our area. Needless to say, I am most comfortable with my own company, there is nothing better than curling up with a good book. When I go out adventuring, I like getting out on the trails and soaking up the peace and nourishing atmosphere of the backcountry. The in your face, constant need to speak and interact with strangers, that defines public sales is a challenge I am slowly growing into. I, like our business, am a work in progress.

Each event is its own little biosphere. The layout of the venue, the focus of the festivities, and the group of vendors sharing the space contribute to the atmosphere. I always go in with a mixture of expectations and fear, hoping to do well and fearing that we will not. It’s an adventure with no guarantee of success and it’s different each and every time. So many variables influence the outcome, from foot traffic to weather, that setting up and laying it out there is fraught with uncertainty. I sit or stand with my offering as people flow by. When people stop and look, checking out our wares, I engage, my enthusiasm sometimes catching. The interest and encouragement we get is as important to our mental and emotional well-being as the funds are to keeping our fledgling enterprise afloat.

Learning the best way to present the merchandise to the ever changing audience has been another challenge. One size does not fit all. The exact same setup has different results depending on where you are and who is coming around. Modifying the setup to engage folks becomes a necessary ritual at every event. I have fond memories and despairing memories. Some events I just knew when I booked us in were going to be great, they were not. Some of the events I went to just knowing it wasn’t going to amount to much surprised me. We took away different lessons from each of our events learning what works and what not to waste time on again.

I have learned much and I am still too new at this to be entirely comfortable. The support of my family and friends has been and continues to be one of the pillars that keeps the venture viable. I am looking forward to all the challenges arising from this undertaking. My goal is not only to establish a company that might grow into something great, but to live my life in a manner that touches others with something positive. I refuse to be satisfied with getting by. There are places to go and things to see and things to be experienced. Thank you for being a part of it.

What I do is Who I am

We start out life with the building blocks of genetic and familial traits. These are the most rudimentary building blocks that we have to work with as we develop our personality and approach to life. Many things go into the mix that makes us into the person we become.

Our immediate family has tremendous influence, but outside influences like what we read, watch, and listen to; along with our associations with others go into the mold that shapes us. Who we choose to befriend; who we decide to admire; even who we decide to dislike all influence our behavior. As we grow these internal and external influences guide our values even if these decisions are unconscious. In fact, our culture molds us even as we define our culture in a circular relationship as old as civilization. What we esteem drives our ambitions. And our ambitions drive our activities.

In our thought life we have an image of who we are. That image also influences and guides our activities. Unfortunately, our activities do not always reflect the image we have created and cherish. What we believe internally and what we project by our words and actions may often be so at odds that the world around us does not even recognize us as the person we hold dear in our heads. This creates a good deal of the conflict in our relationships. Reconciling how others treat us with our expectations of how others should be treating us, based on our self image, creates a lot of discord in our hearts and minds. It can be difficult to live up to the ideal we have created. Good intentions and large egos aside, in the end what we do is who we are.

To get up and face each day as a genuine person is a challenge. The clearest way to grow is to embrace everything that is within us, the good, the bad, and even the ugly. We are all of us not as good as we think we are and better than we believe we are. Accepting that one is less than this complex mixture of conflicting ideals keeps us from growing. Honestly appraising and accepting our weaknesses and the darkness that is within each of us opens the way to growth.

How are you holding up as the world tilts on its axis? So much of the foundation I grew up on has crumbled and the struggle to stay upright has me floundering. The strong, positive, unflappable personae I was sure defined me has been stripped away by reality. I find myself reacting too often and my reactions are too often proving unhelpful. I do not always behave rationally, I find myself slipping and treating others poorly. I make my excuses to justify why my behavior falls short of my ideal , but excuses are just that. What is done is done, what has been said cannot be unsaid. In the end…what I do is who I am.

The best thing that can be said of this is that each day I get an opportunity to redefine who I am by what I choose to do with what is laid before me. My circumstances are far from ideal. Welcome to the real world, right? Each day, I choose to get up and enter the fray; I will not fail due to a lack of effort. I want the world around me to be a bit better because I passed through it. That won’t happen just because I am this great and wonderful person, it will happen because I chose to say kind words, I chose to do the right thing, I left the excuses behind and acted with thoughtfulness and integrity. It will be the ‘little’ things that see us through the difficulties and cause a better person to step out the other side. I am seeking to act like the person I want to be.

Every Day is Another Chance

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Every day is another chance. Our stories are being written, until that day we fail to rise, we have a chance to make a difference, to influence things for the better, to learn something new, to make mistakes, to correct our path, to entertain a grand new vision or accept what is laid out before us. Nothing is predetermined. Nothing is written in stone.

In the Gorham Cave in Gibraltar excavations are on going and discoveries are being made. The last dated Neanderthal populations lived and died in these caverns. According to a BBC article much is being discovered about how these resilient peoples fared towards the end of the line. Climate change drove them from their historic hunting grounds and the close combat hunting tactics that served so well in a different environment did not work so well on smaller faster game. A collaborative, close knit, cohesive society struggled under the strain of environmental pressures and falling birth rates.

When life becomes a battle for survival culture and innovation suffer. The world narrows down and everyday becomes another chance to survive. Distinction should be made between a hard, difficult life and a life lived and molded by a harsh difficult environment.

Our physical environment today is not the harsh frozen landscape faced by our close kin Neanderthals. The environment we face is harsh in other ways though. The mental and emotional climate we are confronted with is tyrannical in its constant onslaught of negativity. A palette of different shades of gloom and doom is offered up with hysterical glee. How do we dodge the push towards the edge of of the pit? How do we declaw the predator that would consume our hearts and minds?

There are forces at work in this world that would have you believe that all is lost. The turmoil and chaos ramping up globally can overwhelm a body. They can leave one feeling helpless and hopeless. We live in a world that is increasingly dark and dangerous and we have little to no control over the narrative that we are exposed to by a 24/7 news cycle feeding on clicks and sound bytes. What we do have control over is how much of our limited time and temporal life we give to feeding that increasingly malevolent beast.

Where are you spending your time and energy? What are you filling those hours with?

I have cut down news time of all kinds. I am focusing on spending quality time with my family. We go places, we do things, we work out, we laugh, we cry, we work and we play games. We live our lives based on the things we have direct contact with, not some nebulous disaster that may or may not happen within our sphere of influence. We are not blind to the difficulties, we just try to make sure that we and those around us are OK.

Reach out and touch a life and uplift it in some way. Battle the agents of despair with kindness. Defy the miasma of doom with a smile and genuine encouragement of one another. We are the authors of our tales. Let us be that knight in shining armor!

Stepping Outside the Routine

Sometimes a body just needs to do something on the spur of the moment. Just wake up and look at an invitation and say all right let’s go! Road-trip!

Before the pandemic I travelled every year to someplace, sometimes more than one someplace. There are places to go and things to see in this grand world that beckon me to explore! I have the ‘bucket list’ and it is an ever evolving list as I stretch the possibilities into probabilities.

Since the world slipped off its hinges and travel was curtailed and the economics became more difficult to manage, I have only travelled close to home. That’s not a bad thing; if your radius is to be limited, there are worse places than here in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. I have so many beautiful destinations to choose from I can’t always narrow them easily.

Another complication to traveling and hiking and exploring the natural wonders around me is my work schedule. I am working extra hours as our company suffers the same lack of help as many others. Those of us who show up have many opportunities to show up even more. I am feeling the fatigue that prefaces burnout.

When my friend sent me a text that she ended up with extra space at her accommodations at the beach, I considered it Thursday night and decided against it. Friday morning, I woke up and asked my spouse, do you want to make a quick run to spend a day at the beach? And just like that we were packing and putting out extra grub for the pups.

It has been a long time since I went to the beach. The drive was extended due to traffic mishaps and congestion on our route, I also plugged in the wrong address so we had to get that sorted out before we at last landed at our destination. We had a fold out couch, a balcony view of the ocean and the sound of the waves. I felt the fatigue and burdens I’ve been carrying lighten. There are few sounds as soothing as the ocean lapping the shore.

We only had a day and we spent half of it sitting on the beach. The water was ice cold, but I could not resist the pull on my soul. I waded out and let it roll across my feet and legs until they went numb, then I walked along the edge the waves rolling across my feet and receding as I covered ground. I made a conscious effort to be in the moment and absorb the comfort and promise of eternity carried by the susurration of the waves. There are spiritual forces at work here and in all things that are bigger than the things and their purpose is unknowable unless it is yours to know. If these truths are yours to know then the knowing will inevitably change you and your relationship to all you think you know now.

I am walking on the edge of great changes and I am trying to make peace with the universe that has thrust them upon me. I thought I knew, I did not. I thought I had been through so much to get me here that I could handle anything. Alas, I cannot. All I can do is treat each day as the gift it is and try not to tarnish the gift.

I lay in the sun, the chilly breeze blowing off the ocean, a happy mix of heat and cool for the most part and I reached out towards the heavens and reached inwards towards my heart and sought a balance between the person I could be and the person I am. The gulf is real, but it is not impossible to cross. I am on that journey now. Nothing in this world is static. It is always better to pursue a goal than just drift along to end up wherever.

We spent the rest of the day eating seafood and then spending time with our friends. Good friends are important to have in this crazy world.

Our return home was a much more pleasant drive and the adventure has helped me recalibrate and I am refreshed and ready now! We have big plans for The Original Neanderthal this summer.

The Struggle is Real

Each morning or afternoon (depending on what shift I am working) I roll out of bed, and the time stretches before me and I must fill it with something. What will the day bring? At that foggy moment as my feet touch the floor so much is determined about the progression of my day. The circumstances, the events, and the responsibilities of my life do not have as much an affect on my day as my attitude when my feet hit the floor. Much of how my day is going to go is determined by what is going on inside my own head.

There are a lot of things happening in the world at large and in my own back yard that I have absolutely no control over. As the days pass and the circumstances continue to develop both nationally, locally and in my own household, I find myself struggling mentally and emotionally. What happened to those days when all I had to worry about was getting to work on time and how to divide up my paycheck between all my creditors and still have enough money to do a few things like buy groceries and gas? When did those days become the good old days?

There is a dark edge to my thoughts at times that would lead me down a pathway I don’t want to explore. There are things happening in my world that are redefining my life in ways I never anticipated nor wished for. I am struggling in my microcosm even as the world at large seems to be convulsing and thrashing about remaking itself into something not quite recognizable. There is no plan, no preparation, no hedge against the forces at work that will promise a good outcome. There is only me and my determination and my attitude standing on the edge of the abyss.

What can I do? I know what I cannot do. I cannot control or affect events transpiring in far away places, no matter how many hours of media I consume. I cannot control what is happening in my own life beyond trying to insure that I deal with it with empathy, and compassion even as I try not to become embittered and resentful. Every day I will face this challenge and I am discovering every day that I will not always rise to the challenge. Some days I leave the field, head bowed in defeat, crushed by my perceived failures. Other days I stride confidently towards the end of the day knowing I’ve got this, I can do what needs to be done. I have yet to find that middle ground where life just is and this is what I do.

It’s all in my head. My perception and my thoughts will determine my course through this. What I feed my psyche will strengthen or weaken me. We must use care in this world full of so much knowledge. Knowledge is power and what we consume is fuel. Feed well and do not starve the heart of the truths that matter most.

Be kind, do not envy or be full of pride. Do not let the world provoke you. Be aware of your thoughts, do not rejoice in evil. Seek the truth and be patient with yourself and others. Find Hope and believe in goodness. It still lives in this world. We may have to endure for a while, but that steadfastness will prove that the darkness is ethereal and can be navigated. Nothing in this world lasts forever. In that statement there is heartache and promise.

Survival in the Ice Age

Ice ages occur when long periods of colder global temperatures lead to the creation and expansion of glaciers. The cooler temperatures of the ice age cause the snows that fall to stick around and year after year glaciers grow and expand as the snow fall collects and does not melt. There have been at least 5 significant ice ages in Earth’s history and the ice ages themselves are broken into glacial and interglacial periods defined by the glacier coverage over the planet’s surface. Glacial periods denote when glaciers cover great swathes of the land and overall temperatures are lower. Interglacial periods of ice ages are when the glacier coverage retreats and ocean levels rise and overall temperatures rise across the globe. We are actually in an interglacial period of an ice age right now as we still have the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets intact. With all the screaming about global warming, that is a fun fact I did not know. We are in an ice age…

The most recent glaciation period known simply as the Ice Age lasted for 50,000 years reaching it’s peak some 18,000 years ago before giving way to this interglacial period. So global warming has been a thing for some 18,000 years now. At the height of the recent glaciation the ice grew to more than 12,000 feet thick as ice sheets spread across the globe and sea levels plunged and global temperatures dropped.

The Neanderthal were adapted to survive in a colder climate and lived mostly in Europe and Asia. Their bodies were suited for the life they lived, they were powerfully built, short, sturdy and strong. Their increased muscularity was beneficial in generating heat. Their hunter lifestyle led to very physically active lives that required lots of calories and protein to support. The game they hunted provided all that and more. Their nasal passages were adapted to optimize breathing in cold climates as tall narrow passageways increase mucosal surface area warming the air coming in.

Survival for these folks involved contending with a harsh climate, they adapted by living in the many limestone caves that dotted Europe and Asia. They had strong family groups that cared for sick and debilitated individuals. The family groups cooperated in large hunts and shared between them the bounty. The Neanderthal lived through many glacial and interglacial periods and evidence from excavations show that they adapted to and made use of the conditions they were living in. Glaciation significantly changes the land, so diets and hunting techniques and even food sources had to be adapted to over time. These major changes take years even generations to occur so one individual lived and never noticed that things were ever any different from what they encountered. The world they inhabited just was and they found ways to survive.

Looking forward from where we are, we can theorize about the changes that will occur if global warming continues. There have been instances in the history of the planet where there were no ice caps. There has been at least one ice age that totally engulfed the globe causing the earth to be one giant snowball in space. Our planet has seen extremes in climate all along its existence. The Earth is a huge complex ecosystem that our species has spent its entire history exploiting for our benefit and survival. The idea that global warming spells the end is a stretch. It may mean the end to how we do things now, but we are a creative, adaptable, imaginative people.

Climate change will affect us, everything in our environment affects us. The end of the Neanderthal has been attributed partially to climate change. Before it broke the last glaciation caused the European continent to became a frozen tundra that shrank the herds of available food sources and an already small population couldn’t over come the food shortages. By the end of the second wave of freezing temperatures the fossil records of the Neanderthal end and Homo sapiens moved in.

Our future as a people is being shaped constantly by our environment. We are being influenced and shaped by the world we inhabit, and by the things we do and consume physically, mentally and spiritually. Our ability to choose how we interact with the world around us and what we consume gives us the tools we need to persevere, overcome and even excel as individuals and as societies. The future will be what we make it. That is our power as a people.