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Monday, April 27, 2015

Fighting Human Nature with Divine Wisdom

I was talking with a friend the other day about something that was bothering me and he said, "well it's human nature".   Then I thought back to the series of events leading up to and including WWI (that I'd seen on AHC) and realize how we stumble into disaster. 

In our everyday lives, we make selfish choices.  Very often, the selfish choices are necessary such as finding time away from our kids so as to mentally and spiritually rejuvenate ourselves--allowing us to be better people and parents.  Sometimes our choices are selfish out of obliviousness.  For example, we make an unscheduled stop at the store to pick up a few items and are so focused on our own needs we forget to ask our spouse if he/she could use anything.  Sometimes we make selfish choices out of greed or jealousy such as grabbing more than our share or taking something that isn't ours. Then there are times we make selfish choices out of fear such as pushing others out of our way to escape a burning building.

Whatever the case, we often justify our self-focused, inconsiderate or boorish behavior by saying, "It's human nature.", as if that makes it okay.  In the WWI series, it was a series of selfish choices by leaders that led to a disastrous war.  In our everyday lives, that behavior leads to unhealthy relationships and unhappy lives.

So, what do we do?  We take time and listen to our Higher Power (God).  We take time and listen to our conscience.  We take time and listen to our others.  LISTEN, not just hear or just do, but truly listen to them.  We need to listen for whom our behavior or actions benefit or hurt.  We listen to whom our actions aren't considering.

God's wisdom, knowledge and discernment are there, but we just have to be open to it.  God gave us a free will.  But sometimes our free will takes us to dark and/or selfish places.  We justify it by saying it is human nature.  Shouldn't we strive for more than human nature?  Shouldn't we strive to understand and mimic God's perfect wisdom?

Proverbs 4:5
The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom.
    Though it cost all you have, get understanding.

(This post was originally published on April 27, 2015)

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Taking care of yourself: why it's not selfish to love yourself first

The past month has been a difficult one for me.  Some of which I will share here, some of which I won't.  (originally posted in April 2015)

The part I will share: My dad has Parkinson's and he is at a late stage.  He has lost the ability to eat by mouth, he has lost so much weight, he has lost almost all ability to take care of himself.  I've had to make DNR type decisions for him and put him on hospice.  To a lesser extent I've had to deal with family drama which is typical when multiple siblings are are involved.  As his POA, I've had to do what I think is best.  As he did not leave a living will, I've had to try to figure out what he would want and/or what is best for him.  Anyway, very depressing and definitely no fun.  After losing my mom last July, I'm starting to feel parent-less.  I've had a few other lesser things weighing on my mind too.  Some of which had got me down.

Anyway, I wasn't feeling my lovable self.   My girlfriend had noticed that too.  I've heard you have to love yourself first before you can love another.  There were days in which I felt like I wasn't throwing out as much warmth as she was.  I felt kind of bad about this and my instinct was what's wrong?

Within the past week, the cloud started lifting, part of which is my dad seems to have stabilized.  Also, I've come to better terms with his imminent passing.  The upbeat nature and warmth came out of hiding.   She noticed that.  I had noticed my capacity for warmth had diminished temporarily. but now that the clouds are lifting, I am back to my usual warm. My realization: if you don't take care of your own needs, up to and including feeling good about yourself,  you will not be in the position to love another the way you should.   She had been through her own losses fairly recently too, so God blessed me with someone who understands all this.


A side note, I previously had dated someone who had had her life collapse about her.  Instead of facing the demons, she sought a distraction in relationships.  I came to realize she didn't love me so much as she loved the distraction.   She was using the relationship as a means to find love for herself rather than processing and looking inward and seeing herself as having inherent God-given value.  Whenever my life needs would pull me away from seeing her, she'd take it personally.  She'd let me know that "she wasn't a priority".   I realized that to her I was part of a 2D vs. 3D relationship,


I guess my takeaways are this:

  • Be kind to yourself and take care of your own self-needs and you will be in the best position to give to another.
  • A supportive significant other will not try to 'fix' your problems/concerns, but will be there for you.  He/she will be there for you through the good and rough patches.
  • In healthy relationships, each partner understands the ebbs and flows in the other's life and doesn't personalize them. 


Friday, April 3, 2015

Wanting to be somewhere else in our lives and the role of faith.

One time when I was talking with my daughter, it occurred to me that we spend a lot time throughout our life, wishing we were at a different point of our life.  In other words, the grass will be or was greener at a different point. Now, descriptions of each stage and the longings at each stage, doesn't apply to everyone and experiences differ, but I believe on onto something.  So, without further ado, i bring you the stages in our lives and how we could wish for them to be different.
  • When we are real little kids we look up the elementary school kids and wish we were one of the 'bigger kids'.  We want to be able to ride on this ride or do this activity, be stronger or faster, etc.  
  • When we are young kids, we look to the teenagers and see that they can drive, they can go to more grown up movies, they can stay at home by themselves, they can date, etc.  We see the freedoms they have and wish we could be a big kid.  We won't necessarily see the responsibility that goes with being an older kid.
  • When we are teens we wish an adult so we can live on our own, be able to work full-time or go away to school, etc.  In other words, we are striving for the adult level perks.  We like the perks, but may not be thrilled with the responsibility that comes with them.
  • When we are a young adult under 21, many look forward to 21 as a right of initiation.  We look to be able to go just about to any club or any place we want.  In some cases, we look at those in high school as 'kids' and we are glad we are grown up.  We yearn to be taken seriously as grown-ups, but are not always at this point, especially if we still have parental dependence. 
  • There is a period starting in our  early to middle 20s, especially if we have our first job out of college or have been working for a while when we really start to feel our oats.  For many, it is being able to do just about whatever we want and not having to answer to many people, except maybe an occasional parent or peer group concern.  But, relatively speaking, we have our freedom and a paycheck and can do what we want.  While some have already worked on finding that 'lifelong' relationship, for others it is the time in which we have started to move away from fun dating and have started really started to want to find that lasting grown-up relationship.  From what I see, this period has the potential to be the happiest. However, for some they have lifelong career ambitions that can usually only be achieved with time.  For them, there is impatience to be a little older.
  • Then we hit our 30s.  For some this is a good thing as we are able to really start hitting some of our career ambitions.  For others, it is an 'oh crap' moment in which we realize that we aren't so 'youngish' anymore.  By this time, many are married and have started families.   Now we have to be responsible.  The carefree days of childhood and still free days of young adulthood have yielded to the realities of having to be a responsible spouse/parent.  In some ways, while thirtysomethings may be happy in their marriage/family, there is sometimes a wish for the freedom/carefree nature of our younger years.  In other words, there is some yearning to be a little younger.
  • For me at 36 I realized that I was on the wrong side of the 30s.  In my early to mid 30s, I felt I was close enough to my 20s that I could consider myself close to a 20 something.   To a high schooler, I would start to seriously look like Dad this point and less like the cool older brother.  By 36, the delusion was over.   I wasn't anywhere near old, but I wasn't exactly close enough to my young adulthood to be part of the 'cool crowd'.  To a teen, I'd be starting to look old though.  To myself, I'd realized that I am closer to 40s than to 20s.
  • For me hitting the 40s was like oh well.  I mean what's the difference between 39 and 40.  From what I see, not much.  I was the age that I thought was old when I was a teen.  I still could hold onto the delusion that I wasn't starting to get old.  That delusion's end comes later.  For some in the 20s and 30s, our body starts saying, "Hello, I have issues".  But, in the 40s our bodies tend to kick this to a higher gear.  Recovery time is longer, we just don't have the flexibility that our kids have.  While they are playing and running, while we are looking for the bench to sit on and watch.  Still, relatively speaking we are not old. Many are established in their career, but we still wish we had the stamina and spunk of younger years.
  • Later 40s.  The 40s have been said to be the new 30s with advancements in healthcare.  But, we are realizing now that the delusion of being the new 30s will end soon anyway.  We are seriously edging closer and closer to being able to receive AARP benefits.  In other words, society has in way started to let us know that soon we will be welcomed to the old person's club.  We start to really reflect on how far away we are from high school/college.  Our parent's health often seriously starts to deteriorate then and in some cases, they have died by this point--leaving us to feel like oh wow, we are the family elder(s).   We start really missing the younger years.
  • In our 50s, we are telling ourselves, well at least I'm not a senior citizen.  But, to the youth culture, we are looking  like or being seen as "grandma/grandpa".   In many cases, we start really recalling the 'old days'. To younger people, before your time, is unfortunately a saying we are uttering more and more.  We in some cases, wish we had the wisdom of now with the body of a younger person.  For some, we are 'old', for others we don't want to give up the delusion.  Our kids, whom in some cases have already started leaving before this, are growing up in droves by now.  Our parents start leaving us behind in droves, leaving us to realize we are the family leader generation coming of age.  Once again, we miss more and more younger years.
  • Our 60s - literally now we are senior citizens and by this time most people, if they are to be grandparents are that by now.  We like the grandkids, but we enjoy that we don't have to watch them at the end of the day in most cases.  As our kids have become well established in their own life, we really really sometimes long for the younger years.  Friend of ours, who in some cases have died before this, are dying more often now.   Some still have parent alive, but most or many of our parents have passed on, leaving us as the older generation.   In any case, we start to really strongly consider our own mortality, assuming we aren't in denial.   We see our younger years as a distant memory by now.
  • 70s and beyond - We start to look at 50s and even some in 60s as 'young'.  If we are 'lucky' to have made it here, we have lost a lot of people.  We realize that in many cases, we are nearing the end and reflections/regrets that might have really evidencing themselves in our mid to late 50s and 60s just become more and more common now, presuming we still are mentally with it.  Clearly a younger version of ourselves with the knowledge we've gained would be desirable at this point.
Anyway, the conclusion, I have come up with after assessing the different points in our lives is that for much our life, unless we have faith and the hope that goes with it, seems to be a struggle.  We long to be a different age then we are much or most of the time.  There are struggles/frets at each stage.  There may only really a short window at best in which we are 'truly happy' with our age.  FAITH is a tool by which can hold on through the rough periods and realize happiness in every period and have hope for the future.  

If we look through a glass half full perspective, there is always something we have to do or are not allowed to do at the various stages of our lives.  It is easy to overlook the responsibilities we are exempt from due to age--working for a living, paying bills, etc. It is also easy to overlook the things we can do at our age, that we can't necessarily do at other ages. Things such as riding kids ride, easily climbing and jumping and running as kid.

For me, my Christian faith has helped me to accept the stages and roles of my life, though not perfectly.  For example, I'm in my late 40s and instead of seeing managing the affairs and expenses of the passing of my parents as a burden, I can see it as an honor that they trusted me.  In my younger years, it helped me see that I have the freedom to do things without the burden of responsibility that comes with adulthood such as how will I pay for my needs.

It is inevitable that from time to time and at different points in our lives that we wish we were at a different stages.  It is also inevitable that at times, we look forward to stages in our lives idealistically or back on stages in our lives selectively.  However, what is not inevitable that we stay in the past or impatiently wish for the future.  With faith and hope, we can learn to appreciate the moment and stay in it most of the time as needed.

Just some thoughts....