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.
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.
There's no use denying it - we all have a dark side. And we know just when it's time to unleash it. It's those times when life kicks you when you're down. When you try and try to do it right, and just stay locked in place or worse, you're passed by those doing wrong. When you just can't seem to get ahead no matter how hard you try. When you can't find a break and your patience is down to it's last shred. It's when the PITA's in life are beyond dealing with in a civilized manner and, as Dad says, it's time to put on the boots and start kicking some butt.
PITA's, by the way, are a handy acronym we've come up with at work. It stands for "Pain In The A**"
And "butt" is absolutely not the word in your vocabulary at these times, but I am trying to keep it PG-13 rated, even if I'm approaching this issue from an angle that no pastor, psychologist, therapist, or other any other type of spiritual leader or mental health professional would ever endorse. But, as I often say, reality isn't pretty and sometimes, it's downright obscene. The dirty truth I'm dealing with in this entry is that we all have a dark side, and life does have a way of bringing it out. I think it's best to acknowledge it. In fact, I think the key to making your way through the PITA's of life is to understand your dark side and know how to deal with it.
Yes, we know that there's a right way and a wrong way to do things. We know we should be patient and knowing that doing what's right will always win in the long run. But sometimes, you have to get aggresive, and this is where that elusive "dark side" comes in. If you are being taken for granted, walked all over, mistreated, used, or abused then you've come to that time to get wicked and it's absolutely right to step out and be aggresive. This can be a very hard thing, especially for Christians, because people assume that we're supposed to be meek and mild and take whatever life and the world throws at us. People expect us to stay quiet because they assume it's sinful to get angry, but the truth is that this is a handy excuse for them to use to justify treating us badly. They don't remember that Jesus turned over moneychangers tables outside the temple (I think that's awesome, by the way.) They say "oh, the Bible says 'in your anger, do not sin,' but misinterpret that to mean it's a sin to be angry (even though it clearly says not to sin in anger, which removes anger as justification for sin and doesn't make anger the sin). They stereotype us as lambs and forget there are lions in the kingdom too. So when they run across somebody like me, they're shocked when I say "fine you wanna play, let's play" and I turn into a holy terror.
Yes, I said it. I can be a holy terror when I'm angry. The problem is not a matter of retaliation. It's actually an issue of me being mischievous. I'm a writer, and a writer with a bachelor's degree in psychology too so I do strategize how I deal with PITA's. For example, did you know that when most people get ticked off at you, they treat you in ways that irritate the hell out of them? A person that loves to be the center of attention will stop speaking to you and cut you off. A person that hates confrontation will be passive aggresive and will stab you in the back. A person that's a prideful bigshot will cause a scene or confront you. But I don't do that. I watch people to find what annoys them most and then I do it. I think it's part of a mischievous streak, really. What's really amusing is when I find some little thing that irritates the hell out of somebody and I do it, over and over again, and they're getting really mad but they're afraid to say anything because they know it will make them look stupid but it's wearing them thin. For example, I knew someone once that didn't like to leave a place until it was spic and span and everything was in it's place. So I'd go in while they were in the bathroom before leaving and leave a pile of mail on the table, or forward them an email when I heard keys jingle. They'd grumble and everybody else would say "what's the big deal? There's always tomorrow to do it. Don't worry about it."
I know, doing things like this wasn't right and my motives were terrible, but the point was made in a very powerful way. People came to appreciate the "do unto others" commandment with a new appreciation when they pissed me off. Just ask the salesman that tried to grab me leaving the grocery store a few months ago. I fended him off, he yelled at me to "not be like that," and, well, I unloaded on him. My husband went back to the store 10 minutes later to have his own words with this gentleman and he was gone. The guy tried to make a scene on me and I screamed right back at him about not being out there harassing customers and grabbing people. Then I complained to the manager and the main headquarters. Well heck, he wanted to play big and make a scene, so I took him on.
And, of course, you all remember the entry that opened this series about the false allegation that someone made at my previous job about shredding documents. I shut that one down in a minute. They said they had to protect the complaintant, I said I had to protect myself and I would be seeing an attorney now, and that was all she wrote.
People often ask me if I feel bad about acting this way. Sometimes I do, but the simple fact of the matter for me, and for everybody else in such situations, is that it boils down to motives. It is always wrong to attack people in any way, shape or form and you are 100% justified in defending yourself. If your motives are defense and setting things right, as in my false accusations thing above, that wasn't wrong. Neither was my reaction to the salesman, because folks, I have my CWP, I WAS packing, and if he got his hands on me then I could have easily argued that I felt threatened because I perceived it as a physical attack, especially since I told him "no thanks" when I came in. I chose to attempt a non-physical resolution to the matter. He may not agree, but he only left with his pride hurt that day. It could have been a very ugly situation if I hadn't chosen to use discernment and good, common sense in the situation. Just look at the Zimmerman case in Florida.
Now messing up the person's office - ok, that was wrong. That was all about she was always trying to put me down, so I struck back by irritating her. My motives there were not right and I repent, even if it was funny.
So the secret to my dark side is out. I'm trying to channel my tendencies toward mischief and outright irritation to the PITA's of the world the right way, but, well, it's a work in progress.
The point of this entry is that you can't deny you have a dark side, because every human being does. We can only take so much and if we're pushed too far, well, it's time to get wicked. Just try to make sure you at least get wicked with right motives. I know that sounds completely counterintuitive, but it's right. Sometimes the truth and what's right seems wrong. It takes discernment to know the difference - and that's a good lead into the next entry.
That's all for today. Happy Friday to you tomorrow. In closing, I'd like to share a video of my favorite song by one of my favorite bands here. It just feels appropriate for this entry, and these times and people in life. Enjoy!
That's a good question, because villians are usually very good at hiding themselves. Indeed, people have become very proficient at hiding their flaws and blaming their mistakes on others through a variety of what psychologists call "defense mechanisms." They started in the Garden of Eden when Adam said "this woman you gave me made me do it" and it's been downhill ever since that first shifting of blame. The problem is, there are only a limited number of ways to make this work and while you can mix it up, it all boils down to a few basic things.
First is shifting the blame, as we saw above. People refuse responsibility for their actions and claim "it's not my fault! It's somebody elses fault!" I've heard this is a common reason why, as the joke goes, there are no guilty people in jail. All victims of unfortunate circumstances caused by others - or so their lawyers claim. That's a drastic example, of course, as it doesn't take a criminal that winds out being interviewed on Dateline to use this one. I've heard countless variations from "so and so said they'd take care of it and I trusted them!" to "oh, they're trying to help. I'm sure there's a reason they took my ten thousand dollars and disappeared. They must be looking so hard and too busy to keep in touch!" to "well, I trusted YOU to make the decision and you made a bad one!" Sadly, I have known some people that live their entire lives in a state of refusing responsibility and shifting blame. They don't want to deal with the consequences of their actions and decisions, so they do nothing unless someone else tells them to. It's "oh, I had such a great idea!" if it succeeds and (more likely) "woe is me, I never get a break" if it doesn't or worse, if they get taken advantage of. Which happens often because predators can sniff out emotionally weak people that don't want to take control of their lives and usually prey on that until they suck them dry. It's really a very dangerous defense mechanism.
Another one is projection. This is when you project what you think/feel/do on someone else because you don't want to admit that you or somebody close to you does it. I'm often prey to this one. Probably because if people try to shift the blame to me I'll outright say "it's not my fault if you made an active decision not to think for yourself." (Folks, I have done this.) This is usually a sneaky one because they aren't confrontational about it - they want to be sly because they don't want to tip you off. For example, one time I found out that someone I knew hadn't told me about something big that happened in their life. When I asked why she didn't tell me, she said "oh, I didn't want people to gossip." I replied "do you think I'm a gossip?" She set her face and said "I don't want people talking. Everybody doesn't need to know everything." I knew right away what happened. She hadn't been ready for her "secret" to be told and had only told a couple of people she had been friends with for a long time. The fact that I found out meant one of them had been gossiping, and she didn't want to admit it, so she tried to shift the blame to me. And let me tell you, she didn't speak to me for about two months when I pointed out that one of her confidants were the ones that spilled it to me. She just didn't want to believe a good friend would betray her trust, so she tried to pretend like it was someone else (anyone else!) by accusing the people that found out second hand of being gossips (I found out later that she'd had the same reaction to several other people). The trick may have protected her from feeling betrayed, but it didn't do much to win her more friends or influence people in a positive way.
A third way villians shift blame is dissociation. In a nutshell, this refers to what we commonly call "busybodies" and "troublemakers." These are people that are addicted to drama and work behind the scenes to stir up trouble and then disappear when it all blows up, playing the meek, weak person saying "oh my, all I want is peace!" That is an act, because people given to dissociation are usually dangerous. Remember that Satan is another one that only wants peace - as long as it's his kind, and these people fall in that same category. They will stop at nothing to get what they want and see other people as nothing but tools to torque the world to their will. Their purposes for stirring up trouble are varied - perhaps so they can come in and "save the day" so they can be hailed as a hero, or perhaps to turn people against one another to keep them out to keep lies from being exposed, or maybe because they just have a habit of making bad decisions and they lie and try to turn people against one another to hide their mistakes. Folks, if you haven't crossed paths with one of these then you're destined to someday because it's one we ALL struggle with at one time or another. The reason is because people prone to dissociation are no respecters of persons - remember, people are tools to them - so they will try to prey on anybody.
These types are extremely frustrating because they can wiggle out of situations and disappear from blame with the skill of a mage. There are only two ways to deal with these types: Avoidance, or catching them red handed. You literally have to stay the hell out of their way or catch them in the middle of a trap of their own making. Let me tell you, I have managed to do this once or twice (in 36 years, which tells you how difficult it is) and it's never pretty. When you catch them you win, but it's at a price because these take casualties. Like the devil, they aren't going down alone and they will take everybody they can get a claw in down with then. The problem is that there are some people you can't avoid or cut from your life, so if you have the misfortune of finding a dissociative type in your inner circle then catching them is the only solution. The good news is that deception doesn't last forever and truth does eventually show itself, so they will be exposed eventually and you better be alert and ready to act at just the right moment. The bad news, as I said, is that it's gonna hurt like hell because they'll make sure it does. But it's a price worth paying.
These are just a a few of the defense mechanisms that people use to shift blame, and one that we usually see in villians both in the real world and in fiction. In fact, knowing this can make reading very interesting, because you can look for these mechanisms at work in the books or stories you're reading and use it as a way to discern who the real bad guy is. And it works in real life too, of course.
In my next entry I'll discuss your own dark side. Because folks, we all have one whether we want to admit it or not. And knowing it can be interesting.
That's all for today. Take care and have a good week.
Villians may make the story, but let me ask you - what happens when YOU'RE the villian? It is possible to sabatoge yourself and self help experts and gurus will be the first to say that very often, the only thing we fight more than other people is ourselves.
It's true that we can fall into bad thought and behavior patterns that can sabatoge our own best efforts. In fact, this is a topic I'm pondering for my next book. The idea I'm working on is about a woman that compromises her integrity While she does struggle with other people and there will be a clear antagonist that will aid her in this endeavor, the true enemy is herself. The real battle is in how her thoughts and perceptions influence her actions and attitudes. And, in my classic fashon, it will turn toward mystery with a supernatural creature (I'm considering a djinn), a way-out-there-where-the-hell-did-that-come-from turn of events and, of course, a twist somewhere. Geeze, I hope I'm not becoming my own worst enemy by becoming cliche or (gulp!) predictable after 4 books. Hmm, it might be time to mix it up a bit. We shall see.
I feel this is a good theme to run with because I've seen it over and over, not only in other people but in myself. We all have tendencies that work against us, and the devil loves to use them. Fear is a pretty universal one that we all struggle with. We get scared and that pushes us in all kinds of places we don't intend to go: Stagnation, laziness, complacancy - heck, I call fear "the devil's shovel" because it's a handy tool he uses in us to dig those ruts we find ourselves in.
Our emotions can also get us into trouble. Whether we realize it or not, emotions are learned. YES THEY ARE! When we have an emotional response to something the first time it happens, we tend to continue to have THE EXACT SAME RESPONSE every time it happens after that. They can become conditioned. For example: You have an annoying friend that tends to call you every Tuesday at 3:00. Tuesdays are busy and you tried to explain that but they don't get it, so after the first 2 calls you grow annoyed with them. So how do you feel the third week when the telephone rings at 3:00? You get annoyed, right? Before you even pick it up, you associate a 3:00 call on a Tuesday with that person that annoys you, and just the sound of that phone ringing at that time makes you angry. Maybe you wise up on Week #3 and don't answer but you're still angry when the phone rings. How dare them, you think, without even answering this week - but still, you're mad because they made you mad the last 2 weeks. So we do learn many of our emotional responses.
Another way we sabatoge ourselves is through wrong thoughts. This falls into that same pattern where we learn emotional responses. We do something and one or two people have an unfavorable response to it, so we avoid it in the future because "that doesn't work out." This is something I struggled with a lot when I went through my job transfer. I was at my former place a long time, so when I moved I tended to assume the people at the new place would have the same reactions and attitudes as the people at the old place. For example, the former place where I worked didn't think much of my writing. They didn't like it and even told me that it wasn't company related and to keep it out of the office. So when I moved I assumed my new colleagues would feel the same. I had to fill out a "dual employment" form when I got my book contract for Blurry, so I turned it in as quietly as possible. Imagine my surprise when my boss called me in her office and asked me to tell her more about my writing! She loved that I was doing it. In fact, it turns out that many other people there have "side ventures" and the agency regularly featured these on their internal website - they even featured me when Blurry was released and shared the link to my Amazon.com profile. (In fact, they sent out an email earlier this week asking if anybody had news or accomplishments to report so they could celebrate it at our employee appreciation picnic in a few weeks.) I was absolutely shocked by how enthusiastic and supportative my colleagues were, especially when I spent so many years in a place where I was ordered to keep it quiet. It took a while for me to get used to that, but it also made me realize the other areas where I had wrong thoughts. Even after 2 years I still struggle with that and have to stop and tell myself "remember, they aren't the same people and don't see things the same way. Be fair." Thank Got I realize it and am working through it.
Yes, there are many ways we can be our own worst enemy, and we really have to guard against that. Sometimes we even project our own faults and reactions on others - but this entry is long enough, so let's save that for next time!
I'll close with a challenge - think about it. Are there any ways where you are your own worst enemy? Do you have thoughts or reactions that work against you? Think it over. It's worth it because really, these are easy things to correct. Often just stopping and realizing it is the path to breaking the pattern.
That's all for today. Happy Friday and I hope you have a great weekend.
I'd like to expand on something I said in my last blog entry about how "the villians make the story." We don't actively think about, but it's true that without the villians there would be no story - not in real life or in fiction. That's one thing they share in common. After all, where's the excitement in just another day? There's not much, is there? In fact, we have a term for long periods of time without resistance. We call it a rut.
That's not to say that problems are desirable. Heck no. I could do with fewer "adventures" in my life, truth be told. But the fact of the matter is that we grow when we have resistance. It's the tough times, struggles, and pain in the butt people where we learn and grow the most. That's not a truth many of us want to face, but it is a truth. Look back over your life, and I'll be the times you learned the most were during your greatest struggles. It was true for me. I took a lot of lessons from those instances I described in my last entry. I learned how to stand up for myself, how to stand up for what's right, and how to deal with fragile egos (because frankly, a lot of those problems went to a root of fragile egos addicted to approval). I learned not to fear change and to have confidence in myself and my abilities no matter what other people thought or said about me, and that strength gave me the confidence to build a house, successfully move to and integrate into a new office, and to publish 4 books (and some inspiration for said books too). To put it bluntly, manure is a fertilizer and fertilizer makes things grow. If you learn from your experiences and use those lessons to better yourself then you will be prepared for greater blessings ahead. So think of the crap you deal with as the stimulus to grow your spirit and take you to new heights.
I know, that's not a pretty metaphor. Frankly, it stinks. (Oh, another bad joke). But it's relevant and you have to admit that it's not a cliche comparisome. And you won't forget it either, will you?
Anyway, back to the point ...
I believe the series finile of "Smallville" hit it close to the mark when Lex Luthor told Clark Kent "I used to think your friends defined a man. But it's actually enemies that define a man." I believe that's a bit extreme and one sided, but it has a grain of truth. Our enemies, or rather the people we find ourselves clashing with and struggling against, do have a certain amount of definition to our own lives because they are often dark images of ourselves. I've blogged in previous entries about how each of us tends to be a magnant for people that are our polar opposite and that the people we struggle with tend to have a common root issue - for example, with me it seems there are always jealous, petty people around. I can't seem to get rid of them. And the reason I struggle with them is because I want to be my best and help others be their best. Therein lies my own Lex Luthor. We all have one and if you look at the people you're in strife with, I'll bet you'll see that same dark image of yourself in them. The real story and lessons lie in how we deal with them. Do you fight to win, stand your ground, or swat them away like a bug and keep on keeping on. There is no one right answer becase it depends on who and what you're dealing with. I had to stand my ground and occationally fight the last ones in my life, but the answer for the present ones seems to be ignoring them. Just keep doing my thing and let them seeth and have their pity party all alone because I'm busy and have stuff to do.
That's why every experience is different. It's because you can have the same situation and a different answer due to the context of the situation. The last jealous people I dealt with feared confrontation and avoided it, so fighting forced them to do something they found so unpleasant that they'd back off. But the ones in my life now live for and absolutely love the fight and the challenge it brings. They hate to be ignored - so I ignore them. As I said before, different context = different solution. And the same principle applies in fiction as in real life.
Yes, the villians do make the stories. It's provides the catalyst to grow and learn in real life. It provides the plot in fiction. Because without villians, there is no story. There is no growth. there is no spark to life.
So don't be too hard on those pain in the butt people. After all, they can be quite useful if you know how to utilize them correctly. In fiction and in reality.
That's all for today. Take care and have a good week.
I almost wrote this entry months ago when the sex scandal at Penn State broke but for some reason, I held back. In light of today's news that Joe Paterno passed from lung cancer, I'm breaking loose. And here's why:
The media are a bunch of hypocrites. Plan and simple, and this is the truth. The same people that lambasted the man for "not doing enough" months ago are now posting heartwarming articles like the one at http://rivals.yahoo.com/ncaa/football/news?slug=dw-wetzel_joe_paterno_obituary_012212
saying aww - he was a great man with that one bad thing. But now that he died, let's put it aside and remember the great man he was.
Bullcrap. You didn't care to remember his legacy in October. NOW you want to honor him? Take a look in the mirror, you vultures. The man was dying of cancer and you turned on him like a pack of wolves. Have any of you seen someone struggling with lung cancer? I have. A friend of mine at church lost a year long battle with lung cancer on my birthday in August. It was hell to watch. Absolutely awful. I beg my co-worker that smokes to please stop because I've seen how lung cancer literally eats you alive. It's ugly, painful and brutal. And while Paterno was going through that, the media ripped his reputation and legacy to shreds because "he could have done more."
So is that where we're going now? We're going to charge people for not being their brother's keeper? For not acting when we BELIEVE they should have acted? Ok then, when I was 12 my grandmother died. I was devistated. I turned to many adults to find out how to cope. You know what they said? "It's just a grandparent. This is worse for your mother. Get over it. Others are suffering more."
Ok then, at age 36 I still believe that was a rude and completely inappropriate response to a 12 year old reaching out for help. Say "I don't know" if you're stumped, but don't get your attitude on, especially with a kid. Can I haul those people in and charge them with psychological damage?
Or how about this - when my job was transferred a couple of years ago, it came to light that many things that should have been done weren't. In fact, in some aspects of my job I was improperly trained. Corners were cute and some mistakes of huge proportions were made because the programs were not being given the support they were supposed to have. Can I haul my former colleagues in and charge them with sabatoging these programs and my professional integrity for not handling them properly and for making me look like an igit to my new colleagues? Can I bring them and hold them responsible for me and my current colleagues having to go into a second year of cleaning up things that were messed up, lost or forgotten because of their negligence?
In both of these examples, I believe you'd hear more squawking than an avery with a snake in it.
And on the flip side, I'm not sure I'd even want to go there. I can think of times when I could have done better and didn't. Like Paterno, I can think of times when I just didn't know what to do, so I tried to turn it over to those that I believed had more knowledge and power, only to find that they didn't. I've failed to take responsibility. I've let people down. If everybody I failed hauled me in and held me responsible, I believe every person I ever knew would have a case against me.
The point is that we're all human and we make mistakes. We make errors in judgement that have adverse impacts on others. We hurt others with bad decisions. We let other people down by not doing enough or by letting things go when we should act but fear to because we don't know what to do. We fail people by passing off responsibility for things we should act on because we believe others are more competent to handle it. We all fall short. We all fail. If we're going to get into charging people for not doing "good enough," then we're all guilty. So what then? What do you do when every human being on earth is guilty of hurting others? What's the penalty? What's fair? What's right?
I believe that the powers that be in the Paterno case were looking for a big name scapgoat and they found it in Paterno. That was a pretty lame charge to fire him on. He admitted his fault. To tarnish him when he was humble enough to admit what he did wrong makes the accusers more guilty than he was. They played God, and they showed the whole world why they were woefully incompetent in playing the role of the Almighty.
Well, Paterno is with God now. The truth is known and the "big picture" impact of his role in this situation is determined. We on earth can no longer judge him or hold him accountable because he's already answered to the ultimate authority. So now it leaves the rest of us in the awkward situation (of our own making) to determine Paterno's legacy. Will we have the grace to remember him as the great man he was, or will we continue to be hypocrites and judge him guilty for this one error? Whatever happens, it will reflect on those of us left behind throughout the ages.
And as for the rest of it, well, I suppose this forces the media to focus on Sandusky, the real villian in this story, and not a side character.