Order Q4

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 3, Q4

Order: “Let all your things have their place; let each part of your business have its time.

Personal notes for the week:

  • Short week with a lot to do;
  • Enjoy Thanksgiving.

Whenever I think of Order, do you know where my thoughts immediately stray? The endless list of growing, and useless, “to-do’s.” Unfortunately I skip over the first clause of Ben’s sentence: “Let all your things have their place” and instead try to accomplish everything. Regimental drudgery takes over and I become miserable. It’s not what Order is about – not at all.

Over the past year, I’ve realized that whenever I get caught in the Order trap – the trap of lists, schedules and plans – I usually end up miserable. I’m miserable because: One, I don’t care about most of the stuff in my inbox or on my schedule; Two, once I pretend to care about it and add it to a list, I immediately care about it greatly, even though I don’t care about it at all; Three, when I greatly care about that which I don’t care about, I’m never more fraught to explode; Four, overloaded, I explode; Five, I feel guilty I exploded and spiral in misery. The Order trap, it’s one of the fastest ways to accomplish nothing.

Practical tips. 1) Don’t waste effort on items that needn’t get done in the first place. Practice whittling away until core items remain. Ten items on your list? Focus on two. 2) Everything takes approximately 10 steps, 1 item is not 1 item. Mailing a postcard entails buying a postcard, writing a postcard, finding a stamp, remembering an address, writing the address and walking to the mailbox. I spent all day yesterday mailing a postcard. 3)  Get it done. If it is important and needs to be accomplished, the longer it hangs out there, the worse you’ll feel. Nothing feels better than clearing a list of important items.

And it’s true, nothing feels better than tackling what needed to be tackled. A weight is lifted, angels sing, and the rest of the day proceeds with ease. That is the key to Order. Order is not about tackling everything. Order is not about running yourself ragged. Order is about creating attainable goals. Order is about calmly navigating the day. Order is being free to let all things have their place in your life. It took a while to learn, but when I’m not chasing frivolous tasks, the world is calmer, and I’m far less likely to lose my mind when my 2-year-old wants to play. After all, playing with my 2-year-old should be at the very top of my list, but I’ll never add it to a list. The most important things in life are never on a list.

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Next Week 

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 4, Q4

Resolution: “Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.

Personal notes:

  • Determine key tasks this week;
  • Ignore unnecessary items;
  • Act with purpose.

The turkey hangover has scrambled my brain. All I want to do is go back to doing nothing while eating more gravy. With Christmas lists and holiday cheer on the horizon, it’s going to take a lot of Resolve to get anything done this week.

Hope you had a great Thanksgiving

Silence Q4

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 2, Q4

Silence: “Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.

Personal notes:

  • If you have nothing nice to say…
  • We could all use a little more quiet in our lives and we can all practice being a bit more quiet.

Silence is against my nature. I like to talk, interject, state my viewpoint, and shoot from the hip. Needless to say, it gets me into trouble. That’s why I’m amazed by people who can sit silently during a board meeting, a story, or an altercation. They always manage to avoid that foolish, foot-in-mouth, guilt-ridden incident, while remaining gracious and empathetic. It’s inspiring.

Before this year I would routinely get into trouble for firing from the hip: wife, parents, kids, friends. To be honest, I never really thought about being Silent. Most of the world doesn’t: “this is my viewpoint, and dammit, you’re going to listen.” The funny thing is, as I practiced being more quiet externally, my world became more quiet internally. It took time, but it happened.

Silence is golden. It really is. Shutting that internal, nagging voice is worth its weight in gold. Think about how much time and energy you’ve wasted: Why did I say that? Did I sound stupid? I wish I hadn’t said it? I’ve certainly spent my share of hours and days exhausted and taxed by a ceaseless, internal self-critique. A lot of that goes away with speak not but what may benefit others or yourself.

This year has really given me a chance to see where the holes were. One hole was not giving more to the important relationships in my life: listening to my wife, listening to my friends, listening to my kids. A depth grows as deeper roots take hold. Silence is key to that growth. Without really listening to or understanding those closest to you, roots remain shallow and upend in the passing storm. Save yourself a million hassles and a million sorries, let the angst wash away. Practice Silence and watch your happiness grow.

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Next Week

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 3, Q4

Order: “Let all your things have their place; let each part of your business have its time.

Personal notes for the week:

  • Short week with a lot to do;
  • Enjoy Thanksgiving.

With the short week ahead, use Order to ensure everything gets tucked. Don’t roll into the holiday with work angst or a to-do list. Enjoy Thanksgiving and remember to be grateful for the loved ones around you.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone

Temperance Q4

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 1, Q4

Temperance: “Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.”

Personal notes:

  • Limit alcohol;
  • Reduce sugar;
  • Improve meal intake

Saturday night was movie night. Normally I enjoy a bottle of red while sipping a movie. This time however, when I finished the first glass, I didn’t want another. This was strange and annoying. It was not my choice. My body hit the brakes with 70% of the movie and 80% of the bottle left. Annoyed I forced myself another glass. Movie night, time to enjoy some wine dammit. But the glass was bitter. So I watched the rest of the movie sipping water.

I know this sounds trivial, but when I started this project, there was no hitting the brakes until bedtime. I’d start a movie after 2 or 3 glasses of wine at dinner, finish the bottle watching the movie, and then move onto whiskey, having one or several glasses until I was deadened enough for bed. That was Friday and Saturday night. Never once did I stop at one glass.

If I think about what else stopped. Thursday night martinis stopped. As did Wednesday night Manhattans. One year ago I drank some form of hard liquor at least once a night Wednesday through Sunday. I almost never drink hard liquor anymore except on rare occasions, and on those occasions it usually leaves me sluggish the next day. We still have wine often, but in smaller portions. It is rare that I drown a bottle in one sitting; before, if it were open, it was gone.

This project brought notice. Stopping for odd intervals hammered home the difference between a normal week and a temperate week. My body noted the change and began to crave the weeks off, better rest and more enjoyable weekends. Not to mention the physical benefits of weight loss and decreased irritability (always important with a houseful of toddlers).

There are 13 weeks in the Bens13 challenge, for me, this week – Temperance – was one of the more important ones. It helped clarify how much I consumed and lit up what could have become a perilous path and for that, my family and I are grateful. If I tried to accomplish this over a short period of time, I would have failed. The habits of old were too strong. A year of reflection was just the right amount of time.

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Next Week

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 2, Q4

Silence: “Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.”

Personal notes:

  • If you have nothing nice to say…
  • We could all use a little more quiet in our lives.

Usually when I am the most offensive, it is out of speaking from turbulence. The storm inside has not settled. Positions harden and sparks fly, and a wrecked path is left in the wake. And at the end, in the center of it all, is a foolish me, wishing I had just been quiet.

Humility Q3

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 13, Q3

Humility: “Imitate Jesus and Socrates

Personal notes:

  • Put yourself into the shoes of others;
  • Remember that we all falter.

“Imitate Jesus and Socrates” is tough to do. We toss around such phrases glibly, in a manner that has almost become (or has become) derogatory: “What would Jesus do?” I feel both the recipient and the bestower could do well with a little deeper reflection. Let’s sit here now with a little deeper reflection. I know in my heart I am perfectly flawed. We all are. How much can we do?

A friend of ours battling alcoholism has relapsed. The underlying conditions weren’t tackled the first time and I’m not sure the person closest to him has the wherewithal to tackle them again. Sadly, we’ll probably be here for a third time, but hopefully not. I hope not, because I’m really tired and want to walk away. I don’t think I’ll be here a third time.

It’s exhausting, and I’m sure anyone who has dealt with this type of behavior understands. You spend hours on the phone with friends and family doing nothing but re-hatching darkness over and over again. You spend time in the dark and you begin to see in the dark. There is mental wear. There is physical wear.

The wear makes me want to walk away, especially when the effort feels unappreciated and is blunted or ignored. The effort was ignored 6 months ago and here we are again. No surprise, I guess. The person’s life further eroded, further pained, but at least this time there is hope and a glimmer of change. It could be the first winds of spring, or winter catching its breath. I hope the former.

I don’t want to be a part of this again and will cut and walk away. But then, this week is Humility, and I have to ask dryly, without the glibness or condescension, “What would Jesus do?” I guess you can say it’s fortuitous that this week is Humility. I know the answer to my question, and I know that I will go on being a friend and helping where I can. But I also know I am human, with all that is flawed, and I know the journey will continue for now, but later my own life and family will take precedence.

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Next Week

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 1, Q4

TemperanceEat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.

Personal notes:

  • Pre-holiday cleanse;
  • Feel good at the end of the week;
  • Reflect on take-aways from the year;
  • Act with Temperance, Moderation & Humility this week.

Here we are rolling into our final Quarter, can you believe it? It’s almost been a year. Time really does fly. Ahead is one of my favorite weeks: Temperance. Way I see it, this is a perfectly timed cleanse – a way to feel good heading into the holidays (because I know after the holidays, I feel an extra 10 lbs of terrible).

Chastity Q3

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:

  • Everyone’s favorite week is back;
  • My wife’s talking about more kids;
  • Oh boy.

I hate writing about Chastity week. It’s inevitably a giant pain in the ass. What I think is funny and true my wife interprets as insulting and sad. Whenever I write, it hammers home how differently the two sexes view the world. Every guy I know jokes about sex and being married, it’s the way we’re wired. And I’m sure every wife get’s mad about it and takes it personally. So yeah, I hate writing about this week: what to share, what not. Can’t keep it light because then it’s insulting. Can’t keep it honest because then it’s revealing.

But let’s be honest, sex is a totally different ball game when you have kids. Yes, sex changes when you’re in a longterm relationship, but when you have kids, you see the biological result of having sex – offspring – and sometimes offspring are miserable. We haven’t slept in a week because our daughter is sick, and they’re both always awake before dawn anyway. There’s also been a lot of crying and whining lately, especially on this cold Monday morning. It’s a terrible way to start the week and a terrible way to write a blog post.

I should qualify this post with the fact that I love my kids and family. They make me laugh, keep me grounded, give me a world of hugs and kisses. 99% of the time I wouldn’t know what to do without them, but shit, sometimes it’s miserable and it complicates the relationship with my wife, which is manifested in the most physical form through sex.

Sex is always complicated and messy with ups and downs and mistakes. When you have a family, a weird calculus evolves: you seem to have less sex but more complications. I love having a family. But I’d be lying if I said everything is always perfect. Most days, sex is the furthest thing from my mind and writing about it seems ridiculous.

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Next Week

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 13, Q3

Humility: “Imitate Jesus and Socrates.

Personal notes:

  • Put yourself into the shoes of others;
  • Remember that we all falter.

There are a number of difficulties lying before us this week. Best to remain measured and humble. We all stumble one time or another, remember others do as well.

Tranquility Q3

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 11, Q3

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

Personal notes:

  • Learn to accept certain behaviors from people, you’re not going to change them;
  • It’s not cancer, it’s not bankruptcy;
  • Focus on what is in our control.

For this week I wrote a piece all about the dishwasher. You see, the mere sight of my wife loading the dishwasher sent me into a panic. She must be terrible at Tetris, I thought. The misplaced dishes and wasted space evoked a physical response, a claustrophobic punch to the stomach. No one likes being punched in the stomach. So I decided to write about the trivial dishwasher. A perfectly clear observation of disturbing trifles. I liked what I wrote. I liked it a lot. Then I threw it away.

I threw it away because at the end of the week I had a terrible two days; I let all of life’s trifles run wild. I was angry about everything and it ruined the otherwise happy week. It was all my fault. I spent too much time reading the news, staring at my investment portfolio, constantly checking my phone and sitting alone in a dark, gray room. A storm festered and darkness rumbled.

Friday morning, the day most people are happy for the weekend, I lit into my daughter – she’s two. I made her cry, and as I grabbed her for a time-out, I noticed my wife cry too. Sure I can rattle off a list of excuses, but at the end of the day, my daughter is two. I lost my cool. When my anger broke, I felt guilty and sad, and threw out the dishwasher. I had to write something else.

Today’s mood is angry. Anger is infectious. It has the capacity to distort and denigrate the here and now. I allowed the love between a parent and a child to become a nuisance. The two year old who was sick and hungry became a trifle. The trifle triggered my anger. My anger hurt what I love. It was the very opposite of Tranquility and I felt terrible. It was time to step back and reset. I put down the technology and picked up a book. I turned my attention back towards the children instead of away from them. The reset was helpful and the weekend ended happy. Luckily, I caught myself before falling too far.

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Next Week

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 12, Q3

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 is back;
  • My wife’s talking about more kids;
  • Oh boy.

My wife keeps talking about having a third child, at least this week will help delay the inevitable. If you’re not exactly going to be chaste, it’s not a bad week to reflect on the subject.

Hope you have a great week (and good luck)

Cleanliness Q3

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 10, Q3

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

Personal notes:

  • I feel worse when unclean;
  • Clutter leads to frustration;
  • Cleanliness calms the mind.

My laundry pile slowly consumed the room. Like The Blob, it kept growing. Fortunately it didn’t eat anyone, but each time I looked at it, I felt physical pain. The pain was exhausting. I had to tackle the monster – so I killed my laundry pile (just kidding, I took it downstairs to the laundry room). Did you know Entourage’s Johnny Drama killed The Blob in 1988? Awesome, right? Anyway, I took my laundry downstairs. It was heavy as sin and I kept banging my knuckles on the door – add anger to my lack of motivation.

My laundry process is pretty simple: dump everything in, pour in soap, pray the wife’s delicates aren’t in there (talk about a scary movie when that happens). Done. But I’m not done. I leave and go back to work, but the damn alarm goes off. Minutes pass in seconds. So before I know it, I’m back in the basement laundry room, lugging the beast from washer to dryer, then dryer to basket. I hate the laundry room, the fluorescent lights blink like an old Michael Myers movie. I do love the feeling of warm clothes though – fresh out of the dryer. The only downside is you have to fold them. I hate folding them, but I hate wrinkly clothes more; the horror.

Once I start folding though, I forget I hate folding. It’s not too bad really. Your mind gets quiet, which is nice. So I enjoy folding, which takes longer than usual because one of my wife’s scrubs attracted every piece of lint known to man. Like a Stephen King novel where laundry gained the radioactive, super power to attract lint and people lose their minds trying to get it clean. No kidding, beady, white lint balls were everywhere. I had to get my ax, I mean lint brush.

I had to use the lint brush twice to make sure I got everything. I hate it in the movies when they don’t shoot the bad guy twice and he comes back to life. Lint is like that. Besides, you feel really good when the bad guy is dead and all the lint is gone. And in the end, I did feel really good. The dreadful sense that something was wrong disappeared. It wasn’t quite like surviving the zombie apocalypse, but it was pretty close. Maybe that’s why everyone is so miserable in the zombie apocalypse, everything is so dirty. Cleanliness, that’s the ticket, anything less is just too scary.

Happy (early) Halloween

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Next Week

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 11, Q3

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

Personal notes:

  • Learn to accept certain behaviors from people, you’re not going to change them;
  • It’s not cancer, it’s not bankruptcy;
  • Focus on what is in our control.

It’s 545am Monday, my 2 year old is already screaming and yelling. No wonder people hate Mondays. Tranquility: “be not disturbed by crying toddlers.”

Moderation Q3

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 9, Q3

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

Personal notes:

  • Practice Moderation of action;
  • Moderate emotional response (especially at 630pm with the kids);
  • Incorporate Moderation into this week’s conduct.

Physically, I feel some pain in the knees and shoulders but not as much as years past. The joints are stiff and sore, but a more moderate exercise routine has had its benefits. A moderate diet has had its benefits too. No fasting, no lemon juice and cayenne, just smaller portions and more greens. Five pounds disappeared quickly, as did my sour stomach.

My stomach rules all, not my heart. Yes, stress or anxiety wreak havoc on most intestines, but mine felt ill on normal days. I began to think I had become lactose intolerant or developed some digestive sickness. I worried, until I didn’t.

After nearly a year of writing each week, and practicing awareness and reflection, I feel renewed. A calmness has materialized, a guilt and sadness washed away. All is not perfect and mistakes are still made (often), but most is better. If I had to choose the engine of change, I would choose moderation.

My stomach has been cured; it wasn’t gluten or dairy, but life. We’ve changed our life over the past year and moderated everything. We live smaller and save more. Our home is smaller, our plates are smaller, and our problems became smaller too.

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Next Week

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 10, Q3

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

Personal notes:

  • I feel worse when unclean;
  • Clutter leads to frustration;
  • Cleanliness calms the mind.

Sometimes, the hardest thing is taking the first step. The pile grows until it becomes a burden. Force that first step.

Hope you enjoyed the holiday weekend,

Patrick

Justice Q3

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 8, Q3

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

Personal notes:

  • Be true to others;
  • Act honorably;
  • Avoid the simple way out.

This week reflected the cold, cloudy weather; it was slow and tired, quietly wrapped in a blanket looking out a rainy window. Sitting there, staring out the window, I got to thinking about Honor and Justice. No major epiphanies, no revelations, just a hope, a hope to live out an honorable and just life.

Honor is hidden, it is a choice we make in the darkness. When no one is looking and we are free to choose what we may. We are all prone to stumble, to fall and dirty ourselves – forgetting our better nature – but I hope when the challenges arise, I will stand with honor. I cling to that hope.

I hope that when the world is collapsing and I am lost, my lantern does not fail and I can walk in the darkness as I do in the light. I hope that my courage does not waver and that in the end, I can say I lived an honorable life. I hope all these things and more, these gray thoughts nagging on this rainy 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:

  • Practice Moderation of action;
  • Moderate emotional response (especially at 630pm with the kids);
  • Incorporate Moderation into this week’s conduct.

More and more the power of Moderation impresses me; a minimum investment with outsized returns. Moderation of speech, diet, emotion, spending – they are the groundwork of happiness.

Sincerity Q3

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 7, Q3

Sincerity: “Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.”

Personal notes:

  • Such an important one to practice;
  • Especially with friends & family;
  • Be an open book to the ones you love.

When I think of Sincerity, I think of sharing nice thoughts with loved ones. Easy enough but tougher than it sounds. There are times I want to share something nice, but a hand catches the words before they can escape and the words are buried deep below, never to see the light of day.

My kids help me to practice sincerity. They force me to be kind, innocent and just. They remind me to slow down and explain the world; it is still new. Sometimes they cause a fury and I need to catch myself. They are only children after all, there is no reason to be angry; bury the cynic and mirror the innocence.

There’s spillover from dealing with my children; innocence frees what courage cannot. I came across an old photo of my wife holding our first born. My wife looked beautiful and happy. Many times I’ve thought such things and kept them to myself – what a waste. There are so few times when so few words have such a large effect. Share them. 

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Next Week

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 8, Q3

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

Personal notes:

  • Be true to others;
  • Act honorably;
  • Avoid the simple way out.

Honor. It’s an old and antiquated word. One that seems lost to a bygone era. Practice Honor this week.