Monday, June 1, 2015

Some Things I've Learned In 58 Years....

Today is my 58th birthday. I woke up this morning feeling no different. My body still feels the same as it did yesterday - arthritic joints and all. (Although the sunshine is helping with that after two weeks of rain.)

I began to think about all of the things I have seen and done in my lifetime. For a high school graduate with only a couple hours of college education I've led an interesting life. I've lived in 9 states, have visited 35 of the others (only need Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, North Dakota, Alaska and Hawaii to complete all 50...  except I heard somewhere there are now 57...?) and have lived a total of 7 years outside the continental U.S. in Germany and Puerto Rico.

I've been in 13 countries besides the United States and have seen many unforgettable sights. My career choices, made by chance, led me to most of the places I lived and visited. Eight years in the Air Force and 22 working in federal prisons took me to some great places. And I made thousands of friends and acquaintances as I went. I thank you all for being a part of my journey.

I've learned a lot of things over the years. Beginning with the basics - I learned to feed myself, speak English (albeit limited at the time) and to go to the bathroom on my own. I learned all of that by the time I was three!

I also learned that I wasn't going to get my way all the time and that my actions have consequences.

As I grew older (grade school) I learned that most people treat you in accordance with how you treat them or how you act. That's something that followed me throughout my life and to every place that I've visited in the world.

I've learned that life is unfair sometimes. No matter what you do, no matter how you treat people, no matter how much money you have or where you live - sometimes life is unfair. Everyone gets disappointed sometimes and nobody ever gets everything they want. Sadly, today's children are being taught that everything in life is fair. They get trophies for participating. Some children's sports leagues don't allow score keeping so there are no winners and no losers. These poor kids are not being prepared for real life and their disappointments are going to be magnified immensely because they're not learning to deal with disappointment now.

I've learned that there is no perfect President or political candidate. No matter your party affiliation or political views there is not one President or candidate with which you will completely agree and have no differences. People are people. They have different ideas. And politicians have different ideas than most.

I've learned that many people in this country vote with their emotions rather than with honest, logical thought and consideration. Many people don't take the time to research a candidate and what they stand for. They vote for appearance, (Bill Clinton), ethnicity (Obama) and many want to vote for gender in the next election. These people are not helping the nation.

I've learned that no matter how long it's been since you've seen a friend or family member you love, no matter how much time has passed since you last talked - if the relationship is real - the next time you see each other you'll immediately take up where you left off and it will be as if the time never passed (except for the physical changes of aging, that is...). Love doesn't depend on full time contact. Love survives time and distance.

On that note - I've learned that reconnecting with old friends can be wonderful - whether that re-connection is temporary or permanent. I have had people return to my life for a short visit. But they left me changed. I've got others who returned and are now a permanent part of my life. Both are good.

I've learned that the love of my life is a woman from my past that I never thought I'd see again. She returned to my life and I was changed!

And not that it takes the place of human love and contact but I've learned that the pure, unconditional love you get from a dog is unique and wonderful and can also be life changing.

I've learned that sometimes unexpectedly good things happen that change your life. By the same token, I've learned that sometimes unexpectedly bad things happen that change your life. Both are a part of life and both can be used to your advantage.

I've learned you can get over great tragedy in your life by trusting in God, family and friends. The world goes on and you can either let something consume you or pick yourself up and move on. It's not easy. It takes strength and fortitude. For me it also took God. He brought me through the darkest part of my life and continues to give me strength each day.

I've learned that there is truth in the old saying "What doesn't kill you will make you stronger." I've also learned that there is great truth in the saying "You never know how strong you can be until being strong is the only choice you have."

I've learned that I have become a fairly accomplished writer and that I had the ability to write and publish a book. I've also learned that my dreams for the success of my book are far greater than that success really is. But I did it.

* I've learned that love doesn't necessarily conquer all. Sometimes, in the real world, you have to blow things up. That's what our military is for.

Through my travels I've learned and re-learned that the United States of America is still the greatest country in the world.

I've learned that drinking bad coffee is no way to start the day and that no restaurant or coffee shop makes coffee as good as what I make at home.

I've learned that wealth and fame doesn't automatically give someone common sense. In fact - sometimes it has the opposite effect.

From working in prisons most of my adult life I've learned patience. When you have to wait for someone else to unlock a door or open a sliding gate before you proceed you learn to be patient.

I've learned that life is mostly what you make it.

I've learned that happiness is a choice. One can live in misery worrying about the bad things in life or rejoice and be thankful for the good things. It's a choice. Many make the wrong one.

I've learned that playing in the band at our church is not only rewarding but fun. And I've learned that I'm better on my guitar than I thought.

I've learned that having Jesus in the center of my life makes other things fall into place.

And I've learned that the unending love of my wife takes care of the rest.

Mostly I've learned to be grateful every day for what I have and for the blessings I've accrued over the years.

And remember what I said above about the way you treat others? I've learned, through all of my travels and even from my career working with inmates, that the way you treat others does make a difference in the way most will interact with you.

In Matthew 7:12, Jesus said "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets."

The Golden Rule is still some of the best advice ever given. I have tried to live it throughout my life and can tell you, without a doubt, that it works in most cases. It doesn't work every time and it doesn't work with all people. (See asterisk above.) But it certainly makes for a better life - at least in my case.

Thank you all for reading my stuff . To my family - I didn't pick you nor you me. But I'm happy and thankful for each of you - even if I don't tell you often enough.

To those who are friends - thanks again for being a part of my life. I look forward to the future and the adventures it brings. And I thank God for the life He has given me.

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