Monday, August 21, 2017

Personal Preferences

A Facebook friend posted the above meme on his page and it resonated with me, and not in a good way. I noticed a rumbling deep in my gut. So, I sat for a while and thought it through. Why did it bother me so much? What was unnerving about it?

Plus, I found it interesting (synchronistic?) that this appeared shortly after I'd written the prior post. 

Why is it I prefer phone conversations to textversations even if I do identify as an introvert?

I mean, I do see the benefits of texting.

I recently had a writing date with a friend who was taking the bus to my house. She was able to text me her progress, or lack thereof, due to the bus' schedule or lack thereof.  I appreciated her letting me know what was going on so I wouldn’t be waiting hours for her at the bus stop. I can quickly set up lunch dates with friends via text or change plans on the fly. While working on this post, I was able to set up a home inspection visit to finish a project; two quick texts and it was arranged. 

I have some good friends who live quite a distance away. We manage to keep in touch through texting, when phone conversations are difficult (and expensive) to maintain due to multiple time zones and that pesky date line thingy. 

I can also see a touch of intimacy with it. Sending that special someone a text at random times during a busy work day can signify "I'm thinking of you." I once had a special friend where I'd send him the four leaf clover emoji to wish him luck on his fishing trip. And that's all I'd send. He'd reply with the 'thumbs up' emoji which I took to mean 'thank you.’ These mini-texts are a lot easier to read than having to access voicemail especially when you’re busy. 

But, texting can pose huge problems, at least for me. I can't count the number of times someone has misinterpreted a text message I've sent. "I sense a touch of sarcasm." No, I'm not being sarcastic, at least not this time. Then having to redirect the conversation to correct that misunderstanding which could have been avoided by talking in person in the first place wastes time. 

Having long drawn out, deep philosophical doctoral-level textversations is tiring, especially for people's thumbs. Well, mine at least, as I have tendonitis in both wrists which makes holding a small phone and texting painful. When I do engage in long textversations, I prefer my iPad which I can place flat on a table. And don't get me started on using voice to dictate texts due to the many, many errors I've had to go back and retype or try and decipher in the incoming message. Having taught for many years, I am pretty good at deciphering creative spelling however, I never expected to have to do that with people older than 12.

Texting also allows for multiple conversations to happen at once. Kind of like an orgy of chat. Or, at least a threesome. Yet, in that scenario people can inadvertently get forgotten, dropped or worse.

Juggling these orgiastic textversations is tricky. While I’m waiting for a response I often get distracted from the thread of the conversation I'm in, so I meander off and start something else, like preparing something to eat when I suddenly get the notification that someone replied which then distracts me from what I was doing. I've received messages meant for other people which makes me question why the texter can't simply reread the thread to see who they're texting and then reply accordingly? The most disturbing texting mistake I've received was when someone was texting me and (apparently) another person and sent me some porn, instead. And it wasn't any kind of porn I would ever be interested in. Believe me.

I do get that people don't like to call. They feel it's too invasive, like they're sending the message that the recipient needs to reply immediately. Yet, I wonder how is that so different from a text? "Hi Hon, what do you want for dinner? Tell me now, damnit, because I’m already at the store!" Doesn’t getting that notification of an incoming text also distract you from whatever you were doing? When I was teaching it was often hard to get my train of thought back to the interrupted lesson, whether I answered the text or not. So, both are somewhat invasive.

In doing some research for this post, I read one thread where a woman didn't like to call because of the sense of imperiousness that came with it. When others questioned what she meant, she clarified that she was the one who felt imperious; she was demanding to be heard. The consensus on this thread was that she just needed to get over herself.

I understand texting makes things easier, but it has created a huge detriment in interpersonal conversation. I grew very fond of someone and we did start our relationship via text. But, he couldn't bring himself to talk on the phone. Why? He didn't know how. I mean, he knew how to use one, but talking on it brought out his insecurity. He didn't know how to be himself. The keyboard offered him some courage, like alcohol does in a bar. 

I like calling because you can hear actual voice inflections thus avoiding tonal misunderstandings, e.g., sarcasm. It also shows a level of intimacy you can't get via texting, even if it's just between friends. “I respect you enough to focus our conversation just on us.” Just hearing someone’s voice can be intimate.

Many introverts fear phone conversations due to the prattling chit-chat and small talk. I find with my close friends we usually have a focus when we call. It’s the prattling chit-chat in social settings and dates that set me off. 

But that’s another post.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Words vs. Actions

I’m a very firm believer that actions speak much louder than actual words.

We live with multiple relationships-family, friends, co-workers, neighbors. We also try and find someone to share our lives with, hopefully for a very long time. We can use these relationships to learn about ourselves. And these relationships also tell us how important we are to them. We use phrases like, "I love you", "I appreciate you", "I'll be there for you." And so forth.

We live in an age of instant gratification. We can stream movies and TV programs via our multiple devices at the touch of a button, albeit not live broadcasts (except some news programs). We can read books within seconds of purchasing them for our e-readers. We can find out how close we are to a potential hookup simply by looking at our phone.

We also live in an age of instant communication. Gone are the days of the pony express, carrier pigeons, and sending messages with wandering strangers praying they deliver your message safely in a village far, far away. We now have texting, instant messaging, email, and yes, we still have the old fashioned telephone calls, including voicemail. 

And, yet, with all this wondrous, instantaneous communication, I still end up wondering if my texts, instant messages, emails or the occasional voicemail were safely delivered to a device far, far away.

I called someone a few years back to wish him a happy birthday. This person claimed I was special to him. But this time, I’m guessing he was busy, as the call went to voicemail so I left a message. A week went by with no acknowledgement of my call. Then a month, and finally I accepted the fact he wasn’t going to return my call because he probably got busier and eventually forgot about me. I felt snubbed. I tried to wish him a happy birthday again the following year, because I’m a nice guy. And the same thing happened; the call went to voicemail and I’m still waiting for an acknowledgment. Forgotten again. I have not called back since. Obviously, thanking me for the birthday wishes wasn’t a priority in spite of what he'd said.

Maybe I'm just too sensitive.

Or, maybe I wasn't the priority.

But, this does seem to be a trend today. A friend was sharing with me that late one night he was texting a guy he’d just started dating and the conversation suddenly ended; no “Good night!”, no explanation, no returned text, just an abrupt ending. One can assume that the date may have simply fallen asleep. Or maybe decided to ghost. It happens.

Besides not having phone calls of birthday wishes returned, this has happened to me as well. I’ve sent emails, texts, and instant messages only not to receive any answer within a reasonable amount of time. 

or text, or email...
But, what constitutes reasonable? I can accept up to 48 hours. After that, I would need an acceptable excuse. I want to be fair, and I do understand things come up, like falling asleep. Okay, maybe that’s a stretch because I know when I’m getting sleepy and out of courtesy, I let the other person know. Doesn’t everyone do that? Apparently not. I also have friends who have families-children, husbands, pets. I know that they come first, and that they can, and often do, interfere with an ongoing conversation. We’ve established the understanding that should they not reply in a reasonable amount of time, that something with their family came up.

What is an acceptable excuse? Death comes to mind. Or being comatose. Because both conditions make it difficult to simply hold a device to compose a text. Kidnapping is even acceptable-provided you are the victim. Death of an immediate family member is also acceptable, to an extent. Severe illness might qualify if hospitalization is necessary; but sick at home with a bad cold or flu, no.

Traveling also doesn't count, in my book. If you can afford a trip, and you are posting pictures while on your trip, you can reply.

Yet, my big overall question is how long does it take to compose a simple text? A few seconds? "I’m sorry, I’ve had a personal emergency. I’ll get back to you just as soon as I can." Why, you can even create a shortcut with a couple of keystrokes to automatically write out the entire text. And between the voice activated artificial intelligences on many devices you don't even need the device in your hand. Simply tell the device who you want to send the message to and what you want to say. This gets simpler by the second. 

A couple of years ago, I was texting with someone very special to me, and our conversations would often stop suddenly. He wouldn’t reply for a couple of days, and then with the excuse “I’m sorry. I fell asleep.” For a couple of days? Are you Rip Van Winkle, Jr? I thought.

"You’ve been asleep for a couple of days?" I’d reply. 

"No, but this is the first chance I’ve had to get back to you."

"Really? You couldn’t have texted while eating breakfast that morning?" Or any meal during those two days for that matter?

"I overslept and didn’t eat that morning."

"You couldn’t have texted while walking to the bathroom? Surely you went to the bathroom in the morning?" Most people do. Or once or twice in the days that followed.

People will find a way to do what is important to them. If it takes them too much time to reply, then your message wasn’t that important. Plus, it also shows a lack of respect because a few seconds’ of time is more important to them than returning that message.

I also believe this to be relative to the importance of the relationship in their life. The more important you are, or the better impression they want to make, the quicker they’ll reply. It also shows their level of responsibility-the more responsible they are, the quicker they will respond. 

There is one caveat. In a beginning dating situation, I understand that replying too quickly can suggest appearing too eager which can be a turnoff. But, taking too long can suggest disinterest as well. That is a fine line to walk for potential daters. But not among friends and family.

I also have a hard time with the excuse "I didn’t get/see the message." Really? Aren’t we are glued to our screens, whether phone or tablet, with all the little notification badges? So, how can you not see the fact you have a new message? Yet, I see the message in my device says 'Delivered' so I know you got it. I see the email in my sent folder, so I know it went out and the mailer demon didn't mark it as 'Undeliverable.' Some programs even leave unread messages in boldface to assist you in seeing messages you haven't read yet.

So, I don’t get it.

About a year ago, I messaged a very dear friend. I could see in my devices that he hadn’t read the message. It sat delivered, yet unread in his inbox for months. Even though it was a simple message-“Hi”-I was reaching out for help. I was in a deep state of despair and depression and nearing the end of my rope. I was considering something drastic. To be fair, he didn’t know that, but the fact that he didn’t even reply, nor read the message, spoke volumes. Fortunately, I was able to pull myself around and I no longer see myself in that state, or capable of anything drastic. But, what if I hadn’t turned myself around? What if that unread, unanswered text/email/instant message was someone reaching out to you for help? How would you feel if you found out you were their last hope?

Yes, I may be being a bit dramatic; I will own that, but I have been on both sides of this question. So, it does happen. I did receive a text from someone wanting to say good bye, permanently. I know I could not live with myself if I hadn’t answered and got help to him in time.

And, I will admit to not replying promptly. I am human. Yes, I get busy and forget. Yet, I also try and own up to it and apologize as quickly as I can. But, if I don't reply, then there must be a reason. Perhaps I got tired of waiting before, and am choosing not to wait any longer. Perhaps I am choosing to respect myself by communicating with those who respect me and my time.

This trend of not returning messages in a reasonable amount of time has taught me that I can only rely on myself. It also echoes a point in an earlier post-have no expectations. I am working on no longer expecting a reply.

And should I find myself wanting to date again, this will be one of the standards by which I determine his potentiality: do his actions match (or supersede) his words?

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Dreams, Hopes, Expectations and Goals

While I’ve been on this Twin Flame Journey, I’ve been reading many, many articles on what it is and how to walk it. I’ve researched it’s origins, and significance. I have blogged a bit about my findings.

This journey began when I met the man I believe to be my Twin. Many of the articles I’ve read tell me the journey is more about each of us discovering our True Authentic Self than it is about us together. Our initial meeting started us on this path of deep personal healing for an eventual reunion. The difficult part is not knowing when the reunion will take place. Or, if it will at all. 

One of the latest articles I read specifically for Twin Flames focused on letting go, a common theme for us. Usually the articles have encouraged us about letting go of our fears and control. But this one was different as it spoke of letting go of  our own expectations. Expectations of what, I wondered? But the article also strongly cautioned against giving up on the Twin or of dreams of the reunion.

So, let go of expectations, but hold on to my dreams? What the hell did that mean? And what exactly is the difference I thought? 

So, I sat down and thought about it all. And then I wondered how hopes and goals would fit in here as well, because I see them as somewhat related, yet different. Like cousins. 

To me, a dream is a ‘what if…’ or an ‘it would be nice to…’ There is some emotion involved.  "It would be nice to meet Cher." OMG, I would be ecstatic! See, an emotion. After all, isn’t a dream a wish your heart makes?

I see a hope as a bit stronger than a dream, perhaps triggering more action in order to see the dream fulfilled. Once many years ago when I was a Disney fanatic, I had a dream of going to what is now known as Disneyland Paris. So,I didn't just dream about it, I took it step further. I bought a poster of the Eiffel Tower (Disneyland Paris hadn’t been built yet) had it framed and hung it on a wall. I placed a five gallon water bottle under it and all my spare change went in it. I would even stop and pick up coins I would find on the ground, mostly pennies. My partner at the time, also a Disney fanatic, was a bit embarrassed by it, "Pennies for Paris,” I’d say. These actions made my dream more of a concrete hope. (Can hopes actually be concrete?)

An expectation is similar to a hope, but is dependent on someone else responding in a particular way, or a particular result of an action. "Barring aging, I expect my car to run well, as long as I keep it properly maintained." "I expect Cher to return my phone calls." (I never said expectations had to be reasonable. That’s another post for another time.) Because expectations are dependent on a desired outcome, they hardly ever turn out how we expect them to, therefore turning them into a planned disappointment. Or so a therapist once told me.

A goal is like a target, something to aim for. I have a goal to complete my current works in progress. Plus, a goal is usually measurable. As a teacher, I would set goals for my class-“I will reclassify x% of my English Learners by the end of the year.” Goals can also be personal-“I will return to London before 2022.” Goals usually have a timeframe which can be adjusted as interruptions and obstacles arise and goals don’t tend to carry as much emotional weight that dreams, hopes and expectations do. 

So, how does this all relate back to my journey with my Twin?

As I’d said earlier, our initial meeting set off a period of deep personal introspection and healing to lead to a possible eventual reunion. I say possible because we both need to work on our own healing, and if one of is isn’t, then reunion won’t take place. So, setting a goal for reunion isn’t the right thing to do. I can’t dictate a timeframe for him to finish healing. After all, he is his own man. Nor should I set a goal for me to complete mine, for something unexpected from my past could always come up.

Having expectations that the reunion will take place are also inappropriate as they depend on someone else’s actions. What if his healing is extremely deep and painful? He might take longer than I, or he may be afraid of the pain he’s confronting and just not want to confront it. Yet. Or, likewise, I may encounter something very painful and choose not to confront it.

I can hope for the reunion to take place, but take no steps to speed it up. I have to let go of control. I have to let go of my past hurts. I have to let go of my expectations that it will happen. I must simply live my life as I see fit. 

With no expectations.

But, I can still dream.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Finding Friends

Have we came to a place where we need to spy on our partners to sustain our own sense of security? Has technology helped give rise to our increased insecurities and sense of distrust? 

I have seen a few videos where jealous females have hired, or been lured by, people to test their boyfriends’ loyalty-all of which was recorded on hidden camera. In one situation, a young man was in a gym and an attractive female personal trainer (who was in on the stunt) offered to help and after a while it was a bit obvious the boyfriend was aroused by the attention. The girlfriend was livid; after all, she was watching all this on camera. So, he sported an erection. BFD. At least he didn’t return the passes the trainer was making at him, though when she did offer him her phone number-for professional purposes-he did take it. In another video, the boyfriend was waiting on a street corner for his girlfriend to show up when an attractive female-also in on it-stopped and asked for directions to a place a few blocks away. She claimed she was new in the area and asked if he could take her there. He stood his ground and said no, that his girlfriend was due there any minute, and that the pretty girl had better leave before his girlfriend arrives because she has a mean temper. That girlfriend was very pleased. But, using a hidden camera team to test your boyfriend’s loyalty? Seriously? Granted, these were all twentysomethings and trust and security are qualities we need to develop. And that happens over time.

Recently, I had a conversation with two gay male friends which left me a bit overwhelmed and left my friends quite perplexed to put it mildly. I was even startled at the vehemence with which I responded. 

Both my friends had recently suffered losses of relationships-one due to a death, the other to a disastrous breakup. Both had started dating again and one couple had reached a point in their relationship where the new boyfriend suggested they use the “Find Friends” app available on iPhones.  

(This is an app that allows people of any relationship-family, friend, partner, etc.-to connect and then see where each other is through GPS.)

Friend 1 reported his boyfriend had said something like this, “I want you to know where I am. If I say I’m at such-and-such place, I want you to see that that’s where I am. I want you to know you can trust me.” (I'm thinking to myself, “Let’s start with trusting and don’t give a reason not to.”)

The other friend commented he thought that was great that they were having that conversation and that his own therapist had suggested to flee from anyone who refuses to use that app.

Something started stirring in me. It was a deep uncomfortable rumbling, not unlike the first waves building to the major jolt of a massive earthquake. And before I could stop myself, the epicenter ruptured.

“What a massive invasion of privacy!” (I believe a few expletives were also uttered but, honestly, I can’t remember.)

My friends were quick to explain that they didn’t see it like that. They used the app to let their partners know where they were. They wanted transparency.

Friend 2 continued, “I want my partner to be able to see when I am leaving work.”

“Why not just call him and tell him? A voice call is much more endearing and shows more effort in the relationship than simply relying on him to check in on you,” I countered. 

“There’s terrible reception with my carrier where I live.”

“Okay, a text then.”

“This just seems to work for us.”

“Well, I just don’t like it for me,” I said. "What if I decided to make an unscheduled stop at the mall to buy Potential Future Boyfriend a surprise gift? He checks in on me, questions me when I get home and the surprise is spoiled.” I was not comfortable with this idea at all. 

And, I know myself. I’d use the app to find out where Potential Future Boyfriend was and if I discovered he wasn’t where he said he’d be, questions would arise; they’d percolate, ruminate and stew in my mind, and his fidelity would be questioned-especially if he were in a gay place. And even if he were faithful, my self-esteem would be shaky. “He said he was going here, but he went there instead, he wasn’t telling me the truth, therefore I’m not good enough.” And I’m out of there. Or, at least the seeds of doubt have now been sown. Yes, I am a tad insecure. Especially in the beginning.

Plus, I respect myself. I am responsible; I am dependable, trustworthy and loyal. (I sound like either a Boy Scout or a Great Dane!) But, if someone can’t trust me enough to take me at my word then that person doesn’t deserve me. If trust is part of his baggage, I will help him unpack it, but in a more traditional, conventional, less invasive manner.

I understand trust is a huge issue in relationships and maybe more so in the LGBTQ community, but spying is not the way to build it. At least not in my book. And it needs to be built over time. Using this app from the very beginning is like handing someone a ready built escape hatch. One slip up and it’s over. It is tantamount to going through a person’s belongings looking for evidence of infidelity, which we sometimes find when it really isn't there.

And I see too many holes in the plan. The plan works only if the phone is with the person and turned on. I’ve gone off for a quick run to the store, leaving my phone at home. And once or twice I'd accidentally forgotten it when I was running a bit late to work. My phone is at home, but I'm not. Oops. (But, there’s an easy fix for this flaw. Simply implant a tracking device into each potential partner and voila! Problem solved!)

Let’s say your partner works from home. They send you off to work with a kiss, and tell you to have a nice day. They know how long of a day you work. Possibilities for rendezvous are endless.  But, wait, you're at work, and the app says they're at home alone. Or are they? (Here's a fix: install security cameras. Aren't there apps to connect a phone to a camera?)

And then there’s the self-saboteurs. Those who sabotage relationships because they want to end it, but don't have the courage themselves to do so. They leave breadcrumbs for you to follow, like Hansel and Gretel. "Here catch me cheating, so you will break up with me, so I don't have to do it."

I think what bothered me the most was that a licensed therapist was suggesting to base the potential of a  possible relationship on whether or not a particular partner would agree to use a Big Brother type of app. What happened to the idea of building a foundation of trust? “If he won’t use this app, he must have something to hide. Run! Run like the wind!” For me, it would be like starting off a relationship where I'm already considered guilty of a crime which was built on potentially circumstantial evidence that may never even exist and I may never commit. And this from a therapist? This adds an extra level of work to an already difficult relationship. Who needs that extra shit?

To be fair, I do see some value in the app:
  1. Parents can keep track of their children, or perhaps of an aging relative who has medical needs;
  2. Or, in the case of an emergency, like a real earthquake, tornado or nuclear attack, you can quickly track down family members.
I’ve come to believe that technology has taught us to distrust our own feelings, to avoid open and honest face-to-face communication, and to nearly detach from society at large as more and more people hide behind keyboards. Couples connect, and then break up via technology. My own ex-husband emailed me that he wanted a divorce while we were both in the house at the time. Technology made it easier for him to tell me, rather than talking to me face to face. 

I will concede that some people can handle this app. I obviously can’t. I value my integrity and my moments of privacy far too much.

For me, this app is an invasion of both.

Einstein apparently didn't say this, but the picture says a lot. 

Friday, July 14, 2017

The Glass Jar

As I continue along this Dark-Night-of-the-Soul/Twin Flame journey of self-discovery, self-awareness, or whatever it is, I recently had an epiphany. Or maybe it was just an idea. 

The articles I’ve read and online support groups I follow regarding DNotS/TF journeys all suggest one thing; as difficult and painful this journey through the Darkness is, it will end. And there are moments of Light while on the journey. "We can’t appreciate the stars without the darkness.” That’s true. The stars are out during the day, we just can’t see them until darkness falls. After all, there's too much sunlight during the daytime.

I once attended a community event at the Griffith Park Observatory in Los Angeles, where amateur astronomers had set up their telescopes. Many were focused on where the moon would soon be rising, but one gentleman had his telescope pointed in an entirely different direction. He asked me if I wanted to see Saturn. Now this was late in a summer afternoon, approximately 4:30, so the sky was still quite blue. Sure enough, I was able to see Saturn-rings and all-through the telescope in a bright afternoon sky. We just don’t think of the stars and planets being out there during the day, but they are. We can't appreciate them until we can see them. For ourselves. We just trust they're there.

So, I should appreciate those moments of light I do see while surrounded by the Darkness. Or, conversely, I should appreciate the Darkness, because it reminds me the light is always there, even if it is temporarily obscured. Maybe both points are equally valid.

Many comments on these articles and groups suggest the readers and members are afraid of the Dark Night. Yet, a few commenters reply that without the night we will never truly find our Authentic Self. We must go through the Dark to find the Light. “It’s always darkest before the dawn"; "Every night has its day", etc.

So, I will get through this and emerge on the other side. And all will be better.

I recently had a down day. I have been learning to trust that the Universe will assist me in securing what I need for my greater good. Plus, I’ve been learning to surrender to the what is. And I felt I was in great place in my trust and surrendering. I've been trying to remain positive regarding a complicated situation, hoping it would work out for my greater good. After all, I had seen many, many signs and synchronicities supporting my hopes and beliefs. Then, I came across something that brought me down; and, all of a sudden I was filled with doubt. Darkness filled me once again. But, I was able to catch myself before I sank into a full-blown depression again. I simply allowed myself to be down without attaching to it. I was able to acknowledge where I was, what I was feeling/experiencing. This incident simply reminded me that I am human. I may try to live trusting that everything will work out for the best, even if the “best” isn’t what I perceive it to be for me. My marriage failed, and I’ve come to realize it has been the best thing for me. So, it did work out for the best, even if I didn’t think so at that time. But, I also have to face the fact that I am human and am subject to those pesky, but necessary, emotions. And they will be with me forever.

So, I have decided to embrace this Dark Night stuff.

Many psychologists speak of our Darkness, our “shadow self”-that part of us that we don’t like to acknowledge; our deepest fears and those ‘negative, undesirable’ traits and we all possess. These are the subconscious traits that can lead us into trouble. Someone who has been cheated on a few times might project that onto any future relationship. Someone who has been the victim of abuse might project a feeling of unworthiness onto themselves. In order for us to heal and make better, healthier decisions, we need to honor our own Darkness, or shadow selves.

I don’t necessarily mean just honor it and know that it’s there. No. I mean embrace it, and maybe address it in a way that it is somewhat controlled, but not invisible.

I’m going to put my Darkness in a little glass jar somewhere in my mind. I’m going to set that jar on a shelf and let it be. I may take it down, look at it, and return it to it’s place on the shelf. Because if I hide the jar in a closet, or drawer, I might forget it is there and get a shock when it springs out unexpectedly. If, however, it is in a glass jar and visible, I can still see it, observe it and know it’s ever present. And I can keep my eye on it. 

If I put it in a can or a box, I might forget what is inside and just ignore it, likewise forgetting what is in there. But a glass jar is transparent, I can see the Darkness in the jar. (I’m kind of picturing it as a misty blue fog. I don’t know where that image came from, but it works for me.)

While making a mental image of the jar and storing it on a mental image of a shelf in a corner of my mind is indeed an acknowledgement of my Darkness, it's still a bit abstract.

But, what if it weren't abstract? What if it truly existed? What if it were actually on a shelf in my house? What if I wrote down those Dark qualities I'm working on and how I turned them around? 

For example, I recently stood in line behind an elderly couple in a casual ethnic restaurant. It became apparent they had never been in before and had lots of questions regarding the food. And being elederly, they had health concerns: cholesterol, sodium, foods they can't or shouldn't eat. I'm hungry, I want to order, they're indecisive. I'm impatient. I have two choices here: 1) allow the impatience to build, then frustration sets in, and my mood alters and I get upset thereby having a worse afternoon; or 2) recognize they are in a new place and allow them their time to make the choice appropriate for them. They are elderly, I'm on my way there, and I can give them the respect they deserve at this time in their lives. I chose to accept the situation as it is; after all, I can't change it. Why allow something to affect me that I have no control over?

If my jar were set up, I then could go home and write down a brief note for my jar: "Today I chose patience over impatience when I was in the restaurant behind the indecisive elderly couple. I had no control over their actions, but only of my reaction to the situation." Or something like that.

I'd just have to keep up on it.

And learn to recognize when the Darkness is creeping in on me and how to turn it around in the moment.

This could prove very empowering.

Or, at the very least, enlightening.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Judgments vs. Assumptions

We all make judgments and assumptions about others. But what exactly is the difference? And I'm not talking about legal judgments, either. 

To me, a judgment carries an emotional connection/reaction whereas an assumption is based on supposed evidence or experiences in the life of the one making the assumption. I think of it as a heart vs. mind matter; judgments are made from the heart, assumptions from the mind.

In thinking about this blog, I am reminded of a story arc in an episode of one of my favorite shows, Friends. One of the characters, Phoebe, is dating two men; Vince is a firefighter while Jason is a kindergarten teacher. Through the development of the arc, we get all the traditional comments about hunky firemen and their lack of sensitivity. We also see the sensitive side of the teacher as he comments on how wonderful it is to make an impact on a child’s life. Phoebe decides that a sensitive man is better in the long run, and chooses to break up with Vince. He doesn’t take it well, says he has more to share and sulks off to write in his journal. Phoebe then decides to break up with Jason, as she has just discovered Vince’s sensitive side which is now an added bonus to his “burliness.” She then goes to break up with Jason, who is working shirtless in his apartment when she walks in. He turns around revealing washboard abs and a nicely developed chest.

Assumptions usually lead us to making difficult and often regrettable decisions. And we all know what happens when we assume.

I remember a judgment I’d made as a teacher. One day, a new student was brought to my second-grade classroom. She had long, brown unkempt hair, a dirty pink sweatshirt, and a torn skirt. My heart went out to her because of her appearance. Her sense of unease suggested a lack of schooling, and my teacher-heart told me I’d probably retain her. Yes, I judged her based on her appearance and behavior, all in the first five minutes of meeting her.

She entered the room and I found a place for her to sit. In the diagnostic tests I administered to all new students, she did indeed test very low for a second grade student. Throughout the remainder of the year, she continued to struggle with basic concepts she should have mastered in Kindergarten or first grade. It seems my initial judgment was correct. Perhaps it was also based on experience, plus I did feel a sadness for her at my first impression.  So, I began the procedures for retaining her.

I also recently made an assumption while out grabbing a bite for lunch.

I entered the establishment and, while waiting in line to order, I quickly scanned the crowded dining room. This was a ‘fast-casual’ place where you order at the counter, they give you a number and then bring your order to your table. As I scanned for a place to sit, preferably inside as it was a very warm afternoon, I rested my eyes on a very handsome man. He had a full, dark brown, neatly trimmed beard, very broad shoulders and chest which stretched the t-shirt he was wearing.  He also had cantaloupe sized biceps. So, he obviously worked out. A baseball cap rested on his head and he appeared to be in his mid- to late-30s. He was seated with a group of men, so it appeared they were on their lunch break. 

I feel that some of the assumptions I made were justified-the size of his chest, shoulders and biceps were clear indications he worked out. The time of day, approximately 12:30, and the busyness of the restaurant clearly indicated a lunch rush was on. He wasn’t alone, so he was probably on a lunch break with his co-workers who seemed more involved in their conversation than he was. 

However, I also made some assumptions about him that were not necessarily justifiable. Yes, I was drawn to him based on his appearance, but I also came to the conclusion that 1) he probably wasn’t gay, and 2) if he were, he probably wasn’t the sensitive type.

Let me explain. First, I can’t be completely sure he wasn’t gay. My gaydar has been so broken lately, it’s not funny. But, it was just a feeling I had. Just because a man works out doesn’t make him one way or the other. There are plenty of straight men who are bodybuilders, too. But, very few of my gay friends wear baseball caps. His being rather withdrawn from the conversation with his co-workers doesn't define his orientation, but gay men are usually a bit more animated than he appeared to be. Plus, my experience with muscle men has been that they aren’t as sensitive as I like my men to be and they seem to be after just one thing. 

I'll never be sure about Muscle Man, as I’ll probably never run into him again because I rarely head down to where that restaurant is. So, I’ll just let it all go for now.

As for Phoebe, both guys ended up dumping her.

As for my student, I discovered she’d already been retained once, so I could not retain her again. I can only hope that somewhere, somewhen, everything clicked for her.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Detaching or Letting Go?

Many of us talk about letting go and detachment. But, what is the difference? Or, is there one?

I believe there is.

Neither is ever easy. I’m finding it very hard to learn how to detach or let go, whichever it is, and more so in certain areas of my life.

But, one particular area has taught me the difference and one strategy that can help. 

And that is my classroom.

I often have a very difficult student who loves to push buttons, test limits, etc. and in most cases I can remain calm and not escalate the situation. Later, that student may need help and I need to be there for him or her all the while forgetting what had transpired earlier. I am detached. I am not letting the past influence the present moment. Have I forgotten what transpired? No, because I often need to write down anecdotal records for parent/teacher/student conferences.

At the end of a school year, I dismiss the class for the last time and we all head to a nice summer break. I let them go into their future like balloons into the air. Gone, but not necessarily forgotten. Well, I can't actually remember any particular balloon I've lost, but I can recall certain students I've taught.

In terms of letting go of a situation or a person, it no longer affects us. It is gone. 

Yet, detaching and letting go is often harder in other situations. Take families/friends and politics/religion. In some instances, I can sometimes detach when a friend expresses a different point of view on a political or religious matter. In other areas, it's not so easy. Yes, we are all entitled to our opinion and the right to express it. But, when it comes down to my civil rights, my safety or possibly my life, I feel I must speak up. I find it difficult to accept a point of view which subjects or subjugates others to a lesser state. Aren't we all human? Don’t we all deserve the same rights? Doesn't "We the People" mean everyone?

The current political situation is unlike any other in my lifetime.

Tensions are high and beliefs are deep. Things have been said which have stirred long-held yet, submerged feelings. Friends, colleagues and even family members have found themselves even more divided across a political chasm. How do we move on from here?

I tried expressing my points of view over various aspects of this political circus. If I felt the person listened to me, I felt successful even if they didn’t agree with me, and still chose to vote against what I believed. Yes, it was harder when it involved something like same-sex marriage or LGBTQ rights because it did affect me directly. 

But, I learned one important thing which also stems from my career as a teacher. 

I can do everything to make a lesson relevant, interesting, focused, engaging, and fun. If the student isn’t ready to “get it,” the student won’t. If I express my point of view, and the listener isn’t ready to understand my side, they won’t.

I once taught a student in fifth grade who was a good kid. He was bright, articulate and enjoyed language arts. He struggled in math, but was still determined to try. I tried my best with him, but he never managed to get better than average grades. I later ran into him at the middle school where he came running up to me with a recent math test (Algebra, no less) shouting, "Mr. Ballam, I got a 96%!" I may not have been the best teacher for him for math, but he did get it later on.

And I have to be okay with that, and with the fact I, at least, tried. 

So, maybe I’m not the right messenger for that particular recipient. Or, the time is not right for the recipient to "get it."

And sometimes it still hurts. Especially when the topic is important to me.

A colleague was very supportive of me after my divorce and openly expressed her desire for me to find a new partner, but she drew the line at the 'sacred rite of marriage.' The 1,100+ Federal Benefits that accompany those two words, "I Do," didn't seem to faze her. I knew my argument would go nowhere. You can only hammer a nail into a fence so far before the nail can go no further and any further hammering would be fruitless. I had to detach from her as we still needed to work together. 

So, I tried to focus on where I felt I could be more successful.

And that helps me detach from other difficult moments.

Like these:

I've recently had many people tell me that I should get a dog. Or how much I need a cat. Or perhaps a roommate. Or that I shouldn’t eat this or that. I simply thank them for their concern and go about my business.

Because only I know my life, my path, my situation, myself.

Yet, I know where they are coming from.

I am truly grateful that they care.