The other day, I worked on a document for about an hour and then attended to other things. The next day, I found that my computer has frozen up and after many attempts to save the document, I had to reboot the computer.

As I waited for it to come up, I thought of TE Lawrence whose 1000 page manuscript of his Seven Pillars of Wisdom was lost at the Reading train station in London in 1922.  He spend the next 3 months rewriting it.

I told myself that when I brought up the file, that I would be at peace regardless of whether my work was there or not.  It was not and I felt relaxed and ready to make the effort again.

You can not change the past, even a second ago. So why react to it? The second after an event, you only have control of how you respond. You don’t have control of the event. And in some essential way, it actually becomes perfect. The universe “just is”.

So what do we want:

  • The weather to be different. We can’t change it.  No use complaining.
  • Other drivers to drive better. They don’t know you. Why should you let them control your mood?
  • We lose something or someone and want it to be otherwise
  • We want others to behave a certain way.
  • We want the world to be different.

Spiritual teachers have taught for centuries the idea of not being attached to the external world. I find it very inspiring to see videos of enlightened teachers such as Ram Dass and the Dalai Lama. They are happy all of the time, regardless of external events.

Many say that a regular spiritual practice of meditation will make one less reactive. This is what I have experienced when I meditate regularly. 

We can decide to respond to events that trigger a reaction, by just catching ourselves and letting go, knowing that we have no control of what just happened because it already happened. This is not easy when someone is truly annoying you. It is an ongoing practice, forgiving ourselves for reacting and pledging to do the best we can next time. 

This does not mean that you don’t govern your life, set boundaries, make requests and take action. It just means that at some level you can be at peace with whatever happens.

To learn more about Triggers, see my talk at the Saturday Morning Men’s Cafe.

How reactive are you?

Do let others hijack your mood?


A few years ago I studied the lives of my ancestors. Everyone one of them had a significant life event occur in their 40’s which one could characterized as a crisis which altered the course of their life. Here is a list.

Paternal Grandfather – Jesse Anderson MD-Spanish Flu and Tuberculosis at age 44. Poor health caused him to give up his medical practice. Died at 54.
Paternal Grandmother Laurie Anderson Swift Widowed at age 46. Rebuilt her life successfully through a wealthy husband.
Maternal Grandfather Franz Behnes – Affluent cotton merchant bankrupt at 50. Moved back to US from Germany. Sold life insurance. Retired later, supported by single daughter.
Maternal Grandmother Lucy Behnes Bankrupt at 43. Transitioned from upper middle class matron to department store clerk. Retired later, supported by single daughter.
Father Lee Anderson MD Injured age 47. Practiced medicine in wheelchair until death at 54.
Mother Frances Anderson Widowed at age 49. Successfully rebuilt her life. Wrote a newspaper column, sold real estate, and owned highly successful restaurant.
Sister -Gail Upton Bankrupt at age 48. Rebuilt her financial life by selling and buying real estate and retired successfully.
Bruce Divorced, fired from job, brother and mother died, career crisis, broke at age 38 till 42. Rebuilt 2nd and 3rd careers, remarried and retired financially successful.

Those in the next generation are now in their early 50’s and each of them have had similar crises in their lives, manifested externally or by internal turmoil and they have responded positively to the challenge.

What is it with these Andersons? Are we cursed? I don’t think so. I think not having a crisis in your 40’s is the exception. And this includes people who have good values and are living meaningful and useful lives. We know everyone’s life is a series of attachments and losses.

With these external events, there are also internal dynamics that are occurring. When we have a crisis, it is a call to grow up and to no longer live out our parental and cultural programming. With insight, courage and determination, we rise to the occasion in the midst of adversity. We are able to correct earlier choices, declare our full individuality and transition to a more meaningful and satisfying life. It takes traumatic events to precipitate our growth.

And I suspect if you look at your life, you will see similar times of despair and transition toward growth and new beginnings.

Do you have regrets, or do you look back on these traumatic events as a blessing? Most would say it was a blessing. It was a way to re-emerge into a better life, even though it did not seem to be at the time.  

The divorce from my first marriage was very traumatic, but in retrospect it was the best thing that could have happened to me. I created a happy single life for 20 years and a happy married life with an extraordinary woman for the next 20 years.

Did you have a midlife crisis?

How did you rise to the challenge?

Any regrets?



An earlier comment about violence caused me to think more about the violence I have actually seen for myself during my lifetime, rather than having read about or seeing videos, or heard from others. Well,  to me the world is not a violent place if I based this on what I have personally seen. I have never seen blood spilled ( except for a cut), either through attack or accident. Unlike a police officer or an emergency room nurse or doctor, or combat soldier,  I have not only not been exposed to the effects of violence, I have not actually seen anyone shot or injured. I have not even seen a grisly automobile accident.

The above is actually pretty remarkable. Reading history, and the news one sees violence all the time.  There is lots of violence in movies, TV, books and games.

But when I think about it, 150 years ago, most people were on farms and small towns.  Being that there was little news of the wider world, their reality was that things were peaceful, unless they were in a war zone or high crime culture. So the speed of information from afar has created the impression that the world is full of violence when, as a percentage of the time, it is not.  There could be a 6 million people exposed to violent acts a year in the US, either through being a victim or perpetrator and that would mean that 98% of the population was not personally exposed to violence. An interesting statistic is that the incidence of fatal and non fatal gun violence in the United States has dropped by 40% in the last 20 years. Who would know that by reading and listening to the news.

So one of the ways that I have lived a blessed life, is that I have not been exposed to or suffered from violence.

So, to what degree have you been personally exposed to violence?


When I was 20 years old I was critical of my future sister and brother-in-law for insisting that their 10-year-old boy wash the dishes. I referred to it as “woman’s work”. I was product of my parental and cultural programing. The only time my father went in the kitchen was to get ice cream at 3 am. Traditional roles were the norm in my household. When married, I pitched in to “help” my wife with the dishes.  At 36, I was single and washed my own dishes for next 20 years.

Now, thank goodness, household chores and roles are negotiated based on interests and considerations other than gender, and this is as it should be. Looking back, it just seems ridiculous that it was otherwise.

When I entered the workforce in the 60’s, women’s career options were limited. Now woman can do any job men can do including fighter pilot, astronaut, and CEO.  And there is absolutely no reason they should be paid less for the same work. Most major corporations get it. They pay woman graduate electrical engineers the same as men.  And yet there is still a huge gender gap in pay. There should not be a gap, period.

In 1972, The Equal Rights Amendment was proposed as a way to give women equal legal status to men.  “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” It was passed by Congress  but fell three states short of the 38 needed for ratification by a June 30, 1982 deadline. There was a belief that the ERA would eliminate laws designed to protect women which led to the eventual defeat of the amendment. I wish it would have passed. We would be further along than we are now.

While my family had traditional roles, my father modeled total respect for woman. My mother was a strong woman and would not have married him if he hadn’t. Over the years, I have been astonished at some men’s attitude toward woman. An example is the weird belief that sex is transactional and that if a woman is treated to dinner, the man is entitled to sex. I found statements like that just foreign and the majority of my male friends do as well. And, there are men who are misogynists.

I was curious about what Wikipedia say about misogyny which means the hatred of, contempt for, or prejudice against women or girls. Misogyny is manifest in numerous ways, including social exclusion, sex discrimination, hostility, androcentrism, patriarchy, male privilege, belittling of women, violence against women, and sexual objectification. By count, check how many of these were on display during the Kavanaugh Senate hearings.

My wife has taught me about the patriarchy, i.e. the Catholic Church, our political culture, and our corporate culture. Having worked for a female entrepreneur CEO who was very successful, I have never had an issue with women in power. I am convinced that when woman gain equal power, the world will be a better place.

So, I am a feminist. Woman should be equal in all matters. And I hope my three granddaughters will see that as a reality.

Are you a feminist?

Why not?