Archive for August, 2010

Recharging

I am moving this week.

For the first time in two years, this means I get to spend more than one night away from work and I intend to take full advantage of it.

As such, I am recharging my writing batteries.

I’ll be drinking in some sights and organizing content for the future of MeBuilding.

Regular posts will return on Monday, September 6th.

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The Powerful Prayer

God listens.

We clumsily beg and plead for assistance, hoping the clouds will break in our life or a loved one’s. Dozens of times a day—if not hundreds or thousands—we whisper “Please let…” and He considers every petition with unfailing patience.

What is the best way to reach Him?

Honestly, I don’t know.

What I’m sure of, though, is I feel better when my heart is filled with gratitude for what I’m requesting. It makes sense to me–bearing in mind God works outside the bounds of time–to talk with Him as if He’s already done it.

As the Alpha and Omega from which everything originates, I imagine He has shelves full of possibilities and pulls the proper one down like an old man grabbing a hammer from the wall of his garage.

He knows where every tool is, it’s just a matter of asking Him to hand something over.

Throughout my life, I’ve prayed in fear more often than not. I’ve screamed for help like a drowning child. I’ve made decisions, realized I was mistaken and cried out from the bottom of wells instead of expressing appreciation for His guiding hand.

As I embark on the next phase of my journey, I ask that you take a different approach. Tell Him you are grateful for my safety, acknowledge the opportunity He blesses me with and express gratitude for all He does for others through me.

Praise Him for the beautiful life He’s laid out before me, just as I do for you.

Why?

Aren’t you more likely to deliver on something when thanked in advance?

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Grieve to Gain

Leaving the old way behind can be a gut-wrenching decision.

When confronted with a life-altering fact, we are left in stunned silence. What was familiar shifts in a moment, the anticipated future vanishes into thin air…and we sit quietly to mourn the death of all we’ve known and believed would come to pass.

The sinking feeling is familiar.

Any change, regardless of how trivial, creates a hole in us just big enough for “what might have been”. Though we must move on–the world will keep spinning–it’s important to acknowledge what’s being left behind. As with losing cherished family or beloved friend, passing into a new phase begs us to grieve.

It is impossible to embrace the future before letting go of the past.

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross shaped our understanding of loss in her landmark book On Death and Dying more than four decades ago by laying out five stages people go through. In my experience, this progression manifests itself during growth as follows:

1. Denial–“I can stay the same.”
The initial reaction to any situation, it is a reflexive defense for all we’ve held dear. We swing our arms around our toys and pull them close to our chest like a spoiled child when cousins arrive. To ignore the clarion call of evolution is to wilt in the sunshine of brighter days ahead.

2. Anger–“I shouldn’t have to be any different.”
Offended by the suggestion something is amiss, we seek to find fault beyond our boundaries. Personal myopia prevents us from seeing the positive side of the coin. We like the way we are and, at this point, are resistant to the idea other (better) options exist for us.

3. Bargaining–“I’d do anything to go back.”
As knowledge begins seeping through our pores, we regret choosing the red pill instead of blue and wish we’d remained blind. Suffering through the growing pains of expanding awareness and understanding, we cry out for simpler days.

4. Depression–“I wasted so much time.”
Sadness befalls all us as the realization our choices were misguided washes away any remaining doubt a transition is in order. Stricken with guilt or shame for the mistakes, regardless of our good intentions at the time, self-flagellation ensues. Every step is analyzed and agonized over in the lonely darkness between our ears.

5. Acceptance–“It’s time.”
Finally, having traversed four circles of hell, we ascend into the light of a new day. Armed with fresh confidence and boundless energy, we take a sure first step in the right direction.

This process varies in length from person to person and is defined as much by stubbornness as it is age.

It is a challenge which demands steady patience and consistent effort, like clearing fallen trees from the road after a tornado.

Freeing ourselves from the attachments of our history leaves us with much to gain.

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The Truth is Undeniable

Just because something is undeniable doesn’t mean it’s believable.

Sean Maguire: I just have a little question here. You could be a janitor anywhere. Why do you work at the most prestigious technical college in the whole fuckin’ world? And why did you sneak around at night and finish other people’s formulas that only one or two people in the world could do and then lie about it? ‘Cause I don’t see a lot of honor in that, Will.
Will Hunting: I didn’t ask for this.
Sean Maguire: No, you were born with it. So don’t cop out behind “I didn’t ask for this”.

I believe every one is made to do something, the hard part is coming to grips with “it”.

There are few nights more restless than those on the brink of comprehending the purpose of your life. Confusing questions drop from the ceiling to your pillow:

“Why did I do all that other stuff?”

“Have I been wasting my time?”

“Am I just going crazy?”

There is a healthy insanity at work in shedding old ways for new ideas.

We encounter everything we’ve known, turn all the pages of our history, then cut it to pieces.

It’s unnerving.

As I continue to unleash my creative river from behind the dam of my past, strange thoughts surface. In the blissful moment after a well-crafted sentence, I get ecstatic and proclaim my own greatness. (Mind you, not better than others but full of myself, celebrating my ability.) I wander into unfamiliar territory open to the possibility of making words my life–and I become very uncomfortable.

“I honestly have trouble writing when I get like this,” I texted a friend last night.

“I feel like I have something unique and incredible, yet at the same time am afraid to say that. Maybe it’s just the lack of proof…I am certain part of my problem is the old tendency to disbelieve without a clear path. I’ve spent the last couple days freaking out about the staircase when all I must see is the first step.”

The sunshine of a joyous brain succumbs to clouds of doubt before the future can blossom.

“It’s wrong to think you’re good.”

“What makes you think you can do something like that?”

“How will you even make money at it?”

The greatest tyranny of all is that we exert on ourselves.

We heap pressure into the confines of our brains, turn the screws in our heads and shackle our souls to the wall.

Then we complain about a dungeon of our own making.

This is the curse of doing something less than we’re blessed to.

Where’s the honor in avoiding our talents and lying about what we could do?

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The Friends of Change

Change is inevitable.

My life opens a new chapter in a few days. For two years, I’ve been on a roller coaster of highs and lows I hesitate to think about. The most important lesson I have learned is this:

Strap yourself in for the ride.

From one day to the next, we are lulled into the illusion of security. Over months and years, we adapt to repetition and our brains push similar experiences into the background just as they’re supposed to.

Life takes different turns than we anticipate.

The shock to the system is unsettling, rattling our minds and burning the blankets of safety draped over our plans. These moments, the scanty few when everything explodes before your eyes, burn deep impressions into our memory banks. When we look back to see how far we’ve come, this is where we point.

What defines us is our response during the harrowing events.

As everything crashes around us, the temptation is to fall to pieces ourselves. In fact, doing so is the easy option, the path of least resistance. Staring at the rubble would make any of us question the sense of making another go, discouragement is natural.

Shrinking is unacceptable.

I’ve been knocked off my feet by the shockwave of an atomic bomb several times–launched by others or dropped on myself by accident–and I’ve realized what’s important always remains. The trivial is too weak to withstand a hundred-megaton blast and is vaporized by the heat and pressure.

What really matters is too solid to collapse.

“Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried, grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel” Shakespeare tells us. When fire rages through our hopes and dreams, torching all we wished for, the mere thought of these relationships galvanizes us for the rebuilding effort. Some will help with reconstruction and others will support from afar.

Thank them.

Tell them you love them.

Offer help when they need it.

Finding the means to keep going is easier when you have some friends.

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A Final Lesson

The following is a letter I published on the website for my students and, as it contains insights valuable to all of us, I have chosen to post it here, too.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

My time on the NAU campus has come to an end. After two sessions, six classes and 60-plus students, this moment is very bittersweet. I must take a moment to thank Ruth Cook and Duane Petty for hiring me and offering me the opportunity to step in front of students for the first time. Of course, Paula Phelps deserves a big hand for the tremendous support she’s given me from the start, both inside and outside the classroom—it makes life as an instructor that much easier. Last, but not least, I have to tip my hat to the remainder of the staff and faculty: I appreciate all your efforts in making me a part of the community and continue to be amazed by what you contribute to the campus.

To my students, I cannot begin to express how grateful I am for the gifts and cards. I will cherish the memory of your hugs and words wherever I go for the rest of my life—and will maintain a sugar rush from all the candy and cookies for several weeks, at least. I feel privileged to have been trusted with the awesome responsibility of playing a part in your education. With that in mind, I would be remiss if allowed us to part ways without a final lesson, something I hope you apply as you continue beyond campus walls:

1. Have great expectations
Achievement of any kind, whether getting a certification or becoming President of the United States, begins with an idea. Success, then, is a reflection of what you fix your mind on. Set your eyes on something far in the distance and pursue it with all your strength, through every hardship. When you are tired and think about giving up, remember what Thomas Paine wrote in The Crisis: “the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.”

Understand the difference between a goal and a step. The first is the target, a fixed point you are heading towards, in the same way Kansas City will always be exactly where it is. The second is how you get there, a series of movements leading to your destination—be open to taking any road, regardless of how treacherous or far out of the way it seems. As long as you keep driving on, you will get where you want to.

2. Do your part
Whatever it is you’ve set out to do, realize the lion’s share of effort will be yours. Though there will be others that help you along the way, most of the work will fall at your feet–from meeting the right people to learning the proper skills to performing at a high level in the field. Understand this fact, concentrate on being your best and let the cards fall where they may; more often than not, things will end up in your favor.

3. Make the best of every situation
The cushion of extra credit is absent in everyday life. We walk a fine line in the healthcare environment, there is no room for mistakes. Failure is a learning experience, accepted as part and parcel of the high-stakes practice of medicine. For some of you, a coding error or HIPAA violation may cost your employer money. For others, a patient may be injured or die.

Sometimes things will not go your way. Take a moment to figure out what you can correct and what you did well, then use that knowledge the next time. Always keep in mind that if you’re perfect, chances are pretty good you aren’t really doing anything.

It is my distinct honor to have stood before you and witnessed your growth as human beings. Believe in yourself, work hard, spread kindness and I am certain you will go as far as you wish.

With sincere best wishes now and always,

Jason Eichacker, DC

There is No Escape

Your name is shouted amongst the bustle of a busy street.

The voice strains to be heard over the din of activity on a crowded sidewalk. It is familiar, a sound you recognize from other avenues and byways you’ve walked. Your brain acknowledges the strange coincidence and hopes you aren’t being followed.

You look down and avoid eye contact, doing your best to be invisible.

The throng of people cannot hide you. The same shout echoes around every turn, despite the efforts you make to shake it. You have taken the shortcuts and long ways, zigged and zagged. All this energy expended and still the sound finds your ears.

Your vision lands on a disheveled figure waving frantically for your attention.

“What are you doing?” you ask angrily.

“What are you doing?” is the reply.

“I’m on my way to work,” you retort.

“But is it your work?”

“I go there every day. I get paid,” you explain, “and I think that means it is.”

“Think you could do something else?”

A simple question stops you in your tracks.

This is the painful interrogation of deeper purpose, the subconscious conversation that happens within all of us. At some point, the decision is made to accept our intended role in the larger design as an honored friend or ignore it like a sad beggar.

Regardless of the direction you choose, there is no escape.

Every day, we pick the fruits of our actions, the contented heart or unsettled stomach.

The knowledge we are on track or off course will fill us up or bring us down.

It is unavoidable, no matter where the path we’re on goes. For, as Jean de La Fontaine wrote:

A person often meets his destiny on the road he took to avoid it.

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