Archive for the ‘Perceptions’ Category

Jeff Almost Hairless PortraitFor a long while – maybe a year or two – I’ve threatened to shave my head, or at least to get a buzz cut.  Nobody seemed to like the idea but me.  My dear wife, Linda, was definitely against the notion, so out of respect for (and maybe a little fear of) her, I kept basically the same haircut I’ve had for 30+ years.

And then came my extended vacation in May when I would be home for three weeks nursing Linda from her knee replacement surgery.  This was my chance!  I could get it cut and then have three weeks without seeing too many people if it turned out horrible and I chose to grow it back.  And I could outrun Linda!

I went to my regular barber and told him what I wanted.  He was quite surprised but did what I asked.  I had to laugh, though, at his comment, “I left it a little longer on top than on the sides so you wouldn’t have that totally crazy look.”  Ha!  After a couple of weeks I thought it needed to be even shorter, so I went back to the barber and had it cut back even more.  In recent weeks, Linda and I have used my beard trimmer on it weekly to keep it at a low height.

I couldn’t believe the difference in how cool my head felt immediately, which was nice given the warm temperatures.  I love not having to mess with it, not having it going in every direction after laying down, not being a bother when I run, etc.  Even though I still shower daily, of course, the lure of being able on some Saturday mornings to run a quick wash cloth over it and go on my way is intriguing.  The possibility of wearing a toboggan in winter – the knit cap, not the sled – on my head is really nice since I refused to wear any kind of hat when my hair was longer because of a hat always messing it up.

What has been interesting to observe has been the reaction of others.  The only ones who have been overtly positive and encouraging are my fellow workers who do the same and share the same positive reasons for having little or no hair.  Other reactions have ranged from “Why did you do that?” to “Grow it back!” and “You had such nice hair before.”   Most just don’t say anything and go on their way drawing their own conclusions without asking me or – more likely – not noticing or caring in the least what I do with my hair.

The oddest reactions so far have been the ones where people assume I have recently had chemotherapy and consequently lost my hair due to some dire physical condition.  They don’t ask me that, though.  They ask other people behind my back, but the word eventually finds its way to me.  I guess they’re just being concerned and don’t know what to say to me.  Folks, if you want to know something about me, just ask.  I’m not one who is prone to hiding my thoughts from others.  Sometimes the ball is in your court to simply ask rather than make assumptions.

Why did I cut my hair off?  I was tired of messing with it.  That’s all.  Life is a little simpler without it.  A few moments of time are saved each day without it.  I like it.  It may take some getting used to for those who have known me anytime after fifth grade when I went from a flat top haircut to having it long enough to be parted, but you’ll get used to it eventually.

With it thinning as it was, anyway, I’ve probably just taken some preemptive action to avoid that awkward period of years when there really isn’t enough on top to do anything with, but when too many men keep trying to make less and less look like earlier days when they had more.  That won’t be an issue with this style.  And those age spots that were eventually going to show up anyway are now out on display for people to get used to.  My granddaughter can play connect-the-dots on my head with them if she wants.  It’ll be fun for us both.

I’m surprised by the attention my hair – or lack of it – has received in these last couple of months.  I cut my hair to suit myself.  You’re free to discuss it with me if you like, but I will welcome your criticism and suggestions for change just as soon as you tell me that I’m the one who gets to decide how you cut your hair.

While walking my dog in our neighborhood earlier tonight, I walked past a young family with three little girls.  As I was walking by, one of the girls looked up on the roof of the house in front of us and, upon seeing the skylight, said “Oh, is that an iPad?”  The dad chuckled and said, “No, it isn’t an iPad.  It’s a skylight.”  I smiled as I walked by them and pulled ahead at the faster pace my dog and I prefer.

The girl’s confusion is completely understandable.  She hadn’t seen (or noticed) skylights before, but she is well aware of iPads.  She spoke from the context of her experience.  As children, we all do that, for example, by learning broad categories like “dog” that apply to many things before we develop the ability to distinguish between German Shepherd, Collie and St. Bernard.  The girl saw a rectangular object (albeit it very large and on a roof) that had the shape and glass color of what she knew – an iPad.  That was her frame of reference.

I think we need to remember that the same is true for people of all ages.  Too often we expect people to see and understand things exactly as we do.  But nobody else on earth has exactly the same background, education, language and experience that you do.  What should be “common knowledge” in your estimation may not be an option for someone with a different background, education, language or experience.

Being aware of those differences may help us be a little more understanding and kinder toward others.

Leap year lesson #209 is We only know what we know.

We usually don’t associate repetition with things that are exciting and that we look forward to.  In fact, we more readily associate repetition with boring tasks.  Yet, there are several circumstances that come to mind where repetition can be enjoyable and beneficial.

For example, this morning my granddaughter wanted to sit in my lap and read the same Go, Dogs, Go book over and over again.  It certainly wasn’t boring to her because she was the one insisting on it, and it was enjoyable for me because I’ll gladly sit and read to her anytime as long as she wants.  Work can wait.

When I taught a lot of classes in a previous role – or, more accurately, the same class over and over again – people would occasionally ask me, “Don’t you get tired of teaching the same thing all the time?”  The truthful answer was “No, I don’t, because I really love what I do.”  So the repetition reality of work can be a pleasure if you are fulfilled by it.

In my spiritual life, I have 100 Bible verses I selected several years ago that are the core of what I want to have hidden in my heart as the guts of Christianity.  Remembering them takes repetition regularly, because without it I will forget them.  The ability to call them to mind when needed is worth the effort of repeating them aloud time after time.  Just a few minutes per day is all that is needed to stay on top of those 100 verses.

It may not be in vogue to learn through repetition these days, but I think the method is still valid and helps embed what is learned into us.  While it can be true that we find ourselves dreading some things we must repeat, that does not have to be the case with all things.  Repetition can, in fact, bring comfort through the familiarity.  Whether it is the “do it again” expectation of my granddaughter, repeating work that I love, or continuing to reinforce prior learning for things of great value to me, I am reminded of leap year lesson #151 – Repetition can be a good thing.

One of yesterday’s posts was about pausing to catch your breath.  Today’s is still on the “breath” theme but a little different.  I want to ask you this question: “When was the last time you saw something so beautiful that it took your breath away?”  It might have been a scene from nature, some form of art, or the person of your dreams standing before you.

For me, it was seeing the picture shown here of my granddaughter Abby taken a few days ago.  It was taken by her maternal grandmother (Mimi) with Mimi’s cell phone and then slightly filtered via Instagram for some of the background coloring.  I can’t stop looking at the photo.  Of course, I’ve already made it my PC wallpaper on both my work and home PCs, and since I have two monitors connected to each PC, I get to see it in duplicate wherever I am.

I know all grandparents rightly believe their grandchildren are the cutest ones on the planet.  That is as it should be.  I am no different.  But you have to admit that this is one gorgeous picture.  And I love it that she’s in her little overalls.  I’ll have to wear mine, too, sometime so we can get our down-on-the-farm look on simultaneously.

As breathtaking as this photo is to me, it is no substitute for holding the real Abby in my arms.  Pictures can be engraved into your mind’s eye as memories for a lifetime, but being in the presence of the subject of the picture is preferred because that is real and present tense.  I love photos I’ve taken of the Grand Tetons, the Arctic Circle, Yosemite, Yellowstone, England, China, oceans, as well as at home and countless other places.  But photos are an image of the real thing and not to be regarded as highly as being with the subject itself.

So as I stare at this photo (as I know I will for a long while to come), I know that even in its beauty it does not compare to the real-life smiles, kisses and hugs of being with Abby.

Leap year lesson #149 is Never confuse an image with the real thing.

24 years ago when we moved into our current home, there were a few houses on the block inhabited by much older people.  We were in our early 30s at the time and most likely thought the older neighbors were ancient.  They had lived in their homes here since the homes were built in the 1940s.

Well, guess what?  We are those older neighbors now.  We’ve been here longer than anyone.  The people much older than us have died off and their houses are inhabited by younger families.  The neighborhood is alive with the sound of young children playing and family dogs barking.  We’re even having a block party today as we do once or twice a year, complete with streets closed off, big inflated games for the kids, tables of potluck dishes, lawn chairs, coolers of drinks, and corn hole in the street.  It’s nice in a world where neighbors interact less and less.

Our children are long gone at ages 32 and 28. That’s much closer to the age of most of the parents and home owners on the block now.  So we’ll be the only ones present at the block party today with no children.  Maybe we should borrow our granddaughter for the event to fit in.

It’s interesting how one’s role changes merely by living and not by doing anything intentionally to change that role.  When the younger families move into the nearby houses today, what do they think when they see my wife or me outside?  Do they think we’re ancient just like we thought of others when we moved in?  Are they wondering when we might die off so a younger family can bring more life to the house?  Whatever they think, it’s our job to just be good neighbors, not to do anything stupid or rude that hurts relationships, to avoid any impulse to shout “Get off my lawn!” like Clint Eastwood in the movie Gran Torino, and to just be ourselves in and around our own little castle.

Strange… I don’t feel 24 years older, but leap year lesson #148 is still Now we’re the old folks on the block.