Okay folks, this is my blog and today, I feel compelled to share something that has been on my mind for about a month or so. I held back because I wanted to make sure I wasn't being overly-sensitive or taking things out of context, but in reflection and talking with some others, I realize that it's completely within the bounds or normal, how shall I put it - pondering. Yea, that's a diplomatic way to say it.
I've known a number of people that have recently faced trials and life changes similar to the ones I faced a few years ago. Of course, I can relate to their struggles quite well, having been through something similar not too long ago. But one thing that rubs me kind of wrong is that a few years ago, people were quite bold to tell me to get my crap together and move on. I heard a lot of "if I were you" and "you need to get things under control" and "that's just life, you have to be strong and work your way through." I realize this is all true, of course - life throws you curveballs and the only way around is through. I knew that at the time and the truth of that still rings loud and clear. It seems, though, that when the situation goes from "it sucks to be you" to being the one it sucks for, well, that's different.
I asked Rick recently if this realization seemed harsh or hypocritical and he said (exact words): "No. People weren't afraid to get in your face and tell you to get it together. They made it clear that you were to make it stop immediately."
Okay, so it's not just me. There is a level of hypocricy going on.
I could get angry. I could get very frustrated and call people on it. But the truth is, I haven't had to. While nobody's come to me and said "oops, well I guess you aren't the only one reality can kick in the a**" their contrite attitude has clearly indicated that they finally understand what I was trying to communicate before: That it's not so easy when you're in the middle of it. Oops, you can't make things go back to what they are because you aren't God. Oops, you can't force other people to change. Oops, you can't just say "stop" and the universe will heed your call. That big, bad boldness is fine when you're on the mountaintop, but not so practical when you're in the valley and a flood is threatening.
I see that they get it, and I don't think their circumstances are the result of a lack of sympathy at my plight, or anybody elses'. Rather, I think it's the universal truth that reality is an equal opportunity smacker. It will knock us all down and bring us to a humility that we never imagined we'd have to face. I know I've had to become a new person from my own experiences. I had to completely change the way I thought about EVERYTHING and that's the hardest thing I've ever had to do. Sometimes, I still have to remind myself to case off those old thoughts and embrace the new. It isn't easy, but to refuse would have been to sentence myself to a life of misery and depression, something that I simply won't have or allow in my life. If it's change my thinking to stay happy or hold to my old thoughts in a life that doesn't fit any more and resign myself to depression and misery, I'll change.
We all have to make that decision at some point. It's going to happen. C.S. Lewis called it The Law of Undulation in The Screwtape Letters, and I believe this is one of the most often ignored truths of life in this world just because it makes us uncomfortable and we don't like it. Life is a series of peaks and valleys. We will have times when we're on top of the world, but eventually the pendulum swings and we find outselves with the world on top of us. Sure, sometimes it's the result of bad decision making, but just as often it's the result of things beyond our control: things change. People change. Circumstances change. As The Bible says, "time and chance happen to them all" (Ecclesiastes 9:11). And all you can do is deal with it, for however long it goes on, until you work your way through to the other side.
So no, I'm not mad at people. Rather, I hate to see them go through such times because I know the pain they fell. It's not fun and I pray it passes for them. That being said, I would like to share some things I noticed going through my own trials that I hope will give others facing hard times some comfort or guidance in navigating their way through the valley:
1. Be honest, first with yourself and then with others. The sooner you face that life is crap for you right now, the quicker you'll find your way through. But also realize the truth that this too shall pass and you won't be here forever. There's always hope. Likewise, don't be ashamed to admit that life isn't roses, unicorns and rainbows. Don't be afraid to tell people, when you must, that things are rough, but you're doing your best to work through. Now that being said;
2. Use discernment in who and what you share. You need to be honest with people, but they also don't need to know every single thing going on in your life. This is especially true when dealing with sensitive family matters. I'm sorry to say it, but there are some people that won't get it and others that will use it against you to embarass you later. I think we've all had those instances where you shared something personal with a friend because you needed to vent, and they brought it up VERY publically later to get a laugh or gain what I call "cool points" with others that they've decided they like better since you shared your woes with them. Keep your inner circle limited to a very few people and even then, use discernment. You don't have to tell everything, nor should you. It's fine to say "yea, I'm dealing with some issues with myself/ job/health/at home right now, but I'm working through and it will be okay. I just need an extra dose of grace and patience right now," and leave it at that. You aren't on reality tv, so you don't need to act like it.
3. Don't be afraid to seek outside advice. The problem with keeping it in your inner circle is that they are biased. They aren't going to be able to fully see the situation and sometimes their advice, although well meaning, will be off base because of the tendency to see what they want/like best (for whatever reasons). It's perfectly reasonable to go to a pastor, therapist, or vocational rehab service, even if just once, to get a clear perspective on the situation as a whole so you can understand how to best proceed. Just be forewarned that those closest to you may take a level of offence. I did this a few years ago and was told by a few "well, I'm sorry we all let you down so much that you had to go to a stranger for help." That's not the case at all. I was realistic enough to know I was too beat and broken to see it logically on my own and that those close to me couldn't see past my own pain (and their pain) to see it clearly either. I was that serious about dealing with things right the first time so we could all move on. A good barometer of knowing when to seek outside counsel is this: if you feel absolutely stuck and paralyzed with no way out, you need a third party intervention. It doesn't mean you're weak. It means you're strong enough to face all the ugliness of reality and have the determination to work it out correctly, no matter what.
4. Realize that some people "just won't get it" and decide right now if you are able to forgive them. General rule: if somebody prefaces a statement with "if I were you..." cut them off right away. They aren't you and that statement means "I don't know what the hell I'm talking about, but I want to say something so here it is." Likewise, and this isn't flattering but it's absolutely true: Sometimes people are more sympathetic to others because they like them and their situations better than they like you and your situations. Okay, maybe that's harsh, but people are biased based on their own experiences, and what this means is that they'll come down harder on you because there's something in your situation they really hate but they'll be more sympathetic to another facing something similar because they like or relate to something in their situation more. We're all hypocrites, folks,and we all judge. It's not right, but it's true. You have to make the decision to forgive it and move on or you'll stay stuck in the mire of your own problems a lot longer than necessary.
5. There is one, universal solution to all problems. This is the good news, but it isn't easy news. That universal solution is do the right thing. All the time. No matter how hard it is, how much it hurts, who gets angry, or how tired you get. No matter what. And don't stop doing the right thing ever. It might hurt like hell, piss people off, and seem to destroy your life but trust me, it's temporary. Because "we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28). Doing right always leads to right in the end. Some battles may be lost, but the war will be won. But taking shortcuts, doing things the easy way, or ignoring things and hoping they will go away will prolong the war indefinitely. It literally took two and a half years for me to get my life settled into something that could be called "normal," but I'm convinced the struggled would still be ongoing if I didn't dig in my heels and determine that I would do things right, no matter how hard I had to work, how tired I got, who got mad at me, or how much it hurt. Let me tell you, it doesn't hurt anymore.
So take it from one that actually did all of these things - it works. You have to be stronger than you imagined possible, but it works.
Am I mad at my realizations? No. People aren't perfect and I made the decision long ago that I wasn't going to get angry or hold grudges. There's no point in it. My mission was to recreate my life and move on in the abundance and blessing I could find in it, and I am. Now I pray that others going through hard times will find the strength to move through and to find their own blessings and abundance on the other side of their trials.
And there is the other side, folks. God promises that there's always hope. I'm living proof. So keep fighting on to do what's right, and it will be fine. That's a promise you can count on.
That's all today. Take care and have a good weekend.
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.
WARNING!! This blog entry contains extreme moderate material. If you are offended by anything, you shouldn't read it.
I dropped my second Facebook friend yesterday. I often have to pare down the follow list on Twitter because of follow limits, but Facebook sets the bar higher, so I'm not there yet with them. That means that if I drop a Facebook friend, something happened - and considering this is only the second time I've done it in 2 years, well, maybe I'm lucky.
Oh, this person wasn't harassing me or anything. In fact, I hated to do it and I don't feel happy about it at all. Seems the problem is that many of this persons friends objected to materials they posted on their wall, and told them so. They got extremely angry, and have posted several acidic posts basically saying that if you don't like it, too bad, this is me. Well, this week it turned downright toxic. And I've been patient, but when I saw the post that said "just drop me if you have a problem with what I say because I probably didn't ask for you to be my friend anyway" I said "fine!" and unfriended. Folks, over the past week I've had to deal with two professionals that died (one was serving on a committee with me), office politics taking a nasty turn, a tense committee meeting with dissenting opinions that wasn't altogether pretty, the garage door breaking, and the usual calls and emails from people that think our laws are stupid and we're too tough with our standards. I simply don't have the time or energy to deal with a parasite that throw fits for everybody to agree with them "or else." After the offline issues at my door, "or else" looked pretty darn good that time.
I try to be patient and tolerant with people. I know everybody isn't going to agree with everything I say, and that's ok. The truth is, I'm a moderate, and we don't tend to be inflamed firestarters that want to set the world ablaze by writing all the wrongs under the sun. Our world isn't black and white and we aren't consistent. My radio is set on BBN and Cold's "13 Ways to Bleed Onstage" has been in my CD player this week. I have absolutely no problem living in the shades of grey that make up the world and I don't feel I need to justify my beliefs or likes to anybody. I don't have all the answers and that's ok too. I, like other moderates, am accused of being a conformist when the truth is that we are the most radical non-conformists under the sun because we are square pegs and we refuse to be pounded into the round holes that make the left and the right comfortable. They can't figure us out, and I think that's why we irritate the hell out of them.
Last week was a great case in point. I got lambasted by some because I said I thought it was really silly to get inflamed over Truitt Cathy's support of traditional marriage when there's so much crime and violence in our society. Let's quit fighting, I said, and focus on coming down harder on people who abuse animals and children.
I was called a hypocrite. "You want to punish those that hurt animals, but you eat meat!" (Thanks to my cousin for pointing out that the Bible says some animals are ok to eat and others aren't).
I was told to quit being a whimp. "You're a Christian and it's high time we took a firm stand on something!"
I was called judgemental. "You're straight!" Ok, duh. I've been married for 14 years. Yea, I like men. I've never had THAT said to me like it's a problem. But also "You're judgemental!"
And best of all - "it's symbolic of standing up for something. You don't get that?"
Oh, I get it. I'm Lutheran. We're all about symbols. Read my books and you'll see how into symbolism I am. But I guess my perspective on this goes to a bigger picture than symbols. For example, last week:
1. A guy that shot and killed a high school classmate was released from prision. He admitted to being involved in her death, but his conviction was downgraded from a death penalty case to time served and he's on the street again; and
2. I heard two awful stories of parrots being killed by people in brutal and horrific ways. Just because they could and the animals couldn't defend themselves.
I'm sorry folks, but I fail to see how buying a chicken sandwich on August 1 saved the institution of marriage, which has been around since the dawn of humanity. I think the 50% plus divorse rate in this country shows a lacadasical attitude that will undermine it much more - and it's surviving that. Plus, the world is going to hell anyway. Are you really surprised? This isn't the only social injustice under the sun. I mean, take a look around.
But according to the right and the left, I don't get it. Whatever. The truth is that I do have fire in me, but I suppose my view of what's important is different. And if that makes me bad, oh well. Call me what you will but the truth is, I have other places to channel my energy. Like my two books in progress right now.
Still, I do believe everybody has a right to their opinion, and I have no problem with people expressing it. In fact, sometimes I do seek those on "the other side" in an attempt to broaden my horizons and to get greater understanding. I find it interesting and I do like to learn. I am a writer, after all, and people do interest me. I love to hear their stories and what they think. But when it becomes "my way or the highway," well, I CAN drive 55 and I will, right on outta there.
In closing, I'll say that Jesus himself said He came for the sinners that need healing, and we ALL need healing in some way, shape or form. Everybody's got problems (as a moderate, I have absolutely no problem admitting that I do). He welcomes us all, and that's a good thing for everybody. I say let's try, at least, to show the love He commanded by having respect for others' opinions - whether we agree with them or not. If the dissention is too sharp, you can do like I did on Facebook and just go away. You don't have to win every battle.
And if you read this entry despite my facious disclaimer above and are offended, here's a video share for you.
That's all today. Happy Friday to you.
There's no use denying it - we all have a dark side. And we know just when it's time to unleash it. It's those times when life kicks you when you're down. When you try and try to do it right, and just stay locked in place or worse, you're passed by those doing wrong. When you just can't seem to get ahead no matter how hard you try. When you can't find a break and your patience is down to it's last shred. It's when the PITA's in life are beyond dealing with in a civilized manner and, as Dad says, it's time to put on the boots and start kicking some butt.
PITA's, by the way, are a handy acronym we've come up with at work. It stands for "Pain In The A**"
And "butt" is absolutely not the word in your vocabulary at these times, but I am trying to keep it PG-13 rated, even if I'm approaching this issue from an angle that no pastor, psychologist, therapist, or other any other type of spiritual leader or mental health professional would ever endorse. But, as I often say, reality isn't pretty and sometimes, it's downright obscene. The dirty truth I'm dealing with in this entry is that we all have a dark side, and life does have a way of bringing it out. I think it's best to acknowledge it. In fact, I think the key to making your way through the PITA's of life is to understand your dark side and know how to deal with it.
Yes, we know that there's a right way and a wrong way to do things. We know we should be patient and knowing that doing what's right will always win in the long run. But sometimes, you have to get aggresive, and this is where that elusive "dark side" comes in. If you are being taken for granted, walked all over, mistreated, used, or abused then you've come to that time to get wicked and it's absolutely right to step out and be aggresive. This can be a very hard thing, especially for Christians, because people assume that we're supposed to be meek and mild and take whatever life and the world throws at us. People expect us to stay quiet because they assume it's sinful to get angry, but the truth is that this is a handy excuse for them to use to justify treating us badly. They don't remember that Jesus turned over moneychangers tables outside the temple (I think that's awesome, by the way.) They say "oh, the Bible says 'in your anger, do not sin,' but misinterpret that to mean it's a sin to be angry (even though it clearly says not to sin in anger, which removes anger as justification for sin and doesn't make anger the sin). They stereotype us as lambs and forget there are lions in the kingdom too. So when they run across somebody like me, they're shocked when I say "fine you wanna play, let's play" and I turn into a holy terror.
Yes, I said it. I can be a holy terror when I'm angry. The problem is not a matter of retaliation. It's actually an issue of me being mischievous. I'm a writer, and a writer with a bachelor's degree in psychology too so I do strategize how I deal with PITA's. For example, did you know that when most people get ticked off at you, they treat you in ways that irritate the hell out of them? A person that loves to be the center of attention will stop speaking to you and cut you off. A person that hates confrontation will be passive aggresive and will stab you in the back. A person that's a prideful bigshot will cause a scene or confront you. But I don't do that. I watch people to find what annoys them most and then I do it. I think it's part of a mischievous streak, really. What's really amusing is when I find some little thing that irritates the hell out of somebody and I do it, over and over again, and they're getting really mad but they're afraid to say anything because they know it will make them look stupid but it's wearing them thin. For example, I knew someone once that didn't like to leave a place until it was spic and span and everything was in it's place. So I'd go in while they were in the bathroom before leaving and leave a pile of mail on the table, or forward them an email when I heard keys jingle. They'd grumble and everybody else would say "what's the big deal? There's always tomorrow to do it. Don't worry about it."
I know, doing things like this wasn't right and my motives were terrible, but the point was made in a very powerful way. People came to appreciate the "do unto others" commandment with a new appreciation when they pissed me off. Just ask the salesman that tried to grab me leaving the grocery store a few months ago. I fended him off, he yelled at me to "not be like that," and, well, I unloaded on him. My husband went back to the store 10 minutes later to have his own words with this gentleman and he was gone. The guy tried to make a scene on me and I screamed right back at him about not being out there harassing customers and grabbing people. Then I complained to the manager and the main headquarters. Well heck, he wanted to play big and make a scene, so I took him on.
And, of course, you all remember the entry that opened this series about the false allegation that someone made at my previous job about shredding documents. I shut that one down in a minute. They said they had to protect the complaintant, I said I had to protect myself and I would be seeing an attorney now, and that was all she wrote.
People often ask me if I feel bad about acting this way. Sometimes I do, but the simple fact of the matter for me, and for everybody else in such situations, is that it boils down to motives. It is always wrong to attack people in any way, shape or form and you are 100% justified in defending yourself. If your motives are defense and setting things right, as in my false accusations thing above, that wasn't wrong. Neither was my reaction to the salesman, because folks, I have my CWP, I WAS packing, and if he got his hands on me then I could have easily argued that I felt threatened because I perceived it as a physical attack, especially since I told him "no thanks" when I came in. I chose to attempt a non-physical resolution to the matter. He may not agree, but he only left with his pride hurt that day. It could have been a very ugly situation if I hadn't chosen to use discernment and good, common sense in the situation. Just look at the Zimmerman case in Florida.
Now messing up the person's office - ok, that was wrong. That was all about she was always trying to put me down, so I struck back by irritating her. My motives there were not right and I repent, even if it was funny.
So the secret to my dark side is out. I'm trying to channel my tendencies toward mischief and outright irritation to the PITA's of the world the right way, but, well, it's a work in progress.
The point of this entry is that you can't deny you have a dark side, because every human being does. We can only take so much and if we're pushed too far, well, it's time to get wicked. Just try to make sure you at least get wicked with right motives. I know that sounds completely counterintuitive, but it's right. Sometimes the truth and what's right seems wrong. It takes discernment to know the difference - and that's a good lead into the next entry.
That's all for today. Happy Friday to you tomorrow. In closing, I'd like to share a video of my favorite song by one of my favorite bands here. It just feels appropriate for this entry, and these times and people in life. Enjoy!