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Showing posts with label Higher Power. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Higher Power. Show all posts

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.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Considering others, but answering only to my Higher Power (God)

The 'wisdom' of years & experience can be a double-edge sword in terms of perspective.   You can be so tied to the 'old order of things'--not realizing for example that Separate But Equal is really Separate and Inherently Unequal.  You are so tied to the old order of things that when the enlightenment plane comes along, you don't think it is your flight.   In reality, though the destination had changed, it was still the flight you needed to take.  On the other hand, as a seasoned 'flyer' in life's journey you have seen flights diverted, delayed or cancelled (rhetorically) and you know life like flights change.  Even if you don't totally recognize or understand the change, you at least recognize the need to adjust.

As I am fast approaching the mid-century mark in my life, I can see some of the old ways of counseling and behavioral medicine completely missed the mark.  Kids with autism and other spectrum related disorders were labeled as 'problem kids' and not always given the help and guidance needed. Instead, they were labeled as troubled kids in some cases.  On the other hand, I can see that sometimes in today's society pushed parents to 'relate to' and 'understand' their children more.  While it is important to know your children and be able to explain in ways they understand, sometimes we just have to be the parents.   That is to say, we have to guide and discipline them based on what will need as they travel from childhood to adulthood vs. what they are willing to readily accept.


Speaking of wisdom of years and experience, it has changed it has changed the way I relate to people and whom I 'seek approval' from.  When I was in my teens and twenties, I had opinions but didn't always have the confidence that goes along with age and experience.  I tended to defer to 'grownups' (aka parental figures and older folks) more.   As I've gotten older, I realize that I've learned things along the way, gathered experience and that not everything is as it is portrayed, including in politics.

Everyone wants to have their take accepted to varying degrees.  Some people seem to need a constant feedback of praise or validation, while others seem to measure their take against a principle or set of principles.

For what it's worth, here is my take:
  • The take of others has to be considered. 
    • Someone who has devoted time/service to their country--sometimes at great cost--is someone who has earned a right to be heard and considered.
    • Similar people in a place of authority.
    • Your spouse and kids, whom are affected by your decisions need to be taken into account when you make a big decision.  For example, can't just accept a job out of town without consulting them and expect them to go along without any chance of resistance. 
    • A friend or family member who has observed you for years often can give you an outsider's perspective from someone who you'd expect to have your best interests in mind.
    • More often we are able to discern their motive or perspective and assess where it is coming from--a selfless place, a mixed motive place or a selfish place.
  • Ultimately, I have to measure my decisions/choices against that of my Higher Power (aka God).
    • As His child, I know He sees and knows things about me which no one could possibly.
    • As His child, I know He created me in His own image and therefore wants what is best for me.
    • As His child, I know He wants me to trust His divine judgment.
    • As His child, I know He has put forward principles in my life (Ten Commandments/The Golden Rule/Proverbs/etc) for my enlightenment and wisdom.
  • I know He didn't shape me to be one of a mass produced robots.
    • He shaped me individually with my individual talents/strengths.
    • He shaped me with free will.  He wants to be appreciated by His children, but He wants it come honestly I believe.
    • He saw that 'man' cannot live an island.  We are social creatures and need the company/companionship of others in our lives.  Obviously, we have to take into account their needs too. 
    • While we aren't an island, we can't just put the 'need' for acceptance from others above His eternal wisdom ('rules') and his knowledge what is best for us.

I have had family and friends who have properly thought--or occasionally rationalized to themselves--that they were advising me in what they saw as 'my best interests'.   Usually, it is, but it hasn't necessarily always been.  Sometimes the advice is welcomed, sometimes it is not, but regardless I have always felt it best that it is best that either way, I have to do what I understand is best in His eyes.  That is, not just what I can rationalize that He would 'accept', but what I can back up with my knowledge of His word and discern with His guidance through prayer and meditation.   There is a time for quietly listening to the guidance of others and there is a time for letting others know that their guidance is not helpful, but it is always the right time to seek out and follow His guidance.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Wisdom to Know...

I believe in life, we hear sayings and understand them on some level, but don't necessarily deeply or totally appreciate them for awhile if ever.  Once such such saying for me is the Serenity Prayer.  I suspect anyone who has been going to church for a long time, been involved in a support/recovery group and/or is a person of faith has heard of the first part of it:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change; 
courage to change the things I can; 

and wisdom to know the difference.

Not everyone however is familiar with the second part of it:

Living one day at a time; 

enjoying one moment at a time; 

accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; 

taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it; 
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will; 
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next. 

Anyway, I've heard it many times and maybe I have really 'gotten it' before, but haven't expressed it clearly as I will no. Below, I'm going to focus on the first part of that prayer as I understand it.


  • Calmness of mind.
  • Untroubled of heart.
  • Doesn't mean no fear or disquiet, but it means they don't rule you.

Accepting the things I cannot change

  • To me this usually means tabling my expectations of others people or circumstances.  
    • Expectations might be quite understandable such as wanting a healthy relationship with you child, your siblings, your parents, etc.  It doesn't matter, the expectations have to be let go if unrealistic.
    • Expectations might appear to be within reach but if you were honest, would see that they aren't.  It doesn't matter how in reach they appear to be, if they aren't, it's time to let the expectation go.
    • Expectations that we will be understood.  If we are fortunate, we will have that friend and/or lover that pretty well understands us.  Life is so complex as is human interaction there is no feasible way to expect anyone other than our Higher Power to totally 'get us'. It doesn't matter how much we want it, it's time to understand that we will never be fully understood by anyone except our HP.  In short, time to let that expectation go.
  • To me, this means actually accepting what I can't change, rather than just saying or trying to convince myself that I have 'accepted' it. 
    • To me this requires an understanding of what accepting is.
      • Recognizing the validity/reality of what is to be accepted.
      • Consenting to the reality of what is to be accepted.
      • Words and actions showing that acceptance.
        • Your focus is not on the person/situation.
        • Any thoughts about the person/situation may pop up, but do not linger.
        • You can have feelings about the person/situation, but you just can't live in them.
    • To me this requires an understanding of what not accepting looks like.
      • Saying you've accepted something, but your words give lie to that supposed acceptance. 
        • For example, you say your over someone, yet every chance you get you badmouth the other party.
      • Saying you've accepted something, but your actions give lie to that supposed acceptance.  
        • For example, you say your over someone, yet when you think no one is watching, you stalk them on social media or elsewhere.
      • A tendency to be triggered about the circumstance that needs to be accepted, even if it infrequent.

Courage to change the things I can
  • To me that means recognizing any blocks in the way of making the change.
    • All the courage in the world cannot help if you haven't identified the blocks in the way of change.
    • This may require prayer, meditation, counseling or other means to draw out the nature of the blocks.
  • To me that means being able to push through those blocks.
    • This means a willingness to face any blocks or demons that are in the way.
    • This can mean asking others, including your HP for help, strength or support in facing the blocks.
    • This doesn't necessarily mean waiting until the fear subsides (it may never).
      • It means walking through the fear.
      • It means talking through the fear.
      • It means focusing what is on the other side of the wall rather than the difficulty in climbing the wall.

Wisdom to know the difference
  • Sometimes we know when what we can change and what we can't--and for that matter should and shouldn't--but need to be honest with ourselves.  Wisdom starts with a willingness to be honest with ourselves.
  • Sometimes we don't know the difference and need to ask our HP, meditate, ask for advice, etc. for help in discerning.  In other words, we have to be open to our HP and the resources he places in our path.
  • Gaining wisdom in life isn't a one-time event, but a life long process.  Gaining wisdom over a specific circumstance or situation likewise may occur over over time rather than all at once, though we might have a crystallizing moment.

For me the path to serenity is a long and continuing one.  I still have a long way to go, but I'm still on the journey and am willing to be on that journey for the rest of my life.  Perhaps one of the biggest blocks is wisdom (or willingness) to know the difference, hence the blog title.  Anyway, while I would love utopia, I know I'll never have it in this life, so I work to rest my hope in my HP that He will grant me the first part of the prayer while I keep in mind the second.

I hope you'll take what you can and are able to use out of this blog and add whatever need as in life, "your mileage may very".  Have a blessed day.

- Rich

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Shame: A place we visit, but an unhealthy place to live.

I was talking to a friend recently who was discussing a personal struggle.  Now, the friend didn't let the struggle get the better of him at that time, but it was close.  So, it occurred to me, the situation was like running on a sidewalk and nearly falling on your face, but putting down your hand to break the fall before your head hit the pavement.  Sure, your hand got roughed up a little and needs some first aid, but you could have very easily fallen on your head and ended up in the ER.

The point was not to minimize to the issue, struggle or near failure, but was to let him know that it could have been much worse and not to dwell on or beat himself up over it.  That is instead appreciate that his Higher Power kept him safe and out of trouble.  In the meantime, he could take the near failure as a warning sign and wake-up call to work on his struggles.

I think, as a people it is easy to operate in black and white thinking.  That is, either to blow failures (or near failures) completely out of proportion OR alternatively blow them off.  I believe God gave us a conscience to be aware of our imperfections and need for Him rather than to be used as a weapon to inflict harm upon ourselves or as a speed-bump to be ignored.

I guess I'd characterize legitimate shame that comes with a healthy conscience as a check and reminder for us to be mindful of our spiritual role in family, society and the world at large, but not as a sledgehammer to destroy ourselves.

To summarize, my take on what my Higher Power (God) has revealed to me and reminded me in this story:

  1. Lean on Him, His wisdom and not my own understanding, I should not take it for granted that I have all the answers or strength.  This includes leaning on Him after I make a mistake. 
  2. I am human and therefore I am bound to struggle from time to time and make mistakes.  Not to condone mistakes, intentional or not, but instead to realize that I am a work in progress.
  3. When I barely avoid a bad choice, mistake or screw-up: I shouldn't pat myself on the back for my ingenuity or 'success', but I shouldn't totally destroy myself either.  I should take it as a learning opportunity and be grateful that my Higher Power was looking out for me.
  4. When I make a bad choice, mistake or screw-up:  I should make amends where necessary and possible and reflect on it with contrition.  I should also seek what led to it and use whatever shame I feel from it not to paralyze me, but to motivate me to do whatever I need to avoid the mistake again and/or to make it right where possible.
Anyway, just my thoughts for the day.  As always, it is sometimes easier to give advice than to follow it, but at least putting it down gives me to opportunity to reflect on it myself.

Yours Truly,

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Nothing to Sneeze At: Different definitions of success

History is littered with what we now consider odd symbols of wealth or success.  Being fat used to be a sign of being wealthy especially in accent times, where plentiful or readily available food wasn't always guaranteed.  The ability to sneeze upon demand oddly was one too.  Sneezing was thought to be a way of clearing one's mind.  Those with idle time and/or the money to afford snuff--which could induce sneezing--were typically aristocrats.  Interestingly enough, sneezing in conversation was typically considered a sign of disapproval.  Hence, "not to be sneezed at", indicated that something was worthwhile.  Anyway, when we think about the phrase, "nothing to sneeze at", we think of an amount of money that is significant.  But really you could apply that phrase to any measure of success.

When we measure success, we most often think of how much monetary advantage someone has gained.  However, as we know that is but one measure of success in a person's life.  From my perspective, there are many measures of success and not all traditional.  By it's nature, traditional implies long established or understood.  So, let's start with the more readily thought of measures.

  • Wealth
    • A person who has a lot of money, especially if they've largely earned it themselves is typically considered successful.   Gaining or accumulating a small fortune is not an easy task for most, so society looks upon it as a sign of accomplishment.
    • A person is considered 'successful' if they can provide a comfortable (aka free of money concerns) for themselves and family.   Being able to provide that in death is also a sign of success. 
  • Power
    • Being able to shape events and shape the world around you is another common sign of success, especially considering those with money can more easily buy influence.
    • Power, often, but not always, comes in conjunction with having 'made money' or the ability to do so.
    • I believe in society we tend to admire those who are able to exert control over as many of us feel like we are powerless in the worlds.  Typically those who are able to do so have a better chance of making sure they and their friends are 'taken care of' and we hope that they can take care of us (those whom they lead or 'rule' over).
  • Awards or Achievements
    • Not everyone can be the best or win at something.  We tend to recognize achievements, especially those that are rare and/or above and beyond the norm as indicators of success.
      • In the NBA for example, there is only one person who is considered the most valuable to their team per year.  So, to get that award really speaks volumes about your success, especially where it relates to helping your team.
      • The Noble Peace Prize likewise is award to person or group every year.  So, if you are nominated and win it, it typically speaks volumes about how people value your efforts towards advancing peace.
    • Typically, but not always, an award or achievement is forever.  Therefore, not only will you be recognized at the time it is given, but you will go down in the 'history books' when you achieve or are recognize for greatness.
  • Fame
    • Typically, but not always comes with wealth.
    • Often is associated with some degree of influence or power.
    • Tends to come with, but not always, awards or accomplishments.
    • Is a sign of 'relevance'.  
      • While it is probable that being rich will tend to make one more memorable, it isn't a guarantee thereof.  While wealth my guarantee some publicity in one's own life or the life of one's own life, it is no guarantee that generations hence that you'll be remembered or even thought of.
      • Once we get past survival thoughts, I believe there is a spiritual yearning in many if not most people to feel like they matter.  
  • Successful influence.
    • Even if we don't 'succeed' according to the world's other measures of success, we may be considered successful if our children that we've raised have achieved one or more of the previous measures.
    • We ourselves can gain some measure of pride if we can claim that we helped our children (or players or students/spouse) to succeed.  

  • Sacrifice
    • This may seem counter-intuitive, but sometimes success is sacrifice, especially if that sacrifice was not in vein such as in examples below:
      • A soldier who dies in the service of his/her country, can through his/her efforts be part of a larger success in military victory and/or keeping us safe.
      • A fireman who dies in the line of duty--such as on 9/11--while leading other to safety has succeeded in making the world (or his/her part of it) a better place.
      • A police officer who dies in the line of duty, but helped keep his/her town safe by protecting the citizenry in the process.
    • Sacrifice can mean giving up of our hard earned time or treasure to help others succeed.  If we by our sacrifice help others to succeed, then we have achieved a level of success ourselves.  Successfully passing it on.
  • Survival
    • This can take many forms some include:
      • Literal physical survival such as in a battle (such as in war or a personal fight like cancer). 
        • When pinned being enemy lines, being able to make it out alive can be success (a miracle)
        • When you are deemed to be terminal and given only a short time to live, beating the odds can be a huge success story.
        • When you have a hard-core addiction, especially one that could be life-threatening, it may not seem like much, but success can be as simple as making it alive and sober another day.
      • Keeping a roof and food over your head in a bad economic downturn.  When you don't know how you'll make it, being able to look back and say, "somehow I made" it is a sign of success at navigating the storm.
      • Emotionally surviving after an attack or repeated abuse.  Sometimes having the strength to endure and to recover without getting destroyed or destroying yourself is a miracle.
      • Spiritually surviving trying circumstances (such as loss of job, family members or home).  Keeping the faith despite the world around you seeming to collapse is not something everyone does.
    • People who haven't been through the rough times, cannot always appreciate that success in life can be as simple as surviving.
    • Survival can be a success on the way to other successes (thriving). 
  • Simple Completion
    • In some ways this can be considered a success or a point just past survival.
    • Some challenges are so great that we don't have to be the best to be considered a winner or success.  Examples are as follows:
      • Finishing last place in a marathon is in itself a success.  Many people either don't finish or never have tried in the first place
      • A baseball player who makes it to the major leagues for a short stint, never to taste that success again can be considered a success.  Especially if/considering:
        • That player was not considered to have the talent level to make it.
        • For all those who have played the game, it is a rare class of people that even touch that level of success, even for a moment or brief stint.
  • Serenity or Spiritual Peace
    • We may not have the recognition, the worldly 'successes', the praise, the glory or even the simple notes of appreciation, but there is something to be said for being at peace with your Higher Power.
    • Many people live their whole life, never having achieved any level of serenity or spiritual peace, so achieving it is achieving a success that no other worldly success can match.
    • Serenity or Spiritual Peace can help us whether storms or lack of 'successes' in other areas of our lives.
    • The importance of it best captured by this verse: "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? (Mark 8:36)
  • Successfully Leading/Supporting 
    • Our children, students or players may never achieve pinnacles of the traditional measures of success, but that's okay.  Not everyone can be the richest, most famous, most accomplished or powerful.
    • Our spouse may never be achieve the pinnacle of success, but if we have supported him or her and encouraged him or her to be the best they can be, that is a measure of success.
    • In a world in which many people crash and burn and fail, leading those under us to well-adjusted lives is in itself "nothing to sneeze at".  We can't guarantee them 'worldly success', but we can give them the tools to be well-adjusted. 

In this world, we are often pushed by those close to us to succeed according to worldly standards. We are pushed by who are well meaning and by those who live vicariously through us.  While it can be a good thing to strive towards the traditional or worldly measures of success, it is important to never forget the more basic and less traditional measures, thereof.  Doing so, I believe can help us to be more grounded and can keep us from getting discouraged when we aren't succeeding as well as we'd like by the traditional measures.  But, I believe in all our successes we should remember the following:
  1. Never forget those who helped us along the way (especially and including our Higher Power).
  2. It is okay to have some pride in our successful efforts, but it is important not to be too prideful.
  3. Worldly 'success' can be fleeting, so appreciate it while it is there, but always be aware of the the less traditional measures of success which tend to be longer lasting if not eternal.
  4. The measure of who we are is we do with what we have.  (Vince Lombardi)  We are not guaranteed worldly success by any measure, but I believe we are guaranteed being considered a success by our Higher Power if we do the best with what we are given.

Thanks for reading,

Saturday, June 24, 2017

I will survive: Survivors vs. victims

I was visiting my brother's grave-site today and realized that he'd tough circumstances and obviously he didn't make it.  Yet, I had faced some of the circumstances or demons that he had, yet with God's help and grace, I managed to pull through, though not unscathed.  We were very close in age and had similar personalities.  So, I've wondered to myself why him and why not me?  But,  I digress.

Long before the reality TV show Survivor started its run, people actually did have to emotionally and physically survive trying circumstances.  Survivor has people artificially "marooned" in various remote locations and they must seek out food, water and shelter.  To me, it seems like a little extreme version of roughing it to try to win a huge cash prize than an actual situation or circumstance to survive.  I mean really are they going to let the contestants get anywhere close to dying or allow them to be risk deep trauma?   When we think of survivors, we think of those who have had to endure the horrors of war and being subjected to daily risk of not coming home, the trials of sexual and other types of abuse, the devastating effects of illness or the stress of not knowing where their next meal will come from and other similar extreme circumstances.

When we discuss people who have gone through rough circumstances, we generally put them into two main categories: survivors and victims.  Being a survivor doesn't mean you go through life unscathed, just like being a victim doesn't mean you end up dead or permanently maimed.  A survivor is thought of as a person who has made it through trying circumstances and come out alive, if not mostly physically and/or emotionally intact.  A victim is thought of as a person who faces trying circumstances and dies or is significantly physically and/or emotionally damaged or destroyed.  In some instances, however, whether a person is deemed a survivor or victim depends on perspective.
For example, a recovering drug addict can be emotionally intact but physically debilitated, but yet we might view them as a survivor if we focus on their emotional well-being or spirit.  But, we might view them as a victim if we focus on their deeply compromised physical health.  But, I digress, why do some people face rough circumstances and "live to tell" about it, whereas others are destroyed physically and/or mentally if they even live after them?   As they say, "That's the $64,000 question."  Anyway, the purpose of this blog post is ponder the characteristics of each and what leads to or is behind those who fall in those categories.

First characteristics of "victims" as I see it:


  • If they don't die or give up immediately, they tend to break down over time.  Either way, they tend to be heavily physically and/or mentally damaged if not destroyed (either figuratively or literally as in death).
  • They have stopped being able to recover from bad breaks or circumstances in life.  They've had one too many bad circumstance or too large a circumstance for them to recover from.
    • For example, an addict who loses custody of their child and that is an psychological bridge too far for them and as a result they lose the will to live or have a death-wish.
    • An childhood abuse victim who seems to "make it", but really have just been hanging on and finally a bad break destroys their will to live.
  • They have lost their hope or faith (and often feel the loss of support)
  • They tend to live a glass half-empty type life. They may be:
    • Afraid of living.
    • Afraid of failing. (paralyzed by it)
    • Afraid of trying.
    • Afraid of dying.
  • They lose their ability to 'scramble' or 'cope' when adversity hits.
    • They may fold under adversity, expecting that there is no immediate hope or that it will all end up bad anyways.
    • They tend to be more paralyzed by fear rather than more motivated to find a way past it, when adversity hits.
    • They may end up 'requiring' someone to 'save' them.  But as we know ultimately, there is so much 'rescuing' that others can do before that option is exhausted. 
  • They may not be blessed with the same level of survival skills as others.  I believe that while survival is based largely on spiritual and environment factors, I don't discount that DNA plays a role in our ability to survive.  After all, some people from a family with a history of mental illness for example.  (In short, they may have some Humpty Dumpty built into them).
In short, victims tend to get stuck, lose faith, ultimately expect failure, may be fragile, tend to fall apart rather than recover and fold when their support system fails them.

Now characteristics of "survivors" as see it:

  • They tend to find a way to make it through rough times (even the roughest).  The find the resources to either limit 'breaking down' if not halt it or to recover from when they break down.
  • Their hope and faith may not be perfect, but deep down inside they know they have support from their Higher Power (God).
    • Their Higher Power (God) may allow them to face adverse circumstances, but they sense that He is with them and will help them through the bad circumstances.
    • They know someone has their back (their Higher Power, family and/or friends)
  • Their Higher Power (God) may have blessed them with the constitution & mental toughness to withstand even the worst pressured.
  • They tend to see the glass as half-full and even when they don't, they are aware that more often than not, the glass has enough in to allow them to get what and where they need. 
    • Afraid of not having tried (will take chances or try)
    • Motivated not to fail,
    • Determine not to give up or in (to live).
    • Not paralyzed by the fear of dying.
  • When adversity hits, they go into "assess and survive" mode.
    • Determine what they need to do to survive.
    • Determine what is extraneous to the need to survive.
    • May ask or be willing to ask for help.
      • They don't sit around and wait for it, but plan for the possibility that they may not get it to the extent they could use it.
      • Though they may be able to count on others, they understand that ultimately it is up to them and their Higher Power 
    • They are willing to do what it takes to pull through, even when the price is steep or level of effort is extreme.
  • Their Higher Power has blessed them with an inner fortitude.  They may not always thrive, but they have been blessed with the fortitude to make it through or hold on even in the toughest scrapes.  In short, they are like a blessed with a spine of steel.  That is they may bend in the storm, but they will not break.
In short, survivors find a way, find hope and faith, have enough optimism, have the ability to scramble and they have a strong enough spine to endure, if not thrive.

Now, this covers the two extremes: survivor and victims, but I believe there are many people who've faced trauma(s) and are hovering between "life" (survivor) and "death" (victim).  Granted if you are not completely a victim, then one could actually argue that you are a survivor (at least at that point).  Ultimately, we all will be a 'victim' of human mortality and pass on one day, the real question is will we live (and die eventually) as a victim or survivor'.  Ultimately, though we may have support of others, this is really a question that we have to resolve with our Higher Power.

Thanks and I hope this sees everyone who reads this hanging in there, even in the roughest moments.

-- Rich

Friday, June 16, 2017

Faith-based expectations: Hope meets Entitlement

I was talking to a friend today about faith and expectations we have for our lives.  His thoughts were that in approaching our faith and our Higher Power (God), we should be modest in our expectations but be prayerful for what we'd like.  As I thought about for a minute it and occurred to me what he meant:  Entitlement vs. Hope.  That is to say, we should be modest and not be demanding or feel 'deserving' of an excessive amount from our Higher Power--entitlement.  However, it is reasonable for us to hope that we are blessed with good fortune in our lives.  Without even thinking about it, I believe we can take some of the following as entitlements to expect of our higher power:

  • Good or excellent health.
  • Good or problem-free childhood/adulthood.
  • Good job.
  • Good transportation.
  • Good friends/relationships.
  • Good entertainment/times.
  • Good place to live.
  • Good things.

I could summarize all of these things into one phrase: A good life.  Now, in most cases, there is nothing wrong with wanting these things.  That is provided that they DON'T get in the way of our faith (as we understand it) and our civil and moral responsibilities.  In fact, is quite reasonable to want each of these.  Anyway, my friend was saying, inherently there is nothing necessarily wrong with wanting, wishing for, or praying for things we'd like or want or want to happen.  However, we should be careful to avoid slipping into an attitude of 'entitlement'.  When we slip into that attitude we risk the following:
  • Loss of motivation (laziness)
    • If we are feel like we are entitled, I believe we are less likely to put in the work for that which we feel entitled to.
    • This speaks to the old saying that "God helps those who help themselves".
  • Loss of faith
    • If we feel entitled to some or all of the above list just by virtue of being, when we don't get them to the extent that we feel we should, we will tend to feel our faith drained.  In other words, we will tend feel like "He doesn't care" or "He let us down".
      • In a sense we are playing the role of 'God'.  That is to say, behaving as if we know more than our Creator what is best for us or care more than he does.
    • Unfortunately, when our life doesn't go the way we think it should, i.e., "He hasn't provided", we are more likely to decide that we can't count on Him.  
      • This creates a vicious cycle were we tend to exclude our Higher Power and "Lean on our own understanding", resulting typically in less good fortune.  This tends to cause us to blame Him and further exclude Him and the negative cycle continues.
  • (Unhealthy or improper) anger
    • When things don't go the way, we may ask "why He failed us", instead of realizing that we--humanity-have played a role in our own individual and societal failings.  
    • These feelings can lead to poisonous resentment and anger.
    • We need to realize, not everything is going to go 'according to script', but that He usually helps us get what we need.  
    • We need to realize that there are many much less fortunate.

Now let's talk about Hope.  What exactly is hope as I see it.

  • Is usually a health attitude.  
  • Is typically an understanding that we won't always get what we want, but that we will likely get what we need.  
  • Is something that when exercised right is followed by proactive steps in working towards what we want or need.  
  • Is an understanding that both we and our Higher Power play a role in working towards what we want or need.  
  • Is a something that when exercised right is a sense that we aren't 'owed' things, but instead 'blessed' with things.

Ultimately, I guess my takeaway from our conversation was that we need to focus less on what we think we should have, more on what we do have and understand He will provide what we need.  That is to realize that it is not our role to 'expect' or 'demand' of our Higher Power, but instead work along side Him with His guidance to help us meet our needs.  Unfortunately, as I write this, I realize it, like most good advice in life, is easier given than followed.  But, nonetheless...

--  Rich

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Hidden bottles, magical thinking and the part-time parent

Sometimes, I wonder if I am impacting anyone by my thoughts, my musings about human nature?I'd like to think that one day someone will say, yeah, this did help me out.  But, in the meantime, I will write for that time... So, last Saturday (May 27, 2017),  I went to a family wedding without my daughter.  It had a nice outdoor area that was very kid friendly.  Family relatives of her age were playing there.  I couldn't help but to think that she would have loved to play too.  My wife felt the same thing too.  While I enjoyed the wedding and am happy for the couple, there was a bittersweet nature to the situation without my daughter there.

Anyone who has the short end of a custody agreement can related to this: Short of a close death in the family, one of the hardest things I've had to face is limited time with my daughter and giving her up when I feel like I just got her again.   There's been times in which I've had to go the better part of a week or more without seeing her due to the custody schedule. Holidays/vacation when she's not with me can be rough too.  I think to myself, she should be there enjoying that time with us.  In some ways, it's bittersweet knowing that I have her now (when I have her), but tomorrow or in a day or two, I'll have to give her back to Mom.  When I drop her off for the better part of a week or so, my mood sometimes tanks.  I have forced myself to cry at that point by putting on the most melancholy music I know.  Doing so to me feels like I am bloodletting from a blood blister or removing the poison from my system.   I guess the overarching feeling is that I feel like I'm missing out on huge parts of her fleeting childhood.

Through her time with me, my wife indicated to me, she has a little bit better understanding of what parents who have lessor custody go through in that regard.  She said that she used to view all guys who walked away from their kid(s) as heartless, but now she believes that at least in some cases, it is a matter of the bittersweet nature of secondary custody being too hard on some.  I said to her, yeah, it's hard, but she--my daughter--needs me, so I have to deal.

Which brings me to a point.  In AA or Alcoholics Anonymous, people literally hide their alcohol or places that they get it from.  They call this "hidden bottles".  In other words, it is a secret place where they can get their fix without another knowing (or at least so they think).  How this applies to my situation with my daughter is this: I fought hard for my rights with her and I've been told I did well in that regard, but even so, I feel cheated out by the system.  So, there is a part of me that actively contemplates how to see her more.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, except that I focus too much on not having her and pondering 'my options for getting her more' rather than appreciating the time I do have with her.  While it isn't a bad thing to consider how I can maximize my time with her, I know I shouldn't let it consume me.  I shouldn't let dread of 'losing her again'  (for days at a time) interfere with my time with her.   On the outside, I 'accept' the current limitation, but like a hidden bottle in my mind, I reach for how can I change things or for indulging my dread in "losing her again".


(Mental) hidden bottles can be in their extreme, magical thinking.  I call them mental hidden bottles, because we know if we openly hold out hope or indulge them, we are likely to be judged and told that they are absurd.  To illustrate, I will give a few examples and comment a bit more: 
  • Believing you still have a chance to be with someone who broke up with you--especially if it wasn't a good breakup--if you just let them know how much you mean to them.  
    • Showing up unannounced for example aka ambushing them.
    • Getting them elaborate an expensive gifts, etc.
  • Having a close loved one pass away and waking up day after day, expecting to see them again in this life, though outwardly expressing to others you know they are gone.
    • A kid expecting to see a lost sibling,  parent, aunt/uncle.
    • A grown-up expecting to see their late spouse.
  • Believing that you if you buy hundreds of ticket after tickets, you will hit the right number.  Believing that if you keep dumping in dollar after dollar, the right slot machine will reward us with a big payout. Believing that if you wait long enough, the right rich distant (and likely unknown) relative who passes away, will leave you enough money that your troubles will go away.

I'd venture to guess by the time we are into adulthood, we've given up most if not all of the truly magical thinking.  I don't mean that we give up on our dreams or goals, but we give up on the things that are truly impossible or that which is so near to it (and destructive to focus on).  Anyway, we come to realize that reality doesn't change just because we don't like it.  Our late loved ones just don't come back to life after seeing them deceased.  While we may not believe in "magic", I think sometimes, we still indulge in holding onto our mental hidden bottles. That is thoughts, feelings and desired outcomes which get in the way of our living with the current reality.

In the case of missing my daughter, it's a fact that short of tragedy or bad circumstances, I will never see her everyday.  (At least until she is old enough to decide at the end of her childhood).  I don't like it, but I can't quietly focus on that like a mental hidden bottle.  I see there is room for me and her mom to split time a little more evenly (and we have), but I can't focus on my feelings of getting 'cheated' by the system.  The fact is that there are some parents who are (unfairly) kept from their kids though manipulation from vindictive ex-partner.  

I guess my takeaway from this is not to give up on goals, hopes, dreams or justice, but to keep things in perspective.  That is to say, do you what you can and should but at the end of the day realize that sometimes you have to turn it over the Almighty and trust that He will work towards what is best for you.  As this is a sinful, fallen world, we may not get what we want, but maybe we need to understand that the Almighty works for the best for those who follow Him.

I struggle with faith in matters of this sort, but I know that when I've tried to play God in my own life, I have fallen way short and need to learn better to let go.  I guess the advice that I'd give for others is to realize that while our Higher Power wants us to participate in the betterment of us and our situation, that He also wants us to lean on him and not just our own ways and understanding.

Just my 1/50th of a dollar,