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Sunday, November 17, 2019

Freedom: Part 1: Freedom At Last

Ever hear a song that you haven't heard in a while and for whatever reason it sticks in your mind for a while?   I don't know if it is an earworm at play, suddenly getting the meaning of it aka "really hearing it for the first time" or just the song having a meaning now that it didn't have when you previously had heard it.  I have Sirius XM and they change up some of the channels from time to time.  Recently, they made one of their channels to be the "George Michael" channel.  Whatever demons he had, he was a very talented singer and songwriter and I've always appreciated that.
Anyway, I heard his version of "Freedom" he wrote as part of Wham.  So, it got me to thinking what exactly is freedom?  Can something seem like freedom but is really a prison of sorts?  So, I pondered those two questions/thoughts as well as others and here is what I came up with.

THOUGHTS/DEFINITIONS OF FREEDOM
  • The ability to make your own choices/decisions (as opposed to being controlled or pressured to do something different).
    • That can mean not having to make a choice.
    • That can mean making a choice which you otherwise might not be able to.
      • Control can come from an outside source (others).
      • Control can come from an internal source (our hangups).
    • The can mean not being held back by ourselves/others.
  • The ability to be yourself or express yourself without recrimination or at least fear of the consequences of doing so.
    • Worrying less about what others think as we get older.
      • Often due to confidence gained from experience.
      • Often from contempt about being told 'what to okay to do or think', especially when it comes from those with much less life experience.
      • Often due to fatigue of expending the energy trying to worry about what others think.
    •  The ability to set better set aside or let go of worry about what others think.
      • Realization that you can't control what others think.
      • Realization that letting what others think gets in the way of being yourself can be harmful or toxic.
      • Realization that you'll never be able to please everyone, so you might as well be true to yourself.
      • Realization that life is too short and some things are just too important to let others dictate or overly influence you.
        • How we raise our children is a great example of this.  While we can heed what others say or take it into account.  We can't let others dictate how we parent.  Being paralyzed by what others think can get in the way of effective parenting.
  • Not having to rely on another.
    • For our material needs.
    • For our contentment or happiness
    • For our sense of purpose or being. 
  • Not having 'report' to another.
    • Could be an employer
    • Could be a parent or adult or someone who is in charge of you.
    • Could be a mate.
  • Nothing left to hold onto/nothing left to lose.  This one I will explore in another blog post.
  • Really just an illusion.
    • We always have someone we need to report to
      • Even a business owner will have to 'report' to his or has to answer to clients or potential clients.
      • Every year on our around April 15th-and for some more often-people have to report to the IRS.  
    • In our modern society, we will always have to rely on others. Examples include
      • Not everyone can raise their own livestock or farm for feed needs.
      • We don't have the ability to maintain or fix the roads we travel on in most cases.
    •  Freedom is rarely free
      • Each Memorial, Veteran's and Independence Day, we are reminded of the cost of fighting to achieve and retain our freedoms (life and death struggle).
      • Often we have to give up something to gain freedom.
        • Dying gives us freedom from pain and suffering
        • Lonliness and alienation from some of those around us can be the cost of freedom from a 'bad relationship'.
        • Financial hardship can result from being separated from a soul-sucking job.


Let's break some points down a little further.

Freedom From Control
  •  I think when mot people think of freedom, they think of not having to answer to someone or not having someone try to control you in some way.  That's easy to spot.  What is harder to spot is when is when you are in your own prison.  That is where you are beholden to your own demons or hang-ups.  
Freedom Is Being Yourself

  •  I believe history is littered with people who felt imprisoned to expectations of those close to them and society in general.  Whether we feel we cannot choose whom we couple with, what we should do with our lives, what we are allowed to think or express, or something else along those lines, being imprisoned to the expectations of others is hard on the soul.  Back in the day,  I've always been a very sensitive person and in some regards in the era I grew up in that was frowned upon as a guy.   I felt like there was a pressure to be 'macho' and not show 'weakness' or especially sensitivity.  The later for a guy was interpreted by some as a sign of homosexuality or at least being a 'sissy'.  I never saw and still don't see those things in myself, but as a teen wanting acceptance, I certainly didn't want to be pegged anything like that.   I liked what I liked.  I liked 'Wham!' and I think to a large extent people 'knew' George Michaels was gay.   I knew it wasn't the most macho music for a guy to listen to, but I liked it, but didn't brag about that.  I have realized over time that the fact that I like it was all that was important.  It didn't matter if it didn't fit the stereotype of 'dude' music.  It didn't matter if people mocked them (and by proxy) guys who might like it.  None of that mattered.  I like what I like and if others have a problem with it, well I might not be accepted, but if that's the price of acceptance, it's not worth it.   But as a guy with a very sensitive side, I knew I had to 'keep it hidden'.   Anyway, the freedom to be yourself is either the actually when you aren't criticized for being who you are OR it is the ability to move past caring or at least getting paralyzed by what others think. 

Freedom Is A Prison
  • You want to give up drinking, smoking, gambling, etc.   However, your spirit is trapped in rut where you feel compelled to feed your hang-ups.  As I alluded to earlier, this can be a prison of sorts rather than 'freedom'.  You may be old enough to engage in self-destructive and addictive behavior and you may even celebrate your 'freedom' to engage in certain behaviors.  But, in time what seemed like freedom really is imprisonment to your own demons.

Freedom Can Have A Cost
  • Like most things that matter in life, there is cost. To live a comfortable life, we typically have to work hard and sometimes long hours.  To do the best for our kids, we often have to sacrifice or set aside our own needs or wants.  Freedom is no different.  We may not have to go to the front line and put our life on the line, to ensure our (and others') freedom, but there is usually a cost.   If we are okay with being single, we may not have to 'answer to' a mate, but we may feel lonliness at times and we may give up the chance for a love connection.  We may be away from a toxic job that was hurting us mentally and/or spiritually, but it may come at a cost of a lifestyle we are used to.  We want the freedom to afford to travel where we want, but we have to sacrifice a lot of time on hard work to afford us the opportunity.  We have a 1st Amendment to speak our mind, we may not go to prison, but it can cost us things like our job and our friends.  There are countless examples, but the point is clear.  Freedom is not free.

There are many other possible takes on freedom I'm sure, but these are the ones that stand out to me.  As I think freedom means nothing left to lose needs a more of a treatment, I will leave that for later, but I think this covers a lot of ground.

Just my thought and I hope some of my takes get my readers to think about it.  Maybe come up with their own definitions and perhaps come up with a different take.  In any case, as I am ending this blog, feel free to spend your time on other things.  Maybe feel free to look at other blog posts.

Cheers,
Rich


Sunday, November 10, 2019

Rolling Stops: Skirting Along the Edge of Disaster

A counselor years ago told me that healthy people view bad choices or decisions as stop signs and take heed of them.   From what I understand, have heard and seen, a full-blown addict will either not see the stop sign, deny the stop sign exists or just resign themselves to the fact the 'brakes are shot' and not make a serious attempt to stop. 

That is to say, they
  • Will not see the choice or decision they are making as bad (delusional)
    • I'm stopping in for one drink to celebrate with friends.
    • They cannot see them that one drink leads to another and before you know it, you are being carried out drunk.
  • Will minimize the impact of the choices or decision they make (denial) 
    • No one will know if I lie/steal/cheat.
    • The problem is even if no one else knows--which often is no accurate anyway--such behavior changes who you are.
  • Will know the stop sign is there and say well there's nothing I can do anyway (resignation). 
    • What does it matter if I gamble my last bit of money, I'm screwed anyway.
    • They cannot see that even in a bad situation that looks hopeless, that you can make it worse.
    • This is fatalistic.

Like many people, I've done what law enforcement would consider a rolling stop.  After one particular time, it occurred to me, some people do actually see the rhetorical stop sign and heed it (mostly).   They know there is a stop sign and they know proceeding without hesitating or making an attempt to checking if it is safe to go into the intersection is bad.   They know it is a disaster waiting to happen.  So, they stop short of just running the stop sign and look out for oncoming traffic before finishing their pause.  In reality they are tempting fate.  That is to say, they catch the danger most of the time and are able to stop their momentum and do a complete stop if necessary.  However, it just takes one time of rolling at stop and misjudging traffic to get hit by another car they've missed after a quick glance.  To me this describes a person with some addictive or at-risk tendencies.  Like a recovering alcoholic who drives by a bar he used to frequent when he has an a good alternative route or a recovering gambler who carries too much cash on him as he passes by the casino, they are just asking for trouble.   They may be able to resist feeding their addiction, for a day, a week, a month or a year or more, but eventually they are a putting themselves in a dangerous position of relapsing.   Yes, they may be able to get away with their 'rolling stop' for a long while, but eventually they risk getting 'hit' by their addiction. 

As always my posts are a reflection of my experiences, the experiences of those surrounding me or my observations about the world that surrounds me and it they aren't meant to be considered scientific research or indisputable fact.  However, I am always hopeful that through my words, others will find comfort, relate-ability or just a different or new perspective.

Thanks for reading and remember: it is better to follow the 'rules' and always practice doing a full stop, so when it is time that it is absolutely necessary to do a full stop you will be so practiced at it, that you will be likely to make the wisest choice under pressure.

Cheers,
Rich


Sunday, October 27, 2019

Codependency and Letting it Go

As I have gotten older and have had time to process things in my own life and the world around me, I can come to understand things aren't always what they seem or at least there is a reason or backstory to it.   When discussing origins of codependency, if we are honest, I think we have to acknowledge our formative years are a big part of it.  In that vein, in discussing what I've learned in my own life, I have to revisit my formative years with my parents.   I always have hated when people go on a talk show and bash their parents as if their parents were big ogres who didn't care about them and ruined their lives.  Yes, I believe there are parents out there who are totally beyond the pale selfish and who never should have raised children.  However, I think in most cases parents, no matter how imperfect they are, at least try to be decent parents.  Unfortunately, many parents are a product of their own dysfunctional background.  In other words, they are at least somewhat broken.   If an artist with talent is given a fine brush, he or she is more likely to be able to produce a work of art than if he or she is given a coarse brush.  Similarly, I believe when critiquing a person's child-rearing actions, results and success, it it important to understand what tools he or she had to work with.  In this vein, I don't mean to be critical of my own parents in that regard.  They were a product of their own environment, but I have to acknowledge them to acknowledge origins of my own codependency.  Anyway, that's my disclaimer.

--

As a child of an an alcoholic father with anger problems, I was trained early on to find ways ways to keep the peace or at least to avoid 'problems' for myself.  It didn't help that my mom was codependent either. An alcoholic father and codependent mother was a combination that didn't always work well. In any case, doing my part to keep the peace meant things like:

  • Staying out of my parent's conflicts.
  • Avoiding Dad when he was in a bad mood.  Often that meant staying out of the way until he would go to work.
  • When confronted and challenged by Dad when he was angry
    •  Don't say too much.  The risk of saying the 'wrong thing' was not worth the grief that it could/would bring.  I had to determine if the confrontation was venting or an actual answer was expected.
    •  When I was pressed to answer, I sometimes felt the need to acknowledge he was correct.   The question, "Is that asking too much?", often would be met with a "No" just to avoid further trouble.
    • Other times, when pressed, I would carefully defend myself.  I would have to do things like
      • Explain that I misunderstood and it wasn't that I meant to not to listen to him.
      • Explain carefully how I did what was asked without coming across as challenging him as not getting it.
If it isn't obvious in each case, I was compelled to read the situation and respond in a way that wouldn't escalate the anger (at least that I thought wouldn't).  The irony about is I realized eventually that responding in a codependent way to a person with anger issue can be triggering for them, in which case, it's a no-win situation. However, I digress.

--

I have come to realize a few things about codependency and what it is and what it isn't.

What it is
  • Trying too hard to change another's opinion of you, instead of just being yourself.
  • Trying to control what other's think of you and/or how they behave to or around you.
  • Tailoring your words and actions in a way to get a hoped for response rather than it being the proper thing to do or say.
    • Hoped for praise (worship) or other similar positive feedback.
    • Hoped for freedom from criticism.
  • Shutting down your voice to avoid offending or upsetting another.
  • Conceding too much to avoid a fight, where it is appropriate to advocate for yourself.

What it isn't
  • Being considerate or taking the feelings of others into account.
  • Recognizing the right of others to have an opinion of you, even if you don't like it and/or believe it is wrong.
  • Showing that you'll advocate for or defending yourself.
  • Recognizing that some battles aren't worth fighting and opting out of them.  Sometimes, you recognize limitations in dealing with certain people in your sphere and it is fruitless to engage or 'fight' them.
  • Tailoring your behavior towards doing or saying the appropriate things because it is appropriate to do so.


In my opinion, getting rid of codependency means recognizing that while you can influence for or advocate for yourself, you cannot control what others think or feel about you.  It means living your life and engaging others in a way that is right and appropriate rather than manipulative, beneficial or just to avoid problems.



Friday, October 18, 2019

Being True To Yourself

Recently at my place of employment we were required to do some 'legal compliance' training.   One of the subjects was diversity training and more specifically recognizing implicit bias. That is to say bias about groups you don't necessarily recognize in yourself.  Project Implicit was the name tied to a number of different tests about implicit bias including ones related to:
  • Age
  • Race
  • Religion
  • Disability
  • Creed
I took one of the tests having a fairly good idea what my bias was already in that direction.  Sure, enough, the test confirmed what I suspected to be the case about my bias.  Ironically, my last blog was about Confirmation Bias and how I suspect many people have it, but it is directed towards how they view themselves.  Anyway, some people expressed a little surprise about an implicit or 'hidden' bias they had, but I wasn't one of them.  I pretty well knew where my biases lay.  To me an 'implicit bias' is usually one that you know on some level you have, but are unwilling to accept.  To me trying to deny a bias is a foolish endeavor.  Like many other aspects of our personality and self, I feel that we can work to be our better selves by recognizing and accepting our biases.  Only then can we determine if we should work on them and if so, how we can.   Like an addict who denies his or her addictive tenancies, a person who is unwilling to face their biases isn't giving themselves the chance to be their best self.

If I am an alcoholic but am not willing to recognize that, there is no way I can possibly recognize and accept the harm it is doing to my heath and/or my personal relationships.  Similarly, if I don't accept the biases that on some level that I know that I have, I can't be more open-minded in dealing with individuals (who fit the profile of my bias). 

But why do we deny our biases?

  • Societal shame - If enough people look down on you for a bias, you may not want to accept the bias as to do so might invite accepting the societal shame of the bias.
  • Personal shame - I believe most people like to think of themselves as logical, fair-minded, reasonable and just, even-handed followers of the gold rule.   To accept that we may be ruled by anything other than that, can indicate to ourselves a deep personality flaw.  No one wants to admit what they see as major personality flaws.
  • Moral high ground (virtue signaling) - It's kind of hard to hold the moral high ground when you are exposed as being biased, especially if it is a bias that society strongly condemns.  So, what do you do?  You pretend that the bias doesn't exist of course.

I believe no matter how much we try to hide or deny our biases, they do eventually come out.  You can only 'be' someone who you aren't for so long before you grow weary of it, emotionally and spiritually.  As the concept of 'implicit bias' indicates, biases may seep out in very subtle ways, but they do seep out.

Before, I close this blog post out, I do want to 'defend' biases.  Some biases are really not a big deal and some biases are useful for protecting yourself.
  • For example, you are biased toward buying fudge cookies as you expect that they will always taste better, in the big scheme of things it's probably not a big deal (unless you and your spouse are fighting over it). 😀 
  • For example, if you are a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, especially at the hands of a man, it is probably very reasonable that you'd be biased against males.  It's not that you believe all males are predators, but until you get to know them better, it could be seen as safe to keep your kids away from a 1-1 interaction with a grown male until you know him better.
If digging deep down in your soul, you realize and recognize harmful biases.  I don't believe you have to announce your biases to the world.  However, I think it is important, to acknowledge them to yourself so you can do any work you need to such that you are a logical, fair-minded, reasonable and just, even-handed follower of the gold rule.

Just some thoughts,
Rich

* Full disclosure.  I was molested as a child by two males.  Unfortunately, that pushed my trust factor of adult males way down.  But, as I realized long before I took the implicit bias test, pushed me towards a bias towards those of a sex-sex orientation, especially males.  Instead of denying it, I have taken a proactive stance.  Namely, I am very deliberate in my interactions with those I suspect of having a same-sex orientation.  I remind myself that there are bad people in the world of all orientation who would take advantage of others and that they didn't harm me.  I remind myself, they are just like everyone else trying to get by and trying to live.  In other words, if I feel a bias bubbling up, I work diligently combat it.  In some ways, I would like to think this could make me a better friend.  I am mindful of discrimination others face, I double-check my motives and I strive to be as fair as I can and I always, always seek to understand the individual not the group.

Anyway, that's all for now.



Sunday, September 22, 2019

Confirmation bias: When self-confirming becomes self-righteousness or self-loathing.

I previously wrote a post that touched upon what I refer to as negative narcissism (Positive narcissist vs. negative narcissist vs. balanced view).  Anyway, the upshot of it was that what people see as narcissism is someone who believes his or herself as beyond real criticism.  They are so focused on presenting a positive image of themselves to themselves and others that they cannot engage in legitimate self-reflection.   The idea of a 'negative narcissist' is someone who is so stuck on the idea that they are a bad person or devoid of positive value that they cannot or will not be able to legitimately be able to self-reflect either.

I decided to take this a step further based on another concept: confirmation bias.   I understand that to be taking events or circumstances and using them to further or confirm your point of view, even if it is not an accurate reflection.   Most of the time, I think it is used to confirm our thoughts on others.   That is, we have an opinion or take on someone(s) and something happens surrounding or involving them and that just confirms what we already 'know'.  For example, say we had a conversation with a friend that doesn't end on a good note (or at least that's what our perception is).   Say we don't hear from the friend for a few days, we might take the lack of communication as our friend being mad at us.  The reality might be a little different.  The friend might have just been venting and had to get off the phone abruptly.   In the meantime, he or she might legitimately be overwhelmed with work or family.

However, I thought about it the other day and realized we confirm our biases about ourselves too.   If we are a classical narcissist we notice an investment of ours is doing well.  We might already think of ourselves as very smart and savvy, warranted or otherwise.   Our observation that our investment is doing well is just a further confirmation to us how brilliant we are.   The reality might be that it is an up market and most everyone is doing well, but why bother us with the pesky facts.   Effectively we would be using confirmation bias to support our self-righteousness or self-praise.  Likewise, with a 'negative narcissist', a person thinks so little of his or herself and isn't inclined to entertain any positive feedback or point of view about themselves, that her or she will use circumstances or situations to 'confirm' how awful or irredeemable they are.  For example, we may be involved in an accident and the evidence points to the other driver being largely at fault, but we may have such a negative view of ourselves that we may decide independent of the evidence if we had just left earlier when we 'should have', the accident would have never happened.  In a way, we are blaming ourselves for the accident.   Effectively we are using confirmation bias to support our self-loathing.

My takeaways are the following:
  • Confirmation bias is not always directed outward, though most of the time I believe people think of it as such
  • Confirmation bias, whether directed inward or outward, is never a good substitute for proper reflection on circumstances.
Just my thoughts.  As always, if someone or someone(s) can get something from my posts, I feel like I've accomplished my role.

- Rich


Saturday, September 7, 2019

Evil has always existed

I have long been fascinated by the subject and history of WWII and the rise and fall of the Third Reich. Since I am far removed from the time period involved and especially since I did not have any direct connections in my family tree that I know of offhand, it is easy for me to study it in a detached way. This doesn't quite capture it, but consider when we drive by accident scene, we can't help but look, stare and gawk for a moment in morbid curiosity and try to discern what happened. If we figure out how it--the accident--happened. it may help to reinforce to us how not to drive. In any case, what makes Germany of post WWI to end of WWII intriguing is how a 'modern' society in human history allows itself to be the instrument of evil to the extent it did. While I believe that it is possible for evil to fully overtake a society in short order, I believe it is typically a gradual process.


The reason I named this blog as I did is that I believe evil has always existed in all of humankind or the potential or tendency to drift towards it as a society given the right circumstance. Think about it;
  • We see a small wad of cash on the ground, say maybe $100, $200 or more.  Even if we are honest, I believe that most people think for a moment about what they would do with it.  We may even do the honest thing and turn it in to the police or customer service.  But, I believe most people will hope that no one comes by to claim it and they get it to keep it.  I guess the point here is we fight the desire to have what we know is not ours.
  • We see a conflict off in the distance and it is clear someone is being beaten or otherwise wronged in a bad way.  Do we get involved to defend the target of it, do we reach out to the police or some other governing authority or do we just walk or drive away from it?  In question here is our willingness to put ourselves at risk or at least have to deal with the inconvenience of a situation which doesn't immediately involve us.
  • We ignore a law or rule because we think it is silly or isn't that big a deal.  Heck I speed everyday so there's that.
  • As a child we've gotten into or done something that we shouldn't have.  We know if we tell the truth to our parent or caregiver, there will be negative consequences for us.  But, we also know that if we are dishonest about it, there may be a chance that we are able to avoid any consequences especially if they believe our dishonesty.  
In these cases and many others there is the most proper way to act or be and there are less noble ways to act or be.  Think about it, even in an 'upright society' which strongly suggest golden rule values, people fight the right vs. wrong fight every day.  Now consider if a society has leadership whose priorities are out of whack.  As individuals, we face a challenge to exercise our better nature, with some more successful than other in that regard.   We sometimes face the challenge too of recognizing our better nature. Meaning, not just thinking we are doing right, but also recognizing what is right.  Imagine if you have leadership with very corrupt, if not downright evil priorities.  Imagine too that the leadership is good at masking their intentions too at least until it is too late to effective combat it (as in Nazi Germany).


Anyway, given our split nature.  The right vs. wrong and in a more extreme view, good vs. evil, why don't we just serve our 'wrong' nature more when it often seems to be more beneficial.  In other words, what keeps our 'wrong' or 'evil' behavior at bay?  Some of  the things I believe that keep us in check are as follows:
  • Laws/rules that strictly lay out what is poor behavior and likely punishment for it.  In other words, in the short term, poor behavior may seem benefit us, but with rules and laws that are enforced, we realize that poor behavior may not pay.
  • Faith that gives us a code of proper behavior and that indicates that we will be rewarded or punished for good or bad behavior in this life (or sometime beyond).  In other words, a spiritual ledger.
  • People's desire for approval and a society with leaders/influencers approve the good behavior. I believe people are social creatures and as such seek to approval from others.   If those who influence or lead us reward us with approval or acceptance for upright behavior, we are more likely to engage in such.  Inversely, if they seem to approve poor behavior, members of society will likely engage in poor behavior.

In Nazi Germany, over a period each of these 'obstacles' was overcome.  Hitler participated in a putsch designed start an insurrection.  It failed miserably and he was arrested.   After appealing to the patriotism and resentments of those who judge him, he was able to get a light sentence.  Instead of recognizing Hitler for the threat he was or could become, they convinced themselves it was okay to bend the rules and limit the punishment.   Instead of punishing poor behavior, they effectively rewarded it by giving him a light sentence for his crime.  When he rose to power, Hitler continued a pattern of rewarding poor behavior that he approved of, instead of punishing it.   Hitler, through effective propaganda wash able overcome the spiritual ledger by co-opting elements of existing religious structure in Germany and by creating a sort of quasi-religion of his own.  In Hitler's Germany, his leadership sought the approval of the Fuhrer and as such they engaged in behavior which they felt that he would approve us.  Unfortunately, for all involved instead of rewarding morally good behavior, Hitler tended to reward evil behavior.   Similarly, in part fearful and impart wanting to gain approval, citizens would ignore or even justify the poor behavior of leadership in Nazi Germany or even in some cases condoned if not participate in it themselves.

People look back on Nazi Germany and think evil like that couldn't happen in a modern society these days.  But, with our individual battles to always do the right thing, to resentments or prejudices many have, to our desire to gain approval which can be flipped and our desire to the do morally right thing which also if we are not careful can be flipped as well, I do believe great evil is a risk even in our more modern society.   Jim Jones, David Koresh and many others have shown that even 'good' people can be corrupted, all the while they think they are doing right thing.

I believe we always need to be on guard individual, as groups and as a society and examine:
  • Are we willing to or honest enough to properly recognize upright behavior?  If so, are we willing to reward it when it occurs--recognizing good deeds and honesty?  
  • Are we willing to or honest enough to properly recognize poor behavior?  If so, do we have the stomach to punish poor behavior appropriately or do we ignore it because punishing it might have a cost? 
  • Are we tailoring our beliefs of what is upright behavior to fit our lives OR are we willing to admit when we fall short and not change the definition of what is upright behavior to rationalizing our falling short?  In other words, are we adjusting our 'faith' to fit the circumstances?
  •  Are we putting the need for approval over the need to always do the right thing?
  •  Our motivations for our  decisions, choices and our behavior.

I believe evil has existed since the dawn of man and will exist as long as humankind, as it is, exists but we don't have to give into it.   However, we must be mindful of the tendency for good and bad in all.  We must also be determined to self-examine and be willing to do the right thing or behave in way that we know in our heart is the right way.

Just my thoughts. I don't claim to have anywhere near all the answers, but I enjoy being part of the conversation and hope my posts spur others to think about the things which I write on.   Take what you need and leave the rest.

- Rich

Monday, August 19, 2019

Certain about Certainty...

I had a relatively certain life for the first decade of the 2000s.   I had my first house for most of the decade, I had steady employment for whole decade, all of my immediate family was still alive and I would regularly hang out with the same set of friends and my credit was good, and when I had my daughter in 2007, I saw her every day.

One by one, each of the dominoes fell, first my company announced they were closing down the local office, the my first marriage was disintegrating before my eyes, then my brother took his life,  my marriage for all intent and purposes ended shortly thereafter leading to the loss of seeing my daughter daily, the loss of my house, eventual bankruptcy and the passing of my father and mother as the 2010s got well under way.   Suffice to say, my sense of certainty had been shattered.   I've had other periods of uncertainty in my life which I can draw upon as well, but I digress...

I've heard from, observed and read about others about certainty and uncertainty in their lives and I've come to realize not everyone responds in the same way to certainty.  Likewise, not everyone responds the same way to uncertainty.
  • If your life has been riddled with uncertainty.
    • You may long for certainty and become comfortable with it and finally at ease when you feel it.  Some people just long for the 'day' in which they can feel stability.
    • You may be very uncomfortable with certainty and struggle with accepting or believing it is authentic.  In other words, adapting to it may prove difficult.  
      • The ironic thing is often the ones who longs for certainty may be the same people that don't believe or recognize it when they start to experience it. 
      • It is almost as if they've faced uncertainty for so long that they are just waiting for the other show to drop.
      • In some cases they can sabotage the positive certainty they have so that they are left with the the 'certainty of uncertain' or negative certainty that they are used to.
    • It may feel like the 'normal pace of life'.  We can be comfortable with what we know even if it is far from perfect--like a well worn shoe.   See the third point about sabotage.
    • It may feel like a positive driving force.  Uncertainty can be a motivator. 
  • If you have always had certainty
    • A lack of it at points may be scary or threatening.
    • It can lead to feelings of  monotony, boredom or purposelessness.  That is it may feel same ole, same ole and/or stale.  
    • It may feel like you've never really taken a chance or risk.
      • You might be too afraid of upsetting what you know to take a chance.   Another way of saying this is you might become too complacent.
      • You might feel the need to take a chance before the opportunity slips away.
    • Spontaneity or uncertainty may feel like an exciting change of pace.  
      • It may make you feel like you are truly alive as opposed to just living.
      • It may feel like 'stepping outside the lines' or moving the boundaries rather than just 'coloring within the lines'.
  • If you've had a life-changing events which shattered your certainty.
    • It could either push you harder to seek or keep certainty in other areas.
      • In my life, my daughter saw less of me due to a divorce.  When she was around me, she stayed close for a while rarely straying too far from me.  She had terrible separation anxiety when I dropped her off at child care.
    • Situations that previously would have appeared to have certainty, you would tend to question their certainty (or relative permanence).
      • You have a loved one unexpectedly die, the other things you took for granted as 'permanent' such as living somewhere, you may expect that will change as well.

Ultimately, I believe at some point we all realize life is full of uncertainty.  Even when we think we have it figured out, we eventually will get thrown a curveball which will give lie to the myth of certainty in our lives.  As a Christian, I believe we have hope for ultimate certainty if we accept God's will, way, and grace in our lives.  We may not have the certainty we wish for in this life, but I believe that in the next we can have that.  But, in the meantime, we have to learn to accept and perhaps live with the uncertainties in this life.   Of this, I am certain.



- Rich