Goodbye Pat and Goodbye 2015

Weeping Quote

I have never been so relieved to have a year come to an end!  For the most part it was a good year but the end was one of the roughest times of my life.  The whole month of December was kind of awful for a myriad of reasons but the toughest moment came the day after Christmas when our good, family friend Pat passed away.

My family moved in with Pat who was around fifty at the time, when I was a little girl.  We had just moved back from California and had no money, no prospects and no where to live.  Pat was at that moment, and for the rest of his life, our guardian angel.  He was unfailing kind and generous, sweet and playful.  He was the best of friends and the best of people.  He lived with my family for the rest of his life and died in his own bed at my parents house.

He was what some might consider an unremarkable man who lived a remarkable life, filled with tragedy and loss and ultimately redemption and love.

The thing that was so very remarkable about Pat once you got to know him  was how happy he was with so little.  In our modern view, the gifts that life gave him were so pitifully few, he was never in love (the one date he ever went on ended with getting kicked out of his house for dating) he never had children or a high powered career, he wasn’t famous, he didn’t change the world.  And yet in all the time I knew him he never shed a tear (he said he had cried all his tears when his mother died), he never complained about the life he was given, he never forgot to say thank you for even the smallest gesture of thoughtfulness.

I’m not really sure if understanding the life he lived makes his unfailing contentment more or less amazing.  He lost his mother at age seven and was sent to an orphanage with his brother.  A couple of years later he lost his father as well.  He continued in the orphanage until he was adopted by some cousins but even that  was shortlived and he time and again ended up homeless on the streets of Detroit.  He though about becoming a priest but was disillusioned by the hypocrisy he witnessed while working around the order.  He went into the army and was one day away from shipping out to Vietnam when he contracted double pneumonia and was eventually given an honorable disability discharge.  He had a mental breakdown a few years after he left the army and was diagnosed with schizophrenia and spent some time in an institution.  He moved to Colorado and ended up buying a house for his beloved poodle Blackie.  That was the only reason that he bought the house because he wanted his dog to have a home and a yard and so he provided them.   Some time later he started going to the church my father worked for and that was how we met him.  When we moved back from California, homeless and desperate, we found out that his dog had died and he was terribly lonely and heartsick over his dog’s passing.  The pastor of the church thought it might be a blessing for him to have some companionship and it was undoubtedly a blessing for us as well.  From that day on he was a part of our family.

Time and again life gave him obstacles and problems that he saw for what they really were, gifts.  The pneumonia that wrecked his lungs and was the foundation for a life time of lung problems wasn’t a curse it was the blessing that saved him from the horrors of war.  The death of his beloved pet was the reason our family came to stay and he finally got the love and friendship and the home that he had never had.  It didn’t make him bitter that life had been so hard because he knew the worst that could happen, he’d lived through it, and the qualities of character and personality that caused him again and again to seek a life of service and a purpose in helping others, helped him to remain happy and positive and unfailingly grateful.

There have been so many lessons I’ve learned from Pat in our life together but his last lesson and gift to me (and one that I needed more than ever as I dealt with the loss of him) was that this too shall pass.  Pat lived a life blighted by pain and suffering for the first two thirds of his time on earth but the last third, though it maybe didn’t make up for or remove those lost years, did give him something he’d always wanted, a home, a family and unconditional love.  I imagine it would be all but impossible for me to experience the amount of loss and devastation  in my life that Pat suffered but even if it did, the memory of how he dealt with that loss and the knowledge that it did eventually get better will stay with me through anything.

So goodbye Pat, I loved you and I will always miss you.

Lincoln Quote

 

You Are What You Think: Judge Not

What  you think is the true basis of your whole personality, it directly informs your feelings, words and actions.  In this series that  I’m calling “You Are What You Think”, I am going to explore why what you think about is so important and the causes and consequences of different thought habits.

Character

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote this quote during the 19th century and it is as true today as it was then and for a very obvious reason.  What we think and how we view things are completely intertwined. A liar, for example, is unable to trust others because he always suspects others of being as deceitful as himself.  Ken Keyes put it another way during the middle of the 20th century…

Mirror

This is why it is so important to pay attention, not only to what you say about others and what you say about yourself, but to what you put into your brain and what you think about or how you process that stimulus.  If you continually let your baser impulses run wild, if you don’t repeatedly and thoughtfully pursue empathy and rationality, you really have no basis on which to judge others or the world in which we live.  You cannot say “I am a good person and that person is bad”, because your own perspective is biased.  Thoughtfulness or mindfulness in your approach to life is the only way to be sure that your perspective is as accurate as possible and when you view the world in this way, you are often less inclined to judge others, because of your increased awareness of what you do not know about that person’s feelings or motivations in acting the way they do. To round this quote session out, here is one from a favorite TV show of mine from the 21st century…

asshole

When you act or speak in ignorance of what another’s circumstances might be, you reveal that ignorance to the world around you.  Or to put it one last way, from an even older source than Emerson, “Judge not lest ye be judged.” Another problem with spending so much thought energy on judging or disparaging a situation or another person is that you are wasting time and energy on a thought process that will ultimately leave you, in no better position than when you started out. A better use of your time might be to acknowledge the issue and then turn your thoughts away from the problem itself and who’s to blame and toward finding the best solution to the problem going forward.

Lean Into the Pain or How Avoiding Unhappiness Won’t Make You Happy

Avoiding UnhappinessI was having dinner with a friend of mine and her parents a couple of weeks ago and they were asking for advice on quitting smoking that they could pass along to their son who is a smoker.  The only thing that I could really think of to tell them was to lean into the pain.  A couple of days later I was watching a movie with Funky called Hector and the Search for Happiness (which is completely awesome I highly recommend it) and there was a line about how avoiding unhappiness is not the road to happiness.

The thing is, unhappiness is just a part of life.  Without unhappiness how would we appreciate happiness?  How would we even know what happiness is?

Having a risk averse way of looking at things gets in the way of being happy!  Why would you pursue a route that is hard but ultimately rewarding if avoiding struggle or moments of unhappiness is your main goal?

In fact, I would even go so far as to say that surviving unhappiness is one thing that can make you really happy.  When I look back on my own experiences I see this play out over and over again.  If there was a project I was dreading because it seemed really difficult or I was insecure about my ability to handle it, I would put off dealing with it.  I was a classic procrastinator.  The result of this, was that I went around with this thing hanging over my head and in the back of my mind, worrying me.  Then I would put the thing off so long that some kind of deadline would pass and the situation would get much worse and much more complicated.

When I finally disciplined myself to take care of the dreaded thing right away, no matter how much it sucked, I would be rewarded with a sense of accomplishment and renewed faith in my own abilities.

Here’s another way of saying the same thing.  I was watching a show called The Mentalist and the main character on the show told someone that they would be a lot happier if they didn’t think so much about what they do and don’t like.

I completely agree.  Just by saying, I don’t like being unhappy, you are ensuring that you will be unhappy.  It is a self fulfilling prophesy.

For example: people think, “I don’t want to quit smoking because it’s going to be really hard and I won’t like that.”  Then they finally talk themselves into quitting and they think “yep, I was right this is hard and I don’t like it”, then they start thinking “Is it worth it?  I’m so unhappy and quitting smoking is supposed to make my life better but it’s making it worse because it’s so hard and I’m so unhappy.”  Then they start smoking again and guess what?  They are still unhappy, because they are doing something that they know they shouldn’t be doing and the cycle starts again.  The only way to free themselves from the cycle is to lean into the pain, to just accept it and go through it and pursue their only chance at happiness which lies on the other side of unhappiness.

I’m not saying people should pursue unhappiness for it’s own sake or that they should wallow or obsess over things that make them unhappy.  I’m only saying that sometimes unhappiness is unavoidable and in those situations it might be better to submit of your own free will and truly experience it and then move on, instead of avoiding it and thereby allowing it more control over your life than it deserves.

Cliche Day: Taking Things For Granted

I love cliche’s, so every once in a while, I’m going to delve deeper into a cliche to understand what it’s really about and why it may be cliche but it still has value.

Today’s Topic: Taking Things For Granted

Usually taking something for granted means you don’t appreciate it as much as you should. Where does this come from? Why would you take something for granted? You might be so used to having something that you cease to value it, but I think there is a deeper cause to this attitude. That cause is pride.

According to dictionary.com when used as a noun “granted” can mean “something granted, as a privilege or right”. I think that this speaks to the root cause of the problem. Taking something for granted is what happens when you stop seeing something as a privilege and start seeing it as a right. You might subconsciously think that the good things that others do for you or the good things that happen to you in life are your right. You see this often in spoiled children; the thing they want they feel they deserve to have, not because of anything they have done to earn it but because of who they are. They’re special so of course life should be everything they want it to be. Even though we, as adults, should have more wisdom; whom among us hasn’t been frustrated or angry that things haven’t gone their way. Another aspect of taking things for granted is all about seeing the negative side of things while not acknowledging the good. I rarely hear someone comment that traffic was great or the line at the DMV was super short but I always hear about it when traffic took forever or the lines were huge. After all doesn’t the universe realize that those long lines or traffic jams are interrupting our day and that we are too important to have to deal with these inconveniences? If you recognize yourself in these thoughts or comments don’t despair, there is a cure. The antidote is gratitude.

It occurred to me that in my home the dinner table was often a scene of venting about all the things that went wrong that day. My husband and I are just seeing each other for the first time after work and we want to share our frustrations. That’s a pretty natural thing to do.  But what are we teaching our daughter about how to view the world? To address this issue I’m going to  start having dinner be about all the good things that have happened to us that day. How I had a really fun conversation with a cute family at work or how my husband met someone interesting. Gratitude is one of the many things we take for granted but gratitude doesn’t just happen on its own; it’s something we have to consciously think about and strive for each day. I urge you to take some time at the end of the day to think about all the good things that have happened to you and truly count your blessings, but that is a cliché for another day.

Critical Thinking Vs. Being Critical

Thought Quote

I often worry that I am too ready to be critical of others. When asking myself why that may be, I rationalize that people are encouraged to think critically and that this is seen as a good thing. So if it is good to think critically, why do I feel so bad when I am critical? How do you think critically without being critical? I turned to the internet for some definitions and what I found was that thinking critically and being critical were not really related at all but in fact were completely opposite ideas.

The definition I found for critical was “inclined to find fault or to judge with severity, often too readily” (dictionary.com), whereas for thinking critically I found this… “Critical thinking is self-guided, self-disciplined thinking which attempts to reason at the highest level of quality in a fair-minded way… [People who think critically] are keenly aware of the inherently flawed nature of human thinking when left unchecked…   They use the intellectual tools that critical thinking offers – concepts and principles that enable them to analyze, assess, and improve thinking.   They work diligently to develop the intellectual virtues of intellectual integrity, intellectual humility, intellectual civility, intellectual empathy, intellectual sense of justice and confidence in reason.   They realize that no matter how skilled they are as thinkers, they can always improve their reasoning abilities and they will at times fall prey to mistakes in reasoning, human irrationality, prejudices, biases, distortions, uncritically accepted social rules and taboos, self-interest, and vested interest.”~ Linda Elder, September, 2007 (found on criticalthinking.org).

So in essence being critical means judging someone else without putting much thought into it and thinking critically is all about being thoughtful, putting time and energy into examining the way that you think and whether or not your perspective of a given situation is accurate. Being critical is judging things outside yourself and thinking critically is examining a set of facts without prejudice and with the aim of finding the truth in your own mind.

My husband always says that I make everything a moral issue and I do. Why would I do any different? Why wouldn’t you think about what the right thing to do is and then act accordingly, instead of acting without thought and then rationalizing why it was the right thing to do, when in truth, it is merely what you wanted to do and whether it was right was never considered.

To answer the question that brought me here, the only way to avoid being critical, is to think critically. In order to think critically you must remove yourself from the question at hand and examine the issue rationally, with clarity and empathy. That last bit is the important part in my mind and the key to not being critical. If you truly strive to understand what might be motivating the other person’s behavior you might be more willing to give that person a break just the same as you might with your own behavior when, for example, you know you’ve had a headache all day and you snapped at someone for being too loud.

In my opinion the best way to avoid being critical of people, especially people you love, is to give them the benefit of the doubt. In the end the only thing you can really change about a situation is your attitude about it. Why not take a moment to examine your own mind and motivations critically and to decide if your criticisms might be better left unsaid.

Pride: The Good, The Bad, and the Let’s-Not-Go-There

Hello, again. It is time for another Philosophy Sunday, and I thought that we would go a little deeper and a little more controversial this week, on account of the time of year. As some of you may or may not know, this is PRIDE time, and there are several PRIDE parades going on this very day. I am not here to debate the moral standing of the PRIDE believer–I neither have the time nor energy for that kind of debate. Having been on the receiving end of many a you’re-going-to-Hell tirade, I know where that particular topic leads. Instead, I want to focus on that word, pride, in and of itself.

Before I get into it, let me give you a little background into how this word has affected my life from the very beginning. I am the miracle daughter of a bra-burning hippie and a hard-core biker–neither of which were sure they would, could, or should have children. I am sister to a bunch of punks. Niece to a few lesbians–one of which just passed away. Cousin to a few who have been labeled “special needs.” Best friends to an exotic beauty living in a way too small town. Also various other subcultures notoriously hated upon. Both sides of the family name have Scottish roots, so I have a bit of Scottish pride in my bones–however a journey to the motherland would simply result in defending my name, seeing as the Campbell Clan is somewhat of a hated group. My point is that I have been surrounded by various minority groups since the moment of my birth.

Now, let’s look at Pride:

Pride – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia// // // //

Pride is an inwardly directed emotion that carries two common meanings. With a negative connotation pride refers to an inflated sense of one’s personal status or accomplishments, often used synonymously with hubris. With a positive connotation, pride refers to a satisfied sense of attachment toward one’s own or another’s choices and actions, or toward a whole group of people, and is a product of praise, independent self-reflection, or a fulfilled feeling of belonging.

I know that I have personally heard many a diatribe about this word–“Pride cometh before the fall,” and “Pride…it may be a 5 letter word, but it can kill a very long word. Relationship!” Or even, “Pride grows in the human heart like lard on a pig!” There are rather a lot of derogatory quotes to attribute to pride, to hubris, to boastfulness. But there are good quotes too–“Take Pride in how far you have come, and have faith in how far you can go!” by Christian Larson, or this one from Paul Bryant, “If you believe in yourself and have dedication and pride–and never quit, you’ll be a winner. The price of victory is high but so are the rewards.”

See, pride seemingly has a different connotation depending on the way that you look at it. It seems as if too much of it can make you rather blind to your own mistakes. Having too little keeps you in the shadows, harps on your self-esteem. What is pride? Well, like Wikipedia said, the positive connotation of pride ‘refers to a satisfied sense of attachment toward one’s own or another’s choices and actions, or toward a whole group of people…a fulfilled feeling of belonging.” I believe this is why the GLBT group has chosen this word. They, of course, are not the only ones that have attempted to push this word to its very limit. I mean, for goodness sake, the 20th century was pride central! It was the generation for equality! If it had not been, then would there still be slaves? Where would the women be? Barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen? (Yup, never heard that one in my country town!) What about the Jewish community? One person so filled with hate that he spread like a cancer, almost decimated an entire community. Is that what we should do with hate? Should we hate on the Jewish community, or any community, based on something so small? Should communities swallow their pride? Just take what we give? No.The very fact that we have taken the initiative to have pride, has moved us so far forward as a people…I think that is a beautiful thing. If we didn’t have the right to have pride in ourselves, to be able to bond together under that comfy umbrella of community-pride, where would we be?

I was raised by a hardcore feminist, who was also a survivor–a survivor of many things, but one of the major ones being that she was stalked and hurt for the simple reason of being a woman–“She shouldn’t have been dressed like such a sl*t,” was the cop’s response. My father was raised in California, when race wars were the big thing, and he was a poor white sickly kid–he had no race to call his own, because to be poor kicked him out of the white group. Eventually, he became a biker, a notorious group of outlaws! I tell you what, though–his friends have been some of the greatest people I have ever met. And my punk brothers…gawd! I love them. Did you know that, in a punk mosh-pit, if you fall down, there are at least five hands reaching down to help pick you back up. Again, some of the greatest, sweetest, most sincere, honorable people I have been blessed to call friends. I went to PRIDE FEST last year with my Aunt–had an absolutely amazing time! I fret to say it again, but I met some awfully amazing people there as well. If WWII had gone even further, then my fantastic “special needs” cousins would have never been allowed to be. Think about that. And they are all so beautiful. As far as my best friend goes–it is hard being a minority in a small town. She was lucky that she was a beautiful girl, because guys sought her instead of belittled her…normally. Even then, the fact that she had a pretty one rarely gave her the permission to open her mouth to profess her own opinion. You can bet her big-boned-such-a-nice-personality BFF had plenty to say in her stead! Lastly, I am a Leo, the lion, the one who is king of the jungle and master of the pride! I have been sapped so thoroughly in situations that require a certain level of pride to be able to stand up for one’s self, that I cannot readily accept the discrimination against the pride of one group over another.

I, myself, am frequently the target of hate. I have tattoos, I dye my hair funny colors, I have multiple piercings, I love motorcycles, I smoke, I had way too much fun in college, and I often find myself in the company of the “scourges” of the universe. Where in there does it say that I am not allowed to have pride? I like my tattoos, and I love my hair. Eight piercings is a lot, but they are all on my head (not that I would ever hate on anyone for piercing anything!). Smoking kind of goes hand-in-hand with being a rebel to society, hahaha, but I still like it, I still do it despite all the bad things that it does to me–My Choice! Yet this has been the topic of one of the you’re-going-to-hell tirades…so was college, hahaha! However, I sincerely love my life. I love my “scrotey” friends! Why? Because they love me. If I start going around thinking that I am better than everyone else, then that is definitely the negative connotation of pride. I have mentioned before that people suck–yeah, well, they suck all over. There isn’t a particular group who sucks more than any other. In fact, the idea that “people suck” is definitely more individually based, only generalized when one is talking about the whole population that is man! I’m an individualist, hahaha. So just because I vehemently dislike one girl, I am not going to hate on every woman just because they have that name. Just like I am not going to hate on an entire community because of one person, one belief.

So, this weekend, look at the world without judgement. Look at the moral of the story, not the problem. Why does that person have pride? Because their entire community is surrounded with hate? What would you do in their shoes? In fact, what would be the catalyst to allow your moment of pride to occur? To stand up for the color of your skin? For the gender you were born with? For the religion you believe in? For the person you love? For your job? For your social standing? What? Whether or not you agree with the reason, I do not think it is very productive to respond to pride with hate. “Have you ever been hated or discriminated against? I have.” (Eminem) For if you have, how does it feel? Did it make you want to have a voice with which to defend yourself? Would you quietly stand by while someone condemned you? Would you feel better if there was a community in which you felt like you belonged? I mean, isn’t the negative connotation for pride pretty much a definition for the prerequisites for hate? In the end, it is that other person’s problem as to whether they are right or wrong. My only thing is, do I admire the effort?

What do you think?

society

(From Facebook) Thank you Lizzy the Lezzy!