Chastity Q4

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 12, Q4

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:

  • Everyone’s favorite week;
  • Life certainly is different now.

Short post this week for Chastity because in a way, there’s not much to say. I’ve given up on sex — no, not that way — but the other way: the way that was young, carefree and full of partners. Sex now is probably the quickest way to ruin: paying a woman to leave, a hidden online relationship, a dark hotel room. Sex has become dangerous. So for me, I think about chastity and understand the real value of the phrase “injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.” I could lose more than reputation — I could lose the people I see everyday.

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Next Week

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 13, Q4

HumilityImitate Jesus and Socrates

Well, it’s been a year — can you believe it? — and next week’s post for Humility is the last. With all that’s going on in the world, we could all use a moment (and maybe more) to reflect on Humility.

Tranquility Q4

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 11, Q4

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

Personal notes:

  • Trifles are life’s paper cuts;
  • A lot can be gained from taking a breath and letting go;
  • Focus on what matters.

It’s easy to say, “Be not disturbed at trifles,” when your daughter isn’t singing girl-pop at the top of her lungs, 6am Monday morning, before coffee, before you’re awake. It’s easy then. “Baboo-oo-oo-oons, I wish we could go our separate ways. Baboo-oo-oo-oons…” Have you ever heard a super, energetic 5 year old belt out Lion Guard? While you’re trying to write? While you’re trying to think? It takes significant self-restraint not to lash out. I wanted to lash out, but didn’t. I won that day, but not everyday. So I thought: When didn’t I win? When did the urge to lash out win? One month in particular stood out. 

I stopped writing one month because it was recommended to take some time off before editing — so I took a month off. Incrementally at first, but steadily, all the bad habits came back. I filled my time with the computer: consuming news, staring at portfolios, checking Facebook. Days passed, and I became angrier — significantly so. I felt like Saturday morning after too many Friday night scotches. But this time I couldn’t blame commuting, or job, or alcohol or lack of exercise. The problem was me — my mind. An idle mind and the devil and all that, it was true. The result: Tranquility slipped, and then all the other virtues slipped too.

I lost Tranquility. I lost the ability to remain calm, to refrain from snapping, to be happy. Nothing seemed worth keeping around. I lost it because I stopped writing, I stopped filling time with quiet. Writing quiets my mind; so does manual labor or cleaning (it’s funny but it’s true), and playing with my kids. When I stopped filling time with quiet, and replaced it with the shallow, it was like replacing a healthy meal with junk. It tasted good at first, but over time it took its toll, offered no sustenance. My world became chaotic, those closet to me became a burden; 12 months of progress were nearly wiped out by 1 month of regression. You really need to stay on your guard. An idle mind and the devil and all that.

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Next Week

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 12, Q4

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:

  • Everyone’s favorite week;
  • Life certainly is different now.

It’s Monday morning, the furthest thing from my mind is sex. Right now, all I want to do is to go back to bed. That would be better than sex, that and a washer/dryer in our apartment (our baby — the biological result of sex — was throwing up last night). Sex has changed in so many ways.

Don’t worry about being chaste this week. If you can sneak it in, I’m all for it! But maybe give a thought on how it has changed for you.

Have a great week

Cleanliness Q4

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 10, Q4

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

Personal notes:

  • I feel terrible when frumpy, dirty or disheveled;
  • Clutter drives me crazy;
  • Pine needles are everywhere!

We love Christmas in our house. We love the decorations, the tree, the lights, the dishes, the ornaments — everything — but in the end, our love has an expiration date, and it’s about a week after New Years.

I think being unclean is great fun, temporarily. Camping, or a good workout, or playing with the kids — or Christmas clutter and holiday gluttony — feel great, but after some time, there is a deep seeded desire to get Clean. To get home and take a shower, to wear fresh clothes, to get rid of clutter, to eat clean food.

Enjoying the physical, the human, the temporal feels wonderful. Returning to Cleanliness feels better. It is a return to the spiritual. Cleanliness is next to Godliness.

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Next Week

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 11, Q4

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

Personal notes:

  • Trifles are life’s paper cuts;
  • A lot can be gained from taking a breath and letting go;
  • Focus on what matters.

Trifles — tiny wounds that cause such terrible sting. But there is no injury. Just inconvenience. 

Moderation Q4

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 9, Q4

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

Personal notes:

  • Moderate actions;
  • Moderate emotions;
  • Moderate when at your worst (tired, exhausted, hungover).

I snap at family — not strangers, not associates — but family. I used to wonder why, why the people I love? Then I realized I bottle anger and spill it at home. It’s easy to spill at home because it’s the ultimate safe space, where I’m comfortable and shielded from the world. It’s a mistake.

Moderation has been a focus of mine this past year. I’ve gotten better, but still have triggers. My ultimate trigger is my kids. They can bring out the best, and the worst in me. When it’s the worst, I try to take note. Here is that list.

  1. Electronics: I’m consistently amazed at how much worse my reactions are when using electronics. It is digital heroin. Yesterday morning I sipped tea while reading the news on my phone. My 2 year old came over for a hug, and spilled tea all over me — I lost it. When situations are unduly escalated, electronics are involved.
  2. Alcohol: I’ve significantly tempered back alcohol for a variety of reasons, but the main one is family. Hungover with children is the worst — I am also at my worst. My temper becomes extremely short and extra surly. I’ve seen fear in my daughter’s eyes. Had to cut this one down.
  3. Sleep: Young children are exhausting. Sometimes that exhaustion can lead to anger. Coffee is necessary, and TV can be a friend. I’ve learned to enjoy My Little Ponies.
  4. Hunger: Not so much me, but my wife and daughters are bears if they are hungry. Feed the bears.
  5. Exercise: I feel like shit if I don’t work out, and that makes me miserable. I’ve enjoyed martial arts — if you need to get rid of some anger, it’s best to take it out on angry, bearded men.
  6. Direction: Whether you call it direction, passion, or purpose. It’s a big one, it quiets all the inner voices swirling about. This year gave me direction, and it was the surest way to moderate my action. Sitting for hours writing at my desk quieted voices in a way that sitting at a desk for hours reading financial statements seemed to exacerbate them. It was an important, and unintended discovery. If you haven’t found it, it’s certainly worth the investment (a year or more) to find.

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Next Week

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 10, Q4

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

Personal notes:

  • I feel terrible when frumpy, dirty or disheveled;
  • Clutter drives me crazy;
  • Pine needles are everywhere!

I haven’t showered yet, and feel gross. Time to get clean.

Justice Q4

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 8, Q4

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

Personal notes:

  • Be true to others;
  • Act honorably;
  • Avoid expediency.

I threw away the first draft of this reflection because it was garbage. That’s indicative of my experience with Justice throughout the year. I’ve had a tough time with it. Not because I am an unjust person, but because the idea of Justice is too effusive and porous. What is Justice? The word is thrown around loosely and repeatedly, its essence and glimmer worn away.

Essentially, there is big Justice: high courts, marble columns, great acts of humanity; and small Justice: treatment of strangers, waiters, your fellow man. Inevitably, I wander to big Justice, and sound like a wind bag doing it — hence the first draft in the garbage. But what I didn’t realize is, I use big Justice to hide the small.

It turns out, I am not so Just — not so perfect. I can be quick to judge. I can lower my expectations of people based on their words, clothing, appearance. I can be mercilessly critical of those closest to me or most like me (the exact opposite of what one would expect). Punctuality, brands, tastes, all very minor things, can leave a very sour taste. I can despise people for it. I can write them off.

I’ve had a tough time with Justice because I’ve been lying to you, and lying to myself. I’m not unduly critical everyday, but often enough. It took a year of denial for me to realize it. When my mind swirls with rosy pictures of noble causes, it’s easy to convince myself that I am a just person. It’s a lie. A helpful lie, but a lie nonetheless. I hid behind the big, and lied about the small. I need to focus on the small. I need to come back to the day-to-day.

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Next Week

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 9, Q3

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

Personal notes:

  • Moderate actions;
  • Moderate emotions;
  • Moderate at your worst (tired, exhausted, hungover).

Tired, exhausted, hungover — that’s how I feel. I love the season, but I’m always a little glad when the holidays are over. Finally, a chance to save money, a chance to eat less and drink less, a chance to moderate.