Monday, May 4, 2015

Miserable or Happy? Is the Tempo of your Life exceeding expectations?

More people should be concerned with the tempo of their life's efforts.

Some people, should consider less.

Living, shouldn't make you so stressed out that it destroys you, those around you, your relationships, or through your actions (as we see with many politicians and corporate leaders), your community.

What do I mean by "tempo"?

The dictionary defines tempo as either: the speed at which a musical piece is played or sung, or the speed at which something moves or happens.

I am of course referring to the latter part of the definition. But then you could consider your life a kind of musical piece played with its highs and lows, successes and sadly, its tragedies.

Another definition indicates chess and is where I first learned of the concept as a child in learning to play chess.

A tempo in chess is the movement of a piece which is part of one's own plan or strategy, forcing by means of "checking" or "attacking" an opponent's piece, making them move a piece which is their best move possible albeit of little or no use for them and therefore, the initiating player gains a tempo, while the opponent loses a tempo.

Looking at it another way, one player achieves the same result in fewer moves using one approach over another. And so it is in life.

We don't usually consider that when we make a move in life, it affects another negatively because there are so many people and so many options. And yet, energy is never created out of nothing, or disappears into nothing.

Consider that when you unburden yourself of a secret that affects another, there are many times where although you may feel better in the "unloading" of some issue, you are not dissipating it but displacing it onto another.

A prime example of this in relationships is when someone has an affair. Having ended it or not, after a while it weighs heavily on the moral individual. Having an affair where only one person in a relationship knows of this going on outside of their relationship, is unethical. If there is an open relationship, that's different, but so often as not, that is not the case and so the realization of the harm it could cause the other eventually begins to weigh on the person pursuing the external relationship.

If that person finally unloads that burden in telling their primary relationship partner, they do tend to feel better. And yet all they have done is to take that "energy" if you will and moved it to the other person, mostly reasonably, unfairly. Because although they now feel better in relieving themselves of the secret, the other person now has to deal with it when they had not done anything to warrant their having had this bombshell dropped on them.

The perpetrator might in-genuinely rationalize the other person had done something to warrant their behavior, such as having ignored them in the relationship, or some other slight however grievous, but in the end it was their decision to handle the slight by doing something unethical. Then they rationalized a need to "come clean" and dump this information on the other ignorant person in their relationship, effectively, further causing harm while selfishly attempting to absolve them of their actions.

In this case, gaining a tempo, and in a "Zugzwang" type move, taking a tempo from the most important person in their life. One has to wonder, what would anyone be thinking to have gotten into that kind of a situation in the first place, and why would they do further damage in thinking it was the right thing to do to transfer their discomfort from themselves to the other. It points to a very self-centered individual.

It points to a need for therapy. Better it is I think to get the therapy before the bad behavior, than after when nothing may be able to be salvaged. If the destruction is what is "subconsciously" desired, it is still better to end the relationship on a good note than this bad one, thus gaining a tempo for all involved. Including the outside party. Sadly, many will still go ahead with this type of behavior merely for the juvenile thrill aspects of it.

I find it is instructive to look at etymological forms of a word, where and how it developed over time.
Consider the form, tempus.

From Proto-Indo-European *tempos (“stretch”), from the root *temp- (“to stetch, string”), whence also templum (“shrine”) and tempora. Originally the word meant "what is stretched, stretching" → "stretch (of time)" → "time, occasion".

Essentially it is about a dilation or contraction of progress.

In our lives we have a speed at which change occurs. Some of that (too much for some) is haphazard and happens around us as if we are merely observers to it. Some of it is change through our thoughtful actions and conscious intentions. I would argue, that is the better way to go through life.

If we attend college as opposed to say, sitting around working at a very low level job, perhaps just drinking or getting high in the off hours, allowing life to pass us by, we would achieve a level of existence. Some might argue that there are other more productive forms of living similar to that level, such as being an artist or activist, or living a natural life in growing your own food and living off the grid. So the same type of life can be very different and it is the quality of choice that assigns the tempo to those lives. 

Some of life's tempo is by one's definition of one form over that of another. What is after all, being productive?

That is not what I'm concerted with here, however. I'm talking about what your view of your life is. Hopefully, you do have a view on it and if you do not, well, that is another topic altogether.

I'll give you an example from my own life as I have several of them.

When I was going through my K-12 school years, I had challenges such as my capacity to sit still and learn, the quality of my schools and teachers, our having moved every year or so and all that entails, and the education level and dynamics of my nuclear family.

However, I graduated high school at seventeen.

I got a job, an apartment, moved out, paid on my car that my parents had paid half of, and my own car insurance and upkeep (gas, oil, repairs). I was lucky to have healthcare through my job. I knew when I graduated high school that I was a year or two ahead of my fellow students. Most of them were eighteen or nineteen. So I was a year or two ahead of things in my life, from most of my friends and acquaintances.

However I had academic issues that held me back. I was talented at writing but not very good at math and avoided it at all costs. I'd had music training (playing guitar) in second grade. Music training early on helps with math skills but I'd had trouble with the music training and so quit after second grade. I wish now my mother had forced me to continue as my life would had been drastically different. Not that I would have become a math genius but I do suspect I would have become a musician. 

Overall I felt when I graduated high school, that I had a tempo ahead of many of my fellow grads, but there were plenty of other kids in my town who had a life tempo beyond mine. They had gone to better schools, they were going to college after high school because their parents had the money (mine did not), or were simply smarter than I was and got scholarships.

Still, I felt I only had a few years in order to make something of myself before all my cohorts passed me by. Some possibly never would and I knew that and now in hindsight, they never really did. 

I floundered for several years watching as that free tempo was wasted and I fell behind many of these others until I was twenty. Realizing I had to do something to either catch up, or force my way into a more productive life, I joined the Air Force. Although I had been for the Irish Republican Army (in being half Irish) while in high school and being ready to go to Vietnam, I grew out of those feelings.

I felt I was going nowhere and the military would at that time (as I went in under Vietnam era benefits), give me school benefits (which I never planned to use as I hated school by then), and it gave me a chance to grew up, to learn new skills. It also gave me a very controlled place to force me into a mold I wanted more to be in. In some ways it kept me out of trouble and helped me mature through my early to mid 20s.

What I didn't foresee was it also gave me an environment where I could excel and be rewarded for it with certificates and a Good Conduct medal. Something I blew off receiving until one of my Airman friends pointed out, none of our friends had received. It also gave me an environment that showed me explicitly that I could achieve pretty much anything I wanted to.

I had always been a leader, as much as I didn't want that designation. An adult once told me in junior high that I needed to make up my mind. Would I be a leader, or a follower? I said I chose, follower. He smiled and said he was sorry but it was quite obvious to him that I was a leader and I might as well accept it and try to work on it. Work for it, not against it.

The military was good for me, for about two years. Then it simply felt like prison. Worse because in prison as my friends and I commiserated, you were physically restrained from leaving but in the military you had to return each day of your own recognizance, which was soul crushing in some ways.

Still, I gained tempo in life by joining the military. Then I started to lose it as I saw it, about half way through. I got out, lost my wife, I couldn't find a good job of equal stature to what I left behind as there was no use for someone who could work around survival equipment or nuclear weapons at any McDonald's or Radio Shack store. Two jobs that I was frustrated about applying to, but applied for anyway as I was growing desperate. I tried at Boeing but they had two parachute riggers which I was qualified for, and I was told those guys wouldn't leave those jobs until they retired.

I was highly trained with no appropriate jobs that fit my skill set. Still, I had skills. I had been a supervisor, I had trained people and I had learned to dressed appropriately, be on time, keep good records, all things that worked well for you in most work places. But it took me time to realize all that. In fact it wasn't until someone at the state unemployment office explained that all to me that I started to realize I had more potential than I had considered.

After four years in the military, having been responsible back then in late 1970s dollars, for over a million and a half dollars worth of equipment, as well as people's lives. PJs (Air Force ParaRescue or Parachute Jumper) types, who sky dive or repel from helicopters into firefight, war type situations to extract the wounded, jumped parachutes I packed on a daily basis.

Having had a secret security clearance for working around weapons of mass destruction, having been given awards and certifications, I still couldn't find a good civilian job. I finally understood why so many stay in the military, return shortly after getting out, or simply shoot themselves for having seemingly lost all respect from people on the outside of the military, which they once received on a daily basis from those within. This, has gotten better after Desert Storm ("Thank you for your service", rather than looking at you like some kind of loser).

Once again, I found I was losing tempo in life.

I moved into my older brother's loft in his garage and spent a year just having fun. Finally one day he came to me and gave me "the talk". Why would I continue to do nothing when I had free college available. College where I could be around attractive coeds, parties, smart people, learn new things, then in the end, walk out with a college degree and more access to better jobs and pay?

It was a good argument. He painted a pretty picture.

I'd suffered through the military who taught me along with the rest of my fellow Airmen (and Airwomen) that I (we) could do anything we put our minds to. So I did enter college, I did suffer through the challenges and I did succeed in doing what I once thought to be, the impossible. In fact, I did very well and I very much enjoyed myself. Research and education for me were an addiction after all and a very good thing to be addicted to.

While in he military I frequently felt I was among the smartest in the room much of the time (that coming from a childhood of being "grounded" in my room for getting often into trouble and so reading book after book to keep from going nuts). Once I got to a university I felt I had to struggle to be the smartest person in the room or to effectively interact with some very smart people, including professors who were amazing to be around.

These were people (professors) who you couldn't fool in acting smart, you had to actually BE smart, or you would find very quickly just how unsmart you really were. Rather than like in the military where you just got heckled for being a dummy, these people students and professors alike, had only one desire, to see themselves and those around them to be as informed and correct, as possible.

Leave your ego at the door, reality and facts took precedence. Surely there was egos involved at times, but the key in that academic environment, was Truth. Something I have since had trouble finding in civilian life outside of the universities. Out here it's more about ego, emotions, supporting your beliefs and agendas, or your platform. Truth be damned if it goes against what I learned in church, or from my friends, or some idiot on the internet.

I still believe as I have since I first read Aristotle in fifth grade a the library, that Truth is more important than myself, or you.

If only that were true now a days among so many who say such stupid things. Again, I'm getting off the track...

Finally, I was gaining tempo again. Lots of tempo. I felt respect from others again. 

I learned things I had never heard about. I learned how I worked as a human being and how others worked. I got my degree in psychology because I wanted to learn to be a writer (maybe, hopefully?) and you need to learn human development and characterization. However, I didn't want to learn a literary form of psychology but the most accurate view I could find. And, I did.

I graduated and then, surprise, once again, no jobs. I had walked into the Career Center at Western Washington University in March of 1984 just before graduation, to see what they could do to help me with finding a job, post graduation. They looked at me in surprise and told me I should have started that the previous September, like just about everybody else. But nobody had told me that.

I had been smart when I started college. My first class was called, Study Skills. I finally after all those miserable years in K-12, learned how to study, found there was an effective way to study and that learning was not just an abstract and haphazard thing. But it never occurred to me to take a class in what to do, post college.

We had been so busy with getting through school, it never occurred to some of us to prepare to exit college. Though in my sharing this with my friends, many of them were surprised to find I hadn't known about that, when they did, and they had entered the doors of the Career Center that previous September. Some told me they had been after school volunteers in jobs they had wanted after college, working for free and getting their feet in the doors somewhere, or experience to put on their resume, pre graduation.

I ended up back at Tower Records where I had worked just after starting college for extra money. Then I moved up to another town and found I didn't have to work as my Veteran's Benefits covered my costs. But here I was now after college working at the same pre graduation job, at the same old pay ($5.50\hr), after all that work, after earning a university degree.

I hadn't gotten anywhere. Or so it felt. But, I had a much fuller understanding of myself and the world around me. Also, I did after all have a university degree now and I had indeed learned so very much. There were times when I swear I could feel my mind stretching (sometimes painfully so) with the amount and degree of knowledge I was acquiring. 

Although I had lost tempo in some areas, I had gained a lot in others. 

Eventually, I got a job in Information the University of Washington in Seattle, and later I got involved in Internet technologies. The UW wouldn't allow me in, before I entered the Air Force. I had applied and been turned down, being told that straight A students had trouble getting in. And I wasn't a straight A student in high school. I had taken the SATs but hadn't studied for them, not even knowing there were books for such things until long after. Or that people spent a lot of time studying to take their SATs.

Still, I became very well paid. I remember when I first realized I was getting $30\hour when I had never thought I'd see more than $5 or $10\hr. Now a days I couldn't afford to make that little. Eventually I got jobs on very high level teams in telecommunications for a company that ran the phones and internet for a quarter of the United States. I was on a team at one point that was making history for the company and advancing them in leaps and bounds. 

I had to say by that time, I had gained some pretty good tempo.

At one point when reflecting on it, I realized I had doubled my pay after leaver Tower and I was only working half time, four hours a day. Then I got them to give me full time and doubled my pay again. A few years later I got that first big job in telecommunications and doubled my pay again.

I got the idea in my head that every five years we need to double our pay. 

Fifteen years later I realized that I hadn't doubled my pay for a while and I needed to catch up. I had a scale by which to judge my tempo in my career life by. 

I had married a beautiful woman I was very much in love with who was very much in love with me. I had gained massive tempo in life and love. Eventually I lost the marriage due to curious and unusual circumstances, but I had gained a couple of great kids.

Tempos were gained and lost in different life areas. 

Five years ago I decided, I was still single, my kids were about to leave high school and I wanted finally to turn my attention to myself and my desires in life. Not just to worry about money and raising a family but to ask myself, what did I want to do now?

Write? I also needed to catch up on the amount of money I thought I should be making by now. 

I started writing, day and night, all my spare time, during commutes (I had a four hour a day commute, driving, bus, ferry and walking, both directions mornings and afternoons). Then, my kids moved out and I continued to write more.

Eventually I slowed down, I changed how I wrote, what I wrote learning to be more precise in many ways and gaining tempo in writing in those areas or production, marketing, branding, and becoming known. I got even more precise, I paid attention more to marketing, networking, other things I hadn't known about. I found the career I had thought about all my life, had changed drastically even in only the past few years.

I gained more tempo, along with a brand for who I was as a writer. 


We are told we should reflect upon our life from time to time.

It's suggested that everyone should check in with a therapist from time to time throughout one's life. But most won't do that because in our western medical orientation, to seek help is to admit defeat or defect. 

But that's not what it's about. I

t's about checking on your personal tempo in life in various areas and to see if you are bunched up in some areas or frustrated or damaged. To question (and this scares people) f you are far beyond where you should be and if you just need to reflect on that. Or simply to appreciate your efforts in how far you've gotten. To adjust your internal image of yourself to be more accurate, both in your good and bad areas.

Sometimes, your internal image of yourself is warped because of the image others in your life have of you. Sometimes those closest to us, in loving us as they might, can become our worst examples regarding how we need to view ourselves. 

Maybe you're fine in life, maybe not. Maybe some adjustments are needed or maybe you need massive changes. Many people are terrified of any change to their status quo. Embrace change when it's needed and fear it not.

Because as they say, the only thing that never changes is, change.

One way to tell if you need change in your life without going to a therapist (because let's face it, you probably won't go), is to check your tempo in life.

Put your original desires in life up against your current position. Are you where you wanted to be by now? Do you need to do SOME thing to catch up? Or, has your orientation changed and your direction hasn't?

These are all important concerns that need to be thought about, considered, acted upon. I suspect so many times in people's lives, when things are not going well, it has much to do with no thought being given to things such as these. And in some ways, it's a very small thing to do. 

Now, don't just change your orientation to fit your life, though.

That may be what you need to do, but don't just be lazy and do that. It's too easy to do, too easy to fall into that trap. Consider what is missing in your life, consider changes that are needed, consider, these are changes FOR you, for your BENEFIT and so, probably, for the benefit of those you care about in your life.

Think about how good you have it as things are, how good you could be having it with a little or a lot of change, or simply how you can't have it any better.

These are things a therapist can help you with if you have trouble seeing them on your own. It's not an easy thing to do sometimes, to accurately view one's life and whether you are failing to achieve or achieving and failing to recognize it. It's not a case of getting fixed, it is a case of accurately and objectively reviewing your life to see if you are where you want, or need to be.

Two very different things, wanting and needing.

Life is an ongoing balance between survival and the pursuit of happiness.

Tempo is how we balance between those two things and to see how far off track we have gotten in relation to them. 

Find your own tempo. Then and only then, put it up against those in your life, their own tempos, and the tempo you create along with them through life.

Consider where you should be, where you want to be, where you wanted to be, where you can get to.

Most of us can get to where we want to be if we are willing to make the right sacrifices. Sometimes the sacrifice is merely trying to learn how to make the sacrifice in order to achieve your desires. 

Thinking it cannot be done is just defeatist and so you will have failed before you begin.

Even if you cannot achieve what you want, finding a way to experience the pleasure in trying, is something, to say the least. We are the most important person in our lives. No matter what happens in life, we are already and always there.

If you ask, what about children or loved ones? Well, if you don't survive, there are no children, there can be no loved ones for you. If you do not consider yourself or your needs and desires well enough, just how happy will they be? 

Life is a balancing act. That balance comes in the way you choose to move through your life.

Tempo in your life is the engine by which we achieve, just survive, our truly live our life. 

It's mostly up to you. You just have to think about it. Then make the right choices. 

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