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Why?


“If you hire people just because they can do a job, they’ll work for your money. But if you hire people who believe what you believe, they’ll work for you with blood, sweat, and tears.”…Simon Sinek

I am not a difficult person. Really, I try not to complain much, I work as hard as possible for as many hours as it takes, and I usually am flexible. Everyone has motivation and motivation is what keeps them engaged in what needs to be completed. Discovering and capitalizing on someone’s motivation is the key link between happy employees and corporate growth. In my case, it isn’t money that gets my blood pumping. Nor am I excited by a sense of accomplishment, as many people can accomplish formatted tasks. What makes me willing to get out of bed in the morning is the “Why” of the company in which I work. What is the “why”? I am so glad you asked because without your question, this article would probably have to end here. So, let’s explore the “why”, shall we?

“People don’t buy WHAT do you do, they buy WHY you do it.”…Simon Sinek

start with why coverOver the years, I have worked for companies where I know exactly what they do, how they do it, and have been a part of teams which produced the end results. In other words, I was there to get a paycheck. Once the interest or challenge waned, it was time to move to the next project or company. Oh, the life of a consultant. However, I have also been on a job where what the company or team did was not as important as why they did it. Those situations are the inspiration for me to come to work each day with the desire to do everything in my power to make it successful. Simon Sinek discusses the why in his book “Start with Why”. Haven’t read that book? Well, you should because it dives into the motivations of successful companies such as Apple Inc. and Southwest Airlines, which were not just founded on their why but shared it with the world. They created a culture with their customers which then pulls them in making them want to be a part of the culture. Customers purchased these companies’ products not because it was the cheapest, as anyone who purchased the new iPad or a MacBook Pro in recent years can attest, but because they wanted to be involved in the culture of the company, the WHY. This idea is the difference between collecting a paycheck and being driven to success at work. Instead of me rambling on about the benefits, I would suggest reading Sinek’s book. Now back to my point, stay with me here.

What happens is the company that started with a powerful why surrenders to the what they do? When process, the all-powerful bottom line, and goals become the driving force, the company forfeits the culture which made them strong. The work environment becomes a place where procedure reigns supreme and organizational structures hold higher importance than the morale of the teams. In short, the business loses its soul and with it, the hearts of the employees.

why2In the fast-paced world we have with instant gratification and everyone- gets- a -trophy, who cares about the soul of the company? Well, I for one do. I am a customer of many of these businesses. From airlines to fast food, I have to interact with a person who is getting a paycheck and not actively participating in the company. The bored, slack-jawed mannerisms make every interaction with another person in business infuriating.

The time of pride in one’s work seems to be lost forever, leaving only the collection of the meager paycheck remaining. . Even in this, there is contention as the entitlement mentality has infected all aspects of our culture. Not only have our companies lost their why, but our culture has as well. We are no longer going to work because we love our jobs (why), but because we just want the paycheck (what). Where once we would proudly answer “I am a (fill in the blank)” we now tell people what we do, “I push papers all day”. To add insult to injury, we are passing this new legacy on to our children who will grow up with an even darker view of the world around them.

So, what do we do? I wish I had the answer for everyone. It is a personal quest you must embark on to find the answer to why you do what you do. Only you can answer the why. Maybe, there is a remote chance, a sliver of hope if you will, where everyone seeks out understanding and searches for why, it may become infectious. Maybe, it will change the world around us. Maybe, you will walk into work and each of you will have a new sense of why we do things and not what we do. Maybe…

Until next time…

jerry b

© 2014

 

 

 
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Posted by on June 6, 2014 in Editorial, Life

 

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Broken Promises


Broken-promisesThe exchange of presents is completed and the recycling bins are brimming with the discarded holiday refuse. The holiday feast has been consumed with the appropriate gluttony. Most of the crazy store sales have ended. For those of you who are reading this, the world did not end and you survived another holiday season. It is time to look forward into the New Year with excitement and hope.  Time to make the New Year’s resolution.

The New Year’s resolution has roots in ancient civilization. The idea of resolutions originated in ancient Babylon where promises were made to the gods of the time. Promises were made to return items borrowed and pay the debts to the debtors wiping the slate clean. Throughout the centuries, new creative ways to wipe the slate clean of the past and begin anew emerged. Modern resolutions tend to focus on improving our physical health with an over-priced gym membership or the reaffirmation to breaking nasty habits like smoking, drinking, or waking up next to strangers on a regular basis instead of being about a commitment to others. In other words, we make a conscious effort to begin each year setting ourselves up for failure. Now, that sounds healthy, doesn’t it?   

Looking Back to Look Forward

Before you declare your life changing commitments for the coming year, take a few moments to look over your resolutions from the previous years. Did you invest in the gym membership that went unused after a few weeks? Did you proclaim that this is your “last cigarette” only to go out a few days later to buy another pack? Maybe you promised to have a more positive view on life as you complained that it would be doomed to failure? Year after year, the same promises are professed only to be given up within the first six weeks of the New Year.

According to the infallible resource of Wikipedia, “eighty-eight percent of those who set New Year’s resolutions fail despite the fact that 52% of the study’s participants were confident of success at the beginning.”

I do not know how you feel, but if I failed in something 88% of the time, I might rethink my methodology. Personally, I would like to have six-pack abs and the endurance of a twenty-something year old, but the reality is the time and investment required to achieve these resolutions would only be possible if I was independently wealthy or unemployed. The former is not likely in the fore-seeable future and the latter is, shiver, not something I would hope for anytime in the near future.  

With New Year upon us, now is a good time to look at the exaggerated resolutions made in the past and learn from the mistakes. Start with something small and achievable to build upon in the years to come. Yes, it would be great to give more time to charity, become more pious in your devotions, or spend more time with family but let’s face it, if you have not been doing these things before now, you are probably not going to magically start just because the calendar year has changed. Try this for a resolution, become more realistic. Trust me, once you start down this path, you will have fewer issues with disappointment and less public humiliation.

One of the major issues with New Year resolutions can be rooted in the idea that you will change everything about yourself. In a manic moment, a decision is made to become something that you innately are not. If the resolution can be rooted in your reality, the chances of success are likely to increase. To be successful it is time to change your perception of the commitment. This year, make a commitment not to make a resolution. Instead, begin with setting easily achievable small goals. A subtle shift in your expectations could mean the difference between the embarrassment of explaining the failure in your publically proclaimed resolutions and the actual achievement of your goals.  Instead of professing, you will drop five clothing sizes, how about starting with something a little more realistic, like not having that second (or third) portion of dinner? Refrain from swearing off drinking and maybe just plan on curbing your Friday night drunk fest that leads to the walk of shame on Saturday morning. The little things mean the difference between utter humiliation and potential success.

For the readers who have already gone out and purchased a new workout outfit, signed up to the over-priced 24-hour gym, and scheduled your personal trainer congrats. For those that are planning to swear off the booze, I raise my glass of New Year’s cheer to you. We will look for you around the end of January and have the barstool saved for your return. To all the smokers that are planning to quit, please make your intension clear so we can avoid you and your surly mood for the next few days. I wish you all the best of luck and just know that we are secretly taking bets on the outcome.

Until next time…

jerry b

 
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Posted by on January 2, 2014 in Humor, Life

 

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That’s Right, I Am Better Than You


ar·ro·gance [ar-uh-guh ns]

adjective: making claims or pretensions to superior importance or rights; overbearingly assuming; insolently proud

What is the difference between confidence and arrogance? To give an example of self-confidence, let us look at a six-year-old child. When kids start to learn to ride a bike, they are shy and hesitant. Fear gets in the way of their success. However, once the training wheels are off, they lose the fear, becoming comfortable with their abilities. The thought of falling slips further from their minds as they gain self-confidence. The newly achieved goal creates a sense of pride and the young rider stands a little taller with a confident air. However, if this same child was the only six year old in the neighborhood who could ride a bike while the others were still using training wheels, then their sense of pride and confidence increases. That kid understands they had accomplished something no other kid their age around them could manage. The confidence and pride are fine, however if the feelings go further with proclamations of superiority over their peers then confidence turns into arrogance. Well, until an older child comes along and knocks them off their bike. At that point, there will be tears and a little less arrogance. Kids have a way of humbling each other. How do you know if an attitude is self-confidence or arrogance?

You might be arrogant if:

  • You are more knowledgeable about the sport, team, and strategies than those professionals who have made it their career. Sure the professionals are getting paid millions to entertain people like you as you sit on the couch, screaming at the television. I am sure the team would have won the game in question, had you been there to correct their mistakes.
  • Even though you do not have any education or experience, you know more about economics, law, or government than those who you could not be bothered to vote into office. As an added criterion, you are happy to constantly share your thoughts in said areas, with anyone who is near you when you have these brilliant insights into how everything can be instantly better.
  • You believe just because once you picked up an intoxicated barfly, now you are so desirable people should feel lucky you are dating them. Your new attitude also includes a willingness to school your friends on what the members of the opposite sex want. Arrogance and mind reading abilities, yeah you are the whole package.
  • Your inflated ego will not allow you to accept a job you feel is beneath your station. Even if said job would allow you to pay your bills. You feel justified in your beliefs because you were once a high-ranking person at your previous job. The fact that the previous job consisted of three people and one of them was the janitor really does not factor into your belief.  
  • If you put out your personal beliefs and opinions on the web on a semi-regular basis believing that someone is actually interested in what you have to say or think. This belief extends to the novel you have not written, the website you have not launched, and marketing plan you rattle on about to anyone that will listen. (Again, we are not talking about me here, right?)

This list highlights only a few of the signs of arrogance that might indicate you are one of “those” people.  By the way if you are one of “those” people we are taking great pleasure in talking about you behind your back. If you are counted in the ranks of the arrogant, embrace your superiority as, you are the only one who believes that you are better than the rest of us.

Until next time…

jerryb.

© 2012 & 2013

 
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Posted by on December 10, 2013 in Humor, Life

 

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End of Innocence: Empathy


Wait it’s just about to break
It’s more than I can take
Everything’s about to change
I feel it in my veins
It’s not going away
Everything’s about to change
“War of Change”…Thousand Foot Crutch

Standing in line at the grocery store with his mother, a boy was bored and wondering why he had to come along instead of being out having fun on a nice day. At eleven, he would rather have spent his Saturday afternoon anywhere beside the grocery store. While his limited group of friends was out riding their bikes and laughing, he was pushing a cart around the store following his mother. Impatience to get the errands finished darkened his mood because all he wanted to do was to go out to play.

In line right behind the mother and son, was a group of teenage girls with their collection of soda bottles and potato chips. Though the boy wasn’t at the “noticing girls” age, he envied their laughter and good spirits. Wishing he could be having fun was one more reason to add to his sour mood as he sighed and moved the cart to the end of the checkout lane. His mother was smiling and chatting with the checkout lady and as always, sharing details he was sure were not important enough to keep him away from his afternoon plans. Then all envy of the laughing girls evaporated as the ringleader in the group chose that moment to expand her commentary loudly enough for people in the adjoining checkout lanes to hear.

“Well, we might get there in time if this old lady would shut her blabbing mouth and hurry her fat ass up. Does she think we want to stand here all day and listen to her go on and on? Come on already!”

Moments passed before anyone moved. The only sound was the laughter from the other girls in the group who mumbled their agreement. The boy watched as his mother’s face changed from shades of pink to red. Her eyes, smiling a moment before, glistened with tears. The checkout woman, embarrassed by the actions of the girls, quietly handed his mother the receipt and glared at the group of obnoxious girls in line. Turning towards the boy, the mother pushed the cart towards the door and out into the sunny afternoon that now seemed a little gloomier than just a few moments before.

Empathy-phrase-imageSilence fell on the two as they drove home. The boy watched as his mother fought with her emotions. She was none of the things the girls had called her. She was young compared to the other parents he knew. She had an infectious smile that warmed others and was always there for other people ready to listen and leave them lighter in spirits. She was strong of heart and of spirit. Why would those girls say such mean things to her?

Though his mother tried to hide them, her emotions were nearly palpable to the boy. The boy felt his mother’s emotions. He could feel the anger, the hurt, and the shame. The boy felt as if he was experiencing the words directly. He wanted to scream at those girls, cry, and lash out. His emotions were churning within him screaming for an outlet.  However, like his mother, the boy sat silently. He knew exactly how his mother felt because he felt the same way every time others threw insults at him. He felt…empathy.

Empathy is defined as the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.

Being empathic might have started before that moment, but from that day on, the boy thought about his words and actions towards others. He paid more attention to the people around him. He began watching for telltale signs of how people reacted to each other, observing emotions that raced across their faces, and the subtle changes in body language. He saw the pain on the faces of the slighted. Many times, he would go to these injured souls and try to say something to offset the offence. Most times as he offered solace, he was met with coldness and anger. The world became a darker place for him with his knowledge of the pain others suffered from the actions of others.

The boy grew into an adult, picking up lessons along the way. He became a student of people. He learned lessons about how different people react to insults and varied reactions.  Some people lashed out with venomous comments, while others shut down emotionally. He paid attention to what a pleasant word or a gesture would do to change a person’s mood. He also learned that he too, was guilty at times directly or indirectly, for causing others pain. His knowledge of causing others pain was a hard lesson for him to swallow when he remembered that day leaving the store with his mother. No matter what steps were taken to make amends, once the pain was inflicted no kind words could erase the damage.

Thinking back on the ride home that day, he tried to remember if he had said a word to his mother. The memory was cloudy with age, but with a little effort he began to see it again. As they traveled the miles home, his mother drove in silence. Pulling into the driveway, she shut off the engine and reached for the door. Not knowing what to do to make things better, he reached for her arm gently. She turned to look down at his hand and then searched his face in the shadow of the car. At that moment, he understood what to say.

His words rushed out. “Mom, I just wanted you to know that I think you are beautiful. You mean the world to me. I love you.”

Smiling, she patted him on his hand. “Thank you,” she said as she quickly turned away. In the light as he stepped out of the car, he thought he saw a tear glisten her cheek.

_______________________________________

Do you have a moment in your life that brought about a change of your perspective? Do you think the other girls in line understood or cared about the pain they caused? With all the media attention on bullying, do you think this happens more now than it did decades ago? Does this behavior end with childhood or is it prevalent through all age groups?

Until next time…

jerryb.

©2013

 
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Posted by on December 3, 2013 in Family, Life

 

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Season of Change


season-of--change

The fall breeze gives a chill to the air. Leaves sing the song of change as they tumble through the yard. The autumn colors are finishing their final transition from bright hues to brown as leaves fall to the ground marking the cycle of seasons. At some point, I know I will have to get out the yard tools and get to work cleaning up this year’s harvest of change. The yearly cycle of growth has reached its twilight and the darkness of winter has started.

Sitting on my patio, I look out across the yard. I pull my jacket tighter around me to fight the chill in the breeze. Though the temperature is getting cooler, the sun still shines brightly, causing me to shelter my eyes. It occurs to me that so much has changed since I moved into this house over thirteen years ago. The very patio where I now sit did not exist when I first took up residence here. The yard has subtly changed in ways that went mostly unnoticed by everyone. If one is observant, the slow changes mark the endless passage of time. I have lived in my current home longer than any other place in my life. This is not just a house it is a home. My home became my foundation, my reflection of the joy in life, and my sanctuary against the pressures of life. With a newfound perspective, I look across the expanse of my yard and smile. My eyes fall on this year’s new addition to the landscape of my home and I think back on the events that brought it into being.

Over the past year, my wife and I made a few changes to the landscape. A few of our older trees, infected by disease, required removal leaving our house exposed to the elements. As the years passed, trees were lost, either from disease or from required “improvements,” leaving our yard vacant of shade and color. I was becoming a little distraught over the lack of trees around our home. Growing up in a rural area and having many trees around was a fond memory of home for me. Understanding my feelings about the trees, my wife devised a plan.  While on a weekend getaway earlier this spring, my wife presented me with a gift that I had not expected. She gave me a voucher for a tree as an early anniversary gift. She told me that as our love has grown over the years, this tree too would grow and flourish. The tree became a symbol of our relationship.

The newly planted tree grew throughout the summer. We would take evening walks out to admire the new growth. We watered it as often as the dry summer required. It became the focus of our evening conversation. Once, we saw birds built a nest in our new tree. We sat on the patio and watched, as the robins would fly back and forth with building material. No matter what stress the day brought, this little tree had a calming effect. Moreover, like all relationships, the tree has cycles.

As the season changed, the leaves began to turn a deep red. Sitting on my chair, enjoying the fall breeze, I watch the leaves falling and covering the ground. I ask myself if this change is symbolic of relationships as well.  Marriages have points where they are full of life and renewal. As the marriage grows, it develops of a rhythm similar to the seasons. Marriage contains moments of understanding and caring that flourish, wilt, and are reborn. Like the tree, our relationship goes through cycles. It starts as a vibrant sapling with rapid growth, settles into the slow dependability spreading its roots as it reaches for the warmth becoming a strong foundation for new seeds to spread on the wind.  The real strength of couples seems to be that they recognize these cycles. Couples need to take the time to understand the seasonal changes and look forward to the revival that comes in the next cycle. Relationships like trees require nurturing, discovery, and appreciation.  For successful couples it seems important to take moments away from the stressful days and just marvel at their growth. At times, relationships like trees in winter will lay dormant without what appears to be growth. As winter gives the foliage a time to recover and prepare for the next spring, this too is the case with relationships as relationships need the time to renew and become revitalized.

Smiling to myself, I walk out to the tree, silently thanking it for its wisdom. This surprising gift has become a symbol, a reminder of the cycles of relationships. Like the tree, a marriage begins fragile and requires constant attention to protect and nurture. As it grows, roots give stability yet, through it still go through cycles. Situations, like the seasons, influence the growth and health and successful couples weather the storms. Though the cold of winter will be upon my little tree soon, it will stand tall, waiting for spring to bring the next cycle. 

Until next time…

Jerry b.

©2013

 

 
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Posted by on November 19, 2013 in Family, Life

 

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In the Grip of Shadows: The Pretender


“Keep you in the dark, You know they all pretend, Keep you in the dark, And so it all began”

The Pretender…Foo Fighters

Grip of ShadowsSteps fall heavy as the darkness unfolds before you. Light chases away the shadows but shapes develop just out of sight. Words echo in your thoughts. Images pull across your mind’s eye. Flashes of memories drift in and out of perception, as you shy from the thoughts, the pain, the emotions they represent. Quickly you run into the darkness, eyes closed to avoid the haunting images. No matter how fast you run, they are always there; written on your very soul.

Who is the pretender? Are the pretenders reflective of who you were in the past or others who come into your life?  Each of us holds onto the experiences of our past. Gripping tightly to what we know of the pain we suffered and the feelings we shuffled away without facing. Pushing the memories deep into our mental closets; burying them beneath the dust and boxes. Hoping that others do not discover the secrets we hide or the pretenders we have become.

“Send in your skeletons, Sing as their bones go marching in… again” The Pretender…Foo Fighters

Are we the pretenders?

We are more than just a combination of water and minerals. From the moment of consciousness, we build with blocks of experience and define who we are. If our souls exist, it may be said the soul begins at birth with a clean slate. Each lesson, every beat of our heart, adds to the meaning of what we know, writing on the blank slate of our soul.  Life is not about facts but about emotions, about experiences.

“The need you buried deep, The secrets that you keep are ever ready” The Pretender…Foo Fighters

Do you embrace your life or exist in it?

The saying, “they are an old soul” resonates through my thoughts as I spin ideas together. An old soul may be the accumulation of life’s experiences. Some souls only touch in the brief moments, the veil between our lives, while other souls seek out life on the edges of common experiences, touching many lives and in turn experiencing many lessons. Lessons etch their mark onto the soul and draw a picture of who we truly are becoming. Many hide the picture, their soul from others, while those who are referred to as “old souls” share the picture of themselves to everyone they meet. The non-pretenders reveal the etchings and scratches that showing the full picture of life. The pretenders show only the image they want others to see or, an image that had no substance, no clarity, no real experiences to support their false image.

Even though the cost of experience, of these life lessons, is paid with moments of great pain, loss, and heartbreak, we grow. With each experience we add to our souls and in turn our wisdom. The feelings we have experienced created the person who is now presented. Looking back, the past can be filled with personal horrors and choices that cannot be unmade, but have altered the picture that we are by being etched on our soul. Our greatest pain, buried deep, will surface when we least expect it, casting shadows upon us in a moment. These shadows that sometimes haunt our existence are not the way to honor our teacher. A teacher we refer to as experience.

Do not hide the pain; it is a lesson that should be remembered, not haunt your life. Embrace the scars for the pain is a lesson of what it is like to live.

“I’m finished making sense, Done pleading ignorance, That whole defense” The Pretender…Foo Fighters

Until next time…

Jerry b.

©2013

 
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Posted by on November 12, 2013 in Life

 

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“Constant Companion”


Best-I-canAs I slowly wake from my sleep, a low rumble alerts my senses. The rumbling gains momentum as it nears, consumes all other sounds, and then passes into silence. Again and again, it comes and then fades away. With each oncoming sound a flash of light brings my eyes flickering open creating an almost instant awareness. Only then do I remember where I am. How close to home has this eastbound bus taken me?

I strain to find something familiar in the darkness outside the cloudy window, I become aware of each car that passes by, with the rumbling growl and bright lights that had awakened me.  Suddenly realization crosses through my sleep fogged mind; to the drivers of the passing vehicles, I do not exist. My only presence in their reality is the bus I ride, howling past them in the opposite direction. Without their knowledge of me, I’m nothing more than a nameless, faceless rider. However, to me, the same is true for the world I’m hurling past outside the bus.

I pull up the sleeve on my jacket, wipe the moisture from the window, and peer out into the darkness. As the world passes by, each house I whirl past has life going on inside, lives I know nothing about. In an attempt to bring these lives into existence for me, I start mentally writing my own stories about what is happening under their roofs.  In the darkened trailer, the children are finally asleep in their beds as their parents, cuddling together on the couch, watch television. The small house on the corner has a woman crying at the table, wondering where her husband is at this hour. Her fingers run through her hair as she stares at the phone on the table in front of her, begging it to ring with some news. In my story, the phone never rings. Finally, the house with the over-grown lawn and absence of any light shining from it has had many stories created about it over the years by the local youth. Some say this dark looming house is haunted while others talk about an old man still living inside, waiting to chase off anyone who comes around. The reality of the house is different for me. The house is being used by local drug users and prostitutes as a safe haven. The stories go on and on with the passing of each town, but to me, the stories are fleeting, existing only until the next one is created. How many lives go on without anyone knowing of their existence?

Without a clear idea how much further I have left until I reach my destination, I look up and count the remaining passengers accompanying me on my journey. The bus is another representation of my life with people getting on and off not really knowing who I am; so many people passing through without taking the time to understand each other. Some of the people may stay longer than others, sharing the journey, but in the end, everyone gets off the bus. The desire to reach out to another person and connect seems to be a lost art. What would it take to authentically care about another person? Most people are happy in their ignorance of others, satisfied their world is as small and as dark as the interior of the bus we are sharing.

As these thoughts pass through my head, a feeling of loneliness washes over me. Loneliness is my constant companion. He is someone who shares my daily life, though I never hear a word of encouragement or question coming from him. He is just a passenger, always by my side along for the ride. We are seemingly all riding with our own version of Loneliness because we are unable or unwilling to open ourselves to the world around us. We are happy in our ignorance, to have Loneliness beside us through all of our journeys. While he is the one passenger that I would like to see get off my bus, I find that he remains my constant companion always in the seat next to me.

I settle back into my seat, move my backpack up to make a pillow, then I turn to my ever present partner and silently ask him to wake me before my stop. With this final thought, I drift off to sleep listening to the growling rise and fall from the passing cars and wondering if Loneliness is riding with them too.

Until next time…

jerryb

© 1994 & 2013

[Author’s Note: This story started in 1994 and has been lost in the notebooks of my journals for almost twenty years. Recently, I went on a hunt to find my old writing and was pleasantly surprised it survived the many moves and storage. This piece is a work of fiction that has been in the back of my mind for many years. I am glad that it has finally been completed. I hope you enjoyed a little piece of me. Thank you for your time…jb]

 
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Posted by on November 5, 2013 in Fiction, Life

 

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