It’s been one of those weeks where it seems like every question is a hard one, and unfortunately I’ve been designated as the “go to” person for those thorny questions that just don’t have a clear answer. I’m not sure how I got this honor. People say I’m smart, but I think it might have more to do with the fact that I’m not afraid to make up an answer if “I don’t know” won’t do. And of course, it often won’t. Hence, my inventive instincts kick in and alas, the unanswerable continues to come to me for an answer. I don’t know why others aren’t comfortable taking what they know and extrapolating an answer. Maybe it’s my personality. Or maybe it’s because I’m not afraid to do it.
Still, despite my creative instincts, there are still some things that I just don’t get. Don’t call me a “know it all” yet people, because I don’t understand:
1. Why charisma wins popularity but integrity isolates. I know people swarming with friends that don’t do anything for anybody but the almighty “I” and others that give and give, and people tell them it’s never good enough. Real story: I can tell you of instances when I took off work to go to funerals or to visit people when they were sick. “Thanks!” they said, but once they recovered I was relegated back to my place on the Christmas card list while they ran right back to their buddies that were too busy and couldn’t be bothered with “using their leave like that” or dropping a card in the mail. Why was my time out not good enough but their casual “oh, sorry for your loss” when you went back to work okay?
2. Why is it fine for some people to “be like that” but others need to get their act together. This harkens to my last entry about how it seems people like some people and their problems more than other people and their problems. An undependable person that you can’t trust to show up when they say they will is thought of as a “swell guy” because he has that charisma and can light up a room with cheerful banter. “Yea he’s not dependable, but that’s just him!” People say. But his shy neighbor that always shows up when he’s needed is “shady” because “I just don’t know if I can trust him. He really needs to be more open and honest with people.” I tell you; it seems that character doesn’t matter anymore. Why doesn't "swell guy" need to clean up his act and keep his word? And better yet, why do people get angry and defensive if you even hint at such a thing? It seems to me like people pick their friends arbitrarily and they won’t get facts get in the way of what they want to believe.
3. What's up with cliques? Why, people? They’re useless. You don’t have to be in one to have friends. I know because I’m not a group or clique person and I get along with people just fine. In fact, if I ask people questions then they usually tell me things because they know I’m not going to gossip or use it to create drama. Which brings me to my next item …
4. Gossip and drama. OMG. Why even bother? I have enough to deal with without having drama stirred up by people being sensitive and/no nosy. As the saying goes, nobody’s got time for that. At least I don’t.
5. Why are we quick to assume the worst of those we know and the best of strangers? Some people do. Here’s a recent conversation I had:
Them: “There was a bag in my yard this morning! Why would my neighbor throw their trash in my yard?”
Me: “You saw them do it? Why didn’t you ask them about it?”
Them: “No! I mean, it was between our houses. Do you think they pushed it on my side?”
Me: “So you’ve counted out that a stranger driving by might have thrown it out of their car and it blew into your yard?”
Them: “Oh. I didn’t think about that.” Pause. “Could that happen?”
Me: “I’ve seen bags blow in my yard a lot and its windy out today. But hey, you know your neighbor. If you think they did it …”
Them: “No! They probably wouldn't ... I mean, it probably blew in my yard.”
Why were they quick to blame the neighbor and count out a stranger being an igit? I don’t know. And yet, this is a small example of what I see often. People are harsh with those they claim to love and will grant eternity’s grace to strangers. It seems to me it should be the other way around: suspect the stranger, assume the best of the inner circles. But who am I to say? It seems human nature is drifting toward assuming the worst in a lot of cases. We see nefarious intentions everywhere.
6. The weatherman can be wrong 50% of the time (or more) and keep a job. Could you keep your job with a record like that?
7. Why does everybody want Friday off? Friday is my easy, catch up day because of staff shortages and slower calls/emails/mail. I want Monday off. That’s the day everybody comes back and it hits the fan.
8. Yield signs. I saw somebody stop at one a week ago for the first time in I can’t remember when. People ignore them. We need to replace them with Stop signs.
9. Wearing a watch on an airplane when you’re crossing time zones. I learned the futility of this when I went to Arizona. I think I was the only one on the plane wearing one. And yet, I was pestered to death. “What time is it in Charlotte? How long have we been in the air? How much longer till we land?” Why ask me these questions? The watch doesn’t control time and its ability to tell it was compromised. Next time, I don’t wear it or hide it in my carry on. Geeze.
10. Why do thermostats even have settings below 70 degrees or over 75 degrees? You know people get uncomfortable at temperatures outside that range. Choices, schmoices. Build HVAC systems for reality, folks!
11. Why is everybody wearing yellow today? I’ll wear my new yellow shirt, I thought this morning. Then I got here and saw about 10 people coming in wearing yellow. What’s up with that?
I don’t know. These are some of life’s questions that I can’t even hazard a guess. So I suppose my inventive instincts aren’t that sharp after all. But maybe they do still work to a degree, because the beauty of being a writer is that I can pass the questions I can’t answer on to you, the reader, and let you be the judge. Heh heh heh.
That’s all today. Happy Friday to you. Have a great weekend.
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.
I'm not afraid to admit that there are just some things that I don't get. It's not a big deal. I accepted the fact that I don't have all the answers, and it's not my job/business to get them a long time ago. It was actually a huge relief because I felt it was ok to shrug and move on to other things that I do get. But still, there are some things that seem so common sense to me that - I don't know, either I don't get it or other people don't. You be the judge. For example:
1. When people see my birds and say "oh, so I guess these are your kids then?" No, they're BIRDS. I think the feathers and beaks make an obvious distinction. I never pretend my pets are surrogate children and I don't know why other people assume I do. I mean, take a look at this picture. Chloe is not only obviously a bird, but much better looking than her adopted mommy, don't you think?
2. Why people seem surprised by the weather. It gets hot in July and they say "OMG! It's so HOT!" Um, it's summer. It's supposed to be hot. Granted the 100+ degree weather of the past week has been abnormally above average but still, it is the time of year when it gets hot. Now if it snowed tomorrow I'd get it, but being surprised by seasonal weather is kind of like being surprised by the stink when you drive past the wastewater treatment plant. Especially on a 100 degree day.
3. Why people freak out about things they don't need to worry about. Tomorrow's impending "Internet Blackout" is a perfect example. People are freaking out over losing the Internet tomorrow, but every article I've seen on it has at least 1 link to free antivirus software that you can download and use to clean your machine. I wonder if any of them have continued to read to the end of the article where those links are located before they had their anxiety attack. My point: If you pay attention, the solution is usually presented right there with the problem. So as I've said so many times before: ALWAYS READ AND FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS. And as a footnote, don't stop reading toward the end, no matter now high sentence #1 drove up your blood pressure. Because the last sentence in paragraph 5 might bring it back down again.
4. Why antihistimine/decongestants are harder to get now that you DON'T need a prescription any more. Thanks federal government, for slapping so many restrictions on it that you're treated like a criminal at the pharmacy if you need Claritin D. I thought the whole point of making things over the counter was to make them EASIER to get, but it was easier when I had a prescription for it. At least I could get it mail ordered from Medco then!
5. Why religious people act like it's a sin to get frustrated or angry at anything. I've heard a lot of people say "I won't tolerate profanity, violence, anger or unfairness at all!" Well, drop dead because you won't tolerate reality and there's no place in this world you can go to get away from it. Come on! What's up with this? Folks, I'm Christian but I'm not afraid to admit that reality sucks and things piss me off. In fact, some of my best reviewed writing has been done when somebody has royally pissed me off because I'm in touch with that ugly reality and forced to look within to find the right responses to it. I just don't get why so many people think they can simply reject the ugliness of the world and it will go away at their bidding. Christ died an awful, bloody, gruesome, violent death to secure our salvation. If the world will treat the Son of God like that, then what makes you believe it will treat you any better? To do so is arrogance, plain and simple. I'm just saying, it seems the lambs are outnumbering us lions in the world these days.
6. The fascination with being skinny. It seems to me that we should be more interested in being healthy than skinny. Of course, people hold themselves up to celebrities, but we forget their job is to entertain us and look good while they do it. Our responsibilities are to do all manner of other things to keep the world turning. For example, my job is to license qualified design professionals and (to a lesser degree, and by my own choice) write ebooks that entertain and inspire people. I don't get paid to look good - heck, I could be Jabba the Hut and do this stuff! But entertainers and models are paid to entertain us and make us forget reality for a little while. They are paid to look good and have personal trainers to help them excercise all day. We have other things to do all day. So eat right and excercise so you can stay in good health and keep doing the tasks that are set before you. But if you aren't paid to fit into skinny jeans and you have more booty than will fit in the pants, well, as long as you're healthy don't worry about it!
7. Why people get pissy when people unfollow/unfriend them. I had to pare down my Twitter followers last month due to limits they put on us, and there were 1 or 2 that didn't take it graciously. Then again, I unfollowed them because they weren't following me. So what's up with that?
8. Commercials for pharmaceuticals that say "ask your doctor about ..." Excuse me, I thought it was my doctor's job to know what medication I need, not mine. I'm not a doctor. Heck, half the time I can't even find a Band-Aid when I need one and you want me to ask my doctor about MEDICATION? That's funny.
9. Why does everybody want a piece of you when you're super busy, then once things settle down they disappear. My calendar was jammed pack for nearly 6 months, cumulating with last month when literally EVERYTHING happened. My phone wouldn't stop ringing, emails pouring in - I was so busy that I had to skip doing my mystery newsletter article last month. But go on vacation and then turn the calendar page to July and - nothing. I have 1 meeting mid month and that's it. Praise God things settled, but couldn't the insane activity of the last 6 months have been spread out a little bit better?
10. Gas prices. What's up with that? It's insanity.
Of course there are always things that make you wonder, but these are a few that keep popping up again and again. So if any of you can tell me if I'm missing something here then please, by all means enlighten me. Because on these 10 things, I just don't get it.
That's all for today. Have a great week.
Sometimes it can be difficult to know just who the villian is. The fact is that we all have reasons for doing what we do. So what is it that determines who's the hero and who's the villian?
I believe it boils down to one thing: motive. Why does a person do what they do? Is it to benefit themselves, other people, the "greater good of all," or to harm others? These are the basic motivators for all behavior. And sometimes it can be difficult to discern exactly where that motivation lies.
It would be easy to say that pure motives always win the day, but it's not so simple. Sure, it's obivous that a person is a villian when they do something with the intention of hurting other people or sabatoging situations, but such cases are rare, even in fiction, because life isn't so black and white. Sometimes we can believe we're doing what's right, and be dead wrong because we have wrong information, thoughts or motivations. Sometimes what seems dead wrong can be the right thing. And sometimes people do the right thing and are punished for it because they're working with people or situations based on wrong beliefs and motives. The goal isn't the overall good or what's right, but protecting and supporting "the right people." I think anybody that's ever had a job can attest to this one, as office politics exist everywhere and can rear their ugly heads in a number of ways. Yes, there are laws against some things, but you'd be appalled at how people have found ways through loopholes and red tape to get what they want in ways that are morally questionable but still perfectly legal. Anywhere But Here hits on this very theme, and Blurry even hits on it in a way too but showing how thin that line between right and wrong is, and how easy it is to manipulate it.
Pure motive doesn't just mean doing what's morally right. It also means knowing the truth and acting on it, whether you like it or not. It means that sometimes making the decision to do the right thing is the hard decision, because it's not a quick or easy path, and it may not be to our benefit in the short term. I can speak from experience on this one - my job move 2 years ago was definitely done entirely for the benefit of others with no consideration given to what was best for me. It was 100% about what others wanted and what benefited them. I chose to go along because I believed it was right for a greater purpose and that it would work out to benefit me too in the end - but I had to put the desires and needs of others before my own because, well, the situation forced it. Sure, I could have fought it, but I believed that the disadvantage I suffered in the short term would lead to a greater good for everybody, myself included - and it did. It wasn't an easy road but I wouldn't do it differently and in fact, am glad it happened and that things have worked out to put everybody in a better place. So far, it has truly wound out to be one of those situations where everybody did win, and I appreciate how rare that is. But 2 years ago I had no assurances of it, and had to take it on faith that my temporary discomfort and suffering would lead to something better.
I think the bottom line is that the world is full of shades of grey, and the only way to get to what's right is a mix of accepting the truth of reality and using discernment. Unfortunately, such a balance is only struck with time, life experience and wisdom - but it can happen. You just have to be willing to open your eyes, ask the right questions, and accept the answers. If you're wrong, you have to be willing to learn from your mistakes and be able to move on with that valuable wisdom. And for goodness sake, please do NOT keep making the same mistakes over and over. Remember: the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome. It's not gonna happen, folks. Miracles can happen, but not if you're an igit walking in ignorance and selfish motives.
I believe the biggest thing I'd like for you to take from this blog series is that there aren't predetermined limits or roles. We always want to beleive that we're right, but the truth is that in reality we will be both the hero and the villian. It depends on where we find ourselves in the situation and what our motives are - and on who's telling the story.
Thanks for joining me on this impromptu blog series on villians. It's been extremely helpful to me in brainstorming and forming a plan for my next novel, and I hope you've enjoyed being on this journey with me. I'll certainly keep you posted on my progress with this project, my published novels, and everything else in the rabbit hole of my life.
Take care and enjoy the remainder of your weekend.
If you work, you serve others. This is a simple fact of life. The issue is, who are you serving? Customer bases vary widely but there are some things that are universal no matter who you're working with, be it the utility company or a government agency. Here are a few tips to make those calls easier so you get the best (and fastest) customer service possible:
1. Check the website. Everybody has a website now - heck, even my PARROTS have a website, so it stands to reason that companies do too. These websites are updated frequently by experts and usually contain information that customers inquire about most. The purpose of the website is not only to provide services to the public, but to answer some of the most frequently asked questions and to provide guidance on issues that they receive the most calls and e-mails about. Checking the website might save you a call, or at least lead you in a direction where you can fine-tune your inquiries to get more specific information quickly and easily.
2. Plan your call carefully and be mindful of the schedule. If there's a major deadline within the next week, I can assure you that the call volume is high and you will be more likely to be placed on hold or wind out leaving a message that may not be returned for a while. Try to avoid deadline times by planning ahead or, if it can wait, calling a couple of days after the deadline passes. (You can usually find out if you're approaching a deadline time by following Suggestion #1). Another time to avoid are days immediately before or after a major holiday. Staffing is usually low before the holiday (when everybody wants to use those precious vacation days), and call volume is typically extremely high after a holiday (when everybody goes back to work). And Friday afternoons are usually bad too, because everybody wants a Friday off, so if there's leave to burn (in terms of "use it or lose it" days or comp time) that's usually when staff cashes in. The trick is that you want to call when there's maximum staffing, but not extremely high call volume - this increases your chances of getting a human being with correct answers quickly and easily.
3. Read the instructions all the way through. I understand that it's a knee jerk reaction to pick up the telephone once you hit a sentence you don't understand. Don't do it. Keep reading because the answer might be further down the page. I can't count the number of "oh yea, right there it is, I just quit reading" comments I've heard over the years.
4. NEVER pick up the telephone when you're panicked or heightened emotional state unless it's a medical emergency and you're calling 911. I kid you not - I've answered the telephone to full blown hyperventelation many times, and those are awkward calls. I have a psychology degree, but most people in administrative jobs studied areas like business management or accounting and they may not have been trained to "talk you off a cliff." Practice what I call the 10-10-10 rule: Take 10 slow breaths, count to 10 slowly, and wait 10 minutes. Then you'll be able to frame your question in a way that gets results and answers quickly and calmly.
5. Collect your questions and focus on the person you're talking to as they answer. As you puruse the website and read the instructions, make a list of your questions. Don't interrupt the person in the middle of a sentence with a follow up question before they finish answering the last question, or be one of those people that says "oh! One last question!" ten times. Because in those situations you usually wind out asking the same thing 3 times because you were so busy formulating new questions that you didn't hear the answer to the one you were asking.
6. Limit the hypothetical questions. If you say "what if I ..." or "suppose I were to ..." more than twice, then we suspect that you're looking for ways to duck the red tape (and we will look for ways to trap you into admitting it). Be straightforward and give us the facts, please.
7. Rephrasing the question 7 ways won't change the answer. And "call shopping" (where you realize it's a rotating line and keep calling to work your way through the staff to get the answer you want) is a trick we pick up on around the third call. Everybody in that department has been trained the same way and they'll give you the same answer. No matter how many times you call or how many ways you try to rephrase it.
8. Be respectful. What I mean is that if the person says "I don't know but I can send you to somebody that does know," immediately cease and desist from asking any more questions until you're routed to the right person. Because your "wait a minute, let me ask you this while I have you ..." questions will lead to more "I don't knows" and a delay in getting the information you need while you bark up the wrong tree. Nobody knows everything and despite the current push to "cross train," there are people that know some things better than others. They're trying to help you by sending you to the most knowledgeable person to answer your question. Let them do it.
9. Be patient. Not every question has an immediate answer and they may have to research what you're asking about. So don't wait until the last minute. Plan ahead.
10. Don't lie. I know this sounds silly, but people do call and outright lie about things, only to be embarassed when we use that annoying database at the computer we're sitting behind and catch them in it. That can lead to serious trouble in some situations, so please, no matter how embarassing or hurtful it is to your pride, just tell the truth. We will act with discresion and will do our best to help you - but don't say you mailed the check and it cleared last week when it's lying on the table in front of you. Because they'll look it up, see it didn't arrive, and the next question will be for you to send them a copy of the cancelled check to prove it. Awkward!
A lot of getting good customer service is to use discernment and good, old fashioned common sense in dealing with companies. Be courteous, professional, respectful and plan appropriately and you'll get the fastest and best customer service available. And really, these are good rules to apply to all of your relationships.
That's all for today.
Somebody recently came by my office to read a letter they received protesting a clause in a law that states that only licensed funeral directors can sell caskets. The protest letter stated several reasons why the law is archaic and outdated and closed by stating “I don’t know why a person has to have an education and two years of experience to sell a box.”
“So, what do you think?” they asked.
“Well,”I replied, “when you put it that way, it does sound stupid.”
I know that closing statement was meant to make the point in a simple and logical manner, but I believe they oversimplified the case. Yes, it did sound stupid –but when I was given the larger context of the comment, it seemed to me that they were oversimplifying the entire case. It made me wonder if there weren’t huge issues being glossed over in an attempt to be witty.
I wonder how often this happens. Sometimes, people say things trying to make things sound simple, but they don’t realize how much they leave out in their efforts to simplify.
Do you know another time when I believe this happens? It’s when people say “you need to have a personal relationship with Christ. “ I don’t know how you feel about that statement, but for years, my response was “how the heck are you supposed to do that?” Even though I do better understand the meaning of this statement, it still strikes me in the same way as the “education and experience to sell a box” scenario. It skips the entire process and takes you straight to the end result. It’s like telling somebody to meet you somewhere out of town,
and refusing to give them a map. People need direction to make the journey. It’s great to know where you’re heading, but it’s useless if you don’t know the way. It gives you the end result with no hint or clue of where to find the train that leads to that destination.
As Christians, we all know that Christ is the foundation of our lives. We are supposed to build everything on our faith in Him. This means that we totally let go and allow Him to lead and guide our lives. So, how do you do this? In my experience, it’s been a two step process.
First, you have to acknowledge that you really aren’t in control of your life. People are control freaks, and we want to believe that life is totally in our hands. The problem is, it really isn’t. Control is an illusion. The truth is
that God is really in control, and He will keep bringing things into your life to remind you of that fact until you finally accept that you’re riding in a sailboat on His ocean, and the only thing you really can do is adjust your
sails. And heck, you don’t even own the boat. He’s loaning that to you to make the journey that He laid before you. You can make your plans and that’s ok – it’s even advisable– but remain flexible and aware that tomorrow may bring an unexpected detour.
Second, you must have an active prayer life. Yes, God does know everything, but it helps us to pray because in talking to Him, we’re able to open our eyes to our own cares and concerns. Talking to God not only brings
comfort, but it helps us to know ourselves, and to see what is really on our hearts. Christ died so we could communicate directly with God in prayer, and that privilege is our lifeline to Heaven. It’s how we get Divine knowledge about how to lead our Earthly lives. How does this happen? It happens because it opens the lines of communication with our Creator, and it gives the Holy Spirit – you know, that little voice that most people call “intuition” – a place to speak in your heart. Through prayer, God gives us insight to our lives and situations that we wouldn’t have on our own, and allows us to discern truth in times when it would be impossible by natural, worldly means. It isn’t magic by any means. Rather, it’s a heightened awareness of truth, and the only way to get it and keep it is through prayer.
This is how a personal relationship with Christ develops. It happens over time, as we stretch our faith muscles and tune in to the Holy Spirit working in and through us. It develops just like any other friendship develops, with time, dedication and effort.
Developing this personal relationship with Christ does have a lot in common with natural friendships. You will find over time that He speaks to you in ways that are unique to your personality. For example, I hear from Him
through thoughts and ideas that I know are of the Spirit. One person I talked to said they don’t hear it that way, but rather they see Him through how their thoughts or emotions change or shift on certain areas that they’re praying about. I’ve heard others say they hear from the Spirit by seeing changes in attitudes or situations they’re facing. He speaks to everybody differently because He speaks in ways that each individual understands best.
I know this isn’t a full explanation of what having a personal relationship with Christ means. I wonder if such a thing exists, because there is no one process for doing this. The journey is as unique as we are, and it wholly depends on who we are and how we communicate with our Creator. I just hope that these two first steps that I took to begin my own journey help you to see the starting point for your own. As you proceed in prayer, I believe you’ll find a better guide for the rest of the journey through the Holy Spirit.
Now as for the education and experience to sell a box – sorry, I can’t help with that!
Next Week: The devil – no friend of ours!
Hi all; I hope you're doing well and having a great week. I tried, I really did, but it just hasn't worked out so far.
The foot is healing, for which I am extremely grateful. I haven't been brave enough to get back on the treadmill yet. Maybe in another couple of days. Today is the first day I've gone the whole day without pain.
The rest of life, however, has been one for the "what the hell?" files (although that's not what we really call it but hey! I'm trying to maintain some sort of decency!). Work has been one thorny issue after another, all week long. I untangle one mess and here comes another. There must be some evil imp ravaging my cubicle. I think I beat most of it into submission today. *Hopefully,* and I say that in the "if the Lord wills and creeks don't rise" sense, I did manage to get things flowing properly, balls in other courts, and I made my final visit to the State House for a committee meeting for this session today. *Hopefully* As things have shown a tendency to unravel - or worse, to pull a phoenix and rise from the ashes - I'm not counting it done yet.
Then yesterday we got word that a friend at church lost her battle with pancreatic cancer yesterday. Don't worry, I'm not going to put you through those musings again. We went through this - oh wait! Exactly a year ago today, when a friend at my former workplace died of THE VERY SAME THING!! There's much I don't understand and this scary timing is one more thing on the heap. But I suppose faith is about accepting that you don't have the answers and being ok with the questions. Or something like that.
I'm trying to find out how things keep getting past me. I don't know stuff that I usually find out without even trying. For example: Did you know the new Transformer's movie is coming out on July 1st? I knew they were making one but had no idea it was done. I also didn't know that they moved a new deposit machine just up the hall from my cubicle, that several files I've been looking for are in the cabinet right next to my desk, that you can get Microsoft Office for iPads, that the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie came out last weekend, that "True Grit" was a remake, that they were thinking about extending the legislative session, or that there's an old wives tale about more people dying in the spring because of something with the sap in the trees (another one for the "what the...? files). I think I've been working too hard and too much. Yes, I've had problems with my mind wandering lately, but this is ridiculous. I definitely need to take a break this weekend. No writing, chores, errands, visiting, volunteering, or anything.
So here I sit with all these questions and more. Like why does my parakeet sing like a canary? Why does my computer smell like my perfume (that never gets near this machine)? How did Zack chew curtains that are nowhere near his cage? Why did Chloe growl at me when I got home? What is going on with this crazy, hot weather? And many, many more.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is life in the rabbit hole! Hmm. I sense inspiration for short stories in my future. Life like this is the catalyst for it.
Well, my brain is fried so it's time to go. I hope you have a Happy Friday tomorrow. Heck, I hope I have a Happy Friday tomorrow either. It's been a challenging week, but I'm not giving up on having at least one good day in it.