John Y’s Musings from the Middle: The Modernized Ecclesiastes 3

jyb_musingsThere is a time to love

There is a time to hate

There is a time to be sad 

There is a time to be joyful

There is a time to judge

There is a time to seek forgiveness

There is a time to feel ecstatic and have hallucinations

There is a time to feel paranoid and have cotton mouth

And there is a time to titrate your medications

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Minnesota

jyb_musingsMinnesota is probably my favorite place anywhere to freeze my arse off (during the winter, anyway).

The people are pretty close to how they are depicted in Lake Wobegon –but Keillor did embellish a little bit. Not everyone is really above average. But not many seem below average either.

Minnesotans seem a lot like Kentuckians ….they are just as nice but they don’t try quite as hard as we do. They walk faster (because of the cold), talk faster (not sure why….maybe a “Viking thing”), and say “You betcha” a lot. When they talk they sound like a nasally and impatient Southerner — without any of the Southern accent, of course, but with all the friendly and kindly disposition. When you talk to them (if you are from Kentucky), you sound more Southern than you thought you sounded. And Minnesotans are fun to talk to and easy to make friends with. 

I guess what I am saying is that Minnesota is a much warmer place personally than it is a cold place physically. And that is saying a lot!

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: My ridiculously amazing experience!

jyb_musingsI just landed…you heard me right, “landed!!” Because I flew. I have been flying…high up in the air…at wicked fast speeds ….and flew over 1000 miles —that’s right, 1000 miles!! –and all in just under 2 hours!!

We landed in cold, icy and foggy conditions. Giant wheels came down underneath the airplane at just the right time and the pilots, who were responsible for about 120 lives, calmly and smoothly landed the giant flying contraption and we all lived. 

I know I have experienced this very same thing many times. But this time I was really conscious of it and paying attention. And aware of how truly amazing it really is!

And the entire mind-boggling trip cost less than two shirts and a belt I could have bought at the airport.

This flight was much better than any two shirts and a belt I have ever bought.

One man sitting 2 seats in front of me missed the whole thing because he hadn’t flown before and threw up in a complimentary bag the entire flight. He was paying close attention just like me and it must have just blown his mind –even more than it did mine. I hope he tries again.

I met the pilot as I got off the plane. He was about 15 years younger than me but real responsible looking with short well-groomed hair and not a bead of sweat on his forehead. If I had his job I would have looked more like the guy 2 seats in front of me. I wanted to say, “Sir, that was an amazing experience that I’ll never forget.” But I didn’t because I forget to remember a lot of amazing things I experience.

This was certainly one of those experiences! I just said, “Thanks” to the pilot.

And the most amazing part of all is that all I had to do was think about what I was doing for a few minutes rather than taking it for granted.

I would tell you how I am going to get home from the airport, but I doubt you would believe that either.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Throwing down some stone cold wisdom

jyb_musingsWhen life throws you a curve ball, duck. And then get out of the way. And if you find the ball, don’t throw it back and try to hit the person who threw it at you. He may have a knife or a gun. And you don’t want things to escalate. Just let the ball lie and be glad it didn’t hit you –this time. And use your rear view mirror.

When life gives you lemons. Take them. You know what they say…free lemons!

When life is unfair, join the club. It is your turn in the barrel. Get in the barrel and roll down the hill. It’s a shorter hill than you think. And it will be someone else’s turn before you know it.

When you are betrayed by someone you trusted, don’t blame them too much. They are about average. But you can strive to be better than that. And that makes you above average. For the moment.

When someone lies to you, don’t call them out on it in an embarrassing way. Just let them know you know the truth and you know they know that you know the truth. And you don’t have to say anything to communicate that. Stay trustworthy. And make peace with the fact that you can’t trust everyone always. But keep trusting –with eyes wide open and lower expectations. Life is better that way.

When someone talks behind your back about you, step back and watch that person from a distance and say to yourself, “I wonder why that person feels a need to do that… Whatever the reason, I hope he gets over it soon” And keep that to yourself and keep doing whatever you were doing. It’s really not about you anyway. And remember, people do things behind your back because they lack the confidence and integrity to look you in the eye.

And if all these things are happening to you, remember, you are right on schedule –for a Wednesday. Be glad you are participating. Life is better that way. Keep participating, please.

But with a little wisdom, a lot humor and and a penchant for patience, this Wednesday may well be just a little bit better.

And there’s nothing wrong with carrying Pepper Spray. Some day you may need it. But only in emergences.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Own Your Mistakes

It is always important to “own” your mistakes.

And only after that try to find a silver lining

It is always important to "own" your mistakes.</p>
<p>And only after that try to find a silver lining

John Y. Brown, III: Disliking Chris Hughes

jyb_musingsI don’t like to ever be negative, especially on Facebook.

But if there was ever a time for a Facebook “Dislike” button to exist, it is now, for Facebook co-founder, Chris Hughes, for dabbling with and then destroying one of our nation’s most respected and thoughtful political publications, The New Republic magazine.

How does one person so single-handedly undo in two years what hundreds of literary giants toiled so diligently and relentlessly for over a century to create and build? The answer to that question –about an astonishing failure– is unfortunately not nearly as interesting or as unlikely as Facebook’s astonishing success.

It is instead the same timeworn story of someone who confuses great ability and success in one area to translate into great ability and success in other and unrelated areas.

For Chris Hughes of Facebook fame it was assuming being a star in anticipating a new niche in the new online medium of social media would mean brilliant success in creating a new niche in the old print medium of political analysis and commentary. Mr Hughes, of course, was wrong.

As stunningly wrong as he was stunningly right about his earlier success with Facebook.

In Mr Hughes’ case, it was hubris caused not from too much intelligence but from too little self-awareness of his own capabilities (and perhaps too much money and idle time) that led instead to his brilliant debacle with the New Republic. And that is worthy of an over-sized and emphatic Facebook “Dislike.” If it existed.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Is Chivalry Dead?

jyb_musingsIs Chivalry Dead?

Not in Louisville, Kentucky, it’s not.

As I was leaving an event the other night, I walked outside with a group of people including a friend and one of the co-hosts, the lovely Tammy York-Day. I decided to walk Tammy to the multilevel parking lot nearby where we both had parked –as any Southern gentleman would be expected to do.

It was dark out and as we peered into the parking garage it was eerily quiet.

I had parked on the 2nd floor and Tammy told me she had parked on the 4th floor.

“What does modern day chivalry command?” I wondered to myself.

OK. I didn’t really wonder that to myself. What I really thought to myself was “Oh, Sh*t! Am I expected to go all the way to the 4th floor with Tammy and to pretend like I am going to protect her?” I didn’t say this out loud, of course. Just thought it. And then I thought, “I really don’t want to do that. It is two extra full floors up and it is late and I am a little scared to go up there with only Tammy to protect me.” I didn’t say that out loud either.

My mind immediately went into overdrive to quickly come up with an alternative plan. One that was still within the realm of chivalrous but not overly or absurdly chivalrous.

Instead of walking toward the elevator I started up the stairs. I let Tammy take the elevator. It would be harder, I reasoned, for Tammy to expect me to walk up two extra flights of stairs than I needed to for my car. And I figured since her car was on the 4th floor, Tammy would prefer the elevator and she did.

But my real save was I yelled out to Tammy as I said good-bye, “I promise to wait here on the stairs until you get to your car and I will listen for sounds of scuffling or screaming. If you get mugged or attacked just scream as loudly as you can.” I continued explaining my chivalrous plan, “I will be able to hear you because a scream from the 4th floor of the parking garage will carry to the 2nd floor where I will be with my car. Then I will start screaming and from the 2nd floor my scream would be heard at the street level,” and hopefully someone would hear and come to the rescue. Someone other than me, that is.

It was a brilliant, fool-proof, and yet still chivalrous plan.

But as we stood at the stairs and elevator, it became obvious to me Tammy was wondering what would happen if she was attacked then and there. I knew exactly how to calm her worries. I reassured Tammy that even though I wasn’t a tall guy or especially strong guy or even an overly masculine guy, I did have a big vocabulary and high emotional IQ and could use sarcasm —biting sarcasm, if necessary —and “shaming,” shaming from childhood parental wounds, if necessary. I explained I had a powerful “Disappointed father” look I could use on any attacker. And combined with devastating sarcasm, I had a powerful “one -two punch” (metaphorically speaking) that would knock back any attacker who was foolish enough to try to harm her.

Although she didn’t say anything, I could tell Tammy felt safe and secure with a Southern –and chivalrous– gentleman so close by as I stood in the stairwell about a dozen feel away explaining everything (so I wouldn’t have to go all the way up to the fourth floor with her).

As I waved goodbye and promised to wait to see if she screamed from the 4th floor, Tammy knew one thing for absolute certain: That chivalry was far from dead. That chivalry was, in fact, alive and well and flourishing tonight —at least here in Louisville, Kentucky for Tammy York-Day.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Transformations and life stages.

jyb_musingsWhen I was a young man and someone said something that offended me, I would imagine my eyes lighting up and transforming into the Incredible Hunk — and mauling the offending person.

But now when I am offended, I imagine my eyes going dim and transforming into Super Guru –and forgiving the offending person.

And then turning into the Incredible Hulk and mauling him

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: A Wife’s Apology?

jyb_musingsIt looked like it was about to really happen. That rare and unnatural act that violates the most deeply entrenched parts of our genetic code: A wife apologizing to her husband.

There we were. Standing in my home office. Rebecca had initiated the conversation to bring resolution to the issue of who was most to blame for us going to bed sulking last night that led to 5 consecutive hours this morning of short matter-of-fact sentences, no ‘love’ or even ‘L’ at the end of text messages, pained pouting and the inability to smile at one another –although admittedly Rebecca had tried breaking the tension with a smile at around 10am but I stopped her “c’mon, let’s get over this silly thing smile” with a stern look that said,”Not this time. An example needs to be made. That was my favorite show last night you kept me from watching. And this cannot stand.”

Rebecca read me loud and clear and dropped all pretense of believing a casual reconciliation for last night’s transgressions were within reach.

There we stood. At that quiet and serious marital face-off. Who would blink first? More often than not, it is me (that is to say about 99.7% of the time). But not today. And Rebecca knew it. She could tell we were standing in the middle of one of those rarified historic moments like when Cicadas return or Haley’s Comet passes. There was a cosmic tinge in the air that made one feel like the universe was about to crack.

Rebecca slowly opened her mouth and sighed, “I…” She faltered momentarily as she struggled to form the sound of a soft “a” that begins the word “apoligize.” But she got it out. Then seemed to recover as she finished the entire sentence, “I….apologize….that you got angry with me last night.”

Rebecca exhaled. Relieved it was finally over. Or so she thought.

“What?” I blurted. “You…you are sorry for my bad reaction? That’s not an apology. That doesn’t count,” I reasoned. “You can’t, technically, apologize for someone else’s bad reaction to something you do. I mean…You can only apologize for you say or do” I paused for effect. “You see what I am saying?”

Rebecca knew she had missed the mark…and was willing to try tried again. Digging deeper into her guilty conscience than maybe ever before from an argument involving watching television together, the apology began tumbling out . “I apologize…for making you angry” I vigorously started shaking my head “no” but Rebecca rebounded with “and my part in causing that.”

Oh my Gosh. O!M!G! I ….I was completely overwhelmed! And touched! And touched deeply enough that at that exact moment everything seemed right in the world again. And it seemed crystal clear to me that God not only was real…but was standing somewhere behind me in my home office –where he was mouthing the words for Rebecca to repeat so that my over-sized hurt from my super-sized overly-sensitive feelings could be suaved over –finally. Like a mommy who realizes her 5 year old crying son just skinned his knee and almost broke the skin and that she has to pretend like it might require a trip to the emergency room to pacify the son and make him feel loved. Except instead of the son being 5 he is 51.

And God worked His magic. His grace. All was right again. I was able to forgive Rebecca even though she feel asleep during my favorite show last night and was snippy when I kept asking her if she was still awake (even though I already knew she wasn’t because I held my hand in front of her face for over 30 second and she never said anything).

She doesn’t know it yet. But at the end of my next text message to Rebecca, I plan on ending it with a capital ‘L.’ For love.

Heck I may just spell out the whole entire word ‘Love.’ I feel like after Rebecca’s soul-searching apology for last night’s TV debacle, it is the least I can do. And that, all things considered, I am a pretty darned lucky guy.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Spiritual Retreats

jyb_musingsGoing to a weekend spiritual retreat is about the scariest and most exciting plan you can have for a Friday night.

If you are going for the right reasons.

It’s not a business networking opportunity or about being liked. It’s not about looking good. It’s not about sounding good. It’s not even about being good.

It’s about thinking anew while also letting go of old thoughts and beliefs that no longer serve their purpose. It’s about being silent –or as quiet as you can be –on the inside. It’s about listening when you normally speak–and actually listening to understand. It is about NOT filling up awkward silences with others or when alone. It is about standing stiller and seeing more. It is not about meeting others but meeting yourself. It’s not about networking with others but about networking with God —which includes long awkward lulls. It is about being real and laying yourself as bare as you are able. And then peeling off one more layer after that.

But it is mostly about the difference between the man (or woman) you left with and the man (or woman) you return with.

And although you think only you will really know if you’ve changed, you are wrong. And if you do it right, you will be comfortable being wrong, again, about so many of the things you were so certain you had been right about just a few days earlier.

That is both the scary and the exciting parts of a real weekend spiritual retreat.

We shall see.

John Y.’s Video Flashback (1995):

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