Power Words for August the 5th: Social Skills

How shall we interact with our fellow human beings?

To some of us, the answers to this question make it scarcely a question at all. Those lucky few are innately programmed with knowledge of what to do and say, and how to get along.

For others, the lack of this knowledge, or perhaps the questionable knowledge holding its place, can be a terrifying liability.

I am such a one. At a dinner party in 1990, an attractive, young woman began to interact with me through behavior I would today deem as flirting. At the time, my abilities with women, what I frequently hear on modern television to be termed “game”, was sorely inept. The attraction between the woman and I was mutual, so, I fast began to sweat and turn a bright red hue. I stumbled on my words, trying to construct clumsy sentences and failing repeatedly. Being a kind soul, the woman continued to talk to me without remarking on how nervous, or soaked, I was becoming. Others at the party were a different story. I began to feel as though everyone present was staring at me. They were careful about it, sure, but looking at them for sustained intervals, I repeatedly caught them taking visual account of me. This amplified my anxiety ten fold. The pressure built and built. Then, I couldn’t stand it.

I stood abruptly up from the table, rattling it and spilling a glass of wine. All eyes were on me now, and making no secret of it. Then came the real trouble. I screamed at the room, “What the fuck are you looking at!? What!? Stop fucking looking at me! Stop laughing at me!” They were silent, but clearly shocked. The silence became unbearable and I started to question the wisdom of what I was doing. I had to stop that thought fast, so I turned my anger on the young woman. “Stop humiliating me, you horsefaced bitch!” The silence persisted. The woman, who I should explicitly state was attractive and faced like no farm animal whatsoever, began to cry. What to do now? I took a glass of water from the table, and poured it over her head. A large man at the end of the table stood, and began approaching me. I ran for the door. Just before crossing through the doorway, I turned, and without a plan of what to say, uttered in a stuttered scream, “You! I- You all should die of disease!!!” Then I was gone.

That was many years ago. I never spoke to anyone present again. Since they were mostly work acquaintances, I did not return to my job at the telephone book company on Monday morning. Nor ever. I took only the shame I’d brought on myself, and resolved to start over somewhere new.

My behavior at the dinner party demonstrated poor social skills. The sad truth is that these were the only kind I had. Because of that, I can share the event with you today, free from the shame. When I was awakened, and began my spiritual path, I was able to look at myself honestly and start the slow path of change. Slow it has been, but steady. Today, I can interact with all manner of people, including women I’m attracted to, without explosive behavior. I am not perfect, and do sometimes make mistakes, but I am accountable for my behavior today, and when I err I take actions to correct it. I don’t need to hide from anyone. For example, I returned to a Denny’s in Sioux Falls last year and made restitution of $672 for a destroyed booth and portion of carpet, some results of my behavior in the restaurant three days prior. However, I proudly can say that such incidents are now rare.

Power Words:

Today, I can approach people and situations without fear. Or panicked violence against strangers. This is called social skills.

Power Words for July the 31st: Hard Work

“I believe strongly in hard work.” said practically everyone. We all believe in hard work. Hooray for hard work!

How true is this idea? Surely, we appreciate a person doing their best in whatever profession, when we’re in the consumer seat. Likewise, we feel best about ourselves when, in our career, we fully apply ourselves and refuse to sit idle. On the other hand, hard work is perhaps, an oversimplification of the real world metrics of what a person does. These thoughts may, however, be rooted in my specific experience.

My father was an ardent defender of the virtue inherent to hard work. “Boy, a man can move mountains, as long as he’s trying hard enough!” he’d say, in enthusiasm or anger depending on the events of that day. This was not simple philosophy, but a design he applied to everything he did. My father was never a religious man, but still insisted upon using the stairs in any tall building on the grounds that elevators were, “The work of evil forces.” Though he understood certain limitations (such as our inability to manage our home as a self-sustaining farm) he had very strict rules. He refused to purchase pre-sliced bread. When my brother once came home from college with a load of Wonderbread, my father beat him severely with it. Then made him eat each slice.

Of all my father’s rules and notions of hard work, one remains particularly tragic. Far ahead of modern day environmental concerns, he saw the automobile as a wasteful, needless machine. Eventually, when his “career” made local travel necessary, he went to his workshop and emerged five days later with what he termed the “Feiling 500.” It was a wooden box, with four wheels, that approximately resembled a car with room for six passengers. However, the vehicle had no floor in the places where the legs or driver and passengers sat. It was capable of steering, but the thing had no motor or transmission. It was to be powered by good-old-fashioned-foot-work. In other words, the occupants would move the car by pattering their feet on the exposed road. If this technology sounds familiar, you perhaps remember it from television’s The Flintstones, though my father would enter into rage blackouts anytime somebody made the suggestion that this was his inspiration.

One Sunday, we children all climbed into the vehicle to go to the grocery store. We were all under 12, but one did not require a license to operate the thing. Another benefit, according to my father, who labeled child labor protections as “Pussyism.” It was raining, and the car had neither windows nor a roof, but luckily my father saw being soaked in rain as admirable evidence of one’s toughness. On the way home, the vehicle began to slide on a muddy hill. My sister Katechelle, brothers Tortoise and Showman, and I, wildly beat our feet against the ground trying to reclaim it, but it was no use. We rolled off the road and down a rocky slide. When the car slammed to a stop, and I had my bearings enough to look around, I saw that my sister’s right leg had been crushed, and my brother Tortoise’s left had as well.

That was the last day we used the Feiling 500. My father never repaired it. As a show of goodness, my father now only assigned one child’s work to split between the unipedal Katechelle and Tortoise, but also treated them as one person in all other respects, such as food rations. They were happy just the same. His rhetoric about hard work went on, unchanged, as though the disaster had never occurred.

When I hear my fellows sing the praises of hard work, I often reflect on this story. I wonder if my family had been derelict enough to have engaged in the gluttony of Buick ownership, would my kin and I have a greater total of limbs today? But again, this is only my experience. I can offer only that.

Power Words:

Today I will excuse myself from working so hard, and diffuse or intimidate my critics with sad anecdotes.

Power Words for July 26th: Time, Time, Time

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We’re just in time. We’re having a great time. Time to get going. We’re going through tough times. The time has come.

And on goes the list. There are a lot of things we have to say about time. Although, could any of us really say we have the answer? What is time? When did it start? How long will it go? Most importantly, how much time have we got left? In truth, there are no answers. So what shall we do? What if we could stop time, as Zack Morris did on our beloved Saved by the Bell? This is unlikely to happen for most of us. For us, time is a constant.

On the spiritual path, we speak a great deal about living in the moment. When practiced, this ideal can be key to a happy and peaceable life. Unfortunately, living by this philosophy is much easier said than done. We think of regrets and disappointments in our past, or about fears and dreams for the future. These things can consume us, as might a giant monster who would eat us like so many snacks.

What can we do? How do we shuck the shackles of a mind trapped everywhere but in the present time? Here again, our affirmations are the key to opening the door of light which will bathe us in showers of peace.

When we worry about these things, we need only remember that the past is unchangeable. If we had to do it over again, we’d surely make the same mistakes, because we’re only ourselves, forever subject to our own limitations. Of the future, we can expect that whatever happens, we’ll encounter more disappointments, but what is more relevant is that no matter the triumphs we may have, we’ll ultimately grow ungrateful for them and focus on what we want our next future to be. Such is the nature of man and woman.

In short, all time is indistinguishable from the present time. If we feel discomfort, we have likely felt it before, and will feel it again in the years to come, without much significant change. There’s no use getting our hopes up. As a wise Eastern teacher once advised me, “Put down the shovel.” Years later, when I had stopped sniffing glue and other inhalants, I reflected on this and realized it was an analogy that implied I was digging a hole for myself. Though I was often observed to be carrying a literal shovel in that period of my life.

Power Words:

Time is not my master. I am free to choose living in the moment, and I should. Any other moment is surely just as unremarkable. What shall I have for lunch?

Power Words for July the 17th: Keeping it Positive

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One weekday morning, I was drinking alcohol in a public park. It was Spring, and the sun was shining as a comfortable breeze rolled over me. The more I consumed from my paper bag, the more optimistic and at peace I felt.

Spiritual Power Words

Bird always looks so great

  Unexpectedly, a woman approached me. This had never happened before. She was of middle age, and had two children in tow. “You can’t be drinking here.” she said, with no pleasantries. “What?” I asked. “You can’t do that here. It’s illegal. You need to leave or I’m calling the police.” she reiterated.

  I looked her kids over. I did it slowly, and she noticed. She seemed uncomfortable. One of the children was very obese, and the other appeared to have some kind of breathing problem that was loud and constant. Since she had ruined my peace of mind, I decided to give her a piece of my mind. “Look, lady. Giving me the business won’t make these defective kids live any longer.” I said. Her face dropped. A moment later, she let out a string of profanities, then left the park. I did the same, taking seriously her mention of the police.

  Though I was inarguably in the right, I spent the rest of the day feeling bad. I thought of how many more clever retorts I’d have for her, if there had been enough time to think of them. I replayed the situation again and again in my head. It was her who had so clearly been the villain in this situation, so why was I now feeling so negative about it? Where had I gone wrong?

  My mistake had been letting her get to me. I only realized this after some years of spiritual development, but it’s one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned. The world is full of women in unflattering jeans, well past their physical prime, who would love an opportunity to visit their misery on a person like me, who was just enjoying all that life has to offer. Women, men, children, the elderly, crossing guards, and so many more groups contain such individuals. We can’t control them. All we can control is our reaction, and when we control it, nobody can ruin our day.

Power Words:

Today, I will live my life with confidence, noticing the judgments and opinions of others, but disregarding their worth, and focusing on my own.

Power Words for July the 11th: Birth, and Rebirth: New Beginnings, and Beginnings Agains

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Sometimes we make a mess. We spill milk, break a heel, or burn every bridge in our personal life, while simultaneously wrecking our career.


These things can have us feeling pretty run-down. We replay the choices we’ve made over and over, wondering what we could’ve done differently, and circle the shame-drain in a whirlpool of self-kicks, kicking ourselves.

Nobody’s walking to Australia today. We’re only human. If a mistake were all it took to stop our journey, we’d have given up a long time ago.
Whatever situation we find ourselves in, we can always pause, take a deep breath, and give ourselves a fresh start; a blank page that brightly smiles back at us. Sometimes this is as simple deciding to change our attitude, and making a commitment to take positive action throughout our day. In other cases, we may need to attain a new identity, leave whatever place we call home, and never speak to the people there again, shutting our time with them away and keeping our former life a secret we take to the grave.
But these specifics aren’t important. No matter our situation, we can choose a fresh start knowing that we are worthy of being loved, and giving love. We deserve it!

Power Words:

Today is a new day. I will put on a clean shirt, smile at an animal or baby, and choose to feel brand-new!