Tag Archives: relationships

Quit Playing God

When I sit back and point out all the sins of others, look for opportunities to criticize them, and getting angry that they don’t do as I would do, or think as I think, I am playing God. It is not my job to pass judgment on everything that others do. So many of us take on the roll as the General Manager of the Universe. We actually believe that everyone should act and do as we expect them.

If taken too far, this causes resentment towards us in others and bitterness in ourselves. I believe that the root of bitterness is anger. When anger is closely held onto and unforgiven, it results in bitterness. Bitterness is a focus on the faults of others. We focus on those faults because we won’t forgive and we are sure that the person is going to once again let us down, or anger us, or hurt us in some way.

If we are not careful, bitterness eats at us, consumes us, and affects those around us. The solution is simple. To realize that I am not perfect. That everyone has their bad days, bad moods, and deal with their own situations. Often what they do or say has absolutely nothing to do with me. Once I realize that I have no real control over the universe and everyone who inhabits it, I can give myself a break from managing the universe and realize it’s just not my job.

Can’t I influence others? Yes, I can. But in the end, everyone is a free will creature and will do what they will do. I can pressure them, but if I push, they have three options: be pushed, push back, or just ignore me. It’s still their choice. They may do what I think they should do, but in their time, not mine.

Fred Rogers wrote in The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember, “Part of the problem with the word ‘disabilities’ is that it immediately suggests an inability to see or hear or walk or do other things that many of us take for granted. But what of people who can’t feel? Or talk about their feelings? Or manage their feelings in constructive ways? What of people who aren’t able to form close and strong relationships? And people who cannot find fulfillment in their lives, or those who have lost hope, who live in disappointment and bitterness and find in life no joy, no love? These, it seems to me, are the real disabilities.”

The solution is simple, to give up the anger, the judgment, and forgive. But even though it is simple, it is hard to do. It is hard for us to let go. It is hard for us to allow the world around us to be outside of our control. But peace and joy lie in our ability to let go and forgive. Anger without forgiveness is a bitter poison and a cancer that eats us alive. Will Davis Jr. in 10 Things Jesus Never Said: And Why You Should Stop Believing Them, wrote: “Once you decide to forgive, you initiate the healing process. Forgiveness gives your soul permission to move on to the higher and healthier ground of emotional recovery. Forgiveness is to your soul what antibiotics are to infection. It is the curative agent that will help to fully restore your soul. It doesn’t immediately remove the pain of defense but it does start you on the road to recovery.”

So, if you are weary from running the universe, take down your shingle, leave the office and let our Maker do the job. Relieve yourself of the anxiety and disappointment that others will not follow your plan, your expectation, your will on your time.

I am happy not to be in charge of the universe. It is too much responsibility. The help is unreliable because they will do what they do. They do because they are free will creatures just like me. They are imperfect just like me. They suffer emotions, uneasiness, fear just like me. And I hope that they feel joy, happiness and contentment, just like me. I hope that I don’t steal their joy. I hope that I remember to always see their value as God’s child with God’s heart. As Dieter F. Uchdorf said, “There is enough heartache and sorrow in this life without our adding to it through our own stubbornness, bitterness, and resentment.”

We are all imperfect. Do not be bitter, be better. Forgive whoever you might be angry with and then forgive yourself for just being human. There is so little in our life that we can control, but we can control our own actions. We cannot control the actions of others, even God has surrendered controlling his children because He wants us to choose. That is why we have “free will”, and so does everyone else.

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.

A Rose for a Butterfly

This Friday, February 7, 2014, I have a medical appointment that will put me near the grave of someone I love very much. Her name is Laura A. VerDow Santelli. She died on February 20, 2010. Like the previous years, I will put a single red rose at her grave.

I know that she is not there, not really, only the shell of her body that her soul left behind, but it is my way of remembering her. I do this for my parents as well. I buy a bouquet of flowers and spread them on their graves. I could not do it last year as I did not travel to the state of my birth. I will this year. My parents names are Virginia and William.

David Eagleman in his book, Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives, wrote “There are three deaths. The first is when the body ceases to function. The second is when the body is consigned to the grave. The third is that moment, sometime in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time.”

Mom, Dad and Laura, your third death has not come for I have not forgotten you and I promise to speak your names.

I look forward to placing a rose on Laura’s grave. She was my Butterfly. She loved life and was full spirited and fun loving. I do miss her and love her very much. Remember those that have passed on and say their names. Remember them for that is how they stay in our hearts. Because all of us, like my Butterfly, will have to fly off someday leaving our bodies behind.

Isolated but Connected

My wife and I have had an ongoing discussion concerning whether our ever connecting technology actually isolates us or connects us with others. My wife’s view is that technology isolates people because it precludes interpersonal interaction with others. Does technology interfere with people learning social skills and interacting with a diverse group of individuals? So the question is this: Does social networking isolate or connect individuals to other individuals? The answer to this, like so many others is, Yes. And if they do connect, is it a real connection?

Certainly, those individuals that are already uncomfortable with interpersonal relations can find a retreat in communicating over a social network. It allows them to communicate, connect but reduces the practice they need to be comfortable around others. Some very outgoing people love the social networking because it increases their influence. Although it may allow some people to avoid personal contact. I think there are many ways that technology keeps us connected. We can now connect to relatives that in the past, we only saw at weddings or funerals, or those that live far away. We can keep connected with our loved ones throughout the day with fast messaging.

And then there are those that stay connected. They want us to know where they are at all times, what they are doing and even what they are eating, I am glad that they are that excited about their life.

My stance is that people who wish to isolate themselves find the internet and social media a useful tool to be by themselves and yet have a window on the world. Which in my mind, is better than just isolation without connection, even without personal interaction.

So what do you think? Does social networking isolate or create real connections?

Choosing Joy and Contentment

It is cold here in upstate NY. I don’t like the cold. It had snowed for a week. The snow ended yesterday. Am I thankful for the snow? No, not really. My wife ran off the road last Thursday night and we had to get a tow truck. I am thankful that she is okay. I am thankful for all those that stopped to offer assistance. I am thankful for the tow truck driver who extracted the car. But I would rather that she did not have to go through the event.

I still don’t like the cold. It causes my joints to ache and my legs to hurt. But I am thankful that I am still mobile and still can work. Looking at the bright side of things, just like the spin doctors in the public relations arena, can help us choose joy.

Choosing joy is not easy. It takes lots of practice. I am still and always will have to practice choosing joy. Even though it is our own responsibility to choose joy, outside influences can certainly make it easier or harder. There are those, whether intentionally or not, seem to relish stealing our joy. Sometimes they are having a bad day. Sometimes they just want to share their misery. Sometimes they just might be jealous. And sometimes, it can be me.

We often can be disappointed if we have expectations as to the outcomes. We can impose our expectations on others based on what we believe, our experiences or our sense of right and wrong. We can also impose our expectations on others because of the way we think. What seems logical to us ay not be logical to others. Understanding that we control precious little can also help us choose joy by not allowing ourselves to be caught up in things that we cannot control. This is where contentment comes in. We can choose to be content by living within the control of our situation. We can control our responses. We can choose ways to cope with our situations. We can be in control of ourselves while realizing we cannot necessarily control what happens around us.

Again, it isn’t easy. It is a journey. Mother Teresa demonstrated to us that even when she placed herself amongst the poorest, the sick, and the dying, she could find joy in the love and caring she brought to others. Her example inspires others to do the same. I am sure she struggled and faced her own frustrations. She held on to her faith and hope.

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.

Remarriage Statistics

The US is the most remarried country of the western nations according to a study by Cherlin in 2009. In another study by Deal in 2005 found that one third of all weddings in America formed step-families.

I, myself, am in a remarriage. Being over 50, I am part of the statistic that 25% of people who remarry are over 50 years old.

Now, you would think that being married a second or third time, you would have the maturity and wisdom from your previous experiences. I would think that and do think that. However, even though I believe that a second marriage would be better, the Census Bureau in 2006 found that 60% of second marriages, and 73% of third marriages end in divorce. But the challenges of remarriage are different. You deal with complex relationships made even more complex with differing backgrounds.

In most remarriages, I believe the main drivers of frustration are money and children. Expectations differ greatly, especially in the way children were raised.  What was totally acceptable and a non-issue in one household nearly commanded the death penalty in the other. This can definitely cause some tensions when you try to blend the two households. It is not that anyone is wrong, it is just different. This exists in first time marriages as well, but I believed it is amplified in further marriages.  It definitely take time, patience and trust to build newer, stronger relationships with the spouse’s children, remembering that it is a new dynamic for them as well. This is true for both minor and adult children, even grandchildren.

Both partners may have established careers and their own nest eggs.  This can be a concern of the children as well as the partners. Communication about goals and comfort levels can help alleviate money differences. It is also wise to determine in advance how monies are to be dispersed if one spouse passes away.

A 2002 study by Hetherington showed that on average, couples in step-families have three times the amount of stress of couples in first marriages during the first few years. But with time, stress levels for couples in step-families can fall to normal levels found in first marriages.

I said earlier that I believe that I can use the lessons from my first marriage in my first marriage to improve the happiness in my second marriage. I will admit, that I was not prepared for the some of the unique challenges that have arisen. I plan on working hard in my relationship and working though the challenges. Love and marriage takes lots of hard work and its worth it.

Are you in a step-family relationship? What kind of challenges did you experience that you did not expect. How did you overcome those challenges. It may be true that 60% of second marriages fail. That means that 40% make it.

I know that the statistics are scary, but couples do make remarriage work. Marriage always has challenges and it is overcoming those challenges as couples and families that make relationships stronger.

Take care, stay well and be safe.

Family

This has been a great summer for family. This next weekend, I will be attending the wedding of my wife’s niece. Yet another joining of families. Family is a very fluid concept. Some people have a very strict idea of what family is or even means. Some hold to the idea of the nuclear family. Family dynamics today take on so many forms. Blended families are becoming more prevalent. Even those without the benefit of marriage, there are still new dynamics and relationships created all the time. There are now stepparents, step-siblings, half-siblings, multi-generational homes, and families comprised of friends surviving together.
Speaking only from my own experiences, I think the hardest part of being a blended family is to realize that it really is a new relationship. But each person brings with them the history of their own. One might come from a home in childhood that was organized, neat, orderly, and emphasized appearance and image. Whereas the another might come from a home in childhood that was cluttered, more relaxed, without much structure. This creates for some very interesting discussions and disagreements. Even in nuclear family situations, parenting and discipline questions arise.
I think another challenge is figuring out where you fit in the family, especially in a newly formed family. In a blended family, you don’t really replace the other parent, but you still have a place in the family. In a traditional Mom, Dad, child family, there is usually no jealously from the Mom when Dad spends time with the child. But when the parent isn’t your own, as in a blended family, jealously can be present. It seems to be built in. It takes a lot of love and patience to create solid relationships, even in biologically related. Whatever your family dynamic, it is important to remember that all persons need attention, affection, appreciation and respect.
During my wedding, we had a unity ceremony to symbolize the combining of two families. As beautiful as the symbolism is, the reality is that it takes hard work, patience and trust to build real relationships. It is sometimes difficult to keep relationships strong with your own children let alone build them with your spouses children, when they are not yours. I think it is worth it.
Family is the one idea that I think we all need to practice. I know that it is so easy to caught up in surviving that we end up isolating ourselves from the world. I find that at the end of my workday, I really just want to relax and rest. I have never been one to plan outings or get-togethers so I appreciate that my wife’s family is good at that. This gives me a chance to interact with other family members and establish better relationships.
Happy family!