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.

Taking Suggestions

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Not everyone is good at taking suggestions from others for a variety of reasons.  Some people I know who are like this either think they have all the answers, they want to figure out all of their problems on their own, or they don’t like admitting they were wrong about something or did anything wrong.  If they do listen to others, they may not really hear what is being said.  It becomes difficult to be around people who are like this except for in small doses because, in a nutshell, they are self-centered and are not inclusive.

It is challenging to talk to people who only want to hear what they themselves have to say and who don’t want to consider other people’s ideas or feelings.  I end up feeling like nothing I say will ever have any validity in their eyes.  I react in one of two ways, depending on who it is and how often I have to interact with them.  I either feel compelled to keep trying to get my point across, whether I have to be blunt or very tactful, or I completely give up because it is pointless.

If you don’t want to include others’ during meetings for your organization because you don’t ever ask for their input in the form of ideas, opinions, or their vote, then don’t be surprised if they stop coming because they wanted to be involved but didn’t feel like they could be.  I have seen this plenty of times with various organizations of which I have been a part.  Those organizations that go overboard to make people feel welcome and included thrive because people are willing to put forth the effort to make things happen.  The ones where those at the top want to make all the decisions and tell everyone else how things should be lose people left and right, and the same few people end up doing more than they should.  Yet, they wonder why more people don’t just flock right in.  Word of mouth travels quickly, and people can easily be rubbed the wrong way if they perceive you are more interested in yourself or your agenda than theirs or the whole of the group.

If you are expecting others to always be there for you but are not willing to be there for others, then you need to change your ways.  If you can’t ever own up to any mistakes that you might have made or admit that you are at least sometimes part of the problem, then you can’t expect things to improve.  If you are not open to constructive criticism or making any changes, especially when you have asked for feedback, then you really can’t wonder why things never change.  Furthermore, if you have been given feedback about how your actions or attitude has negatively impacted a situation or other people and you not only continue to keep doing the same thing but your behavior becomes even worse as a result, you may be pushing someone away because you refuse to listen.  Stubbornness often doesn’t pay, and no one has all the answers or great ideas.

I think all of this boils down to how much of a “me” person you are and whether you are more of a giver or taker.  If you are thinking about yourself most of the time and how you can have your needs met, then you will most likely have these behaviors.  If you instead think about how you can meet the needs of others and understand by meeting their needs you may get your own needs met in return, then you are likely to get better results.  Really listening to the feedback people are giving you, whether you asked for it or not, is key.

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Quick Fixes

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A lot of the things I have been thinking and talking about lately all have to do with quick fixes.  It seems like too much of the time whatever is the easiest or fastest solution is chosen, and/or it is expected that change will happen immediately.  Unfortunately, what comes easy won’t last and what lasts won’t come easy.

Many situations or solutions require giving it time and putting in the effort, but not everyone is willing to do that.  Whether it’s a relationship, a health issue, education reform, a social issue, or any number of other possibilities, it often takes a very long time for things to progress to the point where they are at, so we need to understand that it is most likely going to take just as long to see real change.

Relationships are good examples.  It’s easier to just walk away or maybe have an affair that temporarily makes you feel better, rather than admit you might have been part of the problem and need to make some changes or dig deep to get to the root of some of the issues.  Working on the issues requires dedication, a lot of effort and mental energy, and willingness to make the changes, which is sometimes the hardest part.  It also requires a lot of patience because it won’t happen overnight.  If you do decide to work on things, you can’t approach seeing a therapist as a quick fix either, expecting to see results in a couple of sessions.  It takes time for everyone to feel comfortable, to get to the issues, and to work on the solutions.  Even walking away from an argument just to end the argument is a quick fix that is not going to help.  It may end the argument, but if you are not willing to come back and talk about the issues, they are going to keep happening, which will lead to more arguments.

Health issues also come to mind because who doesn’t want a quick fix to lose weight, get rid of wrinkles, have more energy and focus, and so on.  Often our bodies have been out of balance for really long time, so we can’t expect that change will happen overnight.  If it does, it probably won’t last.  But it’s easier to pop a pill, grab an energy drink, or have a little surgery than to really focus on what we are putting into our bodies on a daily basis and anything else we can do to return our bodies to a healthy balance and then keep it that way.

Education reform is another example.  Change takes a really long time, but it seems like too many people don’t understand that, especially those who make decisions about education.  When new standards or protocols are put into place, we are so quick to come down on teachers for not doing their job when their jobs keep getting more and more demanding.  If the first set of test scores after a new system has been put into place aren’t showing a significant difference, then the new system is deemed a failure.  It’s never as simple as people want to make it out to be.
The same thing can be said for most of the issues being debated pertaining to recent events and various social issues.  It’s not just a gun control issue … or a homophobia issue … or a toxic masculinity issue … or a mental health issue … or a terrorism issue … or a Republicans vs. Democrats issue … or a career politician issue … and so on and so forth.  It’s everything put together, and we can’t just focus on one aspect of it and think that any one change we can make such as banning assault weapons is going to be the quick fix.  It’s certainly a start, but it is going to take way more than that.

No matter what situation or personal issue, very seldom is there a quick fix.  The bigger the problem or the longer it has been a problem, the harder and more complicated the solution will be.  The more willing we are to accept that fact and put in the effort, the more productive we can be in resolving any issues, whatever they may be.  I think the harder we work for something, the more rewarding it feels when it finally happens, which is another reason to skip the quick fixes in our personal lives.

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Courage

courageCourage is one of those things that comes in all shapes and sizes.  It could come in the form of breaking out of your comfort zone to try something new, facing a fear head on, making the decision to do something that you know is the right thing to do even though it will be difficult, or just being able to put one foot in front of the other and make it through another day.

It could also be starting a new chapter in your life, without knowing what lies ahead or how it will turn out.  There are, after all, no guarantees in life.  We never know if something is going to lead to success or failure, but we need to be willing to try anyway and take our chances.  If we look at it as either we will be successful or we will learn something and grow as a person, perhaps that makes it a little easier.

Some people seem to have a lot more courage than others and are willing to try anything and everything, even if it means risking their lives either for the thrill of it or maybe because it’s a necessary part of the job.  For the rest of us, it’s not always that easy.  However, we need courage in order to grow.  One quote I see pretty frequently is, “You can’t discover new oceans unless you have the courage to leave the shore.”  Not everyone wants to discover new oceans and may be perfectly content to keep living life exactly as they know it.  It never hurts though to be willing to try something mew and deal with change, rather than live within our comfort zones.  I know I have stepped out of my comfort zone more recently, and it feels good!  And having the courage to stick with certain things, even though they have been challenging, has paid off in the long run.  It’s been a long, winding path to get to where I am, but I see great things ahead of me and am glad I had enough courage to see things through.

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Being The Victim

Unfortunately, I have a number of people in my life who like to see things as if they are the innocent victims in any given situation, and everyone around them is to blame for everything that is wrong in their lives.  I can appear to be like that too sometimes, but I do realize my part in certain situations and am willing to admit it and try to make changes where necessary.  Just because I may be vocal in trying to discuss how others in my immediate family can and should behave and react to things differently doesn’t mean I think that everything is all their fault all the time.  I am just doing my job as a parent (and spouse) to help them be the best person they can be, especially considering how many bad examples are all around them of how NOT to be a good person.  It makes my job MUCH more difficult.

All too often I get blamed though for things that I shouldn’t, which is very frustrating. Trying to enforce a regular bedtime for my preteen, asking the kids to pick up their belongings that they leave around the house, and suggesting that they get some homework done before dinner so they are not leaving it all until later in the evening does not make me a “control freak.”  It makes me a good parent because I am doing my job trying to teach them how to be responsible, take care of their bodies, and learn time management.  That is NOT unreasonable.  I am also not mean or a “horrible person” because I choose to sometimes give consequences for things like very inappropriate behavior.  Again, I am doing my job as a parent. That’s all.  But it is often not seen that way, even to other adults, including my spouse.

My concern though is also how many adults still operate as if they are never at fault for anything, can’t take ownership of their mistakes or their behavior and attitudes, and who don’t understand that they have the power to change how they do things, how they treat people, and/or the decisions they make.  The saying, “If you always do what you have always done, then you will always get what you have always gotten” comes to mind.  We all have the power to be kinder, more tolerant and patient, more understanding and open minded, more respectful and accountable, improve our communication skills, and so many other things.  We can’t just be takers and never give back to the people who mean the most to us.  We all have to pull our weight, which includes self-reflection to see what we do to contribute to any given problem and what we can do to be part of the solution.

Seeing ourselves as victims of everyone else’s negativity is the easiest way to interpret our surroundings.  In some cases it is more applicable, but it seems to me that it is a whole lot less likely than most people would care to admit.  While figuring out who might be to blame in certain circumstances does have some value, we can’t look to ONLY blame others for all the negativity in our lives and the world around us.  We need to examine our own attitudes, behavior, decisions, prejudices, filters, previous experiences, anxieties, intolerances, and insecurities and figure out how they factor in as well and then figure out if there is anything we can do to help improve the situation.

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Don’t Give Up

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It’s been a while since my last post. It’s not that I haven’t been thinking about topics to share.  I just haven’t had time lately to write any of them down.  I’ve been busy making progress on some pretty significant things on my “to do” list that have been there for quite some time!

There always seems to be so many things that I wish I could wave a magic wand and make happen, but that’s not reality.  It can be overwhelming sometimes, especially thinking about the bigger things or things that seem not all that realistic.  It’s hard to take that initial first step towards whatever desired outcome, but sometimes doing that and then finding a way to keep putting one foot in front of the other, even if they are baby steps, will get the job done.  Often times, once the ball is rolling, it builds momentum and just can’t stop.  That’s definitely been the case in my life lately…one good thing leading to another for the most part, with a few ups and downs in the mix.

That’s not always the case though, and it can be very tempting to throw in the towel, so to speak.  This can be especially true when it comes to parenting and working on relationships.  Lately, I seem to keep coming across all kinds of reminders about the importance of not giving up, including the graphic at the top of this post and this one as well…

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Another quote I’ve seen a few times is … When a child learns to walk and falls down 50 times, he never thinks to himself: “Maybe this isn’t for me?”  Kids don’t typically think about things like failure and disappointment as much as adults do.  They want something and will do what it takes to get it.  Sometimes our minds get the best of us and hold us back from doing all that we can and being all that we can be.  It’s too bad we can’t think more like kids sometimes, or rather not think about and analyze everything.  We need to remember that we can’t always wait for the right or best time to do things, setting goals is important, we can’t be afraid to take the first steps towards those goals, we’ll most likely run into obstacles along the way, it’s OK to ask for help, and that failure is OK.  I like Kid President’s quote… ”If at first you don’t succeed, you’re normal.”  We just need to find a way to get started and then keep going, even if it means putting aside our fears.

For me personally, I sometimes get stuck in a rut thinking about all the things I can’t do, but as soon as I change my mindset to thinking about what I CAN do, then I start getting somewhere because I become more likely to take risks instead of playing it safe.  Sometimes confidence can be a key factor in our successes.  Thinking outside the box often helps, too.  Finding a way around an obstacle, a different way of doing or approaching something, a fresh idea, or a new perspective can be the spark of excitement that becomes a catalyst for making good progress towards a goal or desired outcome. It’s all in how we think about it, really.

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Resilience

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Lately I’ve been feeling very resilient, like I’m bouncing back from everything that has ever gone wrong in my life … finally!  I spent many years of feeling like I was in a downward spiral, dealing with a variety of situations and some people dragging me down.  A few years ago, I started feeling like I was making my way back up, slowly but surely.

It all began when I took advantage of a particular volunteer opportunity, which enabled me to feel like I was making an important difference and also surround myself with more people who were giving me positive feedback and positive interactions. Feeling like my contributions were valued and appreciated made a big difference, since I wasn’t getting that at home.  My confidence grew, and my attitude about a lot of things started to change as a result.  I began focusing on any positives for which I could be grateful, finding happiness from within, and doing things for me that made me feel happy and emotionally full.  There were plenty of days that was pretty challenging, but I was always able to find something positive that I could reflect on at the end of the day.  Little by little, I began to feel like things were turning around for me.

Now, things seem to have kicked into high gear and are changing rapidly for the better, partly due to circumstances that have changed and partly due to my improved outlook.  Everything seems to be falling into place.  It took a whole lot of patience and perseverance, but it was worth it to feel like I do now.  I am definitely a stronger person than I was a few years ago and feel like I could bounce back from anything at this point because I am much more willing and able to adjust to changes that are out of my control, make changes myself, and take risks.  My confidence level has something to do with that, too.  I know I need to make life happen the way I want it to, rather than wait for it to happen.

If “a diamond is just a piece of charcoal that handled stress exceptionally well”, then no wonder I feel like I am sparkling sometimes lately.  I certainly have had my fair share of stress!  I haven’t always dealt with it very well, but I am working on that.

I certainly hope anyone reading this either has felt or will feel the same sense of resilience I am feeling right now.  It feels great, especially after having had to wait for so long to experience it.  It started with something small and eventually snowballed. So if you haven’t, find something, anything, that will make you feel a little better about yourself or your environment, even if it involves a little effort to make it happen, and see where it takes you.   And have faith that someday you will look back and be grateful that you fell, so to speak, because you will feel stronger than ever when you get back up.

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