Saturday, May 24, 2008

Beartooth scenic highway (US 212)

Charles Kuralt once called The Beartooth scenic highway (US 212) The most scenic road in America. The Beartooth scenic highway crosses Beartooth pass on US 212 between Red Lodge Montana and Cooke City Montana. A few miles east of Cooke City, The Chief Joseph scenic highway (Wyoming 296) descends the south side of the Beartooth mountains, through Sunlight basin, where it joins Wyoming 120 near Heart mountain north of Cody Wyoming.
September 2, 2000.

Pictograph Cave State Park

Pictograph Cave State Park
Billings Montana
September 5, 1999

Oregon trail wagon ruts & Register Cliff

Oregon trail wagon ruts, Register Cliff, Cliff swallows.
Guernsey Wyoming, August 28, 1999.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The frustrated perfectionist

I feel like I've been coasting on autopilot for a long time now; maybe for the last 35 years. It seems like my life has just unfolded in a haphazard way; like I was a tumbleweed blown around by the wind.

I use to have dreams and big plans, once upon a time, but those got set aside one after another in a series of frustrating disappointments. I was going to be a famous movie director but all I had was my Dad's old 8mm movie camera and one role of film (home video cameras and computers wouldn't come along for another 15 years.) I was going to be a famous photographer - I shot one wedding, one high school senior portrait and some pictures of cows. I thought I would be a radio engineer or TV repair man but I was afraid of electricity and I couldn't tell the front from the back of a TV. Nothing came easily and I didn't do any of it very well, so the spark eventually died out.

My various ventures never quite lived up to my expectations which led to frustration, failure, disappointment and eventually disillusionment. I think there were some adults along the way that knew what the problem was and tried to shed some light on it. I think my Junior High Principle tried to tell me. I think Jack from the news paper tried to tell me. I think Bob who ran the drive Inn tried to tell me. I seemed to have had a fundamental misunderstanding about life, the universe, and self. Either I wasn't listening or I didn't grasp the concept.

In his book "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff...and it's all small stuff" (1997), Richard Carlson, Ph.D. explained what others had tried to teach me 35 years ago. He wrote:
I've yet to meet an absolute perfectionist whose life was filled with inner peace. The need for perfection and the desire for inner tranquility conflict with each other. Whenever we are attached to having something a certain way, better than it already is, we are, almost by definition, engaged in a losing battle. Rather than being content and grateful for what we have, we are focused on what's wrong with something and our need to fix it. When we are zeroed in on what's wrong, it implies that we are dissatisfied, discontent.

Whether it's related to ourselves - a disorganized closet, a scratch in the car, an imperfect accomplishment, a few pounds we would like to lose - or someone else's "imperfections" - the way someone looks, behaves, or lives their life - the very act of focusing on imperfection pulls us away from our goal of being kind and gentle. This strategy has nothing to do with ceasing to do your very best but with being overly attached and focused on what's wrong with life. It's about realizing that while there's a better way to do something, this doesn't mean that you can't enjoy and appreciate the way things already are.
My philosophy has always been "If I can't do it perfectly then I won't do it at all." No wonder I've been so frustrated and disillusioned! But, that's only a partial explanation. What about this fear and courage business that Forrest Church writes about?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

I've been a little uptight and tense

This week I noticed that I am a little uptight and tense. This has caused me to be snippy and short tempered with a few people. I have to check that behavior right now. Just because I'm uptight doesn't mean I should be uncivilized with others or ruin someone else's day. I am a mature adult, so I should act like one.

I was thinking about what might be the source of my tension; I thought at first it might be frustration but now I'm not sure. It feels more like anxiety.

There is no shortage of things to worry about. There is: global warming, food shortages, gas prices, the war in Iraq, Darfur, the Myanmar cyclone, the earthquake in China, international terrorists, elections, Republicans, Democrats, theists, atheist, fundamentalists, lunatics, budget cuts, hackers, phishing attacks, identity theft, copyright violations, and a new boss. Hum, that last one might be kind of important.

It's time for a reality check. Anxiety is a byproduct of fear - typically over things we can not control, are unpredictable or which have an uncertain outcome. I think it's natural to be concerned about global events but I think it is unproductive, even harmful, to expend a lot of energy worrying about them. There are some people who are in a position to jump on an airplane and rush off to save the world but I'm not one of those. I can not prevent earthquakes or cyclones, nor can I end war and famine, nor can I turn the election, and the Democratic and Republican parties are beyond saving.

Rather than worrying over things I can't do anything about, I stay informed, I do make financial donations to the Red Cross, I can speak out on matters of moral conscience, I do vote, and I can give my best effort at work to solving those problems that are within my circle of influence.

Loosing my temper and snapping at people isn't giving my best effort. Spending my energy worrying about things outside of my circle of influence isn't spending my energy solving those problems that are within my realm of influence. But, if I value others and demonstrate respect for them, put on a smile, behave in a professional manner, and do the best job I am able to do, I will be spending my time and effort on the right things and won't have any time or energy left to worry about things I can't do anything about.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

A blast from the past

My 1973 bowling team (standing.)
Standing left to right: Ted, Jerry, Mike, Lance, Clyde.
Kneeling, singles and doubles events, left to right: Mark, Steve, Ken, George.

Unfortunately, I lost contact with all of these people not long after this picture was taken. I do know that Mike (standing center) and George (kneeling far right) are both dead now. I also know that Ted (standing far left) was alive and well 8 years ago, but I do not know the whereabouts or welfare of the others.