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.
Many of you know that I have my bachelor’s degree in psychology. My original life plan was to get my master’s degree and become a therapist but obviously, that didn’t happen. I went into administrative work, started writing, built a house, and now here I am.
I’m still glad I got my undergraduate degree in psychology because frankly, that education is something I can apply to every area of my life. At some time or another, it’s helped me in every area of life and it continues to. But I don’t regret foregoing the higher education and the original life plan because frankly, I think I’d be ill suited to be a therapist. I thought it would be a great way to
help people, but if there’s one thing that the 16 years since college graduation taught me, it’s that people won’t change unless they are internally motivated to do so. That usually comes from one of two things: the threat of losing something they don’t want to live without, or a court order (and those are violated often (and frequently enough that I’m thinking about taking that off the list). Usually, when people break down and seek guidance for things, they either want a pill to fix them nice and quick, or an excuse to stay exactly the way they are and demand that the world accommodate them. As if that’s going to happen.
I know this sounds cynical, but people thought I was an idealist when I was younger. They should be happy to hear such an admission out of me. Few people would have the guts to go on an open forum like the Internet and say yep, you were right on
that one. The idealism isn’t 100% gone, though, because there are still some things that, to this day, blow up my brain. I just don’t get it, and no amount of talking is helping me to understand the logic behind some things such as:
1.People that “let it fly,” then complain about being lonely. I’m not saying to sugar coat everything because that’s fake and ridiculous, but every word that flies through your brain doesn’t need to fly out of your mouth either. The problem is; people don’t give a crap about what you think 99% of the time, and the other percent it’s only to get your agreement, money, support, or vote. Truth is fine but you have to deliver it with discernment. If you just say what you think, unedited, then people are going to avoid you because you come across as rude, and everybody responds better to respect than to criticism. Building and maintaining relationships means you have to at least act like you care, even if you don't care anymore about them and their problems than the extra 40 minutes in a Martian day.
2. Envy and jealousy. Folks, I’ve known people that have married, moved, bought high ticket items and ruined their finances because they simply couldn’t stand the fact that someone had something that they didn’t (or had something newer, bigger, or better than they had). Then they got depressed and angry when it didn’t work out for them. Usually, that failure came from not being willing or able to do the work that goes with having the prize. Then again, I remember hearing Joyce Meyer say once that if you put yourself in a place that the Lord doesn’t mean for you to be, then it’s up to you to keep yourself there. That’s tough, but there’s another reason I don’t understand this: if you have time to fixate on what other people have, then you aren’t investing enough into making your own life the best it can be. Sure, you should care about and support other people, but your primary focus should be on taking care of and growing the talents the Lord provided to you, not on what He gave to other people. Work with
what you’ve got and if He means for you to have it, He’ll bring it to you in the best timing – and give you what you need to keep you there.
3.People that are sure they’re better than everybody else. I like what C.S. Lewis said about “a good man knows he isn’t good because he can see his badness. A bad man thinks he’s great guy because he can’t see his badness.” Before you say “it’s not personal, it’s just business,” I’ll be bold enough to tell you that’s absolute crap. I’ve worked at different places and I can tell you from recent experience that people are not like that everywhere. There are good, honest people working hard to do what’s right and succeeding at it. I’ll go further and say that I’m fortunate enough to work with an entire group of them. Acting like you’re king or queen of the world isn’t commanding respect, it’s arrogant and makes you look like an insecure fool. Please, get over yourself before you sprain something sticking up your nose at people. There will always be people in authority over you. You gain more by working hard and being dependable than having attitude and playing games. Because folks, nobody wins all the time and if you play games, you'll eventually lose.
4.Know it alls. You know the type I mean. There’s always somebody around that has seen it all, heard it all, and done it all – and probably bigger, better and more recently than you did. I have to admit that these types are a paradox to me. The pompous attitude is infuriating, but they also amuse me greatly because through all that big talk I know that a jack of all trades is a master at none. I’d rather know a few things well then know nothing well at all, but I guess some people don’t feel the same way. Anyway, the Bible says that King Solomon was the wisest man that ever lived, so give it up. You aren’t him and nobody knows everything under the sun. It seems to me that people respect humility over knowledge any day. And nobody likes a know it all.
5.People that use the telephone as a surrogate brain. This was the #1 reason why we (and many others, I hear) gave up our land line. The amount of time wasted by dealing with unnecessary phone calls is ridiculous. There are people that feel like they need to make a telephone call every time they have a thought. There are other people that feel like they need to make a telephone call every time a question pops in their head. There are some that do both. And this is what makes the telephone the #1 most abused thing in human history. I hope that Alexander Graham Bell isn’t still in purgatory answering for why he created something that has incrementally decreased human intelligence over the years because I know he didn’t mean for it to come to this. But I take heart in knowing that the abuse of this tool is offset by the greatest things that have been invented since the telephone: Ignore buttons and “do not disturb” mode. If only every telephone were required to be equipped with these!
6.Basketball. I sent out tweets and posts on Facebook in the fall asking people “do you like basketball?” I don’t, but I was just wondering because the last people I heard admit to liking it were of my grandparents generation. The request was largely ignored, but the few responses I got were a resounding “no!” So why is it all about March Madness now? Hello? I thought people didn’t like basketball?
Hmm. Maybe I should have been a therapist because I could charge these people by the hour to explain themselves to me. As it is, all I can do is avoid them when I can and take notes to put them in my next novel when I can’t. But who knows? I have several books published and if I keep writing then this will all work out okay anyway.
As for the basketball thing, I don’t know. Maybe that’s something else to add to the list of crazy that I am. But at least I know it’s a strange thing about me. That’s the one thing about having a psychology degree. Other people think you’re always analyzing them, but the truth is that you spend more time analyzing yourself. And there’s no hiding from what you know is out of whack there!
I hope you enjoyed this silly musing on reality. Happy Friday to you. Take care and have a great weekend.
I got a lesson in humility over the weekend. I had this idea for a writing project - really, it was to update and revamp a book I wrote years ago, but never sought publication for. It seemed like a good idea, and even though I'm not anywhere near done with Move yet, I thought perhaps it would be a good idea to dig it up, take a look at it, and start planning how I'm going to tackle this project. My reasoning was that I could start to develop a plan for this book now, so I'll be ready to start on it when Move is done. So I opened up the file and took a look at it, ready to start brainstorming how to rework it. And it didn't take long for reality to hit me - it hit within the first few words I read.
This piece sucked. No wonder I shelved it. It's awful! In fact, it took me about 5 minutes to determine that this piece was unsalvagable. The only thing that kept me from sentencing that raw piece of garbage to the "delete" key was the hope that perhaps, maybe, there's a remote possibility that there might be some sliver of something useful in there that I can extract from that jumble of madness and make fit somewhere else.
Who knows, but this I do know - my early work sucked. No wonder my inspirational work never took off - it was AWFUL! I cringe when I think of how much of that I sent out for consideration. And some of it got published - even my first book. Oh Lord help me. My consolation there is that some people do prefer non-fiction and inspirational, and perhaps those awkward first steps into writing will speak to someone and convince them to give the rest of my writing a chance. You never know.
This doesn't mean I'm giving up on non-fiction. I realized that some of my rewrite/revamp ideas might be a good catalyst for a new work, and I'm going to explore that. It's just going to take a bit more planning (and time) to get this going.
In the meantime, I had another idea for a short book for bird owners, and that idea has been growing since I chucked the rewrite my horrors of yesteryear idea. I think that might be the next thing on my list instead so now I'm brainstorming for the birds - literally.
That's all for today. Here's hoping you don't find any writing (or other artistic endeavors) from you past that you feel like bludgeoning to death. Havce a great week.