Thursday, May 5, 2011

Some Things I Have Learned

My Feelings Belong To Me
On its face, this is of course a no-brainer. Taking a closer look, these feelings are my property. I have them due to a variety of reasons: (1) the way I was brought up (family values); (2) my experiences; (3) the comfortable way they fit. When someone doesn’t like them and, in whatever way, lets me know, I am under no obligation to change them. What I’ve decided is to consider all input. But I will only change my feelings if I choose to; pressure from outside influences is not a message to adapt to others’ feelings (attitudes, values, opinions).

Laugh And The World Laughs With You; Cry And You Cry Alone
My mother told me this is what her mother always told her. Nothing prompts the feeling of aloneness like it does when you are hurting—and it’s true. We all commiserate with another, but after we do that we go back to ourselves. Reality is harsh, but facing it is healthy. It is also a good lesson: If you always act in a positive way (put a limit to your complaining), people will enjoy being with you. I knew someone once who, every time she was greeted with “How are you?” she launched a lengthy, detailed discourse about how bad things were for her. It didn’t take long for the rest of us to get the message—don’t ask her how she is; in fact, don’t engage in conversation with her at all! She needed to complain to a professional so she could resolve her issues—instead, she was getting “therapy” for free, at the cost of everyone around her!

A Diplomat Tells Someone To Go To Hell In Such A Way He Looks Forward To The Trip
My mother would quote her father when she would give me this tidbit, and it is a favorite of mine. As I’ve been able to identify diplomats throughout my life, witnessed their special talent, and pulled off a few zingers of my own, my only footnote is: …Unless that person is an idiot and then you just tell him outright to go to hell.

Our Values Become Entrenched In Us
And, this being a fact, our personal values are not easily modified. There are movements today to change my current values. I try to be open, and often I discover that I can be comfortable with a new way of looking at things. But other times, I just cannot—it’s like trying to keep a baby from crying, the wind from blowing, the tide from rising, etc., etc. So then, I say to myself that I tried but I just don’t go along with it—period—no shame, no excuse. After a lifetime of attempting what is for me impossible change, I no longer apologize for not adapting. It’s the way I am, and that’s that. However, I never say that without trying first—that is only fair, to myself and others.

Sometimes I Just Don’t Want To
This is another version of feeling free to just say no (thank you). People ask you to head up a committee; they ask you to be friends on Facebook; they want you to contribute to their charity; and so on. You don’t want to, but you don’t know how to say no without “hurting their feelings”—or more likely, rocking their boat. Well, you just say it! No, thank you. You do not have to explain. You do need to be nice. If they keep at you after you have said “No, thank you,” you no longer need to be nice. (See my footnote regarding diplomacy.)

Examine Your Need To Please
I was born a pleaser, which, in my opinion, is a handicap. I used to laughingly explain that I was a product of Catholic school. Now my mature self realizes that being a pleaser stems from a deep need to be liked. Well, I AM liked. What I am not is a doormat. However, losing “the pleaser” hasn’t been easy. Especially when I always hear, “You are the nicest person!” “It is such a pleasure knowing you!” And the ultimate, “We want someone in our organization who is NICE to everyone!” I was extremely successful throughout my working years—I know for a fact that I moved up because I “got along” with everyone. Now I have a nice pension, which I owe in part to my going with the flow. What I do not know is, how many people along the way whispered to one another behind my back, “Give her anything—she’s easy!” or “She is TOO nice—a pushover!” and I always wonder if I would have gained more respect by being a bit difficult. Well, actually, the answer is a definite “Yes.” You have to be true to yourself and you should not be a hypocrite. But you have to learn to walk that fine line.

You Will Never Remember How Tired/Sick You Were; Only How Much You Enjoyed It
I discovered this when I was sick with a horrible cold (but no fever!) the morning of my 8th grade graduation trip, a one-day event where, just prior to splitting up to several high schools the following fall, my class would have a last chance to be together. When I went to school, you pretty much had the same kids in 8th grade you had when you were in Kindergarten—very few moved in or out over the years. Anyway, my mother was concerned that I wasn’t well enough to go—but I appreciated the importance of the day and talked her into letting me. I probably passed my germs on to everyone—my parting gift—but I will never forget how much fun that day was.

I use this piece of wisdom whenever I weigh whether I will opt to do something that I basically think is good but I have concerns about it due to fatigue or having too many other things to do, etc. I have never been sorry. The last time I used it to decide was when we were in Florence and I was exhausted from walking everywhere with my tour group. A couple of people wanted to know if I’d come with them to see the original David at the Accademia Art Gallery about five blocks from where we had gathered. Interestingly, seeing the original David was not part of the tour (we had, however, spent an hour and a half in the Uffizi—after walking all around Florence). I was sitting down when I was approached. No one else seemed interested. My feet hurt and my legs ached. Hey, I’ve seen the photo in a book, I reasoned, and I’ve seen the copy in the square. And then the wisdom I learned when I was 13 kicked in and I went—three others and I left the rest of the group and walked for about 20 minutes, and then stood in line for about 20 more minutes. Once inside, we headed straight for where David was—finally, we turned a corner and down at the end of the long corridor filled with Michelangelo’s unfinished marble statues, there was David in silent, almost indescribable magnificence. And the hairs stood up on the back of my neck, and a thrill shot up and down my spine—I still feel it as I write this. And once again, I do not remember how tired I was—but I will always remember how I enjoyed it.

You Have To Learn To Take Control
There’s a difference between being a control-freak and just plain taking control when necessary. What I’m talking about here is what to do when someone is talking your arm off. It’s incredible that I’ve encountered that rare personality who engages in a one-way conversation ad nauseum, but I actually know three such people. When I get ambushed, I purposely say absolutely nothing and they still talk on and on. Once, I was on my cell phone and we got disconnected—the person on the other end didn’t know this and kept on talking anyway (giveaway: She finally called me back and said, “I had no idea [for an abnormal length of time] we got disconnected!”). You cannot just interrupt them and say you have to get going. You cannot just slowly walk ahead while nodding your head. They do not pick up any of those vibes. They continue on, even changing the subject without a prompt or a lead from you. What works for me is just to say “Oh my GOD! I have to be somewhere right now!” and then just run off. At work, I’d pre-plan a co-worker to call me as I sat at my desk doing my work while this person droned on and on—the “call” was always an emergency and I would stand up and usually say, again, “Oh, my GOD!” A former co-worker used to call these people thieves because they steal your time—but then of course you are an accessory because you let them.

We Act In Certain Ways Because We Are Getting Something Out Of It
I learned this priceless one from Dr. Phil. The first time I heard him say it in his Texas twang, I knew it was a keeper. We can reduce our behaviors to salivating dogs—they are mostly learned. And when we get something good out of it (someone’s attention, a feeling of acceptance, etc.) we keep on doing it. We even do it to ourselves. We eat or drink more than we need to in order to give ourselves comfort. We become couch potatoes because we prefer it over the alternative, or we become the best whatever in order to be recognized. So now, when someone says to me, “Gosh, why does she act that way?” All together now: “Because she’s getting something out of it!”