Archive | March, 2015

What’s the worst that can happen?

31 Mar

One day while driving through town with my son, the man in the car in front of me threw some trash out the window. Incensed, I laid on the horn and shook my finger at him through the windshield. My son went nuts. “What are you doing? That guy could have a gun and just pull over and shoot you for that! Is it worth that for a little litter?” I told him he was over reacting. The odds of that guy actually being so angry that he’d shoot me over my horn blast was absurd. But was it? I began to think about the situation in a different way. Every day we read incredibly horrible stories about people doing things out of anger just like my son was warning me about. Hmmm. That experience made me ponder my situation a bit more carefully.

What if, before we make a decision we thought about the worst possible outcome. What is the worst thing that could happen? Even if it’s unlikely that the worst possible scenario would actually happen, what if we thought about what that would be before we made our decisions. What if? I mean even if the odds are strongly against it, sometimes the worst case scenario actually does happen. And that deserves our thought before we make a decision.

We were working on a an intense project at work and I was exhausted. I really needed a day off. I wanted to ask my boss for it but I stopped and thought about all the possible outcomes. He could say, “Sure go ahead. Take the day,” and that would have been great. But what would the ramifications have been overall. Everyone was stressed and working hard, everyone probably wanted a day off. My position was pretty high and I probably had more freedom to ask than those further down the ladder. If I took the day off and someone else couldn’t, or worse, didn’t even feel like they could ask for a day off, how would that impact the team? How would I be viewed? Worse case scenario – Everyone would hate me and I would be a pariah from then forward. I didn’t think THAT would happen, but there were other things to consider. After I pondered this for a while, I determined that it would be better not to even ask for the day off. Just grind through the project with everyone else and when it was done, we could all take some time. So that’s what I did.

I will never know if I had taken the day off if anything negative would have happened or if anyone would have even cared. But taking the time to consider the worst case scenario gave me a broader picture of how my decision could affect not only the others involved, but the project as a whole. It was worth the time I spent thinking about it before I decided what to do.

It probably won’t matter what we have for breakfast, what shoes we wear to work, or where we park our cars. But some decisions we make today will matter. Some decisions could have far reaching consequences. We never really know how far those consequences could go. Like tossing a pebble in a pond the ripples could go wide. So before we decide anything that touches others or impacts situations, we should take the time to think. “What’s the worst that could happen?” If we can work around that, if we can manage that, then we can go forward with confidence. Start thinking.

What you want most.

30 Mar

Someone very wise once said, “Our greatest sorrows come when we give up what we want most in life for what we want most at the moment.” That’s a strong statement and it is most certainly true. What do we want most in life? The first step is to determine what that is. Not always as easy as one might think. What do we want most? Think about it. Take some time. Decide what is most important to you at this time in your life. Is it to spend more time with your family? To change your appearance? To get more fit? To change your career? To start working on that dream you’ve had for a while now?

Once you determine what you want most, begin to think about the ways you’ve been trading it off for what you want most at the moment. What are you doing now, that’s probably easier, that is keeping you from doing the thing you really want to do most? Perhaps you want to lose weight most of all, but right now you want those French fries. Perhaps you want to write your first novel, but your favorite TV show is on tonight and you don’t want to miss it. Perhaps you want to get closer to your family, but right now you want to relax at home. There is nothing wrong with eating French fries when you want them, watching TV or relaxing at home. But if those are just the things you want at the moment and not the things you want most of all, it may be time to re-evaluate them.

Life has a way of filling up our days with details and busy-ness. There is always one more thing to get done, one more deadline, one more chore to do. But all those things are momentary in nature. How can you rearrange things so that you have time for the one thing that isn’t momentary – the one thing you’ve really been wanting in your life? We are all in control of our time and how we use it. Yes, you may have a demanding job that takes your time, and you need that. Yes, there is a lot to do after that, but it’s not impossible to plan for the time you need to work on what you really want.

Today, take a few minutes and think about what you really want most out of your life right now. Define it, and then make a plan to make time for it. Change things around and make it a priority. Don’t let anything interfere with your plan. Start working on that one thing you want most. As you do, you will see that as it becomes part of your life, it will become second nature to give it the time you need to get to the goal. You will feel stronger being in control. You will feel happier knowing you are working on what’s important to you. You will feel more confident because what you really want, who you really are, is getting the attention we deserve.

“Our greatest sorrows come when we give up what we want most in life for what we want at the moment.”

Don’t give it up one more day. Start now. Change your course. Be what you want most to be.

Opening the door.

28 Mar

When my son was about a year old, I sat him in his highchair and gave him his first popsicle.  He grabbed it from my hand grasping the frozen top instead of the handle and immediately stuck it in his mouth.  He loved it!  However, his hand was gripping the icy popsicle itself instead of the wooden handle.  I tried to pry his fingers off to move them down but he would not let go.  Quickly he began to cry because his fingers were freezing and were beginning to hurt, but he kept putting the popsicle in his mouth through all the tears, and had no way of knowing what the problem was.  I kept trying to loosen his grip but he thought I was taking his delicious treat away from him and he held on even tighter, continuing to cry and scream because his hand was hurting.  It took a few minutes but I was finally able to tug the popsicle from his iron grip, at which point he shrieked, tears pouring down his face.  I gently put the stick into his hand and finally he realized he could eat his treat without pain – finally holding it in the right place!  It was a very tense and comical situation while all of this was going on – me trying to comfort him while taking his hands off his prize, and him screaming because he wanted the popsicle and his hand was freezing.

I have never forgotten this experience.  Why?  Because there have been times in my life where I, too, have been holding onto the popsicle, screaming in pain, but refusing to let go.  Let me explain.

Sometimes we get to a place in our lives where we want something very badly.  We really want it.  We want it with all our hearts – but – there is something else holding us back from getting it.  Not necessarily something on the outside, but often something inside of us.  We have been hurt before so we are afraid to go forward.  We are unsure because it’s new territory and we don’t know how it will go, so we hesitate.  We aren’t positive we can handle the thing we want so badly.  We think we can but we aren’t completely sure.

So we get to the door, we go all the way up to it, it’s right there, that last step we need to take to move forward.  Our hand is on the knob, we can feel the tension, we are right there, but we can’t open it.  We want to, really want to, but if we open it everything will change.  We would have to let go of all our fears, all our insecurities about the decision and just go for it.  That takes determination, and it takes courage.  We really don’t know what will happen if we open the door.  We think it’ll be great.  We really want to do this, but we stop.  We are holding onto the popsicle too tightly. We don’t want to lose what we have, even if what we can gain is so much better.  We can’t let go.

Life is complex.  We go through so many changes, we travel so many different roads, we experience so many things.  We get hurt, we get happy, we get disappointed, we get relief, we cover the whole gamut of human emotional experiences.  And each one of them leaves a track – not always a scar – but definitely a track because we’ve traveled through it. Sometimes those experiences cause us to hesitate because they were painful and hard to overcome.  Some of them we have not overcome yet, and when we think of them they still hurt.  And so, the hesitation.

It’s a gamble.  There are no guarantees.  Everything is up for grabs.  We never know if things will go the way we think they will, the way we hope they will, or even they way we want them to.  But, if we don’t try, if we don’t ever open the door to the new experiences, we will never know.  We will stay in exactly the same situation we are in now, and never get to find out how it could have been.  The other side of the door holds new challenges, new opportunities, new decisions, and may offer new happiness.  It may also offer new sadness, but we won’t know if we never open it.  Getting close doesn’t really count for anything in the end.  Getting right up to the door doesn’t change anything.  We have to open it and walk through it.

Every day I hear people complain because their lives aren’t what they hoped they would be.  They aren’t living the life they really want and they are unhappy.  But the truth is that we all have the power to change our lives, we all have the power to try new things to be happy, every day.  But in order to do that, we have to let go of the popsicle.  We have to let go of the things that are holding us back, and we have to open the new door.   Will it be scary – probably.  Will it be unnerving – maybe.  Can we do it?  Absolutely.

What are you holding onto that is holding you back?  What are you afraid of?  What doors are waiting for you to open?  Walk up to them.  Put your hand on the knob, let go of the popsicle, shake it off, and open the door.  Take the chance.  Be brave – don’t look back, look forward.  It’s waiting for you.

My boss the bully.

27 Mar

Some years ago I had a very stressful job.  It involved dealing with all kinds of unhappy people in situations where they were angry.  I am pretty good at diffusing conflict and I learned very quickly just to listen and let them blow off steam before I would talk and offer suggestions for resolution.  It was a good job in that the salary was high, the hours were good, and the benefit package was nice, but it was a very hard job and what made it worse was that my boss at the time was a bully.  And to add to it, (although this term has been completely over used and tossed around way too much in recent years) the woman was also a racist.  She hated white people.  She frankly stated it time and again.  At work!  I will not reveal what race she identified with because it’s not important.  What is important is that I am “white” or what she thinks of as white.  Actually I’m Italian, but that was white enough for her.

The first few months in my new position, my boss ridiculed me regularly, demeaned me in meetings, and criticized me openly in front of my co-workers.  Every time I turned around she made a snide remark about me, and did everything seemingly in her power to make me feel horrible.  There were days I cried in my car driving home thinking, “I can’t go back tomorrow.”  But I needed the job and there was no way I could quit.  I tried meeting with her alone but she would not show at our appointed time.  I asked again and again to see her, and she would not meet with me.  Her boss was also her best friend who hired her despite the fact that she did not meet the requirements for the job, so going to him seemed pointless.  And so I was stuck day after day basically in job hell.  After several months of this, I became physically sick and called my elderly dad and told him what was going on.  He was patient and told me what I already knew – I shouldn’t have to put up with this.  Then I called my attorney and asked him what my options were and he advised me with all kinds of legal suggestions that I figured would just make the situation worse.  And then I called my Bishop at church who advised me to pray about it, which I had been and continued to do.  But still there was no change.

After one particularly horrible day, I went home sick to my stomach, with a grinding headache, and decided I couldn’t take it any more.  I shouldn’t have to put up with this, I didn’t want to take legal action, and so I decided I was going to have to quit.  I didn’t know how I was going to manage but anything was better than what I was enduring.

I got home, cried a little, felt horrible a lot, took a long soak in the hottest water I could stand, and went to bed.  Resigned to my fate.  Defeated.  Done.

But something happened that night.  I tossed and turned in bed for hours and at about 2:00 in the morning I sat straight up and said out loud, “Oh no you don’t.  You are not taking my job from me.  This ends NOW.”  Somehow in a moment I had changed.  I was not going to be the victim anymore.  I was going to stand up and although I didn’t know how I was going to do it, I was going to confront her in the morning and put a stop to the abuse.  I took a deep breath, steeled my resolve and went to sleep.

The next morning I got up and got ready.  I was nervous and scared, tremulous, but determined.  No more letting her roll over me.  No more abuse.  When I got settled at work, I stood up, took a deep breath and marched into her office.  I shut her door, and told her I needed to talk to her.  She looked up at me like she wanted to put a knife in my heart.  I took another deep breath and said:

“I will no longer tolerate your abusive behavior.  It will stop today.  If it does not stop today, I will either file a civil lawsuit of discrimination, an EEO complaint, or a grievance.  Or I might file all three.  But your degrading comments about me and to me, your constant criticism, and your remarks about my race end now.  This is over.  Are we clear?”

She was stunned!  She looked like she had been hit in the face with a brick (I know I exaggerate but you need to know the full effect of my words.)  She cleared her throat and said she would have to report my comments to her boss, and I said, “That will be fine.  Are we done here?”  She nodded, and I turned and left her office.

When I got back to my desk I nearly fell into my chair I was shaking so hard.  I felt I had faced down the demon, and it had been both a terrifying, and immensely gratifying experience.  It took a while for my breathing to calm and for me to be able to feel normal again, but I was very, very proud of myself of facing the issue and doing what had to be done.

After the moment I left her office, everything changed instantaneously.  I never heard another single negative thing from my boss.  Nothing.  She was cordial and polite every time we interacted, she was respectful in meetings, and when we passed in the halls she always said hello.  I couldn’t believe the difference or how quickly it happened.  Later she moved on to another job, as did I.  We’re both still with the same company, and when we see each other she is always quick to say hello and ask how I’m doing.  A complete and total reversal from where we had been.

Is there a bully in your life?  Someone who is making you miserable?  Someone who is doing things that hurt you maliciously?  You don’t have to take that.  You can stand up to it.  They say that many people who bully others do so because they have a low self image and lack courage.  That seems to have been the case in my situation.  I am not an extremely brave person.  I struggle with fear – have my entire life.  It took everything I had to stand up to the bully in my life, but I did it, and everything changed.  If I can do it, you can do it too.  Stand up.  You are worth the very best there is out there.  You can defend yourself and you can prevail.

Enough is enough.

27 Mar

Expectations.  We all have them.  Others have them for us.  It seems everyone expects us to be this or that, to look like this or that, to act this way or that way, to do things one way or another.  There are expectations everywhere.  You pick up a magazine and nobody in it looks like you.  They don’t even look like anyone you have ever known, but the expectation it seems, is that we should all look like the flawless, perfect, successful, people on those glossy pages.  That’s not only absurd, it’s impossible.  We read stories about 70 year old men who are still running marathons, 60 year old women who look like they are 30, and 30 year old people who are making millions of dollars.  And in each story there seems the implication that if we just worked harder we, too, could be like them.  And often it seems the expectation is that we should want to be like them.  But should we be comparing ourselves to that?

There is always someone in our sphere who expects us to somehow be different than we are and when we don’t meet that expectation, they express their dismay and disappointment.  “Just try a little harder to be the person I think you should be and you’ll be happier,” they seem to say.  But should we be listening to that?  Should we be striving to be someone that somebody else thinks we should be.  Could they possibly know more about us than we know about ourselves?

Most of us have an idea of the person we want to be.  We have personal goals, things we’d like to improve on, things we’d like to do better, things we’d like to stop doing.  Those goals are, as I said – personal.  They belong to us.  They are ours alone.  We set them and we decide how to manage them.  Some we meet, some we let go of, some we keep working on.  The important thing to understand is that they are just ours and nobody else’s.  So when others express their defined expectations for us, we can and should evaluate if those expectations define where we want to go before we give them any credence.  We are the ones who set the standard for the person we want to be.  It really doesn’t matter what our families think we should be, what our friends think we should be, what the world thinks we should be, or what our lovers think we should be.  The important thing is that we become the people WE think we should be.  That is the only way to be genuinely who we are.

We don’t have to fit into anybody’s model to be enough.  We don’t have to become someone else’s design of us.  We are enough just as we are.  We are enough because only we can decide who we want to be and how we want to live.  Nobody’s else’s ideas about those parameters matters.  They don’t matter.  We own who we are.  We decide who we will become.  We choose how we will live.  That’s what matters.

You are enough just as you are.  You are enough.  And as long as you are living your life honestly and in the direction you want to go, you are succeeding.  You get closer every day to where you want to be.  Let the world say what it will, let the expectations roll off, and keep your eyes on the goal you set for yourself.  You are enough.  You will become who you choose to become.  Be clear, be brave, and keep true.