23Jan

From May 21,2010

Being open is fearful stuff.  Anticipation, hope and desire swirl around the edges.  Being open allows “knowing” in.  Some times “knowing” is unpleasant, hurtful, painful.  Being open requires faith.  Faith waxes and wanes like the moon.  Life is all of it…

21Jan

Our Brain Can Change the Reality of History… And What is the Point of Guilt?

My own mother evoked gratefulness and love.  I am not sure why I was particularly present with her, but I was.  I invited her to be with me as much as possible.  Before my mother passed away 21 years ago, we spent an entire day together, one on one and I enjoyed every minute.  She was the kind of woman you could feel comfortable with and it was easy to respect her.  When she died, I didn’t feel regretful because I told her over and over again “I love you, Mom.”  ”You are the greatest mom.”

For Ella Mae, my mother-in-law, it was quite a different matter.  When she passed in 2005, I had not prepared in the same way I did my mother.  I loved her and told her so, but she never knew how important she was to me and our family.  Because she was a formal woman, there just was not the casual love that was available in my family of origin.

I have valued Ella Mae more in retrospect, than I ever did while she was alive.  My own mother knew how much I valued her, I wrote cards and letters and expressed my joy and love in many different ways.  Ella Mae, not as much.  I am very grateful for her contribution to our family and for this reason, I have for the last 12 years been valuing her “things”.

I know better than most that guilt is no replacement for current action and present love, and yet, here I am indulging in guilt because I did not treat her the way that I would want to treat her today.  I find myself thinking “I must hang onto to Ella Mae’s china so that I can pass it on to my daughters.”  Why would I want to imbue value onto the china if I didn’t feel some measure of guilt?  I didn’t value Ella Mae enough while living and so now I must value her china to show the kids how important that she was.  It’s just not necessary with my mother’s things because her value was so well established while she lived.

In this case, I think the point of guilt is so that I can convince myself that I loved her enough and that she knew it.  If I didn’t love her enough while she lived, I am trying to make up for it.  This is a burden for all of us.  It is a burden that I do not wish to bear, nor do I believe that there is any way to make up for my behavior once someone has passed away, nor will I make promises about future behavior.  I simply must say that Ella Mae gave us much, she taught manners and in this way made us comfortable in any environment.  Ella Mae taught me that birthdays are important, my family never celebrated birthdays, it was Ella Mae who brought that tradition to us.  She loved step grandchildren and biological grandchildren and tried very hard to be fair.  She was not fair; the attempt was there.  For this I am grateful.

Ella Mae was a very gracious woman who welcomed everyone into her home.  She saw holidays as a means to give me a rest and she would never let me lift a finger or ‘bring’ something.  She cooked like a chef and hostessed like a queen, and it was those talents that she passed to me.  She had a beautiful silk hanging in the dining room.  For some reason both of my sons had to touch it every single time they passed by on the way to the kitchen.  She may have grimaced and she may have said something, but she never got mad.  Her graciousness extended to everyone.

Maybe now that I understand why I am hanging onto the china, I can actually put it down.  No one wants that stuff anymore.  I do hope that I can pass on graciousness, that’s a gift worth giving.

13Sep

Is Obesity the Latest Moral Failing?

We have treated addiction as a moral failing since drunks started drinking centuries ago.  “There must be something wrong with him, he wasn’t raised right…”

Those who could not or would not stop imbibing were thought to be degenerates, not deserving of social care and concern.  In recent years addiction medicine has been able to pull us away from this paradigm into a broader understanding of how people become addicts and lose control of their lives.  Science tells us that it is not a moral failing, but rather a complex combination of nature and nurture.  There is DNA involved in addiction, as well as brain chemistry which reacts to primal pleasure sensations, seeking rewards by repeating behavior.

Addiction is not an easy illness to understand and this challenge has made it into a medical “stepchild” no one really wants to claim ownership and the illness keeps worsening.  Addiction is now claiming lives in the thousands, daily, who overdose on opiates and heroin.  At least society now sees a glimmer of reality by calling out the profit hungry behavior of big pharma and physicians who over-prescribe.  We begin to see that addiction does not thrive in a vacuum, it thrives by virtue of hundreds of factors: social, medical, economic, individual and by the infinite possibilities in the strands of our DNA.  Blaming an addict for using substances, doesn’t produce any good results and yet our society has done it over and over again.

Obesity is our latest moral failing in America, and like addiction it does not earn the appropriate attention for resolution.  I read a billboard yesterday that was advertising liposuction, the billboard said “Get Your Sexy Back!”  The assumption is: Of course you can’t be sexy if you are fat and of course, if you are a woman, you must be sexy.  All through my youth there was a part of me that admired the woman who was not sexy and therefore did not have to glamorize her self.  This woman was not being watched or looked at and had long since decided on a lifestyle with different demands.  I deeply admired this kind of woman.

But the point is, that people are being denigrated and disparaged because they are overweight.  Many will righteously criticize the obese making statements like: “fatty, stop feeding your face and you are a tub of lard.”  Public Health appears to be much more concerned for the overweight than the addicted, which has been helpful for the overweight.  Public Health brings a validity to this condition.  All forms of healthy recognition can be appreciated, as long as the public understands that attacking those who suffer from addiction or obesity does not make for better public health.

What really needs to be said is this: People are not bad because they are obese, just as they are not bad because of addiction.  It doesn’t help anyone to denigrate those who struggle with their behavior.  There are no easy prescriptions for recovery and our culture does not support the discipline of sobriety, nor the task of healthy eating.  Just the opposite, our society is concerned with selling booze and hamburgers to anyone with a dollar.

While our society spins relentlessly to the music of a dollar bill, in the meantime, our part of change is to be kind, kind to everyone, everywhere and at all times.  

This means that we don’t blame, denigrate and demoralize anyone for any reason.  Obesity is not a moral failing and neither is addiction.

18Aug

The Definition of Game Playing: and What Some Call “Head Games”

The Definition of Game Playing: and What Some Call “Head Games”

I can only conjecture why people ‘play games’, I don’t understand it and I can’t identify with it.  I don’t remember ever playing head games.

According to Wikipedia it is “Psychological one-upmanship” and this definition surely describes what I see.

In the work world, we have this activity called training.  Training is a way to get the job done and to get new staff up to speed quickly.  It is an extremely beneficial activity because it instills confidence and creates efficiency.  However, at some levels in the corporation, training becomes a competition, something to prove a point.  From an external observation point withholding knowledge seems ridiculous for a number of reasons:  The first reason is that often, the perpetrator believes that s/he is proving a point about another’s intelligence or lack thereof.  This is never the case, because even if it proves difficult for the new person to complete a task unaided by support, no one ever views it the way the perpetrator wishes it to be viewed.

Sometimes this one-up-man-ship is just for self-gratification.  The person with knowledge enjoys knowing something that others do not know.  Watching others look for the information is a way to demonstrate one’s self superiority over others.

What I find most amazing about this withholding of knowledge is that, knowledge does not prove anything about intellect at all.  Knowledge, in no way, demonstrates critical thinking skills, or reasoning abilities.  Knowledge is just knowing something and something always changes over time.  This perpetrator works hard to prove how smart she is and instead proves that her intellect is lacking.  While knowledge may be power, strength is in numbers.  Sharing knowledge is the only fool proof way to maintain knowledge.

The other type of mind game is the one where I pretend to know it all and won’t consider that anyone else is correct.  From an external observation point, this is an extremely difficult stance to maintain.  Many, many people work hard to maintain a know-it-all stance.  From what I have seen and observed, the difficulty lies in the need to ignore information to the contrary of this belief “I know it all.”   This person will tell everyone how to do the chore, when the chore does not work out or the instructions prove incorrect, this person must find a reason that proves that their instructions were above reproach and must have been either misunderstood or perhaps not followed.  It is difficult to ignore all of the information that tells them that there was a mistake, but even more difficult is the need to convince others that their eyes deceive them.  Instead of the “customer is always right”, the mantra is that “the boss is always right”.  Or, in the absence of being the actual boss, just the person with a forceful personality.

As for the forceful personality: when it comes to discussing things with this person, there will be no discussion.  If in fact, you do not agree with the point of view that they favor, insults will start.  The conversation becomes harsh and ugly, because this is the behavioral fallback position of the bully (think Trump).  Again, mind games, head games and one-up-man-ship are the rules of the discussion.

I normally do not write an article about a person, it is always a conglomeration of events that keep happening that I have a need to describe.  Usually I describe to understand.  And so it is with this discussion, just a need to understand.

05Aug

Love and Faith

The very best gifts that you can give to yourself are love and faith.  Do it.  It’s important.  You can have some of mine if you need it.  Take love and faith from me, I will give it to you.  In the end though, you must give it to yourself.

21May

If it isn’t “a thing”

Then why bring it up?  Why mention it?  Why talk about it?  To bring it up in heated denial makes it “a thing”.

The lady doth protest too much, methinks” is a quotation from the 1599/1600 play Hamlet by William Shakespeare. It has been used as a figure of speech, in various phrasings, to describe someone’s too frequent and vehement attempts to convince others of some matter of which the opposite is true, thereby making themselves appear defensive, and insincere.   Wikipedia

28Apr

Do You Ever Get Uncomfortable?

You always talk about why success cannot be achieved.  You argue for failure.  

20Apr

I Want a Promotion…

“I want a promotion”
She sat in front of me tearfully requesting this promotion that was available to all applicants on the ‘floor’.
I had reviewed all applications and the woman sitting in front of me had never advanced her education beyond her GED that she had earned over 40 years ago. I almost didn’t believe that she was sitting in front of me making this request. So I asked her, “Did you take any classes at all after high school?” “Anything?”
“No” she replied. I looked at her application and then I looked up at her. She told me about how her husband was unemployed and that her kid could not get a job paying more than minimum wage. She told me how hard she was struggling to keep her family “afloat”.  I could feel her pain. Later, when I was alone, I cried for her and her family.
There are a couple of doubts that I have when a staff member is not interested in training and has not completed any post high school continuing education:
1. I fear that their own personal life is so consuming they don’t have time for anything else.
2. I fear that they feel that they do not need to learn, they already know everything.
3. I fear that they believe through some level of superiority, either because they are smart or handsome or even ‘experienced’ that they do not have to get an education.
4. I fear that they do not have any perception about the external world, credentialing is a crucial element in building a career. How could anyone miss the importance of credentialing?
5. I fear that this person has never felt a connection to a career, but rather, has just grown old in a “job”.
6. I fear that they expect a gift, rather than the reality of a competitive environment that needs production.
I cannot “give” a job to anyone. Because I am a professional manager, I will always go with the most well qualified candidate. Sometimes, the only thing that matters is experience; however, that is not often the case. I look for knowledge, attitude, willingness to learn and engagement to the work. The knowledge necessary pertains to the subject matter, the attitude necessary is an attitude of getting the job done well and willingness means that the staff member realizes that it is necessary to be open to learning and that means putting yourself in a place of learning and even challenging your own abilities. As far as engagement is concerned, I find that those who are disenfranchised do the least amount of work with the least amount of effort, often leaving their own errors for others to correct. This kind of behavior is a morale killer.
So no, I cannot “give” you a promotion. Though you may get angry with me and feel that I am unfair because you believe that your “experience” warrants this promotion, it won’t change reality to be angry. When I understand how you feel, I will be even more disappointed with you. So please, figure YOU out and please, leave me on the sidelines of your analysis.

27Feb

Hanging Onto the Past

Most people have a very difficult time staying in the moment. Scratch that, everyone I know, has a very difficult time staying in the moment and allowing the present to give information about what to do next.
What is the first thing we do when in a new situation? We attempt to anchor ourselves with past information about a similar situation. This is actually harmful to our current ability to manage the current situation appropriately. If our current situation is similar to a prior negative situation, our body will tense up and we can feel ourselves cringing, getting ourselves ready for the negativity to repeat itself. This tenseness and cringing does not serve us, because we become defensive, sometimes in perfectly benign and sometimes in perfectly positive situations. We may even close ourselves off to new incoming feedback that will give us clues to the positivity in this new situation.
What is the first thing we say in a new relationship? “You remind me of ____________” or “My last boyfriend was ___________” or “My last supervisor was _________”. I remember that at one point in my career, I became aware that I was afraid of large blonde haired men. It turned out that they intimidated me because my father is a large blonde haired man. I would snap to attention even though I was the identified supervisor.
No wonder the past plays itself out repeatedly, we are often in the past, in our own heads. From this perspective it is difficult to spring forward into the future. Indeed, historically, it was a survival mechanism to recognize the advance of someone / something harmful. I often think that this is why people take anger so seriously, in a primitive society it was important to run from angry, strong people.
So here we are today, living more precisely by our thinking and our emotion, with much less aggressively physical threats, with no way to re-adjust our brain. While it is important to reference the past when going into a new situation, it is just as important to stay anchored in the present. It is our tendency to hang onto the past that puts us in trouble in the present.

The practice of neutrality is an imperative tool for maturity and is most definitely an excellent tool for managing people.

30Jan

What Matter, Kindness?

Kindness, Why is that a Difficult Concept?

Many years ago in my speaking days I gave an inservice to some convicted felons who were working towards recovery.  Anyone who has even been around a criminal knows that jail brings you intimately close to cruelty and violence.  The other hall mark of the convicted felons is their story.  The story is that it is not their own fault and that another has caused them to behave in a certain way.  This is probably part of the pattern of criminal behavior ~ a feeling that you are not in control of your self and that others can control your behavior.

In any case, we discussed the concepts surrounding domestic violence and one of the concepts is this idea that another person deserves bad treatment because you are upset.  Some people actually believe that their own anger or pain entitles them to hurt other people.  As you can imagine several people in the audience were very uncomfortable with the discussion of these concepts.  That was a long time ago, and indeed, feels far, far away.

Now it seems that society is much more in tune with the concept of owning their own feelings rather than believing that another person has caused them.  No one ever has the right to purge their anger on someone else, and yet over and over again, they do.

Whatever another person does, it is no more than your perception of their behavior.  You are incorrect if you believe that it is about you.  Your behavior is always about yourself, your feelings are always about yourself.

So what matter, but to be kind?  Why “purge” on another human being?  Why not step back, and breathe, even when you think you are being hurt by another, why not step back and breathe?  The truth of the matter, is the who you are is you.  It is always up to you to be kind or not, it is never up to another whether you are kind.  Take control of who you are, your behavior, and be a good person.

No matter what has happened to you, no matter what hurtful childhood you have had, you are a bad person if you treat others badly.  If others have brought you pain, it does not give you a free ticket for cruelty.  You are still a bad person, if you are mean and hurt others.