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Thursday, November 15, 2018

Mission Accomplished: Declaring victory too soon.

Few people ever want to admit defeat.  People generally want to think well of themselves (unless they are what I call a negative narcissist), but I digress.  People generally want to think reasonably well about themselves.   Sometimes that means ignoring your flaws and seeing an inflated view of yourself, that is to say they are a narcissist.  History is littered with tyrants who justified their tyranny because they were serving the greater good--Hitler is probably the most well known.  Sometimes that means measuring their flaws against their good points and concluding their good points exceed that of their flaws.  We see that in politics, where people who have used bad judgement in their life or made mistakes survive their negatives and go on to become successful and well thought of.  Sometimes, it means working on your flaws or failings and 'overcoming' them or achieving victory over them.  We see that in the friend who puts down the bottle for good, the parent who does a better job with their second or third kid or the felon that who finds peace in their faith and makes something of themselves once they are out of prison.

The focus of this post is those who know they have difficulties, flaws or failings and see themselves as overcoming or having overcome them.   Sometimes if we tie our worth too much to our 'issues', then we create an incentive to 'declare victory' prematurely.  I believe everyone has examples from their own life or from those close to them.   I will list examples or cases I've seen.

Declaring victory too soon
  • In my post, #MeAsWell: For What It's Worth, I detail sexual abuse I faced as a child.  In my mind despite some hiccups, I had successfully made it into adulthood gainfully and successfully employed most of the time.  I had bought a decent house in a good part of time, had a nice car, was married and was well on my way to parenthood.  In other words, the American Dream.  I had convinced myself and the few others around me that knew about it that I had survived and escaped the damage of my childhood, despite the fact that I'd never sought counseling for it.  The signs of 'success' were there, so hey...    Meanwhile, I had a generalized anxiety disorder raging since 17, I had a problem trusting people--even those close to me and my behavior didn't always measure up to the standards that my faith would imply.  Anyone who knows me, realizes that eventually like any great fa├žade, eventually the truth has an ugly way of rearing its head.   The truth was that I had never really fully healed from the abuse during my adolescence.   The distrust, the anxiety, the flaws eventually came to a head and by 2011, the signs of success had largely been swept away like a sign on the beach during a hurricane.  House, marriage, job, etc. were no more.
  • I had a friend who had a heroine addiction.  I stood by that friend as long as I could.  I saw her successfully complete a stint at a drug treatment center.  I heard her hopefulness that she was done with it.   In short, she was seeking to declare victory.   Supposedly she was clean (at least for a short time) beforehand, she died in an auto accident.  Her life had spiraled out of control and at the very least I think she was very fragile by that point.  I'd seen another friend successfully through detox and sobriety for alcoholism, so I thought too that she'd make it.  I didn't realize at the time how addictive and deadly heroine is/was and was fooled into being optimistic.
  • I've seen someone I dated push aside anger, grief and other such feelings and claim she was fine and didn't need counseling.  Yet, every time things she faced adversity she could be seen running to grief and regret that she couldn't help her mom avoid dying young from pneumonia. 

I think for most of us, if we honestly into our lives, we can find area or two in our lives in which were have 'declared victory' too soon.  That is to say, we think we are not in as good of a place as we would like to believe we are.  That's not to say that everyone is totally screwed up or has areas in their life which hold them back excessively.  However, I think it is safe to say that most people have areas in their life in which they can improve on.  I believe sometimes it is easier to 'declare victory' than to do the hard work of self-improvement.   

Just my 1/50th of a $1 for the day.  

Cheers from a snowy day in the Gateway to the West.

 

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

#MeAsWell: For What It's Worth

I have always had an interest in human nature.  I've always been fascinated in what makes people tick.   For whatever reason, I was a very sensitive kid and am a sensitive adult--which can lead to understanding or being able to read people/situations, but it also can lead to getting hurt more easily.  But, I digress.   I took an interest specifically in human nature as it relates to codependence and addiction as both hit close to home.  I've experienced addiction and/or codependence, from multiple perspectives--firsthand, as a survivor and as an observer.  So, I figured I could understand and intelligently talk about the subject matter.  Maybe a little bit of hubris, but you talk about what you are confident talking about.


Many of my blog posts are insights from watching others and the world around me.   However, some are from personal experiences--a few of which are deeply personal.  Anyway, when I do decide to share insight from (deep) personal experience, I do with it the goal of helping others. I hope they can  use what I share to relate to, identify with or gain knowledge from what a lifetime of experience has taught me.   I am not one who is prone to 'brag' about or verbally vomit my life story on Facebook  or other social media. So, I when I share deeply personal experiences, it is mostly with the hope that it is benefiting others.  Perhaps to a degree, sharing can give me a fuller opportunity to process or even heal a little bit, but I do sincerely hope I can help others.

What I am about to write as you might imagine has weighed on me for a lifetime and I've shared bit and pieces with those closest to me that I trust.  However, I haven't openly shared it for public consumption or even necessarily fully.

So, what are we talking about?  Good question.  I figured one day after my parents were gone, I'd write about my experience as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse (CSA).  I mean my experiences at the time and the effect it has had since. This as you might imagine is not an easy subject for me to write.  My intent is not to throw anyone under the bus or to humiliate or shame anyone living or dead.  For this reason, I didn't tell this story publicly until after both of my parents were gone.  Furthermore, there are some details I will leave out.

Why now? 


  • My parents are gone.
  • I feel it's part of the healing process.
  • The #MeToo movement has helped reduce the stigma of sexual abuse.
  • I want people to realize or not to forget that #MeToo is not or should not be limited to one type of abuse/circumstance.  It happens across all types of gender and age bounaries.
  • Why not, if I can help others relate, understand or become aware of warning signs (before or after abuse), then my unfortunate experiences will not have been in vain.

---


Let's start with what I do know:
  • My dad struggled with demons of alcohol and probably abuse too, sexual and otherwise.  I was shocked a few years before he died when discussing the subject with him, he said to me, "Well how do you think I learned?"   Wow.   
  • My mom struggled with codependence.  She just had always wanted to be accepted and loved and sometimes was a bit obvious with it.
  • My mom was a stay-at-home mom at least until I was a teen.
  • My dad was a workaholic and spent a lot of time when he wasn't working drowning his demons with alcohol.  I'm sure there was probably more to the story, but you know, not everything is told.
  • My parents raised six kids with my dad being gone a lot and my mom being the one had to deal with six kids.
  • Home life was dysfunctional.
  • There was not enough money (at least left after demon drowning) to attend to our basic needs such as decent clothing, not to say anything of our wants.
  • I was bullied as a child.
  • Let's be charitable our house growing up was neglected.
  • I remember my dad having girly magazines from as long as I remember.

I will not speak for others in my family who may have suffered abuse as well with the exception of my late brother where he talked a little bit to me about it.  I am not one to gossip, nor is it my right to speculate or write on the subject matter for others.  I speak only for myself.  That being said as you will read, I have reason to suspect that others in the family were harmed.


Against the backdrop of a dysfunction family, parents with their own issues, my emotional needs not being met and being shunned at school, it is easy to see that I was an at-risk youth.   There were two people that I was aware of that sexually abused me as a child.  One I will not speak about directly, but let's just say I was it was an older adolescent whom I looked up to and whom was likely abused himself.   The second one was an adult, a 'church camp counselor'.  Some of my older siblings went to a church camp which my church at that time participated in.  They had met this guy named Rick (and yes that's his actual name).  He's the reason when I am called 'Rick", I cringe and hate it.

I don't know the precise point in time, but from what I can piece together, they had met this guy during the summer after I was 8, though it could have been the one before I was 8.  Anyway, this guy was associate with another church in our area (as I found out later) and somehow had weaseled his way into getting to be a camp counselor for the boys.  Anyway, some of my older siblings had mentioned about this guy and how he seemed like a nice guy and all.  Well, as I would later figure out predators tend to be attuned to at risk kids/families.  Anyway, Rick weaseled his way into my family first through older siblings and then getting the okay to spend time with us by my parents.  It is easy to question, "Where were my parents?" but I realize that this situation occurred long before the 'priest' sexual abuse and similar scandals surfaced.  This was a time in which we could leave our front door unlocked and even open without having to worry about being attacked.   In other words, a simpler world, a world in which having a having an adult male mentor aka Big Brother, especially one who professed to have good Christian values was seen as a unmitigated positive. 

So, Rick came to spend time with us, really he seemed to take special interest in the boys in my family and pretty well ignored the girls.  Perhaps should have been red flag number one, I don't know.  So, my dad worked a lot and had issues with the bottle and all that came with it.  My mom had her hands full with six kids. So, having someone to help was probably considered a blessing.  From my perspective as a kid, I was getting picked on at school, I felt shunned because I presented as poor and coming from a family with issues, I had few friends, didn't get the good dad time and felt like I couldn't bring anyone over do to a neglected house.  So, to me, I was grateful to have an adult willing to listen to me, who seemed to understand me and seemed to like me and be nice.

  Anyway, I don't know when it started, but I would guess between 8 and 9, he started grooming me.  I don't remember the sequence of events exactly, but if I had to guess based on my knowledge of what grooming is, he probably first talked to me and made me feel important, touched me on my shoulder or something 'harmless', rubbed my back, or eventually reached my privates--I'm still disgusted by saying this.  Let's just say, he probably 'got something out of it' if you know what I mean.  This happened at my parents house and and at a later point, why he was gracious enough to invite me over to his place.  I remember this continued until some time after puberty.  Some kids get sex education or spoken knowledge from their parents, some get it from a film at school, unfortunately, I was treated with this education first hand with a predator.  To this day, I am still humiliated by this.  Let's just say there is a word that people use to discuss 'sexual self-love' and he involved me in that and showed me things.  To this day, I cringe at the word and idea.  I don't know what if anything else more invasive happened than what I have mentioned.  Near the end of his time in my life, three things of note happened:
  • My late older brother Bill, God rest his soul, was treating Rick like a jerk (at least that's what I thought at the time).  I understood later and Bill told me later he was putting it all together and that he was upset because he wasn't sure what all Rick had done to him.  In hindsight, Bill was protecting us and I suspect his intervention helped lead to Rick backing out of the picture.
  • In the process of a call with Rick one time, he said more or less that he could called Child Protective Services (or whatever it was called then) on my parents and have us kids removed from our parents.  I don't remember him saying to hush about what had happened, but that would be the implication.  Obviously, I know now that a man preying on children probably wouldn't want to draw attention to himself that way, but back then it was a threat that I didn't understand.  Why was Rick saying that? 
  • When I was a freshman in high school I got a call from a 'long lost friend'.  His call was about as welcome as wetting the bed a couple years after I thought it ended.  Maybe that was a reason I had a problem with bedwetting, who know?  Anyway. I handed over the phone to a sibling and said, "Could you deal with this?"  That was the last time I heard from him.

The incidents with the older adolescent stopped when I was 17.   They seem to start around near the time that Rick had weaseled my life and were similar in level.  Let's just say, when I was 17, I was sleeping one time and came to find myself starting to be used a certain way that has the initials for Billy Joel.  I was too intimidated to stand up for myself and pretended to be asleep.  That was the last time I was taken advantage of, and definitely by a guy.

I will leave it at that.  I wasn't 'prison raped' to the best of my knowledge, but obviously just short of that.


--

I told my story above, as much as it made me cringe, because I felt it was time. Over time I've put it together and realize the long-term impact it has had.  So, it is time to share that from my perspective.  In no particular order:

  1. I was sexualized very early.  I didn't have the luxury of normal self-discovery, but it was forced on me.   As you might imagine this led to problems in my teens and into my adulthood.  It has led to unhealthy relationships and mistakes in and out of relationships.  It has led to an excess focus in my life upon sexuality.
  2. I got approval when as a kid, "I allowed myself to be used".   For a long time I saw myself as allowing sexual misconduct. In other word, Rich if you had been stronger, you would have put a stop to it.  But, they don't call it the 'age of consent' for no reason.  Kids, especially, but not limited to preteens are not expected to have the wisdom, judgment or power (physical or emotional) to make those kind of determinations or be able to be able fight back against those who would take advantage of them.
  3. My sense of my orientation was messed up.  I think to some degree over the years, this has probably led me to 'prove' myself.  After all, I didn't 'stop' same sex predators from taking advantage of me, so maybe I was 'okay' with it.  I'm not here to judge or condemn others for their orientation or lifestyle, so don't get my wrong. However, a kid shouldn't have those issues thrown in their face, especially without consent.   However, I realize now that my questions about my own orientation were totally unfounded. 
  4. I was concerned that perhaps I'd could turn into into that which I fell victim to.  I think there is a tendency (or at least there was) for people to presume that childhood sexual abuse survivor (CSA) will be at high risk of becoming a perpetrator themselves.   I was oversexualized very early and a teenager and probably gave off those vibes in spades.  I felt dirty, naughty, 'perverted', etc.  I realized when I was in my early to mid 20s and was around kids, especially my young niece, and felt nothing but love and wanting to protect her, that my fears  were totally unfounded.  If anything, I came to realize what happened to me made me more likely to a) never want a kid to be harmed, b) be aware of what harms kids, and c) never want to be remotely perceived as being anything but appropriate.  When I was dating someone and she told her mom about what happened to me.  She expressed that her mom was concerned that kids who are abused turn out to be abusers.  I felt victimized again.  Not only was I abused as a child but I was portrayed as a potential predator that way.   It felt like a huge slap in my face and disregard for what I'd learned from being a survivor of CSA.
  5. Major, major, major, I can't stress how much I mean major distrust of people, especially males.  I was 'taught' at an early age that people act like they like you, but end up only liking you for what you can do for them or what they can 'get' from you.  Getting bullied as a kid and having an 'old school', deal with it, often insensitive male role model didn't help. However, from what I know now, my dad was only following the example he was set (and probably was abused himself).  Anyway to this day, if I sense a male is seriously trying to take advantage of me in any way or trying to negatively affect my life, I get POed.  I can accept and forgive a lot.  Even if they would never be able to find out that I  privately forgave them, I forgave those whom hurt me sexually as a I child.  However, my biggest pet peeve is arrogance, especially from a male, when it is utilized to 'get something' or take advantage of myself or my loved ones.  That's a hard thing for me to swallow.  I'd hate to be a future boyfriend of my daughter who thinks I will tolerate that for a moment.
  6. I find it hard to give up control--including affection.  Unfortunately for my wife, I cringe often when she gives me a friendly rub on the arm or something like that.  The loss of control in such a personal area of one's life as a kid, can fuel a need to 'control' that area in later life.  That's a hard thing to fully recover from.  It is second nature her to show positive attention that way and unfortunately, sometime I have to remind her that that can be uncomfortable for me. 
  7. My self-blame for what was done to me, unfortunately made me susceptible to always blaming myself for my failures (or what I saw as my failures).  It's proper to take blame for a failures when they actually are things you really shouldn't have done or for those things which you really should have been more cautious about.  But, beating yourself up for being too different personality-wise than someone your dating, for example, is a sign of being way too critical of yourself.
  8. Generalized anxiety disorder.  Anyway, who has this knows this can at times be debilitating.  I used to have occasional panic attacks as late teen/early adult.  Confidence and experience have led to me being able to overcome those, but not the generalized anxiety.

Some of these things, I put to rest, like questions about orientation or the risk of me becoming like those hurt me.  Other things I have made progress with including self-blame. But, some things like giving up control, I still struggle with.


I guess the takeaway I have to give from my own CSA survivor experience and to some degree from that of others that I have known:


Beware of the signs of a predator:
  • If a grownup takes what feels like an inordinate amount of interest in your kids, beware.  I'm not talking about someone who loves kids.  I'm talking about someone who tries TOO hard to relate to them and seems TOO eager to try to gain their acceptance.  That could be a huge red flag.  I believe this is usually a you'll know it when you see it sort of thing.  In other words, don't accuse in your mind anyone who gives kids positive attention, but if it seems way off, there is a good chance that it is.  While, it is important not to make accusations or suggestions lightly, it is also important not to dismiss them because 'it couldn't happen' or 'he or she isn't the type'.
  • If someone, especially a grown-up seems too willing to be too affectionate with them, beware.  I'm not talking about a pat on the head or a quick warm hug.  I'm talking about more drawn out and more methodical or more blatantly obvious affection.  Once again, this is an area in which it is important not to make accusations or suggestions lightly or blow affection out of proportion--especially when the giver is a close relative.   However, it is just as important not to automatically dismiss out of hand either.  A parent or caregiver who is open-minded, I believe can usually differentiate on what is 'too much affection' as given by another towards their kid.
  • If someone, especially, a grownup seems to want to spend too much time with them, especially alone time, beware.  This can be true for those whom they are related too (formally or not), but it can also be true with a relative stranger as well.  I remember in my own situation, Rick, when he was in his 'predator zone', would tend to only want one of us immediately around.  I didn't put it together at the time, but it makes sense now.

Be aware of the signs of CSA.
  • A kid is unnaturally inappropriate.  I'm not talking goofy giggly talk of preteens of silly immature talk of kids hitting puberty or locker room talk of boys wanting to fit in.  I'm talking where you sense a child is way too focused on sexuality.   This doesn't mean automatically they have been sexualized early, but it can be a HUGE red flag. 
  • If a kid shuts down or their behavior suddenly changes.  In other words, they seem to be in protective mode or they seem darker in personality than usual.  This can include their seeming complete disinterest or even distaste for dating.
  • A kid spends too much time trying to be private or trying to keep everything private from parents and others.  Kids need their space to figure themselves out and they need their space to develop healthy relationships.  However, CSA can cause kids to become more curious at an early age.  A huge boundary has been crossed with CSA and therefore, crossing other boundaries such as porn and early sexual involvement with other kids probably isn't as taboo for them that it should be.  They know it's 'taboo', but they also have been taught on some level that boundaries are flexible anyway.  To get over this conflict, kids they can resort to hiding their 'taboo' behavior.  A sign of this can be an excessive need for privacy and to 'hide' their behavior from parents.

Be aware of the long-term affects
  • Distrust of others, especially of, but not necessarily limited to those in authority.  After all, CSA is usually, but not always perpetrated by an authority figure who should have been trustworthy.
  • Sexual dysfunction.   Either too sexual or completely closed off sexually.
  • Relationship problems including mistaking sex for love.  After a CSA survivor was 'taught' that positive attention that way means that they are loved or appreciated.
  • Disregard for consequences of their actions at times.  This can include legal consequences, but I'm not specifically meaning that.  The concept is a huge barrier was blown through early on, often without consequences for the one(s) who did it.  This can send a message that barriers are a speed limit sign.  That is something should be followed, but which is largely ignored by many, if not most people.  After all, their own boundaries have not been respected, so what do boundaries matter anyway  In my own life, it took getting older, having a child and my brother Bill's suicide to bring me to maturity in some ways. 
  • Long-term anxiety (if not dealt with early).
  • Self-doubt.  Why did I allow this to happen.


The best thing we can do as parents is to be engaged with our children.  We can't always protect them but at least if we are engaged, we give them a better chance of being protected.  The better we know our kids, the better we can protect them or become aware more quickly if they are in danger or have been harmed.

I hope and pray my story has been helpful to at least a handful of people who may have read this.

Thanks, for spending your team reading part of my life's story and what it taught me.

-- Rich

* Why did I put #MeAsWell?  I think the whole #MeToo thing has been politicized too much and I'm not interested in making a political statement.  I'm not bashing #MeToo as there is so much bravery in #MeToo.  I just wanted to go a different route.

* I picked this song because, while it doesn't speak of CSA, the sense I get with this song is a loss of innocence of a generation.  Obviously, I can relate.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Walking in other people's shoes, when they are wearing boots and 'heroism'

When sharing situations or story with others, I've noticed that most of the time people usually are pretty good about listening.  From my experience, when people try to relate, their attempt is usually well meaning,  accepted and appreciated.

However, I've seen and experienced and probably been guilty of one or both of the following sins:
  • Try too hard to relate, especially where it is impossible to relate.
  • Expressing 'my experience' in a way that could be seen as 'one-upping'.
I refer to the first 'sin' as "walking in other people's shoes when they are wearing boots".   The idea being that you might be able to understand or related on some level to what another is saying--walking in their shoes--but that their circumstance is different enough--they are wearing boots instead of their shoes--that you wouldn't be able to get the same feel for their circumstance by just 'walking in their shoes'.

I refer to the second 'sin' as 'heroism' because whether the intention is pure or not, if you are not careful in relating and tell about 'your difficult circumstance', it could be seen as saying to the other person (condescendingly) that 'your problem is bad, but let me tell you about the time when I...".  In other word, "I've had to deal with worse" or "I dealt with it better".  
  • You could be trying to help them 'understand' that their problem 'isn't all that bad' and is 'survivable' based on your experience.  While there MAY be some truth to this, if handled wrong this could effectively dismiss their concern out of hand rather than letting them express it.  Maybe they just need to talk and get it out of their system to realize "you know it really wasn't that big of a deal".  Your motive is pure, but it isn't exactly what is useful to the other party at that time.
  • You could say it out of an impure motive--exasperation, jealousy, etc--and effectively shutting them down and telling them to suck it up.  While this may feel good at the moment when you are frustrated, it doesn't necessarily lead to a great relationship.   I believe when you are getting to this point, 'listen' as much as possible, help where feasible and when it is too much or what you think as ridiculous just tell them, "I wish I could be more helpful" and quietly extract yourself from the situation where possible to not make it worse. 

Having said all that, I realize as a parent that sometimes when a kid is being irrational there are time and a place to not 'humor' their thinking/worry.  There are times and places, when you just have to face their circumstance completely logically, despite a desire not to.  They are times and places also where you have to give them context.   The way I try to handle this is letting them know that their concerns or worry is legitimate and but that in the big scheme of things they are still in a good place. For example, if a kid (or an adult for that matter) says, "my life is horrible" and just refuses to acknowledge that the good they have, point out as bad as things may be there are people in this world who are too busy trying to survive to have the luxury of worrying about what they are.  It isn't to dismiss their worry/concern, but to let them know, let's keep it in perspective.


I look at it this way, I believe my Higher Power, God, hears my prayers and concerns and provided my motives are proper He will address them and not dismiss them.  In other words, while He may not see it as a big deal or big issue, He knows it is to me.  Sometimes addressing my concerns  will not mean trying to 'solving' them, but showing me a different perspective.  In my faith, God, in the form of His Son, has walked in my shoes and he has faced everything we have.  He lets me know that, but He doesn't impose His 'experience' on me, but rather let's me know that he has been there.




Lest it seem like I am saying, do not try to relate, I believe the furthest thing from that.  It is important to relate and try to empathize with others.  But, IMHO, it is also important to remember the limitations of 'relating'.  



  • Sometimes, you are missing key differences that make your situation different enough than theirs as to be not exactly relateable.
  • Sometimes, even if you can relate, sometimes people need to experience a situation as theirs first, regardless, process it, mourn it if necessary.  Only then they may be in a better place to hear that they aren't the only ones to be in that situation/circumstance. 
  • Sometimes, they need a different person, closer to their age or or just an outsider, for example, to relate.  This I believe is hard for parents to accept.
  • Sometimes, they need to hear how you can relate, but they need to hear it at at different time or with a lighter touch such as "I don't know if this helps at all or is anything like..." vs. "I understand". 

I guess the best advice, is to be pure in your motives in listening, attempt to be mindful of what others need and try to give them what you can, understanding that not everyone is open to hearing your words.


Monday, September 10, 2018

Doing It My Way: Is It The Best Way or The Best Way For You?

As a parent, a significant other, part of a larger family and employee, over time, I've seen people of all ages and situations insist things be done their way as their way is the best way (or the only good way) and made some observations.

Sometimes the way people insist or wish to do something is based on their comfort zone.  I've previously dealt with the subject of people having their comfort zones and how it relates to relationships.    That is, the place where others, especially a significant other, doesn't agree with your way, but gives you the space to do it your way because that's the way your are comfortable doing it.

If a partner's comfort zone in a relationship is say staying out all night, going who knows where, not making themselves available and coming back home with clues that they haven't exactly been well-behaved; having them do it there way might just be a bit problematic.   But, I'm really addressing the more day to day/getting along concerns.  In that vein, here are a few things to consider in determining if each other's way is suitable for your relationships.
  • Is there only one good way to accomplish or do something or more?
    • There are many different variations and ways of  making lasagna.  Some recipes may deemed better than others, but there are a number of recipes that will allow you to make a good lasagna.  Insisting on one way in this case, could be be being unnecessarily strict.
    • To go from O'Fallon, Missouri to Columbia, Missouri there is really one one good path.  That is to say, the best and only practical way is to drive I70 West.  Insisting on going that route vs. another could be considered being sensible vs illogical.
  • Is it a matter of comfort only--the way one is used to--or is it a matter of not being wired to accomplish the goal a different way?
    • The cooking examples:  Some people are just not very good at cooking complex dishes. You can walk them through cooking a complex dish step by step, but for whatever reason, they will not be able to navigate it successfully.  In other words, while they can cook, but cooking is not one of their strength. So, trying to push them too hard to cook anything more than a simple dish will probably end up in frustration for everyone.
    • Conversely, sometimes a person has never effectively been shown or told how they can do something more effectively, but it is well within their capacity to do it successfully. For example, if you aren't used to packing for vacations, you may not really know the most effective way of packing.  That very well could be something within your abilities, but just something you haven't had enough guidance/practice to do effectively.
  • Is doing the goal a different/'less effective' way risky or otherwise problematic or is it just a big deal to the your other party?  
    • For example, if time isn't an issue, you might feel more comfortable driving a certain route.  It may not be the most efficient, but really if it doesn't add too much time or distance, what does it really matter?   It may matter to the other party who doesn't approve of it, but isn't that more on them?
    • Conversely, you might under great pressure to be somewhere at a certain time and the only way to ensure that you reach your destination on time is to go a certain route.  In that case, it makes sense for your other party to insist you take that route vs. an alternative route you might prefer.
    •  Another example is determining whether loading up the car a certain way risks damaging the contents you packed or is it just not necessarily the most space efficient, when space isn't an issue?  In the first case, it could/would be best to insist that the packing is done differently.  In the second case, it might not be that big of a deal and might be a disagreement worth having.

We all have our ways.  We often like to think our way is the 'best' way and when it is just us individually, then we have to deal with the positive or negative consequences of our choice or way.  However, when another is involved, we have to take into account their thoughts, needs and concerns.  We can't just be a puppet of another and always do it their way, we have to have some space or rights to have our way considered and accepted.  As they say, some battles are worth having and some aren't.  Just some thoughts to consider.


Saturday, August 18, 2018

Knew You Were Waiting For an Advocate

Aretha Franklin died this week and the music world and society is a bit poorer for it. When you think of old school R&B and Gospel, who do you think of?
I remember back in high school hearing George Michael and her on "I knew you were waiting (for me)" and I thought this was probably the highlight of his career (IMHO) doing a duo with a living legend.
In any case, hearing that song attuned me to her music.
While her passing was sad, it kind of hit home a bit for me more. My mom was born 6 days before her and that was music of my mom's era. I felt like calling my mom and relating to her, but as many of you know, she passed in 2014. Aretha's passing brought that fact home again painfully.
RIP Aretha. Perhaps, "She knew He (the Father) was waiting for her. May her music resonate in Heaven.
RIP Mom I still think about you and miss you.

If we are lucky, we have a few people in our lives who "are waiting for us".  By that I mean really advocate for us no matter what.  I mean those who will stick by us through thick or thin.  Wherever she was, she proudly announced that I was her son.  At times, I thought, "oh mom" or felt a little embarrassed, on balance I liked it.  My mom, in her last couple of years was in a nursing home and still did that.  I jokingly said to a few people that I could go on a rampage and she'd say, "I'm sure you are just having a bad day." She was my biggest advocate.

An advocate for us
  • Wants the best for us, period.  Not what they think is best for us, but what makes us happy or fulfilled.
  • Willing to overlook our imperfections.  Doesn't mean they will never say anything to us about them, but they won't define us by them.  Fixing our 'imperfections' will not be the price of admission to being in a small 'r' continued relationship with them.
  • Look for the good in us rather than focusing on our flaws.  That doesn't mean they won't every saying anything negative to us, but they don't live in the negative with us.
  • They will tend to take our side, even if it isn't always justified or even if they don't necessarily agree.  
    • They realize that sometimes it is more important for us to feel stood up for and accepted than to be 'corrected'. 
    • There is a time for revisiting a circumstance/situation later, but they are attuned to our needs now.  
I went through a divorce and someone close to me, whom I confided in, harshly criticized me in the throes of my hurt about it.  That changed my relationship to the person.  While they had some valid points, the time wasn't right.  An advocate would better handle differences of opinion.  But, I digress.

Advocates are a rare breed. When you grow up with them or you find them in life, don't take them for granted or try to 'trade up'.  Yes, there will be other people that will situation-ally or for a time take your side.  But, a true advocate will be there for you, through the good times, the bad times and the times in between.  Just my thoughts.




Friday, August 10, 2018

One Degree off Center: Just Enough to Throw Us Off


I heard someone recently characterize the how sometimes it doesn't take much to separate a person from his or her serenity.  His phrasing was "One Degree off Center".  That struck me as a very apt characterization.  This actually feeds into an idea that crystallized for me as it relates it to stress and worry. 

I've observed in my life and that of others a funny phenomenon.  They are hit with a significant negative and they are seemingly able to shrug it off.  Yet, the same person is hit with a relatively insignificant negative (often easy to recover from--a one degree off center negative).  They literally fall to pieces or have their serenity totally disrupted.  As with everything else in my blog, I have a take on this phenomenon.

I have literally avoided doing much research for what I write about as I want what I write to be organic vs. ideas and thoughts I literally lift from elsewhere.  It was suggested to me that I could strengthen my blog by doing more direct citation.  That is to say, take the kernels of an idea that comes to me, pop them, remove the ones that are burnt or unpopped and flavor it with it citations.  But, at this point I will stick with my 'tried and true' method, which is to write mostly from my soul.

Back to the point at hand.  Why do we shrug when we are hit by a big negative and get stuck on the seemingly small things.  I have a thought on that: It is our sense of control.


  • When a circumstance is well beyond our control and it is abundantly obvious to us, there is a sense that there is little point in fretting about it as there is no humanly way possible that will affect the outcome of it.
    • When my car was wrecked at the beginning of 2017, I had been worrying about keeping it in good running order for another year or so.  I'd hoped it would hold out, but I was nervous that miles were piling up on it.  This had been in the back of my mind for a while.  When another driver caused a wreck which destroyed my car, literally everything else was thrown by the wayside.
      • I no longer had to worry if the car would hold out another 30-40 miles  That choice/concern was taken away from me.
      • I no longer worried that day about making it to work on time.  It was pretty clear that I needed to go home and rest.
      • I figured that their insurance would pay for it and I'd just get a new car.
  • When a circumstance appears to be within our ability to influence or control it is easier to focus on it.  
    • I was fairly sure I left my iPod at work vs. having permanently lost it, but I didn't to drive all the way there to get it.  So, despite my best efforts, I had focused on it on and off over the weekend, hoping that I was right about it.  I was right as I did leave it at work.  I wasted my time worrying on something small because it appeared to be in my control.  

In the first point, it was totally obvious I was thrown completely off center, so I had the sense that I just needed to turn to side or turn around and I'd be back at where I'd need to be rather than trying to make a minute adjustment.  In the second point, I was very close to center, but I couldn't quite get there.  Rather than having to make a large and obvious adjustment, I only needed a slight adjustment to the circumstance to be back at center.  Unfortunately, it would have taken some effort to get back to center--driving an hour and a half to get to and back from work.  So, the one degree off center that that situation was causing me was worse anxiety in some ways than completely having to go from scratch to get a new car did.


Moral of the story: Be willing to give up the worry about that which you believe you can control.  Because a) the sense of control often is an illusion anyway and b) somethings just don't make a difference in the bigger picture.

Just my 1/50th of a dollar worth here.

-- Rich

Life's Destinations and Stops Along the Path.

I was talking to a now former fellow employee recently and she let me know she was moving on from her job from our employer. She was telling me that she had reevaluated her priorities and determined the time was right to consider her options.  I asked her about how she came to the conclusion.  I won't reveal much of the conversation except to say she felt like it was a move she had to take for multiple reasons.  One was financial, but even more important to her was that her new position gave her the sense that she'd make more of a difference in the lives of others.  She gave me a bit of her history or path to this position.  It made me ponder why she didn't hadn't made a beeline to the new position in when she had applied to my work.  In other words, if she felt like this new position would be more in line with her 'need' to make a difference, why didn't she go in that direction first.  Inasmuch as her new position will be a different sort of job, I had also wondered how she felt about her current position.

Her responses paraphrased included:
  • I have learned a lot from my current position.  In other words, while it may not be ultimately where felt she was called to be, it wasn't like she wasted her time.  She learned a lot and helped others to the extent she was able to.
  • Personal circumstance opened me eyes as far as what is important to me.  She had a recent tragedy in her life and that focused her attention on what was important to her.
I respect that and it also got me to thinking that it is so easy to second guess why we didn't see the obvious earlier.  Hindsight is said to be 20/20 for a reason.  It is also easy to ignore or forget the fact that we weren't ready for the situation or the situation wasn't ready for us.  Sometimes, we have to make another stop before we get to the destination we need to be and sometimes we have to have a game-changer in our lives to push us in a direction that we didn't have the courage or motivation to go.  And just sometimes, a seemingly small ripple can eventually become a wave.

A few examples:
  • I bought tickets to a sold out show for my now ex-wife's birthday.   On the way to the concert I lost the tickets.  I didn't really realize it was sold out and I figured I'd get more tickets.  However, when we got there, they were turning people away who didn't have tickets.  I felt awful and made a commitment to her that if the band came into town again I'd get her tickets to it.  
    • As Aerosmith was taking their sweet time making it back to St. Louis, I looked where they were touring and I saw Las Vegas and I got this idea?   Why not see them in Las Vegas and taking in Las Vegas.
    • I loved the rental car I drove much more than my own car.  I realized I'd rather have that car.  After holding out two months, I finally caved and traded in my car for a car just like the rental.
    • One seemingly small event--the loss of tickets, led to a trip to Vegas and trading in my car.
  • It was 2016 and my wife was pushing me to trade-in or replace my 10 year old car.  I was bound and determine to hold on another year to it, even if I had to dump more money into it.  I hated the car, but I was determined to work on fixing my credit more.  I had this plan in place as of January 5, 2017 that I would wait until the beginning of next year (2018) to get a new car and would keep the old car as a 2nd car to offload some of my annual miles (30K+)
    • One day (January 5, 2017)  on the way to work on snowy, slightly icy day, the driver in front of me spun out around a curve, hit the wall and came to dead stop.  By the time I got around the curve in the road and saw her, it was too late.  In one instant my best laid plans came to a crashing stop (literally).
    • I had to replace the car immediately.  I got a new car, but was unhappy as I didn't have the 2nd car I had planned. (2016 Ford Focus Titanium).  This led me to get a 2nd car that was 7 years old.  (2011 Mazda 3 GT)
    • I like the 2nd car engine and handling so much I wished I'd had the new version of that car as my first car.  After about 6 months, i traded in my 2011 Madza 3 GT for a 2018 version which had the fun of the 2011 version and the features of a new car.
    • So, in one instant, I went from having a 10 year old car to eventually having 2 newer cars.  Who'd have thought?
    • I was injured for the better part of 2017 from the accident and that led me to be aware of people's reckless driving. 

Now these examples aren't tragic, though the injury related to accident was rough.  My point is this.  Sometimes we have plans and we have goals (and sometimes we don't even realize them fully), but we don't always get to the destinations we are going to directly.   We sometimes take detours.  I was gong to get a new car and have a 2nd car, but I was going to do it on my own time or so I thought.  I wasn't ready for a new car.  I was stuck in the punishment myself (by driving an old beat up car) for having to declare bankruptcy after divorce mode.  It literally took a crash course in crashing to break that mode.


My former coworker was eventually going to get a teaching job (destination), but she didn't know it at the time.  She had to first have a layover at my employer (stop over) and than a tragedy in her life (catalyst for the change).   She had moved from her previous employer to a similar position at my employer and clearly that where she felt she was right for.  It took a tragedy to realize that my employer was a stop along the way rather than her destination.  She could have said, her new job is what she should have 'always done', but she chose to view our employer as a good stop along the way from which she learned from and which gave her time to figure out what she needed.

-

As we get used to seismic shifts in our life, we take for granted how we got there.  Sometimes we get there gradually and we have time to adjust, but sometimes they happen in an instant and we just have to immediately adjust to a new reality.  There can be a sense that the shift was to a place that was 'always' going to be our destination or destiny.  But, it wasn't always that clear.  How we got there may ultimately be a result of a small change (losing concert tickets) or a larger one (losing a loved one) that changes our trajectory.

Sometimes we think where we shifted to is our 'true' destiny or destination, but as we get older and look back we can also see that it was always just a stop along the way. 

I guess ultimately my point is this: Life changes sometimes whether we want it to or not.  Sometimes it is in an instant, sometimes it is gradual. It may be a 'destiny' or a stop along the way.   Sometimes it is change we see we needed for a long time (and we can condemn ourselves about it with the clarity of 20/20).   But whatever the case, I think it is important to be open to and embrace, even if it is painful a new reality.  Even if it is somewhere we don't want to be, we have to always remember, in time it may be where we need to be or it may be a pathway to where we will be.

Just some random musings on changes in life....