Sticking To Our Guns

The phrase “stick to your guns” originated as a command given to sailors who manned guns on military boats, meaning they were to stay by their posts rather than seek cover, even when the boat was under attack.  Today it means to hold onto your convictions and stand up for your beliefs, even when others disagree or the evidence points to the contrary.  Unfortunately, it seems like too many people are choosing to stick to their guns these days, whether it is over issues of national importance or in their personal lives.

It’s one thing to be stubborn and insist on having things go your way frequently, but it’s another for a person to insist that he or she is right or has all the answers and correct viewpoints all the time too.  Some people just need to be right all the time, which makes them very difficult to work with and be around.

Unfortunately, I have plenty of experience with people like this, and there’s not a whole lot anyone can do to get them to consider that anyone else might know more about something than they do or be better at something than they are.  And forget trying to get them to see a different perspective.  Once they’ve made up their mind about something, it seems they only see and hear things through a filter that supports what they originally decided was the correct viewpoint or interpretation of a situation.  That makes it even more difficult to get them to see things differently, because they have built up a mound of incorrect evidence in their own minds.  Plus, the more anyone tries to convince them that they are wrong or maybe partially wrong, the more they dig in their heels and insist they are right.

Ironically, when it comes to an issue of national importance, gun control is a perfect example of people “sticking to their guns.”  I’ve seen plenty of statistics comparing the fifty states regarding gun violence vs how strict their gun laws are, which show that states with stricter laws have less gun violence.  I’ve also seen similar statistics about other countries such as Japan and Australia where they have much stricter gun laws than the United States and hardly any incidences of gun violence. I’m a numbers person, so that’s what helps form my opinion on various matters.  What I have NOT seen is statistics backing up the notion that more guns = less gun violence or more guns = a safer society.

I am also thinking about how the laws have changed over the years pertaining to what we are allowed to bring on an airplane. Each time there is an incident involving a box cutter, knife, bomb, or anything else, the rules and regulations get stricter and stricter. Even a dog getting put in an overhead bin gets a new law passed within a few days.  No one balks at these laws and we all follow the new procedures, even though it makes packing for and boarding an airplane take longer.  That’s because we know that planes are now extremely safe, and there is no need to fear getting killed or injured on an airplane or having it hijacked.  People are not insisting that we all be allowed to board the plane with a knife, gun, and box cutter, just in case anyone else on the plane pulls one out so that we can defend ourselves.  And no one is insisting that stewardesses be armed with these weapons, just in case, either. Furthermore, no one is thinking that because they are not allowed to bring guns or any of these these items on a plane, that they are not allowed to possess them at all, ever.  Their second amendment rights are not being infringed upon.  But, when it comes to common sense gun laws outside of a plane, somehow the same reasoning goes out the window.  Then it makes much more sense to many people that any limitation on gun sales is somehow infringing on their right to bear arms, and that more people carrying guns, particularly teachers, makes much more sense.  I don’t get it, and the statistics don’t seem to back those ideas up, but the more anyone tries to convince someone who thinks along these lines, the more they “stick to their guns.”

It seems like there are so many issues today where people dig in their heels, regardless of what the numbers indicate or the majority of people agree with.  The need to be right overshadows the need for facts or considering other positions or viewpoints.  This only leads to us being more divided and less united than ever as a country.

I think the same can be said for our personal lives too.  There is too much conflict because there are too many people not willing to listen to others because they are already experts on everything and have a difficult time admitting that maybe they aren’t.  Or maybe it’s just people in my personal life, but I don’t think so.   If you are one who tends to do more talking than listening and who needs to be right or have all the answers, perhaps it would be worth making the effort to be a better listener and consider that other people sometimes have a good idea or a valid perspective too.  Being open-minded is a good quality in my book.

Walk Out vs. Walk Up

The National School Walkout Day was this week, a day that was intended to be partly a memorial for the victims of the Parkland shooting and partly a day for teenage activism against gun violence.  I saw many different videos and descriptions of how various schools chose to participate.  I also heard about districts that threatened suspension for any student who did walk out.  Some schools had very organized events supported by administration, while others were more of a protest handled strictly by students.  As usual, there were very opposing views of what they day was all about and how it should be handled.

Likewise, I saw many social media posts urging the students to INSTEAD “Walk Up”, meaning walk up to someone who typically sits alone at the lunch table and invite them to sit with you, or walk up to someone and just say something nice, or anything along those lines.  The idea being that many of the shooters in these mass shootings have been loners who are angry because they have been excluded and are trying to get even.  So if we all make more of an effort to be more inclusive, then perhaps that will be a preventative measure.  Even without factoring in the shootings, focusing on being more kind and inclusive is always a good thing, so I like the idea.

What I don’t understand is why it has to be one OR the other.  What’s wrong with the students protesting peacefully in order to have their concerns and opinions heard AND making a conscious effort to be more inclusive and kind?  The two things don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

Unfortunately, that seems to be the case with so many issues today though, where so many people focus on one particular facet of what they believe the solution should be and don’t understand that one thing alone is not going to solve the problem.  Gun violence is a perfect example.  Stricter gun control is one option that seems to be successful in many other countries, which many people support.  But there are plenty of people who believe the answer is more guns.  And there are those who think we need to focus on bringing attention and more resources to mental health issues.  Then there is the devaluing of human life because of the exposure to violence and trauma either in real life or in video games, television, and movies that many think is the biggest contributing factor.

The problem is that there is not necessarily one thing we can blame and that needs to be changed.  We don’t have to focus on guns OR mental health, for example.  It all needs to be addressed.  But when people retreat to their corners and only want to focus on the one issue they think is most important or the only solution, then we will not make as much progress with this issue as we need to.  Or any others for that matter.  People need to be more open-minded and more willing to consider ALL of the aspects of this or any other issue that needs to be addressed and make it a priority to set aside our differences and work together to make some significant progress.  If we all continue to “stick to our guns” regardless of the evidence to the contrary and only focus on one aspect of the problem, we will go nowhere.

Incorrect Assumptions

I realized recently that the people in my life who think I spend a lot of time correcting them or others are the same people who frequently make incorrect assumptions about plenty of things.  Sometimes the incorrect assumptions are made about details pertaining to logistics, situations, or decisions being made.  Other times they are about my intentions, what I am thinking, what I am trying to say, how I will react to things, and so on.  Very few things bother me more than being completely misunderstood, having my intentions incorrectly being perceived as negative when they are not, and being accused of things I am not doing.

It’s very frustrating trying to have a conversation with someone who constantly interrupts me in order to respond defensively because they THINK they know what I am going to say and that it will be something negative, especially when I am not ever given the chance to say what I had intended.  Perhaps they think I am trying to tell them they won’t be able to do something they want to do, or sometimes they are assuming there is some hidden negative implication like I am trying to tell them they shouldn’t be doing something.  Often it is perceived that I am trying to criticize someone or control a particular situation when that is not my intent at all.  Not even close.  It is equally as frustrating to have a conversation with someone who responds to most of what I say with assumptions that are very incorrect, rather than ask questions and listen to all of what is being said before jumping in with the assumptions.  That means I spend a chunk of my end of the conversation correcting the misinformation they created and believe to be true.

Unfortunately, too many people listen to others with whatever filter they have formulated in their head based on their perception of the person or situation, and they hear only what they want to hear and see what they want to see that backs up their opinion or preconceived notion, which just adds to that incorrect perspective.  It’s very hard to undo that, especially if that person is not open-minded and objects to hearing anything that will negate their viewpoint.

Ironically, I don’t like having to correct people, but the perception is that I do because it becomes necessary when people are making such incorrect assumptions so frequently.  So it has become one more incorrect assumption that all I want to do is correct people.  When it comes to my intentions that are being questioned though, I am going to correct someone every time.

I’ve come to REALLY appreciate the people in my life who respect me enough to listen when I talk and take what I am saying or asking at face value without adding their own interpretation of what I might be implying, when in fact, I am often not implying anything at all.  Some people just like to find negatives where there aren’t any, and I don’t enjoy being around those people very much.  I’d rather surround myself with people who actually bother to hear what I have to say without putting words in my mouth or thoughts in my head that they will then hold against me … forever.  That leads to a lot less stress, drama, negativity, misunderstandings, misinformation, and necessary corrections.  Life is a whole lot easier when we give people the benefit of the doubt and are willing to hear each other out.

Impulse Control

I am astounded sometimes by the lack of impulse control so many people seem to have these days.  I certainly expect children to not be able to refrain from giving in to every impulse they have because they haven’t learned not to yet, but it amazes me how many adults never do.  The number seems to be on the rise.  So of course, I shouldn’t be surprised that teenagers who are learning by example seem to have difficulty with this as well.

Now that I am back in the classroom at the middle school level, it seems to be the biggest challenge.  Many students can’t refrain from sharing every thought that comes to mind at any time.  Or they just get up out of their seats and wander around the classroom if they feel like it.  They don’t understand that sometimes they need to wait to go to the bathroom because they’re going to miss some important instructions or information if they don’t. Any question is fair game at any time, even if they could easily figure out the answer for themselves.  There’s no sense of whether they should or shouldn’t do or say something because it might not be an appropriate time.  They can’t seem to do anything without talking while they are doing it.  And they don’t ask permission either.  They just do it.  It makes me wonder if anyone at home is teaching them to be conscious about this, whether this has just become more acceptable to more people, or whether it’s not really a choice for more people (because I know that is difficult for people with ADHD, for example).  It’s probably a combination of it all.

I wonder what kind of adults they are going to be if they have SO little impulse control as teenagers.  Thank goodness it’s not ALL of the students.  That gives me hope. However, when you combine the lack of impulse control to do the things that they want to do with the lack of motivation to do the things that they need to do, then I worry.  I see that in my own kids too.  I can be impulsive sometimes  and end up doing things that I hadn’t planned on doing (like when I sit down to write these blog posts), which prevents me from doing the things I should have been doing, but I manage to get done the things I really need to do and eventually find the motivation to get the rest done too.  It takes me longer than I would like sometimes, but life can’t be all work and no play.  It’s a balance, and it seems like too many people can’t seem to find that balance because they’re too impulsive.

Unfortunately, I think the vast amount of information at our fingertips and number of ways we can entertain ourselves with some sort of electronics these days plays a role in that too.  It’s too easy to impulsively pick up our phones and start scrolling through whatever social media accounts we have or text someone just to say hi.  How many times a day do we all do that?  Too many.  I’m guilty too.  It’s that instant gratification that’s hard to ignore. Unfortunately, I think that’s part of the problem.  We’re so used to instant gratification that we can’t go without it for very long.  So now those middle schoolers who were already hard enough to manage years ago because they are still children who need instant gratification are even more difficult to manage now.  They can’t wait to share a thought or ask a question because they thrive on instant gratification that they are so used to getting, now that they all have their own phones or other electronic devices.

It’s something we all really need to be conscious about … how impulsive we are, and can we set a better example for our children and help them learn to not be so impulsive themselves.  My job would be a whole lot easier if more people did that.

Timing Is Everything

If only I had a quarter for every time this thought has popped into my head over the years, especially recently. Sometimes it’s because of good timing, and sometimes not.

There are occasionally those days where things start going wrong, and they just keep piling up.  I have a near miss car accident, something around the house stops working right or breaks, my sink backs up, the kids are argumentative or throw at me some last minute plans that I have to accommodate, and so on.  I find myself asking why it all has to happen in one day.  I’m already frustrated from the first couple of events, so I don’t always react too well to the rest.  Each thing on separate days would be a little easier to swallow.  But then I find myself thinking at the end of the day that I’m glad it all happened in one day so that I can put it all behind me and move on, hopefully having a completely different kind of day the next day.  Sometimes I am lucky enough to have that happen.

Then there are the times where I am thankful for good timing.  Something good happens when I least expect it, and I find myself thinking, “Wow, just what I needed! Perfect timing!”  I might come upon some information at the right time to put it to good use, or I’ll have a conversation with one friend that coincidentally helps me with a particular situation.  Maybe a friend or relative will check in with me to see how I am doing, and it will be on a day when everything is going wrong.  The best example is meeting new people and feeling like they came into my life right at the right time. Sometimes I don’t always realize right away how good the timing is, but I get it eventually. The relationship I am in now is a perfect example of that.

Unfortunately, there were several years where it was pretty doom and gloom for me with more significant things going wrong all at the same time.  My kids were a major challenge, my marriage was falling apart, I was having various health issues, and so on. Those things were more long term and harder to put behind me and hope for a better tomorrow, especially dealing with all them at the same time.  Some of the time I could stay positive, but often it all got to me.  What helped was focusing on the things I could be grateful for, especially those little things that happened every so often that seemed to be good timing, like a friend checking in on me or my mom offering to help with something or just listen without offering any advice.  I think that’s why I tend to check in on my friends and family members pretty regularly because I know what a difference that has made in my life.

Life definitely has its ups and downs, and timing is sometimes not good at all for certain things.  Just when we think things can’t get any worse, it does.  We need those times to appreciate the better times, so it’s often a matter of perspective how we choose to look at situations and react to them.  We can’t always see that though while in the midst of the storm, whether it is a hurricane or passing shower.  But hopefully after it has passed, we can find the rainbow and appreciate the sunshine.  There’s never a bad time for those!

The Reason For Tragedy And Heartbreak

No one likes to experience either one of these or watch our friends and loves ones have to experience them either.  Whether it’s a tragic accident, an unforeseen break-up, a suicide attempt, some form of hardship, the death of loved one or favorite celebrity, or any number of other situations, these experiences can be painful, devastating, and gut-wrenching.  We sometimes ask ourselves all kinds of questions including why it had to happen or what we (or whoever else) did to deserve whatever happened.  Some people really struggle with the answers to these and other questions.

To me, these things are there as reminders for us of so many things…

  • that life is precious and fragile and can be taken away at an instant
  • that nothing and no one should be taken for granted
  • that we are stronger and more resilient than we think we are
  • that we can face our fears and overcome them
  • that change is sometimes a good thing
  • that the people and relationships in our lives are more important than things
  • that we need to continually remind our loved ones how much they are loved
  • that others may seem fine on the outside but are struggling on the inside
  • that we need to be kind and understanding to one another and really listen
  • that we shouldn’t sweat the little things
  • that sometimes our words and actions are more hurtful than we realize
  • that we should accept and celebrate our differences
  • that together we are stronger, and so on.

Most of all, I think they are reminders that we need to continually take a step back and be grateful for what we have, even if it’s not much.  There is always something positive we can find to be thankful for, and there are always so many people going through situations that are far worse than our own. It’s all a matter of perspective.

Of course, this is all easier to think about when we are not the person going through the particular tragedy or heartbreak or while we are not in the midst of it ourselves. We may never get over the pain or disappointment of the given circumstances, but hopefully at some point we can at least get to a place where we have a more positive perspective of why these things happen and what they were trying to teach or remind us.  I don’t think enough people stop and consciously think about and appreciate all the positives in their life. Maybe if we did, we wouldn’t need so many reminders.

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Winning At All Costs

winningMy son was somewhat perplexed following his volleyball games against another school yesterday and questioned his coach afterwards about some of his decisions.  My son was disappointed that, although his team played well, the other team won more games because they bent the rules and were encouraged to take advantage of our weakest player.  He thought the weaker player should have been subbed out for a stronger player.  Our coach explained that he was all about playing by the rules, teaching good sportsmanship, and being fair about rotating the players so that they get the experience to improve and build their confidence, especially at the modified level when the kids are learning the sport.  He also explained that at the JV level, what the other team’s players were doing incorrectly will get called every time, and those kids will look foolish and will have to relearn how to play correctly, whereas our team will not.

I told my son as I emphasized all the positives that I was more proud of him for playing by the rules, being a good sport, and playing with the right technique than I would have been if they won because they had bent the rules or played underhandedly.  I know it isn’t sitting well with him that the other team got away with playing the way they did, but it bothers me that he seems to be focused on the fact that his team didn’t win.

The whole thing makes me think of that whole mentality which some people have that it shouldn’t matter how you get the outcome you desire as long as you get it, even if you have to be deceitful, manipulative, bend or ignore the rules, or hurt people in the process.  Sports are one thing, but everyday life is another.   Continue reading