none ya

What is your middle name? Does it carry any special meaning/significance?

None ya.

As in… none ya bidness!

Is this a writing prompt or a phishing attempt?

Only those who know me best would have any valid reason for knowing this.

That’s all, folks!

the cracked pot

Today’s post is partially in answer to today’s prompt, “What is the last thing you learned?”, but mostly I just want to recount an experience from yesterday. I went for a run yesterday morning, and as I started, I breathed a quick prayer.

Why, God?

It was a warm day, and I’ve had a bit of a rough week, physically, up to yesteday – travel and other out-of-the-ordinary circumstances had me feeling a bit “stove up” (now there’s a fun phrase with interesting origin). All that to say, I knew I needed to take it easy on this run – so that became my sole focus! I didn’t give my hasty prayer another thought.

The ran went pretty well! I was able to keep a good breathing cadence, remain relaxed, and after the first mile or so, it felt pretty “effortless” – as far as running ever does. I brought a hand-held water bottle and took frequent sips so I wouldn’t get dehydrated. Paying no attention to how fast or slow I was running, my mind was focused on just enjoying the run and staying “within myself”. At the end of my run, I was pleasantly surprised to learn my pace was better and more consistent than expected!

Just before the end of the run, I took a sip of water and splashed some beside the pavement where I was running. In an instant an entire story unfolded in my mind – one I’ve apparently heard or read sometime in my past. It’s the story of the cracked pot.

Here’s how the story goes:

“A water bearer had two large pots, hung on each end of a pole which he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it, and while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water at the end of the long walk from the stream to the master’s house, the cracked pot arrived only half full.

For two years, this went on daily with the bearer delivering only one and a half pots full of water to the master’s house. The perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, perfect to the end for which it was made. The cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do.

After two years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, it spoke to the water bearer one day by the stream. ‘I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize to you.’

The bearer asked, ‘Why? What are you ashamed of?’

The pot replied, ‘For these past two years I am able to deliver only half of my load because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your master’s house. Because of my flaws, you don’t get full value for your efforts.’

With compassion, the water bearer replied ‘As we return to the master’s house, I want you to notice the beautiful flowers along the path.’

As they went up the hill, the old cracked pot took notice of the sun warming the beautiful wild flowers on the side of the path, and this cheered it somewhat. But at the end of the trail, it still felt bad because it had leaked out half its load, and so again it apologized to the bearer for its failure.

The bearer said to the pot, ‘Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of your path, but not on the other pot’s side?

I have always known about your flaw, and I took advantage of it. I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back from the stream, you’ve watered them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate my master’s table. Without you being just the way you are, the master would not have this beauty to grace his house.’”

I breathed a prayer, and in those two word, “Why, God” was a question about my own cracks, my own brokenness. And then, oh the irony, I forgot about it. Flighty attention is but one of my many perceived cracks.

And still, I received my answer.

We all have those why prayers, I think. Your “why” prayer may be quite different or quite the same as mine, but I have faith that if you even breathe it, you will receive the answer. Even if you forget you asked.

I’m also confident of this: You are uniquely designed and entirely known. Of course, it’s easier for me to say that to you than to believe it for myself.

I’m working on it.

Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath!
– Psalm 116:2

exit stage right

Last night, my daughter, a coloratura soprano, stood on the stage in this picture, in front of that piano, and delivered an absolutely spectacular senior recital. She sang songs in five different languages, demonstrating an incredible vocal range, beautiful resonance, perfect pitch control, a wide range of dynamics, and captivating stage presence. It was stunning! The Italian aria she sang was definitely my favorite, but every song was unique, special, and as I mentioned, spectacular!

My wife, son-in-law, son, and daughter-in-law were all there as well, along with a host of other people I did not know. All to support the amazing person who took the stage. The young lady who accompanied her on piano is exceptionally talented, as well. Last night, watching her play, it was as if the piano were an extension of her very being. That kind of mastery doesn’t happen without incredible dedication! Our daughter also enlisted several of her classmates to sing with her on a crowd-pleasing favorite from Les Miserables – a song she has been heard singing around the house since her preteen years. This, too, was spectacular – and a lot of fun to witness!

It all ended with a standing ovation, a lot of bowing, an exit, some more applause, and then a final exit stage right. Then that was it. Over. A truly astounding culmination of a lifetime’s preparation!

This makes proud dad moment 57,693,231 for me. Yeah, I made that number up. But I’ve had SO many opportunities to see my kids excel in life – in large and small ways! And that’s saying something. It’s a blessing to be in their lives at all, given my life choices and where they could’ve taken me, but for the grace of God! I’m incredibly grateful, and blessed. There’s been a lot of things I have not gotten right in this life, and I can’t even say being a “good dad” is something I have always done well. But yeah… I am so very thankful for the good moments, and this ranks up there at the top of a growing list!

With the completion of this recital, my daughter finished the vocal performance requirements of her degree. That stage right exit marks a significant milestone, and a big change ahead. She still has some schooling to complete, but things will be different now – in ways she cannot yet understand. But what she accomplished will pave the way to knowing she can continue to do hard things, and she has the fortitude to persevere. That is something no one can ever take away!

how are you?

What is one question you hate to be asked? Explain.

I don’t know if “hate” is the best word for it. I tend to reserve that word for pretty extreme situations. I really don’t like being asked “how are you?” – most of the time. The reason is simple. Most people ask that question because it’s socially normative, not because they want to know the answer. Many times it’s asked in passing and people don’t wait around, or even intend to wait, for my answer.

On the other side of that coin, I also really enjoy it when people ask that same question because they care, they want to know the answer, and they will give the time to stick around and actually hear my answer.

I don’t like just saying “I’m fine” and moving on. I also don’t like risking vulnerability to be met with indifference or brushed off. There’s also times when I’m not self aware enough, in the moment, to give an honest answer to that question – but I don’t ever want to come off as insincere. So my first response when someone asks me how I’m doing is often to freeze, stutter, and stall while I try to gauge the asker’s real intention in asking.

The problem is I rarely know, in the moment, what someone’s intention is when they first ask the question. And then, it just gets awkward.

A close second would be “what do you do?”. I have SO many thoughts, objections, and possible directions for an answer to that seemingly simple question!

I love a good movie!

Even better, I love a good movie at the movie theater! How about you? From the time he was in elementary school, and really until after he got married, my son and I would always go watch a Marvel movie together on or near his birthday. We often invited a few of his friends to go along. I really love reflecting back on those memories!

You wanna know why movies are better at the theater? It’s not the super huge screen, the thundering surround sound, the overpriced popcorn, sodas or candy. It’s certainly not the $50+ it’ll cost a couple people to enjoy all those things (unless you go to the matinee, get student or senior discounts, and skip all the frills, maybe sneak in a snack or two of your own).

I mean, come on. The screens and sound systems in many of our own homes are almost as nice. And home seating is usually more preferable than even the best reclining movie theater seats. I have to mention, our floors are usually way cleaner! Also, we don’t have as much risk of people around us making noises or making out. Though we still might have people checking their handheld screens during the movie – a serious annoyance of mine! I might digress though if I go there…so to stay on point…

There’s still something special, even superior, about going to see the movie in the theater.

It’s a really interesting term called social synapse to describe it.

No one is an island. And no one is meant to live on an island. Tom Hanks as Chuck Noland in Castaway turned a volleyball into his “friend”, Wilson, so he would have someone to talk to (with) on his island. We are truly wired for connection. Isolation is a death sentence for us. If not literally, then emotionally, mentally, physically, and even spiritually! Dr. Lou Cozolino puts it this way:

“We are not the survival of the fittest. We are the survival of the nurtured.”

Social synapse is the psychological term to describe what happens when people connect through shared experience. Thanks to work of Donald Hebb, who coined the phrase neurons that fire together wire together, we understand the importance of how neural pathways grow stronger when the brain is directed to repeat certain tasks. What’s really cool, is that when that happens, the brain then protects those neurons by wrapping layers of myelin around them so they stay together. This is called myelination, and causes their transmission ability to speed up, too – so we can access those protected neural pathways easier, faster!

Isn’t that cool?!

In more recent years, researchers have come to understand that this same phenomenon applies to people and the neural connections we share. When the theater is full, and everyone gasps, laughs, shudders, jumps, or even ducks at the same moment, their experience of that moment is greatly enhanced by the shared aspect of it. So the movie is literally better!

Am I the only one geeking out a bit?

Neuroscientists have also identified what’s known as mirror neurons, which act exactly the same in our brains when we do or see someone do something. For instance, when my son was a toddler and I would spoon feed him, it was really difficult for me to not open my mouth when moving the spoon laden with baby food towards his mouth. It tickled me then, though I didn’t understand the science behind it. I’m laughing now, just thinking about it! This is not the same thing as social synapse, but it is related. We connect in real ways with others, to the point of mirroring them, often without cognitive recognition, just by being close to them – even without touch. It’s true that so much of what we communicate with others is non-verbal, and much of it is brain-to-brain.

The COVID-19 pandemic threatened us on a deeper level than just our physical health. The isolation it brought about plummeted many into depression and disorders. We desperately need one another! Part of being healthy is found in connection with others. I learned that Hong Kong is lifting their mask mandate as of March 1 – more than three years since the pandemic started. Three years!! Three years of fear and isolation, disconnectedness, social distancing. The mental health toll may not be fully realized for decades!

One of the best ways that neurons fire and wire together is through the practice of gratitude. I know some people who have a gratitude journal, and they tell me it helps them in huge ways with their emotional challenges, and greatly improves their outlook and ability to connect with others. Hmm…so a practice that helps me be more self-integrated also helps me integrate in healthy ways with others.

To practice some gratitude now…I’m grateful for the opportunity to blog, to study, to learn, understand, and practice new concepts (firing & wiring those neurons). I’m really grateful that we, collectively, have survived the terrible Covid pandemic! I’m really thankful I can now meet up with and connect with others with minimal threat of contracting the potentially fatal virus! I’m grateful for yoga, which helps me connect the practices of gratitude and self care. I’m grateful for the opportunity to be part of large group gatherings again, without so much masking up or spreading out! And I’m grateful for the field of neuroscience and what those in that field of study have done to help us understand more about how things work in our minds, bodies, and communities.

This makes me think of the song by the sibling band CAIN: People Need People. It’s true – science even!

How about you? Love a good movie? What’s your favorite movie, or favorite kind of movie? Do you practice gratitude in some way – have you noticed how it affects your ability to engage and connect with others?

hopeful romantic

In speaking of our world’s future, I told someone recently that I was a hopeful romantic. I meant it as a paradoxical statement and not at all in the same way as “hopeless romantic”. I think hopeful doesn’t need a lot of ‘splainin but my use of romantic might.

Think of “romanticism” rather than “romance”. Does that bring to mind something created in the romantic era – circa 1798-1852? That’s the type of romantic I mean.

Romantic-era writers were wistful, quirky, deep, and a little bit dark if not broody. They wrote with a sense of melancholy, or even tragedy. They embodied an appreciation of nature, beauty, emotion, creativity, the senses, personalities, and moods.

Romanticism combines enlightenment and terror, but also beauty and disgust, like two sides of the same coin. The image above is by Caspar David Friedrich, painted around 1809, and titled Abbey among Oak Trees. There’s something captivating about it, yet also bleak! This is, to me, the embodiment of romanticism.

Romanticism isn’t just attributed to a certain era. It’s a perspective, a way of living in the world. It’s a perspective shared by many, in any given time in history. Including now. When I say I’m a hopeful romantic, that is to say…I’m a bit of an idealist, and a critic.

I believe there’s a silver lining to every cloud, but who’s to say that’s a good thing?

note to self

What advice would you give to your teenage self?

I don’t know if I would’ve listened to me. I thought I had it pretty together. I was prideful and blind. But I mean, how could I possibly see clearly, up there in my treehouse?

But also, with all that has happened to me in this life, with all I know, I am still a bit of a hopeful romantic. I tend to think things have worked out for me just as they were meant. I don’t pretend to understand that, but I can still believe it.

As I take time to reflect, I start thinking of something I’d say, but then that could change and unravel so many other things…even if it didn’t cause a full-on butterfly effect, the whole trajectory of my life might change.

Most likely, if I were to somehow get the opportunity for some time with teenage me, I wouldn’t give me any advice. I don’t think I’d even let him meet this older version of himself. I think maybe I’d just write him a note to let him know he’s loved, and he’s gonna be alright.

That’s what I’m still learning to tell myself.


What bores you?

This prompt bores me.

I appreciate the daily writing prompts, though I don’t always answer them. But really? When I’m hoping for inspiration and this is the prompt…? You’re making me reach!

Boredom is a state of mind. I’ve been bored in the middle of a conversation or crowd. I’ve been bored on a roller coaster. Meanwhile, a quiet day of seemingly nothing can be quite stimulating for me.

Writing about this any further seems rather boring, so I think I’ll stop here.


Who are your favorite people to be around?

Those with whom I do not feel a requirement exists for pretense – from them or from me.

I started to say “family and friends, duh”. But there’s some family and friends who expect me, or seem to think they need, to always enter enter the room a certain way.

– Be the Tigger to their Eeyore. I can be pretty melancholy, so I just can’t always be their Tigger.

– Have it right. But I know I’m not always right. Why can’t they just let me be? Why must they always be right, even when they’re clearly wronging me with their rightness??

– Keep it real. Sometimes you really don’t want my real! You want a certain idea of it. Not the real real.

Even when I am insecure, anxious, or an ass, when people can allow me to be pretenseless, then I want to be around them. And when they are the same with me, I enjoy them the most! Part of that enjoyment comes from calling me out when I’m not being myself, and allowing me to do the same for them.

Another way to say it might be: people who can sincerely enjoy the sincere me and allow me to sincerely enjoy them are my go-to people.

Yes, I checked. Pretenseless is a real word. But I was ready to let it stand even if not!