Tag Archives: acceptance

Who am I?

In my workplace, they have announced that there will be layoffs soon. This will be the third time in 4 years. This time it is a little different, the previous layoffs were for staff reductions. The current layoff is due to outsourcing the department that I work in.

We still don’t know when, just why. As I try to uplift my fellow employees, as I was their supervisor until the last layoff, I try to focus on their talents and potential. During one very serious discussion, we spoke about who we were. There are lots of long term employees who are nervous about the upcoming cuts. I have 30 years in service. With so many years in service, many are unsure what they might do, or even can do. I reminded them that they are not what they do. Something I had to realize several years ago.

I shared with them that I once was very ill and that I felt that I could not continue working the position that I had. I told my manager at the time that I could not continue in that position and understood perfectly that he would need to replace me. I was ready to move on to whatever path awaited me, but my manager offered me another position that was less physically demanding and I remained with the company.

I came to grips that what we do isn’t necessarily what we are or who we are. Employers will find others to fill our positions. But the person we are cannot easily be replaced. I am a: father, son, brother, husband, friend, citizen, uncle, nephew, cousin, student, teacher, mentor, mentee, worshipper, and even a sinner. I am all these things. So even if I am chosen to leave my employ, I am still me. I will just have to seek other ways to use my energy and talents. I’m thinking about going back to school. But I will have to wait and see what will happen. Until then I will concentrate on who I am, my potential, my talents, my passions. I am me.

Choosing Stress

Stress can be both good and bad. When people read or hear the word stress, they usually think of the bad type of stress, at least I do. Do we choose stress? Not on purpose, I don’t think. We tend to react to stress, thus making an automatic choice to allow the stress to rule over us. Although we cannot choose what happens to us each day, we can choose our response to those stresses. Some situations are really unavoidable for us.
For instance, on my way to work, I can have a great ride but often there are traffic obstacles. I can let these delays upset me or I can just accept that these things are inevitable. I realize that I cannot control the universe and that things will happen no matter how much I might wish they would not.
Too often we react to stress as a victim and suffer through it. In reality, it usually is a waste of time to be upset. It generally steals your joy and prevents opportunities for moving forward. Allowing stress to eat at us eventually takes its toll. Stress can cause many problems in our bodies, Continuing stress can affect: your weight;, your mental health; increase your blood pressure; raise your cholesterol; headaches; stresses your immune system; and your digestion.
We can take steps to alter the situation or take steps to change the situation. We can realize that we might not be able to change it so we accept it and try to learn from it. And if possible, we can try to avoid it. These are all ways we can respond to stress. Each one of these responses will vary in success depending on the nature of the stress.
I would rather choose peace whenever I can. Most of the stresses are beyond my control. I realize that most of it isn’t even directed at me, I just happened to get in the way. My most recent stressor involves not knowing what is going to happen with my work. But not knowing isn’t always bad. Whatever happens, there will be something to follow. What might look like an ending might be the beginning of a new adventure.
“Letting there be room for not knowing is the most important thing of all. When there’s a big disappointment, we don’t know if that’s the end of the story. It may just be the beginning of a great adventure. Life is like that. We don’t know anything. We call something bad; we call it good. But really we just don’t know.” – Pema Chodron
Sometimes stresses are hard to avoid and we choose to stay with the situation or the persons who stress us. This might be a job situation or even a loved one. We need to examine what we can learn, decide what we can do, and maybe even have to make the difficult decision to remove ourselves from the situation or grin and bear it.  It isn’t always  a sign of weakness to move away from a bad situation, it can be a act of great strength and resolve. It might even open the door to a new and wonderful adventure.
There is sometimes no easy choice, but in the end, we still get to choose how we respond to stress, even when we don’t think we are choosing.

Is Messiness a Character Flaw?

Hi. My name is Harry and I am a slob. If you were to compare my life with the Odd Couple of years past, Felix Unger and Oscar Madison, I am very much like Oscar. Also, like that same couple, the other side of the relationship, my wife, is neat and organized. I do not go out of my way to annoy her with my disorganization but it happens that way.

For some people, a bed freshly made in the morning is the perfect beginning of the day. It makes all things right in the world. Humanity can continue on its journey forward. But it really makes no difference to me if the bed is made or not. It doesn’t even occur to me that an unmade bed has any impact in my day.

Clutter does not bother me. I do not like filth, but I do not mind clutter. I have always been disorganized. I was always scolded by my teachers for being disorganized. I could never remember the combination to my locker (so I jammed the lock, so it wouldn’t fully lock). My desk at work is a mess, but I get my work done, meet deadlines and exceed expectations. Albert Einstein quipped, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”

“We have a tendency to think of messiness as a character flaw, but these people are generally more productive than neat people since they spend more time getting things done than they do straightening up,” David H. Freedman explains. “Plus, they’re often more imaginative than neater folks, since creative people usually find a bit of clutter to be stimulating and expressive.” David Freedman and Eric Abrahamson were co-authors of the book, A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder – How Crammed Closets, Cluttered Offices, and on-the-Fly Planning Make the World a Better Place

So, is messiness a character flaw? Maybe, but I do not think so. Are messy people immoral? You know, the whole cleanliness is next to godliness thing. I do not think that is the case either. I honestly think it is just how my brain works. It just may be that I am constantly distracted by more interesting things, at least more interesting than tidying up. Or, maybe, the cost of tidying up may be less than the potential benefits. On one occasion at work, an employee was filing daily order papers, in order, after entering them into the computer system. The organizing, sorting and filing took about an hour out of her day. Almost no one ever needed to see those papers. I changed the system to a 31 day file, where she simply stuck all the papers in the file, unsorted, by day. Searching once in a while took a few minutes to half an hour, but it saved 20 hours of filing each month.

Neat people are fine too. The organizations help them feel in control. I know I control very little and I am in no way interested in being the general manager of the universe. My wife has files and places and she likes to know that everything is where it should be. I depend on her organization skills and am very glad she has them. As a side note, almost everything I put in a place so it would not get lost ends up never found. I almost always forget where that perfect place was. Oh well, it certainly is safe from me.

I think the difference is personality and how our minds are wired. I have accepted that I am messy. I am happy to be me. If you are neat, then I am happy that you are. It would be really great if we were accepted as we are. Sure, we have flaws, we all need to improve. I do make the bed because it makes my wife happy, not because it means anything to me. Making the bed really is an act of love. Besides, I’m just going to mess it up again later when I crawl into it. Such is life. This is Oscar, signing off.

Looking for Joy

   We all experience things that steal our joy. Fear, worry, anger and stress are common elements in our lives that steal our joy. Our economic stresses can permeate every part of our lives. We worry about job security and adequate income. Constantly flowing bad news from our televisions and radio cause us to fear the world we live in.

The Affordable Care Act has caused worry for many and relief for some. My medical coverage has had to change because of the ACA. Because of my zip code, I was offered an equivalent policy that did not include my doctors or hospitals. To keep the care that I have grown comfortable with, I chose a less efficient policy.

The stress that steals our joy the most is that over situations that we cannot change or have no control over. These things can be anywhere in our lives. Work policies, school policies, new schedules, pressures at home can all cause stress.

Sometimes, the joy stealer comes from within us. We might feel inadequate, just not good enough. We are all different. We all have our own skills and gifts. None of us is great at everything. We all deserve to give ourselves a break. Do we have flaws? Of course. If  it something we cannot change, then we need to accept that it cannot change. If it can change, then we can work towards improving that. This gives us the confidence and self-esteem that we need to defeat the things in our life that steal our joy.

Anger gets in our way. Sure, people and even family push our buttons. But we have to realize that anger can rob of us of our joy, our relationships and even our health. Anger is not always bad. Sometimes it is good to be angry. But mostly, it does not solve anything and usually makes bad situations even worse. Forgiving those that anger you frees you from the control that they have from pressing your buttons.

So how do we get our joy back or find the joy we have lost? Instead of focusing on what is wrong, we should seek out what is good. Look for the good things in life, in others and in ourselves. We are responsible for our own joy. It is our choice. Always do your best, but even the best of us cannot live up to other people’s expectation. You always want to improve but you still have to be yourself.

Know what you can and cannot do. Try new things out of your comfort zone. If you succeed, you improve your confidence. If it didn’t work out, you still have improved your confidence because you know you tried, you learned that it was difficult, and you learned where you need to improve if you want to tackle it again.

Life will sometimes let you down. That is just the way it is because there is so much that we cannot control. We can learn from all these times, both good and bad. Having expectations of how everything should be will definitely lead to disappointment. Again, even if people don’t live up to your expectations, be patient with them. They may need nurturing, guidance. It could even mean that the person cannot meet your expectations. Your expectations may have to change.

Bottom line, your joy can be be stolen by others, but joy is found within yourself. You don’t have to let others steal your joy. This is a difficult skill to learn. It is one that I struggle with. Even those of us that try to stay positive all the time allow others to steal the joy we have. It is up to us to return the joy to our hearts and minds by trusting in ourselves, trusting in God, and being thankful for all the good in our lives. Look for and find the joy in your heart.

It’s Always Been That Way

As humans, we usually look for patterns. Even if we go out and look for the exotic, we still find comfort in the routine. We feel comfortable in knowing that things will be as we expect them to be. Life is challenging and ever changing. Events and relationships have a way of upsetting our comfortable setting.

Many times at work, I question why we do things a certain way. The answer I usually receive is that it is just the way it’s always been done. I might even hear, it works, so don’t change it. I like to try to streamline reporting and tasks to make it easier for everyone involved. It usually works, but sometimes what is easier for me, isn’t necessarily easier for someone else. What I change might make someone else very uncomfortable. I am sure that you have had this happen to  you as well. What makes perfect sense to me might befuddle someone else and vice versa.

This can happen in relationships too. We rely on our experiences from our childhood. Our family worked in a particular way, whether we liked it or not, that is the way it was. Sometimes we don’t think it could be different because it’s always been that way.

In a family relationship, especially in a blended family, bringing all these expectations and traditions together can result in a confusing mix of priorities. What is very important to one person may not be important at all to another. It isn’t right or wrong, it is just different. We bring with us our own understanding of what is normal and natural and how it should be done.

What might be very important to one might make another downright uncomfortable. Usually out of love, we genuinely try to respect and honor the differences. But it is difficult to always be mindful of what is important to someone else when it might not hold such gravity with us. It is part of being selfless, but our minds and bodies will remind us of our own needs.

I think the difference between work and home is that we expect work to dictate our actions and activities even when they don’t necessarily make sense to us. We usually do not practice that same flexibility at home, which is both good and bad. It is good that I can be myself at home but sometimes being myself might irritate others, just as they might irritate me. Any time you bring two or more people together for any reason; there is a possibility of conflict. It takes concerted effort to agree to goals and actions and move forward. It’s always been that way.

So we need to be mindful that everyone comes from their own series of experiences that colors their behavior and beliefs. In a work environment, it is to recognize the talents and strengths of those around us. We need to offer our own strengths and talents to lead to success.  In our family relationships we need to recognize that each of us have traditions ingrained in us by our childhood. It is up to us to decide which traditions to keep, which to discard, and which to meld into the tradition of others. In a sense, we need to make new traditions that not only work for us but for those around us.

Change is tough. Challenges are real. Opportunities to be better exist. It requires us to be mindful. It requires us to be present. But then again, it’s always been that way.

I am not worthy

Even though I am not worthy, God still loves me. These words continually bring me great comfort. I am not perfect and won’t be. It is not in my nature to be perfect. Now knowing this does not give me an excuse to be unloving to people. It is still my responsibility to always try to do what is good and loving.

For several years, I had a young man work for me that was often disappointed in himself because he wasn’t doing everything perfectly.  I appreciated his efforts and stressed to him over a long period of time that what I wanted was his best.  I believe that when he was extremely overwhelmed, he finally figured it out. He could not always be perfect at everything he did. I am not sure where he learned this insecurity because I never explored that with him.

We tend to beat ourselves up when things don’t go as well as planned. Maybe we made mistakes or didn’t try hard enough. But it is up to us to examine the events and learn from them. Then again, it could be that we just might not be capable or talented for that particular task. I will never be a Russian ballerina. I am not Russian nor am I female and I am not particularly graceful. So I don’t beat myself up for not being a Russian ballerina. I know that is extreme, but the point is, there are just some things that others are better at.

I am not worthy but I try my best. I know that God is patient. I look at the men and women that God used throughout the Bible. These were not the top of the class, spotlight of the world people. They were everyday people. They often balked at the mission God gave them, giving God reasons why they were not worthy of such an assignment.

It didn’t seem to matter to God. He basically communicated that He knew they were not worthy but He would give them the strength and tools to get it done. I am not worthy but God has shown over and over again that He works through people. People, just like you and me.

I am glad that I do not have to be perfect to be loved by God or anyone else. If we had to be perfect, none of us would be loved. So, it comforts me to know that even though I am not worthy, God still loves me. He expects me to be human, which is a good thing, because that is what and where I am.

So don’t expect perfection from yourself or others. Try to be the best you can be knowing that you can never be perfect. Know that even though you can never be perfect, that God’s grace and mercy are already waiting for you.

Exploring Belief

During the last few weeks, I have been attending events at a Unitarian Universalist fellowship. I did not really know what to expect from a fellowship that embraces all beliefs but has no real core doctrine of its own. Although this movement had its beginnings in the Christian faith, this particular fellowship seems to have a humanist slant.

I had the pleasure to attend a speaker event that is held monthly featuring local organization leaders which highlights education of a social need, social justice issue, or exploration of a current event. I enjoyed having the opportunity to explore a current topic and having a meeting of the minds afterwards.

I did attend one of their regular services. The speaker, being sensitive to encompass the varied beliefs of the congregation, gave a diplomatically safe sermon with accompanying readings and singing. I was also very unsure what the symbolism and ritual represented.

As a pseudo-religious group, I believe it may act as a path in one’s wanderings of belief.  Most people who seek religious or faithful fellowship also seek direction. The Unitarian Universalist espouse that each person should find and then follow their own belief system. While there is nothing wrong with that, it does not provide the direction that most people seek.

I enjoyed the exploration of others beliefs and attitudes, which lead to better understanding. This exposure to other ideas is strengthening my own convictions and beliefs which are doctrinally Christian. The other attendants felt free to express and listen to ideas. I did find that refreshing.

I will probably return for the monthly speaker event and possibly their building bridges events. These give opportunities to explore and share cultural ideas.

65 Years of Marriage

Last weekend, I had the honor of attending the 65th Wedding Anniversary celebration of my Aunt and Uncle. It was a wonderful celebration. They have four children and each of them gave a presentation. They each stressed the love and lessons that they learned from their parents.

The one fact that I found most incredible was that they were both raised within a short distance from each other in southern Pennsylvania, but they met in Orlando, Florida. It was amazing to me the distance covered to meet a neighbor.

This achievement is exceptional, especially in a day and age where more than half of marriages end in divorce. It also requires longevity on the part of the couple. I believe that all the milestones are incredible. Divorce is too common. My parents were not divorced but unfortunately I have been. My first marriage lasted until just months before our 20th anniversary. I think, like many marriages, there was great focus on the children to the exclusion of maintaining the marriage partnership. I don’t think this is intentional, it just seems to evolve that way. It was a valuable lesson to learn. Our responsibility to our children is very important, but it is our responsibility to raise our children so that they can move on. We must still maintain the relationship we have with our mate because that relationship is meant to stretch beyond our children’s departure from home.

I always am gladdened when I see anniversaries announced in the papers. Long marriages should be celebrated. There are good reasons why some people divorce, but I do believe that it is much too easy to end a marriage. Our culture has become one of serial monogamy. It is an inspiration and a reminder that long marriages are possible.

I am sure that it was not always easy for them. They had their ups and downs like any other couple. In another couple’s interview, the wife said “We were raised to fix things that were broken, not just throw them away.” I think this was said quite eloquently.

I’ve started over again and have no hope of ever reaching a 65th wedding anniversary, but I certainly want to try for as long as possible. Relationships are work, sometimes hard work, but worthwhile when mutual appreciation, attention and affection is continually nurtured, offered and accepted.

Always Wanting

I had heard this poem read on the radio. I searched for it on the internet and found it. I was very surprised that it was written by a 14 year old and published by Dear Abby in 1989. It seems to be wisdom much beyond that of a 14 year old. He must have been a keen observer of those around him. The poem is called Present Tense by Jason Lehman.

It was spring, but it was summer I wanted,
The warm days, and the great outdoors.
It was summer, but it was fall I wanted,
The colorful leaves, and the cool, dry air.
It was fall, but it was winter I wanted,
The beautiful snow, and the joy of the holiday season.
It was winter, but it was spring I wanted,
The warmth and the blossoming of nature.
I was a child, but it was adulthood I wanted,
The freedom and respect.
I was 20, but it was 30 I wanted,
To be mature, and sophisticated.
I was middle-aged, but it was 20 I wanted,
The youth and the free spirit.
I was retired, but it was middle-age I wanted,
The presence of mind without limitations.
My life was over, and I never got what I wanted.

   When we fail to appreciate what we have and focus only on what we don’t have or what we want, we miss out on the love and blessings that we already have. Ambition is not bad, we need the ambition to improve our circumstances but not at the cost of losing sight of where we are and what we have now. It is good to want to improve ourselves. It is good to want to improve our situation, but not at the expense of relationships that deserve our attention. To work so hard for a career that we neglect our family, we miss out on times that can never be recovered.

There are things we should always want. We should always want to be closer to the ones who love us. We should always want to be closer to God. We should always want to grow ourselves and seek our potential. We should always want to be thankful for what we have. We want to be loved, respected, cherished, and appreciated, and we need to give those very things to others. Before we can get what we want next, we must appreciate where we are now. Being in the now is what gives us the direction we need, the steps that we need to take.   When you plan any journey, you must not only know the destination, but you must know the starting point.

By nature, we are never satisfied with what we have. We quickly become bored or restless and look for the next thrill or the next challenge to conquer. Contentment is a learned skill. If you don’t appreciate where you are, you might end up like our subject in the poem, never getting what they wanted and never realizing what they had when they had it. Like the old saying goes, you never know what you have until it is gone.

Even when we are faced with challenges, and we all are, we must not forget that blessings we have and the strength that we have, especially when multiplied with the strength of God and others. You were never meant to do it all alone. Connect with the ones you love. Connect with life. Remind yourself of what is ultimately important. Riches are nice, fame is fleeting, but it is the relationships we build that are important. And most importantly, connect with yourself. And, as always, I want the best for you.

Beyond Understanding

Last weekend, I attended a memorial service for a 7-year-old girl who lost her battle against cancer.  I will say right away that I do not understand why children have cancer or other dreadful maladies that take these precious souls away from us. I cannot imagine the loss to her family. Such an event cannot possibly leave a family unchanged.

As much as we do not like it, we can accept the cycle of life when someone dies at an advanced age, but to die so young seems so unreasonable. We know that people of every age die at the hands of accidents, negligence and the “free will” choices of others, but many medical maladies seem so far out of our control. Maybe someday we will find the answer that unlocks the secret to cancer and stop its runaway growth. I certainly hope so.

The pastor said that there is no explanation or reason that might comfort the family. I dug around my own thoughts looking for a reason. I thought about the fall of man at the beginning but even that didn’t satisfy my hunger for something understandable.

More than 30 years ago, Gary Mervis founded Camp Good Days and Special Times for his daughter, Teddi Mervis and 62 other children with cancer from Upstate New York. I am not directly familiar with this organization but I can easily imagine that this group not only brings fun and confidence to the kids but celebrates their undefeatable spirit. The founder not only poured out his love for his daughter and others like her, but allowed so many more to demonstrate their love as well.

In the newspaper after the memorial service was held, there was a comment about the little girl from her mother, I believe, that cancer was just a word. I can believe that, since children do not tend to dwell on their problems but look for the next moment of magic.

Death, of course, is a part of life. For some, it is the end. For others, it is a new beginning to something greater – a mere transition from here to the hereafter. I am not sure that death is much of a barrier for God. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead after four days. (John 11) Jesus commanded his apostles to raise the dead. (Matt 8:10) Peter raised Tabitha from the dead. (Acts 9:36-43) Paul raised Eutychus from the dead (Acts 20:7-12). Jesus himself was resurrected and a resurrection was promised to all those who believe. For many of us, this is a comforting thought but those of us left behind miss our loved one’s presence. Their memories in our minds and hearts keep them alive for us here, even as they live on in paradise.

I cannot imagine the intense feeling of losing a child. I can only sympathize with those who have lost children for any reason. Early childhood passing was common one hundred fifty years ago, but in our modern world of medicine and sanitation, it defies my sensibilities. My thoughts and prayers not only go out to the family effected last weekend but to all those families suffering with cancer or other medical maladies.  I suppose that children living with and dying of cancer is simply beyond my understanding.

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