Is it time for you to switch gears? Can you do better?

March 3, 2017

“Life is like a 10-spreed bicycle.  Most of us have gears we never use.”  (Charles Schulz)  – from the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

Jack went on to write: An old song says, “You can be better than you are.”  We all have potential…unused abilities.  I’ll never forget a high school teacher who handed a test back to me, saying, “Jack, you can do better than this.”  He was right.  We all can do better!  In school, at work, at home, in relationships.  Is today that day when we begin to use a new gear?  I can do better!  I will do better! 

If you think back to your bicycle riding days (assuming that they are over, like for me – long over in my case) you may have used 2-3 of the 10 speeds on your bike. Sometimes youbicycle-rider-1 might have shifted down to a lower gear when you were going up a hill and pumped a little bit harder and faster; but for the most part you settled into a comfortable gear for the flat portions and just pedaled along. Life can be like that. We all hit tougher (uphill) stretches during which we must shift gears and pedal harder and faster; but for the most part we just settle into a comfortable gear and pedal along through life.

Perhaps it’s time to challenge yourself. Can you do better at work or in school? Can you do more to have a better relationship with your life partner and family? Can you do more in your community to help others? Can you do better? Maybe it’s time for you to switch gears and pedal harder and faster in life. Why? Because, in your heart, you know that you can do better.

The thing that works well in this analogy is the fact that switching gears is a conscientious effort. In times of emergencies (the uphill times in life) that switch of gears happens without giving it a lot of thought. The situation demands that you do something different, that you switch gears; and, you just do it. You may go into problem-solving mode or even life-saving mode; but, you definitely do so in a different gear than you had been in – you swing into action.

Making the conscientious decision to switch gears in your day-to-day life is more deliberate, but can be no less demanding of you to pedal harder and faster. Making the bicycle-rider-2decision to volunteer at a local charity means switching gears. Making the decision to work with special needs children or adults requires a switch in your gears. Deciding to volunteer at your church or maybe at your child’s school will require choosing a new gear. Even the decision to just try to be a better partner in your life-relationship or a better parent to your children means choosing a new gear and pedaling harder. Doing those things means raising your life to a new, higher level and requires a new, uphill gear and that you pedal faster and harder.

All of these decisions require a commitment first that you want to change and you want to do better. It would be sad, indeed, if you ended life with a bad case of the “coulda, woulda, shouldas” about gears that you never used because you wouldn’t make the effort to switch from your comfort zone and try something that required you to use a new gear and pedal harder. You don’t get extra credit at the end of life for turning in unused gears.

So, think about your life and the gears that you aren’t using. Can you do sobicycle-rider-3mething out of the ordinary to help someone else? Can you put more effort into your relationships with your family members? Can you show the world your faith in actions, rather than just talking about it? Can you do better? Can’t we all?

Have a great day – Switch gears and pedal hard!


The struggle to be you…

February 11, 2017

In a recent post to his blog – Jack’s Winning Words – Jack Freed shared this quote – “The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe.”  (Rudyard Kipling)

We all struggle to some extent with the need to be an individual while living within the “tribal” space defined by our society. One could look to the TV show Alone to see the consequences of really living outside of the support system that the tribe (society) provides us all. Even in that TV reality series the contestants were allowed to take with them some of the things that are only available to us all because of the societies in which we live. Still, the conclusion that all of the contestants eventually come to is that they’d much rather be back with the tribe.

For most of us the struggle to retain an individual identity within our societal structure does not involve being isolated in some far flung corner of the world. For the most part, our decisions about what we should or will do involve the decisions that we make about obeying or ignoring the rules of that the society has put in place, which we call laws. Most of the time obeying the laws is a no-brainer, since many of them were put into place to defaced-traffic-signprotect us from some common danger or to provide some common good for all. Sometimes obeying a specific law may seem to be a personal inconvenience, given whatever circumstances brought you to the point of having to make a decision about obeying them or ignoring them.  Stop signs, no turn on red signs and don’t walk until you are told you can walk instructions are examples of widely ignored rules (laws) that people make conscious decisions to ignore from time to time.

Religion is another area in which we make conscious decisions about what to accept and what to ignore or at least not honor in our everyday lives. The “tribe”, in the case of religion, is the church or denomination of the church. Each separate denomination has created its own set of rules and interpretations of the beliefs upon which religion is built. Perhaps the church was way ahead of the current administration in Washington in its use of the concept of “alternative facts”. Even the Bible, upon which all of the Christian christian-denominationsdenominations base their beliefs, has been subject to repeated changes and interpretations by various tribes within the Christian religion. There is a common core of beliefs that runs throughout Christianity; but, upon that core various tribal split-offs have imposed their own set of rules and interpretations. There is Yiddish proverb that I saw on Jack’s blog that probably applies to that – “God created a world full of many little worlds.” Maybe that proverb was created to describe the fragmented little tribes that Christianity has evolved into.

I think the little saying that we started with today was referencing the need to maintain some level of individual thinking and decision making to avoid being swept away by society (the tribe) into something that we may not want or with which we may not agree. When we are young children, we tend to “learn” how to fit in and do what is right by watching others and imitating them. We certainly get lots of advice from parents about what is right or wrong and whether how we are acting is good or bad.

At some point in our growing up phase (sometime pre-teen but almost always in the teen Gothyears) almost everyone hits that point where they start to rebel against some things that they are being told to do or about being told how to act. For some that rebellion may manifest itself in their appearance and for some in their choice of friends or behavior when in tribal (societal) settings. For some the rebellion never really takes hold and the mantra of “go along to get along” becomes their way of life. For all of us, the need to continually make personal decisions on the choices that life presents means that we are forever evolving as individuals.

The struggle to find your own identity is always going to be a balancing act between the things that you accept from the rules of the tribe (Society) and the things that seem important enough to you to cause you to go against the rules or mores of the tribe, or at least a part of the tribe. That’s where the Yiddish proverb comes in handy. It turns out that we don’t live “alone”; we live in lots of little worlds or tribes and we may even be able to be members of several of those tribes (worlds). In today’s worlds there is an attempt to define membership in simplistic terms such as “us and them.” Members of each little disagreement2world try to compartmentalize one as for or against something and allow little to no room for a middle ground. The decisions about which worlds to live in are what we struggle with to define ourselves as individuals. Those same decisions contribute greatly to what we call character in people.

Perhaps, as you struggle with defining what being you means, the most helpful thing to keep in mind is that being you and having your own opinions about things is not necessarily a matter of right and wrong. It is a matter of making personal choices for yourself. Others may, and will, make different choices and you need to accept that this is OK, too. If you look for them at all, you will see that, even people with diametrically opposed views from yours on some things, at the same time share many of the choices that you made when you accepted membership in the larger tribe (society) that you both live in. We have a term for accepting the differences that may exist without rancor – civility. If you extend civility to others, you will likely receive it in return; and, you will find that you can still be an individual within the context of the tribe.

Being a member of the tribe (society) need not overwhelm you, but it does provide some useful boundaries and guideline about what is acceptable and not acceptable behavior, if one wishes to remain a member of the tribe and not to be alone. Young people in their explainingrebellious phase often experience hard bumps into those boundaries and learn lessons about life “the hard way.” We all will continue to bump into laws, rules, ordinances, restrictions and other barriers to doing whatever we want to do as we age. If we are civil about those encounters we will likely be able to find a way to be happy as individuals and stay within the tribe.

Have a great journey on the trip to discover who you are. Maybe I’ll see you along the way. Stop in and visit my little world.


Hold on, the future is starting now…

January 10, 2017

“I know not what the future holds, but I know who holds the future.”  (Homer) – as seen recently on the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

VR2Isn’t it amazing that the wisdom of so long ago, such as that of Homer, is so applicable in today’s world. One wonders if William Shakespeare was somehow channeling Homer when he said – “It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.”

In more modern times Steve Jobs put it this way – “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”

I might have added under Steve’s category of whatever (things to trust) that trusting God is a good way to face the future. I have posted here before about the cathartic moment in my life when I finally surrendered myself to God and prayed “Not my will, but thy will be done.” From that moment on, for me the future held not fear, but promise.

How do you face your future? Is the future a scary place that you’d rather not think about or a grand adventure just waiting for you to jump aboard? Do you see the future as being full of dangers or full of opportunities? Are you trying to hide from the future or boldly woman-prayingjumping into it? How have you prepared for the future? Have you been sitting in fear contemplating all that could go wrong or confidently striding forward in anticipation of all that will go right?

The future is in your own hands; however, you don’t have to face it alone, God is always with you. He has told you that –

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

So, like Steve Jobs said; do not worry about connecting the dots of your future. God has a plan for connecting those dots and will be there to help you. He will give you the strength that you need, the perseverance that is required and the resolve to get to that future, if you just trust in His plans for you.

The future starts now, are you ready to go?


Don’t be a phubber…

December 28, 2016

In a 1997 movie called “Flubber”, an absent-minded professor, played by the late Robin Williams, invents a super bouncy rubber product that is the central theme in the comedy movie. More recently a phenomenon called phubbing has swept the land. Jack Freed wrote about it in his blog Jack’s Winning Words recently.   ‘Phubbing’ was coined in 2013 and is a mix of words ‘phone’ and snubbing’ It is the act of snubbing someone in a social setting by looking at a phone. P-phubbing is the act of ignoring a partner by being distracted by tech. Snubbing your partner by checking your phone can cause them to become depressed and anxious.

Jack’s post was titled “Stop looking at your phone.  Look around you.”

I must admit that I’m a bit of a phubber these days. I have a really hard time not taking my phone out to see what just came in, if it dings or make any other sound to indicate that a phone with msgnew email or message or Instagram has just arrived. There is a sense of immediacy about it that demands me attention. My wife finds that to be both disturbing and sad. I agree when I sit and think about it, but so far cannot overcome the urge to see what is happening that caused the alert sound.

I’m not sure that my behavior actually fits the definition of Phubbing, since I am not overtly trying to snub those around me, although I am ignoring them while distracted by my phone. Perhaps it is more like the epidemic of distracted driving that has caused so many accidents since he rise of the smartphone. I guess one might call this phenomenon “distracted living.”

Whatever it is, the advice that Jack’s blog contained to stop looking at your phone and start looking at (and interacting with) those people and things around you is sound. One cannot have a relationship with a device and even though the visual experiences available group-of-girls-looking-at-phonesthrough the phone are amazing, they do not contain the other sensory cues that real experiences contain and are thus somewhat one-dimensional. The sights may be wonderful, but the sights, sounds, smells and feel of actually being there and in the experience are far more wonderful and lasting.

Some people think of this activity as “multi-tasking”; however, I think that might be best described as “doing multiple things poorly at the same time.” If you don’t focus upon the things and people at hand you don’t really understand what is happening around you or catch the clues from the people that carry the real messages that they are trying to get across. Perhaps the most important message is the request – “Look at me.” You cannot be there for someone if your eyes and mind are focused somewhere else, like on your phone.

Don’t let distracted living rob you of the truly important moments in life when others couple-looking-at-phonesreach out to you for help or to show affection. You cannot really love your phone, nor can it show you love back. Besides that, real life doesn’t need to be recharged every 8-12 hours. Your significant other shouldn’t need to tape your phone to their forehead (see Jack’s post) in order for you to look at them, nor will seeing a Facebook post about your children’s sports events really be the same as being there for them. Put the phone down and pick up life again.

Oh, sorry, I’ve got to go; I just heard a ding from my pocket.


Do you hear what I hear?

December 21, 2016

“All people want is for someone to listen.”  (Hugh Elliott) – from the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

The title to today’s post is the title of one of the most popular of Christmas songs. Unfortunately most of us don’t take the time to “hear” the most important things of all – what other people are saying to us. That can be especially true when those people are in listenneed and trying to reach out for help. Sometimes, as Hugh Elliott said, all they need or want is for someone to listen to them. In our society today we are far too distracted by other things to really listen or perhaps far too focused on what we want to say next to pay attention to the person speaking to us.

I’ve posted here in the past about being a good listener as a part of being a good friend or helper. Being a good listener takes focus and a selfless commitment understanding what the other person is trying to say. Many times you might pick up as much content from the body language and timbre of the speakers voice as from the words themselves. Many caringpeople have trouble finding the right words to get across what they are trying to express, but the fears and concern or maybe the pain that is driving the conversation will come through if you just listen. You might also be able to pick up on the level of guardedness that the person is using, which may be an indication that you are not yet truly a trusted adviser. That should cue you to try to build that trust.

Sometimes just “lending an ear” is all that is needed. Maybe the person just needed to “get it off my chest”. Having someone to sit and listen to their story can be cathartic for the speaker. Sometimes they will actually work things out right there in front of you whilebeing kind 1 they are speaking. The opportunity to verbalize their issue to someone else helps clarify it for them, too. Sometimes they might just need someone to say, “It’ll be alright” or “you’ll make it through this.” Maybe your time and attention is all that they needed to reassure themselves.

Sometimes you may actually have to act as a counselor or guide to help them see a way out of the situation or at least sew where they can go to get further help. You can’t be as helpful if you aren’t listening and paying close attention to the details. Maybe you feel like you have enough problems of your own and don’t need or have time to take on the problem of others. What a sad world of lonely, troubled people we would live in if that were the case. We’re all in this thing called life together and all of us will eventually hit issues or problems that exceed our ability to deal with them by girls huggingourselves. The time you spend listening too and helping other is just paying back or paying forward for the help that you will need and receive some day.

The Holiday season can be especially difficult for people who may be undergoing hardship or loneliness. So, beyond listening to the music and carols of the season, listen for those who just need someone to hear what they have to say. The gift of your time and attention to those people may be the best gift that you give this Christmas.

Do you hear what I hear? Listen.


Reach out and touch…

December 20, 2016

“Strange, isn’t it?  Each man’s life touches so many other lives.”  (Clarence) – from the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

Remember when you were little and your mom would take you into a shop or maybe to someone’s house and she would tell you, “Be careful and don’t touch anything”? And even though you were careful, you did touch some things and sometimes something got knocked over and some even were broken. Remember how you felt bad and maybe even cried? Did that make you stop touching things? How about touching people.do-not-touch

Well, life can be like that. Sometimes, even though we’re being careful a relationship that we’ve had with someone else gets broken. Maybe you didn’t set out to break that relationship. Maybe it was just an accident. Then again, maybe it was something that you did knowingly. Maybe you said some things about them that you now regret. Maybe you rejected an invitation or left them off a list of people that you invited to something. Maybe you got to know more about them and discovered some things that are just too alien or repulsive to you to be masked by the things that you liked about them. For whatever the reason, maybe that relationship failed.

You cannot let that failure or a few failures stop you from reaching out and touching others and allowing them to touch you. Maybe you will become a bit more guarded and less quick painted into cornerto open up to others, but you cannot allow yourself to become an island, set apart from others, unapproachable and cold. Man, by nature, is a pack animal. We want to belong to a pack and run with a pack. We are social animals and being social means touching others and letting them touch us. The fact that every now and then, even though we might be being careful, we break something doesn’t mean that we stop trying, stop interacting and being social.

There is a term in social media circles for those who never join in the posts, but who just sign in to the group and read all of the posts. They are called “lurkers”. In real life there are always people who hover around the edges of events like dances, watching from the periphery but never joining in the dancing. They are sometimes called wall flowers. Both of these examples are classic cases of people who look but don’t touch. They are also sadask for dance cases of people who are not touched by others, because of their reticence. If you see someone like that, make the effort to reach out and touch them. They need that interaction and you may be surprised that they actually have the potential to make significant contributions to the conversation, once they are pulled out of their protective, “don’t touch” shells.

In his post today, Jack wrote about the classic Christmas movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” and how the main character in the movie, George Bailey, was shown by his Christmas angel how important his life is within the lives of others – how he touched them. Like George, most of us don’t stop to consider what impact we might be having on others. In fact, most of the time we have no idea what the impact is of anything that we have done.

Charity advertisers know how to plug into that feeling by showing you pictures of the people that your donation will be helping, so that you feel good about putting your dollar into the bucket. There is another ad for a breakfast food that shows the person who walking manconsumed that food spreading a smile to the many people that he meets that day. His smile is then passed on to another person and from them to yet another.is smile is then passed on to another an then from them to yet another. How nice it would be if we could see the kind word of greeting that we speak or the smile that we share being spread from person to person throughout the day. Maybe we have to use our imagination, but the ripple effect of you smile or you friendly “Hi, how are you?” does spread far and wide.

There is a theory called “Chaos Theory” that postulates that all things are somehow interconnected. Under Chaos Theory the wind created by the flapping of a butterfly in China eventually has an impact on the weather in America, even though the local impact in China was minute. Perhaps the smile that you share today in America will cause someone else to smile in China a few days from now. Maybe the meal that you provide to someone in Africa today because of the dollar that you dropped in a donation bucket will be enough to sustain a child who will grow up to be a great leader in the future. Maybe the hug that you give someone who is hurting today will be enough to draw them back from the abyss and get them started back to a more normal life. Those things will never happen if you don’t reach out and touch others in some way.

Along the way, as you reach out and touch others, you find that you are touched by othersbeing kind 1 and that they have an impact on your life, on the decisions that you make and on how you feel about yourself.  We all seek the approval of others, but what we are really seeking is to be touched by them – to allow our souls to feel the touch of sharing with another’s soul. The feeling that it really is a wonderful life doesn’t take place unless you allow it to happen by reaching out and touching others and them allowing them to touch you.

Reach out touch and be touched today…

 


What does depression feel like?

November 24, 2016

Recently I wrote a post here that focused upon what autism feels like to someone on the autism spectrum – see my post https://normsmilfordblog.com/2016/11/23/trying-to-understand-others-without-a-frame-of-reference/. As the author of the story that I linked to stated, it was just her personal description of how autism affected her and her life.

A line that I found to be very apropos about almost any health issue like autism was referenced elsewhere on the same autism site –  anonymouslyautistic.net – “if you’ve met one autistic person, you’ve met one autistic person”. In other words, you can’t and shouldn’t  generalize and characterize or stigmatize an entire group of people based upon one experience or one meeting with a person who is somewhere on the autism spectrum.insight Every person who lives somewhere along that spectrum is different and must be accepted with those differences.

The reason I found that site and the story that I referenced so interesting and useful is that it forces the reader to try to understand that they can’t really understand. It exposed a different way of looking at things and life that I called a “frame of reference”.  One ends up admitting that they can’t even imagine what that different frame of reference must feel like and that at least provides the basis for doing something more useful, like accepting
and accommodating the actions and needs for someone who is viewing life through that different frame of reference.

I don’t intend to solely focus here upon the topic of mental or health issues in general; however, the research that I did for that first post did take me off to a journey of discovery about the information available and the number of web sites devoted to providing support for a wide variety of health issues. The site that the article about how autism feels  was posted on – The Mighty – is particularly helpful in providing information about an enormous range of health issues, both physical and mental.

depression4I did decide that, from time to time, I would pursue the approach of looking at posted articles that deal with or focus upon how a particular condition or illness makes one feel. The reason is that I believe that gaining an understanding what is causing a person to act or react the way they are is an important first step towards accepting them as they are and helping them, if they wish to be helped. It is just as important in learning when and how to back off and let the person have the space and time to deal with what is going on in their life. A recurring theme that one sees in the writings of people struggling with some of these issues is how annoying the bumbling efforts to help from well-meaning, but ill informed, “friends” can be. I am not a fan of the “intervention” approach to this topic.

Anyway, as I looked through the huge list of topics on The Mighty, one that I could relate to was Depression. I have known many people who suffered some form of depression anddepression2 believe that I went through an episode (or bout) of depression in my own life a decade or so ago. For me it was just an episode and not a recurring or continuous thing. Many who suffer from depression cannot say that and must seek help in order to live a “normal” life. So, I set out to find an article on-line about what depression feels like, and found the site – http://www.wingofmadness.com.

While, I’m not sure about the site name, it does contain the same sort of what does it feel like and how can I deal with it advice as the autonomously autistic site and it is set up in the same way, as a site for those dealing with the issues to share with others. On that site was the post – What does depression feel like?

depression3So, what does reading through this article this do for you? It gives you yet another “frame of reference” with which to better equip you to accept the person in your life who may be suffering through depression, whether episodic or on-going. It may help you recognize the symptoms that are manifested when one is depressed and perhaps better understand why they do certain things. Perhaps it will help you to not make the mistake of writing off that person or ignoring their actions in hopes that they will just “snap out of it”. If you have a friend or loved one in your family who may be suffering with depression, you may find this article at the same site to be helpful –

http://www.wingofmadness.com/how-to-help-someone-who-is-depressed/

To some, posting this during the holiday season may seem to be inappropriate. However, for almost all of the physical or mental conditions that are referenced on the sites that I pointed you to; holidays tend to be the most stressful and difficult to deal with for people suffering through the misunderstanding of others about their view of, and reaction to, these “special” occasions.girls hugging Rather than getting down on someone for being a “wet blanket” during the holidays, take the time to think about how they feel and find a way to help them feel more accepted and comfortable within a setting that is perhaps frightening and overwhelming to them. Sitting quietly with them in front of a fire and giving them a hug, may be the best present that you can give this Holiday season.

Let them know what love feels like.