Sunday, May 30, 2021

When Closings Open

A friend and I have been introduced to Louise Penny's murder mysteries.  In the first several books, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache invites young, untrained officers into his homicide unit.  Oftentimes, these officers have been labeled as outcasts - by themselves or others.  Gamache takes them under his wing and imparts the lessons he has learned over the years:  ask questions, be silent, observe, and listen.

I wonder -- as people who are moving from a COVID-closed Way of Being towards more openness and freedom of movement -- what lessons have we learned about ourselves and those around us?  What questions have we asked?  Are we willing to sit in silence, observe, and listen?

Do you seek light in your darkest moments?
(Full moon over Avalon, Santa Catalina, California)

Also, there is a vulnerability and humility in Armand's Way of Seeing life around him.  Whether he is piecing together the events leading to the murder, gently training his officers, or relating to his wife and children, he chooses to seek Light even in the darkest moments.  In several books he mentions four sentences that he has learned to say:

  • I don't know.
  • I need help.
  • I am sorry.
  • I forget.

Reflecting on Armand's wisdom, when was the last time I said these words to another person?

When do you open yourself to possibilities?
(Beach dining on Crescent Avenue, Avalon)

I am beginning to realize that being in relationship and learning to dialogue requires that we practice when and how to openly reveal ourselves to another person.  Being human means that we accept not only our strengths, but also our weaknesses; the times we are closed to -- or open to -- helping and understanding; and the moments we don't know or forget how to act.

Spending a few days and evenings in Avalon, Santa Catalina, I sat, observed and listened to how an island town suffered during the COVID closures.  Heavily reliant on tourism, their island totally shut down.  People lost their homes and businesses.  In order to survive, 500 of the 4,000 people were forced to move away.

Are you willing to burst outwards?
(Aureolin Yellow Spire Chandelier, Dale Chihuly)

As closings began to open, people learned to rely on each other.  Masks may have covered mouths and noses, but the resilient minds and hearts found ways to become creative and unmask what separated them:

  • Beaches in the evenings became dining rooms.
  • Social gatherings reconnected people at a distance.
  • Normal services focused on individual needs, not differences.

Rather than returning to the Past Normal ways of being and seeing, I wonder if we can share the lessons of loss, challenge, and darkness by asking questions... sitting... observing... and listening to Ways of Creating Common Unity (community) through what we don't know, where we need help, how we might be sorry, or when we forget... to be human with each other.

Our future doesn't have to be dictated by the past.  Rather, might we consider when closings call us to be more open with one another?

What reflections do you have of your Closings and Openings?

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Labels and Tapes: "I am..." and "You are..."

My name is Larry, and I am a Recovering Labeler.

In order to survive this world, I pigeonhole myself and others into neat definitions and file folders... I label myself and you!  I replay tapes that describe how I see myself:  "I am..."

And, to be honest, I have tapes about you as well:  "You are..." and "They are..."

What inner maze do you navigate
when thinking about self and others?
(Mosque-Cathedral, Cordoba, Spain)

I don't want to assume too much here, but I wonder if we all do this: seeing or hearing someone we don't really know and placing a label on them?  I have labels for:

  • Politicians whom I agree with, and different labels for those I disagree with.
  • Sales professionals who help me, and door-to-door sales people who interrupt my day.
  • Family, friends, and work colleagues that support and encourage me, and those I don't understand.

Part of my recovery as a Labeler is noticing the labels I have created or tapes I replay:

Which ones are inaccurate and keep me from seeing clearly?

When do you allow the mists of misunderstanding
to dissipate, so you can see clearly?
(Mountains surrounding Montserrat, Spain)

You may be wondering why I am reflecting on my addiction to labeling self and others.  While mentoring someone this week, I noticed that she was focusing on all of the negatives about a specific situation.  I found myself identifying with her:  it is so easy to describe what I don't like!

The challenge for her... and myself... and, dare I suggest, all of us: can we name what we like about a situation, about others, and about ourselves?  Can we see the beauty in the intricate complexity of our relationships?  Can we lower the labels and stop listening to the self-recriminating tapes and see anew? 

Can you find beauty in the intricate
design and interconnections with others?
(The Alhambra, Granada, Spain)

I don't think I can stop myself entirely from labeling.  It seems so hardwired into how we experience our world.  But my hope is... one moment at a time... that I will notice when I have trapped myself with definitions and conclusions that limit our interactions.

Once I notice the label or tape, can I:

  • Hold the label and tape gently, and wonder where these came from?
  • Consider that my conclusions may not be accurate?
  • Explore more deeply who I am, who you are, and what we currently understand and believe?

It is in these reflective moments that I can release the constraints that keep me from seeing the beauty and value in you, and I can silence the self-incriminating tapes that imprison me.

May this week surprise us with positive outlooks, experiences, and self-discovery.

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Penciling in Possibilities

No matter where we start in the year, we encounter beginnings and endings, endings and beginnings.  For instance, we are:

  • Ending the school year and beginning the summer season;
  • Moving from one phase of the pandemic and starting another; and
  • Finishing one project or assignment and being introduced to another project and team.

It is this latter situation that is happening for me at work: having completed one product redesign and launching another multi-month project with a new set of coworkers.

I guess that is why I am thinking of pencils right now!

Do you enjoy new beginnings?

I remember as a child the magic of a new pencil: unsharpened and eraser unused.  The possibilities of that new pencil!  How long would it stay sharp?  Would the eraser last until the pencil was too short to use? What would be written or drawn with this pencil.... compared to the last one? And finally, letting go of that trusted companion and welcoming another new pencil into my life.
As I contemplate pencils and new assignments, I wonder if I face relationships and dialogue the same way?
  • How will I sharpen my skills in order to create?
  • When will I need to erase missteps and harsh words?
  • Will the relationships last beyond this moment?

Beginnings and endings are interconnected: beginning the path toward discovery in order to be discovered.

When do you seek the Light-in-the-Darkness?

Projects -- and sometimes, people -- are like being in the dark.  We can't always see the outcome until we take that first step.  Moments of unseeing and unawareness require us to seek light and understanding.  It asks that we become curious, letting go, and moving forward.

The straight lines that we draw with that pencil -- and with our understanding of others -- sometimes need to bend, making shapes both simple and complex.

Can you envision the balance between
Simplicity and Complexity?

Beginning with a new team, starting a new relationship, and opening a dialogue require that we balance our individual needs with those of the Other.  I must end the myth that "I have all the answers" and "I am right."  We are asked to listen to possibilities, and begin to understand the unity common to each of us: we are human, trying our best to survive.
The light comes from walking together through the darkness of misunderstanding, and beginning to trust that each of us brings beauty and truth to our Created Future.

May we be willing to sharpen our dialogue skills by listening.  May we be willing to erase the judgments and conclusions we have made of others.  May we draw on the possibilities that will bring light to our darkened world.

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Paths Untraveled

Do we realize that we are different people because of this past year?  We have been changed: in how we see ourselves, how we interact, and what we want from life.  Normal is no longer normal: it has become elusive.

I have spent some of these last 14 months cleaning out closets and boxes in the garage.  Years of personal history and forgotten memories have surfaced as today's light shines into boxes reopened, boxes with Past Treasures Saved.

What opportunities have you had in life?

Questions have emerged during this Clearing Out and Life Review -- questions spawned from curiosity, not regret.  For instance, I wonder if there are:

  • Conversations not explored? 
  • Questions not asked?
  • Assumptions not checked out? 
  • Memories not remembered?

What would life have been like if I had:

  • Remained a second grade teacher or a youth minister?
  • Been ordained and followed a ministerial path?
  • Stayed in Human Resources or at the university where I worked for over 23 years?
  • Moved into full-time consulting and mentoring?


Do you sometimes go against the flow?

I feel no regrets on the path I have chosen.  I have been blessed beyond measure with work opportunities and challenges, new skills learned and tested, and relationships where love and caring have been shared.  Life's Journey is ongoing: making decisions, reflecting, choosing new adventures and growth... moving along, aging... and hopefully, becoming wiser.
I guess that is what I am most surprised at in today's news-filled:  people wanting to get back to the life they had; politicians blocking exploration of solutions for today's needs; and a desire to Go It Alone... as if any of us have all the answers!

How often do you stop and reflect on your journey?

The questions and curiosity I am noticing is about what I have learned about myself, others, and the World Unexplored.  What more can be learned?  I am ever-changing, and so are you!  This is the reason why curiosity is so important:  I thought I knew you... but we have changed!
The journey isn't about arriving.  Instead, upon reflection, I am aware of the choices made, paths traveled... AND... what could have been when choices and paths are left untraveled.
Not regret or loss, just reflections on blessings received, shared, and unopened.
May Boxes Unopened surprise you this week with time to reflect... and wonder.

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Sunday, May 2, 2021

War on Words

A friend and I traveled an hour north this past week -- the farthest we have driven in over a year!  We wanted to explore Old Town Temecula, the Temecula Valley wine country, and March Field Air Museum in Riverside.  Though only a relatively short distance from home, we experienced many differences as we cautiously stepped out into a Reopening World.

One change: encountering insensitivity and rudeness as some people focused only on their own needs to party, play loud music, and disrupt people around them.  Our words and actions did not matter:  we were faced with "Go Boomer" disconnects.

What images come from your words?
(March Field Air Museum, Riverside, California)

Are the Safety Bubbles we created around family and close friends no longer able to expand... no longer able to include others?  Will this be our new reality: a war of words, images, and reactions?

Mind you, this was our first excursion away from our home base.  Maybe we have become too sensitive!

I began wondering, though, about the recent mantra, "Words Matter."  If this is no longer relevant to some people, how do we trust what we see and hear?  How do we engage one another?  In other words:

  • How do my words and actions influence others?
  • Do I Hold Back, Hold Onto, or Hold Down others?
  • Where is inspiration and encouragement?

How do you hold others down?
(Duck Pond, Temecula, California)

As we move outward to embrace a changed world, it seems that we must also face our inward understanding of that world:  the struggle between what we want or need and the hopes and desires of others.

Another change we encountered:  Temecula has placed white flags around a park memorializing community members who have died of COVID.  Names and dates on simple flags fluttered in the afternoon breeze, reminding us of people missing from our lives.  The change?  The wants and needs of others -- internally missed, externally shared -- are silently calling us back to Common Unity.

What words can heal?
(COVID-19 Remembrance, Temecula)

Like butterflies breaking free from the cocoon that encased them, maybe our emergence from our COVID bubbles can be just as transforming.  We are no longer the caterpillars that were earthbound.  Rather, we are called to rise on the breezes that free us... remembering, and moving outward.

Questions to consider as we encounter others in this new world:

  • What did they experience this past year?  [Curiosity]
  • Have they lost someone or something due to COVID?  [Empathy]
  • How can I go beyond my own wants and needs?  [Connection]

May our eyes, ears, minds, and hearts listen and try to understand this new world.  May we seek transformation.  May we become the change we seek.

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)