Comfortably Numb

March 30, 2009

There is no pain, you are receding.
A distant ships smoke on the horizon.
You are only coming through in waves.
Your lips move but I cant hear what you’re saying.

When I was a child I had a fever.
My hands felt just like two balloons.
Now I got that feeling once again.
I can’t explain, you would not understand.
This is not how I am.
I have become comfortably numb.

“Comfortably Numb” Pink Floyd

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A good condolence card

March 30, 2009

A couple of years ago, I found myself attending a lot more wakes/funerals. I had just started doing a lot more pastoral ministry and being involved in people’s lives means that you walk with them through everything. You don’t get to choose the weddings over the funerals. You attend them all.

I remember there was one week when I attended 2 wakes. After running around hunting for yet another condolence card at the last minute, I wondered if I should go out and get a box of them.  Just in case.  It seemed wrong somehow. As if you were wishing that more people would die. But the pragmatist in me won out and I purchased a box of plain, wake-appropriate cards.  The box sat on my bookshelf, to be opened in case of emergency.

I’ve long finished that box of cards but writing them never got any easier.  I never know what to say and every thing I write just sounds so empty.  But even so, I know they matter because I’ve needed to receive those cards before.  It’s not so much what is said as the trouble that is taken to say it.  And in the quietness of your bedroom, after the madness of the wake and the funeral, they are a source of comfort.  I’m all for the tangible expressions of affection.  Thinking happy thoughts from afar is useless.  I believe in articulating them.  God made me literate for a reason.

Anyway, I’m a researcher so I did some research over the weekend on the “key” elements of a good condolence card, which I’m posting here for future reference.

1. Acknowledge the loss and the name of the deceased.
2. Express your sympathy.
3. Note special qualities of the deceased.
4. Include a memory of the deceased.
5. Remind the bereaved of their personal strengths or special qualities.
6. Offer help, but make sure it is a specific offer.  (I had to comment on this one.  People always say – Call me if you need anything.  This is a cop out.  It places the burden on the grieving to decide and figure out what they need.  A specific offer is much more appreciated.)
7. End the letter with a thoughtful word, a hope, a wish or expression of sympathy e.g. “You are in my thoughts and prayers.”

I realized that sometimes the fear of doing the wrong thing during a sensitive time paralyzes us into inaction.  But it seems to me that this is not the right way.  I would always rather err on the side of having tried.  It may be methodical but I rather that than wringing my hands in despair.

8pm in the office

March 27, 2009

It’s 8pm in the office on a Friday night.  I arranged dinner for late but I’m so hungry now that I’ve lost all ability to concentrate.  It has been an insane week.  Very busy.  Juggling a few too many balls.  But oddly, I’ve mostly enjoyed it.  Been highly productive and remarkably “in the zone”.

Random work-process related observations.

  1. Technology seriously helps.  I am juggling too many things but calenders, to-do lists, RSS feeds and delicious links really really help to get me organized.
  2. Planning helps.  I am a “P” personality (Myer-Briggs).  Over the last couple of days, I’ve needed to be a crazy list-maker to compensate for my natural inclination to leave everything open-ended.
  3. Being buzzy doesn’t always help.  My brain can be a little bit of live firing range.  Which is fine till you need to FOCUS on one thing and get that damn thing done.  Having a “parking lot” equivalent where you can just dump stuff is useful.
  4. Unproductive noise, particular inane chatter really really bugs me when I need to concentrate.  For some reason, I have a real problem zoning that out.
  5. I am not a morning person at all.  It’s terrible.

But, I’m a happy camper.  It’s been a good week.  And damn I earned that Friday night (and Thursday night) beer.

“Nothing is better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and that his soul should enjoy good in his labour.  This also, I saw, was from the hand of God.”

Ecclesiastes 2:24

Fireflies in the Garden

March 27, 2009

Here come real stars to fill the upper skies,
And here on earth come emulating flies,
That though they never equal stars in size,
(And they were never really stars at heart)
Achieve at times a very star-like start.
Only, of course, they can’t sustain the part.

Robert Frost

A third way

March 26, 2009

Food for thought for today from Fast Company:

In my study of highly successful leaders, I feel the most common theme, the most universal characteristic, is a form of thinking characterized by President Obama’s sentence,” Martin said. “Given a choice between two unsatisfactory outcomes,” a stellar leader finds a third way. He doesn’t choose. Instead, he “has the capacity to find a solution superior to either of the available options.”

A frivolous application.  My choices for today were to 1) stay in the office and work – which I’ve done every night this week; or, 2) go home and sleep.  Reality?  The secret third option – Pizza, beer and live music.  A solution superior to either of the available options.  🙂

Looking up

March 25, 2009

Hope your week is better. Hope things are looking up.

After the carnage of the last couple of weeks, I’ve been getting these sweet messages from dear friends at the beginning of the week. I am no longer naïve enough to believe that things will improve (even though they have slightly). And yet, I’m relatively calm and happy with a deep sense that whatever happens, things will be okay.

Crisis has the potential to bring out the best or the worst in a person. I had a thought this morning that any common plant can grow in fertile soil. It is easy to grow when the sun is shining, there is rain and times are good. The challenge is to flourish in the harshest and most unforgiving of environments. In the scorching heat and parched soil. It made me think about this passage –

7 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
And whose hope is the LORD.
8 For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters,
Which spreads out its roots by the river,
And will not fear when heat comes;
But its leaf will be green,
And will not be anxious in the year of drought,
Nor will cease from yielding fruit.

Maybe that’s what God is trying to say to me this year. Not saying. Showing. In the midst of difficult circumstances, there is no need to fear. The roots are still well-watered. The leaves are still green. There is still fruit. I like that. Not anxious in the year of drought. Indeed, not anxious in years of drought. Not any common plant but built for the harshest of environments.

What an interesting idea!  Not needing things to look up.  It’d be nice but not necessary.

Silver ink, black paper

March 22, 2009

I took out a stack of card and some pens and sat down to write.  Happy birthday.  Yadayada.  Silver ink on black paper.   Then I remember that 12 years ago, I’d written a note – silver ink on black paper. The recipient is different.  My handwriting is different.  Many years have passed.  But I really haven’t changed all that much.  I’m actually pretty happy about that.