What you see isn’t all that is me…

April 20, 2015

“Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.  Be kind—always!”  (Sent by TK) – as seen on the blog Jack’s Winning Words.

There is a Teddy Pendergrass song that has the lyrics: “If you don’t know me by now, you will never, never, never know me.” That song was about trust and understanding of a soul mate in a relationship. It was not about the personal battles that go on inside everyone that TK was taking about in today’s quote, but perhaps it cold have been.

I’ve title today’s post “What you see isn’t all that is me…”, it could have also been “What you see is what I let you see.” girl cryingWhat we share with others about ourselves and our personal battles varies greatly depending upon the relationship that we have with each person. Some in Robin Williams’ family knew about and understood the personal battles that he had fought all his life with depression; while others just saw the face and character that he “put on” in public. Those who expressed shock at his suicide didn’t really know him and didn’t reach out to help him.

In the funny papers some of these battle are depicted as the fight between the little angel on one shoulder (good) and the little devil (evil) on the other. Imagine how noisy our world would be if all of those little internal battles played out in public where you could hear them. Many other descriptive devices have been invented to explain the pushes and pulls that go on in the battles that may be raging in our minds mind: Yin and Yang from Chinese folk lore; Sigmund Freud’s Id, Ego and Superego; perhaps impulsiveness vs. logic; the old standby of love and hate; trust and suspicion. Most of these forces that shape our reaction to the world go unseen by most, even to the closest of companions, until they get severely out of balance and we “lose it” in front of someone.

single momWe are taught from early childhood to suppress external displays of emotion, especially those that might upset others. We are told “big boys or girls don’t cry” or “shake it off” and get on with life. So the battles that rage inside are buried beneath layers of self-control and the public is not invited in to see our angst or pain or sorrow. We keep “a stiff upper lip.” A part of why we may turn away from someone begging on the street or avoid someone who is crying uncontrollably at a funeral is that we don’t want to let our guard down and admit that we have similar feelings of inadequacy or insecurity or loss. We are fighting those battles inside and, so far we are still in control.

Perhaps it is that temporary loss of control that we fear or that embarrasses us. Men usually hate to be seen crying at movies that depict things that one should cry about; but, there are war movies and sports movies that do not leave a dry eye in the room. That’s probably a good thing, because one can get exhausted by the struggle to stay in control and keep thatlady under cloud stiff upper lip. A bit of a quiver in that stiff upper lip every now and then, perhaps even accompanied by a moist eye, is a good release of the tension that can build up. Women have the advantage there because they seem to allow themselves and other women the release of a good cry every now and then.

Beyond this rather simplistic view of things, there rages in many the more serious battle against depression. At the core of many of those battles is a conflict over self-worth. Sometimes those doubts were planted in childhood by parents who called that worth into question at every opportunity. Most of the time when you read the life stories about very successful people you will find that they had good support systems growing up; but sometimes the there are stories about how an individual rose from a chaotic childhood and overcame very high odds to become successful. In those stories, there is a common theme that they never stopped believing in themselves. Along the way they may have encountered others – a teacher or a pastor, a relative or just a caringfriend – who also believed in them and gave them encouragement and support. Those were the people of whom TK spoke in today’s quote – they didn’t understand all of the battles that this person was going through, but they were kind and supportive and maybe loving.  Without knowing it, they may have provided that extra little push to get that child or young man back on track to his/her dream.

If you are the person in need of that kindness and support, don’t allow yourself to become isolated. People are more supportive than you might imagine, but you have painted into cornerto stop hiding from them. You can win the battles that are raging within “with a little help from your friends” to paraphrase the Beatles song from the Sgt. Pepper album. Seek out those with whom you might be able to share the things that are troubling you. Often “talking out” issues or problems with someone else provides you with answers that you just couldn’t see by yourself or it at least releases some of the tension that may have built up.

For the rest of us; we can help someone each day by just being kind, by expressing interest and support and maybe showing a little love. If that person was sliding into a funk, your kind words of encouragement may provide just the lifeline needed to rekindle hope and reinforce their perseverance. Just saying “I’m so proud of you for what you’re doing or what you’ve accomplished”, is just the motivation that some may need to keep going. Asking the question, “is there anything that you girls huggingwant to talk about?” and then listening may be all that was needed to help that person keep it together. Maybe they just need a shoulder to cry upon and that’s OK too; just being there for them and lending your shoulder is enough. If more help is needed than you can render, then help them find it. Don’t try to be an amateur psychologist, just be a friend; often that is enough.

Be kind out there today!

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It’s call a friend day…

May 15, 2014

Today’s saying was embedded within other comments in the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

“A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you.” ― Elbert Hubbard

Most of us have friends like that, for some it is our spouse and maybe a few others. These are people that we don’t have to be “guarded” around. We can just be comfortable being ourselves and knowing that these people know us well enough to understand and accept the good, bad and ugly about us and still be our friends. Now, of course, if you have enough bad and ugly going on you may even drive most of these people away.

Guys tend to have buddies and women seem to have friends. I’m not completely sure where the distinction lies, but I friends holdi handssuspect it’s in how much is really shared. Guys tend to remain guarded even around their buddies; whereas women who are friends get the full load of sharing, hugging, crying and other emotions and displays that go along with true friendship.

There’s likely something very therapeutic and healthy about being able to get to that level with a friend that guys seldom experience. Perhaps the old deer camp thing comes close, but that’s more about getting the chance to let loose and act a bit silly. I suspect that some of the shared experiences of soldiers in a war zone also come close. Nothing turns a buddy into a friend faster than sharing a few firefights together.

Think about the people that you know, and know well enough to know all about them and still love them. These are your friends. If you haven’t talked to them lately, give them a call. Having real, live friends like that is much more important than having a bunch of people whom you may barely know “Friend” you on Facebook. Keep your true friendships alive.


Three little words that can change your life… Get a life!

April 15, 2014

Sometimes the simplest little things can have big impact on our lives. In this series of posts I examine very short sentences (each just three words long) that can make a difference in your life. If you have a three word sentence that changed your life somehow, share it with me and I will share it with the world.

Adrianna Huffington is currently making the rounds of talk shows pitching her new book Thrive. In it she apparently discovers that there is more to life and to what we should be calling success in life than the things that we’ve been obsessing over as a nation for quite some time. What she and many other suddenly enlightened authors and motivational speakers have recently “discovered” is that; rather than getting more money or getting a bigger house or getting a new car, most of all people need to Get a life.
chasing brass ring

The little phrase “get a life” started our it’s life as a derogatory statement to people who didn’t seem to be doing anything, at least not anything of interest to the hip people who were judging them. Of late it is more and more often used to admonish the overworked and stressed out over-achiever generation to stop burning themselves out and get real about what is really important – their family, their friends and their health. The message now is that it is time to reassess why you are working 80 hours a week and always fell tired. It is time to stop and assess what this is really doing to you and the ones that you love and for whom you believe that you are doing it. It is time to Get a life.

It turns out that there were probably some pretty neat things going on with your son or daughter at ballplayerschool or in sports during those overtime hours that you worked. There were things that your wife really wished you had the time to do with her instead of spending that extra time at the office. There were little league coaching opportunities that you were too busy for and games that were played while you were on the road. There were buddies that wished that you had time for a round of golf with them on the weekend, instead of going into the office. You missed all of that in the past, but you don’t have to miss the things to come, if you just Get a life.

Now you may say, Norm you don’t understand; but I do, because I now have to look back on my life with a lot of coulda, woulda, shoulda regrets. I didn’t get a life when my children were young. I was out shuckin’ and jivin’ and chasing those big bucks. I eventually got them. I had the big six-figure income and got the things that I thought were so important back then. What I lost were the precious moments that will never be repeated – the birthday parties, the ball games and recitals that I missed are all gone, never to be repeated.  I was working and I thought that was what I was supposed to do. There were smiles that I missed seeing, laughs that I didn’t hear, joys that were shared with those who were there, but not with me. I was not there to congratulate my son on a win or to console my daughter in a loss.  So, don’t say that I don’t understand – I do.  I was not there as a husband and a parent; but, fortunately I’m not too late to get a second chance as a husband and now as a grandparent. I’m having a ball with both now, because I eventually I figured out that what I really needed was to Get a life.

fansSo, whether you are inspired by this little blog or Adrianna’s nice new book  – Thrive; take the time to assess what it is you really want and what the best way to get that really is. If you can get past the “need” for that new car or bigger house and focus instead on the family that will ride or live in them you may be able to see that a little more money at work is less valuable than a little more time at home. Your kids won’t care if they have to ride in a three year old car, if they can ride with you to go to an amusement park or a ball game. Your wife won’t mind staying in your cozy little house if the man she fell in love with (and still wants to be with) is there more often, doing things with her. And you may find that, instead of pumping up that guy in the mirror every morning and putting on your game face, so that you can go out and work even harder for material things; now, you can relax and smile at him instead because he’s figured out what’s really important – he finally decided to Get a life.

Sure, I know that you’ve got to make the mortgage payment and put food on the table. Maybe you’re already starting to worry about putting the kids through college or have given some thought to your familyown retirement. Those are all important and worthy things to plan for and work for, but not to obsess over.  You can be successful enough to provide for your family without being gone so much that you’re almost a stranger to your family. You can have what you want in life if you focus upon what you need in life and not so much on what you don’t have. Socrates said it best hundreds of years ago –

 “He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have.”  I’m sure that, had it been in the vernacular in Socrates day; he would have gone on to say – Get a life.

 When the time comes for others to look back over what you accomplished in life very few funeral speakers spend much time discussing your business accomplishments. They try to focus instead on the impact that your life had on those around you – your family and your friends. They relate stories about things you did with those important people in your life, the fun you had the events that you shared and how important to them it was that you were there. Let’s hope that in describing your life they won’t have to observe a moment of silence instead.  That won’t happen if you Get a life.