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.

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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Removing The Toxins

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Have you ever thought about whether you have toxic people in your circle of friends and family and how much value they are adding to your life?  Or perhaps it’s your significant other who may be toxic.  It’s not the most positive thing to think about by any stretch of the imagination.  It’s also not the easiest thing to admit that a toxic person has been in your life longer than they should have.  Some people are clearly toxic and we can come to that conclusion without much thought.  Other people may be a little more difficult to put in that category, especially if we have known them a long time or if there have been a lot of positive aspects of the relationship which have resulted in us being willing to overlook all of the toxic behaviors.

The degree to which someone can be toxic can vary greatly, ranging from people who easily get under out skin because they are so annoying, hurtful, disrespectful, or any number of other things, to people who just tend to weigh us down because they always have their own drama that they pull us into easily.  These people may have many other redeeming qualities, so we put up with the drama.  But sometimes it just gets to be too much, especially when this person may not realize or be willing to admit how much they contribute to the drama.

I am trying to focus on the positives in my life and making more positive changes.  It’s refreshing being around other people who have the same attitude and focus.  On the flip side, it is mentally draining being around people who are very critical and judgmental, who push people’s buttons but then are surprised at a negative reaction, who blame everyone else but themselves for everything and are always the victim, who are always looking for others to back them up in blaming others, who aren’t accountable for their own actions, who focus on the negatives, who tend to put their own needs first and like to be the center of attention, who tend to take more than they give, who always need to be right and in control, and who are not open to any kind of constructive criticism.

Just as toxins that come from processed foods, sugars, chemicals, air pollution, and so many other things are not good for our overall physical health, toxic people are not good for our mental health.  Sometimes we need to take a step back, evaluate the situation, and ask ourselves if it is really worth it to keep putting up with the negative behaviors.  In some cases, or for a while, the answer may be yes.  But when the answer is or becomes no, then we need to have the courage to let go of that person, even though it may be difficult at first.  It may feel like a big weight off of our shoulders right away, or it could take a while to realize that we made the right decision.  As much as some of us tend to put others’ needs above our own and want to be there for everyone who needs a shoulder to lean on, sometimes we need to think of our own well-being.  I recently saw a meme that says, “Don’t be afraid to rock the boat.  If someone falls out, then they weren’t meant to be in your boat.”  This is so true.

Part of eliminating the toxins has to come from ourselves though too.  It’s important to self-reflect and ask ourselves if we are too critical or judgmental, if we are better talkers than listeners, if we tend to look for things to complain about, if we tend to blame others rather than take ownership of our mistakes or whatever we might have done to contribute to a negative situation, and so on.  It’s never to late to start making improvements in these areas, which will not only be good for those around us, but will help us feel better too.

Comments are always welcome!  Clicking on the “Home” page tab will allow you to scroll through other posts, or you can select a category or tag word to find similar topics.  If you would like to read future posts, please follow the blog or my Facebook page.