Tuesday, April 30, 2013

One Small Cog

I've had a few discussions with a few different people lately and it has led me to ponder.

People think there must be some grand scheme or point to their lives. They worry and pontificate if they don't have their lives planned out, or if they don't know that they will leave a legacy behind, or if their life will be fulfilling, or they will have lived in vain. As I think on this, I often wonder what the neanderthal thought the point was to his/her life...I would guess he/she just wanted to survive long enough to have children.

What about a few thousand years ago, do you think people sat around and pondered on making goals, reflecting on the deep meaning of their lives? I suppose men like Socrates and Plato did. Certainly, the advent of leisure time had given humankind the resources to have time to contemplate such things.

Yet I wonder, is it really such a great mystery? I think of children starving to death on the streets in India. I don't think they ponder these things too much. Or the woman in Peru who is working three jobs just to keep her children fed and dressed. Do you think the point of this life is just to feed and clothe children and find some happiness in their day to day lives?

Is it imperative to leave a legacy behind? What if we do leave a legacy behind but it is unknown to us at the time that we are doing so; does it still count?

Do you think the great-grandparents of Nelson Mandela had any idea they would provide the DNA to such a great man? Any great person, for that matter, came from a line of ordinary, average people who had no idea that one day, their offspring would one day change the world.

I run a support group for people who are leaving or have left the mormon church. As I was going through my own crisis, many of the members reached out to me and helped me to see the great good I have done and the many lives I have touched. I couldn't see it at the time, as it seems so ordinary, so simple. Yet, through their eyes, I have helped them in ways that I had no idea I was impacting lives.

I donate money to an organization called Kiva.org. They give micro loans to individuals in countries where there is a lot of poverty. These loans aid families in providing for themselves, in starting, running and maintaining their own businesses.  In some small way, I am helping to change poverty.

Are these small things in such a big world? Absolutely. I have no illusions that I will have a huge impact on the world. I am only one small cog in a big, big wheel.

But I am one small cog.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Redefining Happiness

What is happiness? I suppose each person would define it differently. When I was Mormon, I was told two contradictory ideas about happiness. I was told that I was completely responsible for my happiness  regardless of circumstances, but I was also told that happiness would not really be attained in this life and if I endured, it would be waiting for me in the afterlife.

This was all very confusing for me. I was in a very unfulfilling marriage and I was told that if the circumstances of my marriage weren't making me unhappy, if I would just change my attitude and stop moping, I would become happy. I was also told that I would likely remain unhappy the duration of my life, but if I endured by remaining married and faithful, I would be blessed and find happiness in the life after.

None of this made sense to me, and I couldn't believe in a god that wanted me to continue in unhappiness; so I got a divorce and left religion.

In getting a divorce and leaving the religious mindset, I discovered happiness.

What I found is that happiness can be found. It isn't mysterious, vague or unattainable. Happiness is often a choice, but can also be lost in circumstances of grief and profound loss or abuse. I also found that we have a choice to walk away from abuse that makes us unhappy and embrace happiness. We may grieve for a time, but we can choose to find happiness once again.

I look for happiness in each day. Sometimes it is in the most beautiful rainbow that I have ever seen.
Sometimes it is in laughing with my children. Sometimes in an intimate moment, or just reading a good book. Yet each day, I can often find something that fulfills my happiness quotient.

Happiness is found in the everyday, simple things. I am so glad I have redefined happiness and found myself within it.

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Book of James

James was a lonely man. Oh, he had a good job. He wrote computer code, he had job security, benefits, a retirement fund. He also lived alone. He didn't want to be lonely. He tried on-line dating, but the women he tried to talk with would eventually tire of him and stop communicating with him. He rode the bus to work and nobody talked with him. When he got to work, nobody talked to him or went to lunch with him. He was getting desperate to make friends.

His manager at work encouraged him to use the counseling service provided through the company. It didn't cost any money, so James decided to try it. At his first session, he was a bit uncomfortable, but the therapist was nice enough, so he shared a little information about himself. At the second session, he decided to share more information. He told the therapist about his abusive childhood and how his dad would yell at him and hit him. The therapist was a good listener. At the next session, James shared how the bus driver snapped at him and nobody at the office talked with him.

He was looking forward to the next session to tell the therapist how the whole world was against him. He showed up to the next session and his therapist had made him cookies. He put them aside as he launched into his tales of how the whole world had treated him terrible all week. The therapist listened for a few minutes then asked him if there was any kind words or deeds done to him all week. He quickly said no as he went on to ruminate the terrible things done to him.  Again, the therapist stopped him to ask him if he was sure no kind thing was done to him all week. He didn't even think on it as he said no. She asked him about the cookies, ‘ Aren't they a kind thing? You didn't even say thank you for them.’

He stopped his thoughts as he contemplated what she said. This was a kind thing and it hadn't even occurred to him. He had to then wonder if any other kind things had happened to him that he had over looked. The therapist asked him to change his perspective during the week, and instead of focusing on the negative that happened, to instead focus on the positive. She encouraged him to write down one positive thing a day that someone said or did to him.

James learned that by changing his perspective, he could change his life.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Human Condition

It's late, I'm tired, but my heart can't let me sleep.


 There is some behavior that is unacceptable. When someone harms or abuses another person, we have the right to say *no*, that is not okay to treat people that way and that person is not welcome in our lives.

Then there is behavior that alienates us, isolates us, is rude, or impolite, but is short of abuse. We also have the right to set boundaries around this behavior. We have the right to be assertive and say we want the behavior to change. The other person can then choose to change the behavior or not, it is their choice. It they choose to not change the behavior, we can choose to tolerate it or ignore it or we can choose to not have that person in our life at all or on a diminished capacity.

I have been having discussions about two topics lately. One has been on ending discrimination of marriage equality to gays and the other one is accepting people who disagree with us.

I have learned that who we have sex with does not harm or abuse another person. As long as it is between consenting adults, it also does not fall into the category of being rude or impolite to others. Why, then, are so many people so vehemently opposed to it? Yet, many believe it is their business and feel as though they can judge and condemn and shame.

I believe the answer is also closely tied to the second topic. I have been working within a support group to heal wounded feelings between two people. It has been difficult to help one person understand that he has been holding a grudge over a small slight, and he needs to let it go and seek forgiveness. He holds tight to Christian beliefs, yet he cannot see he is not being forgiving or understanding, instead he is being judgmental, hypocritical and hateful.

When a person holds strongly held beliefs and they feel those beliefs are being threatened, they feel they personally are being threatened, or rejected, when if fact, it is their beliefs that are being criticized. They are not able to distinguish between their belief system and themselves. In their view, they are one and the same. When someone is critical of their beliefs, they perceive they are personally being criticized. Here is a video that explains it better than I can:         Emotional reaction to rejection

With my first experience of reaching out to my family and friends who reject the idea of ending discrimination of allowing equality to gays, I had some success with at least one family member over this facebook post:       Love and Acceptance

With my Christian friend, I have been working with him to understand that no matter how much he truly feels he was offended, he must forgive and move beyond his hurt feelings. After weeks of working with him, he messaged me tonight and said he was ready to forgive and move on.

I have believed in the capacity to change, because I have changed, yet I see it so infrequently in others.

Tonight, my heart is full of love. Love for human kind for not failing me in a time that I need to believe in love and the human condition to change for the better.