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Friday, July 13, 2018

Considering others, but answering only to my Higher Power (God)

The 'wisdom' of years & experience can be a double-edge sword in terms of perspective.   You can be so tied to the 'old order of things'--not realizing for example that Separate But Equal is really Separate and Inherently Unequal.  You are so tied to the old order of things that when the enlightenment plane comes along, you don't think it is your flight.   In reality, though the destination had changed, it was still the flight you needed to take.  On the other hand, as a seasoned 'flyer' in life's journey you have seen flights diverted, delayed or cancelled (rhetorically) and you know life like flights change.  Even if you don't totally recognize or understand the change, you at least recognize the need to adjust.

As I am fast approaching the mid-century mark in my life, I can see some of the old ways of counseling and behavioral medicine completely missed the mark.  Kids with autism and other spectrum related disorders were labeled as 'problem kids' and not always given the help and guidance needed. Instead, they were labeled as troubled kids in some cases.  On the other hand, I can see that sometimes in today's society pushed parents to 'relate to' and 'understand' their children more.  While it is important to know your children and be able to explain in ways they understand, sometimes we just have to be the parents.   That is to say, we have to guide and discipline them based on what will need as they travel from childhood to adulthood vs. what they are willing to readily accept.

----

Speaking of wisdom of years and experience, it has changed it has changed the way I relate to people and whom I 'seek approval' from.  When I was in my teens and twenties, I had opinions but didn't always have the confidence that goes along with age and experience.  I tended to defer to 'grownups' (aka parental figures and older folks) more.   As I've gotten older, I realize that I've learned things along the way, gathered experience and that not everything is as it is portrayed, including in politics.

Everyone wants to have their take accepted to varying degrees.  Some people seem to need a constant feedback of praise or validation, while others seem to measure their take against a principle or set of principles.

For what it's worth, here is my take:
  • The take of others has to be considered. 
    • Someone who has devoted time/service to their country--sometimes at great cost--is someone who has earned a right to be heard and considered.
    • Similar people in a place of authority.
    • Your spouse and kids, whom are affected by your decisions need to be taken into account when you make a big decision.  For example, can't just accept a job out of town without consulting them and expect them to go along without any chance of resistance. 
    • A friend or family member who has observed you for years often can give you an outsider's perspective from someone who you'd expect to have your best interests in mind.
    • More often we are able to discern their motive or perspective and assess where it is coming from--a selfless place, a mixed motive place or a selfish place.
  • Ultimately, I have to measure my decisions/choices against that of my Higher Power (aka God).
    • As His child, I know He sees and knows things about me which no one could possibly.
    • As His child, I know He created me in His own image and therefore wants what is best for me.
    • As His child, I know He wants me to trust His divine judgment.
    • As His child, I know He has put forward principles in my life (Ten Commandments/The Golden Rule/Proverbs/etc) for my enlightenment and wisdom.
  • I know He didn't shape me to be one of a mass produced robots.
    • He shaped me individually with my individual talents/strengths.
    • He shaped me with free will.  He wants to be appreciated by His children, but He wants it come honestly I believe.
    • He saw that 'man' cannot live an island.  We are social creatures and need the company/companionship of others in our lives.  Obviously, we have to take into account their needs too. 
    • While we aren't an island, we can't just put the 'need' for acceptance from others above His eternal wisdom ('rules') and his knowledge what is best for us.

I have had family and friends who have properly thought--or occasionally rationalized to themselves--that they were advising me in what they saw as 'my best interests'.   Usually, it is, but it hasn't necessarily always been.  Sometimes the advice is welcomed, sometimes it is not, but regardless I have always felt it best that it is best that either way, I have to do what I understand is best in His eyes.  That is, not just what I can rationalize that He would 'accept', but what I can back up with my knowledge of His word and discern with His guidance through prayer and meditation.   There is a time for quietly listening to the guidance of others and there is a time for letting others know that their guidance is not helpful, but it is always the right time to seek out and follow His guidance.


Saturday, May 19, 2018

Throwing mud at the good only makes it muddy, not destroyed.

I don't know if it's a guy thing, it's a humility thing, a self-negating thing,  an escape thing or what.  But I was talking to a friend about a sentimental feeling--something like am a good dad or similar--and I found myself shifting gear in the conversation.  It was a guy friend and the subject matter was personal, so I to 'undignify' the conversation a bit by saying something goofy. It dawned on me that I was throwing mud at the conversation/subject matter in an attempt to minimize it.

In society, we will always have people that are egotistical and self-promoting (beyond what their job requires), but there will always be a segment of society which strikes a pose that could be seen as humble.  We see in everyday life, heroes dismissing their bravery, grown-ups dismissing their positive impact on kids, friends dismissing the nice things they do for others, people soft-pedaling their birthday, men not showing or owning their soft side, etc.  I will take a moment to focus on the why of it, but I did want to address what it means to throw mud at the 'good' and how it doesn't change it.


So, why do we try to dismiss, minimize or negate the good we do or feel?   I've got a few thoughts on it.
  • We have been taught not to 'brag' about our goodness.  Our parents, ministers, coaches, etc. have imparted in us that our nature should be evident and that to self-promote is unseemly and not proper.
  • We don't like the attention of being 'praised'. 
    • Some people are just humble.  
    • Some people just are uncomfortable with the positive spotlight and would rather live in the shadows trying to do the right things.
  • We can be self-negating and recognizing our goodness gets in the way.
    • This can look like modesty (humility), but it really is not allowing ourselves to be framed positively.
    • This can reflect a general low sense of self-worth.  If you don't necessarily feel good about yourself, there is no space for recognizing or allowing others to recognize your inherent goodness.
  • We can feel vulnerable.
    • We don't want to acknowledge ourselves too much.  I've said to others, "You're a good person, but I won't let anyone know."  The less others know about us, including the good, the less we are known, and therefore potentially vulnerable.
    • If we accept others noting our good side, potentially we are implying permission for them to note our flaws as well.

So, how do we throw mud on the good?
  • Minimized the good we have done.
    • We say things like anyone in my situation would have done the same.
      • If I hadn't jumped to help, someone else would have.
    • We say deflect credit for good deeds to others.
      • I'm just trying to help, but so and so deserves the real credit.
    • We minimize the kindness we've shown. 
      • I was just paying for the kindness shown to me.
    • We deflect from showing positive sentiment. 
      • Sometimes I'm an okay person.
  • Maximize our flaws.
    • I've made mistakes and I'm just trying to do good these days to make up for it.
    • I've been insensitive to others and I'm just trying to correct that.
    • I've lived a rough life and I'm just trying these days to do the right thing.


I've said before I think there are few completely selfish people and even fewer truly evil people in the world.  I think most people have a good side and a bad side.  Most people have the mind to do good things or bad things given the right or wrong stimulus.  Obviously, some are more inclined to do good than others, but still.   No matter what negative in our lives, it doesn't negate the positives.  We can throw all the mud we want on the good about us, but it doesn't negate it.  It can deflect others from seeing it or openly acknowledging the good, it can help us dismiss the good, but at the end of the day our good still remains.  Just as with our flaws, properly recognizing the good is important to mental and spiritual health.

Just some observations.




Monday, April 30, 2018

Timing Timing Timing

A funny thing happened on the way to heaven recently.  I went to a graveside memorial to support a long-time friend  I didn't know his mom well, but you know memorials are as much for the living as the deceased.  Anyway, I was warned that with the recent rains that the ground could be a bit sloppy and that you might want to wear tennis shoes or boots.  Anyway, I didn't hear that until after I wore my nice black Izod dress shoes to work.  I couldn't stop back at home, so I did the next best thing--looked for a place with inexpensive shoes on the way there.  I ended up stopping at a Goodwill store and buying some plain back dress shoes that were a little wide.  They weren't that expensive and they weren't as fancy as my Izod shoes, so I wouldn't be too annoyed if they got messy or ruined..  As it turned out,  I would have been fine with my original shoes, so I felt like I wasted money.

However, timing is a funny thing.  A week or so later, I went to a Cardinals game in which my daughter sang "Take me out to the ballgame" during the 7th inning stretch.   On the way back to the parking lot, I stepped off the sidewalk wrong, buckling my ankle underneath and collapsing my full body weight on it, like a sack of potatoes.  But, as luck would have it recently got the wider black dress shoes.  So, I was able to wear shoes with a swollen sprained ankle.  In other words, the timing of the seemingly unnecessary shoe purchase was perfect.  This gets me back to the larger point: Life is all about time.  

In life we can want to say or do something which is otherwise appropriate, but if said or done with the wrong timing it may not be for the best.  For example, right after your child trips and does a face-plant on the stairs and needs stitches would probably not be the best time to tell her that she needs to make sure her shoes are tied and to watch where she is going.  Likewise, telling a widowed friend they need to go out and meet people new people would be good advice, a couple years out, but a couple weeks out of losing their spouse, not so much.

I don't claim to be an expert on timing, but here are a few thoughts on the subject matter (when it relates to dealing with others).
  • Sometimes there is never going to be good timing.  You risk being seen as wrong whenever you say or do what you need to.
    • When telling a friend or loved one a hard truth, there is no getting around the fact that no matter when you say it, they may not take it well.  
    •  If saying what you need to won't ever go down well, there is little point in waiting as you are just prolonging your tension and delaying the inevitable.
  • Sometimes, a loved one is venting and they really aren't looking for a solution or being related to.  They just want to share their pain so they can process it.  Now, at a later point, they might be open to your input.  But, sometimes people don't want 'answers' or being 'related to'.  Sometimes they just want to be heard at the current time.
    • This can be frustrating for the listener if they want to help or if they are tired of hearing complaining and no action.
    • It isn't always immediately obvious that the one who is venting just wants to be heard.  So, it could be best to wait for a cue.

--

Looking for the right time to say or do what you need to ask the following questions:
    • Is it really something that needs addressed or is it just something think you want to address.
      • If I am venting to a friend about about being broke, I probably am just complaining.  I don't specifically expect the friend to loan me money or give me advice on how to avoid being broke in the future.  So, my friend might feel like he/she needs to give me advice or offer me money to 'fix' the situation, but I'm not really looking for that.
      • If I twist my ankle severely, even  if I think it is not broken, I probably should get an X-Ray to be safe.
    • Is there ever a good time for the action/words you 'need' to do or say?
      • When a family is struggling with a chemical dependency or gambling, he or she may not be open to hearing how they are destroying themselves.  
      • The reason interventions are so stressful is because the one being intervened for isn't exactly thinking that they want or need it.
    • What are the possible cost of saying/doing it now?
      • Losing or risking losing a relationship sooner.
        • If you tell confront a loved one about their dependency sooner rather than waiting, you may also face a fallout sooner.
      • Going with incomplete information and misreading the situation.
        • After a particularly bad breakup, I may feel ready to date again soon.  However, it is possible that by waiting a little bit I'd see that maybe I'm not.
    • What is the cost of delaying saying/doing it until later?
      • You could come across as indecisive or unwilling to do what needs to be done.
        • In a family, that could undermine your authority or your word.
        • As a leader, that could give aid and comfort to our enemies.
      • The situation you needed to address may have boiled over or reached a head.
        • Your finances may have gone from difficult to completely unmanageable if you wait to address them.
        • An addict you needed to confront may have overdosed while you pondered when the 'right' or 'best' time to confront them was. 
    • What is the benefit of saying doing what you need to now vs. later?
      • The weight or stress associated with making the decision will dissipate.  It might be replaced with the consequences of the decision, but at least the decision-making won't weigh on you. 
      • The outcome or result of the decision often is clear sooner if you make the decision sooner.   Instead of guessing what will happen IF, you stand a better chance of knowing.

--

I'm not an expert on timing, but what has always helped me are these two things:
  1. Collecting all the information I reasonably can about the decision--saying or doing what needs to be said/done--before I make the decision.   Read the situation as best as I can and when I think I have enough (or at least as much information as I can get), make the decision and don't look back.  
    • It is easy to second guess when you have more information after the fact, but isn't helpful.
    • Knowing I did the best with the information I had might not make me feel completely better, but at least I'll know I did all that I could.
  2.  Taking myself out of the decision-making process as much as possible.
    • What would I tell someone else to do or say in a given situation?
    • Is my choice based on what is best, what I want or what will 'make me feel better'?
      • Being aware of my measuring stick--in the eyes of my Higher Power...
      • Sure, I could try to help my child in all situations, but sometimes it is best as painful as it is, to allow him/her to make the mistakes.
      • Sure, I could offer someone advice in a given situation, but there is a good chance that he/she might just want to be heard.
    • What does my gut tell me.  Not how I feel, but what I know to be the case.

While I feel like the phrase--timing is everything--is overused.  In may cases, it is either significant or it is everything.  If we are better aware of when timing is important I think we will make better choices.

Just some thoughts.

-- Rich


Saturday, April 28, 2018

I haven't got time for the pain or do I?


I recently went to a ballgame in which my daughter's choir sang: "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" for the seventh inning stretch.  It was a very cool thing to watch for a parent.  I was very proud of her.  Anyway, after all the fun and games so to speak, we left the Stadium and headed towards the car.  On the way to the parking lot, I stepped off a curb the wrong way, twisting my ankle with the weight of my body collapsing on top of it.  Besides being a bit humiliated, I was a injured and was in pain.  I still am having pain with it about a few weeks later as I severely sprained my ankle.

This whole incident and the inconvenience it caused kind of gave me the blues over the next few days.  Anyway, my wife and I had a discussion on dealing with adversity and she indicated that she does what needs done even when upsetting/depressing things happening to or around her. In other words, she can't afford to let things keep her mood down.  Like I said and I was feeling bluesy and probably a bit misunderstood and said to her, "People have time for depression?"  I wasn't trying to shame her or make her feel bad, but to express that yes we indeed can exercise control over how we deal with bad things, it is not always complete control.  

Sometimes,...
  • A situation in our life can be so upsetting that despite our best efforts to "soldier on", we have to take the time and give the wound a chance to heal before we go back into the daily grind.
  • We have face so much trauma over time that what seems like a small setback can just feel like piling on of woes and therefore can be disabling.
  • We are just having a bad day already and what we could brush off yesterday is something that we struggle with doing so today.
  • We have a family history of 'behavioral health' issues or problems
In other words, sometimes our spirit dictates to us what we can handle, not what we think we should be able to 'deal with'.

People say God will not allow more in our lives than we can bear in referencing the following:

1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.


When relating this adversity, people take this to mean that God will not allow you more to happen to you than you can handle with idea of handling means "just dealing with it".

I think the problem lies in people's interpretation of it.  Handling or 'enduring' doesn't always mean just pushing the problem (pain) aside and soldiering on.  Sometimes, it means taking a break, taking a nap, stepping away or retrenching such that we can recover.  

I think,...
  • Provided we aren't invested in a lifetime pass to a pity party and want to move forward in our lives.
  • Provided we don't have a nervous breakdown when we stub a toe or a similar overreaction.
  • Provided that deep down inside we are committed to moving forward and haven't just given up 
That we should be accept that sometimes we or those around us do need to make or allow "time for the pain".  If there is anything I've learned, it's this:  Feelings denied, suppressed or otherwise minimized don't go away, but instead can metastasize into something far worse or destructive.   So, be kind to yourself.  Don't sit around and expect life's hurts and problems just to go away as you rock your life away, but don't ignore them always pushing forward and pretending like they don't exist either. 



Stop lights versus flashing yellow lights

Time and time again when I've run across (and gotten to know) people who have engaged in or are engaging in 'reckless' or 'destructive' behavior, I've discovered, learned or been told that they have been the subject of a significant trauma in their life.

I've known alcoholics and drug addicts who were abused (sexual and otherwise) at a young age, I've run across others who unexpectedly lost a close family member at a young age and have struggled.  I myself was sexually abused at a young age and at times made poor decisions likely tying back to that.  But I digress.  A friend of mine explained in simple terms what animates such a person.   Stop signs (lights) vs. a flashing yellow light.

Imagine being at a busy intersection and running into a stop light.  Well, unless we want to risk a ticket and/or an accident, we will almost always stop and wait for the light to turn green before we proceed.  Now imagine that intersection having a flashing yellow light--which means proceed with caution.  Most of the time we will proceed with caution, but there will be that time or two in which our impatience at the seeming endless procession of traffic will eventually wear our patience thin such that we 'just go' and in the process cut off someone (and occasionally cause an accident).   If shown a video of what happened we may be shocked at our behavior, but at the time the other cars seemed 'far enough away'.  In short, something in our mind and heart disabled usually good judgment.  Now to the person behind us who by virtue of their position realizes that he or she isn't going anyway, our poor judgment seems puzzling.   He or she wasn't quite in our shoes as he/she didn't have to make the turning decision yet. To him or her, how could we have missed the obvious traffic that was approaching us as we were deciding make the turn.  In short, our poor decision-making seems puzzling as it was 'obvious' to them that we shouldn't turn at that point.

In a way, that sort of describes those with hangups, addictions, and addictive tendencies.  To those around them: Isn't the destructive nature of an addict's behavior obvious?   I mean anyone can see that it is foolishness to cash your paycheck and head to the casino.  It's foolishness and dangerous to risk injecting or snorting that dose of heroine.  It's ridiculousness to go to the strip club and give away our hard earned money to the dancer who shows positive attention (at a price).   I believe many people with hangups like these at one point did see a stop sign (light) when hearing about or thinking about that type of destructive behavior.  But, imagine an unimaginable: Your life being turned on its head by a harsh or unexpected trauma.  While, we'd all like to think that after facing tragedy or traumas that we'd keep our wits, our good judgment, our wisdom, the truth is we can't really say for sure until we are in the situation. 

Imagine being a kid or a young adult if our parent(s) do(es) all the right things to be stay healthy, but end up being struck down tragically by sudden illness or an accident.  While we might not say it, but in the back of our mind, we are likely to think, wow, why bother taking care of yourself as you could end up just like them. 

OR

Imagine being taken advantage by ones you are taught to trust as a kid.  After that, it could be hard to believe that those who are supposed to have our best interest in mind actually do.  

In a way, instead of the distinct decisiveness and firmness of a stop light, such events could lead us to question the stop light, maybe if it is truly even there.  Such events could cause us to see the stop light as more of a proceed with caution or flashing yellow light.  In a way, such events could cause us to question what is passed off a given.  In a way, such events could cause us to wonder if making the choice we are expected to (waiting for the light to turn) will matter anyway.


Anyway, I just thought I'd share what someone told me once and how I received it.  I'm hoping that others might take a little of what I share and find it useful.  But, either way, I march on with my blog.

-- Rich


Monday, April 23, 2018

To Share or Not to Share, That is the Question

I've noticed with my cat Simon that when he is afraid, he burrows.  For example, if he is going to the vet, he'll burrow as deeply as he can into his kennel or the arms of someone who is holding him.  It's actually a bit heartbreaking.  Seeing him that scared makes us feel for him.  I've had to transport him a number of times and without fail the journey upsets and scares him.  In a way, Simon is trying desperately to find his secret safe space where he can hide from the upsetting journey.

As kids, when our parents fight we tend to find a spot to hide out (or burrow) to weather the storm.  I remember when I was a kid hearing my parents fight and I would just be glad when it calmed down or someone left, whether it was to go to work or to just go somewhere else.  As a kid, I was dependent or reliant on my parents and as such I couldn't just run away to avoid the fighting.  So, I tried to find a space as far from the drama as I could.  As an adult, we call spaces where we try to shut the world out our bachelor or bachelorette pad or our man cave or she shed.    

As I've gotten older I realize that hiding or burrow away or not just a physical phenomenon, but a psychological one as well.  Sometimes, 'hiding or burrowing' is keeping our thoughts or feelings close to the vest for fear of upsetting the apple cart or upset the calm.    Now, I've never been of the philosophy that we should share all our thoughts in a stream of conscience way.   Whether we like it or not we are a fallen creation and are subject to rude or devious thoughts from time to time.  As such, some degree of discretion in expressing our thoughts is very useful in dealing with others.   But, I'm not necessarily talking about that extreme.  I'm talking about 'secrets' (that is our secret thoughts).   


Sometimes keeping 'secret' our thoughts is not a bad things.  

  • Doing so can prevent us from saying harmful/hurtful things before we've had a chance to fully digest and process. 
  • Doing so can prevent us from unnecessarily creating or having to deal with conflict.
  • Doing so can give us time to cool down before we say something that we can't easily take back.
  • Doing so can avoid subjecting ourselves to hurt from those whom don't necessarily have our best interests in mind.


However, sometimes keeping 'secret' our thoughts IS a bad thing.
  • It doesn't give others a chance to know or understand us.
  • It can be a way of putting off necessary, but uncomfortable discussions/hashing out.
  • It can be a way of blocking healing.
  • It can be a way of not giving us a chance to know others thoughts, feelings, or intents and/or possible friendships.


I guess ultimately when debating whether to share our 'secrets' we have to consider the following:
  • Are we bottling up our thoughts in an unhealthy way which will lead to an eventually 'explosion' or 'crack-up'.
    • If so should we share the thoughts.
    • If so should we find another healthy outlet to express them or at least remove negative energy that they cause.
    • If so should we share them with the understanding that you have to crack a few eggs to make an omelette. 
  • Are we using discretion or just using the idea of 'discretion' as an excuse to avoid saying what we should.
  • Do our 'secret' thoughts, if shared liberally, add to or detract from healthy relationships.
    • Initially, they may or may not cause a disruption.
    • If there is an initial disruption as a result of sharing our secrets, will it ultimately create the space in which a healthier relationship is possible.

I'll be the first one to say that I don't always know when to open up and share my 'hidden' or secret thoughts and when it is best to realize discretion is the better part of valor.   Just some food for thoughts and questions to ponder when pondering about our 'secret' or hidden thoughts....



Saturday, April 14, 2018

Dread of getting older is dread of next day on steroids

I remember as a kid (or even as an adult), if I had a big day at school, a big race to run or a big meeting/deadline to meet and I didn't feel fully prepared or ready, I wouldn't want to go to sleep the night before.  Usually, I'd be thrust into dealing the dreaded situation shortly into the next day.  It was almost as if by staying awake later I could somehow avoid the having to 'face the music'.  Now my rational side told me that I couldn't hold off the next day and what it might hold.  Fighting it--sleep--could even leave me less alert and prepared for the next day.  I'm sure a lot of people can relate to this point.

However, it occurred to me recently that to the dread of getting older kind of mirrors that dread of the next day.  Only it is a more drawn out and in some cases more draining version of it.  I think in some cases it leads to people trying to stay young (keep the next days/months/years away). As my first blog in a good while I will keep this one short.



(POSSIBLE ISSUES WHICH MAKE US) DREAD OF GETTING OLDER


  • I don't want to face health issues that are in store for me.
  • I don't want to face the more common daily aches and pains and slower recover that is in store for me.
  • I don't want to be unsuccessful/irrelevant/out of touch.
  • I don't want to face my kids having to grow up.
  • I don't want to face the inevitably of my passing.
  • I don't want the memories of my youth and the good feelings to fade into the nothingness.

HOW WE DEAL WITH DREAD OF GETTING OLDER
  • Pretend to be younger (examples)
    • Buy a sports car and power through a drive that makes us feel alive.
    • Getting involved with younger people (not always appropriately) in an attempt feel like we are still relevant, likable or desirable.
  • Try to actually be younger (examples)
    • Get plastic surgery
    • Get hair plugs
    • Work out like the devil himself is chasing us.  
    • 'Improve' your diet in an extreme way.
  • Crawl under a rock or sit down in the rocking chair awaiting inevitable aging.
  • Appreciate the joys and benefits that you enjoyed in your younger years and realize that there are positives to getting older.

I don't want to end this on a 'dreadful note'.  So, I will make a list of the possible benefits of getting older as I close it out.


POSSIBLE BENEFITS OF GETTING OLDER
  • Wisdom.  A lifetime of knowledge and experience helps us to see things more clearly and potentially make better decisions.
  • Confidence.  Having faced many experiences and trials and having had time to see things for how they are, if we allow it, we can gain a confidence in our wisdom.
  • Success in parenting.  Seeing our kids successfully mold into productive members of society.
  • Achievements.  If we work hard in our youth, we can have a number of positive achievements to look back on.

I was heard a song from ABBA the other day.   I've always thought of the song from the perspective of the young girl.  But, this time I thought of it from the narrator.  In the song, the narrator, was speaking glowingly about a young girl who was having the time of her life on the dance floor.  As you might realize, I'm talking about Dancing Queen.  Anyway, it got me to thinking about getting older and looking back on youth feeling like I was drifting far from it.  Anyway, just an aside.

Hope you liked this post.

- Rich