Mental Fortitude in the Early Morning

Today the sun rose at 5:52AM this morning and I’m proud to say that I was up – well up before then.  Back in the day, which technically isn’t incredibly far removed – I would be running already – maybe have even completed a good portion of ten miles.  It was an incredible feeling when one could start and finish the workout before the the sun appeared over the mountains.  For me, I had already accomplished something – a workout, part of my training routine during the cross country or track season.

Yet it required a great deal of mental fortitude.

I’m not sure that that waking up early ever comes easily – with or without coffee.  It’s almost as if the heavy presence of tryptophan in the air continually pulls down on my eyelids until I wake up at the same time as of the sun.  Maybe this is as life should be.  In heaven.

But again, I’ve reverted to my early bird discipline – not with running in the morning (I’m only disciplined enough to work out in the evening), but with attempting to seize the day – err morning.  (How many of these blog posts are actually *written* in the morning?  Few).  In following with my last post, the morning time helps to re-evaluate and formulate my objectives in the short term.  I know, impromptu habit/discipline sounds like a New Years Resolution – which, in that case, it’s either overdue or premature.

I wonder how much Congress could accomplish by grabbing a cup of joe and hashing out the details of cutting a trillion dollars from the budget in the disjointed raucous of a heavily trafficked coffee shop in downtown D.C.  (or Phoenix) in the early morning.  My guess is that they may be able to accomplish more here than behind closed doors.  Sarcasm aside, I think the larger sentiment reflected by the myself and portion of the nation is that we are less than optimistic over any budget deals.

With the election battle lines being drawn, the economics the debt ceiling and sequelae  will be pushed back until at least December where a vote isn’t required until just before Christmas.

Until then, we can only hope that our government will possess the mental fortitude needed to place the nation ahead of politics.  And that’s a venti hope.

Coffee Shop Reflections

For the past number of Sundays, I’ve settled into the comfortable routine of visiting a local coffee shop where I’ve managed to gather my thoughts and then press on through the rest of the morning.  The coffee isn’t the draw; neither is the fact that I slip into the background noise among the rest of the patrons.  But I carve out time from my otherwise occupied schedule (even if by idleness) and deliberately reflect on the past days and coming weeks.  Only today, after deciding that I would much rather sleep in rather than wake up at four in the morning to run a race I wasn’t thrilled about participating in, have I arrived early enough to bring my computer and at least comprise a cogent reflection of my Sunday tradition-forming ponderings.

Less than two weeks ago, I was aboard the Norwegian Pearl cruising up the coast of Alaska.  Though I missed the familiar atmosphere of my obscure nook, I didn’t forgo the opportunity to catch up on a well appreciated vacation.

And through a series of innocuous events: a week-long internet deprivation, a late-night visitation with friends, and a certain deep restlessness,  have I seriously begun to again re-evaluate time and its investment in the future.

Lest you, reader, think I’m about to cut bait and embark on some grand adventure dropping all responsibilities and obligations to travel the world, I’ll dispel that notion.  I’m not that restless.  But, I’m not so comfortable that I’ve settled into a routine of consistency.  Or maybe that’s the issue – that I have.  But these Sunday reflections serve as an invaluable opportunity to evaluate my future goals and the means by which they are achieved.  Often, amongst the hustle and bustle of what we call “life” we forget or put off the time to smell the roses; we forgo that alone time and introspection that serves to remind us of who we are as a person.

When life flies at a hundred miles a hour, it’s genuinely refreshing when I see others taking time to reflect too.  I’m reminded that life encompasses more than the next election or what I’ll relish as my next meal.  Maybe, just maybe we can learn more in the silence of aromatic coffee shops than in the barrage of news reports flooding our inboxes.

An Introspective Look on Sporadic Blogging

It’s hard to believe that it has been three months since my last post.  In that time – how the world (and my personal circumstances) have changed!  Any mention of Osama bin Laden or Anthony Weiner has been relegated to “old news” and anything incredibly new probably won’t be blogged by me until the eleventh hour (if at all).  I can’t say that I’ve missed blogging, although to a certain extent I have.  I’m still finding my way.  I realize my strengths are in outdoor running (and run-on sentences) rather than sharpening this blog as a significant tool to affect or shed light to policy changes.  So, I’ll continue to write and offer my thoughts of subjects that merit enough attention to memorialize, if only by me and if only by this blog.  I grin in thinking that this blog, well-intentioned as it is, is still dilettante-ish.  Imagine if I decided to “get in shape” by running once a month – or doing anything once a month.  For better (or worse, for that matter), sporadic activities may be enjoying, but they will never rise to the level of greatness.  Like volunteerism, the content of ExDeserto, is enough to stay active and maintain that feel-good attitude of advocating and investing time into one’s belief.  To that end, while these blogging endeavors of mine may never rise to the level of self-sustainability (financially at least), they do provide an outlet to release and solidify my thoughts and beliefs.

One of the the difficulties I often encounter is the inability to voraciously publish posts as often more prolific bloggers I know.  Ironically, I’m told that the best way to develop this skill is to pound away daily until it come naturally.  I suppose that’s true with many things; if we just take the time and develop the discipline, nearly anyone can develop a niche or skill in any area.  I suppose that’s the joy of the American dream – each of us have the ability to shape our own destinies.  That blessing cuts both ways – that lack of motivation can let the beauty of human potential descend into apathy.

It makes no sense for me to complain about my blogging abilities if I am unwilling to take steps to change it.  If repetitive blogging is the way to do it, repetitive blogging is what needs to be done.  The fact of the matter is though, writing is important, and I enjoy doing it; I just don’t enjoy the amount of time that it takes.  Generally, our days are zero-sum.  If I spend one hour writing, I spend one less hour doing something else.  I won’t lie though, giving up that “something else” in favor of writing probably isn’t anything I would miss anyway.  It’s not like I am working eighty-hour weeks, or running 100 mile weeks that there is no “give” in my schedule.  The big question, is whether I am willing to commit to writing every day to bring this blog from monthly posts into a behemoth in the online world.  The short answer is “no.”  Blogging is an activity I enjoy, but not so much that I want to slavishly pour in hours upon hours of my time.

I remember that at my peak of busyness in my schedule, I was running insane amounts, working, and taking thirty credit hours in a semester.  Yes, thirty.  And I completely rocked at it all.  Somehow, I feel that I had to balance social events too (and did that quite well too, despite having to sleep at like 9PM on Fridays if I had a 5:30 AM Saturday workout).  The point is, I’m a firm believer that almost anything is possible with enough practice or commitment.

Certainly, influences exist which may help shape our lives.  Had I started running much younger, or spent a year in Kenya, my athletic abilities, limited as they are, may have reached new heights (and maybe I wouldn’t have pursued law as a career if running was a realistic option.  Regardless, it’s quite difficult to make the the big bucks in running, so, I probably wouldn’t have pursued that option even if were more viable).  But influences are precisely that – they help shape one’s path; but they do not dictate that path.

At the end of the day, we each have 1,440 minutes in the day to utilize, develop, or waste.  We each have the opportunity to shape ourselves into what we will become in the future.  We are the sum of our decisions.  Trite, but true.  And we each reap the rewards and consequences for that which we sow.  At the end of the day, the challenge for each of us is to live our lives in a way such that we maximize our abilities.  It’s not easy; it requires a steely discipline that each of us possess foster to various degrees of success.

Some undertakings are amateur, much like playing on a weekend softball league, or blogging sporadically about politics.  Other undertakings are more demanding and require greater care and investment – as what we do with out lives.  Everyone has the ability to create the American dream.

So what are our limits?  What are the limits that preclude us from attaining the goals we desire?  More importantly, what steps are needed to take us from where we are to where we want to be?  Finally, are we willing to take those steps or make those sacrifices?

Americans: The Overcomers

It strikes as both frightening and eerily fascinating how many individuals live one paycheck away from financial oblivion. I see it nearly every day. Resilient but shaken are most clients that walk through the tinted glass doors at the personal injury law firm where I work.

Many are blue-collar, state-dependent individuals that manage to stay afloat financially – but just barely. A substantial number have no formal education beyond high school. Some are secretaries, medical assistants, and waitresses. Others are unemployed, or illegal. Still a few are drug dealers, drug abusers or homeless. Regardless of one’s background, these are our clients, and we treat them just as we would the upper and middle class folk; we have those clients too (though few and far between).

For being one accident away from fiscal ruin, these clients do survive. For example, Sally (a pseudonym) was rear ended when an F-250 barreling down at thirty miles an hour failed to stop. The impact totaled her 1997 Oldsmobile Alero. Sally did not have insurance on her car; it lapsed because she needed to pay rent – not that it mattered anyway since originally she only possessed state-minimal liability coverage. It’s frightening really. Sally has no other vehicle and the defendant insurance company in this case will take three weeks to accept responsibility for the accident. Her boss will fire Sally if she does not arrive at work on time. Besides her injuries, transportation is her main issue.

Sally represents the majority of our clients. Clients like her live paycheck to paycheck with little to no rainy-day savings. One auto accident potentially cripples them. Here, Sally manages to bum rides, take the bus, bike and think of other temporary ways to plan for the next day. I cannot commend her lack of financial planning, but I am fascinated with how clients like Sally manage to survive. Without fail, the hardships they endure because of an accident are overcome. I’m not sure how they do it, but they do.

As of late, I can’t help but think this is the American way, for better or worse. With the depressed economy, underwater mortgages, unemployment near ten percent and more debt in dollars than stars in the sky, I often wonder what the future holds for this country. Somewhere along the way, Americans have failed to grasp the basic principles of sound financial planning. “Saving for a rainy day” takes a back seat to “buy now, pay later.” When that rainy day arrives, Americans struggle not to drown.

I don’t mean to criticize or demean those that are barely making ends meet. Just the opposite, even those hanging by a thread manage to press onward; this is commendable. Nonetheless, proper planning is always an acceptable trump card to play. While we can overcome accidents and terrorist attacks man-made disasters, we also need to be prudent in planning for the unanticipated. Baby steps like saving a portion of one’s paycheck in a bank can offset many of the financial disasters that inevitably occur. Though it is important to help clients like Sally, it is equally important to teach those like Sally the methods to adequate prepare for life’s interruptions.