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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Friends, Family -- My Christmas Gift = Please Choose One

I've been considering the best Christmas gifts for loved ones. I realistically can't afford to shower them with expensive material goods. Lately, I have formed the opinion that Christmas, gift-wise, is for kids. I think adults can find much better ways to express the spirit of the Christmas season than by maxing out their credit cards to buy gifts they can only afford with a minimum monthly payment.

This Christmas I am giving this blog entry as my gift. If you are a loved one, I hope you receive the message below, carefully read it, and discover what I should be giving. I know each one of you will find something that I write that strikes you as revealing. I have shortcomings and I know that I can still improve myself by giving necessary things.

Therefore, dear readers and loving friends, I ask you to take the list (1-10) and find one of the areas you want me to improve for you. This will be my gift to you. I hope to give you the present sometime within the next year (2014).  And, please, don't think I will make artificial, thoughtless fun of this exercise. I hope you assume I want to do something specific because I love you.

So, here is how the gifting works:

* First -- Choose the category of the gift.

* Then -- Use a note to describe as specifically as you can, something I can do to aid my giving of your gift. Don't be economical on your reasoning and description. Just let me know how best to make you a little happier with one specific action. I hope one action leads to much more, but one specific thing for each person is going to keep me busy.

* For example, if (1) Apologizing is your choice, describe and remind me of the incident(s) I need to remember. And, give me an idea of an appropriate action to take in order to supply your gift of an apology. I can add some of the necessary "giving" if you just hone in on something specific I can do.

* Finally -- Send me by snail mail or e-mail your note. Be sure to include a phone number or an address so that I can call or write back. I promise I won't take anything you say in a bad way. I truly believe Christmas is a time to give, grow, and learn. Thanks so much. You will be giving me the best Christmas ever by allowing me to give something meaningful to you.

Frank Thompson, 2810 Brant Avenue, Portsmouth, OH 45662

Please understand. I'm not doing this to uplift myself. I'm doing this because I need to do it. I hope you understand. Merry Christmas.

1. Apologizing

I believe in living my life with conviction and expressing my views; however, over the years, I have periodically shown my egotistic nature by hurting others with rash, self-serving behaviors. I have apologized many times to many people for my misbehavior. Not one time did I regret an apology.

Still, I sincerely wish I could remember all the apologies yet due. Even though I understand I must move on, I should be able to recall all the amends necessary to rectify past transgressions and be determined to take new steps to remedy the wounds I have caused. I want to ask forgiveness of those who never received my apologies.

“Never ruin an apology with an excuse.” --Benjamin Franklin

2. Thanking

I owe the good in my life to innumerous people. I have made an effort to thank those people, but I know so many have never heard a word of gratitude from my lips. I believe I take too much for granted and often forget that family and friends sustain my life. I owe the good times to others.

I should have never forgotten to express my appreciation to these friends for their selfless help. I relied upon them to help me through painful times and to guide me make better decisions.  I want to thank all of them for their support -- the small and the large things they have done that changed my life for the better. Although some have departed the earth, I want to thank all who cared.

 "If the only prayer you say in your entire life is 'thank you,' it will be enough." 
--Meister Eckhart, theologian and philosopher

3. Doing Favors

At times, I have basked in my leisure and overlooked assistance I should have given. Helping individuals not only can benefit their needs but also can save their lives. I have taken some of my personal time and assisted those in need, but also, with baseless excuses, I have declined to help others.

I am certain I have taken too much and given too little. With age, I am trying to curb my selfish desires. My egocentric nature is one of my biggest faults. I realize I should have volunteered to provide much more to those in need. In the future, I hope I can help more people with my main resources -- labor and time. I want to tell you all how kind you have been.

"When drinking water, think of its source." --Unknown

4. Understanding

Being loud and forceful, I have intimidated others and trod upon their views. Most of the time I believe I do this because I love to talk and discuss matters that people consider too controversial or too personal. As I become involved in conversations, I also become more animated and push my tunnel vision upon those with different perspectives.

Too often, I turn friendly conversations into serious discussions simply because I love to draw opinions. My emotions soon erupt, and then my talk reeks of lecture. I really do respect views of others. Yet, I should understand listening closely to a person is much more important than projecting my own limited understanding. I confess to my shortcomings of neglecting to be empathetic and dominating important conversations. I want to make amends to those I didn't take the time to understand.

"Listening looks easy, but it's not simple. Every head is a world." --Cuban Proverb

5. Displaying Affection

I am not sufficiently comfortable with outwardly showing my affection to those I love the most. I guess I often assume they "know my feelings" because of their intimacy with me. I love each one of them dearly but do not tell them frequently tell them so.

Many times, I practice more "tough love" than necessary. I do not say "I love you" to close family members enough because I feel as if  "just mouthing the words" is showy and insincere. I have a grievous fashion of maintaining too much distance between those I love and relying upon my loved ones to simply "sense" my affection. I treasure affection but reciprocate it too little. This is wrong. I want to let all my family know I love them, and I pray for them.

"Affection is responsible for nine-tenths of whatever solid 
and durable happiness there is in our lives." --C.S. Lewis

6. Being Impatient

I do believe I am more patient at age 62 than ever. Yet, when I was younger, I was very rash and impetuous. I crashed into walls of resistance without thinking, believing immediate action was the only successful course.

I still do not count patience among my better virtues, but I know now that taking more time before I act can facilitate positive thinking and, thus, prevent problems and even heal old wounds. Now, I am afforded the luxury of having time to digest information without being in a stressful environment. I want to offer my patience to others and to pledge the gradual improvement of my headlong behaviors.

“Patience is the companion of wisdom." --Saint Augustine

7. Criticizing

Getting old and facing inevitable changes, I quite frequently criticize other people and their different views. Beyond mere expression, my criticism is often sharp, pointed, and hurtful. Others have grown used to my normal bitching and belly aching; however, criticizing people for the sake of hammering my own personal, narrow beliefs is wrong. It is much easier to criticize the opposition than to logically defend my own views.

Perhaps some of my constructive criticism is warranted. Yet, I regret my nature of displaying too many frowns with too much distrust. I need to give greater concessions to others while finding workable solutions for those things I continue to denounce. I hope to become more optimistic and less pessimistic by trusting change. I want to say I'm sorry for unfairly criticizing things I do little to improve.

"Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain but it takes character and self control to be understanding and forgiving." --Dale Carnegie

8. Forgetting

I forget more and more as I age. Ex-students often talk of specific happenings in my classroom, and I honestly don't remember them ever happening. I believe them, but I know now I have forgotten. I have trained myself to forget -- to repress some painful memories and to become "numb" to my own foolish past behaviors. I forget to move along ... to continue, not necessarily to "fix" the past, just to have the energy to face the future. And, I also forget because I have an aging brain with natural faults.

I wish I would not have forgotten to be more attentive and considerate, particularly to those who loved me. I am guilty of forgetting some people with whom I was once very close friends. In my neglect, I often found groundless reasons for my absence. I have even cut relationships without warning or without reason, forgetting my primary obligations to other human beings. I want to confess that I forgot to do some things that were inexcusable. I want to say, "I had not excuse to forget."

"We bury love; Forgetfulness grows over it like grass: that is a thing to weep for, not the dead." --Alexander Smith, Scottish poet

9. Lacking Initiative

I am satisfied with many simple things in life. I don't want expensive adult "toys." I have never had the urge to live in a large home decorated with priceless ornaments. However, I have shown a lack of initiative to provide greater comfort and better resources for my family. Instead, I have always believed that fate would put me in the right place to accomplish whatever the Man upstairs desired of me. Fame and fortune mean little to someone who prefers the asset of time to provide music and writing.

As I look back at certain points in my life, I can see times when I should have taken control instead of "going with the flow." Perhaps I feared great challenges. I have taken some trials and succeeded though the ones that haunt me most are the challenges I never attempted. Opportunity is rare, and I have ignored some opportune liberties to extend my education and my experience. I now believe people should not fear failure because their temerity of falling cripples great advancement. I want to assure people that I am sorry I didn't push myself more, not for the money, but for the test of my own abilities.

To reach the port of heaven, we must sail, sometimes with the wind, sometimes against it - but we must sail, and not drift, nor lie at anchor. --Oliver Wendell Holmes 

10. Being Unstable

All of my friends and family know I am a teacher who spent only a little over 27 years in the profession because I became disabled with the mental illnesses of depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Because of this disability, I feel both incomplete and embarrassed.

I loved teaching and the students I taught. I know I was a good teacher, yet I didn't extend my career like so many of my coworkers. Some think I abused the system by taking disability. I understand their views, and, I can assure you, I often question how much more teaching I might have done in different circumstances. I am blaming the circumstances on myself -- I, alone, was responsible for my life , not any other one.

Losing the standing of "normal" is a challenge. I do not feel inferior now, but I realize I have fallen "over the edge of a cliff" and require medication and psychiatric care to maintain commonality. I hate to rely upon this treatment, yet I have gone "cold turkey" twice since 1984 and found myself deeper in the hole. I never want to experience these horrors again, so I have resigned myself to taking meds for the rest of my life.

Having so many unstable experiences, people know my problems -- I wore them on my sleeve as the old cliche states. They have seen me when I was neck deep in the waters of clinical depression -- many call it "crazy," and I know the disease does manifest itself in the most insane behaviors. In the past, I have had episodes where I have broken down to find no meaning in life. I honestly didn't understand why my brain couldn't kick-start recovery on its own.

Many still see me as "damaged goods." Again, I understand their view, and perhaps I am not what I could be. So, above all, I must believe God has helped me through the changes and has allowed me to heal, not as a flawed person, but as a unique human still striving to become a useful servant.

I regret doing whatever caused me to become mentally imbalanced. If I had known whatever caused it, I would have altered my past to prevent it. I want you to see me now as a complete individual without disabilities, yet that is impossible since I am diagnosed with mental illness. My wish is that you don't blame any of my wrongs on my condition. If you give me that fair "shake" of being a normal human being with a misunderstood disease, I will be happy. Most importantly, I want to thank you all for putting up with my "crazy," unpredictable moods and behaviors. I want you to forgive me for being unstable and hurting you.

"I thank God for my handicaps, for, through them, I have found myself, 
my work, and my God." --Helen Keller

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