night-school_martha graham

Lately I’ve been struck by the equivalency of ‘challenge’ with ‘obstacle’. In the same vein, the synonym for ‘change’ might as well be ‘pain’. So if challenging the status quo is your objective, saddle up buckaroo ’cause pain is part and parcel of conquering the obstacles now heading towards you like a charging locomotive.

As eloquent and wise as that may be, let me bring my lofty observation down to street-level.

As I continue to pick my way through the mine fields that can be my workplace, I’ve gotten good at a lot of things.  I’ve built good working relationships with a lot of people all over our 24/7/365 operation.  And it has not been accidental.  My experience has correctly taught me that the more I can do, the more valuable I become to my Organization.  And the more valuable I become, the better the insulation between me and a still murky economy that has flattened so many people around me.  Call me a free-thinker, but I like to eat.  I have grown fond of of living under a roof with a TV and a warm bed.  And, I like what I do for a living.  I’m good at it. All of that interconnects very nicely.  Hakuna mattata, right? While I’m not Swahili, I am leveraging the synergy.  It feels good to once again feel like I am making forward progress.  That should have been my cue that the other shoe was about to drop.

Several weeks ago, my general manager came to me on a Friday afternoon and said, “Dan.  You remember the time when you told me that you wanted to be where I needed you most?”  In a somewhat wary tone of voice, I heard myself saying that yes, I remembered.  Why?  “I have some real problems on 3rd shift.  I need you there.” OK.  “Good.  You start Monday night”.  [CUE: sound of other shoe dropping].


Becoming a creature of the night has not been easy.  The schedule of our life has been totally turned on its head.  I now sleep from 9:30 or 10 in the morning till about 1 or 1:30 in the afternoon.  I get up and live my ‘real life’ for a few hours, read my favorite bloggers, do a little writing and eat dinner by 4:30 or 5.  I’m back in bed by 6PM and up again by 9:30.  Spending the next hour or so waking up, I shower while Rick does his award winning rendition of a NASCAR pit crew in putting my lunch together, brewing a thermos of Hawaiian coffee (or Hazelnut on special nights) and generally getting me ready to be out the door so I’m in place and ready to rock at work by 11PM.  I’ll work till 8, 9 or 10 in the morning and head back home to start the loose inverted cycle all over again.  Bills get paid,  groceries get bought and six-days later, I’ve got the day off before it starts all over again.  I have such a new found respect for hospital workers, the drive-through guy at the 24-hour White Castle and every single person who ever worked at a convenience store.  It’s a different America in the middle of the night.  And now I’m one of them. Gratefully, it’s been a long time since I was 18.  But that being said, getting my body and my brain acclimated to the new night-time reality has been painful.  And while I’ve often referred to my love affair with coffee, I now view it as life giving plasma that propels me forward through the darkness.

It was while driving to work the other night when one of those dirt-simple observations that qualify as a Life Lesson popped up in front of me in living color.


Wednesday night, I was driving to work through a stretch of interminable construction on the state route that is my most direct path to work.

After months of the same narrow two blinking lanes with its now familiar veers to the left and right, I rounded a bend only to have my rote knowledge of the route rudely interrupted by an imposing phalanx of orange traffic cones arrayed across the roadway like a Roman Legion in battle formation.  I may not be psychic, but even at that distance, I could hear their collective drum beat, ”Boom.  Boom. Thou shalt not pass’. Boom.  Boom.  Do not pass go.  Boom. Do not collect $200.’

But I’ve got to get to work”.

The cones were unimpressed.  Boom.

Obstacles are funny that way.  They present large and often, just as suddenly. They live to threaten us in their purpose of warning as often as they shut down any hope of access, egress or any other obvious form of safe passage.  After all, if you think about it, barricades are, by their very function, oppositional statements.  Ever seen Les Mis?

The ‘ah-ha‘ moment came as I got closer and closer to the construction barrels blocking my path.  Dropping my speed as I approached my new orange enemies, I suddenly realized I’d been punked by an optical illusion.  The line of obstacles barring my way wasn’t a line at all, but rather two lines of cones that formed a path around the sewer work being done in anticipation of the paving soon to follow.


The last kicker in this little thunderbolt moment of mine came the next morning as I retraced my route back towards home.  In the morning’s light, I had to smile as the same line of traffic barrels came into view.  Even at a half-a-mile away, I could see they weren’t a fortified line of obstacles at all…they were just a bunch of orange cones in a couple of lines to guide motorists around the site of the new manholes.

Isn’t that just like an obstacle?   All full of blow and bluster until it realizes you’re not turning back.  In the face of your Purpose, they inevitably reveal secrets you didn’t know they held.  And in return? They grant you passage you wouldn’t have gained had you not approached them head-on.  Granted, the route is not likely what you were expecting, but it’s a route nonetheless and it’s yours.

Obstacle Hand Climbing4

Got obstacles you need to climb?  Me too.  That being said, let me leave you with a bit of poetry I’ve come to really hold close. 

Next time you find yourself climbing the face of a cliff, look to your left…that’ll be me, climbing mine.  With that in mind, I’ve left you a cool checklist at the bottom.  See you at the top.

Until then,



Hope abides; therefore I abide.

Countless frustrations have not cowed me.

I am still alive, vibrant with life.

The black cloud will disappear,

The morning sun will appear once again

In all its supernal glory.

If it is love unconditional,

Then it can overcome

All barriers.

Be wise!

You must overcome

All your difficulties,

Not try to escape from them,

For there is no such thing

As escape.

A failure is not destruction.

A failure is a challenge

To overcome and go forward.

We can overcome fear

Only when we sincerely feel

That fear is something

Worse than useless.

                       – Sri Chinmoy





Conrad Bain, 1923-2013

NEW YORK (AP) — Conrad Bain, a veteran stage and film actor who became a star in middle age as the kindly white adoptive father of two young African-American brothers in the TV sitcom “Diff’rent Strokes,” has died.

Bain died Monday (1/14/13) of natural causes in his hometown of Livermore, Calif., according to his daughter, Jennifer Bain. He was 89.

Sources: and


Pauline Friedman Phillips, July 4, 1918 – January 16, 2013

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Pauline Friedman Phillips, who as Dear Abby dispensed snappy, sometimes saucy advice on love, marriage and meddling mothers-in-law to millions of newspaper readers around the world and opened the way for the likes of Dr. Ruth, Dr. Phil and Oprah, has died. She was 94.

Sources: and




PHOTO CREDITS and ATTRIBUTIONS: Martha Graham., Xplore Inc, 2013.; overcoming-obstacles-or-free-at-last-randy-burns:; 3-D Cones Source for dan4kent compilation: Elena Suslova, Belarus –; 3d-traffic-cones-night_overhead by dan4kent; Obstacle Hand Climbing 4 by dan4kent with Source at:;


sri chinmoy Read more about Sri Chinmoy at:


# –

Here is a simple check-list I am using to help

me navigate my move from Day to Night. 

If it helps you (even a little), then I’ve done a

very good thing.  Enjoy.


1. Get sufficient sleep every night. Sleep is often the single most undervalued behavior in our lives and the one with the most immediate power to improve our experience in every waking moment. If you sleep in the 6-6½ hour range, like the average American, just one more hour of sleep a night will leave you feeling more physically energized, emotionally resilient, and mentally clear.

2. Move more. It’s not only good for your heart’s health, but also for your mental health. Do some form of exercise that significantly raises your heart rate for 30 minutes at least four times a week and move frequently during the day.

3. Eat less, more often. Food is fuel. Lean proteins and complex carbohydrates are high-octane fuel. You’re best off when you keep feeding your internal furnace in small doses throughout the day, beginning with breakfast.

4. Renew more. Human beings aren’t designed to work continuously. We’re meant instead to move between spending and renewing energy. Ideally, take a break every 90 minutes, even if only to spend a minute or two breathing deeply.

5. Invest in those you love. The greatest gift you can give is your absorbed attention. Better to be fully present with someone for an hour than physically present, but distracted, for multiple hours.

6. Give thanks. We’re far quicker to notice what’s wrong in our lives than we are what’s right. At least once a week, hand write and mail a note of appreciation to someone who deserves it, telling the person precisely what you’re grateful for.

7. Do the most important thing first. Early in the morning, you’re likely to have the most energy, and the fewest distractions. Start your workday by focusing without interruption, for 60 to 90 minutes, on the most important and/or challenging task you can accomplish that day.

8. Practice reflection. We’re so preoccupied with the urgent that we rarely take time to think about what it is we’re doing. Set aside 15 to 30 minutes at the end of each work day (or in the evening) to reflect quietly and without interruption on what you learned that day, and what your highest priorities are for the following day.

9. Keep learning. Our brains work better if we challenge them, and life becomes more interesting when we do. Reading books is a simple and surefire way to learn and grow, but so is building a daily practice around learning a new language, a sport, a musical instrument, or around how to write code, fix a car, or draw.

10. Give back. Take at least one hour a week to put your own needs aside and devote that time instead to adding value to the world at large. One hour a week is very little time, but it’s a start — and it’s also more than most of us regularly give.


Obstacle Hand inset

## –

About dan4kent

Born and raised in the Midwest, Dan lives in the Chicagoland area. With a grown son from a previous marriage, he has since built a committed relationship of 33 years with his partner Rick, the Love of his Life. Having written his whole life, he blogged for years because he has to write…he can’t help it. Know the feeling? There’s ‘good‘ to be found in all of it. “If all I do is leave someone (or something) better than I found them, then I’ve done my part. Thanks for letting me grace your screen, if only for a little while.”
This entry was posted in Hope, Inspiration, Life, Life Lessons, Love and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to NIGHT SCHOOL

  1. Pingback: THERMAL BREAKUP | dan4kent

  2. paralaxvu says:

    Another post full of wisdom, insight and humor. Thank you once again. BTW, didja know that Kimberly-Clark folks used to (may well still) change shifts every month or so? Another pair of mocs I’d rather not walk in!

    • dan4kent says:

      Dear Paralax — Appreciated hearing the latest offering resonated with you…and you’re not the easiest audience. But hey, wouldn’t have it any other way. And no, did not know K-C did a version of the shift shuffle. Sounds like something they came up with for Guantanamo, right? Anywho…time to shut down for a few hours. So glad you’re on the Planet. See you on the cliff. Back at cha. Dan

  3. wisejourney says:

    Thank you for a great read from a fave blogger who is Dan Kent the night shift guy 🙂

    • dan4kent says:

      Dear Wisejourney. Just got home a little while ago and found your note in the in-box. What a great way to start the alternate portion of my day. Thank you. Dan

  4. yearstricken says:

    Loved the illustration with the cones. And I admire your willingness to work 3rd shift. I can’t even imagine it. I am a morning person and by 8:30 at night, all I I can do is read a book for a short while before I fall asleep. 🙂 That said, we often can do the impossible when we have to; somehow we find the inner strength and surprise ourselves.

    • dan4kent says:

      Hey there, hi there, ho there. The creative/graphics part of me is gratified to hear you enjoyed the cone compilation. Morning person? Me too. It’s just not the part of the morning I would have anticipated (ha!). Just got home so you’ll excuse me if I go hit the pillows on this summertime (sic) day in Chicagoland. Be well. So pleased what I offered resonated with you. Dan

  5. purplemary54 says:

    I’m a night owl, but only if I don’t have to do anything productive. Come to think of it, I’d rather not have to do anything “productive” at all. But a job is a job, so I’ll keep doing the little part-time one I’ve got. I’m actually trying to put myself on a proper schedule, so that I can get more writing done. I’d actually like to finish one of the many projects inhabiting my brain. Thanks for the insight into your schedule; it gives me hope that I can make mine work.

    • dan4kent says:

      PM54 — So good to see you in the in-box. I echo your sentiments RE: productivity (ha!). But on a more serious note, you’ve hit it on the head. So much of my recalibrating has to do with setting a schedule for yourself. While my version of schedule is hardly as tight as the Swiss train systems, it’s giving me some reference points I’m using to manage my biorhythms. To paraphrase Yoda, there is no try, do. See you on the cliff face! Dan

  6. Dan,
    Another wonderfully insightful post. Great story about the obstacle illusion. Please add the Facebook Share button, so I can let my circle in on your wisdom.


    • dan4kent says:

      KINA!! Always pumped to see you in the in-box. I’m blushing at your simply offered encouragement. As for the Facebook button, I’ve thought about it before (and resisted). But this I will do. I will re-examine my past decision to not go Facebook; look into the how’s and let them inform my why’s. Stay tuned. I’ll come back to you on this one. Trusting that all else is well, I figure I’ll find out for myself when I get caught up on my reading in the morning…namely, you. Between now and then, travel well. As ever, I remain your steadfast friend in the blogosphere. I’m better for having met you. Signing off from Chicagoland. Until then, Dan

      • Dan,
        I completely understand and respect you not having a Facebook page for yourself or your blog. I just have people who would read and enjoy your work and they are connected to me on Facebook. All the button does is enable me to share the link back to your posts without copying & pasting. Whichever though, it is certainly your choice.

        Things are going fairly well. So glad holidays & weddings are over and schedules are stabilizing again.

        I’m better for having met you as well. Your words are often my touchstone for balance and serenity.


  7. rachel bar says:

    What a wonderful post, Dan. I loved every word, I loved your approach to the immense and uncomfortable night shift, and the analogies you make. You are a fine observer of human nature and a wise one at that.

    • dan4kent says:

      From one person to OnePersonSingular, thank you. I really appreciate the ‘fine observer’ bit. As for wise? Humbling, but honestly sought after. But you better than most already know it’s all about the journey. Thanks again. Dan.
      PS: Love your stuff. Keep it up.

  8. katecrimmins says:

    Sounds like you are adjusting. My hats off to you. I am such a morning person I am not sure I would be as effective even if I turned my life cycle upside down.

    • dan4kent says:

      Miss Coffeekat — So glad you stopped by. As for adjusting? We’ll see…it’s only been a few weeks, but thank you for the encouragement. Be well as you climb there. Dan

What do you think? Let me know.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s