Order Q2

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week Three, Q2

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

Personal notes to start the week:

  • stick to a prearranged schedule
  • focus on tasks at hand/block out noise
  • allow flexibility to enjoy family; plan “cheat time” for one off events

Last Monday I did nothing: no deadlines, no to-do’s, no emails. My only task, focus on my girls. After all, it was a beautiful, spring day. We went to the park (twice) and walked everywhere. By the pond we fed the ducks and at the playground we laughed on the swings. For hours they tumbled down green hills until exhausted, they collapsed in my arms. For dinner we had their favorite, mac and cheese. Mom came home early and was met with screams of joy, followed by an impromptu dance party. All of us slept soundly that night. All of us had a great Monday; the rest of the week was a breeze. “Let all things have their place.”

Silence Q2

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week Two, Q2

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

Personal notes:

  • Remember to be silent!
  • Ask why, and then listen to the answer.
  • Limit “hate watching” during TV.
  • Extend to the cyber world: FB, social networks, etc.

A couple walks up to a house, the color of the house is pooh brown. The interior: a 1980s kitchen with scattershot pooh backsplash, pooh painted walls, and dark pooh floors, which I guess is a good thing if you own dogs. The pooh house sat on a lot that can only be described as a repurposed military base: square brick rows separated by tiny plots, no trees, no fences, a cracked concrete slab posing as a patio. The type of craftsmanship that screamed “made by the lowest bidder.” During the viewing of the home, my wife and I joked incessantly about poor taste and even poorer design; surely HGTV showed this home to fuel our self-esteem. But when the buyers decided to purchase the home, our collective hate-watching kicked into overdrive.

I’ll be honest, it was fun making fun of the buyer’s poor decision. But as I sat there afterwards, I wondered why we gleefully ridiculed people? Why didn’t we think: “Well, they’re happy. Good for them for buying a new home.” Better yet, why weren’t we silent? The old adage of “if you have nothing to say,” popped to mind.

On Mother’s Day, I made my wife cry because I couldn’t be silent. All I had to do was shut-up, but I couldn’t help myself and let go a hurtful comment. For a second I stood there fully satisfied, then the second after I felt horrible, wishing I could undo the mistake. Over the next hour I apologized profusely and did my best to make amends. We talked and shared a lot. Turns out we weren’t communicating: I was mad about troubles I kept to myself; she was silently carrying burdens.

When we should have been talking, we were silent. When I should have been silent, I shot my foot off. Yes, you should listen and empathize with others this week, and be sure to avoid useless conversations, but give those closest to you, those you love, the conversation they deserve; engage constructively. And be careful of those fun, snide comments, they can become a knee-jerk habit that ruins Mother’s Day.

Temperance Q2

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week One, Q2

Temperanceeat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.

Personal notes:

  • Limit alcohol intake;
  • Reduce coffee;
  • Eat well rounded meals, no junk;
  • Temper temperance.

When coffee and alcohol lubricate the week, who has control, me or my appetites? Overindulgence leaves me feeling sluggish, slow, depressed. The physical and spiritual recovery is long. Excess drowns the pleasure.

There is reward in temperance, it returns strength and appreciation. When I step away from food and drink, the body feels fitter and my mind sharper. More interestingly, the simple joys that are lost from routine, return: the pleasure of red wine, the richness of steak’s fatty iron, the invigorating smell of coffee.

But there is more to temperance than food and drink, more than restraint in appetite; temperance is restraint in pride favoring humility, restraint in vengeance to fuel forgiveness, restraint in extravagance to build thrift. Or when my daughter throws her tin of toys through the air in church, restraint of anger for calm.

Temperance has grown in importance to me. I understand now that it is key to dominion over self, a domain over which I have never achieved mastery. It’s an area that I will practice, but right now, after a week off, I’m pretty excited for a martini.

Aristotle: “I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who conquers his enemies; for the hardest victory is over self.”