Friday, August 30, 2013

What Do You Support?

Recently I was in a position to overhear part of a conversation where the speaker raised the question: "What do you support?" The discussion had been revolving around a national environmental foundation, so it was a natural segué.

In light of the recent brouhaha about wanton brazen behavior exhibited by some in the entertainment industry, it started me thinking about his question... although possibly in a different light than the speaker originally had intended.

Nowadays, we support public figures (such as the un-entertaining entertainer referenced above) by feeding into their need for attention by ranting about the negative behavior that so disgusts us.

If, according to the movie Field of Dreams, "If you build it, he will come", then the same logic would seem to apply in this situation as well. Reinforcing negative behavior with any kind of attention only perpetuates more negative behavior. I would say this is another instance of "Mom was always right" when she said, "Ignore him and he will stop." (Sure, Mom was referring to my little brother sticking out his tongue at me... but I think the logic still applies.)

All of us support something. Frequently we support causes unknowingly by supporting businesses that use part of their profits to support a particular cause. Many years ago I followed the common practice of "taking my dollar elsewhere" rather than have my hard earned money go to a cause that was anathema to me. While I do not condemn that idea, in real life it is hard to follow up. Lists change. Sponsorships begin and end. It costs money to keep up with the current "list." Seriously, I have better things to spend my (increasingly limited) energy on.

What is the answer? How do we determine if our time and money is being channeled into causes that we agree with? I believe it begins in knowing what we believe, and why. It is not enough to rally around a flag. We need to know which army we are rallying around, what 'war' is being waged, and what the intended results are.

Unfortunately, all too often most people don't think past the hype and glamour, or what I call the "rah-rah" mentality, that is designed to spur crowds to show up, rallying around a cause because of a sound bite, or more recently, a disturbingly graphic post on social media. It is too easy to get sucked into the drama without stopping to evaluate the content of a cause. Be it fundraising for an environmental group out to save the planet, a morals group trying to reign in the hedonistic behaviour that is dragging down any semblance of human decency, or civil rights advocates out to rectify the wrongs perpetrated against minorities, women, ethnic groups or the like. I am not saying any of these causes are wrong. What I am saying is that we should not blithely follow along behind a feel-good campaign that does nothing to right any of these wrongs, but only champions rhetoric that fosters division. Much would be solved by taking the time to UNDERSTAND people and issues. And that takes effort and time. Sadly, too many seem to be unwilling to invest those commodities to that end.

And that, I believe, is what I support. I support the human factor.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Finding My Groove

There are so many things that I would like to do, and sometimes I wonder what I must have been smoking to have come up with such an absurd bucket list. For a time, I faithfully subscribed to "43 Things", a website dedicated to helping people keep track of the list of things they hoped to accomplish in life.

Now, I am not saying it is a bad thing to have goals in life. We have (most of us) heard the adage, "Without a vision, the people perish", but I wonder if we lose sight of the goal by concentrating on the list. I, for one, am a great maker-of-lists. And if I didn't think to put it on the list in the beginning, I would for sure put it on the list if I did it anyway. Sort of an affirmation of my right to existence... "See? I accomplished something today!"

Neither am I saying we should do away with lists. Lord knows where my brain would be without a list. I swear, going shopping is the absolute worst. If I walk into a store without a written list, it doesn't matter how few things I need to remember, and it doesn't matter if I concocted a rhyme to remind myself of everything I need to find... I know there is some kind of invisible, magnetic force that wipes my brain clean as soon as I walk through those doors. You know what I'm talking about.

But as for accomplishing the goals I have in life, the hard part is that they are always changing. Have you ever noticed that you can spend time researching, gathering supplies, and learning what you need to know to be able to do that next thing on your list - and no sooner that you cross it off, it has become mundane. I know that, for me, the reasoning is: "If I could do it, then it must not be that hard."

Nevertheless, I still have my list of goals. Not the kind of goals they are asking you to dream at one of those multi-level marketing meetings. I have never dreamed of having a ski boat or BMW. And to be quite honest, there are a number of goals I have managed to cross off. Some of them seemed impossible, but they weren't. They were hard, but they weren't impossible. Along the way I made some discoveries... share your dreams. Share your "list" with someone. But before you do, make sure you are OK with people questioning your sanity. Be ready to say why you have any one thing on your list. Because here is the thing about sharing your goals: You may find a kindred spirit who has the same dream. You may find a mentor who has climbed that mountain. You may find a cheerleader who believes in you. You may find the inspiration you need to see the next step to take.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

No Drama Zone

Let's face it: Life is full of drama. And if there is one thing I know: I am no actress.

I have come to believe there are people who enjoy the drama and create it where ever they go, or leave it trailing in their wake. And there are those who feel the responsibility to clear the sets off the stage and make life ready for the next performance.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Examining Our Motives

I have found myself, on more than one occasion, wondering aloud why I seem to be so often misunderstood.

Cruelest of all is the time that you try to do something nice for someone only to have it come back and blow up in your face when your motives are subjected to scrutiny. Never underestimate the power of someone to misunderstand you.

Unfortunately, the reality is that my under-underlying motive is often the unwitting belief that the recipient of my generosity is somehow unable, incapable of doing for themself. Or even worse, they don't understand just how right and kind I am. What a load of kablooie. I realize that is nothing more than my latent "helicopter parent" revving up my motor. Now that I no longer have kids at home to swoop in and rescue, I have broadened my field and look for others who need my wisdom.

Once more, I need to take that key out of the ignition and park this baby in the hanger.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Life and Death

Sundays are the day we visit Mom. Of course we visit her more than once a week, and various members of our family make a point to drop by and see her at various times to cheer her up, but also to check up on her and report back any changes.

There have been changes. Those of us that see her frequently may not notice them as much, but the family that come from out of town remark on them.

And so much depends on the time of day that we pay our visit. Mom is 94, and she is tired of it. It shows in her face, in shows in the way she can no longer hold her head up straight. It shows in how often she asks, "I don't understand why I can't just go home."

It is hard to watch someone you love, someone who you have fond memories of laughing together and doing so many unimportant things with, having lost her love for life. Living has become a chore to her, something she is wishing she could just be through with and go out to play.

I think of it like that, because I know she is thinking that there must be more to look forward to than her liquid diet and the daily loss of dignity when others come in and decide for you when to dress, when to eat, and if you can shower that day.

I have to be honest... I am not looking forward to that day.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Appreciating Friends... and Life

I just returned from spending several hours at the hospital bedside of a woman who has become like a sister to me over these past 20 years. It seems amazing even as I ponder that, because when I first met her, I was not even sure I approved of her.

Now I marvel that she has been an important part of my life for more years than I previously spent in the company and companionship of my own sisters. When you make your adult home far from your immediate family, this is something I have found important: Find new people to make your "Family." Of course, no one can ever replace my family, or my own brother and sisters. But for the every day ups and downs of living life, you need a "sister" close by who can hear your heart. She may not agree with everything you do, but she has your back.

So today, we had another heart scare... which blessedly turned out to be other than heart this time. Still, it gave me a chance to reconfirm my love for her and for her sweet family. It gave me another opportunity to stand with her in crisis and be a part of that tribe that cares about its own.

It is important to have family. It is important to have friends.

There was a spell in my life when I could not take one more friend moving away, so I shut up my heart to letting anyone become that close again. That was a foolish choice, in retrospect. Hurt and loss is always going to be a part of life. It is healthy to learn how to face it and deal with it.

Some times we have to walk through the shadows to appreciate the light.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Write Every Day

My friend Kathryn recently offered some advice: "Want to be a great writer? Write every day. Write badly if you have to but write every day."

Now, I am not sure that my career - or even life - goal is to be a "great writer." Not that there isn't room on the board for more writers, but let's face it: at 62, it's rather late in the game to be taking up a new calling.

No, but I do think that there is always room for improvement in anything we do, and to that end, I am challenging myself to write every day for one month and see if I can cultivate a new habit.

Watch this space. I may be sharing thoughts or conclusions or posing questions. Mostly I will be practicing writing. (Except weekends... I will probably skip those unless I have something specifically profound to share.)