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Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Are You Tough Enough for My Love?

Recently after a long day at work, I was about to head home and the song Coming Home by Cinderella occurred to me.  Specifically these lyrics: 

I see the fire in your eyes but a man's gotta make his way
So are you tough enough for my love
Just close your eyes to the heaven above
I'm comin home, I'm comin home

In the song, the lead singer is reflecting his time on the road, the impact it has on his family and the anticipation of going back to family.  Anyway, he asks a good question: "So are you tough enough for my love"?  This got me to thinking, relationships can take a lot of work, a lot of dedication and frankly just ability to cope with difficult circumstances.  The common refrain in wedding vows such as listed below.

I, ___, take you, ___, for my lawful wife/husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, until death do us part."

That vow wasn't created for no reason.  It's been widely recognized across time and cultures that marriage isn't always an easy journey.  Often times, I think people really have no idea just how much work it is or will be.  Hence the vow doesn't sugar coat marriage.  It speaks of a commitment.  Not just words, but the willingness and mindset that you are in it for the long haul.  Anyone who has been previously married or has been married for a long time is likely to get this (or should get it), but you know I get these inspirations and feel the need to remind everyone of this.  ;-)

We don't always know what we are getting into when we get married and really how can we?  Typically, there is usually so much we don't know about each other.  We go off our gut, we go off our instinct and lets just be frank, we go off our hope based on something intriguing we find in each other. 

In my blog post, It's just you and me and we just disagree..., I explored the idea that not all relationships that end are do to a "bad guy" or lack of effort, but that it's an easy trap to label failures as having a "bad guy".  In my 48 years, I've seen friends and family have failed marriages, been a child of and once even been part of a failed marriage.    Here are some of the obstacles I've seen to successful marriages which require "toughness" or "understanding" or "commitment" (that in some cases can apply to both partners).
  • Partners in the marriage either don't have or haven't made the time necessary to get to know each other.  
    • Work schedule
    • Kid schedule 
  • A trauma has hit close to home.  Examples include:
    • Child gets sick or dies.  
    • Someone has had health problems, sometimes to a point in which it has changed the person or the dynamics of the relationship.
    • Financial disaster such as bankruptcy or failed business.
  • A spouse had unresolved hurts.
    • Especially, but not limited to family of origin hurts.  
    • Perhaps we already know that he or she has hurts, but not necessarily the extent.  
    • In a way, this is a trauma at an early age.
    • His/her reactions seem out of proportion or puzzling to us.  But, when taken in the context of hurts can be seen as 'protecting' him or herself.
  • A spouse has hangups (or a tendency towards) that we weren't aware of or aware of the extent of.  Examples include:
    • What we perceived as having an occasional drink was in reality our spouse hiding (or denying) a real problem with alcohol.
    • A spouse gets sick and takes pain killers only to have them take over his or her life.
  • A spouse has annoying habits or idiosyncracies that we didn't see so clearly when we were just dating.  Examples include:
    • Being a control freak.  What seemed like organization on their part or "being helpful" now is more clearly control.
    • Making important decisions/purchases without at least passing it by the other spouse.
    • Being disorganized.  It may not have seem like such a big deal or obvious during the dating stage, but we find that it gets in the way of being productive.
This isn't meant to be an all-inclusive list of obstacles to a successful marriage, but just some things I've observed over the years.  Your list very probably will be different.  In any case, even when each partner in a marriage wants the marriage to succeed and truly cares about the other spouse, this is a question that can be asked.  We don't always express our love to our spouse the same way.  We don't always express our love to our spouse in the same measure.  We don't always express our love to our spouse effectively in our actions.  But, in each case, that doesn't mean it isn't present.  In a way, I guess it boils back down to the question.

"So are you tough enough for my love."

Each partner has his/her flaws and his or her ways of expressing themselves, but I guess the question we have to ask early on--when we are answering the question, "Do you take..."--is our we tough enough to accept the imperfect love that our spouse shows us?

Just some thoughts.  Thanks for reading and I hope everyone who reads this finds the courage, strength and fortitude they need to appreciate their imperfect spouse, especially when their spouse really does care about them.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Hooked on Feelings, Logic or Both

I was watching Guardians of the Galaxy 2 with my family and it was refreshingly funny.  In an era in which the heroes and the superheroes in the movies seem to be stiff, stilted, overwrought, too self-important, grandiose or otherwise not capable of being relaxed or relaxing, seeing the humorous interaction in that movie between them saving the galaxy just completely put me in a good frame of mind and good humor.  While, it had its funny moments, it also had it's serious and sentimental moments.  Speaking of sentimental moments, I heard a song from the movie "Hooked on a Feeling" which really spoke to me.  If you listen to the song it seems to speak of love in a drug-like fashion.  For some reason, that I really connected to that song and it's become one of my recent favorites.

When listening to it this morning, I thought about how we process information and express ourselves.  Some people are very emotive people, some people seem to fancy themselves as Mr. Spock-like logicians, but there are a lot of people who have varying degrees of both characteristics--emotion/logic.  I myself seem to be be strongly steeped with both, sometimes seemingly competing for my approval or expression.  Everyone is different and you may see yourself as strongly emotive, strongly a logician or both.  I guess it's all a matter of interpretation.  In any case, each characteristic has its benefits and drawbacks and I believe in a good balance can work well together.   So let's consider all this from what I see:
  • Emotive People
  • Logical People

Emotive People - Driven primarily by passions or emotions
  • Benefits
    • They can be some of the most sensitive or empathetic people.
    • They can be some of the most driven people.
      • If you passionately believe in a cause, you will be more inclined to push/live it.
      • If you passionately believe in a cause, you will be less likely to give up when facing adversity.
  • Drawbacks
    • Their passions when unchecked can draw them down the wrong paths.
    • Their passions when unchecked can keep them stuck in the wrong direction.
    • Their energy when unfocused can be tiring, ineffective, and be used against them.

Logicians - Driven primarily the 'need' to be (or appear) logical
  • Benefits
    • They aren't weighed down by the "burden" of excess emotion.
    • They can see beyond the overwrought emotions of issues/situations and see what is really important and what is overwrought.
    • They can make cool and calculated decisions in times of crisis when more emotive types can melt under pressure.
  • Drawbacks
    • They can come across as very insensitive or lacking empathy.  While leaders need to be logical and cool under pressure, they also need to be able to connect when people are suffering.
    • Their decisions, while possibly for the best, can turn people off as they can seem to be heartless.
    • By focusing too much on logic, they may not have developed the relationships and passion necessary to push through necessary changes.

A quick way to summarize emotive vs. logical is this.  Emotive people will tend to have the emotional understanding and the passion needed to accomplish great things--large or small-- and motivate people, but the passion can sometimes can overwhelm and blind them to the best approach.  Logicians will tend to have the intellectual insight to see beyond the emotional clutter and be cool under pressure, but they can miss the necessary human nature or human touch that can motivate people.   For me, in an optimal mix, a person will have a strong emotive side which fuels their passions to accomplish great things, but also have a strong logician side to focus, utilize and guide their emotive side rather than suppress it.

Just as the world cannot operate on one personality type.  We need creative type to think outside the box and invent, but we also need the orderly type to manage the chaos.  And so it is with emotive vs. logicians.  We need emotive people with the passion to push necessary social change, but we need logicians to help implement necessary change in the best way possible.  I guess the takeaway is this, embrace the personality type that best reflects you (emotive vs. logician) and utilize it to your advantage, but be open to elements of or people who favor the other.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Freedom from obstacles can be an obstacle itself

We hear on a regular basis about the privileged class such as Paris Hilton, Justin Bieber, Lindsay Lohan, the Kennedy's and so on.   We hear about the mistakes and struggles they go through such as drug and other addictions, unhealthy relationships and just general misery.  From those not born with a silver spoon in their mouth, there is often a certain contempt with the 'poor' privileged folks and often times a lack of empathy for them.  When that 'poor privileged' people lectures us we are quick to show contempt for them. This is especially true when that class publicly fails or makes mistakes. Disgust/contempt/condemnation can manifest itself as:
  • Irritation and anger that they would 'dare' tell the rest of us who struggle to make it, how to live.  Especially if they've never had to.
  • Resentment/envy at the advantages or opportunities they have (and are in many cases throwing away).  We put ourselves in their shoes and note how if only we had such opportunities how we'd do a millions time better them.
  • Disgust at them when then when they show themselves as ungrateful for the advantages they have or seem to obtusely complain about their struggles.
  • Rage when they seemingly avoid consequences for their mistakes and actions that the 'rest of us' wouldn't dream of being able to escape.
I used to be one of the stone throwers and perhaps to a degree I still am, however, a funny thing happened on the way to heaven: I started to see past the common takes, the contempt, and the like.  I started to see the 'poor' privileged people as not caricatures, but as real people.  That's not to say the privileged class don't earn or should be exempt from scorn heaped on them when they abuse or otherwise take for granted their privilege.  It's just to say that "beyond the headlines" there is more to the story or more than a simple take.  I'm not sure what got me to thinking about this all except that I was thinking recently about some of the obstacles that I have had to overcome in my life and I realize in some ways they made me stronger.  It occurred to me that had I been born into privilege I might have never had the opportunity to grow and develop coping skills.  So, let's consider some differences that some of a privileged and someone of a non-privileged class may have in their lives or development:

Privileged vs. Non-privileged.
  • Necessity of Work
    • Non-privileged: Not an option, if I don't find a way to make money I could be hungry and homeless and may not survive.  Therefore, the need to work has helped me develop certain skills.
      • The need to budget/spend wisely.
      • The need to choose a career wisely.
      • The need to keep/sharpen my skill set.
    • Privileged: Optional possibly.  If money is not an issue, there is less pressure to do the following.
      • Budget/spend wisely.  If hard time comes, a person who has never been forced to do this could struggle to survive.  In other words, the lack of this skill could be an obstacle.
      • Make wise career choices.  If money isn't an issue, there may not be an urgency to making a focused career choice.
      • Keep/sharpen skill set.  If money isn't an issue, the incentive to do the hard work of 'keeping skills up to date' can be greatly diminished.
  • Sense of Purpose
    • Non-privileged: Forced to find a purpose or at least something they are good at.  Pride in earning a living can give a sense of purpose.  Success in earning a living can also give confidence to explore other ways to have purpose.
    • Privileged: When the absolute need to work and find a skill is lessened if not altogether removed, it can rob a person of motivation.  When you know you'll be fine either way, motivation to succeed has to come from somewhere else (besides survival).
  • Friendships/Healthy Relationships
    • Non-privileged: Relationships can tend to be purer or more legitimate
      • When you don't have excess resources or financial value to offer others, you are less likely to be "befriended" or "loved" based on what you can do for others.
      • When you have less to impress others with (including fame or popularity), if you are appreciated, it is likely to be based on impressing others.
    • Privileged: Relationships can be more questionable.
      • To some extent people are attracted to what others can do for them.  If you have means or something that you can effectively trade for money or fame, then you are more likely to attract gold-diggers, hanger's on and/or people who are looking to trade of your fame/privilege.
      • When you have privilege, people can get stuck on your privilege or seeing you for what you have or offer (worship) than a more honest person to person relationship.
  • Expectations
    • Non-privileged: Less likely to have absurdly high expectations.
      • Success is more likely to be treated as a nice accomplishment rather than an expectation.
      • Failures and mistakes, while not good, will not tend to be as high profile (and therefore easier to get past).
    • Privileged: More likely to have absurdly high expectations.
      • People that come from privilege, especially where their family tree is littered with great achievement, are typically expected to live up to or at least continue the success of the family name.
      • Pressure to live up to the family name can be enormously stressful.
      • Failures and mistakes will tend to be more well known or high profile.
  • Relatability/Empathy.
    • Non-privileged: Easier to relate to the "average" person if you are closer to their class.
    • Privileged: If you are not exposed to "average" people, but instead mostly to other "privileged" people, it will be much harder to relate or understand them.

I grew up in a working class family and was the first person in my immediate family and the second person in my extended family (that I knew) to graduate from college with Bachelor's degree.  Given obstacles that either directly addressed (or implied) in other blog posts--see Anxiously awaiting - Not just words for some--success has never not come easy for me.  But, I was blessed with a good mind and an instinct for survival.  I had many opportunities in my early life and early adulthood to hone my survival instincts too.  I didn't see it that way back then, but I see it now.  In any case, it occurred to me that if I had had everything that I could ever want, I may not have developed a strong personality, I may have found less authentic friendships and I may not have honed well my survival instincts (for when bad times hit).   But potentially what bothers me most is that I probably would not have developed a good sense of relatability or empathy.

As any athlete who has ever tasted success knows, you can't develop mental toughness and take your game to the next level without facing and overcoming obstacles--injury, pain, even some agony.  As with athletics, in life the obstacles we face give us an opportunity to grow and better ourselves.  If we are exempted or protected from obstacles or not required to overcome obstacles, our emotional, mental, spiritual and in some cases even physical growth will be limited.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Being boxed into other's expectations: Thoughts on

In a prior blog, called Boxing others into our expectations, I wrote about the tendency of placing expectations on others that we not necessarily realistic.  In a way, it was seeing others through the lens of our expectations--or more likely the needs of what we 'need' for them to be to us.  In it I had unrealistic expectations of family.  I thought the family member should be more loyal, have more empathy and just generally behave more like my expectation of 'family'.  Once I accepted that the family member was who they were, I realized it really wasn't personal.  Who they were was more about what they were capable than about how they felt about me.  So, I stopped stressing about the relationship so much.  Anger, bitterness, appeals to them as 'family', etc. gradually and mostly ebbed as I stopped boxing this person into my expectation of what 'family' should be like.

In "It's just you and me and we just disagree...", I touched upon the other side of the coin.  That is, when you aren't someone who others think or expect you are (or should be).  I had been talking to someone whom I met at my daughter's skating lessons for about a month.  Anyway, one day she just started being critical of me for what reason I don't know.  Anyway, I was the same person I was when I first talked to her, but somewhere she'd developed an expectation of who I should be or impression of who I was.  After a time, apparently that expectation or impression didn't match up with my reality? (That's the closest I can come?).  Anyway, I was able to detach from her negativity towards me as I knew I was the same person she had met on day one.   Essentially, I refused to let her box me into whom she thought or expected that I was or thought I should be.  A more down to earth way of describing the situation is that "she didn't get me".  That's okay, we aren't necessarily entitled to being completely understood, but it is important if we commit to someone and them to us, that we attempt to understand them.

As we know, successful relationships (family, friends, spouse, etc) are based on communication.   Sometimes we don't always communicate effectively whom we are and sometimes the other party isn't able (or willing) to see whom we are.  Sometimes the difference between  able and willing is clouded.  For example, the other party believes they are willing to keep an open mind on us, but they have an unrecognized block.  It could be a relationship or hurt or disappointments in the past that clouds their objectiveness.   But, I digress, if I was taking the side of the one who would be 'boxed' into expectations, these are types of questions I could ask:
  • Did I not express/reveal myself effectively (unintentionally)?
    • Sharing oneself is a gradual process.  In other words, it is not something that can (or should) be done in a matter of weeks or even months. 
      • People who are interested in you will tend to fill in the blanks when absent information.
      • They may tend to fill in the blanks based on their own experiences.
    • Sometimes due to sub-conscience blocks of my own, I may avoid sharing parts of myself.
      • For example, if I have hidden trust issues, I may almost subconsciously pause in revealing parts of my personality.
      • For example, if I have shame issues, I may on some level, close off certain parts of of my life.
  • Have I intentionally been cautious about revealing myself (intentional)?
    • If I'm unsure of how the other party will take a certain aspect of my personality or self, I might tend to tread lightly rather than easily express that part of myself.
    • If I've been hurt before, do I want to risk revealing myself only to be hurt again (and have to maybe do it over again)?
  • Does the other party have the time or energy to get to know me?
    • Sometimes, when either or both--time or energy--are absent, the other party may not be easily able to get to know me.
    • I may have to take the initiative and reveal myself better (if the relationship is important to me).
  • Does the other party even want to get to know me?
    • Are they comfortable with close relationships or do they prefer arm's length distance relationships in which they can comfortable control or keep their own self hidden?
    • Have they placed me in an a 'sort of' friend box vs. others in their circle (and are not wanting to invest much in getting to know me)?

In a 12 step or recovery program, those questions would be considered "my side of the street".  After assessing my role in or feelings about a relationship, I have to step aside and consider the relationship.  If after dealing with my side of the street, the other party is still trying to box me into their own expectations, I have to consider how I want to handle it.
  • Am I going to let myself be bothered by what they expect or think about me? If so,
    • Do I want to work to clear up any misconceptions or misunderstanding they might have about me?
    • Do I find a way to accept that perhaps they are incapable of understanding me?
  • Will I decide that it's not worth the trouble?
    • Will I be myself in dealing with them and let the chips fall where they may?
    • Will I step back from the situation and the expectations place on me?


Applying questions like that to my own life, I've come to realize:
  • I can't please everyone and I can't base my life on living up to the expectations of others.
  • If a relationship is important I can try to help the other party understand me.  If it isn't I can just let it go and understand that not everyone will 'get me'.
  • If someone has expectations of me or who I am that are unrealistic for me, I can express that point.  But, I can't control them and I can't spend my life being worried or stressed out about it.

So, there you have it and the song below is sort of an extreme response to being boxed into the expectations of others.  I'd don't necessarily advocate that point of view, but I had to put it in there anyway.


Saturday, November 11, 2017

Stereotypes are often not Stereo, but instead Mono

When I thought of the idea of this blog, I was going to have the big focus of it be based on the  Michael Brown case in St. Louis. I was going to note how there seem to be two very distinctly different camps on the issue, each supporting a largely separate narrative.  My point was going to be the narrative, when told by each camp, was only part of the story and that at least in some cases was based on stereotypes.  In other words, instead of the story being played in 'stereo', it was being played in 'mono' by each side. When you combined some elements from each side (mono) and added some missing elements in the story, you got the story properly told in stereo. Anyway, that was going to be the direction, but my the direction of my post changed.

A number of years ago, a heard a phrase that stuck with me which encapsulates how I feel when in the process of doing or saying something, my mind or direction suddenly changes.  I'll have an epiphany and my direction changes dramatically.  The phrase is "a funny thing happened on the way to heaven..."

Anyway, a funny thing happened on the way to heaven considering how to open this blog.  Veteran's day celebrations happened.  It reminded of my father who passed away in May 2015.  He had a hard life as a child and adulthood that wasn't easy. He didn't always make the best choices, show the most compassion, exude the most sensitivity as it relates to societal issues.  My relationship with him wasn't the Hallmark Channel child/parent bonding moment.  Nor was it the hey let's go for beers and shoot the s***.  It was unequal for a long time.  But, when he was shuffling between the hospital and nursing home in his final days among the feelings I felt for him--besides regret that circumstances got in the way of a close relationship over his life--was a sense of this is my dad who gave perhaps only what he was able to in relationships.  In dying, he was honored with burial with full military honors.  Whatever mixed feelings I had for him, I was very proud to be honored as being the one who was tasked to set up his military burial (as well as other arrangements--with help from my brother).  I was proud to be the next of kin for my veteran father.  I was proud to take my daughter of 8 to his funeral and have her experience firsthand what it means to be honored militarily that way. 

So, back to the point at hand and my original idea.  What I've found in life is that when we discuss people we don't know (and sometimes people we know or think we know), we tend to get stuck on the seemingly obvious point(s) about them and ignore the rest of the story.  

Michael Brown's life story ended August 9th, 2014.  All we usually hear is the events of that day.  If siding with the pro-MB side, we hear of a troubled young man who was working to better himself, who was trying to comply and was shot down.  If we side with the anti-MB side, we hear of a thug who had what was coming.  Either way, we miss the backstory.  What events in MB's life led up to the confrontation.  Who could have been there him in a more profound way, but failed him along the way?   People talk about the events of August 9th, but I believe the situation had been working towards an unhappy ending for years.  But, I digress.

My father's life story ended on May 1st, 2015.  If you peeked in on his life, you'd see a person who wasn't always good with kids.  You might see a person who wasn't always racially sensitive.  You might see someone who wasn't one to open up.  You might see someone who abused alcohol for many years.  You might see someone who struggled in his relationships.  In short if you just peeked in, you'd see Mr. Old School, someone who seemingly didn't have a softer side.  You wouldn't necessarily be wrong with your assessment, but you'd only see the "mono" (or stereotyped) version of his life.  The father I knew, he was placed in foster care early and never was fully accepted by his family.  The father I knew was raised by a strict, old school, older foster father.  The father I knew on some level wanted relationships, but never had close relationships modeled closely in his life.  The father I knew, despite his bluster about others and 'others', I witnessed to be polite to and even helpful to others including people of color.  The father I knew served his country honorably and deserved a proper military burial with full honors.  The father I knew in his later years, was helpful to older people. The father I knew could be very generous too. In short, one could see a lot of Archie Bunker in him, but that would only be part of the story.  That would be a stereotype. In reality, he was a much more complex man in some ways with good mixed in with not so good and even some of the not so good wasn't totally as advertised (or blustered).


In my own personal life, when I let the dust settle with regard to others, I see that they either aren't as 'perfect' or as 'bad' as advertised.  It would be easy to place them in bins and label them as good and bad, but I know in my heart, that would be emotionally/intellectually lazy of me.  So, finishing up this Veteran's Day, think about veterans in your life and give them the thanks they've earned.  But, also consider others in your life (and in our society) and give them the benefit of the doubt.  That is, attempt to see them honestly, rather than seeing them conveniently.  It may take some work and it may not be satisfying, but I think the exercise could help you be more honest about yourself as well.

Just my 2 cents worth,

* I hope one day when my life story is 'written', that I will be looked at fairly. I can accept the bad, but I would like to think it would be balanced out with the good.

(posted originally on 11/11/17).