Search This Blog

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Roles: We All Actors on Life's Stage

As many of us go through the year-ending holidays as parents and grandparents, we are looked to by our children as those who lead the activities and celebrations and just set the tone for our home.  We are usually embracing a role that our parents had embraced before us.  Sometimes it is out of a sense of tradition and sometimes it it because we want to do.  Anyway, let's focus on the word 'role'.  What is a role to me?  It is a part we play.  It is actions or attitude we embrace.  We embrace them for our own reasons.  

Sometimes, we embrace the part or actions/attitude because that is what is expected of us.  We want to be considered by society as being "responsible".  In other words, we do what is expected because we don't want to 'look bad' to others.  Sometimes, we embrace our role because it is a core belief of our faith.  We want to be respectful or obedient of our Higher Power (God) and/or our moral code.  The "Fear of the Lord" might keep us on the right track and/or just wanting to make sure we please our Father (Higher Power).  Sometimes, we feel like we are being judged by those close to us.  We may want to please our parents, spouse or even children.  Perhaps maybe it could be more like that we don't want to 'displease' them.  Sometimes it may be as simple as we want to be feel good about ourselves.  So, we embrace a role to boost or ego a bit.  Sometimes, there is just something deep inside us telling us that a particular role is just something that we should have or do or are meant to have or do.  Whatever the draw,  sometimes it feels to me in a way that we are actors on a stage called life.  Our audience may be society at large, those close to us or are Higher Power.  

Sometimes we embrace a role with almost reckless enthusiasm.  We are excited and can't wait to burst onto the stage and start belting out our lines.  That is, we are almost getting ahead of ourselves.  We are on the edge interrupting the other actors or actresses who are in the process of finishing their lines.   Sometimes, we embrace our role with dogged determination.  We appreciate it is what we should be doing or where we should be.   We push and grind through it in a bid to make sure we get it right or complete.   Sometimes, like Noah, we grudgingly embrace our role because, while we hate it, we are facing consequences if we don't.   Whether it is someone's wrath, a loss of face or just personal shame, we are compelled to meet our role.  Whatever way we embrace it, we still behaving like actors on stage.  Just sometimes we have an easier time getting into the character of our role.  Additionally, sometimes we just do a better job in 'acting' our role.  While it would be best if we embraced our roles properly and gave an Oscar worthy performance in our roles, much of the battle is just accepting and trying.   Like a famous PSA for adopting says, "You don't have to be perfect to be the perfect parent."  Sometimes it is enough to accept and work seriously at your role.

I've expressed why we seek and/or accept roles.  I've also expressed how we embrace our roles.  But, let's get more concrete.  What our our roles?  Below is just a sampling of roles and not meant to be a complete list or in any particular order.

ROLES (examples)

  • Becoming/being a parent
    • When I took my daughter's mom to the hospital 13+ years ago, I felt like we were a couple with this concept of impending parenthood represented by a significant bulge in her tummy.  I knew conceptually that we were about to become parents, but nothing could fully prepare me for what followed.  We went to the hospital as a couple with the idea of a child on the way.  We left as a couple that just happened to have this little person who was fully dependent on us.
    • As we were taking this little person to the car on the way out, it struck me: I'm a parent now and I don't know if I have what it takes.  Life hits you quick sometimes and I realized that I needed to suck it up and try no matter my insecurities.
    • I was on 'stage' with the audience being the world.  I felt like I had to put on a good performance in the role of 'parent'.  Honestly, for me, my real audience was my daughter, her mom and my Higher Power (God).
  • Being a good spouse/significant other
    • As I've heard and been advised the real work of relationships/marriage is not when things are going smooth.  The real work is when there are difficulties, differences or conflict.   It's easy when things are going smooth to be embrace the illusion that 'love' alone will carry the day.  However, as anyone who has been in a long-term marriage or who has been divorced realizes that warmth towards your SO is important.  However, dedication and determination will carry the day long term.  In other words, 'playing your role'.
  • Being a good employee
    • I've heard the phrase, attributed to Mark Twain, "Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life."  I don't necessarily totally agree with that.  I think that even people that love their job, need a break from time to time.  Even the most loved jobs can have their own challenges.
    • Our role is quite clear here: If you are do a job, do it properly (or to the best of your ability).  It's hard to take pride in doing a job poorly and/or disinterestedly.
  • Being a citizen or member of society
    • In order for society to function smoothly we have to be a good neighbor and we have to participate in it. 
      • We play the role of a voter.  We take seriously the role of choosing our leaders and/or our rules.
      • We can play the role of a good neighbor.   If we see someone that is distressed or needs help.  Even if we don't feel like getting involved, putting ourself at risk or just interrupting what our own routine, we can play a responsible role.
      • If we are in a 'hero or leader' role, it is important that we embrace the role properly.  It is important that we set a good example.  That could making sure we are appropriate in our role.  It could mean that we put others before ourselves.

Roles can feel uplifting, roles can feel challenging, roles can feel foreign, and frankly roles can even feel miserable.  But, however a role feels, if we are meant to take a role, it is important that we take it seriously.   An actor on the stage will only be accepted by the audience if he/she takes his/her role seriously.  Similarly, I believe we can live a meaningful, purposeful or proper life if we are willing to take seriously or accept our role.   This isn't always easy and sometimes as I will aside shortly, roles can be brutal.  For me, when I think about it, if God can take the form of a man and take on hurt of the sin of the world and the brutal death for us, maybe I can suck it up.

Just my 2 cents.

-- Rich

  • In 2011, I had to play the role of a loving younger brother while I helped with my late brother's passing.  In 2015, I finished that role as I had his ashes interned.  I wrote a eulogy for him.
  • In 2014, I had to play the role of a responsible son as my mom died suddenly and not fully prepared.  I had to pull together (financially and logistically) a funeral and a wake in a matter of a few days.   Once again, I had to write a eulogy.
  • In 2015, I had to set up another funeral and burial as my dad finally succumbed to Parkinson's related complications.
In each case, I wanted to run away from responsibility.  I didn't want to have to push through the pain and the loss.  My mother and dad had entrusted me to be the 'responsible party'.   My late brother's passing was unexpected and he didn't entrust anyone.  But, as his closest family member, I knew it was my role to see that he and his memory were treated properly and respectfully.   He needed a strong advocate and no one had to tell me, I just knew it was my role and as I look back my honor.




Saturday, December 5, 2020

Drug Addiction: A Hazy Shade of Spring

I finally watched Less Than Zero. Only you know like 33 years after it came out. Robert Downey Jr's character, Julian Wells, played a really convincing drug addict. Obviously they take a lot of liberties with the original novel and some liberties with addiction. However, at one point in my life I spent some time around a friend who suffered from drug addiction. Unfortunately, the film was pretty accurate in its depiction of the downward spiral. At some point in my life, I may or may not have inhaled (as Bill Clinton said re: marijuana). However, I was offered a more highly addictive, harder drug than that. Fortunately, I grew up in a family and faith that frowned upon that. I also was blessed with an ability to just say no to things like that. This evidences itself in my take or leave approach to potentially addictive medicine, including painkillers after a surgery. I've had a few procedures and know that painkillers are "nice" in terms of blunting pain and helping one to feel alright. But, the few times I've taken them, post-procedure, I rarely have gone through 25% of the prescription. I do take medicine for anxiety, but once again, I've been able to take or leave it. I thank God that of my imperfections, that a weakness for 'needing' addictive drugs is not one of them.
So, I know from personal experience--a friend who had a hardcore drug addiction-- as well as experiences of others that drug addiction is NOT a pretty picture. Drug addicts:
  • Don't realize or underestimate the addictive potential of the drugs they choose.
  • They alienate those closest to them.
  • They are subject to harsh withdrawal and a desire to make it go and just feel good again.
  • They have the delusion that "I'll just get high one just one more time", even after they have had a crash or they have a 'sober' moment when they realize the damage. See the point above.
  • They have the inability to keep employed.
  • We (their family/friends) wonder if we are enabling them when we help them out.
  • They are often 'off' or shaky even when the when the have been sober for a bit.
  • They struggle with staying clean, even after a stint in rehab.
Unfortunately, the friend that I mentioned who struggled with drug addiction, died way too soon. It was a spring day years ago. From what I heard, she didn't die during a high. She was driving a vehicle she wasn't used to and was supposedly texting at that point and lost control. It was on her way home from a 12-step meeting, ironically. I suspect even if she was 'sober' at that moment, that the up and down ride with her addiction had taken its toll on mind and body. In other words, I suspect she "off" or "wasn't herself" when the accident happened.
Besides losing a friend, the worst part about it for me was that I predicted it with chilling accuracy. Earlier in the day she had asked to borrow a little money or to get her something to drink or something like that. I knew that that could or would be enabling her and told her I couldn't do it. She wasn't happy about that as addicts often aren't when their requests are rejected. I'd gone to a meeting with her previously when she asked--I think for moral support--but that night I didn't. After rejecting enabling her, I talked to a friend of hers a little later. I told her friend that I couldn't control whether my addict friend finds a way to get what she doesn't need, but that I wasn't going to inadvertently enable that. I said, I don't want to enable her and get a call later that she had wrapped her car around a tree. Famous last words...

Unfortunately, the next morning, I got a call from another friend that she had died in a horrible one-car crash the previous night. She swerved off the highway and the foundation of a sign. I then told him what I said to her friend. I was like, "I wasn't meaning to be right or make a prediction". But, sometimes somehow you just know when a bad outcome is inevitable. I had helped another friend years previously with alcohol detox. That gave me enough hubris to think I could "be the difference-maker". Anyway, the circumstance with my friend had reinforced something I think I already knew on some level, but denied: You can't "fix" everybody. People needing help have to be ready to help themselves before you can help them to get to a better place. I had to relearn that you can't help everyone.

You never forget a circumstance or person like that. I guess in the back of my mind, I always knew that she would go too young, that her life wasn't going to have a good ending. I had told her about two weeks prior that she needed to get herself together as I didn't want to be reminded one day of this conversation being one of the last we had. Unfortunately, once again, that was a 'prediction' I didn't want to be right on.
Anyway, I guess the moral of the story is this:
  • Always seek a healthy outlet for your life's worries.
  • Never start something that you have to convince yourself that you won't get hooked or that you can stop at any time. If you have to convince yourself, you've basically already admitted you are at-risk.
Anyway, thanks for reading this if you've gotten this far and I hope you have gotten something out of it. I don't know how to end this except to say, always make good choices and encourage loved ones to do so too.

-- Rich

* The irony of the situation is that the friend of hers that I talked to before her accident eventually was claimed by drug addiction (or its affects as well). I kept in touch with her friend for a while, but years later I checked her friend's Facebook and it said, "In remembrance of"... I found out the details of hers friend's passing through a common friend of all of us.


Saturday, November 21, 2020

A confidence game: Self-confidence


This whole election cycle has been draining more than usual.  Every four years we are told that this is the most important election in our nation's history.  Judging by the reaction to this one, however, I wonder if this is true this time?   But, I digress.  We choose our leader based on who we have the most confidence in (or who we have the lesser lack of confidence in).  Speaking of confidence, I was thinking about it this week.

I don't know how everyone else experience's confidence (or lack thereof), but the answer reminded me of my experience skydiving.  

DOUBTS

Moments of not feeling confident

  • I measure what I say.  To make sure what I say sounds good/smart/funny/clever...
  • I don't speak a point as assertively as if I hope you will agree.
  • I don't walk as confidently.
  • I tend to frown or be more serious.
  • I speak more haltingly as I analyze what I just said and/or will say next.
Skydiving 
  • I hold my emotions in tightly to not let fear overtake me.
  • I dread having to make the move out of the plane.
  • I hold on just a little longer before I jump out.
  • I tend to focus on making sure the bad thing doesn't happen, rather than enjoying the experience.
  • I move a little more cautiously.

CONFIDENCE

Feeling confident
  • I speak more from my gut or soul and don't pause to over-analyze it.
  • I express my point firmly as if I mean it and I expect you to understand (and possibly agree).
  • I walk more confidently.
  • I tend to have more lightness of being.
  • I speak very smoothly and continuously as if it comes naturally.
Skydiving
  • I've falling thought the clouds enjoying the ride smiling and enjoying it.
  • I am glad let go of the plane and I'm trusting my tandem instructor.
  • I confidently talk with my tandem instructor as I we are going through the air.
  • I focus on completing it successfully like a champ.
  • I am deliberate but 'sure-footed' as we land.

The point is when I am confident I focus less on myself and more on the issue or task at hand.  I don't fear being 'exposed' for the 'wrong' choice/decision, but instead am comfortable being observed.  In juggling terms, I feel like I am tossing up the multiple balls smoothly.  When I am not confident, I focus more on myself and how I look or questioning if I am doing it or saying it right.  I don't like an audience as I don't want others to see me make mistakes or screw up.  I 'fear' being seen as not being competent.  I feel like I am tossing multiple balls up in the air and having a hard time keeping in the air for any length of time.

Just just my take on confidence, specifically, self-confidence.  It is a freeing experience like soaring through the air without cord and not worrying if you are going crash or end with a thud.  As always, I hope other who read this can relate or at least get something out it.

Thanks for reading,
Rich


Sunday, September 20, 2020

Making a Better Chili: Adding an ingredient, not replacing the chili.

In talking to a family member recently, I was reminded of something.  A good while back, I was talking to that family member who felt like I was giving them the short shrift.  The family member felt like I was putting my own life needs ahead of attention to family.  I tried explaining that if I was in a good/better place with my own life balance/piece of mind, then I would be able to find more and/or better time for them.   As you might imagine by the tone of this post so far, they didn't understand where I was coming from.

It became clear to me that that the person felt like I was shutting them out to focus on my own life to the relative exclusion of them.  It never really occurred to me that way.  The way it occurred to me is I felt my life balance was near where it should be, then I'd be more energized.  Imagine the commercial for the Energizer Bunny compared to other toy bunnies fueled by another battery.   The Energizer Bunny has limitless energy to anything and to go anywhere, while the other bunnies slowly wind down and eventually lose their energy to do anything.  The person in question felt like they were being ignored, but instead of ignoring them, I was working to make sure my life balance was in the proper order.  This would give me better energy, just like the Energizer batteries gave the bunny more stamina.  So, it struck me, how do I explain this in a way that effectively conveys it and I came up with an answer.

I like to cook chili.  IMHO, a good chili mixes multiple ingredients: black beans, chili beans, diced tomatoes or stewed tomatoes, etc.--I won't give away all my ingredients.  Anyway, you can create something and call it chili and as a practical matter it can be deemed to be chili.  But, if it is missing an important ingredient or two it can come off as very bland and could be less nourishing.  Yes, you can eat it and it will fill you, but it won't be very satisfying, nourishing, nor will you want to go back for seconds.   Add the right ingredient or two and the formerly bland unsatisfying chili will be the popular.   The chili will be filling and satisfying and have your audience rushing for extra helpings.  Think of chili as a metaphor for life balance. Anyway, below are examples of possible 'missing' ingredients in life balance.  

A few examples:
  • If you are struggling with getting along or quality time with your family of origin, then it can tend to bleed onto other aspects of your life--marriage, job, relationship with your own kids (their relatives).
  • If you are struggling with your job, you may tend to feel defeated and that can spill into other parts of your life, especially if there are any other parts feeling unsettled.
  • If you are struggling with friendships (or lacking them or not having good healthy ones), it can sour your mood at home, on the job or elsewhere.
  • If you are struggling with money, it can keep you on edge, especially when money is required, talked about or compared.  This cause you to focus too much on money to the exclusion of other important aspects of your life and/or cause you to be short in dealing with others in your life.
  • If you don't have a good home life, that's a huge foundational crack that can affect the foundation of all parts of your life.
In each case above, your life balance (chili) is missing an ingredient (healthy family or origin, work, friendships, money, marriage/relationship family, ...).  Yes, you might have what you can call chili and it might be enough to sustain you, but it won't be a chili that is satisfying, keeps you coming back for more or gives you the energy to power you through the rest of the day.  The more ingredients that are missing, the less nourishing or satisfying the chili is.  At some point, the chili may not even be tolerable and you just eat it to be able to simply survive.

Anyway, when I explained to the family member in question, I think they got a better handle on what I was saying.  I wasn't trying to short shrift them.  I was trying to make sure I had a good life balance such I would be more energized (getting what I need accomplished more quickly/effectively CREATING more time).  This would also help the time I would set aside for them to be quality time, not time focused on any missing ingredients.  In other word, I wasn't trying to replace them like replacing a chili for a burger.  Instead I was trying to improve my life balance, by adding the proper ingredients in my life.  Just like trying to make a better chili. 

So, with the fall quickly approaching and the peak chili season gradually approaching, consider your  life balance like chili.  Does your chili have the right ingredients and are they quality ingredients?  If not, can you get the missing ingredients?  Can you make sure all the ingredients work together rather than having new ingredient seemingly replacing another?  If so, you are on your way to making a good chili (life balance) suitable to be seen in a 'cookoff'. 

Thanks for reading,
Rich



Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Bad Days and Mondays: Being a Hostage to "Bad Days" of Others

A while back I was reminded by a sibling about a toxic relationship that I'd been in long ago.  I have been meaning to write about it, but Covid-19, the George Floyd situation and other things had taken from my attention.  But as my patient audience, you will be rewarded by what I hope is a good read.   So, the short version of the story is that I was dating a single mom of a young child.   She had primary custody of her daughter and was both a full-time mom and she worked full-time.   Naturally, she portrayed herself as the responsible one who had had to pick up the slack for an irresponsible, incompetent dad.  In other words, she had to be supermom.  That should have been my first clue as to problems.  Anyway, we met and dated for a year and a half, off and on.   

So, as we know, new relationships are 'great'.  In new relationships you try to prove yourself supportive of your significant other and all that entails.   However, I noticed a trend early on.  She would complain a lot about the pressures of being a single mom and having to maintain her full-time job.   So, being the good sport, I listened and tried to be as supportive as possible.   Anyone who knows anything about me knows a few things:
  • I hate drama and like peace.
  • I used to be people pleaser/peacemaker.  This led to
    • Being too tolerant of people crossing my boundaries
    • Being too tolerant of manipulative people.
  • I have dealt with an anxiety disorder for much of my life and sometimes that means pushing away for the moment stressful things.  Not ignoring responsibility so much as trying to find a way to push aside stressors.  This means avoiding discord.
  • I don't particularly like adding to the stress of others, though I'm sure I have.
I "knew" that having a lot of responsibility like she had is a tall order and stressful.  I knew that I like being supportive.  I knew I didn't want to add to her stress.  I knew I hated confrontation  and that I wasn't looking to strongly challenge people.  Basically, I just wanted peace and being appreciated.  Unfortunately, the combination above is perfectly suited for a controlling person.   For whatever reason, members of her family apparently didn't think that I was good enough for her.   They hadn't liked her ex too, so you know...  In any case, she was too 'mindful' of their thoughts.  So, you know I'm just trying to mind my own business, be a considerate/supportive boyfriend, trying to be helpful and trying not to make negative waves or give her or her family a reason to dislike me.

As you might imagine, this type of relationship could not last.  I was criticized by her for not having my anxiety under better control.  Anyone that knows anything about anxiety knows that the worst thing you can do is negatively highlight an anxious person's anxiety.  You might as well tell a suicidal person what a lousy person they are, IMHO.  In any case, I consistently heard from her, woe is me, life is hard as a single, fully employed mom.  So, I would try consider her 'hardships' as such when dealing with her.  If that mean, not adding to her stress by avoiding addressing things bothering me, well that happened.  If it meant trying to do what I could do to 'change' to ensure I brought her no extra stress, that happened too.  If it meant my desires not being considered properly, well shit happens, you know.  So, over the course of nearly a year in a half, she pressed her anxieties on me, she let others have undue influence in our relationship, she shut me down and she told me that my 'anxiety' was a large part of the problem.   

Now, some would say, why did you let this happen? The only thing I would say is it is easier to say that looking for the outside.  Beyond that, manipulative people don't show their cards all at once.  They reveal it slowly over time.   But, I digress.  What did I learn from this circumstance?   What have a I learned along the way?   Glad you ask!   I called this post, "Bad Days and Mondays..." to indicate what I learned from that relationship (and what I've observed over time).
  • Unless you live an utterly charmed life, you will likely have the following at some point(s) in your life:
    • Bad moments
    • Bad days
    • Bad periods
    • Challenging circumstances. 
Now, if you want to have a healthy relationship with others, you have to take into account their bad times.  If you want to have a strong relationship with someone, you have to be able to empathize with them.   In short, you have to be there for them and with them.   Sometimes that can be as simple as holding off your 'good news' for a little while until they are in a better place to hear it.  Sometimes, that means listening to them for a time rather than them being your sounding board.  What it doesn't mean is completely minimizing yourself and your needs to deal with their neediness or selfishness, even if they can't see it.  It doesn't mean allowing them to dictate the terms of the relationship to suit their needs even if their circumstances 'are more trying'.  It doesn't mean allowing yourself to be mistreated and then allowing them to excuse it on 'having a bad day". 

I had realized that I had over time allowed her to take the circumstances of her life and situation to dictate the terms of the relationship.  I had allowed her to elevate her needs over mine and justify it by invoking the pressures of her full-time parent/employee life.  I had allowed her to elevate herself over me by focusing on approval from her family (as if approval from me wasn't near as important).  She was so focused on HER needs being met that she didn't give enough space or consideration of mine.

So, here are a few takeaways I learned.
  • You can empathize with someone's bad day or circumstance, but you cannot be held hostage to it. This is especially true if you had nothing to do with creating it.  Yeah, I can be there for you, but that doesn't mean you get to completely ignore my needs in the process.
    • I wasn't part of the problem, but I can be part of the solution.  Being part of the solution, however doesn't mean shutting me down or shutting me out either.
  • People can have a bad day or time, but provided you are dealing with them with respect and in good faith, they don't have a right to 'punish' you for it.  
    • They don't have a right to shoot first and apologize later.  In other words, you don't get to go after me misguidedly if I dot an 'i' or cross a 't' imperfectly because you are already having a bad day.  You don't get to excuse it later as a I was just having a bad day.
    • They don't have a right to ignore or belittle your concerns because their concerns are 'so much bigger'.  This is especially true if you have zero culpability for their issues.  I can empathize with your concerns or situation, but that doesn't mean that I lose voice in the process.
    • They don't have a right to overreact and treat a little issue as if you have ruined their life.
  • I have bad days too.  I have feelings too.  I have rights and needs too.  Just because things aren't easy for you doesn't mean you get to ignore that.  I am willing to be there for you, but there has to be reciprocation and most importantly respect.  

Most people have the capacity to be there for family, friends and other loved ones.  However, it has to go both ways.  If someone is having a bad day or period, it is important to be able to read that and react as needed.   Sometimes that means asking if there is anything you can do to help, sometimes it means listening and sometimes it means just letting them have time to decompress.   What it doesn't mean is taking abuse from them.  It doesn't mean that your needs suddenly don't matter.  It means being there without losing yourself in the process.  Just remember you can't help others if you aren't taking care of yourself and sometimes that just means securing your boundaries before you walk along with them.

Thank you for reading,
Rich

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Guilt: The pain that endures until...

I was watching a movie recently during the "Great Pandemic of 2020" that really caught my intention.  In the movie Bounce, Ben Affleck's character, Buddy, meets a random traveler, Greg, in an airport.  A chance encounter really.  After their brief interaction, Buddy realizes he has something that could help Greg--a ticket on their flight that Greg was bumped off of.  Now, Buddy has his own motives.  He has meet another fellow traveler whom he's hit it off with and wants to hook up with.  Besides, as the lead advertising exec in charge of the airline account, he'll just get a free flight the next morning.   This seems like a win-win-win for all parties UNTIL the flight that he got Greg in on crashes killing all the passengers.  Buddy realizes that it 'should have been him' and feels guilt for giving Greg the ticket on the ill-fated flight.  Buddy realizes his cavorting had saved his life but inadvertently led to family-man Greg's death.  


I think there is a time in everyone's life in which they question their choices, behaviors and things they've ignored, overlooked, blew off or missed.  When there is harm or pain for another at the end of these circumstances, I believe it reveals itself as guilt.  According to Shelly Webb of the theintentionalcaregiver.com, the big difference between guilt and regret is intention.  She says,
"The difference is that guilt is felt when what you have done was intentionally done to cause the other person harm or pain in some way.  Regret is felt when you inadvertently caused pain or harm (perceived or real) to someone and that you wish you could change the past."   As a practical matter for the individual with these feelings there only may be a marginal difference in the significance of the two.  Yes, maybe I didn't mean to cause any pain or harm, but I did and the practical outcome is still the same.  Someone else ends up harmed or hurt, intentional or not.

In the movie, Buddy knows it should have been him that died in the crash.  So, he has has survivor's guilt.  No, he couldn't have stopped the plane from crashing, but he could have kept the ticket.  In his mind, he'd have taken on the harm, instead of 'allowing' Greg and his family to face it.  In my own life, I've talked about survivor's guilt a few times.  My late brother texted me that "I think I am dying".  Now, he'd been having trouble coping with financial and relationship difficulties as his financial future looked bleak and he felt there was no one for him.  He had felt like he had been a failure and he didn't always feel like he had the emotional support system.  I had been having a rough time in my own life at that time and told myself that it was probably him expressing hopelessness and not literally dying.  Authorities found him later in his apartment and due to circumstances couldn't exactly pinpoint exact time or cause, but based on their best guess and circumstantial evidence surrounding his passing, there is a reasonable chance that may have been his one of, if not his last conversation.  Yet, I did not give it the attention that it needed.  I knew he had been deeply depressed and I had been worried about him, but I'd seen him make it through rough patches before after 'disappearing'.  I have literally been saddled with guilt over this the last 9 years in some way over it.  I know my own circumstances were getting very dicey, but I felt that I 'knew enough' that I should have known better and checked on him and not let it slide.  In other words, I'd have put aside my present hardship at the time and given him the attention he needed.  I felt guilty about selfishly 'ignoring' him.  I realize now it is more regret than guilt, but you know, that's like closer to 8 than 9 on the 1-10 pain scale of 1-10.  Either way, it is very painful.   But, I digress.

In Bounce, Buddy seeks out Greg's widow and tries to help her out on the quietly to pacify his guilt.  Nothing truly works  in assuaging his guilt until he faces it head on.   I've come to realize the same.  Maybe, Buddy should have thought more with his heart than libido, but than again, if they thought the flight was risky, they'd have never flown.  So, how was Buddy supposed to have known?  It could have easily been Buddy's later flight that went down in flames.  Maybe I should have been a 'more focused' on my late brother's bad vibe, but I know sometimes life gets in the way.   I've seen people be able to bounce back from feelings of guilt quickly, I've seen them take years to bounce back and I've seen people never really bounce back.  I think for me, I am finally facing it head on.  I'd like to share a few takeaways I have learned and am learning in the process.
  • We have so many interactions in our lives.  So, many circumstances or situations.  There is literally no way we can get it right every time.  
    • Much of the time the consequences of 'failing' is relatively speaking small.  You miss your kid's appointment, miss their concert, etc., it is upsetting.  But, it is not like beat them without mercy,  but instead disappointed them.   It's upsetting, but it's not fatal. 
    • Occasionally, the consequence is huge and tragic.  Maybe you shouldn't have known he or she was too tired to drive.  However, if they'd cheated sleep before, it may have given you a false sense of security that it didn't seem to be an issue of concern.
    • Ironically, I got this early on.  I said to my daughter's mom that one day something will happen to our baby no matter how hard we try and we'll feel bad about it.  My big concern was not a parent fail, but just limiting the size of the inevitable.
    • It's hard to accept, but effectively what is at play here is that we can't control everything.
  • Invariably, the one time we let up or let things slide is when the bad circumstance will happen.
    • The 'one' time I didn't immediately check on in on a loved one, things went sideways.
    • The one time you let someone talk you out of taking them to the ER was the one time it was more serious that originally thought.
  • It is easy to forget the times in which we did get it right or didn't 'fail'.  We ignore those times and beat ourselves up.
    • I did positively intervene when my brother was struggling and helped him, giving him hope for longer than he otherwise would have had.
    • You have always attended your kid's concerts before faithfully before.
    • You have saved the day multiple times at work already. 
  • Sometimes we just have to take care of ourselves.
    • You could literally spend all your time worrying about a situation, but sometimes it is not completely in our control and we can't spend all our time stressing about controlling it.
    • Sometimes, our situation requires our attention.  If we aren't healthy enough for ourselves, we probably won't be healthy enough to help another.
  • Ultimately, we can't fix everything.
    • Accepting 'defeat' or helplessness can be a tough pill to swallow.  This is especially true if we pride ourselves on being a fixer or problem solver.
    • Many times the circumstance we feel guilt about it is not totally in our control.
      • We could have told our loved one to see a doctor or maybe we didn't think they were open to hearing it.  Ultimately, only they know how they feel and ultimately and it is their call.
      • We could have done an intervention, but there was the risk of alienating our loved one and losing any ability to communicate.  So, we choose a lighter footprint, hoping it works out.

Maybe my words, might right true for some.  Maybe their circumstance my differ?  Either way, guilt is a pain, which when not properly addressed, can endure indefinitely.  In any case, I hope someone or someone(s) have found my words and experiences helpful.

Thanks for reading,
Rich

Friday, July 31, 2020

Not so beautiful trauma

It was nine years ago to the day that the police found my brother deceased in his apartment deceased.  A fuller story is in Don't you forget about me: The blog I needed to write one day about my late brother.  Anyway, we had been very close at times and had always had a connection.   He'd been fighting depression and I'd been getting bad vibes that he was struggling to hold on.  But, the life is kind of funny.   The people and things in life seem to be constant and 'always there' until one day they aren't constant and aren't there.   I had an inkling that he struggling.  Enough of one that I threatened to have a wellness check done on him if he didn't call back imminently--which he did.  He called back and said he was okay and acted like I was overreacting.  It wasn't too much later that I got a cryptic text from him saying, something about "feeling like I am dying".  He'd spoken figuratively before and I was going through a life crisis myself.   I took it as, "I'm dying inside" or "I feel like dying".  I little time passed and I got distracted by my own life crisis.  He literally had made himself invisible to family for extended periods and I'd occasionally show up unannounced when I couldn't get a hold of him.  So, I wasn't too shocked when I hadn't heard from him in a couple of weeks.  I now understand that when facing depression, sometimes the last thing you want to do is to show your hurt to those closest.  I speak on my understanding of the subject matter in Depression: It Ain't Over 'Till It's Over.  His words may have been a final cry and I'll never know for sure.  That has haunted me since.  But, I have realized over time you can't save everybody despite sometimes valiant efforts.

 Obviously, the day he was found was in some ways the worst of my life in some ways.  Anniversary number 1 of his passing wasn't easy either.  It has generally been easier every year.   However, for some reason, it was harder this year.   Maybe it was the stress of work deadlines and the pandemic and all that involves?  In any case, it got me to thinking about his life, my life and the dysfunction we grew up in.  Someone he know from college had given me a gift, albeit a painful one, her memories of him.  I didn't see him much when he went away to college.  So, she give me a bit of picture of his life away at school.  She related that even back then she knew he was hurting more than the average kid who moves away for the first time to college.  Anyway, talking about it with her and others reminded me of something I'd figured out along the way.

When we have unprocessed hurt, our tolerance or ability to take more hurt is lessened.  Think of it like this.  We are a 16 ounce glass.  Life's daily struggles can fill our cup part of the way.  If we have a lot of unprocessed hurt, our cup may be well on its way to be full.  So, add life's daily struggles and it can get close to the top.  Now, add a particularly rough period and well you know the rest: the cup cannot take on any more.  For some people, it results in alcoholism.  For others, it can result in gambling, etc.  But, for the really hurt ones, the cup seems to find a way on the grounded shattered in pieces with the contents lost forever.

We may make it and recover from that rough period.  I survived a his passing, losing my house, losing my job, bankruptcy and my dad's health failing.  But, like him I had been scarred in the early years and the period immediately before, during and after his passing had it's own troubles, though I was able to start processing a lot that I hadn't previously.   Anyway, you survive the hurt/injury, but like a broken elbow that heels, it isn't quite the same.  The limb has healed as much as it can and you have 'full' use of it, but it it's not the same.  There may be weakness or scarring.  You may be aware on a fairly regular basis of the injury, but you don't necessarily focus on it.   However, you bang that elbow and the pain from the original injury and/or scarring will be front and center again.

I think hurt, especially that which isn't fully processed or 'healed' is like that.
  • You know it's there, but it is just there and not really interfering with your daily life.
  • You run into a situation or circumstance that reminds you or brings it front and center, and you feel the pain all over again--just not necessarily to the original degree.
  • You retreat or find something to take your mind off it until it subsides.
  • You get back to your everyday routine again and it recedes until the background.

However, sometimes just like the cup that has never been fully emptied, there is always a bit of a risk of it overflowing.   You may never get that cup fully empty and that may be your cross to bear, however, it is never too late to continue to process hurt where it exists.  It is never too late to look for opportunities to heal.  The big key is a willingness to work through it and building a good support system.  As we've discovered more and more during this pandemic, people are social creatures and we thrive on good support systems.

I guess my takeaways are:
  • We can't stop 'traumas' from happening to others, but we can be there for others after and provide them a support system.
  • Sometimes we have to face our own 'traumas' head on.  
  • In our recovery from traumas, it can be hard to get rid of the hurt that sometimes hides away.  However, it is best to address the hurt rather than just 'take a couple aspirin and sleep it off'.

If you know my blog you know I always end with a song and this song is screaming out to be included.  I have always liked her music because she faces pain and hurt head on in her music and lets face it, she's a very talented songwriter and singer.  She was hurt in a profound way by her parent's divorce at an early age and she found a way to turn it around into a positive (see Family Portrait).  A funny story: one time we (my girlfriend at time and I) were relating to a guy serving us about her concert and he intimated to me later how it was a brave thing to take her to a 'chick concert'.  I had to laugh as it was actually me that pushed us going to the concert.  I could have corrected him but why bother.  I don't have to answer for my taste.  On a related note, I'm proud of my late brother for being himself.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Stupid Smart: Missing the obvious when analyzing.

In most societies a good education is considered a key to success and prosperity.   Those who are deemed well-educated and intelligent are likely to have their opinions given more weight.  In our society, we generally respect those who come across as well educated and scholarly.  We tend to defer to those who have advanced degrees, especially if we don't.   Imagine you are told your new neighbor is "Dr. Robert Smith" who worked as a researcher scientist at a prominent university.  You would probably be inclined to think your new neighbor was someone whose take carried a lot of weight.   Now say you are told your new neighbor is "Bob Smith" who is an employee of a local school (without giving anymore detail).  You'd probably would give less weight to his take vs.  that of "Dr. Robert Smith".

Switching gears for a moment, we hear new studies coming out every day about how some food or product is good for our health (or not good for our health).  Years later, we hear studies which call into those conclusions into question.   As parents, some of us learned math in the 'old fashioned', 'straight-forward' way and we seem to do alright.   However, we see our children being taught math the "Singapore" way and it seems completely unintuitive.   Also, we read stories about the how science has confirmed what we already know: men are different than women.  In other words, the so-called experts seem be prone to questionable conclusions, methods and being out-of-touch.

So, how do we square these competing thought:  well-educated = an expert to be given great deference VS. out-of-touch intellectuals?   From what I see:
  • Generally speaking a good education opens more doors for those who come across as learned, but it doesn't guarantee wisdom.  Being better 'smarter' and better spoken doesn't imply that one's thought are more accurate.  However,  they might be present their point of view.
  • A person with a title indicative of an advanced degree, such as Dr., will tend to be cited more if their degree can be somehow leveraged to the subject matter at hand.
  • If the person's 'area of expertise' is highly subjective vs. discretely definable, there is more room for dubious opinions and overanalyzing the issue.
  • Sometimes there is a financial incentive to create a crisis or need where there isn't one.  That is a a financial need to justify a person's position.
  • Sometimes there is an ego need to justify a person or group's raison d’ĂȘtre (reason for being).

Some examples or ideas to wit:
  • Meteorologists are paid well to make predictions that are often wrong, especially the further out their predictions go.   If people are more intrigued by a more dramatic forecast, then he or she might hype THE POSSIBILITY of a major storm or weather phenomenon.   Someone who has worked the land for most of their life might see the same data or the same indicators and note that the potential situation, while possible, is highly unlikely.  The 'weatherman' might have an incentive to hype a possibility both for ratings and to show off his or her knowledge.  The farmer on the other hand is seeking as accurate a read of the situation as possible.
  • A psychologist may run across a child who is new to a school, is quiet by nature, has been late to school and spends an excessive amount of time gaming.  The professional may pursue the notion that the child dreads his or her new school and is trying to avoid it.  A quick discussion with the child's brother may reveal that the youngster simply really likes the new game and there is no more to the issue.
  • A physician with a complex understanding of the body, may run across a child who isn't good at advocating for his or herself and struggles with esteem issues.   After listening to the child and running a few tests and coming up empty, the physician might dismiss the child's concerns as being more psychological--especially if it is an uncommon problem for the child's age.  Only later when the symptoms evidence themselves more prominently will the physician catch the health issue.
    • This actually happened to me when was 17 and the ER physician missed a diagnosis of pericarditis and dismissed it muscle soreness and seeking attention.   The physician wasn't expecting a child my age to have heart issues.   Also, he couldn't find any obvious causes for my chest pain.  Therefore, he read too much into my teenage insecurity and decided there was no real there there and that I might be seeking attention.
  • In a competitive grant environment, researchers, in various fields may feel pressure to come up with a unique or different thesis or take on a subject to stand out from the crowd.  In other words, try to 'prove' a take at odds with conventional wisdom.   This isn't necessarily a bad thing to do.   History is full of people who challenged the status quo leading to discoveries, inventions and a better understanding.   However, if the goal of 'proving' that their thesis takes precedent over finding the truth, there may be a problem.  Sometimes, no matter what angle you look at a subject matter from, the obvious or conventional answer is the most valid answer.

I called this post "stupid smart" because sometimes people who are highly educated or credentialed look past the obvious for answers and may be seeking a deeper or more thought-provoking meaning.   In other words, they 'outthink' themselves.   Sometimes a shovel is just a shovel and not some specialized digging tool, no matter how much you might need for it to be.

I guess you'd say this is my STUPID SMART take on society.  Thanks for humoring it.

- Rich



Saturday, July 11, 2020

Conflict is in the Middle: Black and white thinking avoids the conflict of nuanced thinking.

With Covid-19 and George Floyd's death and the ensuing protests/riots, I've thought a lot more about our society--what's right with it, what's wrong with it and what could use fixing.  While this includes what we can do or be as society, it also includes what I can or be as an individual.   In other words, part of this examination is internal.  As I've gotten older and seen more of the world, I've come to realize more of nuance in my thinking.  For example,
  • I support the right to protest and be heard, but protest has to be orderly.  It has to take into account the needs of others to get to work to take care of their families.
    • Free speech/assembly isn't absolute and unlimited.  Rights come with responsibilities and abiding by the responsibilities can help to preserve that right.
  • Law enforcement needs reformed, but law enforcement needs to be strong.
    • We need to make sure law enforcement is done equally and justly and respect the rights of citizens.  But, erroring on the side of too hands off can embolden criminals
  • Freedom of assembly is important, but it needs to be done in a responsible way during a pandemic.
    • Meeting can be done virtually where possible, but people shouldn't lose their freedom to assemble but should mitigate against risks--limiting numbers, proper spacing and encouraging high risk people to avoid for example.
  • It is important to stand again all who say racially or otherwise charged things, but it is also important to make sure we aren't shutting down free speech by destroying people who WE believe are crossing a line.  
    • People can out of frustration say things WE find offensive, but if we clamp down too hard we  are setting a precedent.  One day, the future WILL be led by others whose take on what crosses the line is different (and possibly absurd or abusive).  
    • If we clamp down too hard on what WE deem is offensive speech, we risk freezing speech as people may not want to risk saying things that could be thought even remotely controversial. 
  • Your words and actions can, in many cases, rightly have serious consequences.  However, where possible, a path back or second chance should be allowed.  
    • This allows people to have the chance to be a positive on society rather than a drain.
    • It also exhibits a good side of humanity -- forgiveness.
    • An absolute unwillingness to do so, can exhibit anger and contempt.
  • You can condemn behaviors of yesteryear, but can also understand some of them were a product of their time.  That doesn't mean excuse them, but that means that realize that like a family, people can grow and learn.   
  • Bad moments in history can be recognized without being celebrated.
  • Most people are neither completely evil or a complete saint.  Even 'heroes' have flaws, but that doesn't necessarily mean they are not heroes.  Likewise, 'bad people' usually have some redeeming quality (or the potential for them).
  • Drinking is acceptable, but not always advisable.
---

I've come to realize that part of the human struggle is wanting to 'getting it right'.  We may do that to be thought of well by others, by ourselves (self-respect) or by our Higher Power (God).   Whatever, the motivation, part of 'getting it right' means treating others well, thinking and behaving righteously and just striving to be good people. 
  
I've come to realize that part of 'getting it right' is recognizing nuances and not being dogmatic.  The Pharisees of old were focused on being righteous by 'following all the rules'.   They may have succeeded in 'following most of the rules', but in their hard hearts they missed the whole point of the Father's teaching.  Jesus and his disciples did many good deeds and miracles on the Sabbath.  Pharisees pointed out that wasn't 'resting' on the Sabbath.   The Pharisees, with their dogmatic, black and white thinking, had no internal conflict.  They just knew that good deeds and miracles were 'work' and weren't appropriate for the Sabbath.  Jesus' disciples may have been raised to understand that and when Jesus led them to 'break' the Sabbath, it might have been out of their comfort zone.  However, it would seem they understood quickly that they were doing God's work and came to understand it was appropriate to do so on the Sabbath.

I feel a bit conflicted on how we can best move forward and how I can best grow to be a better person in today's society.  For me, that isn't necessarily a weakness or failing.  For me, it is like a baby chick trying to break out of its shell.  There is some internal struggle and conflict, but it is a healthy struggle.  I don't think anyone in this life has all the answers, but has shells of ignorance.  I'd like to think that each of us would should try to break shells of ignorance and uncertainty, where they exist, and trying to be a better person.  

We could avoid the internal conflict that goes along with striving to 'get it right' IF we felt like we always had the answers.  We could avoid the internal conflict that goes along with find the right nuance in thinking and actions if were judgmental and always thought in black and white.  I believe part of where we fail in society is ending up in 'camps' where we think and behave in black and white.  Yes, there has to be some absolutes, but I think it is important that we search and strive for the best answers, even if they may not fit our preconceived notions.

Searching for the best answer can result in nuanced thinking.  President Nixon has campaigned on being a hardline anti-Communist.   He could easily have kept the hard line and not made overtures to China.  He was probably counseled by some in his circle against it.  Even he may have had his doubts if his actions would yield positive results.  He was in an election year and the comfortable 'election' position would be the hardline against China.  But he chose to try to find some middle ground with them.  This came with conflict, both internal and external.  But, he had enough nuance in his thinking to realize that a) we could benefit with a better relationship with China and b) it could be a hedge against Russia.  In our relationship with our own kids, we have rules, but we don't inflexibly stick to every rule indefinitely.  We adjust where it makes sense, where we feel like we can get better results and proven responsibility on their part dictates reconsideration.

I believe part of maturing is understanding and being willing to go through conflict that comes with finding the 'right' (often nuanced) answer.   We could stick dogmatically to the same answers, same positions, and same rhetoric and be very comfortable and self-righteous with it.  However, I think it is critical in our own lives, the lives of our family and of our society that we be willing to consider nuances.  After all, if Jesus has the nuance to realize that he should dine with the tax collectors and 'sinners' as that was the way to reach them.

Speaking of Jesus, that brings me to one final and probably the most insignificant point.  Jesus was able to reach out to and relate to sinners* and not scorn them like the Pharisees, because He wasn't caught up in His own pride.  The Pharisees however were.  To change their dogmatic position to a more teaching, understanding forgiving position would have required them to essentially admit they had failed in how they executed their role.  In essence, they'd have to own up to their own failure and/or lack of understanding of their role in helping others get to know and follow God.   

I think part of the block of being willing to adjust our thinking to a more nuanced position is PRIDE.  When we take time to reflect on our positions and thinking we open ourselves to the possibility that we've been wrong.  Unfortunately, it isn't necessarily just mildly wrong. It can mean completely wrong.   Who want's to acknowledge to themselves and/or others that they could be greatly mistaken or totally missed something?  Admitting to yourself (and possibly others) that you are or were wrong is effectively humbling yourself.  We revere the apostle Peter, but he wasn't always the Peter we have come to appreciate.  He used to be a Saul and he used to actively undermine God's work.  The Lord literally had to call him out Acts 22.  He was so self-assured of his righteousness, only a complete humbling of him would cause him to change his position to be a more nuanced thinking loving man.   Overcoming pride to see a more nuanced position, can be a very conflicting (and humbling) experience.

Yes, there are definite right and wrong in this world, but I feel like there is plenty of nuance and sometimes getting to the right nuance can be stressful.  It can be easier to just stay in the black and white thinking, but it is important to be willing to adjust that to more nuanced thinking where led.

Just some deep thoughts for the day,
Rich


* I used the term sinners to represent those who were known to break God's laws and the 'religious rules' of the day and had the capacity to recognize their failings.  In actuality, "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God...".



Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Being my brother's keeper: A guide to honoring society as our family.

I suspect that recent unrest in this country has a lot of people thinking and reevaluating their perspective on society. Given the sharpness of the unrest, I have found it hard not to. I have taken some time to break down my perspective or thinking on society including race. I don't necessarily think I've had a major shift, but I think I have focused me better on how we should treat each other.
In this (reevaluation) process, it occurred to me that a helpful perspective or lens to view society through is that of family. Whether we like it or not, as a society we are a family. For a family to function in a healthy peaceful way, each member has to consider other members of the family. We have to consider where they are, not where we think they should be, but where they are. For example, we could get into a debate on how far we've come with regard to race relations and how much progress we've made as a country, etc. Different people and different groups would tend to have a different points of view. Some would believe that since we have solid enforceable laws in place and integration going on for decades, that 'society' has done its role. Some people believe we've basically made no progress. I tend to believe somewhere in between those two perspectives. Yes, we could get into a precise debate on how far we've come or haven't come, but I think it misses the point.

For me, if my brother or sister is upset and feels like he or she hasn't been heard or been treated equally in the family, what would happen if I told him or her: "Yes, you have been heard" and "Yes, you have been treated equally in the family."?
You Got It: We'd have a big blowup. This is especially true if historically his or her point of view is valid. If he or she had been mistreated or marginalized in the family previously, to dismiss his or her concerns now would be insulting. Even if I can't see his or her perspective at this juncture, what good would it do for me (and the family in general) if I rigidly stuck with an opposing position? While I might feel satisfied that my position or perspective is justified, I can kiss any semblance of family harmony goodbye with that pose.

If a family member feels like he or she is disempowered relative to the rest of the family and I'm the 'head' of the family, shouldn't I see that keeping a rigidly opposed position is harmful? Wouldn't it make sense for me to really listen to why my brother or sister feels that way? Wouldn't it makes sense for family harmony to see what we could do to make my brother or sister feel empowered? For example, if my brother or sister has been bullied in the past within the family and survived it, I could say, you know, "It happened and you are stronger person for it, so let's just move on for the sake of unity". However, chances are that attitude would cause problems. Yes, it is good that he or she survived the bullying and it toughened him or her up, but that doesn't mean it had no long-term negative effects or damage. Nor does it mean that it could be ignored or pushed aside casually out of convenience. Sure, I might not be responsible for the bullying that happened. I might not have even been there when the bullying happened, but that doesn't mean that it's fine to avoid a role in the family healing process. Maybe there have been overtures from the bullies in the family towards my brother or sister. That doesn't mean that I can say, "well they've dealt with it and it's all good now". No, as a leader of the family, I should willing to dig deeper and look harder at the damage. If my brother or sister still feels hurt or marginalized, I should be willing to see how I could lead an effort to make him or her feel included and protected.

Switching gears for a moment, I realized a few years ago you can't easily fix everything. That doesn't mean you can't fix anything or shouldn't try. Instead of throwing our hands up in the air or saying what's the use, shouldn't we attempt to work on that which we can fix or improve? If we value family harmony, shouldn't we work to find a way to make sure everyone in the family feels equally respected and valued? In the case above, equally respected and values includes addressing the bullying that occurred. In a sense, we when we address issues like that, we are taking on the role of our brother's keeper.

Brother's keeper role:
  • That doesn't mean we do everything for our injured or marginalized brother out of pity for the hurt or unfortunate circumstances he has found himself under. But, it means giving of ourselves where we can and it would be helpful. It means making sure our brother has the tools available to help him help himself. For example, if I make sure my brother has access to a good education, I am helping to do him right in the long-term.
  • That doesn't mean that we absolve our brother of any responsibility for his role in the family or of any expectations. Instead, as a family, we can seek to find a healthy and strong role in the family for our brother. We should encourage him to have high expectations for himself and seek to make sure he has all the tools available to achieve that. That may include giving of our own tools.
  • It means we take a role in making sure our brother feels like he has an equal stake in the family. He needs to know that his input matters. He needs to know that his contributions can lead to him reaping the rewards that the family yields. If he feels empowered, it will help him and help the family as a whole. If he feel disempowered or hindered, the whole family suffers and he likely feels alienated.
  • It means we work to make sure that our brother feels like he has an equal voice in the family. In the example above, part of this process includes addressing the bullying and working to make sure that doesn't happen again. After being bullied he may not feel that he has a equal voice, especially if it appears like the bullying never went away or that he feels he might still be subject to it.
  • It means realizing that even if our brother makes a mistake that our brother is not a mistake and not to treat him like one. In other words, showing compassion and forgiveness. Each of us are imperfect and make mistakes, but that doesn't mean we can be marginalized. Similarly, we shouldn't marginalize family members when they make mistakes.
Ideally, if we all seek a role as our Brother's--or Sister's-Keeper, we will have each other's back and hopefully will have an empowered family. However, if we ignore our role as our brother's (or sister's) keeper and let our brother or sister feel disempowered without trying to remedy that, our family will not be as strong as it should be and ultimately it is at risk of collapsing.

--

I could have spoken of race relations directly in this blog post, but I feel sometimes we get lost in the 'black and white' literally. Meaning we get lost in tribalism or a camp and can't see the bigger picture. Historically African Americans have not been treated well in this country. Slavery, lynching, Jim Crowe, etc. are a huge stain on our country which only through cooperation we can fully move forward from. By move forward from, I don't mean to ever forget, but I mean to row in the same direction. If we keep fighting the same battles over and over again, we are rowing in the opposite directions and will not get very far. If we find a way to row in the same direction, we work towards rowing to a happier and more spiritually healthy destination.

We have to identify where we've made progress and where we need to make progress. We all--black, white, brown, yellow and red--have to be part of the solution. We have to be willing to to adjust where we find ourselves part of the problem. For our country to survive long term, I believe we have to view each other (by group and individually) as members of a larger family called SOCIETY. I cannot control what was done before me and/or by others, but what I can control is pushing to make sure that people as individuals, a group, a resident of my state and as a U.S. citizen are:
  • Treated justly
    • Under the law.
    • Under my faith. (Think golden rule)
  • Treated fairly.
    • Making sure that all have a legitimate shot at the dream.
    • Includes doubling down to make sure those who have historically been disadvantaged and underserved have a legitimate shot too.
  • Treated equally.
    • We should strive to treat people as even-handedly as possible, even when their circumstances differ.
    • It doesn't mean we don't reward excellence. On the contrary, it means push for excellence for everyone.
  • Treated respectfully
    • Essentially treated each other as one of God's children.
    • Love all people as my neighbor and help where I can.
It's funny I was listening to TLC the other day and read up on them. I didn't realize that they were the 2nd largest selling all-female group of all time and the largest selling American one. In other words, their music crossed over everywhere. Obviously, I come from a different background than them. I'm sure how I express myself in word and in message is different in many ways. However, I realize that they are part of the fabric of our society. When I listened to them, I realize that I wasn't listening just listening to three young women singing R & B music, I was listening to three young women singing American music whose accomplishments I think deserve to be honored in our Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They captured a moment in the 1990s breaking down gender and race barriers. They are not just the best selling African-American all female-group of all time, but they are the best selling AMERICAN all-female group of all time. They are part of the fabric of our society. Part of our healing is making sure that each of us, independent of race or starting point, feels like they are part of our society. We are very diverse it is not always comfortable for all sides, but we have to find a way, to find a middle ground where we can respect each other properly and not point fingers. We have to find a way where we can appreciate what everyone brings to the table instead of isolating.

I dunno, just some thoughts.