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.
I was disappointed recently when I read that Star Wars: The Clone Wars
has been cancelled. It seems that LucasArt thought it was time to move on in other directions. I say it was a heck of a time. Who knew that "The Wrong Jedi" was the final episode? To me, it was a sad ending. Watching Ahsoka walk away from Anakin and the Jedi order after being acquited of a false accusation of murder and sabatoge on the temple - I knew I was watching another chink in Anakin's armor. No wonder he turned to the dark side, I thought. He did everything he could to help Ahsoka and in the end he did find the true murderer/sabateur, but it wasn't enough. Ahsoka felt she had to work it out on her own and she walked away from the only life she knew.
Now before you read on, answer this question without thinking about it: Did Ahsoka do the right thing by leaving the Jedi order?
Tick tock, tick tock.
Okay, if you said no, then I'd say you've never been through a life experience that forced you to become a new person.
If you said yes, then you know what it's like to have your life turned upside down by something unexpected. You also know those motivational sayings that change is like going from a catepillar to a butterfly are total crap. It's more like Wolverine having the adamantamum grafted to his bones. And when you're torn apart like that, you either heal up and become stronger, or you bleed to death.
It can be tough, because building a better life usually means working with changes that hurt like hell and require you to work harder than you ever thought possible to bring you to the Promised Land. I lived through it three years ago when my job was moved. Moving two licensure programs was more work than any of us bargained for. It took three years of legislative updated and changes and even more work at an administrative level. I dare say, I believe we're just now getting settled into the new changes as we wrap up our latest renewal cycle and implement the last of the changes. Yet as I help in training a new employee that started with us a few weeks ago, it strikes me how much I've changed in as many years. To say that I'm not the same person I was before would be an understatement. I didn't just move my job. I learned that the only way to better days was hard work and change, and I applied it to my personal life. And now one work move, two more adopted birds, and six books later - yea, I'm not the same person. Some think I've lost my fear of change, but the truth is that I traded it for a fear of stagnation. I realize now what a rut I had been in before and how detrimental it was to me. That rut was partly of my own making because I was afraid to stand up and pursue the change I need to. Now, I'm afraid to sit still for too long for fear of stalling out again.
It's funny. Yesterday, someone at my meetings asked me if I liked having the programs there as much as I liked it at the old department. I held back my reaction. I told them yes, it was working out great, and that's true. But I stopped short of saying the rest: that I could never go back to the old place and the old ways. I've changed too much. I've created a different life. I'm not the same person and I don't have any desire to go back to the old places or ways. In fact, all I really miss are a few friends and ham subs in the canteen on Fridays. And I had to laugh at myself. I'm still in contact with the friends and obviously, the subs I can live without. That old life is a memory of what brought me to where I am, but it's not a place I can live at. Not now. Not ever. Nor should I try.
I believe we all go through times when reality throws the Hammer of Thor through our life, and we're stuck with the choice of picking up the pieces and creating a better life, or letting the sharp edges of loss stab us until we bleed to death. But they are times when we have to come to grips with the hard truth that we can't go back, and even if we do it would never be the same. Sometimes we do like Bilbo and Frodo Baggins and try to go back, only to realize we can't have the old life back and leave later. Sometimes we do like Ahsoka and walk away right then and there, realizing as she said, "I have to sort it out on my own." And sometimes, as in my case, there isn't a choice. It simply happens and you have to take it and wither on the vine, or start growing where you've been replanted.
I'm sorry we won't get to see how Ahsoka worked things out. My trial was different from hers, but I really wanted to see how she worked things out. But then again, maybe they left it open because it remains a story in progress. As I train a new colleague and face the reality of having a new supervisor this summer, I realize that I am a new creation. Now the task is how to make that new creation better, one day at a time.
That's all for today. Take care and have a great rest of the week.
I recently posted an article on EzineArticles titled "Resistance is Futile - But We Do It Anyway."
It is, ironically, based on a blog I wrote about a year ago about massive life changes that I went through in 2010 and how I had to learn how to incorporate change in my life because, well, I had no choice. When everything changes, you adjust or you live in misery. It's as simple as that.
And yet, people still believe they can fight change. They figure that if they kick and scream enough, it will stop in it's tracks and their will shall prevail.
I did learn a lot about dealing with change during that period of time in my life and it's a good thing I did, because change has been a constant force since then. There are no ruts in my life, as things haven't been still long enough to leave much more than footprints where I've been. It's been a constant cycle of adapting, adjusting, learning, and growing. If I was afraid of change before, I can tell you that I've been desensitized to it now. I wouldn't say I've come to the point of embracing change, but I will say that I accept it and have a willing attitude to work through it to find the best ways to incorporate it into my life.
A lot of people fear change, but it's the only way toward progress. We can't move forward if we stay put, and we can't grow unless we stretch out of our comfort zone. It takes a lot of courage to stop fighting and start working it from the perspective of bettering your life and the situations you face. It's also a challenge, because it means that keeping balance in your life is a constant issue. You're always adjusting and trying to find the best way to fit things in your life. So this new thing is here - how does it fit? Does it mean that something has to go? And what if the change meant the removal of something? What do you do with the gap left? How do you fill it? Or do you fill it? Change brings about a lot of questions.
Last February, I sat in Miami International Airport thinking of all the changes I had faced and asked myself "is this where I want my life to go? Is it heading in a direction I'm happy with?" At the time, I had no answer to that question, and it scared me. I was still overwhelmed by it all, and didn't understand where it was leading. Since then, I've come to discover that the reason I didn't have the answer was because I was still trying to figure out what it all meant. And the truth is that sometimes, you may not know and never find out. You simply must play the hand you're dealt to the best of your ability. Stay in the game, even if you aren't sure what the end goal is.
I still don't have the answer to the question of the direction of my life, and the reason finally hit me just a few days ago: I don't have all of my eggs in one basket. Ecclesiastes 11:6 says "plant early in teh morning, and work until evening, because you don't know if this or that will succeed. they might both do well." I've certainly taken that advice. It's not just my job that I have in my life, but my writing as well. I've sowed widely, and I'm still waiting to see what produces a harvest in my life. The work move has worked to better my programs overall, but we're still working through some issues of new requirements and changes that have come from it. And my writing is progressing. It's slower than I'd like, but I am working to build a readership and to establish myself as a "serious" writer that's here to stay. I see growth in both areas, but it's still too early to know which will produce the abundance, or if somehow both will work for a bigger purpose that I can't see yet. So I continue to work at both, to grow and learn, and to have faith that all is working out, no matter how many times the pieces are changed or moved around.
Change is scary, and I admit that when I face something new or different then that moment of panic usually does hit me at some point. I have to remind myself all the time that things have worked out this far, and if I remain faithful and do what's right, there's no reason why there isn't hope for a better tomorrow. That helps me find the courage to stand up and face it. That helps me find the courage walk on in faith. That is the one thing that keepe me going through it all - hope.
And if you have hope, you have all you need.
That's all today. Have a great week.
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.
Is change. Life is always in motion, and if there's one thing we can bet on, it's that nothing stays the same forever.
This is the season where this truth seems to really hit us. It's when the families are gathering around the table and the decorations come out of the attic. All those memory triggers of holidays past reminds us of how things aren't what they used to be - and makes us wonder how much longer they will stay as they are. Memories of times gone by can make this season happier by discovering the richness of what we've developed in life, or sad when we consider what's lost. A lot is a matter of perspective. We all face growth and loss. It can be a tough emotional rollar coaster to deal with the satisfaction of great accomplishments mixed with the grief of those not here to celebrate with you.
All of this makes the holidays a complex time. Some people are better with dealing with change than others. There are those that adapt, adjust, and roll along, just happy to be where they are. And there are others that have a very hard time dealing with change and fight tooth and nail to keep things the same, even though it's apparant that the "old ways" won't work anymore. Invariably, it seems those types will be mixed within the same friend and/or family group. Oh, the cell phone conversations I overhear this time of the year!
I did a blog series last year on surviving the holidays and I believe the one key thing I kept coming back to was that if you're doing your best, then be satisfied with it. Other people have two choices: Take it or leave it. People may gripe (naturally), but in the end they usually settle down and decide the holidays will be merrier if they choose the path of acceptance over the path of resistance. In most cases, anyway (that's not to say there aren't some that thrive on conflict, but that is an issue I addressed in my blog series earlier this year on villians - I believe it was around Easter).
I'll add one more lesson I've discovered of late. You can't let other people or situations bother you. They're going to do what they're going to do, and it's a waste of emotional energy to let it fly all over you and go into a tizzy over. Likewise with situations - there are so many things you can't control, and to worry about it is a merry-go-round of defeat. Deal with situations the best way you can and move on. I recently realized that I wasted a great deal of time and emotional energy complaining and fretting over what other people do, and it's a 100% waste. They're gonna do what they're gonna do, and they aren't changing for anybody. So deal with them and the situations that come up in life the best you can, and move on. Worry, fussing, and fretting get you nowhere - it's action that counts. So spend your time thinking, reflecting and acting on what is, plan wisely, and trust that things will work out, or that you will know how to deal if a wrench flies into your plans.
Sometimes making the best of the holidays requires changing the way we think about things, and that can be hard. In fact, I believe that changing the way you think is the hardest thing you can do.But it can be done. I can tell you that from experience. I can also tell you that while it's hard, it's well worth it. Changing your life starts with changing how you think, and this holiday season might be the perfect time to make an early resolution that you aren't going to be consumed with stress, anxiety, grief, anguish, or fear over making it the perfect holiday. In fact, let's make Change #1 right now: Don't try to make it perfect. We live in an imperfect world, and an expectation like that will fail. Make it the best you can and decide you'll be happy with it.
I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving, and that those of you on the road home today have safe travels. Here's hoping you have a good week, and welcome to the 2012 Holiday Season!
I’m often asked if the things that happened to Jana Lanning in my recent novel, Anywhere But Here, actually happened to me. For those of you that haven’t read this novel, Jana Lanning, the protagonist, is denied admission to graduate school, finds out her boyfriend is cheating on her, helps her best friend get married and move out of town, and has to settle for a job that she’s overqualified for – and all of this happens within two weeks of getting her undergraduate degree. Then to make things worse, the office where she works starts a merger with another firm and Jana finds herself on the wrong end of office politics that are the final straw in her battle with depression. The thing people seem the most interested in are the office politics. People want to know if the happenings at Dixon Financial are reflective of my job before it was transferred to a new agency a couple of years ago.
In response to that I’d say not entirely, but I can’t deny that some things that happened to me early in my career are reflected in people and events that take place in the book. I know that’s cryptic, but bear in mind two things: The people and events are fictionalized and that was accomplished through a mixture of my personal experiences, experiences I’ve seen and heard of from other people, and instances I’ve read about in books, magazines, news and other media. It came from a vast pool and I’ll admit that I had experience with being on the wrong end of office politics – heck, how could you write about it even from a fictionalized perspective unless you lived it in some way – but it’s also a universal issue that anybody working in an office environment is going to be on one end or the other of. And sorry folks, but there are probably going to be times when you find yourself on the wrong side, at least from the perspective of the majority.
My purpose in both writing Anywhere But Here and this entry isn’t to bash my former workplace. These things happened a decade ago, and I must admit that I said and did things that weren’t wise and didn’t lead to the best resolution in the situations I faced. I certainly learned from those experiences and in retrospect, I’m glad I learned those lessons early in life or I certainlywouldn’t be where I am now. The purpose is to share lessons learned, because this is something that I believe everybody in the workforce faces at some time. It makes you feel isolated and lonely when it happens, but the truth is that you aren’t alone. Lots of people face it but few talk about it because frankly, it’s embarrassing.
I used to think that people playing office politics were selfish jerks that like to hurt people, but experience has shown me that it actually grows from a root of fear. People that play with power are insecure and doubt their own ability, so they create an elaborate game of turning people and things to their advantage. I’ve found that there are 2 good ways to identify a person that is likely to use power to their advantage:
1.They cling tightly to cliques that are made up of people that are higher on the chain of command than they are; and
2.They don’t associate with anybody on the chain of command below them unless it’s absolutely necessary - and those people better give them what they want immediately or it’s insubordination.
It’s the people in category #2 that usually find themselves on the losing end of office politics because any wrong word or deed will be met with fierce retaliation. I won’t say that I never see office politics anymore, but I have found that I find myself in these situations a lot less since I’ve been reclassified to a mid-level position. I’d like to think this is because I’ve proven that my knowledge and abilities are valuable, but it’s more likely that I learned valuable lessons on how to deal with these types from previous experience – and people know it.
So what’s the secret to dealing when you’re the victim of office politics? If you’re right, stand by that. Don’t ever cave in and take the quick and easy way out because that’s a temporary end. If they’d turn on you once, they’ll turn on you again. Caving in only shows that you can be taken advantage of, and they will milk that dry, plus the consequences of doing wrong will follow you a lot longer than standing up for what’s right. They might not like you, but they’ll respect you and at least know not to let you catch them with their hand in the cookie jar again. If you aren’t right, correct yourself immediately and stick to your guns in walking down the right road. And whichever situation you’re in, it’s imperative that you have patience. Truth will show itself in time and it will be end game then. It might take months or even years for things to come around, but they will and you’ll be better off for it. The reward will come in patient endurance, and it will be something that nobody can deny. Sure, there are people that are so stubborn that they’ll refuse to change their mind no matter what happens, but don’t worry about them. Leave them in their ignorance and move on because it’s highly probably that they’ll be gone in time themselves.
I believe Jana Lanning in Anywhere But Here is a good personification of office politics gone wrong, because she’s the one in the weakest position. She didn’t do anything wrong and in fact suffered for doing right, but recent personal losses kept her from taking a stand in the right way and the right timing. The people that create these situations are masters at turning things against you even if you didn’t do anything wrong, and it’s exhausting to constantly defend your own character. Unfortunately, she found this out too late and suffered the consequences of crossing the wrong people simply by being who she was and not deferring to people doing things wrong. She was right and had proof of it, but she didn’t know how to present that truth in a combative work environment. That happens sometimes, and it’s awful. I think the worst offence in the world is to have to suffer for other peoples’ mistakes, and office politics are the ultimate example of that.
I think this is why eople tell me that they find Jana Lanning so likeable. She’s a good person that doesn’t deserve the hard knocks that come her way from people taking advantage of her shy nature, youth, and inexperience. She makes the same mistakes that all of us made in our early adulthood and we understand her confusion at why life is kicking her around. Reality is a hard teacher, and it’s the only one that can do the job once school leaves off. Remember the movie “St. Elmo’s Fire” from the 80’s? That strange, new world opening up is the exact thing that Jana faces, and we understand exactly where she’s coming from. She, like the rest of us, has to learn to find those gems of opportunity in the rubble of defeat to rebuild a new life from shattered dreams. In some ways, we may even relate to her right where we’re at, because life is always teaching us lessons.
So no, I didn’t start out in life exactly like Jana did. I actually did marry my college sweetheart, but I never made it to graduate school because I found other things that I believed were worth more in my life than higher education. I never struggled with depression, but I knew (and still know) many who do battle that demon, and I hope Jana’s struggle helps people with depression understand that this is a battle they can win if they stay in the fight. But yes, I did go through an office merger in my early years in the workforce, and I found myself prey to the power plays, albeit in much different circumstances. All I can say is that wisdom comes from experience, and I gained plenty in those few years.
And lest you think it’s impossible for poor Jana to face so much at one time, I call your bluff. Too much smashing my life to bits was the catalyst for my next novel, Splinter – but that’s one for a future blog entry. I’ll address it closer to the release date in mid 2013. Until then, enjoy Anywhere But Here and my other books - information on them and links to buy are on the other tabs of this website. I hope you find entertainment and inspiration in them.
That’s all today.
Rick told me today that he misses going to football games sometimes. We used to go to the University of South Carolina football games "back in the day," but quit years ago. It got too cost prohibitive, the tickets were too hard to get (and too expensive when you could get them) and frankly, we don't care for crowds any more. We decided years ago that it was much more pleasant to watch the games on TV from the comfort of our home, where we can sit in comfort and simply turn off the TV when the game is over without battling crowds and traffic getting out of there. But still, that twinge of missing it hits from time to time.
Such is the nature of life, I suppose. I once read that you can have it all, but you can't have it all at the same time. I believe this is true. Things come and go out of life everyday. Change is the name of the game, and while it usually leads to progress you sometimes lose things dear to you. And sometimes, you don't realize how much you appreciate those things until they're gone.
One good example in my life is the job transfer I went through a couple of years ago. Things are much better, and I'll be the first to say that I (and my programs) are better off where we're at. This was definitely progress, and my learning and growth through that process was so exponential that it was unbelievable. Not only has my job grown and progressed, but I took what I learned to my writing and it helped me get established and moving in the area of getting published as well. It was a lot of hard work, but I can't even begin to count the blessings that came out of that move. My commute is shorter, I'm happier, and I've met a lot of great people and made new friends. But still, there are days when I miss things from the old job. Conversations with old friends, and the walks on the grounds during lunch breaks. The subs in the canteen on Tuesdays and Fridays that I still haven't been able to find anything close to. How easy it was to run by Zesto (a favorite chicken and burger place) on the way home from work on Fridays. A bigger cubical (or having my own office, if I care to go WAY back to the building we were in before that one!). It seems it's the little things that get to me. Oh, it's been 2 years and it doesn't happen as often as it used to, but that wistfulness for those little things still happen from time to time.
I could go on about dozens of other things that have gone by: Family members and friends that have passed on or moved on, stores and resturants that have closed, exciting times and seasons that came and went, the great schedule I had my senior year in college, working part-time, hobbies and activities I used to enjoy that are no longer available or that I gave up due to life constraints. I think the point is that the changing nature of life means that nothing last forever. It's natural for things to pass out of our lives and to miss them from time to time. Letting go is one of those hard life lessons that we all must face.
And I'm not sure why, but it seems that the change from summer to fall is when missing those little things gets to me. I guess it's that approach of the final months of the year that makes you notice the passage of time and take stock of what was, what is, and what might come.
Yes, I understand what Rick means when he says he misses going to football games. It happens to us all. I have those days when I say "wow, I'm so happy with life, but it's a shame that this person or that place isn't still around." It's ok to miss those things, as long as we give thanks that they were here for a season to enrich our lives and remember to be greatful for the blessings we have right now.
That's all today. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.
Folks, I was informed today that a committee member I've been emailing for a week - and even scheduled for a meeting - died. I felt like such an idiot! At first I thought "maybe he's on vacation" and let it go. Then late last week, I wondered briefly if I could call but, of course, all manner of other things needed my attention and that thought flew away with the wind. I should have stopped for that moment and followed up on it, but I just didn't. And today when I sent out the meeting invitation one of the other committee members sent out a broadcast message that the guy died last week with a copy of the obituary.
I felt like such an idiot. I know, Rick told me I shouldn't. How would I have known, anyway? We haven't taken the newspaper in over 5 years and even when we did, we never checked the obituaries because, well, in our 30's why would we? But I still felt silly, and that little voice that told me to call last week has been saying "see? you should have done it!" all day.
Oh well, at least I didn't email him a copy of his own obituary. I did do that once and have to say that was more embarassing. At least I remembered the note to myself from that incident today: Update the email group list BEFORE you forward the message.
I won't lie to you - I'm one of those people that was heavy on the book sense and light on the common sense growing up. I was teased endlessly about it. In fact, I know the reason I get irritated with older people being helpless and getting duped is because these were the very same people that were telling me I needed to "wise up to the ways of the world or all that education isn't gonna do you a bit of good in the real world" 15-20 years ago. I graduated in the top of my high school class and graduated college with honors, but learning to drive was hell for me - so much so that Dad sat me down and had a talk with me about how I had to learn to drive because there's no public transit in this town, and "functional adults drive." It really was awful. On top of struggling with common sense I'm also helplessly clumsy, and getting coordinated enough to drive - it took me about a year to get it. Yea, a year. My friends got their permit and were driving like pros after 2-3 months, and it took me a year. And even longer to do it well, without scaring the hell out of everybody in the car with me. Don't even ask me abou the abuse I took for it too, especially in driver's ed. The teacher made no bones about the fact that I might be a whiz in the classroom, but he thought I was a dumbass in the real world. He really was a jerk, by the way. As were my classmates. But thankfully I'm too old for teen angst. I did grow up. And I did grow some sense too.
I credit three things with this: Marriage, home ownership, and a job in a regulatory agency. Those three things will give you plenty of experiences that lend to wisdom very quickly. Relationships take work - more than you ever realize! Home ownership is a huge responsibility that requires a certain amount of organization, practicality, and saavy. And a job working with applying legislation to real life? That will stretch your brain, because you spend as much time blockading the people looking to exploit every loophole as you do applying it to the cooperative people/situations. I still have my moments - like emailing dead people - but my peers and colleagues have them too, and we aren't embarassed about it. In fact, things like this just help you get wiser.
I think this is why I'm always putting the characters in my novels in situations where they have the book smarts but not the "street smarts" to know what to do when their conflict arises. Part of the journey that every one of my protagonists have gone through is a realization that others don't share their knowledge/beliefs/morals and they have to decide what to do about it. Many of their journies have paralleled my own and I believe it's because they're issues that all of us face at one point or another. Because eventually life is going to take that unexpected turn, and we have to decide whether to fight it, accept it, or mine it for possibilities that we might not have planned for but are willing to accept as greater opportunity. Or we'll have to deal with people doing something against our morals because it's easier than doing what's right, and they're going to ridicule us as an idealist if we don't go along with the game (or worse yet, agree to take the blame if it all falls apart - yep, I've been there). Or we'll have to decide if we want to step out and take a chance on achieving a dream, or let the fear of failure keep us stuck in place. And we all have to decide - are we willing to work hard to make our dreams come true and make some sacrifices, or will we stay where we are, hoping somebody or something will come along to give us a "big break"? Because, as a colleague said last week, nothing in life is free, except God's love and the DMV manual. And some ebooks in the public domain and written by generous independent authors.
I'm not sure where the DMV manual came from - perhaps because she had a daughter getting ready to apply for her driver's permit. But anyway ...
I will agree that common sense is important, but I'm still one that believes that the "education and experience" work together. The book sense gives you the foundation you need. Because we all know that life isn't fair, and that the unexpected happens, and that sometimes people just don't like you, and that if something can go wrong then it will, and at the worst possible time. The Bible even says "I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all." (Ecclesiastes 9:11) These truths we know - but it's wisdom that tells us what to do when we actually face these situations. What do you do when you're passed over for the promotion? What do you do when somebody asks you to alter this or that financial report 'just a little?' What do you do when a friend betrays you and throws you under the bus for a mistake they made, but they lied and made it look like you did it? What do you do when you're on a date and the guy yells the cop that pulled him over for speeding, which sets off that voice in your head that says "geez, he has a temper. I'm not comfortable being around him?" And then he asks you out on another date and you don't want to go, but he's already been pissed off once tonight and you're afraid to say no? Book smarts tell you it CAN happen. Common sense tells you what to do when it DOES happen.
And in closing - yes, I did have someone send a message to a dead person in one of my novels. It happened in Splinter, which will be released through Whiskey Creek Press next year. Tune in for that and more fictionalized shenanagins in the ongoing progression of my writing.
That's all today. Have a great week.
Well, we bid our pastor farewell this morning. He's moving on to accept a higher position with the state synod, after serving as our leader for 11 years. Rick and I were service assistants for this morning's service, so we got to see the full range of emotion. Lots of well wishing, lots of good luck, lots of tears. Everybody's nervous as we wonder what the new dawn will bring, and what comes next.
Personally, I think that we as the congregation have the easier job. Although we are in a position where we have to find a new leader, we're still here. We have one another, the associate pastor, church council, committees, and the synod to help us. We have a huge support system to help us through this transition and frankly, I believe that the Lord already has our new pastor selected and that it will be what's best for us. Our challenge is not only to use discernment in our call, but in believing that we can be a blessing to a new leader as much as they can be a blessing to us. It's easy to lose perspective of that interaction between flock and leader, especially when you've had the same leader for a long time. And in time, we will adjust to the loss and move along, through the transition to a new day ahead.
Of course our pastor will too, but I know he has a more difficult road because I've been in the position of leaving a place behind. He's going to wake up tomorrow morning and face the reality that he's not coming back to his office a the church, but going to a new place that's unfamiliar. He has to be retrained, and to meet new people and adapt to a new environment. There is no familiarity where he's going or, if there is, not as much as he's had at our church. A job change is a substantial life change - in fact, I'd go so far as to say it changes your entire life. I know it did for me. Yes, his is the steeper road, but opportunity is always worth that journey. I believe that he too will move along through his own transition into a new day ahead. It may be a steeper learning curve, but it will probably happen over a shorter period of time. It will likely take us a year or more to call a new pastor, amd by that time he'll be well settled in his new job while we start the process of adjusting to new leadership.
Hmm. So in light of what it's going to take timewise, it may be that he's in the better position. We do still have one another, but perhaps it's a longer road ahead than he has.
I, like everyone else, will miss him. However, I also can't begrudge him for taking this opportunity. I'm glad it came his way and that he was wise enough to consider it and brave enough to accept the change and challenge. Change is how God moves us ahead, and it takes a lot of courage to stand up to that fear, admit that it's time to move on, and take the first steps into the unknown.
As our choir sang at the close of the service, I too hope he road rises up to meet him, and us as well. We all have a new adventure ahead, and we have to find the courage to face them. Transitions are never easy, but they're the only path to a better day. And I believe that, as this door closes, another one is preparing to open any minute now.
That's all today. Enjoy the rest of your weekend and I wish you a great start to the new week.
I don't know about you, but I get frustrated with people that complain about their life all the time, but they do absolutely nothing to change the things that they complain about. Perhaps I'm oversimplifying things, but it seems that if you're truly miserable then you'd at least try to change the situation, right?
Well, I do but it seems I'm in a minority. It seems there are a lot of people out there that are comfortable with the ruts they're in. And I wonder, maybe, if they fear what it might mean to stick their necks out and pursue a change. After all, where they are might not be a "happy place," but it's familiar. There are a lot of people that fear change, and the unknown.
I know my recent experiences have shaded my perception in this area. I used to fear change too. Yes, I was one of those complainers. My former boss found it quite amusing, in fact, But if she could see me now, she wouldn't know me. I've found nothing but change around every corner for the past 2 years. I expect it now. In fact, now if it doesn't happen then I wonder what the hell's going on because something must not be right for things to stay the same for, oh, more than a little while. It's amazing how life and reality can beat the fear right out of you, and mold you into a whole new creation. I used to say "oh no!" to change. Now I say "so what?" It's pretty normal for me. And while I won't say that I'm fearless - yes, I do feel some anxiety over the unknown - I'm not frozen by it. I've seen my faith grow in proportion to the reality of my life and find myself much more flexible and less fearful than I used to be, even 3-5 years ago.
So I suppose that explains why I'm not very patient with complainers. I've been forced to adapt with change. With changes in my job. With changes in the family. With changes at church. With changes in my friends due to these transitions and losing 3 of them to cancer. Yes, I said I lost 3 friends to cancer. That was not a typo. And all in a period of 15 months while everything else in my life was looking like a clown's juggling act too. Maybe that explains why I was disgusted with hearing somebody earlier this week complaining about something bad that happened to them years ago - like over a decade ago. I was appalled. Either they have a very thin hide or their "life pain" file is at a low level that I envy. Life hasn't hesitated to beat me with a baseball bat from time to time, so I suppose I'm not very sympathetic to the delicate souls with low emotional resilience.
Honestly, though, I do think we get used to talking and talking and talking and not doing. I know I'm guilty, so I really can't point at the splinter in others' eyes when I have that log in my own. It's taken real life to show me that true value isn't in words, but in the actions that back them up. In fact, I was under a therapist for a while a few years back and one of the first things she told me is "don't listen to words, look at actions. People lie with their mouths, but they act on truth." Man, that got a lot of people in trouble with me. They did not appreciate that jewel of wisdom. But it also convicted me to look at the match between my own words and actions and lo and behold, I did see a rift. I've worked very hard over the past couple of years to be more mindful of this by ackowledging how I really think and feel, defining my true values and boundaries, and ensuring that my actions match my thoughts and words. It's not always easy because we live in a society that tells us to do whatever it takes to make others happy right now, and work around it later, but it's an easier way to live. And really, I believe it really makes having relationships with others easier too. I've noticed that my relationships have improved drastically since I was mindful of this. Of course, excercising discernment has also helped, but that's an entry for another day.
I guess I just wish that others were as honest with themselves and would do this kind of inner exploration. Look within and find the truth. When you complain, are you really unhappy? If so, you'll try to change it. Even the act of trying to change it will help make you happier because you know you're doing something, and doing something is always better than doing nothing. But if you aren't, then admit that you're temporarily frustrated, but that you still believe the benefits of whatever's pricking blood out of you now outweigh the frustration of piercing your emotions.
I think that in the end, it boils down with being honest with ourselves, and letting that trickle down into being honest with others. And that always leads to better and more stable relationships. Anything built on truth will last.
That's all for today. Happy Friday to you. I hope you have a great weekend.