Search This Blog

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Accepting help or gifts is a form of giving.

With my birthday and Christmas in the rearview and my impending wedding in the forefront, I had pondered about gifts and how I do or don't accept them.  (Written 2/27/16)

I have always been the type to give freely to others, to try to consider what might be important to them, but I've always struggled with accepting gifts, especially if they are of significant monetary value.  I mean ultimately, I probably will accept them, but I really don't feel comfortable at all with it.  In fact, it really makes me feel a little guilty for accepting gifts of value.  Now, on the other hand, I have no issue accepting gifts that are directed toward my daughter Olivia.  If they are directed towards my fiancĂ©e--now wife--and I, I think I'd be okay.

I suspect I'm far from the unique in this type of mindset.  Why is that?  Growing up, I learned to accept wanting for at times.  I learned to accept not having or getting too much.  Maybe, when I receive gifts, I suspect there might be an expectation it that I might not fulfill?   Maybe at times, I don't feel I deserve to be made a big deal of.   I'm not really sure and perhaps it doesn't really matter.  However, I do know this much,  this type of mindset tends to focus on MY NEEDS and MY EMOTIONAL WELLBEING.  In other words, I am thinking about what "I" am comfortable with and not necessarily the needs of the giver.

In pondering the subject matter, I've come to a few conclusions:
  • Provided that it is clear the giver isn't expecting anything except my gratitude for giving to me, it might just be alright to accept a gift.
  • Provided that I am not knowingly taking advantage of their generosity--and cynically put on a false humility to hide my greed--it might just be alright to accept a gift. 
  • Provided I either reciprocate--in kind or giving of myself--out of love and/or pay forward with said generosity, accepting a gift might just be okay. 
  • Sometimes people give generously as it makes them feel good.  In other words, a friend might know I need help, but am too proud to ask, but he or she steps up and offers the help.  He or she gets the warm feeling of helping me when it wasn't asked.  It's almost if they are saying your emotional well-being and is important to me and if I can just move that a little cause I like you, allow me that.  In a way, how we accept a gift determines if we are 'giving back' to the gift giver.  Do we give them an opportunity to feel good about themselves when they have offered to help us in a time of crisis.
I guess the short summary of this blog post for me is:
  • To not greedily take advantage of other's generosity.
  • To not accept gifts that come bearing 'controlling' expectations of me.
  • To recognize generosity to me and to at least pay it forward when I am in a place to do.
But, most of all, I have to remember this one simple idea: recognize that in accepting another's gift(s), I may just be affording them an opportunity to feel good about themselves and that means something.

Thanks Ben for giving me the opportunity to see you in Baltimore when I wasn't in a position to pay for a flight.  I hope I gave back by offering my friendship to you.

Given my imminent marriage, I felt that this song would be an appropriate end to this blog entry.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Why Can't We Be Friends?: A Thesis on Types of Friends

Recently, I saw a few friends that I hadn't seen in years.  Actually, the last time I saw them was before me and my ex split up for good.  They were nice enough and all, so I have no complaints about anyone individually.  However, it felt like there was a serious disconnect.  In conversations with a number of people over the years,  I have heard stories of them 'losing' friends when they've sobered up, split up, stop working somewhere, stop going to school somewhere, stop going to church somewhere or had their significant other passed away. Unfortunately, to me this points out a painful question: were they ever really our friends?

(Updated 7/16/19)

I guess I would split people in our lives into a few categories:

  • Transactional Friends
  • Acquaintances
  • 'Friends' of convenience.
  • True friends 
Transactional (or For-the-Moment) Friends:

  • This is the most shallow type friendship/relationship.
  • People you meet for a limited time, typically sharing an experience together such as meeting in line somewhere, meeting at an event, etc.
  • Get to talking to kill the time, to kill the drudgery, to be heard or to flirt.  
  • Most of the time there is an unspoken understanding that the 'friendship' will last as long as the situation lasts as you aren't necessarily seeking a new interpersonal relationship.  If there isn't that understanding, the inevitable separation can be awkward.
  • As long as you understand the limits here, these types of 'friendships' can help your well-being.  These are the fill-in-the gap friendships that can make you feel 'heard' without all the overhead or 'expense' of a deep friendship.
  • I noticed the way my daughter growing up would go to the park, camp, etc. and meet other kids for a bit.   She would say, I made a new friend even though the 'friend' wasn't usually going to be a lasting friend, but instead a 'for the moment' friend.

  • You don't really share much in common.
  • Without a connecting person or people, conversation can be awkward, especially conversation of any depth.  Therefore, when the connecting person/people are gone, this 'friendship' can end VERY abruptly.
  • This is what I consider a 1D friendship.
  • Examples: Friends of your spouse aka marriage friends, friends of the larger group who you never hang out with alone and friends of friends.

Friends of convenience:
  • Are friends who will hang with you if you happen to share a situation or vice in common, but aren't interested in you beyond that.  In other words, they like that aspect about you or commonality, but aren't interested in anything else about you.  
  • They like you for what you can do for them.  I would call this a 2D friendship.
  • They can't be counted on, when circumstances/situation changes such as sobering up, changing jobs, stop attending church somewhere, etc.  In other words, there is an expiration date on the friendship - once the 'benefit' or convenience isn't there, the friendship dies off quickly.
  • Examples: work friends, school friends, bar or drinking type friends.

True friends:
  • Are friends that like you for who you are, not what you can do for them.
  • They are friends with you, no matter where you are, no matter what life circumstances change around you.
  • They may take from you--such as bending your ear--but they are cognizant of your needs too.
  • Are truly form a 3D friendship with you.
  • Examples: friend since childhood, friends who have experienced similar traumas, etc.

Each type of 'friend' has a place in our lives, but it is up to us to recognize the role they have in our life.  I believe where the pain comes in sometimes is 'losing' someone who you thought was a true friend, but turned to be a friend of convenience or a associate.  The pain can also come in when you might someone and think they could develop into a true friends, but are only a transactional friend. In other words, too much was expected of that person.  The expectation vs. reality was way out of sync.  I have found the best way of dealing in friendship is to recognize them for what they are and not to push them for what they aren't.

Just my thoughts on friendships.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Paint by Numbers, useful in therapy, but a poor way to parent.

(In honor of Father's Day which is upon us tomorrow, I am re-posting and editing this blog at it still applies today as it did when it was originally written...) It is the best of times, it is the worst of times.   Those true words were spoken in "A Tale of Two Cities", but in a way that applies all the resources we have for parenting today.  We have so many 'experts' giving us advice on how to parent.  They tell us:
  • What set of steps we should take when our kids won't listen.
  • What illness or issue our kid may or may not have, the precise symptoms to look for and how to treat them.
  • How to be reach out to your child and/or meet him or her on their level.
  • What activities they should participate in to become an 'adjusted adult'.
  • What 'decisions' or 'choices' we should allow them to have.
  • What they should eat, what they shouldn't eat.
  • What is a good structure for their day, week, month, year and life.
  • Etc.
In other words, when in doubt, find the resource which tell us what to do and follow the script.   If suggested plan A doesn't work, try plan B.  If suggested plan B, doesn't work, try plan C.  You almost wonder how the hell previous generations survived into adulthood given what few resources they had relatively speaking.

No don't get me wrong, clearly having more resources and better resources is a good thing.  However, we should be careful not to replace 'real parenting' with a series of steps or Dr. Phil's daily wisdom.   We should not 'pray' to the gods of children's self-help books and take their wisdom as gospel.  Nor should we substitute verbatim a therapist or counselor's words for our own intuition.  In other words, you just can't apply "paint by numbers" technique to raising a child.  That is to say, mindlessly apply techniques based on an expected result and then be surprised or dismayed when your children don't do well with them.

There is absolutely no substitute for spending time with your child and getting to know him or her.  
See 2D vs. 3D relationships.  That was meant more so for romantic relationships, but much of the same concepts still apply.

While I understand and accept the notions of structure, discipline and consistency.  I believe that many people overlook or underutilize what I call "Intuitive parenting".   So, what does that look like?  Intuitive parenting to me includes some of the following:

  • Paying attention or 'listening' to our kids.  We may perceive that they aren't doing what we want or need them to do because they just want to do what they want.  We also might perceive that they just don't want to listen us.  But often, there is a reason why they aren't 'listening', even if it is misguided.  Sometimes the key is asking the right question to them.  For example, if he/she is difficult about brushing their teeth, don't automatically assume it is because they are lazy or whatever.  It could be that the toothpaste they are using 'burns' their mouth.  Seek what is block, don't assume your kid is 
  • Showing flexibility at obvious points.   
    • When a child is throwing a fit or being difficult, it is easy to get into a shouting match, to give in or too play Freud with him or her.   Sometimes, you just need to go outside the usual techniques to disrupt the pattern.  For example, appeal to his or her funny bone.  If you can get them laughing, you may very well throw them off their 'tantrum' pattern.
    • Too much rigidity in their schedule, can actually be a detriment.  
      • For example, if he or she is having a horrible day, your child might just need you to waive the normal bedtime to give him or her a chance to talk about it with you without worrying about exact number of sleep hours.
      • Sometimes you just have to alter the 'plan' for the day to take into account issues your child is having that day.  You could try to press on with the script for the day and scold your child when he or she interrupts or disrupts the script or you could change up the script a little avoid a blowup.
  • Keeping track of what's important to him or her and without announcement showing that, especially at a point they could use it.  Sometimes, they just need a reminder that you love them and that what is important to them is important to you also.
  • Completely mixing it up with him or her.  Being serious when it is appropriate to, but showing a lighter, even playful side.  Express that side when you see they could use it.
In short, not always sticking to a script or agenda and not following a set of "talking points", but being open enough to read your child their needs.  Not forgetting about his or her long terms needs, but not letting the push to fill those get in the way of meeting their immediate or short term emotional, mental and spiritual needs.