I AM SORRY? Regrets and Apologies

I am always baffled when I hear someone say, “I have no regrets in life.” This is usually followed up with a statement like, “I wouldn’t be who I am if those things didn’t happen to me.”  I have heard this particular pairing of comments at least a hundred times in my life, but I have never said them myself. I guess, once again, I find myself on the outside looking in – not quite normal.

I do have regrets in life.  Not the kind that make me want to throw myself off a bridge or anything like that.  There are things I have done, or in particular, said, that I now wish I hadn’t.  I can’t think of a single time when I lost my temper and I didn’t regret it later – regardless of how righteous I felt about the issue at the time. I was a pretty good father, but like most young adults, I was figuring it all out on the fly (American saying that means I wasn’t prepared). Yet, I regret laying my own insecurities and frustrations onto my children at times. I could cite many other regrets but it would all be too personal, but I certainly have more than one or two.

Now the 2nd part of the statement – “I wouldn’t be who I am if those things didn’t happen to me.”  I guess that is more about our inabilities to learn from others, instead preferring to learn from direct experiences.  Giving advice to someone is usually a great waste of time (and my advice is only good about 50% of the time anyway.)  We seem to have some sort of built in design that makes most of us only value our own personal learning experiences. And indeed, some of the most boring people I have ever known were those who seemed to follow the advice of others… especially if they were authority figures.  Still, connecting the 2nd statement up to the first statement isn’t really necessary.

I have a friend who told me one once, “Just because I say I apologize doesn’t mean I am  sorry.”  “What?” I said, “That doesn’t make sense to me.”  I did a quick, informal survey of nearby people.  Many of those I asked agreed with my friend’s statement.  I was puzzled and I still am.  It is like the standard telephone recording, “We apologize for any inconvenience this might cause you.” I guess they just left out, “but we’re not sorry for it.”

Oh, well. What do I know?  When I was a little boy, on occasions I would do something that was really not that smart of a thing to do like the time at the bus stop when a kid said he was stronger than Superman. I said “No, you’re not. Nobody is stronger than Superman.” He disagreed.  I pointed to a puddle that had frozen into a small block of ice and Little Superman said, “Superman could get hit over the head with ice and it wouldn’t hurt him.”  So I bent down, pulled the half inch thick ice puddle up and raised it over my head and with Little Superman’s sort of permission, I brought it down on his head.  He was not stronger than Superman. The other kids immediately pointed me out as a possible would-be assassin to the arriving bus driver as I picked up L.S. and tried to clean the mud off of him. I regret doing that and I sincerely hope Little Superman has forgiven me. He seemed to be just fine through high school.  (I also took a few blows on my upper body from similar experiments with possible super powers, sort of a cosmic payback.)

During these types of events, my father would look at me and ask, “Why did you do that?” I would respond with “I don’t know.”  He would counter with “I don’t know is not an excuse! Why don’t you know?”  I would come back with “I don’t know why I don’t know.” This exchange could go on for awhile depending upon the severity of my actions. It often would end with my father saying, “Well, I don’t know either.”  That felt like a small victory to me. If he doesn’t know, how should I know?  I made the mistake once of trying to explain the reasons behind my inappropriate actions to him, but it got so messed up I learned never to stray from the tried and true response, “I don’t know.” The alternative approach was too psychically disturbing, I think, for both of us.

I wrote a song a few years ago about that human tendency to make the same mistakes over and over.  It is titled “I’ve Done It Again.” Brett Johnsen is playing all  the instruments.  I hope you enjoy it.

While you are at it, check out someone who I think is one of the best songwriters on Soundcloud, Mark Jurgen Mayes.  His songs are incredible.  Here is a link to his song “To The Bottle Tied.”  Mark is also a wonderful poet and author of fiction.  His book “The Blue Box” will make you think.

Take care,

Gary

 

Grandma Is Not The Only One That Got Run Over By a Reindeer

 

I work at a public university where I spend most of my day managing a program that supports college students . Most of them are the first to go to college in their families. It is a wonderful vocation (a calling) and I enjoy my days being surrounded by a caring professional staff and hundreds of students who are practicing “delayed gratification” in order to create a brighter future for themselves and their families.

Throughout the nearly 19 years of doing this type of work, I noticed a common characteristics though among many of our students.   Toward the end of their semesters, the students get very focused on the demands in front of them and lose sight of a greater perspective with regards to the greater world around them.  It easy to do – for all of us.

To provide some balance, I decided some time ago to make November our “Gratitude Month.”  We provide posters for our students to write what they are thankful for – big or small. They also raise some money for the Make A Wish foundation during this time.  Through the years, they’ve raised over $80,000.

In return, we like to cook a “Gratitude Meal” for them – mash potatoes, turkey, ham, bread rolls, cranberry sauce, corn, enchiladas, pies, cakes, and drinks.  It looks like a home cooked meal and they are very grateful …and hungry. Chico Student Success Center

This year, I went our to the local major department stores looking for traditional American Thanksgiving decor such as napkins, tablecloths, paper plates, and decorations.  This was two weeks before the date of the American Thanksgiving.  Guess what?  There was little to none Harvest decor to be found. Seems that all the retail space was more valuable for stocking Christmas items. Santa Claus seems to have taken Thanksgiving out back behind the store and kicked the heck out it. Thrown out the squatter.

Now I LOVE Christmas – but for my well being, I NEED Thanksgiving. I cannot allow the greed of modern day Christmas to run over the gratitude that serves to be the very foundation of a joyful life. The song says, ‘Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer’ but we can’t let that crazy deer run over Thankfulness too.

Below is a beautiful song by Chuck Aaron.  He is one of my favorites on Soundcloud.  Give it a complete listen. It really captures the feeling of a Northern American Autumn.  Fall (Favorite Time of the Year)

In gratitude,

Gary

I Hope This Desk Is Stronger Than It Looks

I clearly remember getting on the school bus, looking out at my neighbor’s “bomb shelter” and thinking, “They say today might be our last day alive.”  It was during the Cuban missile crisis.   Besides the monthly fire drills – which in themselves were a wonderful invention for breaking up the routine of the day unless they came during recess which was seriously bad luck –  we also had the occasional nuclear bomb drill.  Our teachers seemed to have had a tremendous amount of faith in the materials that were used to construct our school desks. We were all directed to get under our desks for protection from a Ground Zero attack. Now the truth be told, my desk probably had a better chance at surviving a direct hit because it was the messiest one in the entire classroom, probably the entire school…for that matter, probably the school’s entire history.  Every time I would open the top of my desk, papers would fly out that were crammed in so tight that they acted like metal springs instead of something made from wood fiber.  It almost looked magical. It was kind of a poor man’s Harry Potter thing.

I always thought that those nuclear war drills must have had some serious impact on the psychological and emotional development of the children of that era.  One day we are preparing for a nuclear attack and a few days later we are collecting pennies for UNICEF,  during our Trick or Treatin’, in order to feed hungry children all over the world.  Strange October. Combine that with the earlier years of a nearly daily indoctrination by the Mickey Mouse Club – M I C …K E Y… ‘Why? Because we LIKE YOU!’ and you have yourself a generation willing to believe in the nuclear reflecting power of the school desk.

I always wondered what the teachers were saying in the teachers’ lunch room during that time? “Man, those kids are sure stupid.  All except that McMahon boy.  His desk is so full of crap, he’ll probably survive!”

Now I wonder about the children of the post 9/11 generations.  What desk do they have to hide under?  Is it better to believe in the strength of a school desk than wondering if it is safe to go to school, attend a heavy metal concert, worship with worshippers, or eat at a restaurant?

For some reason, some how, it all keeps moving forward.  The human spirit refuses to be put out.  I wrote this song which is kind of about that. A couple of summers ago, before the water restrictions of the great California drought,  I planted 50 tomato plants.  I had an incredible harvest on one warm August day.  I just looked at my arms full of tomatoes, looked up at the beautiful sky and thought “the glory of it all.” Brett Johnsen is playing all the instruments.  Brett and my grandson, Gavin Cockrell, are singing the back up vocals too.  You can blame me for the lead vocal.  The Glory

Peace, …please.