As we head into a new year, I ponder my resolution to have better balance in my life on a number of levels. One of those (very important) levels is in the area of stress reduction and reducing worry in my life. I think these are things we all struggle with, and recently I've come to realize there's a great deal that we impose on ourselves, especially when it comes to our relationships.
This realization came after having several people tell me things that other people said and/or did over the past few weeks and asked what I thought of it. I remembered that when I was under a therapist while going through my life changes a few years ago, one of the things she told me was that the secret to finding balance was realizing what was and wasn't my business. "You concern yourself with your responsibilities and what you control and let go of the things in the hands of others," she said. That's certainly true, and in fact remembering this advice upon being asked my opinion on these various situations and issues made me realize that people, in general, bring on a lot of their own stress by worrying about or fretting over things that other people think, say or do - things they have absolutely no control over.
Why do we do this? My first reaction was that it's arrogance. Frankly, we all have a tendency to beleive that everything is all about us - and that's wrong. The truth is that everything people think, say and do is all about THEM. It's a reflection of how they see the world. Even if they say that "others made me do it," the truth is that they made the decision on how to perceive things and on how to proceed. Nobody "makes" anybody do anything. Plus, by nature, people are going to do what's best for them and the ones closest to them. Why should they do something that benefits you 100% and them none at all when you aren't the center of THEIR world?
So there's one reason, but I don't think that's all of it, nor the major portion. In fact, I think if that were the whole reason, then it would mean that people in general are extremely selfish and short sighted, and I don't believe that such a narrow view applies to most people most of the time. Some maybe, but absolutely not all. Maybe not most. And remember, I said there's some truth to this. Maybe it's a small part, but I don't think that's a "once size fits all" explanation for it. Most people learn, grow, and gain a wider perspective on the world and as such, they aren't so shallow.
I believe another reason is that we want everybody to like us. The problem is, I recently read that there was actually some scientific study that at least 10% of people aren't going to like you. Frankly, I was surprised the percentage was that low. I thought it would be closer to 30%, but the latest study I read said 10% so we'll run with that. Why is this? Plain and simple, personality differences. Some types just don't play well together. If you don't believe it, ask any extremely emotional person I've come in contact with and they'll tell you I'm mean and don't give a crap about their feelings. I am, by nature, a person that leans more toward logic and reason in making decisions than emotion. I usually don't get along well with extremely emotional types that "just want peace" and "want everybody happy right now" because I beleive happiness comes from investing the time and hard work to do things right no matter how you feel about it "right now." If you do what's right, then it will work out in the end, and that's a happiness that last; not a vapor of high emotion that wears off when the party is over and the consequences have to be paid. In fact, since I've been working in professional licensing, I'd say my tendency to make decisions based on logic and reason have become a stronger because by nature of my profession, I'm obligated to do what's right no matter how people feel about it. I don't think that's a bad thing (of course), but I've caught some flack about it because I'm female, and by stereotype I'm supposed to be all about feelings. While I'm ok to say "alright, forget the 10% and thank God for and enjoy the other 90%, well, some people get awfully fixated on that 10% and believe that if they work harder then they can get a 100% approval rating. It seems their effort would be better spent nurturing relationships with the other 90% but in fact, sometimes they turn on the ones on their side to gain approval they'll never have, counting on forgiveness from that 90% that might come, but not realizing that it will have a higher price than they bargained for because broken trust is a very hard thing to rebuild. But it happens, all the time. I've experienced it; I've seen it; I've written about it. Hey, I'm a writer. The ugly underside of humanity is a playground of inspiration. Expose it to me at your own risk.
Just kidding - maybe. And a sidenote on the emotion thing: I'm interested to see if the stereotype of "hysterical emotion" in women downplays as more generations of women have careers.Working women don't have time to fret over every little wayward comment, rolled eye, questionable social media post, tear or tirade that comes their way. Or at least, me and my colleagues don't. But we'll see as time tells this particular tale.
So there's that. But not all people are emotional and out for approval ratings that would make politicians jealous, so reason #2 can't apply to everybody. But it does apply to enough that I believe it should be considered.
There is one more reason, and I think it applies to most of us. I believe the reason people get tied up in what others think, say and do is because they don't want to be alone in how they think or feel. They want to know that others agree with them. They want others to have an opinion with them, or to get mad with them, or to be sad with them, or to take up the cause with them because they don't want to be the only freak swimming against the tide. They want to know they're like everybody else and what the other person is doing is wild/selfish/stupid/crazy/nonsense/whatever. They don't want to be alone in their opinion or feelings because they don't want to look in the mirror and ask "is it them, or is it me?" We all want to be right. We all want the world to understand that our opinion is just as important as everybody elses'. We all want respect. Nobody wants to be a nobody. They want people to know that they're here, that they have value, and that they are just as important as the other 7+ billion people in the world.
Here's the thing, though: Going about it by getting tangled up in other peoples' business is a sign of insecurity. If you truly walk in faith and you're confident in yourself as the authentic human being you were created to be, then you don't need to beg or scream for attention. You humbly go about your own business, believing that the life God set before and the purposes you serve speak for themselves.
That's the cure. That's how you break free from this stress. You get busy living your own life and tending to your own businss and have the grace to accept others and the decisions they make without intruding into their lives with your opinions.
Does this mean you ignore others and don't care what they do? Of course not. You should always do your best to help people in need and if there's something you can do to help others on their life path, you certainly should. The key is to use common sense and discernment. Yes, we all have opinions on things, but we don't need to share them all the time. Everything that flies through your head doesn't need to fly out of your mouth. If you aren't asked for your opinion or advice, assume it's not wanted or needed and keep it to yourself. I'd even go so far as to say that you should still use caution in giving advice even if you ARE asked for it. As one of the elves said in The Lord of the Rings - The Fellowship of the Ring, "elves don't give advice because all paths may run ill." Think before you speak. If in doubt, don't. And realize that advice is a take it or leave it thing - and in many cases, people leave it, so be prepared to have your advice or opinion rejected just in case and be prepared to not get offended. And please, for the love of God, if it won't make any difference and you have a thought - don't. Stop right there and go no further. If it's done and/or there's no way it's changing no matter what anybody says and you really need to get it out, set up a private blog or buy a journal to work it out, but don't go off on tirades and complain to everybody in the world about things you can't control involving people close to you. And don't ask or expect people to take sides with you unless you want to do the equivalent of renting a billboard that says I'M THE ONE WITH THE PROBLEM. It makes you look bad and it makes other people run like hell from you when they see you coming. If it's something so big that you can't live with it, find a way to either deal with it or distance yourself from the situation. Just because a war's going on doesn't mean you have to be a soldier in it. Other people might want you to have their problems, but they can't draft you. You don't have to accept them and if you choose not to accept their problems, well then, it's over.
The point of this mile long blog is that I'm coming to understand that balance is something that we have to strive for in every area of life, and personal relationships are certainly a big element there. We do live in the world, with people, so having good, balanced relationships is an extremely important thing. And one way we can achieve balance in our relationships is by not being a busybody, minding our own business, and having the grace to let it be.
Thanks for hanging in there with me on this one. I hope you had a Happy Friday and that you have a great weekend.
I was home sick with a sinus infection today and decided to watch the midday news. On it, they had a report on a state where sending children to school at age 5 is optional - they can do it, but aren't required to do it until the child is six years old. They touted this story as "does it give children an academic edge to wait a year?" but in reality, it was all parents saying "my child is too immature and I just think they need another year at home before starting school."
This reminded me of what happened at my church recently when we lost our pastor and associate pastor last spring. When we asked about forming a committee to find a new pastor, the Synod told us to wait a few months because "the congregation needs time to grieve, heal and deal with the loss of their pastors."
Really? Time to adjust and heal? Time to get ready? Folks, I'm going to be bluntly honest with you - I call bullcrap on that. I'd use the alternate phrase, but I strive to keep this blog PG-13 rated. But you get the point. I think this is all nonsense. And I will be glad to tell you why.
Reality rarely gives us time to ease into adjustments. Sure, sometimes we choose to make changes, but sometimes things happen with no warning and we're left with no choice but to accept it. There is no adjustment period. There is no "time out" for emotional healing. Reality takes an anvil to your life and you have no choice but to get up and start putting the pieces back together before it beats you further and turns those pieces into confetti that you can't do anything with. The illness often strikes without warning. Jobs change. People move on or worse
yet, die. Life can turn around with one phone call. I've seen it happen in the blink of an eye and can tell you from experience that we should take nothing for granted and look for the possibilities in every situation.
Do you know how much time I was given to "adjust and deal" with my job move two years ago? Absolutely none! It was welcome, now get to work. You have regulations to draft. You have things to integrate into the database. You have forms to reformat and 42 boxes of files to scan into our database and 2 websites to help our IT staff set up for your programs because you're the one that knows this stuff and we can't help you because we need YOU to help US get it integrated into our system and tell us what it is so we can tell you how it will be from now on. The move was about a third of the work. There was plenty of heavy lifting after that, so to speak, and they made it clear that they expected me to not only rise to that, but to everything else set before me. And you know what? I did it. Sure, there were times when I broke down and came home saying "I can't DO all of this!" But I went back the next day and with enough "next days" and more hard work than I ever thought I was capable of, it got done and continues to get done every day.
And you know, a funny thing happened. I found the courage to submit my writing to epublishers again and by golly, two books got accepted. What the hell, I thought. I moved two programs. Why can't I publish two books? Why can't I be an independent author? I've always wanted to be a writer and this is my chance to be one. And I did it. I keep writing because I learned to step out and be bold and proactive in pursuing my writing goals from being pulled up by my hair at my day job. Reality punched me in the gut in one area, and by rising to that challenge I found the courage to take on the challenge of pursuing a personal dream in another area. Life's funny like that if you learn how to accept your situation and take advantage of every opportunity you find, no matter how big or small.
My point here is not to say nah nah, look at me and how I made it work. I hesitate to say it "worked" even at this point. Rather, I see the situation as "I continue to work hard and grow" because I am still learning and growing. It's a lifelong process. I still learn at work, and I'm still working on new writing projects and to build an audience for my published work. It's still a lot of hard work on both fronts. My point is that reality doesn't hit the pause button to pat you on the back and say "there there, take some time to eat ice cream and watch reruns of Supernatural (or whatever show you like) until you feel strong enough to deal with this." Reality is a witch (another PG-13 term for what I really think it is). It just happens and it doesn't care what you like or feel about anything.
I was raised with the "if the Lord brings you to it, then He brings you through it" truth, but this is a truth that we have to learn. It's not something ingraned in our psyche. Fear and helplessness are ingraned in our psyche. We have to learn that faith that we can face it. We have to learn to find that strength within ourselves to rise to what life brings. We have to learn to do the hard work, and to face the pain and struggles with the courage of a lion even if we feel like jelly inside. We learn by standing up to it and working through it. And folks, that doesn't come from taking an ice-cream and Supernatural rerun festival break to sob and wipe our tears while complaining of the injustice of it all. Life isn't fair. We have to learn to stand in the face of that. We have to work with the situation and figure out how to pluck out the opportunities in this "not fair" situation to work it out for our good and put ourselves on a journey to something better in the end.
We can heal. We can adjust. But more often than not, we have to do it on our feet. We have to heal while we move forward becauser stagnation brings further consequences and suffering that are completely unnecessary and can be avoided by acceptance and hard work.
So no, I call bullcrap on the "wait until your ready" mentality. Reality doesn't care if you're ready. It just happens. We do ourselves a greater favor by standing up to it sooner rather than later.
That's all today. Take care.
I think we all understand that life is a journey. We are continually striving to become better than we are, and as such there will always be bigger goals to reach for and bigger dreams to attain. Every milestone we reach, every dream we achieve, every new discovery we make, will change us. Although the core of who we are remains constant, we should continue to grow and learn with each experience. Our roles and functions many change, but who we are deep in our soul won’t. This is why it’s so important to strive for authenticity and to find your true purpose. The only way to make the journey successfully is to know who you are deep inside, and to know where you’re going.
We’ve often heard it said that Christ should be the foundation of your life, and this is true. Remember, though, what a foundation is for – we’re supposed to build on it! Each of us were created to live in this world for a reason, and our job is to build ourselves up to be the best we can be based on this solid foundation. We’re supposed to construct rising layers and to build up ourselves and our presence in the world. If Christ is the foundation, then I believe it stands to reason that being authentic and honestly knowing ourselves is the ground floor. Everything else builds up from here and depends on the support of the layers beneath it. Christ gives us our spiritual roots, and knowing ourselves helps us to serve the world in the best way possible.
I truly believe that we can’t relate to other people and perform to the best of our ability if we don’t know ourselves. How can we? How can you get along with others if you don’t know yourself? How can you do your best when you don’t know where your talents and abilities lie? How can you form solid relationships with other people if you can’t be honest with yourself? How can you succeed when you can’t accept reality? You may be rooted in Christ, but you can still get stuck in horrible ruts if you don’t take the next step to knowing yourself and to find contentment in what God made you to be.
So what is contentment? It’s accepting the reality of where you are and working to strive for better. Life certainly isn’t perfect, and sometimes it can take you to dark places. This is the ugly underside of reality in an imperfect world. Life is going to hurt from time to time, and we may be completely dissatisfied with where we are. I certainly understand. I mentioned that I went through major changes in my personal and work life in 2010 and believe me, that was a special kind of hell. For many months I literally had no peace no matter where I went because battles raged all around me. Change is tough. It was hard enough to face two major transitions, but add to that the fact that change makes people very nervous and irritable and you understand what I mean by facing battles on every front.
How did I make it through? First, I believed in the promises that the Lord knows His plans for me and they are for good (Jeremiah 29:11) and that all things work together for good for those who love Christ and are called to His purpose (Romans 8:28). These promises, from the foundation of my faith, gave me the courage to stand up and take charge of my life. I claimed my life as my own and acknowledged that, although I couldn’t help the changes or control them, I certainly had a right to work them for the best. I sought advice from others I trusted, took advantage of every opportunity, and kept my eyes on the goal of coming through these transitions to building a life that was better than the one I had before. I wasn’t happy with my life, but I found contentment in knowing that the Lord was leading me through a transition that was taking me to a better life. I can honestly say that my life is better today than it was two years ago, and I’m grateful for that. It wasn’t easy – it fact, it was brutally painful in spirit– but I feel I’ve come out wiser and with knowledge and experience that will guide me through whatever comes next.
I believe this story shows that contentment doesn’t mean that things are perfect. As I said, we live in an imperfect world, and if you reserve your happiness for that magic day when it all comes together then you won’t be happy a day in your life. Contentment means accepting reality. It means resting in the Lord. It means being true to yourself. It means doing the very best you can in everything you do. And I do believe that is the secret to joy. It’s not an elated happiness or a dopamine high, but rather a sense of peace in doing the best you can with what the Lord has given you.
I think we owe it to everybody: God, ourselves and the world, to be authentic. After all, we are all part of the Body of Christ. We do His work in the world now. Isn’t that a job worth offering your absolute best for?
I recently got a quote through Twitter that said “it’s not the hand you’re dealt; it’s how you play it.” I believe this is true. After all, we can’t control life. Many things happen that are beyond our control. The secret is; how do you deal with it?
This is a topic that hits close to home for me, because I went through two major life changes last year that were the direct result of other peoples’ decisions. I had no say so in them, and the changes were literally rammed down my throat. Yes, I felt victimized. It definitely wasn’t fair, and I resented that other people were making decisions that were affecting my life. But I have come through, and I can honestly say that I feel my life is much better today than it was before the changes. How did I do this? Well, there are a few secrets to playing the hand your dealt and turning a hodgepodge of crap into a winning hand:
1. Take advantage of every opportunity, no matter how small. It’s the small things that lead up to the big things, and often it happens in incremental steps. My 2 E-book contracts are the result of an article I read on E-publishing last summer. I’d say that idea went a long way!
2. Realize that you have a right to work things for the very best in your life. No, you can’t choose what happens to you, but you can choose whether to remain a victim. When life gets derailed, take some time to analyze the new situation and look for ways you can work things out for good. You often can’t control what people come into your life, but you can determine what kind of relationship you have with them by letting them know what’s good, what’s acceptable, and what’s absolutely intolerable in your life.
3. Accept what you can’t change and change what you can. There are some things you can’t change, but in every situation there are details you can control. I had no control over my job move, but I decided to demonstrate my skills and abilities to my new colleagues right away. As a result, my duties were assigned based on my strengths instead of putting me wherever they needed another body pushing through work – and I’m happier with my job than I’ve ever been.
4. Don’t let other people run your life. Yes, there are times when decisions that other people make will affect you, but these times should be the exception and not the rule. That’s a poor way to set your sails and usually leads to ports you never intended to visit, much less live at. Stand up for yourself and make it clear to other people that they will respect you as an individual or they will no longer have a place in your life.
5. Reaping and sowing is a real way to turn a losing hand to a winning one. It’s a real concept, folks, and I’ve seen it play out over and over again. What goes around really does come around. If you aren’t a person of faith, consider this: The universe only has a limited amount of energy, and you can only get back what you give. So please, be mindful of your words and actions. Honesty, integrity and hard work will yield fruit. Deceit, deception, and laziness, well, sowing those if fun but reaping them’s a witch.
6. Be thankful for what you have, and take care of it. Because why should God give you more if you gripe and complain about what you have? Do you know when I saw a breakthrough on building our dream home? It was after I finally accepted the home we had and dedicated myself to taking the best possible care of it.
7. Realize the Law of Undulation. I absolutely love this concept of the ebb and flow of life that C.S. Lewis presented in The Screwtape Letters. Life really is a series of peaks and valleys, and you’re always at some point in that curve. So if you’re down, don’t fret because you will go back up. If you’re up, stay humble because things will level out. And if you’re in the middle, then praise God because at least you’re moving. The nature of the universe is change, which means that ruts are an illusion. Eventually, something will move.
8. Honesty and integrity always win the day. Do the best at all you do, and be honest. Truth has a way of showing itself, and integrity demonstrates character. You may suffer for it periodically, but in the end what’s right always stands while lies and deception dissolve into nothing. In my 13 years in the work force I can say for a fact that people that played politics and stepped on others to move ahead never lasted. They shone for a while, but eventually the favor ran out and the truth showed itself. It all goes back that that annoying “reaping and sowing” thing.
9. Don’t let fear be a factor. If the Lord brings you to it, He’ll bring you through it. I don’t care if you’re scared. Find your courage and bring the fire. We have a Savior that defeated the devil, freed the souls from Hades, defeated sin and death, and sits at the right hand of the Father. I think He can handle whatever we face – especially if it’s His will for our lives!
10. Don’t be afraid of who you are. Be real. Be authentic. Embrace yourself, rough edges and all. Because when we stand before God, He won’t ask why you weren’t more like other people. He’ll ask why you weren’t yourself and why you didn’t appreciate the blessings He gave you.
Life may deal you a bad hand every now and then, but that doesn’t mean you’re doomed to live in defeat. In fact, you should fight defeat. Don’t settle for life trapped in a box or accept bad things for yourself. Stand up, be yourself, and do all you can to make the hand you have a winning one!
That's my soapbox speech for today. More later. I hope the rest of the week is great.
I wanted to take this time to give a special shout out to my current employer and colleagues. Tomorrow will be a year since I was transferred to your Department. Words simply can't express how much I appreciate your kindness and patience. It takes a tremendous leap of faith to accept two licensure programs that have been in existance for 35 years, and an even greater leap of faith to accept an employee with those programs that you did not hire and had no choice but to accept with the programs.
I thank you not only for this, but for the way you have unconditionally accepted me. You accepted me for who I was and have worked to discover my talents and to work with them. You have never put me down or made me feel bad for who I am. You have never made me feel like an outsider. You have never tried to hammer a square peg in a round hole - in fact, I haven't felt like a square peg since I moved here. You have done the one thing that my former colleagues couldn't do in over 12 years - you accepted me for who I am. Because of that, I feel I have accomplished more in the past 12 months than I have in the past 12 years combined. That's what happens when people have the right attitude and they care about doing things right for the benefit of all.
I know that my licensees, Board members, and council members thank you as well. You've been great. It's not perfect but we are committed to greater goals and never forget that. Our eyes are on the goal of providing the best we can. It's not about power trips or "putting people in their place." It's really and truly about what's best for all and helping people. That is what I signed on for all those years ago and it's so good to finally see it, at long last.
It's been a tremendous amount of work, but well worth it - and very successful with your help and guidance. We still have a way to go, but I have every faith that we will get there.
Thank you and bless you.