Tranquility Q2

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 11, Q2

Tranquility: Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.

*this may be also viewed as “Acceptance”

Personal notes:

  • Ignore the trifles. Better yet, laugh at them.
  • Focus on life’s big positives.
  • Realize our time is transitory.

My wife worked at a cancer hospital. Passing through the pediatric ward, she would text, “We are ok.” After all, how could we not be? Life’s noisy trifles were muted, their trivial nature revealed at the sight of a 2 year old fighting for her life. The shocking clarity of the moment rebalanced reality. But as always, time went on, the hours and days slipped by, gray overcame clarity, and trifles regained their strength.

Why? Why do we permit trifles such strength? True tragedies – death, injury, sickness – stir in us something more; our intrinsic human response is the opposite of trifles. Trifles provoke rage, anger, and agitation; tragedies evoke sadness, reflection and compassion. Rather than stiffen, tragedies soften. When my daughter spilled her milk, I fumed a visceral heat. When I learned my uncle died, I sought family.

Last week I talked about my landlord. His Sunday night email temporarily trumped all life’s meaningful positives – a fact that is so preposterous I’m ashamed the sentence is true – but it is true. No matter how I tried, I couldn’t shake the trifle. I repeated the grand notes and I said to myself, “We are a happy, healthy family in a loving, secure environment,” big picture stuff, but it was useless. All I heard was the broken cord amongst the symphony.

Three steps helped overcome the obstacle. First, I talked with close friends. Without emotional connection to the issue, they cut through the noise (thank you). Second, the surest way to regain control was to end the matter quickly; cut out the cancer. Finally, I changed my perception of the matter; the trifle became funny.

Why do life’s paper cuts carry such sting? I don’t have an answer – I wish I did. All I know is we practice, we avoid, we improve, but inevitably, we stumble; we are human. The trifle surprises us and we become trapped. Don’t let the common accidents or meaningless trifles win. We are better than that. The trifle’s weight is an illusion; let it float away in the breeze.

==

Next Week

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 12, Q2

Chastity: “Rarely use venery but for health or offspring. Never to dullness, weakness or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.

Personal notes:

  • This week is a decade too late;
  • It’s the most difficult week to write about publicly;
  • Focus on “health” and/or “offspring,” depending on what the boss says.

I’ll be honest, this week’s virtue is about 10 years too late. If you’re out there having a lot of fun, respect. This week is for you. But if you’re living a quieter lifestyle like me, focus on improving your “health” this week.

Cleanliness Q2

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 10, Q2

Cleanliness: “Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes or location

Personal notes:

  • Location, location, location: New Move, New Home, Big Mess;
  • Pitch the suit, wear sweatpants, and fix the place up.

Cleanliness is deeply rooted in our biological DNA. Unsure? Move from one home to another and record what happens. The experience will erase any doubt.

We are moving, and exhausted, but despite our exhaustion, we are driven by a deeply ingrained desire to persevere. Like an animal ensnared in a trap, we tirelessly unpack boxes, break down cardboard, drag garbage, paint rooms, construct furniture, clean deep into the night, then repeat; it is an effort to free ourselves. The speed is breakneck – we are racing towards sanity.

Our pace results in a deep, filmy sweat that layers like a dirty sweater. The film begins early and builds depth as we labor through the day. I’m left uneasy – I’ve come home from a week of camping and felt cleaner. The only relief is a shower to wash away the filth, and a clean bed to provide a few hours of renewal.

This is our space, our home where we relax and provide shelter. I can’t relax when a deep, visceral dirt covers my person and clutter robs my space. Cleanliness is a part of me; it does not bring me joy, but it does bring me peace.

Moderation Q2

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 9, Q2

Moderation: “Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.

Personal notes:

  • Avoid confusing with Temperance (food/drink); Moderation concerns more with emotions and personal interactions.
  • Avoid flying off the handle, and when you do, be sure to sit down and mull it over.
  • Tie it to last week’s observations.

Last week I was pretty fired up at my dad (in all honesty, I was seething) but took time to work through the emotions, determine a course of action, and, thankfully, calm down – the Bens13 framework worked! But in all honesty, I failed to moderate my emotional reaction. In fact, I’d say my emotions trapped me. Once fury sprung, I was stuck in the whirlpool for hours, spinning deeper and deeper into the abyss. Fortunately, I did not act and did not injure my father.

A few days later, when I found out why my dad didn’t want to talk, I felt bad for ever being angry. More than anything, he needed someone to talk to, and that realization made me think how often we confuse individual actions with personal insults; especially when we can interact without seeing, touching or listening to one another. Often there is no insult intended, just a lack of understanding or a missing piece of information lost amongst words typed on a screen.

Taking a step back was key. Putting everything down, turning off the cellphone, getting away from the noise, prevented me from injuring someone I love – you cannot fire off an ill-thought email if the computer is off. Maybe we all need more solitary reflection? Happy words masking a lie.

Some of these words are half-truths. Last week was great, and I’m trying to be positive, but I’m seething again on a Sunday night.“Forbear resenting injuries” is difficult. The saga of our previous apartment continues. Despite severing the relationship with our old landlords (last week), they refuse to go away. They are holding our security deposit hostage, and at this moment, I am having a very difficult time being moderate. Part of me believes there are those who take advantage of others, and moderation enables them when they do.

I guess this wasn’t meant to be easy. 

Justice Q2

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 8, Q2

Justice: “Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.

Personal notes:

  • Always struggle with this one;
  • Be true to others;
  • Don’t make excuses or avoid helping because it’ll make your life easier.

I’m furious at my father. After promising to sit down and record a belated Father’s Day interview for the Dadventures Podcast, he called me up an hour before the interview and abruptly canceled. What really sent me through the roof was his refusal (or inability) to give me a reason – the lack of explanation was infuriating. Right now I am doing my best to “wrong none by doing injuries,” because all I really want to do is send a hurtful email, or rage at him over the phone.

Giving him the benefit of the doubt, I assume he didn’t understand what a podcast is – I once asked him about a DVR player and he responded, “I’ve got a DVR player, it’s downstairs with some old, blank tapes.” Maybe once he understood that I was asking him to publicly share fatherly insight, he did not want to expose himself; he is very old-school in that way. Alternatively, maybe he did not want to talk to me, his son, about being a dad; also old-school.

Regardless, my boiling blood wanted to do tell him off. Instead, I’m sitting here ruminating the definition of Justice; and partially annoyed while doing it – mainly because this reflective moment is denying me my desire for revenge. Harsh words, I know, but that’s what I’m thinking, and I want to be honest, because I also want to be brutally honest with my dad – I’m disappointed.

I’m profoundly disappointed and want to channel that disappointment into an email explaining why I am hurt and angry, but craft that email in a way that leaves him hurt, angry and sad. “Wrong none by doing injuries,” unfortunately, that is what I want to do; cause injury – so I can’t send any email. I’m disappointed, but shouldn’t hurt my dad in return.

Am I omitting benefits that are my duty as a son? A son should not hope to hurt his dad, but what else? Should I have patience with someone with a different outlook? Offer an explanation of what I’m hoping to accomplish? Dammit, I’m talking myself out of what I want to do – I guess that’s the point though. Will save it for later.

==

Some of the above sounds pretty terrible, but it’s what I wrote when I was angry and trying to think through the situation. I came back a few days later glad I took a moment to calm down and reflect. At its core, I was looking to cause injury – to my father no less – because I had been injured; that would have been unjust. What I’m most glad about is I never sent any email. The reasons behind his cancellation revealed itself a few days later and helped make sense of the situation. It’s something I’d like to talk about next week with Moderation.