Poetry Corner

Last night did I spy
a star in silence streak.
Through the vastness of the sky,
I heard its wordless sentence speak.

I shivered with the thought of how frightened it must be,
So cold and all alone, with no one except me.
Reaching out I cradled it, suspended in my hand.
There it faded, as was writ it’s song upon the land–

A song of love, a song of loss, a melody of light.
With harmonies of pain and cost, the words were lost in flight.
But never is the song itself, missing or corrupt,
For each of us is a song of hope, a song we don’t give up.

Even as we die,
Our soul in music speaks
Through the vastness of the sky
We hear its timeless message streak. 

& & &

I live in two worlds that exist side by side.
I live in two worlds, but in neither abide.
A world of shades, another of shadows.
A world of happiness, another of sorrows.
Two worlds do I dwell in, but in neither reside,
I’m a wraith, I’m a reaper, I’m your death-knell guide.

& & & 

I grasp for knowledge, but hold only mist.
I seek for answers, but find there are none.
The books are unwritten;
The stories unknown;
And my dreams are but stardust, scattered and gone.

Cornflakes or Raisen Bran?

Did you ever take one of those little wind-up toys, turn the crank and set it down? Then you stand and watch it as it marches itself to the nearest wall or corner and continues to push itself against that barrier, unable to change course, and unable to stop?

It marches nowhere with a determined gait, until it’s energy is all spent, and someone comes and picks it up, turns the key, and sets it off to march again.

The thing is, some people are like that little wind-up toy, too. We’ve all seen them, the person who marches themselves into the wall, day after day, unable to stop themselves, and unable to change their course. You try to warn them; you try to point out different paths (like going around, over, or under the wall), but it’s as if they’re wearing blinders and ear muffs. They can’t see anything except what’s straight ahead of them, and they can’t hear anyone’s advice.

It breaks my heart to watch these people make the same choices day after day, over and over. It especially bothers me when they act surprised by the results. So many times I want to ask them, “What were you thinking?” How could they possibly expect something different would occur, when they keep making the same choices in the same situation.

It reminds me of a scene from the movie Straight Talk, when Dolly Parton is telling the other person how he keeps going into the grocery store to buy raisin bran, but every time he heads to the cereal shelves and grabs the box of cornflakes. Then when he opens the box, he’s always surprised because it’s not raisin bran.

In other words, if you’re always ending up with a significant other who is a lazy, no-account, or verbally or physically abusive, then you need to rethink your choices. To go into a relationship expecting the other person to change is naïve (at best) and unrealistic (at worst). A person is what a person is, and rarely will they change their intrinsic behavior without some major impetus (some life-altering event) occurring. So, to meet someone and say to yourself, “They’re close enough…” and then be surprised when they don’t meet your expectations is foolish.

You can’t keep buying cornflakes and then expect raisin bran when you open up the box, just as you can’t keep marching into the wall like that wind-up toy and expect to get anywhere.

The problem is, most people who keep repeating these behaviors don’t see themselves doing it. They can’t see that they’re constantly picking the same cereal or marching into the same wall. It’s almost as if they’re shopping or walking in their sleep. That’s why they’re always so surprised when they finally open the cereal or recognize that they’ve banging against the wall for weeks, months, or years.

For most of these people, it takes years to finally awaken enough to see the repetitiveness of their behavior. However, by the time they awaken that much, the behavior is such a part of them, that they don’t know how to change it. But recognizing the behavior is the first step to changing it. If they don’t know they’re doing it, how can they stop?

But once they know they keep marching into walls, or buying cornflakes instead of raisin bran, then they can stop themselves; because if they see themselves heading for that wall or that shelf of cereal they can change course. They can redirect themselves by picking another path, a path that will miss that wall; they can pick another direction, one that will bypass that shelf of cornflakes.

The only way they will ever pick what they really want from that grocery store of life, is to shop when they’re awake. As long as they keep shopping or marching in their sleep, though, they’ll always buy the cornflakes that they hate, or get stuck marching into that wall and going nowhere.

Who are you?

Most people don’t realize how big of a blow it really is to lose a job in today’s economy. It isn’t just the money crunch (although that is hurtful); and it’s not just the loss of self-esteem.

No, the biggest impact to most people who lose their jobs is their loss of identity. Suddenly, they don’t know who they are anymore. They used to be Sam Robertson, Engineer; now, they’re just Sam Robertson or they’re Sam Robertson, unemployed.

50 to 100 years ago, people used to introduce themselves by explaining their heritage: “Samuel Robertson of the New York and Boston Robertsons”. Then somewhere around the 1960’s people began introducing themselves with their profession (or in the case of some housewives, their husband’s identities, “Mindy Robertson, Sam’s wife”). Now, our image of ourselves have become so entwined with what we do that when we lose that, we actually lose a part of ourselves.

For those who can (and do) find another job in their chosen job field, it’s not so devastating. But for those whose careers or selected job fields have actually disappeared it’s as if you’ve just been told you have a fatal disease. You actually have to go through a grieving period before you can even begin to think about reinventing yourself. It’s a form of reincarnation, and some make it and others don’t.

Some people are able to easily reinvent themselves (reincarnate themselves) and replace their old mental model with this new one. But others can’t so easily let go of who they were. Sometimes it’s been so much a part of them for so long, that they just can’t conceive of being someone else. They wonder (and fear) whether people would like the new them, or whether they would like the new them. Fear is the biggest roadblock to reincarnating in this way.

After all, as an engineer you had a wife, kids, a house, a great personality, and lots of friends. But as Sam the programmer, will your wife and kids still love you, will they respect you, will you still have friends or will they think less of you? And the worst fear of all: will you succeed or will you end up unemployed again? Is Sam the programmer just a flash in the pan, or can it become your new mental model?

It’s not easy letting go of who you are to become someone else, and it’s especially hard when you really love who you are. If the downsizing and unemployment came as a surprise, then you’re going to especially have difficulty if you have to give up that mental model. Sudden death—any sudden death (death of a loved one, friend, or job)—is shocking, surprising, and leaves you totally unprepared. Of course, that doesn’t mean a slow death is any easier to cope with. Any time you have to put your mental model to rest and create a new one is going to create havoc in your life.

It can be a bit easier if you have some sort of support group, some people to help you through the grieving process. Once done grieving, though, you really need to reassess that mental model of yourself, and determine how much of it really depends on what you did (for a living) and how much is really who you are. Because if you can separate the two of them (even just a little), it will make it that much easier to remove the part that no longer fits, the part that no longer works, and recreate yourself.

If you can see that the engineer is not the be all and end all of who you are, then it makes it that much easier to remove the parts of the engineer that no longer fit and add in those of the programmer that do.

We are the sum of our parts, but we need to keep our mental models flexible enough that we can recreate ourselves, reincarnate, when circumstances require it. I may be Tas, the writer, but that term is broad enough that I can make it fit many circumstances. After all, posting blogs, creating how-to guides or novels, or just keeping journal all count as writing. And an engineer can also be a programmer or systems analyst.

So, practice flexing your mental model. Try thinking about how you introduce yourself to others, and then think about who and what you really want to be. Maybe even now, you need to redefine your mental model. Maybe even now, it’s already outdated and you’ve already reinvented yourself without updating that mental image of yourself. Take another look in the mirror and compare it to the image in your mind, and see how close or how far apart they really are.