The Simple Pleasure of Arriving Early

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Growing up, my parents were always late. Late for every family gathering. Every Thanksgiving dinner. Every show or movie or event that was occurring. It was maddening and embarrassing. But I had no choice, I couldn’t drive myself to these gatherings.

As adults we often model our parents’ worst and best behaviors- smoking, committing suicide, being religious, being kind to our spouses, etc. So, for much of my adult life I was late to everything. Everything. It drove people crazy, put me in some serious binds, and made my life a lot more difficult and stressful. In my 40s, I’ve finally realized, I DON’T HAVE TO LIVE THIS WAY ANYMORE.

So I started radically simplifying my life- focusing on faith, family, and self-improvement- and started arriving a little bit early to appointments and dinners and meetings. And I couldn’t believe how great it felt to do so. I could sit there, take a few breaths, and be free to focus on other things.

Plan ahead and plan well. Makes life a lot easier.

7 Tips to Beat Depression

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Most people suffer from depression at some point in their lives or know someone who has. Here are seven things a depressed person can do to make life better almost immediately:

  1. Establish a morning routine. Do you wake up at your girlfriend’s one morning, on your couch the next, and occasionally in your own bed?That needs to stop. A morning routine is critical to healthy functioning and when you start the day in disarray it usually only gets worse from there. So, wake up at roughly the same time every day, drink a glass of water, and do what you need to do to have a productive day.
  2. Exercise. If you hate it, find a way to make it fun. It doesn’t have to be running marathons. Try rowing or swimming or bicycling or playing hoops. Again, just do something. And if you have a REALLY hard time doing it, then do it FIRST THING IN THE MORNING!
  3. Build a spiritual practice. Buddhism, Catholicism, Quakerism, whatever. You might even be able to persuade me of the benefits of being a Wiccan. Regardless, though, JUST DO SOMETHING. Create a practice that helps you stay centered every day AND serves as a beginning or end point for every week. I know, I know, we all hate going to church. So add some fun to it like brunch or a giant latte or donuts. It’s important for many reasons. Foremost, it connects you with other humans. As a society we are facing an epidemic of loneliness. We need connection to other people. Try church, synagogue, meeting house, AA, whatever. Just something.
  4. Make time for gratitude. You know when you’re sitting in Chick-fil-a on a road trip and you look over and the family next to you is praying before eating their meal? Yes, it’s awkward and a little embarrassing, but if you were to take 30 seconds 3 times a day to REMIND YOURSELF HOW FORTUNATE YOU ARE it might improve your outlook.
  5. Figure out the patterns. We all have patterns of behavior that we repeat in our lives. Take some time to figure out which ones are holding you back. Are you overly focused on the superficial? Are you living up to your values? Do you keep dating the same types of people? It never hurts to work with a therapist, a coach, or even an app to help you figure things out.
  6. Make a change. Maybe it’s time to get a new job or end a relationship or get a pet or move to a new city. Sometimes a dramatic change can shake you out of a rut. Now, don’t do anything that will hurt you in the long run- run it by a few people first- but explore the possibility of changing your situation, even if only for a period of time. Another simple idea- plan a vacation. Having something fun to plan and look forward to is half the fun!
  7. Forgive yourself and others. Forgiving yourself is never easy and forgiving others isn’t always smart, but generally speaking, going down the path of forgiveness will only yield benefits for you. Explore readings and writing on forgiveness that might help you work through some of your thoughts and if nothing else works, try medicine.

Atheism is a kind of culture-wide depression

I was discussing this concept with a friend recently. She is a Catholic who holds a vast number of views that do not conform with Catholic teaching. I asked her, respectfully, why is it that she thinks she knows better than a church that is 2,000 years old? Then we started talking about something else.

Anyway, my theory is that atheism is a kind of cultural-level depression. It’s a statement of cynicism, a kind of “screw that b.s. I’m doing things my way” attitude. It may not seem like it, but it is an act of putting oneself first. Claiming you and your worldview are THE WORLDVIEW that everyone should have.

Do you not see the danger in this?

Terrible Modern Trends: Tattoos

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Don’t get me wrong, there are some very cool tattoos out there. But aren’t tattoos just a form of idol worship? Isn’t tattooing something on your body just elevating it (i.e., the sun in the photo above) to a deity-like status with its near-permanence on your body? Is it possible that doing so tips the balance so that your priorities are somewhat out of order? Isn’t it just a form of worship by another name?

#7Tips to Be a Better Father

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It’s that time of year when we are supposed to recognize our fathers despite raising us under the inherent tyranny that is family life. Here are a few ideas to help you be the best dad you can be, whether your kid deserves it or not. Kidding! They all deserve the best you can offer.

  1. Put the phone down and pay attention! This is perhaps the most important bit of advice I can offer. For at least a little while every day, spend time with your kids without any other distractions. None. Focus! You’re kid will appreciate it greatly and you’ll remember it for years to come.
  2. Carve out one-on-one time with each kid regularly. This is obviously easier in some families than others, but try to spend that one-on-one time on at least a weekly basis. Maybe every Saturday morning or every Sunday afternoon. With some flexibility, of course.
  3. Remember you are being watched. I was watching my 4.75-year-old eat cereal the other day and after he had finished scooping out and eating the O’s, he picked up the bowl and drink it down like a hungry orphan. This is something I learned my from father and he learned from his, no doubt. Anyway, everything you do is being watched carefully. And eventually, much of that behavior will be acted out. So behave yourself.
  4. Educate yourself a little. There are more and more resources available to parents. In the DC area, we have a fantastic organization called the Parent Encouragement Program that offers dozens of classes online and in-person on positive parenting. I’ve taken a few. Very helpful.
  5. Take good care of yourself. If you are responsible for others, whether financially or otherwise, it’s critical that you make sure they are cared for and supported. Eat healthy. Exercise. Go to the doctor. It’s not that hard and it’s very important.
  6. Play rough with your boys. There is some evidence that ADHD is linked to a lack of rough play in childhood. There are some who argue that it may just be a sleep deficit. I’m on the fence. I have it. I’m just not sure what causes it.
  7. Try to get along with the mother of your child. This may be the hardest one, especially in cases of divorce, but it’s important. Really try!

Will try to update this with links ASAP.- dv

Choosing to Be an Atheist Is Like Choosing to Be an Orphan

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Being an orphan is a tragic thing. I know, I was raised by one. It’s even worse when you try to go through life without moral and ethical guidance. I tried. For 40 years, I thought I was a good person and that being so was enough to get by in life. It’s not. Because you need the other people in your life to adhere to a moral code, too.

There is a wisdom to religion that Sam Harris and the New Atheists don’t grasp. It is the wisdom of how to live day in and day out, week in and week out. Live with gratitude and work towards a cause much greater than yourself. There is nothing wrong with accepting some help from a father or the Father.

We Are All Spiritual Beings

You can distract yourself and pretend otherwise, but the need for spiritual connection is so entrenched in the human that it is dangerous to suppress it. It will come out in you raging about your bullshit job or complaining about your life. Unless we nourish that need constantly, we succumb to the dull, earthly pains and occasional pleasures that deny us true happiness.

But have at it. Pretend we are just founts of logic and reason who just need to grasp our shared humanity. And see where that gets you.

Some of the Most Beautiful Words I’ve Heard

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Come from Jordan Peterson: “Wherever we go, and I mean that, wherever we go… If I go down the street or if I’m in an airport or if I’m in a cafe or if I’m in a movie theater… If I’m in a mechanics’ shop, some person comes up to me every 10 minutes, and they say, ‘I’ve been listening to your lectures and they’ve helped me. And my life is getting better.’… Can you imagine a better way to be greeted when you go out in the world?” -from a recent talk with Dennis Prager.

Watching @jordanbpeterson ‘s talks helped me decide to become a Catholic.

I Thought “Logic and Reason” Were Enough

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Enough to be a good person, at least. I’ve always felt my values were more or less in the right place. I’ve always lived a kind of pseudo-Christian life. But what about the OTHER person? What guides his or her behavior or what limits it, at least?

You never really know until that other person gets a chance to hurt you. When you make yourself vulnerable in marriage, friendship, business, etc. you hope the people you are engaged with are decent, reasonable people. But you never really know. And you’d be surprised how some of your friends and family members might behave when given a little bit of power.

So, a few questions to ask yourself. What guides human behavior? What constrains it in the absence of God or a religion? The answer to the former is typically selfishness, the latter, not much. You may say you’re a “good person” who is governed by “logic and reason,” but what is logical and reasonable to you may not be to the next person. And either way, how do you articulate this to a young person? How do you pass the values of “logic and reason” on to the next generation? WHAT do you pass on to the next generation?

When the proverbial sh#t hits the fan in life, who are you dealing with? Is it a loyal and decent person whose values can be trusted or a selfish, egotistical manipulator like the devil?

5 Things You Should Do Every Day

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These habits are the foundations of a happy life:

  1. Pray or meditate. Just take a few moments every morning to breathe, express your intention to have a good day, and wish peace and goodwill to your friends and family.
  2. Express gratitude. Before each meal, take a moment to express gratitude for your life.
  3. Take some time to write down your thoughts– particularly the ones that keep coming back over and over- in a journal.
  4. Read for self-improvement. Read the Bible, read a few self-help blogs, read some classic books. Invest time in this and yourself.
  5. Get outside, at least for a little bit. Unless it’s winter in Minnesota, get out and take a walk. This is why I suggest you get a dog.