Tag Archives: advice

Invisible Fences

Fences.png

I love when different ideas collide in life.

A while ago a photo based blog post appeared in my WordPress reader, “Ghost Fence,” by Elan Mudrow. The next day my daughters and I took a walk in our neighborhood. They love to see all the dogs in the yards or on the front steps. There is one house on our route that the dogs come pretty close to us, but my girls never get to pet them because the owner has an invisible fence installed on their property. They have a few little signs and you can see the transmitter on the dogs’ collars. My girls love see the dogs up close. They know that the dogs can’t cross the invisible fence, and they know not to try and make the dogs cross the fence, either.

As I do, these two events got me thinking about our fences. Our ghost fences that keep us on our lawns without us even knowing it.

The first fence I thought of was habits. Our life, even our thoughts, are often dictated by habit. I’ll cover thoughts in a few minutes with another fence, so for this fence I’ll address how the habit of getting up, going to work, coming home and going to bed, keep us from exploring the world. Even our weekends are habits. I have them. We get groceries every Saturday morning. Now, habits are not a bad thing in and of themselves, but they can keep us in place without us ever realizing it.  Days, weeks, and then years, even, go by as we find ourselves wondering when we will do anything exciting. When will we pursue that dream?

Life habits are easy to change. You recognize the habit and make the change. Even if it is something as simple as changing the route you drive to work, you will notice the change in energy for the day. For bigger things, like finally writing a book, you will have to make some other changes in habits, like writing for an hour every night. But still, making that change is relatively easy… it is the other fences that are harder to bring down.

As mentioned earlier, our thoughts are habits, too. But many thoughts are built from another fence that keeps us from leaving the comfort of our front porch… fear, pain, and doubt. We have all failed. We have all been shocked when we have tried to cross a line only wanting to see what the rest of the neighborhood was like. That pain got us thinking, created thoughts that reinforced our deepest fears, and we just kept repeating them until those thoughts became our daily dialog with ourselves. So we never try to cross that line. We don’t want to feel that pain. We tell ourselves that the goal isn’t really worth it.

Here’s the truth, we don’t have a collar on us. Oh yes, we have a transmitter, it is that negative voice in our head, but there is nothing really keeping us on the lawn. The world, your goals, are sitting there just beyond the pain. Beyond the doubt. Beyond the fear. I can’t guarantee you success, but I know that pursuing your goals will bring you more joy than you know. And that joy will short out that transmitter.

There is one more fence I thought of… and it might haunt us the most. The front porch is just too comfortable for us to get off of. As I walked with my girls, thinking about the idea of fences and even self evaluating my pursuit of the dreams I have, I admitted that some of my dreams are unfilled because life is comfortable. I’ve been held back by an invisible fence that makes my property look nice and tempts me to stay because life is good. Now, for those who really know me and my story, they know getting to this point in life has been a battle. That I have overcome some crazy odds. Many of you reading this have overcome obstacles. You deserve the good life you have. But if you are like me, there is a dream that keeps nagging at you, that keeps driving you to get off the lawn to conquer the distance it takes to achieve it. The fence of comfort is the hardest to cross because life stays good, even if you don’t achieve that dream.

As I walked with my girls, I was filled with happiness. The sun was shining. We were laughing as we watched some butterflies. That’s when my littlest one said, “Puppy! Look! A puppy!” (Every dog is a puppy to her).

Coming toward us was a golden retriever, trotting on the road. I told the girls to stand still and to hold out their hands to let the dog sniff it. They all held in their excitement as they held out their hands to the dog. It sniffed each of us and then stood between the girls while they petted him. I could see a collar on him with a dog tag. I pet his head and was going to check his dog tag when he looked at me, barked, then turned and trotted away. My girls wanted to run after him, but I said to let him go.

My youngest hollered, “Bye, puppy!”

The other girls joined in with her, all waving at him. I swear he turned back at us and smiled as he trotted away. Just a dog enjoying the world beyond his lawn. I went home to jot down my ideas for a blog post I wanted to share with people beyond my neighborhood.

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Life is Traffic

Traffic Light

I have been commuting for sixteen years.  I have blogged about driving a few times (Cruise Control, We Can’t Always See). My oldest child will be a senior this year. Commuting has given me time to think about how fast the coming year will go and about all the things I want my son to know. There is so much about life I hope he is ready for. While driving I had this crazy thought,  “Life is traffic.” This post is my fatherly advice for him.


Son,

Understand that traffic laws, signs, and stoplights are designed for the safety of everyone on the road. The rules are not meant to hinder you, they are in place so that everyone will travel safely to their destination. Even the unwritten rules are meant to make the road safe for everyone. You are not the only driver. Be respectful of everyone else on the road. That is one of the reasons people lose their cool driving. Other people break the rules and disrespect the other drivers.  It is true for life, too. We are all just trying to drive our own lives. Respect other people’s journeys.

Use your turn signal, and turn it on before you are actually turning.

Cruise control is only good for the open road. Once traffic gets heavy, drive your car. This also holds true for life. At times life will feel like a routine, but don’t fall into the trap of the cruise control. It is easy to give up control to the car or to a job. Don’t. Cars are meant to be driven. Life is meant to be lived.

On that note, at some point, learn to drive a car with a stick shift. You will understand the true beauty of driving. You will feel the power of the engine, understand the art of shifting to higher gears. You will face the challenge of keeping the car running as you shift to first gear at a stoplight on an incline. An important part of life is learning to tackle the hard things so that we can live more fully. Step outside your comfort zone and you’ll find that there is so much more to experience in life.

As in life, give people space while driving. Don’t tailgate people, or swerve right in front of them. Why? Reread the first point. Also, don’t spend 10 miles trying to pass. Turn off the cruise control and drive.

Did I mention use your turn signal?

When you travel, plan ahead. Know where you are going. Know what route you are going to take. I know some people will argue that you should just follow the open road, but I have been lost. And that is scary. By knowing your destination, by planning, you can then actually be spontaneous. You can take the back roads, or spend an afternoon in a small town, because you know where you need to go. I am not suggesting that you plan out your whole life, I know how unpredictable life can be, but I have always known what dreams and goals I wanted to achieve. Those have been my mile markers. Being lost, whether driving or in life, is a scary place to be. Always remember to call me if you ever find yourself lost.

Accidents. Some will be your fault, but most will be the fault of others. You know that the two major accidents I have been involved with were because of someone running a red light. My advice is that you have to be alert while you drive. And then you have to be ready to handle the fallout from the accident: reports, phone calls to insurance, car repairs or replacements. Like many aspects of life, a single moment will cause a chain reaction for your future. Some of the effects are minor, others will set your life on a whole new direction. You will never see an accident coming. Don’t try to evade your responsibility, or responsibility for your life.

Don’t ever drink and drive. EVER.

Life is traffic. Respect people on the road and in your life. Try not to drive on cruise control for too long. Learn to drive a stick. Mom and I are here if you ever need a lift.

And always use your turn signal.

Love, Dad.

 

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