What Is Your Excuse?


I find excuses everywhere I can. There is meaningful work to do, but the kitchen sink is full of excuses why not to get started. So is the stack of unread mail piling up on the desk. I have lists full of excuses, overgrown with mundane tasks that "need" to be done. Other people are wonderful excuses. They provide a target other than myself for my frustration over inaction. If only my partner would do more around the house. If only my employer would change this or that way of doing things. If only everyone around me would be what I wish myself to be, a person living each moment with passion and focus. It is so much easier to be critical of someone else's behavior instead of dealing with my own.

I have to take responsibility for my excuses. I create them and I nurture them. But I can also make them disappear. The dishes can wait, most of the mail chucked away, and those "to do" lists pruned to the absolute essentials. Instead of wasting time wishing they would behave as I want them to, I can let others live their life as they see fit. When necessary, I can ask for help to complete the responsibilities we share in common.

Life is short and we are only guaranteed this present moment. There are things we can do that will nourish us and the lives of others. These are usually the difficult tasks, the ones that need our full focus and commitment. They are the things most worthy of our limited time and attention. If you are not doing them, ask yourself:

What is my excuse today?

Based on a journal entry from 12.11.14




noun ex·pec·ta·tion ˌek-ˌspek-ˈtā-shən, ik-\

Simple Definition of expectation

: a belief that something will happen or is likely to happen

: a feeling or belief about how successful, good, etc., someone or something will be

With the passing of another year, I find myself thinking about expectations. My culture and upbringing created expectations about the path my life would follow. The journey was supposed to look something like this:

  1. Go to college
  2. Start a career
  3. Get married
  4. Have a few childern
  5. Etc., etc., etc.

In the years after I graduated from college, my expectations about how my life would play out did not come to pass. I bounced around between graduate programs because I knew how to succeed at school, but did not know what I was actually good at doing. In my mid-twenties, I was disillusioned that my expectations about how life was supposed to go were not being met, even though unbeknownst to me, those expectations was not what I wanted anyway.

The Outward Bound course I took at the age of 26 forever changed my expectations. I learned to expect more out of life than working long days under fluorescent lighting. I learned to expect a life full of exploration, growth, and learning. Most importantly, I learned to expect more out of myself than settling for the expectations that my culture and upbringing had placed upon me.

Expectations can be both guide posts and trap doors, depending on how I approach them. Having expectations of myself keeps me accountable to the goals and values I am seeking to accomplish and nourish. Having expectations of how I would like others to behave or a given situation to play out is a recipe for frustration and disappointment.

I think it’s good to have expectations, but to carry them lightly. Clinging too tightly to expectations can easily lead to disappointment and frustration, and prevent me from seeing the other opportunities that are present in any given moment. When things don’t go as planned or hoped for, it is important to put down my expectations and accept the situation as it is, not holding on to what I wish it would be.

As the New Year begins to unfold, ask yourself what expectations you are bringing into it. How will you react if those expectations are not met? What will you do if there are?

Post Election Depression: The Old House


Picture of old house with flowers growing in frontIt’s been over two weeks since the 2016 Presidential election and I’m still waking up many nights with feelings of anxiety and fear. And I’m a privileged white guy. I can’t imagine what it must be like for those who fear the results of the race could radically and imminently change their life. Regardless, the situation definitely knocked me down into a state of mild depression from which I’m just starting to climb out of. Sometime recently, I stumbled across this journal entry from 2014 and it reminded me of how I’ve been feeling lately.

Riding the waves of emotion and mood, from feeling flat and half-dead inside to being ruffled and roughed up at the slightest of provocations, to not often enough experiencing feelings of joy and wonder. It gets tiring to try to stay afloat in this ever changing sea, with my arms flapping about in its waters looking for stability.

I fear I’ve slid into a depression. I’m in a place inside me that feels all too familiar, an old house with furnishings dusty and broken down, with only dim cloud filtered light coming in through broken windows. The floors creak and groan as I walk about this place looking at the faded pictures hanging crooked on walls with peeling paint, images of all my fears coming true and of all my past failings and hurts. I don’t want to stay in this place. I want to get out, but I can’t find the front door.

I know that a better place exists within me; a place full of beauty and light, not contained within four walls, open to time and space. I have lived there too, run free over it’s hills and valleys, bathed in it’s warm seas, been astonished and brought to tears of wonder at its star filled skies. This is the place of possibility, where anything can happen, where I know that I belong, where everyone belongs, each a piece of the syncopated orchestra of life.

I know I will return to the place of beauty and light, leave this old house and its dark shadows behind, just as I know that I can never leave it behind forever. This house is a part of me, just as the sunlit world is. I must learn to accept it as one of the places I call home, to be open to it, to learn all of it’s secrets, explore its dark corners, and then perhaps, the way outside again will reveal itself.

Originally written on 11.17.14