Why Do We Grasp for Dead People’s Possessions?

I never understood why, when someone dies, people flock to the scene to claim possession of the trinkets of the deceased.  I just don’t get it.

I remember when my grandmother died and four people were fighting for her punch bowl.  A fucking punch bowl!  When the hell are you ever going to need a punch bowl?  Is there a Happy Days-themed prom you’re expecting to have at your house?

“Oh, it’s a family heirloom.”  From the old English, “loom”, meaning tool.  And heir, of course meaning, the next family member to lay rightful claim to that “tool”.  A punch bowl.

I’ve heard the argument that “it’s” something to remember them by.  Um, if you need a tool to remember them, then I’m guessing they didn’t mean much to you in life and if that’s the case, why do you want to remember them now?  By the way, Walmart sells punch bowls. I don’t know why, but they do.

For many years, following my father’s passing, his brother believed that my dad threw away their mother’s pocket bible.  Maybe he did.  No one knows.  No one.  He couldn’t let go of this.  Still hasn’t.

Maybe two or three times a year, we’d talk for a few minutes on the phone and no matter what the conversation was about, he’d have to mention it.  “Your dad threw away your grandmother’s pocket bible.”

Okay, so what do you want me to do about that?  It was always an accusatory tone and it got old very quickly.  He was blaming my deceased dad for something he may not have even done.  My uncle wanted that pocket bible as if his life wouldn’t be truly complete without it.  He’d never find contentment without fulfilling this attachment.

No Santosha without Aparigraha.  Just sayin’.  

It’s just a book!  A very small, mass-manufactured version of the bible by some now-defunct corporate publisher.  It’s nothing.  God, however anyone wants to define “God”, is NOT in that book.  My grandmother is not in that book.  It’s just words on cheap paper.  He’s clinging to this object as if it’s some kind of talisman.

And then, this happened.

A few weeks back, I was cleaning out our garage and came across a box of old photos from my parents.  As I was going through it, I found a pocket bible.  On the back, inside cover, was my grandmother’s maiden name and signed by her.  “I found it!”  I put it in a cinch bag with a note to my uncle and mailed it to the other side of the country.

And … nothing.  No call.  No message.  Two weeks went by.  No response whatsoever.

Out of concern and to make sure it arrived, my wife called him.  Yep, he got it.  He was quick, because he was busy, but said, “That’s not the bible.  Bob (my dad) threw away the one I’m talking about.”

Okay then.  And that was pretty much the end of the conversation.  No thanks for the thought or anything like that.  Not that I need thanks or appreciation to validate what I did, but still.  You know what I mean.  Maybe acknowledgment; I don’t know.

So, I don’t do the anger thing.  Maybe I’m weird, but I don’t hold grudges or get angry with things like this.  Grudges are heavy, weighing like sandbags on our shoulders.  I don’t want to be hunched over when I’m 100.

I do get disappointed though.  Hey, I’m human.  But, this wasn’t even disappointment for me.  It was a realization about my “relationship” with my uncle.  There really isn’t one.  He doesn’t know me, nor I him, really.

While I don’t misplace value in inanimate objects, like a punch bowl or pocket bible, I do value people and the relationships I have with them.  My fathers efforts, hard work, tolerance, wisdom, and guidance he provided on my behalf is what I value.  I can never forget that.  Possessing his microwave isn’t going to keep him with me.  Like, every time I make popcorn, I would feel his presence.  No, I sold his microwave to help pay for hospice.

Anyways, the value my uncle places in this book and the negativity associated with its mysterious disappearance, permeated whatever little contact we had.  Ugh.

And for that reason, I’m out.  Sometimes, you just have to give the microwave away, because its too heavy to keep moving around.  Besides, I make my popcorn on the stove top.

Peace.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Can You Make My Daughter Taller?

Sometimes, the problem isn’t the problem and solving for X won’t get you to Y … or, why.

Finding the right solution takes care.  Care to question linear thinking, to step back, observe, process information, allow for imagination, trust your instincts, and try to connect dots.  Then you have to be so bold as to trust yourself for what you came up with and run with it and make adjustments in the field in real time.

About ten years ago, I got a call from a friend who was working with a client and said he gave the guy my cell phone number, because he was looking for someone to work with his daughter and after listening to him, he thought of me.  Of course, I started asking questions and he said he’d rather let the guy explain it directly to me.  Um … okay?

So the guy called and told me about his daughter.  She was fourteen years old and 5’,1”.  All of her friends at school were taller than her.  And then, he says this: “Can you make my daughter taller?”  Yeah, I know.  Before I responded with science, I stopped myself and asked if we could all meet.  Not sure why I did that.  We met at his home, which turned out to be a multi-million-dollar mansion.  Not too shabby.

He greeted me at the door and as we entered the living room, there was his lovely family.  Awesome people.  I sat on one sofa facing the other where his wife, daughter and her older brother sat, while he took the chair to the right.

It was abundantly clear that they loved their children very much and just wanted their daughter to be happy.  They told me they saw doctors, nutritionists, and personal trainers, but now out of desperation and a chance phone conversation with my friend, here I am.  Reasoning with her and reassuring her wasn’t going to work.  We humans are emotional creatures.  Even though we process logic through the neo-cortex, what drives us, comes from the limbic system and that part of the brain doesn’t give a shit about your logic.  Sorry, Doc.

So after about twenty minutes, her father looked at me and asked, “Can you help her?”  That was the question; “Can you help her?”  The word “taller” wasn’t in the question.  I paused, looked at his daughter, then back to him and his wife and said, “I think so.”  We scheduled our first session for that coming Saturday morning.

As I drove out through the guard gate, I thought, “What the hell did I just get myself into?  Why did I tell them I could help?”  On the way home, I just stared out the windshield.  When I got home I pulled out all my books and notes from my martial arts training, my textbooks on kinesiology, physiology, nutrition, and athletic training, as well as articles on puberty and how that affects hormones and growth.  I even had a book on yoga at that time, but I was no yogi.  Still not.

I sat there for hours on the floor, surrounded by books, science, and logic.  Then for no real reason, I picked up one of my martial arts books and as I skimmed through it, it hit me; “This girl isn’t short.  She just sees herself as short.”

I put together a routine that incorporated ancient martial arts exercises with whole body and mind functional training.  Lots of breathing and concentration.  I approached her as a human, not a project or a problem to solve.  It was more about her interconnectedness, mind, body, and soul.

Even though the training wasn’t easy, I kept the atmosphere light with wit and humor.  I’m a comedian at heart.  She began to open up more, engage in what we were doing, and ask questions.  She even smiled and began to joke around as she applied herself more and more.  Ah, there’s a person in there and she’s pretty cool.

We trained out back by their pool.  An amazing setting.  I would always park in the driveway and carry my mats and gear around the side yard to set up.  But one evening, as I was unloading my gear, her father came out to meet me.  This was unusual, as I normally just met everyone out back.  As he spoke, he got a bit glassy-eyed.  He thanked me, handed me a bonus check, and said that they’ve seen some incredible changes in their daughter; that she seemed happier and more confident.  Not taller.  And he hugged me.  Did I mention these people really love their kids?  Awesome.

I ended up training the whole family and they enjoyed having that time together in one space.  They were busy people.  And as far as her getting taller, time took care of that naturally.

Sometimes, the problem isn’t the problem and solving for X will not get us to why.

Cheers.

Photo by allef.viniciusa on Unsplash.

Threshold of Happiness

There I was, seat 21D, flying home from my annual performance review.  I got a nice bonus and was feeling pretty good.  I was surrounded by a group of people who worked for a large corporation and apparently they had a damn good year, considering this conversation: “I got a Porsche.  What am I going to do with a Porsche?  I don’t even like Porsches.”  “I got a Harley and I’m not a motorcycle guy.  Not sure what to do with it.”

Those two guys seemed to work it out; agreeing to trade the Porsche for the Harley.  Seemed a bit uneven to me, but whatever.

I got to thinking about my “nice” bonus.  A minute ago, I was feeling pretty good, but now, the whole Porsche/Harley thing.  There was a cacophony of conversations among this group throughout the flight, comparing bonuses, goals, expense budgets, and quotas.  Then about stress, pressure, bad management, and a negative culture.  I just listened and observed without intention or thought.

As I drove home from the airport, I didn’t even put music on.  I usually sing.  Feels good.  Hey, I’m not bad.  I kill it on Rockband.  It was dark and I had that thousand-yard stare. Quiet.  In bed, I wondered what their lives were like and replayed that scene on the plane in my head.  I woke up in a nice house with an awesome family; coffee brewing.  Home.  Feels good.

Is it a step down to take a position in another field, another company, or another career path that pays less?  Many would say, “yes”.  But what if this new path meant a better culture, a better atmosphere, less hours, or just made us happier through fulfillment, purpose, or passion?  What if it gave us more time to spend with our family or to pursue other endeavors that fed our soul?

“Ha!  Culture doesn’t butter the biscuit.  Atmosphere doesn’t pay the mortgage.  Less hours?!  Do you know what kind of responsibilities I have?  What pressure I’m under?”

Yep; social pressure.  A responsibility to the perception of our portrayal of self and status.  A job that pays less, a smaller house, and forgoing that Porsche for a Durango in this social construct seems outwardly, like a step down; a step backward.  What will people say?  Worse yet; what will they think?

Well … that’s on them, isn’t it?  Ah, if it were only that simple.

Mmm, but it is.  It’s not about work/life “balance”, as we like to say.  It’s about quality of life itself, deep and wide.  Hey, I like nice shit as much as the next guy, but there’s a threshold.  A threshold that maybe we trip over or never notice.  A threshold where we sacrifice spaghetti and meatballs with family in the living room for filet mignon with “important” clients at 7:30pm on a Tuesday.

Sure, there are exceptions to what I’m saying: entrepreneur trying to get a foothold; a family trying to get a leg up; a student trying to pay their way through school.  Done all three of those examples and there are many others, but I’m talking about that threshold.

How about this from The Fixx:

“So, give me your attention, I know it’s getting late.

While we were dreaming, something slipped away.

We’re drowning in possessions, playing tricks with our minds.

Lost from one another, baby put your hand in mine.

Time is slipping away, but it’s not too late.

How much is enough?”

The pursuit of happiness?  What about being happy in our pursuit?  Maybe stepping back across that threshold is not a step back or down, but really a step up for the right things.

I don’t know.  Just asking.  For a friend.

Photo by Robert J. Soper on Unsplash