One of the Biggest Obstacles to Happiness

Don’t overlook the second of Don Miguel Ruiz’s “Five Agreements;”  it addresses one of the biggest obstacles to happiness.

“Don’t take anything personally – Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.”

This is much easier said than done.  I do not interpret “immune” as numb, indifferent, or hostile.  I believe he means that you can entertain the opinions and observe the actions of others without adding emotional elements, and assessments.  Everyone wants genuine “respect,” “approval,” and “love,” and no one wants “disrespect,” “rejection,” and “hate.”

How can you tell what people are actually “giving” you compared to what you feel you are “getting?”  Are you as vulnerable to flattery and positive exaggerations, as you are to negative comments?  How can you tell what is really going on?

Many people look for “signs” in what people say and do; then they look for “signs” in how people say or do things.  Then they look for “signs” in what people do not say or do.

  • The boss loved my proposal!
  • Did Jerry just say I was stupid?
  • Wow, look at these roses!
  • Why did Jennifer stop calling me?
  • The professor told me I have promise.
  • Did you see how Deborah just ignored me?
  • I saw that snide look on Richard’s face.

You get the picture.  When the words and deeds of others become a big part of your feelings about yourself, life can seem like a carnival ride out of control.  Some people try to be social chameleons that appease everyone, and offend no one.  That does not leave room in your life for you and what you want, does it?

What if you could be happy living with the truth of respect, approval, love, disrespect, rejection, and hate?

Separating the facts from the story in your head is important for all parts of life.  How to do that?

Byron Katie’s “The Work,” gives you a system for testing what you think is true.  This is worthwhile information.  She has incorporated extensive experience and wisdom in this method.  Take a look at her website.

Her method has you ask 4 questions; then you get to play with your thoughts.

1.   Is it true?

2.  Can you absolutely know that it’s true?

3.  How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?

4.  Who would you be without the thought?

Turn the thought around. Then find at least three specific, genuine examples of how each turnaround is true for you in this situation.”

“Turn the thought around” means “put the shoe on the other foot” and check how the “turnaround” strikes you as true or not.  Try rephrasing the same thought or complaint about another person another way; say it with the names reversed (Joe ignored me ~ I ignored Joe) or flip the meaning around, (Joe should pay more attention to me. ~ I don’t need more attention from Joe. ~ I need to pay more attention to what Joe says).  Go to Byron Katie’s site for much clearer explanation and examples.

Implementing the “Second Agreement” with “The Work” lets you free yourself from emotional tyranny by looking for more truth in your opinions and interpretations of other people.


For Those Who Doubt – IRS Income Tax Analysis 2009 by Income Bracket

Some people just do not want to hear the truth.  My August 5, 2011 blog, Enough Is Enough – Stop the Stupidity! Learn the Truth About Government Spending & Taxes, was not enough for many skeptics. So here you are, straight from the website:

IRS Income Tax Analysis 2009

For those who may not be able to understand the IRS table, here is a Summary:

IRS 2009 Tax Analysis Summary

Every bracket above $200,000 pays more than 24% of their taxable income in taxes.

All brackets below $200,000 pay less than 16%.

All brackets $75,000 and below pay less than 12%.

These statistics totally support my earlier blog and blow away all the cries of unfairness.

This Time – A Short Story for NPR’s 3-Minute Fiction 8

She closed the book, placed it on the table, and finally, decided to walk through the door.  When she opened the portal of a new book, it was like waking up to a beautiful morning, shrugging off the dark nightmare shadows and mists of sadness.  Instantly, the thankless, cloistered, exhausting life to which she was born fell away, like an easily forgettable dream.

She was ever so captivated, so excited, and enthralled by the people, ideas, images, feelings, and adventures those printed words conjured in her mind. She could see now that books had become her escape; captivating chimeras; alluring, evocative drugs to soothe her aching emptiness. She had read about the world long enough.

She looked around her room with fresh eyes.  Two windows looked out over a four-acre, weeded field. Each spring, her father clove the dark, rich Missouri earth into their garden.  When she was five, she remembered stumbling over the clods of the furrows, carefully taking seeds or kernels of corn from the basket she made by holding out her skirt, and dropping them into the moist recesses of each row.  Later, she picked ripe, juicy, deep-red tomatoes, plucked funny, long, light-green, string beans, and tore off rough lower ears of corn with the fluffy, silky hairs on top.  Her mother stood, toddlers in tow, waiting for her in the yard, smiling that broad smile that made everything happy.

She turned to her simple bed: two pillows and a gingham bedspread her mother and she made.  Against the faded, blue paisley wallpaper hung an illuminated paper cross from Sunday school when she was twelve, and a gold-framed picture of Jesus with a lamb and three little children.

She lifted the lid of the large wooden steamer trunk at the foot of her bed, and gazed at her neatly folded clothes, her extra blanket, and her Bible.  She ambled slowly, deliberately touching and recounting the six clothes hooks along the wall next to the door, including the one with her best coat.

The tall, wide door to the upstairs hall loomed heavy and old; its thick, aged, wood showed its rough grain through layers of lacquer and paint, coated over, again and again for the fifty years since her father built the house on his father’s farm for his new bride and future family.

The patina and tarnish on the huge brass hinges and the solid brass doorknobs showed where she, her parents, her younger three brothers, and two sisters had opened and closed the creaking, groaning gateway to her life.  The large brass key waited deep in the cavernous lock, ready to turn the hidden tumblers, to seal and unseal the haven of privacy she needed and loathed; her fortress prison, her protected penance.

She smiled as she touched the knob.  This time, she would march past the door to the empty crypt, no longer haunted by the lost, hungry, inconsolable ghost her mother had become since her father died; she would boldly stride past the signs, reminders, and implements of the past eleven years of caregiving.

This time, she would throw the dark heavy curtains wide and fill the mausoleum with sun.  This time, she would walk outside through the wind-riven grass, stroll under the tall, rustling, trees, and run down the sloping meadow to the cold, clear, restless stream just inside the forest.

This time, she would be reincarnated, find her true calling, and discover her life’s purpose.  She would find love, explore the vast globe, and create her own destiny.  This time …… she would not return.

For Those Who Want Equality – Equity & The Way Out of Deficits

Three years ago I suggested a payroll tax holiday for both employees and employers until the economy healed.  After several years, Congress agreed to a partial reduction.

After the halfway measures and dribbled reductions, Congress faces the choice of extending and expanding the payroll tax holiday.

Now we face two problems:  Get the economy going, and reduce or eliminate the federal deficit.

In a moment of serendipity, an answer to both deficit and equity flashed into my mind:  Take the lid off of payroll taxable income.

Think about it; no limits on the taxes paid on million dollar salaries and bonuses.  Both the employees and the employers would be paying the same rate on income as every other worker in America.  This would amount to a 6%+ increase in both individual and corporate taxes paid on compensation.  What would 12% of the income not currently covered by FICA equal?  Enough.

Who would this affect?  Not the minimum wage or lower paid employees (they already pay this on all their wages.).  Those who Occupy Wall Street and seemingly every average income person in the country would get the equity they seek.

Congress can give partial payroll tax holidays to the average worker by stipulating the amount of income exempted.  The income above the stipulated amount would still be taxed.

Think about it.  Call, email, write, and vote for the solution to both equity and deficits in America.

Message to Congress: Do Not Screw Up This Time!

The answer to restarting the economy has been right in front of you for 3 years.  You have ignored it, opposed it, and tried everything that had no chance of working.  So DO NOT FAIL US NOW.  I am not the only one to recommend, and support payroll tax suspension for both workers and small businesses.  Granted, I proposed suspending the whole 6.2% until we saw improvement, but I will take half this late in the game.

Did anyone in Washington notice what happened last month when partisan temper tantrums and tussling sent world markets through the guardrails and into the ditch?  Please, I beg you, get on board, throw all this “I am right, you are wrong,” stuff out the window.

Do you believe you can fix the long-term problems from the bottom of a well?  Ask any EMT about the long-term benefits of a tourniquet or a shot of atropine; not good, but they keep the patient alive so they can be treated.

The payroll tax suspension is the fastest cheapest way to leave money where business earns it.  The payroll tax suspension requires no bureaucracy, forms, or clerical costs, and it does not dilute the money available for spending and hiring.

Leaving business out of the first payroll tax cut was a slap in the faces of the small business owners.  Think of the jobs that small business could have created with 6.2% of current payroll costs.  They could have kept 6.2% of their workforce or hired more people.

For those who cry out that the payroll tax suspension jeopardizes Social Security, what universe have you been living in?  The Federal government has dumped payroll taxes in with all the other revenues for decades.  Do you think there is actually a trust with money in it?  No, just IOUs with terms that change without notice.  The tax impact is exactly the same as any other tax cut, just cheaper, faster, and more effective.

We have wasted three years by withholding the fastest, most powerful tools to reverse our economic woes.  Let us not waste even three more weeks.  Suspend payroll taxes now.

The Twin Towers – Catalyst & Metaphor

A friend on facebook posted an opinion article from the NY Times blaming “the elite” for our current woes in America. I read the article; the author laid the blame on G. Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy, wars in Iraq & Afghanistan, greedy Wall Streeters, and the aloof elite.

I agreed with the time frame for the problems, and I agreed that the symptoms and reactions to the apparent problems contributed to the economic issues we face. Then something clicked.

Americans have not noticed that the twin towers attack of 9/11 was both catalyst & metaphor for the problems of the past decade. After the planes hit the towers, fires ensued. As the fires expanded, the buildings’ structures weakened. After the fires weakened the structures enough, the weight of the upper stories was too much, bringing down the buildings.

After 9/11, America’s fears were on fire. We were wounded, and scattered. The wars, in part, were attempts to get our strength, and courage back. However, the fires of fear continued to burn. The stock market declined, new businesses could not get funding. We languished for years.

Meanwhile, a trend, set by FNMA and GNMA with US Government encouragement, of lowering lending standards for less-qualified homebuyers went viral. Commercial financial institutions copied the government model: Package a pool of mortgages, get big insurance companies to guarantee them, and sell them to investors.

World investors, hungry for safe investments, created an insatiable demand for these mortgage-backed securities. The huge volume of money that had escaped from the stock market, and other “risky” investments, went looking for a new home. What could be safer than home mortgages, backed by property values, and insured by the US government, or other insurers? Unable to satisfy the demand, mortgage companies made everybody and their brothers mortgage brokers.

The buying frenzy put immense pressure on the homebuilders to keep up with the demand for new homes. Hiring all those construction workers, buying all those materials pumped up the economy, and the demand for everything. Home values rose rapidly. Spending for appliances, carpets, furniture, etc. mushroomed. Suppliers, transporters, retailers took on more staff. Employment was easy. We built a surplus inventory of 5-7 years of new homes at sky-high prices.

Refinancing went crazy. Credit-stretched Americans turned to home equity loans to expand their buying power. When the fallacies of this financial structure finally weakened enough, the weight of the bad loan investments brought down the financial institutions, collapsing the economy.

In other words, we got Osama bin Laden, but he got us first. The best part, from his standpoint, was that we blamed each other; we further weakened our nation by political in fighting, and vicious personal attacks on ourselves. How he must have laughed at us as we divided our house against itself, emulating the twin towers.

Are We That Powerless? – Shall We Let Inaction Pave the Fast Lane “Into That Good Night?”

I never thought Americans would let our country degrade into economic ruin. I never envisioned citizens of the United States sitting, griping, gripping their remote controls, and passively wringing their hands, like Mudville fans in the stands, watching the home team in Casey at the Bat.

I still do not believe how we have allowed the politicians to dole, and dribble the medicine we need to save our collective economic lives, too little, too late, through our slack lips. What else can I say? For two solid, excruciating years, the economic elixirs have languished on the pharmacist’s shelf. The doctors have worried, and debated about malpractice, while the patient lapses moaning, into a coma.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light

Dylan Thomas

No matter whether you favor President Obama, or the Tea Party, SCREAM at the top of your voices:

1. “No Half Measures!!” Not 2%, 6% payroll tax suspension for both employees AND small businesses.
2. “No fear of tomorrow!” Fuel the bold initiatives of infrastructures, inspire the hoarded piles of money to flow out into our future, NOW!!
3. “Show Us Your Hearts!!” Rescue us from pettiness and power grubbing!
4. “Join together!!” Save our ship, our destiny, from capsizing.

Do not let our shining example of democracy go gentle into that good night.