Freedom

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Both of my son’s were moving back to school the other day and I spent a rather melancholy afternoon by myself. My mind flashed back to a property law class that I attended many years ago in Denver. Property law is a study of an archaic group of rules dating back to our English ancestors. I will spare you the details of this tortuous endeavor, with one exception; the concept of fealty or allegiance to the feudal lord of the manor.

The property law professor was of no particular note as a teacher, a rather condescending individual who loved nothing more than to spew forth his knowledge of antiquated legal concepts that he was in the process of capturing in a textbook that he was writing at the time. But, I will never forget one particular lecture where he explained the system of fealty. He demonstrated how the king would meet with the soon to be designated lord of the manor on the designated lands and pick up a handful of dirt. After saying a few appropriate words, the king would hand the dirt to the lord. The ceremony would bind the two to each other and to the land. To make a rather long story short, the bargain was as follows: The King was providing the lord with the land, along with all the buildings and workers associated with it, for his unfettered use. In exchange, the lord was agreeing loyally to support the king. Now, loyal support meant not just telling everybody what a nice guy the king was, but providing a certain percentage of the grain and produce from the fields, and also, more importantly, raising a fully outfitted and provisioned army of knights to defend the king whenever the king requested.

At the point in the lecture where the professor was stressing the extremely onerous and expensive nature of having to provide a fully battle ready group of knights, a rather inquisitive fellow student started to squirm in his seat.  He could not quite understand the motivations here. He raised his hand and asked why the lord of the manor would agree to this tremendously onerous undertaking. Would it not be easier, he asked, just to say “no”.

It was the professor’s response that I will always remember. He quoted a line from the old Janis Joplin song, “Me and Bobby McGee”. The line, to which only Janis Joplin could do justice, was “freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose.” The simple point that the professor was making was that the lord could have said “no”, but the consequence would have been the receipt of no land and no title from the king. Yes, he would have been free from his feudal obligations, but his life would have been devoid of all wealth and stature.

Well, my wife died a while back. The dog died a few months ago. Both sons have moved back to school. I am free! But what is “free”. Is it just another word for nothing left to lose?

Every few years, survival requires that we reinvent ourselves, that we determine what is important in our lives, that we refocus ourselves and that we determine what we have left to lose.

For more information on survival see my book, The Freshly Single Man.

When was the last time that you reinvented yourself?

Blood Part 2

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The other day I was at my Vet’s Office.  You see, my dog, Cinder, was dying.  I met Dr. Jim several years ago after my wife died and I was left to deal with the family dog.  Dr. Jim was always very understanding of how important my dog was to me and to my sons.  Cinder was my wife’s dog and has been one of the links to her life.  It was hard to see Cinder (much like my wife) curl up and die. 

Over the years, I have come to know Dr. Jim fairly well.  During my office visits with Cinder, we would discuss his fishing and my sons.  During my last visit, I gave Dr. Jim a copy of my book, The Freshly Single Man.  I am not certain why I gave it to him.  I just thought that he might be interested.  He called me back later that afternoon.  He had read most of the book.  His comment was that perhaps I am limiting my market too much.  While he has lived on his own for many years and knows how to take care of himself, he indicated that his girlfriend’s daughter would be a perfect market for the book as she seems to know very little about the subject. 

Dr. Jim  called me back the following day.  He had finished the book and had one criticism. He said that in all of his days as a vet, he has found that the best way to get blood out of clothes is with a mixture of cold water and table salt.  He mixes the salt and water to make a paste that he works into the stain and then rinses with more cold water.  He has found that this process does less harm to the fabric than hydrogen peroxide (as I recommend in my book and in my post “Blood”). 

Since Cinder died, I am sad to say that I will likely not see Dr. Jim for a while . I am pleased, however, to have made a new friend, shared my book with him and received his input.  If we look deeply enough, we can always find some positive outcome no matter how painful the immediate event. Who knows, at some point maybe I will get a puppy!

For other tips about how to master household chores, please see my book The Freshly Single Man.

What challenges have you had with simple household chores?  

Blood

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Last week my sons and I visited my elderly parents in Colorado. While I was anxious to see them, I also knew that it would be difficult. They are aging! We all do, but seeing your parents age, your own blood relatives, reminds us of our own mortality. I thought back and remembered all of the times that I had with them. The times when my wife was still alive. I miss those times and realize that they will never occur in my life again.

While we were visiting, I learned that they had a large television in the basement that needed to go to the garage, so it could be taken to the dump, so that they could buy a new one. After all, these days no matter how big the old TV is, there is always a better one with a bigger screen, and the old one is now worthless.

While moving this behemoth of a TV, I somehow cut myself and was bleeding all over a brand new Polo shirt. I remembered that a nurse friend of mine (whose husband is a doctor) once told me that hydrogen peroxide works great on removing blood from clothing (who better to learn blood removal from than from that duo?) I poured a generous amount of the peroxide on the bloodstain. It bubbled up when it contacted the blood, and I then blotted it off with a dry paper towel. It worked well. The Polo shirt was saved.

On the plane ride home, I couldn’t help thinking; life is so much like the TV and the blood. We can focus on getting old like the TV and know that we will soon be replaced. Or, perhaps it is better to focus on the blood. We can find solutions to our day to day problems. We can live and have happy and fruitful lives while we still occupy this earth. I want to focus on the blood!

Focus on the positives in your life. It might not be easy, but you will be surprised what it will do for your outlook.

Learn more in my book The Freshly Single Man.

How have you dealt with the stains (either figuratively or literally) in your life ?

Compartmentalization

Compartmentalization

I use the word “compartmentalization” to describe the process of dividing up our thoughts in order to be able to focus on specific tasks at hand. After my wife died, I was inundated with tasks to complete. Not only was I still working full time, but I now had a house to run, two kids to raise and a dog to look after. I was overwhelmed and I could not face it! I found very early on that if I faced all of the tasks that I had to complete at once, I simply would not be able to cope. I had to break my world down into to smaller parts or “compartments”. I could then focus on each compartment at a time and cope.

I found that the best way to do this is to make a list of all of the tasks that I have to deal with. I write them down, and then prioritize. I put a #1 next to the things that have to be done soon. A #2 for the next group and so on. If I don’t get the priorities exactly right, I don’t worry about it. Then I focus on the #1s and get to work on them. I don’t think about #2s or #3s, just the #1s. I get the #1s done and then I move on.

What organization issue have you run into?

Read more about how to survive on your own as a freshly single man in my recently published book The Freshly Single Man.

Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone

Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone

After my wife died, it was all that I could do to go on day to day. After all, it was a whole new world—not only working full time, but figuring out how to run my household and raise my children. I had no time to contemplate the meaning of life, or to think about taking bold new steps out of my own quotidian world. Perhaps this was a good thing at the time. The rapidity of my life also did not leave me much time for self pity. However, I found that after I got a better handle on my new life, I had time to start thinking, not of my next task, but of what lie ahead in a broader sense; what was the meaning of all of this.

At that point, it was important for me to look for new interests, to get outside of my comfort zone. It was not an easy thing to do. After all, once we master the bold new world that we have been thrown into as a result of losing our spouse, we want to enjoy the accomplishment. But I found that this feeling of accomplishment was short lived and was soon replaced with boredom. Boredom is not a good thing! Boredom provides too much leeway for our minds to fill the empty space with sadness, self doubt and self pity.

So, I made a conscious effort to fill the space with new activities. My son and I participated in fund raisers, including the Pan Mass Challenge, a 192 mile two day fund raising bike ride across Massachusetts. I participated in several 5K runs. I became more involved with my church. Finally, I wrote a book, The Freshly Single Man, and started this blog. These were all far different than anything that I had ever done—way outside my comfort zone! But, they helped me to grow as a person and to fill the emptiness that I felt with a sense of accomplishment.

Try something new. It might not be easy, but you will be surprised what it will do for your outlook.

Learn more in my book The Freshly Single Man.

How have you stepped out of your comfort Zone?

Mold in the Shower?

Mold in the Shower?

I was getting into my shower the other day and noticed a nasty black mold on the floor and up the walls. Now, I keep a pretty clean bathroom and was surprised to see this development. I tried scrubbing it with a small brush, but after a lot of work, I was still not satisfied with the results.

Well, I found the perfect solution. There is a spray called “Tilex Mold and Mildew Remover”. You can find it in the grocery store or department store in the bathroom cleaning isle. This stuff is great. Spray it on after you shower and let it sit there for several hours. It will rinse off when you use the shower again. It is amazing how much of the mold is gone. For particularly stubborn spots you and scrub with a toothbrush. I have had great results.

Ok, you have mastered another nasty problem!

What tough cleaning issue have you run into?

Read more about how to survive on your own as a freshly single man in my recently published book The Freshly Single Man.

Are your indoor plants dying?

Are your indoor plants dying?

When my wife died, I “inherited” a houseful of indoor plants. It has been a challenge to keep them alive. I am constantly finding droopy leaves on some of them and brown dying leaves on others. I have been tempted to just pitch them all and save myself some effort. Every time I find myself in “Grim Reaper” mode, I have sympathy pains, remembering how much my wife enjoyed them. I let them live another week, and find more droopy and browning plants.

I looked into this and discovered that the biggest issue in keeping plants alive and healthy is regulating the amount of water that they receive. Here is an easy test to address the watering issue. Stick your finger about an inch into the soil:
• If the plant is droopy, wilted, browning or has dropping leaves, but the soil feels soggy, then the plant is too wet. Cut back on the frequency and/or amount of watering.
• If all of the above symptoms are present but the soil feels dry, then the plant needs water.

If neither of these works and your plant is still not doing well, consult an expert at a plant nursery. The type of plant that you have may require special treatment that they can diagnose and can help you with.

While dealing with plants may be way down on your “give a shit list”, successfully mastering their care will provide you with one more reason to feel good about yourself.

What little household issue have you run across lately?

Read more about how to survive on your own as a freshly single man in my recently published book The Freshly Single Man.