Taking Sides

I have a son who is very careful not to take sides on an issue or make decisions about things before he does some research and considers the facts from both sides or perspectives on any given issue, whether it is a personal choice or situation presented to him or a news story or more of a political issue.  I am very proud of him for that and wish more people would do that.  It seems nowadays that there is a growing need for everyone to take a side on every issue whether they know the facts or not.  There is very little middle ground anymore, and it seems too many people are not willing to hear anyone else’s perspective other than their own.

I find this to be true not only with political issues and news stories that receive national attention but also in my personal life.  There ARE two sides to every story. Sometimes one side has much more validity to it, but there is still the other side to at least consider.  I do try to see both sides of a situation whenever possible and not just automatically take one particular side or the other, and sometimes I don’t take anyone’s side at all.  It should be OK to feel neutral or indifferent about an issue or see at least some of the validity to both sides of a situation and consider what each person might have been thinking or feeling, which in turn caused them to behave a certain way.  It is always easier to do this though when you are looking in on someone else’s situation vs. being in the middle of your own.

It is not humanly possible for one person to always be right and never make mistakes or contribute negatively to situation, but there are people I know who think along these lines.  It is very difficult to get them to see that at least sometimes they are part of the problem.  And when they don’t realize they are part of the problem, they can’t be part of the solution.  Instead, they blame everyone but themselves for their situation and expect everyone else to change without being willing to do anything differently themselves. This often leads to a downward spiral of negativity and makes positive change very unlikely.

The same can be said for the bigger issues.  We can’t make progress if the majority of people grab onto one or the other end of a rope and tug on it as hard as possible.   We need to not be so quick to take sides to begin with until we have gathered enough information to make an informed choice, and we need to be willing to be open minded enough to sometimes admit that maybe we don’t always make the best decisions or that our perspective or perception of the situation isn’t always the right one or in some cases, the only one.

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Getting Even

The need to get even with or get back at someone whom you feel has wronged you somehow is pretty strong for some people.  Unfortunately, people who behave in this manner don’t usually see that it is counterproductive and just adds fuel to the fire.  If your spouse or sibling or anyone else does something that annoys you or they don’t do something you think they should have, doing something that is going to annoy them or make them angry in response is not going to make them want to do what you are asking the next time or be more careful not to annoy you.  It is most likely going to have the opposite affect and make them less likely to want to do anything to make you happy.  Finding a constructive way to express your frustration is a better solution, even though it is sometimes difficult to think along these lines when you are in the heat of the moment.

I think kids often see their parents assigning consequences as getting even somehow.  I’m sure it feels that way to some, but it is also easier to see it that way than to admit that you deserve the consequences, unless the consequences actually are too severe or are being presented in the heat of the moment or in a way that make them seem like the parent really is trying to get even.

Unfortunately, I have a teenager who tends to post only somewhat accurate information about family situations on Facebook to throw her mom or dad under the bus without including her part in it when she doesn’t get something she wants either because of her behavior or because she didn’t get something done by a deadline, or both.  That’s her way of getting even, and she hasn’t realized yet that it only makes things worse for her.

The “need to get even” mentality becomes particularly scary when we are talking about people with guns who think that they are justified in using them anytime someone wrongs them either personally or in situations like what followed in Ferguson after the announcement of the decision of the grand jury, or any other time there has been looting, gunfire, fires set, and so on after a whole group of people who feel the need to get even weren’t happy with a decision or outcome.  Destroying your own community all because of the need to get even somehow, particularly when the people who own the businesses had nothing to do with the decision, is definitely not beneficial for anyone and only makes things worse because it feeds into the stereotype that certain people think is so unfairly placed upon them.  All the school shootings, disgruntled postal workers, and a whole slew of other news stories where people have shot and killed one or more people that were sometimes perfect strangers, all to get even after being wronged from their perspective, are coming to mind as well.

This seems to be a very instinctive thing for so many people, so perhaps we are hard wired to think along these lines and some people are just better than others at controlling these urges.  Or perhaps it is more of a learned response.  Either way, more people need to realize what a destructive behavior it is and then how to control those urges, not just in newsworthy situations, but in our everyday lives.  It can be difficult, as I have felt them myself from time to time even though I am typically not a vindictive person, but it can be done.  Again, we need to look for constructive ways to express our frustration whenever possible, not destructive ones.

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Keeping In Touch…You Don’t Need A Reason

My very favorite phone calls, emails, and texts are ones that start out something like, “Hey, I was just thinking about you and wanted to say hi.”  I don’t get those very often, but when I do, they make my day.  I know how good it feels, so I make a point to do the same for certain other people in my life.  I don’t necessarily wait for a reason to contact them.  I just check in every so often.  For some people, it’s more frequently than that.

I guess it would be fair to say that I do this most often to the people with whom I really want to stay connected, even if they don’t always return the favor.  And if there happens to be a reason to contact someone like something that just made me think of them, I usually take advantage.  There are those people who I have given up on maintaining contact with over the years though because it was always one-sided. It is sometimes easier to reach out to people whom I know will reciprocate.

What prompted me to write this post was one particular relative who feels he needs a reason to contact myself or my kids.  A couple times now the reason has been that he came across something he wanted to pass on to me and asked if he could drop it off and visit for a bit while he was here.  In between these visits, there is almost no contact initiated by him.  I have made it clear multiple times that he does not need to wait until he has a reason to talk to any one of us before he initiates a call or email. He can contact us at any time just to see what we’ve been up to.  That’s not his nature though.  He’d rather wait for a reason, which doesn’t happen very often.

Unfortunately, not only has he wasted a lot of opportunities to spend time with and get to know my kids and me, but he has also given us the impression that he is not all that interested in maintaining connections with us, or in us at all for that matter until very recently.  For many years now I have not felt like he views me as an important person in his life because of the lack of contact on his part all that time.  He is one example of a one-sided relationship that I grew tired of trying to maintain all by myself.

Even though it takes some conscious thought and a little time, making the effort to let someone know you were thinking about them however often can have a huge impact.  You may be putting a smile on someone’s face that could last for a while, and it feels just as good to know that you made someone else’s day by letting them know they were on your mind.  If you’re thinking about someone right now that you’d like to reach out to, stop what you’re doing and just do it. You might just make their day.

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Tolerance and Patience

My last blog post had to do with not enough people showing common courtesy and respect for others around them.  On the flip side of that is people also having less tolerance and patience for others.  I see this in my immediate family on a regular basis.  Almost every conflict between any two of my kids can be defined as one of them instigating somehow and the other overreacting.  Even though I point this out all the time, it doesn’t seem like either participant is willing or able to not instigate or overreact the next time so that the conflicts don’t continue to occur or escalate.  It is very hard to not do something that you have always done.  I am hoping to break these habits now, because I don’t want them to grow up and be adults who are very intolerant and impatient.

Road rage comes to mind when I think of this topic.  Not only are there plenty of people who are not courteous drivers who often drive like they own the road, but there are also plenty of drivers who get very impatient way too quickly and don’t hesitate to express their frustrations.  Sometimes they are even willing to risk theirs and others’ lives in the process.  The thing is, I think there is a lot of overlap in these groups of people, which leads me back to a previous post about double standards called “Make Up Your Mind”.  You can’t be intolerant of others who inconvenience you when you don’t hesitate to inconvenience others.

A father getting shot and killed in a movie theater because he was texting his babysitter during the previews is another example that comes to mind of pretty extreme intolerance.  I’m sure there are plenty more I could come up with that have been in the news recently if I thought about it.

Extreme examples aside, there are too many people who are so quick to criticize and complain but can’t see that their own intolerance or other negative behaviors are contributing to the problem.  I see this in my kids as well.  I get lots of complaints and sarcastic statements and have to remind them that all they need to do is calmly ask for what they want or need without all the negativity.  I’m sure they have learned this by watching others do the same thing.

I think social media, TV, and the anonymity of the internet have all contributed to people being more critical and quick to judge and make fun of other people, which in turn contributes to less tolerance and patience.  It’s so easy to post comments that are anonymous that many people don’t hesitate to do so.  And social media has gotten us in the habit of sharing every thought we have with others, good or bad. Then there are people like Simon Cowell who made criticizing others into an art form. Others then follow suit and think that’s acceptable.

A little patience and tolerance can go a long way, too.  It’s all about being able to control and censor your reactions or maybe have no reaction at all sometimes.  I think we all need to remember…

 No one can drive you crazy unless you give them the keys!

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Common Courtesy And Respect

When I was a kid, I was taught that when you went to a movie theater or to see a concert or play, you were to be quiet and respectful of the performers and those around you during the performance or movie.  Obviously, not everyone was taught this or has remembered to teach it to their kids.  The last few family or kids’ movies that I have taken my kids to, there were as many adults as there were kids talking during the movie.  And I mean all the way through the movie, as if they were watching in the living room at home.  They were completely oblivious to the fact that there were people all around them who were not able to hear lines from the movie because they were talking pretty loudly.  I don’t think I was the only person who wanted to say to the parent(s), “You know, you’re not the only family watching this movie. Could you please teach your kids by example not to talk during the movie?” (OK, maybe that was the edited, more polite version of what I was thinking.)  The same thing has happened when seeing a play.  The lights dim and many adults keep right on talking and then make comments to each other throughout the performance.  And the kids follow suit. I can’t help but wonder if these parents are “me” people in other aspects of their lives.

I have this same thought when people block a side street or business entrance with someone clearly waiting to pull in our out, when they could have been considerate and stopped a few feet back.  This happens frequently at the entrance to our neighborhood, even though we have two “Do not block side road” signs on either side of the road.  I wonder how many people just aren’t paying attention and miss the signs and how many people see them and choose to ignore them.  How much later are you going to arrive at your destination of you stop a few feet further back and wait for someone to make a turn?  If the light is red, you’re going to be sitting still waiting for it anyway.

Another thing that bugs me is people wearing hats in restaurants, concerts, and other places like that.  It’s so commonplace that most people don’t think twice about it.  I’m all for being comfortable, but I think we’ve just gotten way too casual and complacent as a society.  People used to dress up to go to church and to nicer restaurants, and that was a form of respect.  Now it seems any attire is acceptable.

Even the way we speak shows how much we think of ourselves first.  My kids and former students will tell you I sometimes pretend I have no idea who they are talking about if they start a sentence with “Me and him” or “Me and her” or “Me and (insert friend’s name)”.  The correct grammar is to say, “She and I” or “He and I,” putting yourself last out of respect.  I don’t have high hopes of having a huge impact with that, but I still try.

It all comes down to your attitude.  Too many people are looking out for themselves first and are doing what is most convenient for them and/or what meets their needs. Our bubbles have become a lot smaller, and we are more focused on ourselves than the people around us whom our actions may be affecting.  I really wish more people would focus less on themselves and more on others around them.  Common courtesy and respect go a long way in my book.

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Kindness is to do and say, the kindest thing in the kindest way.This is something my grandfather was known to say.  I have this posted on my kitchen cupboard, because I think it’s important to have this attitude as you go about your day, and I want the rest of my family to think about this.

Kindness can encompass a whole slew of different things.  It can be helping others who are less fortunate, helping people you interact with throughout the day, being considerate, being generous, or just wearing a smile and being pleasant.  It can also mean complimenting people and doing other things that you know will make them feel good, big or small, like surprising them with a phone call or gift or doing them a big favor.  Kindness can come in the form of remembering your manners, holding a door open for someone, allowing another driver to go ahead of you, or allowing other people to go first or have the last one of something that you might have wanted to have, too.

One of my favorite ways to be kind is to give someone a hug if it looks like they could use one and even offer to lend an ear if that would help.  I love when my kids give me random hugs or out of the blue just tell me they love me.  Sometimes the smallest gesture of kindness can make the biggest difference in someone’s day.  And not only will it make the other person feel good, but being kind actually releases endorphins and hormones such as serotonin and oxytocin, all of which have both physical and mental health benefits for the person being kind, such as helping that person feel happy and less stressed and lowering his or her blood pressure.

Being kind is one of those things that seems to come much more naturally to some people than others, but a lot of that may be because they were taught by example.  I don’t consciously think about how many ways I am going to try to be kind to someone in any given day.  It’s just second nature at this point.  Granted, there are times when I am irritated or frustrated and I am not so kind, but I rarely have a day where I can’t reflect and think about something I did that was kind, sometimes many things.  If you consciously think about it, you can get to the point where you don’t have to.  What did you do today that was kind?

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The Little Things and the Big Picture  

As I have said before, not only am I a detail-oriented person, but I am also good at seeing the “big picture” and how the details make up the big picture.  So I am used to focusing on little things and big things, sometimes at the same time.  What I am not always so good at is taking time to APPRECIATE the little things in my life as they are happening and the bigger things for which I can be grateful.  I’m so busy thinking about everything that needs to be done that I often forget to stop and take in the little things like the number of times in a day that my one son usually tells me he loves me or that he cleaned up something without me having to ask for a change. Today I thought about how much I appreciate that my mom always remembers to call and see how a doctor’s appointment went or if one of us is feeling better.  My kids are all very capable of doing well in school and keeping up on their assignments with very little prodding or help from me.  That’s something to appreciate but is often overlooked.

I think about these things at the end of the day when my brain is more calm, but I have to remind myself every so often to live in the moment and not think about the next thing that needs to get done or not let my mind wander to thinking about a conversation I had earlier, for example.  I sometimes reflect back on the day and wish I had made more of an effort to just relish what was going on around me or enjoy a positive moment with one of my kids a little longer before asking them to get something else done.

Every so often I stop and think about how so many things in my life could be worse than they are, but I need to do that more often as well. I do have a roof over my head, I have clean drinking water whenever I need it, my kids are all pretty darn intelligent and don’t suffer from any major illnesses, they are getting a pretty decent education, I can easily get to just about any kind of store to buy anything I might need within 15 minutes, I do not live in a country that is at war or where women do not have the same rights as I do in this country, I am fortunate enough that I can choose to be a stay-at-home mom for now, and so on.  I have my fair share of problems, but they seem so much smaller and manageable when I stop to think about them in comparison to the problems I could have.

So much of life is all a matter of perspective and how we choose to look at things. Yes, there are plenty of negatives in my life, some of which I cannot control or change.  But there are plenty of positives as well.  Sometimes I have to look a little harder to find them or think about them more consciously, but they are there.  This Thanksgiving, I will not be out shopping and thinking about the next holiday.  I will be spending the day with my extended family and will be consciously appreciating them and all the other big and little things for which I can be thankful.  This is as much a reminder for me as it is for anyone else reading it…

give and take

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