Does a “true” friend tell you there is pepper in your teeth?

I have been thinking about this blog for weeks and how I would give it the justice it deserves. Carefully thought, reflecting enough heart and soul and character so others can appreciate the inspiration of my experience. What are the ingredients that form a friendship? Is it a like experience or similar interests? Is it a random unexplained connection or a random bond?

This story is about friendship. A friendship with depth, not the type of facile friendship of acquaintance. A friendship of foundation, commitment, inspiration and jest. 

A friendship seems to be a foundation built upon mutual respect for each individuals contributions to the human relationship. It could be a fascination with character of the individual and all the attributes brought to the affiliation. When this magnetic connection draws the individuals together the foundation advances and may becomes even stronger.  Its energy feeds the foundation sprouting in new complex directions ensuring it continues to be relevant.

This story is about my friend Jen.

I met Jen when I was working at the County. Jen was a case manager attending a clinical meeting to seek affirmation of her clinical approach with her patient. Her presence filled the room. Her very energy commanded others to be drawn her presentation. The passion in her voice and commitment to her patient was colossal. While there to seek the expertise of others; as Jen presentation unfolded, so did the direction and answer she was seeking from others in the room. The answers she was seeking spilled out of her soul and commitment to the very people she was called to serve. The room was full of social work types simply nodding their heads in affirmation that Jen did not need their advice, but rather she was the expert in the room.

I turned to my colleague Judy, and said; “She needs to be on our team, individuals like Jen will be the next generation of leadership in our community.”

Jen joined our team a few months later, for one of the shortest employments in the history of the County. We became teammates quickly with our energy becoming contagious. Our friendship grew as we worked side-by-side fighting the cause until a very unfortunate event occurred. We learned that Jen was to be bumped by another staff at the County as the child welfare system collapsed and was taken over by the State. Jen would exit our team as fast as she came in.

Now, one might think in the midst of this personal crisis of loosing a new job and becoming unemployed; there would be an effect on a newly formed friendship as Jen and I? In fact, most friendships could not withstand this type of contention. Well, not this friendship. Jen said, well everything happens for a reason John, this changes nothing about our friendship, we will always be friends. The foundation has to be authentic in order for the friendship to withstand this test of challenge, right?

There is no secrete to my life the past several years, frankly it was quite public. Most of you know that story, that will someday be a subject of a future blog. Its relevance to friendship centers in the concept of commitment. I consider myself a very lucky man. I was surrounded by loving and supportive family, friends and a community who rallied during this public time to extend support during a time in life that was in genocide. While many individuals stayed with me during this time, Jen was connected. Studying every event, reaching out to me day and night to check on my well-being. When others could not withstand anymore, Jen was there asking, “How are you friend? She would offer hope by explaining that “this to shall pass.” Honestly, she was my therapist, assessing my thoughts, feelings and working with me to plan my future. This alliance was a commitment in a friendship that I had never experienced before.  The semblance of commitment seems to come naturally for Jen, yet I know it took great strength to participate in my journey. The commitment to our friendship must be authentic in order to withstand this test, right?

Now, if you know Jen then I need not say more. She brings to everything she does a powerhouse of inspiration that is infectious. Definitely a skill but more a talent. In any situation, Jen is able to turn the situation around and change a pile of shit into a situation that provides hope and inspiration. She challenges you to participate in the future. I have watched Jen take some of the most hopeless situations and turn them into successful opportunity. This is the same talent she brings to a friendship. When life is challenging, Jen discovers a way to change the course of the journey. She does this in her life and helps friends find new purpose and direction for their own life. Jen has taught me to value my personal journey and take time to live my life.  While giving to others provides great meaning in life, giving and not living life yourself can become parlous. Jen has taught me to give as much to myself as I do for others. Temanos is a challenge from Jen, which has proven to be a true gift. The inspiration brought to our friendship must be authentic in order have impacted my life so greatly, right?

The best attribute of my friendship with Jen is that it must be in jest. “If it not fun, then why do it?” We have learned that our experience cannot be too serious, that a brick in the foundation must be to have fun along the journey. When our friendship becomes to serious, to business, it changes the quality of the passage. Business happens in meetings never over beers, lunch or dinner ever again. Lesson learned. The occasion has stories, experiences, dreams, witticism and fun. This friendship must be authentic or it would not be so much fun, right?

Does a “true” friend tell you there is pepper in your teeth?

The answer is yes. A true friend will not only tell you, but coach you as you work to get the pepper out with a toothpick. This friend shares the experience each step of the complicated journey.

As Jen and my friendship continues, the hope is that I can be as significant of a friend to Jen’s as she has been to me. I know this friend will withstand the test of time.

Perfect for a cold winter night…

This is my favorite minestrone soup recipe. Perfect comfort food on a cold winters night. A crusty peasant bread, rounds this meal in a bowl. Simple to change the mood of the night.

Ingredients:

  • 3 tbs olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion (chopped, small)
  • 3 zucchini (diced)
  • 1 cup green beans (frozen cut italian cut)
  • 3 celery stalks (chopped)
  • 2 garlics cloves (smashed)
  • 4 cups vegetable broth (i am fine with chicken, mom is not)
  • 32 oz grano padano tomatoes (chopped)
  • 16 oz kidney beans (red, drained)
  • 16 oz white beans (great northern, drained)
  • 3 carrots chopped small
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 3 cups hot water
  • 4 cups baby spinach (fresh)
  • 1/2 cup shell pasta

DIRECTIONS:

  • Heat three tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in a large soup pot.
  • Saute onion, celery, carrot, garlic, green beans, and zucchini in the oil for 5 minutes or until onions begin to turn translucent.
  • Add vegetable broth to pot, plus drained tomatoes, beans, hot water, and spices.
  • Bring soup to a boil, then reduce heat and allow to simmer for 20 minutes
  • Add spinach leaves and pasta and cook for an additional 20 minutes or until desired consistency.
  • Top with Parmesan cheese

Mangia il mio amico!

2014 Declaration

In a “moment,” I find myself alone on an empty hospital unit, Christmas Eve 2013. My body system insurgence, is uncontrollable and captures my life. Doctors, needles, tests, predictions, theories fill the day and night with no definitive understanding. While everyone was well-meaning, nothing was going to quickly or easily to give me my life back this holiday.

Throughout the day families filled the hallway in excitement pushing wheelchairs with individuals eager to get home to Christmas Eve celebrations. Being admitted just the day before with no clear understanding of what was wrong with my sick body, I decided with my doctor going home was not going to happen.   As time lapsed by, I became more down, sad, reflective and tired.

Somehow revived by spirit and declaration, I was convinced that 2014 was going to be different from 2013. “The moment,” challenged me to think about what needed to change regardless of the new cards being dealt.

Priorities, who I am, what I do, how I live, what I value would all need to change.

In the revived moment, my 2014 Declaration emerged:

  • Be healthy-health is definitely relative. How we define being personally healthy will be different for each of us. It really requires deciding what healthy means for us. Is healthy being completely free of illness or disease? In order to be healthy do we need be symptomless?  Learning to live with symptoms will be the new challenge for 2014.  This focus will emerge from experiences of individuals I have shared a life who are expert at this concept. Side-by-side for the past 26 years I have been a partner, therapist, friend, leader and administrator with individuals living with mental illness. The strength, power and perseverance of individuals living with mental illness is an inspiration. Challenged by an unyielding journey, many individuals with mental illness have figured out how to have a meaningful life. I am truly inspired by their experience. Achieve health in 2014.
  • Read-taking time to read each day is the goal. Read often, being sure to include written word that is entertaining not just educational. Read more in 2014.
  • Live life in the spirit of fun-the past has been filled with goals, ambitions, the drive to create the perfect life. Obtaining the right possessions, creating a family home, going through motions to establish an image of the perfect life, relationship and family. Is it possible while all this hard work was happening, living life got lost in the journey? This year will be about living life. Having fun, seeking a new course that provides opportunity to live in a meaningful and fulfilling way. Life life in 2014.
  • Create balance and meaningfulness-what is this people speak of-work/life balance? This will require great skill, lots of help as it is a foreign concept. Please send ideas asap.
  • Discover a new passion-it has happened, mid-life is fast approaching and life has grown routine and not rewarding.  A quest for a new passion is in order. What will this be? Today is a first, blogging on a Saturday morning has proven to be cathartic. Thank you Temanos. Blog more in 2014.
  • Educate-A great passion which is enjoyable and provides meaningfulness, is being able to share experience and educate others. Being able to educate others brings confidence and affection for the information being shared. This wonder enhances meaningfulness in life. Teach often in 2014.
  • Learn-“A day without learning is a day wasted, right?” Learn something new everyday. Learn by studying it, doing it then teaching it. Learn more in 2014.

On any journey an essential aspect will be finding balance, meaning and happiness.

In a study published in the Journal of Positive PsychologyJennifer Aaker of Stanford Graduate School of Business, along with colleagues, found answers about life in how people spend their time and what experiences they cultivate.

“Happiness was linked to being a taker rather than a giver, whereas meaningfulness went with being a giver rather than a taker,” Aaker said.

The researchers surveyed 397 people over a month-long period, examining whether people thought their lives were meaningful or happy, as well as their choices, beliefs and values. They found five key differences between meaningfulness and happiness:

1. Getting what you want and need

While satisfying desires was a reliable source of happiness, it had nothing to do with a sense of meaning. For example, healthy people are happier than sick people, but the lives of sick people do not lack meaning.

2. Past, present and future

Happiness is about the present, and meaning is about linking the past, present and future. When people spend time thinking about the future or past, the more meaningful, and less happy, their lives become. On the other hand, if people think about the here and now, they are happier.

3. Social life

Connections to other people are important both for meaning and happiness. But the nature of those relationships is how they differ. Deep relationships – such as family – increase meaning, while spending time with friends may increase happiness but had little effect on meaning. Time with loved ones involves hashing out problems or challenges, while time with friends may simply foster good feelings without much responsibility.

4. Struggles and stresses

Highly meaningful lives encounter lots of negative events and issues, which can result in unhappiness. Raising children can be joyful but it is also connected to high stress – thus meaningfulness – and not always happiness. While the lack of stress may make one happier – like when people retire and no longer have the pressure of work demands – meaningfulness drops.

5. Self and personal identity

If happiness is about getting what you want, then meaningfulness is about expressing and defining yourself. A life of meaning is more deeply tied to a valued sense of self and one’s purpose in the larger context of life and community.

In this “moment” let 2014 begin.

Welcome to my blog…

The Temenos Circle

My life has met a moment like one I have not experienced before. I find myself searching for new purpose and meaning and have been inspired to begin writing by three of my very best friends. They have challenged me the past several years in many ways including, my beliefs, thoughts, self-confidence and to search for new purpose and meaning. I am grateful for their insights and the inspiration to begin this new blog. Cheers to Jan, Jen and Alex.

My intension for this blog is to be random, with no plan, no list, no direction and no expectations. Very different attributes than those I have used to guide my past daily life. My journey has been rich and I hope to share my experiences, thoughts and insights.  Tonight I begin sharing in Temenos- safe harbor for thoughts…

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