Search This Blog

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Grief doesn't care what is proper, part 2

As I noted in the blog post Grief doesn't care what is proper, part 1, grief like love exists independent of what society thinks is proper or approves of.  The focus of the first part was grief's look or form and society's timetable on grief.
As we know, we grieve how and on what timetable our soul 'tells' us to.  Now we may outwardly conform to societal expectations, but inwardly the grief remains and needs to be expressed.

In part 2 of this blog concept, I will explore the 'whom' questions of grief.  That is to say, who are expected or not expected to grieve for and whom we are allowed or not allowed to grieve for.

  • Expectations on whom to grieve for
    • We are expected to grieve for our family.
    • We are our expected to grieve for our friends. 
      • Our friendships are typically our choice and therefore it makes sense that we'd openly and obviously grieve for them--and we typically do. But, there are a few exceptions in which we don't.
        • If it is a 'friend' that we effectively fell out of touch with and/or had a falling out with years ago, we have may have already done our grieving for them and therefore have little to show when they pass.
        • If it is 'friend of a friend' or a 'group friend', we may be sad for those closer to him or her, but we may not feel so much grief.  It's not that we don't care, it's just that we may not have the connection required to feel a huge loss and truly grieve for him or her.
    • We are expected to grieve for coworkers.
      • It really depends in this situation.
        • If they were someone we worked around, but didn't really know, we might be stunned or feel bad for their loved ones, but we might not fells the loss too much by their passing as we didn't have much of a connection.
        • If they were someone we worked closely around and got to know, their passing might really stun or upset us. It is like losing 'work family' or 'work friends' in this case.
    • We are usually not expected to grieve for strangers.
      • Most of the time we don't grieve for them.
        • Sometimes we might think the story on a stranger's passing is sad, but we can't personally relate to them and therefore it's hard to have feelings that aren't there.
      • Sometimes we do grieve for strangers.
        • Sometimes we can relate and their stories hit home such as the tragic loss of a child.
        • Sometimes with famous people, we may not really have known them, but they represented something to us: a loss of a childhood memory (Carrie Fisher aka Princess Leia), a loss of an ideal (JFK or famous musician), or something similar or loss of security (9/11 or the death of a police officer).
  • Whom you are allowed to grieve for
    • Family - Most of the time you are allowed to grieve for them.
    • Friends/relationship - In most cases, you are allowed to grieve for them.
    • Coworkers - Sometimes you are allowed to grieve for them.
      • Sometimes their passing is openly discussed and acknowledged at work.
      • Sometimes their family and/or coworkers invite you to be part of the grieving process.
    • Neighbors - Sometimes you are close to them and are allowed to part of the grieving process.
  • Whom you are not allowed to grieve for.
    • Family - There are occasions when you are not allowed to grieve for family. 
      • Examples include:
        • When one parent keeps the kids from the other parent.
        • When you are kept from the grieving process of a member that is outside the immediate family such as a grandparent, aunt, etc.
      • Those who exclude in the grieving process often do it in a misguided attempt to protect us, a lack of realization of our needs or in a way of hurting us or sticking it to the one who passed.
      • Unfortunately, sometimes the grieving process can bring out the worst in family and IF ALLOWED can become an opportunity to settle scores.
    • Friends/Unapproved Relationships - Sometimes those left behind don't include us in the process.
      • It may be due to an oversight or lack of understanding of our importance in the life of the one that passed.
      • It may be due to them wanting the keep the process private.
      • It may be due to them not approving of our role in the life of the one that passed.
      • Whatever the reason, it can feel like a cruel rejection.
    • Coworkers - Sometimes you are not allowed to effectively grieve for them.
      • Some work environments do not effectively acknowledge the passing of coworkers.
      • The family of your coworkers have a private process and/or don't think to include us.
      • Sometimes, if we are close enough to our coworkers, we just need a way to grieve them when they pass.
    • Neighbors - Sometimes we find out a neighbor passed away by hearing it from another neighbor. I believe we rarely are included in the grieving process of a neighbor by those left behind.

Closing out this blog post, I will circle back to love, they way I see it grief is a extension or expression of love.  If we truly didn't care about someone, then their loss not affect us grief-wise.  The fact that we hurt really does shows that we had a love or concern or care for the one that passed.  It maybe what they represented, but still it is a form of love.  Just like love, we may be denied the opportunity to effectively express grief, but that erase its existence.  

My takeaway is this, we usually the opportunity to express grief like we need.  However, this is not always the case.  In any case, when do not have the opportunity to express grief in the manner, timing, way we need to, it is important recognize the need that remains and find effective and healthy outlets to express it.

See: Grief doesn't care what is proper, part 1.

(the version of this song that I discovered it to)

Friday, February 24, 2017

Grief doesn't care what is proper, part 1

I wrote a bit about this subject in a previous blog called Letting go and letting God - The timing and art of letting go. I had touched upon many aspects of loss and grief including what is socially acceptable grief.  So, I'm not going to visit it here too much except to expand upon that point.

I believe society seems to have certain expectations for grief.
  • What grief is suppose to look like.  That is the form it is suppose to take.
  • What is an appropriate amount of time to grieve
  • The people you are or are not expected to grieve for.
  • Whom you are allowed to grieve for.
  • Whom you are not allowed to grieve for.
When we break or don't follow those expectations, we can risk rejection, scorn or worse.  But, I've discovered over time that grief is a strange beast.  It will follow its own rules and will ultimately bow to no one.  Now, we can sometimes be shamed into how and when we show it or don't show it, but ultimately that is just window dressing the hide what our soul feels.

Let me break down what I see as aspects of grief.  I will touch on what I see as society's expectations for grief (and in some cases how we deviate from it)

  • Grief's appearance or form.
    • What many have been taught that grief is suppose to look like.
      • Deep sadness
      • Crying
      • Serious demeanor.
    • What it can look like.
      • Relief 
        • Suffering has ended for someone who had been long suffering.
        • That we are no longer required to watch helplessly while they suffer.
        • Our fear of being hurt by them is finally over.
      • Anger at others 
        • People let the one we are grieving down.  That people weren't there for our loved one in time of his/her need.
        • Higher Power seems to have let us down by allowing our loved one to pass for seemingly no good reason.
      • Anger - If they have left behind a messy circumstance for us to clean up or deal with or they didn't take care of themselves 
        • That they were careless or reckless in their lifestyle.
        • That they recklessly did not account for their own needs.  Not preparing for an eventuality. 
        • That they neglected those whom they left behind.
          • Didn't make proper preparations for dependents/survivor needs.
          • They were more focused on their own reckless behavior than emotional and financial needs of those left behind.
      • Humor 
        • Laughter - That may seems inappropriate, but is really our way of coping with a circumstance that is so intense.
        • Sarcasm - If the person we are 'mourning' for has mistreated us for a long time, it may be hard to feel much besides it. 
      • Emptiness/Numbness
        • Loss is too profound to accept or to have sink in.
        • We are focused on survival after the loss.
  • Timetable of grief
    • Immediate timetable
      • We are supposed to have it all packaged and delivered in a week or less in some cases and be back to work.  That is make arrangements, pull together a funeral and move as if nothing I had to do this with each parent.  Arranged/buried and back to work.
      • In some cases, we are allowed more time, but we still have to pull it together in a few months at best and be productive.
      • Family and friends allow us to be sad or upset.  If it is a child, we are given more time to openly and painfully weep/mourn.
      • This is the time when those around us will offer to help the most as it is fresh in everyone's mind.
    • The near term past immediacy.
      • In most cases, we are supposed to have put the lost behind us and have moved on in our daily lives and be productive.
      • Many/most people will start to shut off listening to or wanting to hear about our grief. 
        • They don't know what to say, especially if they haven't been hit by it.
        • They have their own stresses as well.
        • Usually, they will be polite about it and 'listen' anyway.
      • Counseling is accepted in this term.
    • Longer term (year or two)
      • Willingness to listen to our grief becomes rarer and rarer, especially from those who aren't close to us, but even with those who are close to us.  Losing a child is a situation which we are probably allowed more leeway on being listened to.
      • Counseling is accepted in this term, but we are expected to be well on our way to coming to terms with the loss.
      • Our daily lives are not expected to be impacted, no matter how we may feel on a given date about our loss.  Anniversary of a death is a big deal to us, but to our employer for example, they don't expect any impact.
    • Long-term (years)
      • We are expected to have adjusted, coped, or have come to terms.
      • Most people have tuned out our grief by this point and may even tell you that it's time to move on.  They may 'humor' it if they aren't burnt out on it if it is the loss of a close family member.
This is a heavy read, so I will continue this blog post in another part to be published.  But for today, I will leave with this thought, if we try to deny grief its proper role in our lives, I believe grief will punish us in another form, often in an addictive form such as alcoholism. Until later (probably tomorrow)...

See: Grief doesn't care what is proper, part 2

The original recorded version of this song.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Cats as BFFs

My cat Simon is starting to get up there in years.  He's working on 12 years old and I guess a part of me realizes that he won't be around forever.  Anyway, I usually write serious blog posts, but I felt it was the right time for a lighter one.  

When you hear the phrase "man's best friend", usually the mental picture of a dog comes to mind, but I contend that cats can be like a best friend of sorts too.  Everyone's experience may differ, but I've come to appreciate my Simon (aka Simie).  I call him my "crazy Asian" as he is Siamese; he probably calls me a his "crazy American".  Anyway, I will list some things about him that I know make him a BFF.

  • Whatever else he does gravitates towards me when I go to bed.  No he might get up and want to leave the room and then come back, but you know at the end of the day, I can count on a visit from my cat BFF.  When I was having problems with my now ex, he would always end up with me at the end of the night and not her.  That's loyalty.
  • When I am sad or not feeling well, he tends to gravitate towards me.  I am vain enough to think it is because he likes me and maybe the silly cat does, but it could be because I humor and/or feed him.  He won't necessarily admit it, but he thinks I'm an alright cat owner.
  • When I call him by name, he turns and faces me.  When I'm talking, he tends to look intently at me and listen.  I don't always know what he is thinking.  Perhaps he likes the "fatherly" voice. Perhaps he sees me as his pet as well.  I dunno, but its flattering to know that I can always count on him to listen.
  • He makes sure to wake me up for work--when he's hungry (and not always nicely).  But he makes an excellent alarm.
  • We talk.  Sometimes it is just a nonverbal watching each other.  Sometimes it is me calling him and him meowing.  Either way, it's nice to hear from or see my fuzzball friend.
  • He makes a nice stuffed animal that purrs.  Even grownups sometimes need that positive feedback.
  • He abuses me at times and I abuse him.  Now nothing says a healthy friendship like mutually abusive behavior.  ^..^
  • He is the one constant that I could count on for the past 12 years.  That means something.  Having a friend around to greet you at some point every days is kind of cool.
  • He is funny.  He schemes to steal food.  He took a blueberry muffin from my teenage stepdaughter.  She hadn't sized him up yet, but he'd sized her up and figured the muffin was his.  I had to laugh at his devious intuitive genius.  He's had numerous misadventures like that.  A BFF will be someone who makes you laugh.
Cats may not wag their tale at you waiting to be petted, may not retrieve a ball that you throw them or may not always obey your commands, but that doesn't make them less of a friend.  It just makes them different (and in some ways more honest a friend).

I know he can't read, but if I he could I'd want him to know I wouldn't trade my furry best friend for anything.  I'd rather have his honest (and occasionally abusive) behavior than straight obedience.  
- Rich (aka Simon's Person)

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Please Don't Be a Pleaser

I used to be a people-pleaser by nature.  I found that is a role that can wear one out and frustrate them.  I believe most people--even world-class diplomats--eventually realize you can't please everyone.  From what I see, people-pleasers run into one or more of the following brick walls in that regard:

  • There are some people who are perpetually unhappy.  (Eeyore crowd)
    • They are so miserable in their life, that no matter what you do or say to cheer them up or to try to get along, they will play the role of Eeyore.  That is to say, see a dark cloud hovering overhead even in the most sunny day or circumstance.
    • When you recognize this, you realize that it is pointless to try to 'make them happy'.
    • It is not your role to make them happy.
  • There are some people who are perpetually aggrieved.  (Perpetually offended crowd)
    • This doesn't have to be personally against you, it is more a case of them seeing circumstances or others in life have dealt them a bad or unfair hand.
    • Their energy or purpose in life is derived from playing the role of the perpetual victim.  Life isn't always fair and there is a time for righteous anger, but there is also a time for gratitude.  There is a time to realize that that you don't have to see yourself as a victim.
    • They may actually face circumstances in which they are victimized.  This isn't about being victimized, it is more so about a conscience effort to play (or better yet stay) the victim.
    • There is nothing wrong with empathizing with them in appropriate times, but staying in the victim role with them could drag you down as well.
    • They seem to show an immunity to ever seeing things as fair or seeing that they could be wrong.  
    • Even when you work out a problem with them (or they concede a point), they will move onto another victim role.
  • There are some people who have just decided for whatever reason, good or bad, that they don't like you.  (Haters)
    • They may show an unwillingness to forgive you for something you said or did that properly offended them.
      • It can be trivial.  For example, embarrassed them in front of a friend. 
      • It can be significant.  For example, repeated something that was said in private or confidence to you or take advantage of them.
    • You may have been sabotaged (wittingly or unwittingly by another)
      • You may or may not know about the sabotage.
      • Sometimes no matter what you say or try to find out about it, they are immune to seeing it or talking about it.
    • You may have done nothing wrong (and you may not even be aware why they don't like you)
      • Something completely harmless you did or said was unreasonably taken out of context.  In other words, you weren't in the wrong, but they are easily or wrongly offended.
      • Something you didn't do that they expected you to do might have offended them.
        • Doesn't matter if their expectation wasn't unrealistic.
        • Doesn't matter if their expectation wasn't clearly conveyed. 
  • There are some situations in which you are in the middle of two disagreeable factions   (Warring factions)
    • If you try to please one of the factions, you risk upsetting the other faction(s).
      • Working on pleasing one of the factions, might be seen as favoritism.
      • You may just be able to deal with one faction at a time and it isn't meant as favoritism so much as order or more pressing situation.
    • If you try to please all of the factions, you risk upsetting all factions.
      • All sides might claim that you are favoring the other side(s).
      • All sides might believe that you are just trying to placate them and not take their concerns seriously.  Akin to King Solomon splitting the baby in half.


These are just brick walls I see, I suspect there may be more that I don't OR some people's experiences may differ.  In any case, these are at least some of the circumstances in which we realize that we can't please everyone.  So, exactly what do we do in these situations?  Below are a number of ideas to consider.
  • When you are dealing with someone who is unhappy and can't be 'made happy', you don't take it as your mission to 'make them happy'.
    • You do what is right by them, not to get kudos from them, but because it is the right thing to do.
    • You support them, but not enable them or go in the tank with them.  In the analogy of your home, you stay in the house with them and guard the house for them, but you don't stay in the same room for them while they are throwing a pity party for themselves.  If and when they are ready, they will find their way.  Whether or not they see or appreciate your support, at least you know you've done right.
    • You can love them, but that doesn't mean you have to attend their pity party.
  • When you are dealing with an aggrieved person, you have to put boundaries on your dealings with them. 
    • Where they are righteously aggrieved, you can listen to or even support them but that doesn't necessarily mean you bear their cross the way they do.
    • Where their aggrieved nature is not righteous.
      • You may try to 'amuse' them for a time while you figure out if it is righteous.
      • You may have to step away from them and let them deal with their own nature.
        • You can't necessarily 'fix' or help them anyway and you risk them resenting you for trying.
        • There is a risk of alienating or upsetting them when you step away.  But, often times you have to do this for your own mental health anyway.  Drinking from someone else's 'poison' can cause you to get 'sick' too.
  • When you are dealing with a person who doesn't like you.
    • If you know you are part of the problem, it is important to make amends where necessary.
      • Once you've made amends, don't keep piling on hoping to get them back in your corner.  
        • It might not give them time to absorb your amends.
        • It might end up as effectively trying to bully them into accepting your amends.
      • Amends are meant as much for you as them.  Give them a chance to forgive you, but it is also a way of surrendering the problem to clean your side of the road.  If they never forgive you, at least tried.
    • If you don't know if you are part of the problem, it is important to try to ascertain if you are.
      • You can reach out to the other party and observe to them what you see is a cold chill and ask what's wrong.
      • If they tell you what's wrong and it includes you.
        • If they are right, make amends where possible.
        • If they are not right (not being realistic), try to clear up any misunderstanding and try to let them know you weren't trying to offend them or wrong them. 
          • Sometimes it helps to 'apologize' even if you aren't wrong so they know your good intentions.  Leave it at that and if they don't accept it, you should let it go.
          • Sometimes, they are so wrong, there is no way you can show them good intentions.  At that point, let it go and understand some people weren't meant to like you.
      • If they don't tell you or won't admit that it includes you, you can let them know if you did anything to upset them that you are not aware of it, it was not your intention and then let it go.
    • In some cases, it is clear you really aren't the problem, but they chose to personalize it to you.  Sometimes, it is just best to let it go and understand that not everyone will like you in this life.  Sometimes people will dislike you for absurd or misplaced reasons.
  • When you are dealing with 'warring' factions (siblings/friends/etc), you just have to do what you think is best.
    • Sometimes it is showing both sides deference.  This means taking into account the concerns of all sides and trying not to show favoritism.
      • Sometimes that is impossible not to 'favor'.
      • Sometimes no matter how even handed you are, one or more side will still think you are showing favoritism.
      • Even if this doesn't work at least you know in your heart that you did was right.  For example, if you know as a parent that you've treated your children as equally as possibly, you shouldn't worry past that.  You can't view how they see your parenting.
    • Sometimes, you just effectively have to pick a side.
      • Often times one party is clearly in the right.  You pick based on the best information you have at the time.  
      • This doesn't mean excluding other sides or broadcasting to them whom you are favoring.
      • Chances are you were in a no win situation anyway.  Whatever action you took would offend or upset one or more of the parties.  So, if you do what you feel is right, you at least have that to lean on.  Let God be the judge of your actions, not others.

Anyone with any kind of sense of morality or healthy spiritual background has a sense of right and wrong.  We generally know what is doing right by others.  I believe we are called on to get along with our fellow man (and woman).  This means not just with our friends or group, but also with our rivals and even enemies.  I believe this call has its limits, however.  While I believe it is important to sue for peace with those who don't like us, it is important not to use the pursuit of peace/neighbor as a tool to feel accepted or validated.  Our lives, our attempts to 'please' others should be made when it is the right thing.  Furthermore, if we try to sue for peace/friendship, it shouldn't be at all costs.  In many cases, we can let it be know that our 'door' is always open, but not stand around at the door waiting for them to come in.  In some cases, if they are too much of a threat, we just have to close our 'door' for our own safety and to let them know that we will not accept the threat.  Ultimately, the takeaway to this whole blog is we have to:
  • Try to avoid our efforts to 'please' others on our own need for validation/acceptance.  Do right by people because you care about them or love them.  Sometimes, this means even those who don't or won't like you back. 
  • If you base decision on trying to 'please' other on what's best for them rather than what you will get out of it, chances are better they will appreciate/respect you more for it.
  • There is no way you'll ever make everyone happy and if you spend your time pursuing that end chances are that you'll end up being the one that is not happy.
So, be kind when you can or should, but please don't be a pleaser.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The heart doesn't care what is proper...

I was reviewing some of the topics I've set aside to write on, but haven't and this one seemed appropriate with Valentine's Day coming up.  I remember a time in the past in which my heart wanted a situation to work out which my head said it wouldn't.  Yet my heart insisted that's what it wanted.  Anyway, even though the situation would have been allowed, it wasn't for the best (age difference, different points) and probably would be frowned upon.  Yet, I couldn't turn off my feelings just because maybe I knew it wasn't for the best and that society and those close might frown upon it.  I know sometimes love or feelings bloom between two people who by virtue of social mores are not considered 'appropriate', but the fact remains that the feelings are there.

I thought I'd written about how grief doesn't care about social expectations, but I don't see it now.  I will either find it or write my thoughts on it.  Like grief which occurs on its own terms, the heart doesn't care what's proper either. We love (or don't love) whom our heart tells us to.   I'm going to divide this idea into three categories.


We've seen the perfect couple on paper.  They both are smart, nice looking, have a lot in common and they may eventually even get married.  But, they seem to struggle, they drift apart and wake up one day realizing that they have nothing and perhaps they maybe never truly did.  In some ways, the life of their relationship may have resembled my purchase of my 2004 Dodge Neon with the backstory below.  Anyway, the selection of the 2004 Dodge Neon was like a relationship that looks great on paper and seems to meet one's needs, but is lacking that love or chemistry or feel.  Just like I bought the 'practical' car which I ended up being blah about, people may 'buy' such relationships, but never have their heart truly 100% into it.


In the meantime, we've seen couples that seemed very mismatched.  One is much older, much more 'successful', much more 'attractive' (according to worldly standards), much different personality-wised, or some other such differences.  Yet, there is deep love and connection between the two that defies convention or in some cases what society deems is best.  Take the example of John Lennon and Yoko Ono.  He was clearly magnitudes more talented than her musically.  He was British by birth and she was Japanese by birth.  They were raised in different religious backgrounds. Also, he was married to someone else at the time when they met.  Furthermore, she was blamed for the breakup of the Beatles.  On paper, they looked like a serious mismatch.  Yet, by all accounts their relationship was the happiest point in John's life.  His heart didn't care what was considered proper or what society approved of.  His heart loved Yoko for Yoko.


The third category is situations which are not considered appropriate due to age, ethical or other similar type considerations.  We've seen this in various stories about inappropriate teacher/student, therapist/client,  doctor/patient, police officer/criminal type, honors student/bad boy (or girl)  'relationships'.  In these situations, there is a certain excitement with the forbidden.  There is a certain chemistry each finds in the other, but there is usually a certain understanding between the parties that relationship is not terribly appropriate.  Sometimes, the head screams "DISASTER" or "WRONG", but the heart says, "I LOVE" and it doesn't matter what our head tells us, our heart is pulled a certain way.


The heart has this funny way of knowing what is important to it and gravitating towards it.  The heart doesn't think to itself I know this relationship is wrong or right.  Neither does the heart make a list of why a relationship is appropriate or not or fitting or not.  The heart just tells us honestly what it feels.  I'm not saying we should pursue what the heart tells us to, nor should necessarily mind it when it  rejects.  However, it is important that we not ignore our heart either.  We do so at our own peril.  If the heart isn't at least acknowledged, I believe it can ultimately bleed into our lives in an unhealthy way--drinking, gambling, drugs, acing out, etc.  If the situation is not appropriate due to legal or ethical issues, it is important to deal what is driving the heart towards the situation instead of indulging it.  If a situation does not have legal or ethical hurdles, it is important to explore whether the situation is healthy for us before pursuing it.  If it is clearly unhealthy, yet you want to pursue it, it is important to address the underlying driver for that.  If a situation doesn't appear to have ethical or legal problems and doesn't appear to be unhealthy, it is still important to be honest with yourself and ask yourself if your heart is into it or if it is just your mind telling you to pursue it.  It is just as important to recognize and be honest with yourself what you are drawing (or trying to) from the relationship.  In other words, are you in it for the right reasons.

My final takeaway, acknowledge and address your heart, but don't let your heart run the show by itself.  Similarly, while it is important to not let your mind clinically determine if a relationship is right for you, your mind should not ignored either.  Many relationships run directly from the heart have lit the sky like a supernova only to collapse in disaster.  While many that seem to be more subdued have grown to shine more over time as the couple really gets to know and appreciate each other.

Don't let the heart rule, while the mind drools.
But don't let mind dictate, while the heart waits.

* Backstory of my 2004 Dodge Neon:  I decided to replace my 1997 Ford Escort.  I had previously owned  a Dodge Shadow which I was comfortable with and was looking for something similar.  In doing a little research, I found that the Dodge Neon was a follow-up to the Dodge Shadow with better performance.  So, to me, it seemed like a practical and reasonable choice.  On paper the price and specs seemed to right for my needs, but when I test drove it, it didn't feel quite right.  I figured it was because I was used to my Ford Escort and that in time I'd get used to it my new car.  The funny thing is that I never did get used to it and when I rented another car a couple years later, I liked the rental better.  Eventually I got rid of the Neon for a car like the rental.  Just like two people who match well on paper, the Neon and I seemed like a great fit, but in the real world, I never felt it.

If you like this post try the following: 

Relationship term meanings - not the Webster Dictionary version.
Love transcends time... An appropriate song...

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Relationship term meanings - not the Webster Dictionary version.

In discussing relationships with friends, I have used and heard the term settling to describe prior relationships.  I've always felt with the concept of 'settling' that I needed to make a disclaimer.   Namely, that one party is not better than the other person.   In any case, that word can have such an insulting connotation.   

In a separate discussion one time, a friend was telling me his own relationship issues and the term "drifting apart" came to mind.  It occurred to me that that is such a vague term.  

The upshot of those two points is that I felt a blog post coming on. This is a post which I attempt to define/divine the meaning of terms to describe relationships--including small 'r' ones.  These definitions are not your Webster Dictionary clinical type definitions, but what I consider real life definitions.  Anyway, here are a list of 10 terms which I am attempting to divine.  Each person's list may vary.

Settling: Accepting too much of mismatch.  Could be a weak connection, too few interests, being at different stages in life/recovery, etc.  Really, it applies to both partners.  They are accepting/holding onto a situation that is not right for them.  Doesn't mean specifically that either one is 'better' than the other, just they are at different places.

Connection: A deep sense of being on the same page, being able to finish each other's thoughts and sentences.  Sharing or having compatible goals.  In a phrase, being in-tune or in-touch with the other.

Drifting apart: Gradually losing that sense of connection.

Codependent: Too reliant on another person for your sense of contentment.   This is sometimes very subtle to detect.  Obviously in relationships, especially marriage ones with kids, each partner will to an extent rely on the other.   Similarly, in relationships, if it is a healthy one, each partner will bring out (vs. create)  happiness or contentment in the other.  The question is really can you be relatively happy either way.  That is to say, you don't need the relationship to 'fix' yourself.

I'm Fine: It means I'm not fine, but I'm just saying it for one or both of two reasons.  1) Because I don't think you'll understand me anyway.  2) I'm hoping you'll get that I'm not really fine and figure it out without me having to explain it.

Distant: Having drifted apart, connection being strained.

Close: Having a deep connection.

Good Listener: Someone who is more interested in paying attention to you and not trying to prove that they are listening or humoring you while they wait to gain the floor for their words.

Safe: Someone who is not likely to hurt you or break your heart.  Safe often is mistaken for 'boring'.  It can be, but doesn't have to be.  It just means the person is a loyal friend who never have to worry.

Needy:  Also known as too codependent.  Can be a term used by one partner who is distant to the other partner.  Using this term allows the distant partner to push back against the other person's relationship needs.  It can truly apply, but it also can be abused.


I could go on forever, but I think 10 is a nice round number.  In any case, feel free to give your own meanings to these and other relationship terms.  Enjoy.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Burying things: people and problems.

As we go through life, it seems like we hit change points from time to time--residences, professions, relationships-family and friends, losses, etc.

I felt a weird disconnect last year (2014) when late one Sunday night my mom passed away with almost no notice.  About a week later I was back at work trying to pretend as if nothing had changed and going about doing my job.  It's like I had to bury the hurt, bury the pain, bury the shock.

I was at a concert last night (August 2015) and Collective Soul was the opening band.  As music often does, it transported me back in time.  I remembered a little bit about the last time I saw them.   It seemed like a long time ago, yet I remember distinctly enjoying my birthday that year seeing them at the Pageant.  Anyway, that memory was buried deep in the past.  It got me to thinking about burying things.

So, exactly what is burying. What are the pros and cons of it and how does it differ from setting aside and denying?  We can't always deal directly in the present with people/relationships and problems.  Sometimes, we have to take another approach to dealing with problems for our mental well-being.

First, I wish to cover burying.

  • It can be a very healthy process.  If we have properly mourned or come to terms with something, it makes no sense to ever let it see the light of day. In other words, laying it to rest.
    • A grudge or hard feelings with a family member or friend, if reasonably resolved can and should be forgotten.  Aka burying the hatchet.
    • If we have truly fully processed a hurt, it sometimes is time to let it drift off into nothingness.  Not to be forgotten, but not to be thought about so much.  Except of course, if it can be used instructionally with others.
  •  It can be a very necessary process.
    • Clearly in the case of a literal physical burial, it is a necessary, but sad process in dealing with the passing of a loved one.
    • Sometimes a relationship is so hopelessly broken that you just have to sweep up its remains and just bury them rather than trying to hold on.
  • It can be an unhealthy way of dealing
    • Sometimes, we haven't dealt with demons, skeletons or hurts and they are just too painful to deal with.  The easy answer is to 'soldier on', 'get over it', and just attempt to bury what hurts. 
      • As we know, if we don't learn from the past, we tend to repeat it.  If we don't learn from our mistakes or misjudgments, we can easily fail to recognize a similar scenario when it arises.
      • Just like in a horror movie with a person who is wrongly killed, our demons or skeletons can come back to haunt us.
        • It can take the literal form of someone or some circumstance coming back into our life which disrupts our current situation.
        • It can take the form of a secondary issue.  If not properly resolved that can metastasize into a larger problem.  We may think we are burying a hurt, but instead we are planting the seed for another larger problem such as drinking.  A problem which can completely absorb us and destroy us.

Next, I will cover setting aside

Setting aside

  • It can be a healthy way to deal with an issue.
    • Sometimes we aren't finished processing issues or problems.  Sometimes we don't have the strength to deal with the heavy lifting involved.  So, we process as much as we can and then set aside the issue to pick up at a later point.
    • When we come back to the issue at a later point, we may be able to come back at it with a calmer mind and a fresher perspective.
  • It can be an unhealthy way of dealing with something that needs to be dealt with now.
    • For example, if we are having relationship issues that are getting worse or leading to more resentment, delaying dealing with them will only make dealing with them worse later.
    • Another example: if we know someone needs an intervention, putting it off until later may make the intervention more painful for everyone and won't really keep us at ease in the meantime.  We may be able to avoid the problem for a time, but it won't get any better and risks worsening.
  • We don't always have the luxury of setting aside a problem.
    • For example, when a loved one dies & we are the responsible party, we can't just ignore dealing with their passing while we collect our grief.  We have to soldier on through it until we have a chance to exhale.
    • If a problem is severe, we risk it blowing up in our face if we ignore it.
      • For example, if we ignore necessary engine work on our car long enough, we might wake up one day and wonder why our engine has permanently failed.
      • Another example: if we push off cutting expenses too long, we might end up having to declare bankruptcy and ruining our credit in the process.

Finally, I'll considering denying.

  • Denying a problem, at least in the short term, might be the only way we can mentally deal with it.  That is it effectively is a shock based response.
    • If we had someone close to us die, the pain that they we feel might be too intense to deal with at the present time.  We may need to tell ourselves that we are fine to get by in the short term.
    • Denial can buy us time to come to terms with the issue or loss.
  • Longer term, denial is a horrible way of coping or dealing with a problem.
    • It can frustrate those around us.
    • We risk the problem getting out of control if we deny it long enough.
  • It can also be a response based on not wanting to deal with a problem.
    • If we deny a problem exists why then there will be no need to deal with it.
      • For example, if we have a family history of heart problems and we show symptoms of heart problems, we can fool ourselves into believing we definitely don't have a problem, especially if we don't get it looked at.
      • If we don't have a doctor diagnose a health issue, then we can blissfully pretend that it doesn't exist as it hasn't been 'officially' diagnosed.
    • That is at least until the problem becomes so huge or so in our face we can't avoid it anymore.
      • A family members who has given indications of suicidal thinking may one day force us to pull away the denial after they make an attempt on their own life.
      • Kind of hard to avoid facing a problem when it has just blown up in our face.

I guess the takeaway from this blog for me is this.  There is a time to deal with problems, but there is also a time bury a problem: when it is necessary and/or after it has been dealt with effectively.  However, there is a time to set aside problems or even to deny them.  It's important not to set aside or deny a problem for too long, but it is just as important not to keep on 'dealing' with a problem indefinitely.  That is long after it has come time to bury that problem.  Part of maturing is knowing when to deal, not to deal and when it is finally time to bury a problem.  Getting the timing down of how and when to effectively deal with problems is a key to living in the moment and living in serenity.

I think the bible effectively talks about this in Ecclesiastics.

A Time for Everything
1There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Pushing through fear: Freedom of letting go

Whether it is interviewing for a dream job, competing for the big prize or in the big race/event, starting out in new city, getting the courage to ask out someone who intrigues you or any other such circumstance, each has at least one aspect in common.   Typically each of these involves some degree of uncertainty or fear.  Each involves stepping outside our comfort zone.   Each involves risking 'failure' or allowing vulnerability of a sort and the shame or discomfort that comes along with it.  We could freeze up, we could fail or perform miserably, we fall on our face, we could face an uncomfortable or awkward rejection, etc.  In short, we could feel a portion or a full measure of shame, discomfort or humiliation when we try.  Just like there are people who seem to enjoy or thrive on pain, I suppose there are people who ride the humiliation train back to the station to 'feel alive'.  However, most people I know don't enjoy those feelings.

I will follow-up this blog with another one called, "It's true: Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose..." as I realized there really is a certain freedom when you hit rock bottom.  But, for the moment, I will focus on when we still have something to lose and how to deal with the fear.  I've learned over the years multiple strategies in dealing with it, some better than others.
  • Self-talk
    • Tell yourself that more often than not, the worse case scenario is just that.  That is to say, highly unlikely to happen.
      • When I tandem sky-dived, I told myself that the instructor wanted to go back home that day too.  That is to say, I wasn't the first anxious person to sky-dive and that he knew what he was doing and was going to do his best to minimize any risk I could pose.
      • I have a bit of fear of drowning. When I snorkeled for the first time in the open water away from the boat, I was nervous.  However, I realized it wasn't as if I struggled too much that the crew would just let me drown.  
    • Talking through and eliminating the unrealistic.
      • When I lose something around the house or in my car, I remind myself that it didn't just fly out the window when I was driving.  In other words, it's not gone forever, but just lost.
      • That even if you think an interview goes poorly, interviewers normally don't ridicule you to your face, take you out back and shoot you or call your current boss and tell him to fire you for being an unmitigated interview disaster. 
    • Tell yourself that people don't die of humiliation and that a lot of time the humiliation you feel is emanating from you than being projected at you. 
  • Studying (or preparing)
    • The more you prepare for a big step, big move or a big competition, the less you leave up to chance.  That is the less uncertainty you have.
      • If you do your research about a company and the role or position you are interviewing for, you go in less likely to get surprised during the interview.
      • If you research the different aspects of a city that you are moving to, you have an better idea what to expect when you actually get there.
      • If you study what is important to the object of your interest and focus on developing a rapport with her, you can better acclimate her to you.  That is to say subconsciously she could picture herself with you.
    • The more you realistic your preparation, the more you can you see yourself with a positive outcome.
      • For example, when racing, I did both speed training and distance training.  Short interval speed training allowed myself to acclimate (and picture) running faster than usual.  Distance training made me confident that I could readily run the race distance.
      • Traveling to and around and staying in a new city before the big move, can help you to picture the daily routine around of it--where to shop, what roads to take, etc.
  • Self-denial
    • This is where in your mind, you minimize the actual risk.
    • Sometimes, if we accepted what the actual risk was, it would keep us from doing what we need to.  Self-deception can move us to a point in which we engage in 'fearful' behavior by pretending there is no reason to be concerned.
    • Ignorance may not be bliss, but in the right circumstance it can be freeing.  If you don't realize the risk until the fact, then you haven't given yourself a chance to worry about it.
  • Slight 'recklessness'
    • Sometimes there is a definitive fear or risk no matter how much you have prepared, tried to reason your way out of the fear or deny the risk.  You just have to make a decision to step out and jump off the diving board, hoping that there is water below.
    • Sometimes you have to jump out of that plane with a parachute, imaging that the chute WILL open just like it always has done without fail, time and time previously.
  • Straitjacket
    • Sometimes boxing yourself into a necessary choice is a painful but effective way of dealing.
    • If the choices that you leave yourself are worse, then you leave yourself 'no choice' but to take the chance.
    • When I sky-dived, I let everyone that mattered to me know that I was going to.  I took someone with me who had done it before and was likely to hold my feet to the fire and think less of me if I chickened.  I drove to a location a few hours out, thereby making a return trip back home too humiliating if I had 'chickened out'.  In short, the cost in shame, humiliation and money was too much for me to stomach.  So, I took the 'easy' way out and did the jump.

I guess my takeaway from this blog post is that sometimes you just have to find a way to push through the fear.  Sometimes you can talk yourself through it, sometimes you can fool your way through it, sometimes prepare your way through it, sometimes you can just decide to do it anyway and some times you can 'shame' yourself through it.  But, ultimately in life sometimes we just have to find a way to push past the fear and let go.