That is so gay

This is the #1 result of a google image search using the title of this post. Image source: http://beinglatino.wordpress.com

Have you ever gone to therapy? I have. On three different occasions.  I don’t remember every tool I learned there off the top of my head, but I do remember my counselor saying this: you cannot make anyone feel anything. I was feeling guilt, assuming I made people feel badly even though they probably weren’t feeling anything bad at all, and my counselor was trying to help me realize I shouldn’t hypothesize constantly the impact my words have on others. He said,  “We all choose how we feel when people say things, whether we feel good or bad. We are responsible for our own emotions, not for everyone else’s. If we hurt someone’s feelings, they have a responsibility to tell us so.” But that got me thinking (probably way off of where the counselor was going with his point, but whatever! It’s still an interesting thing to consider…). Is that always the case? Am I never to blame for how others feel as a result of something I said or did?  If I cheated on my husband and he felt hurt, angry, dejected, and insulted, does this mean I can release some of the blame for the way he would be feeling? I don’t think it works quite this way, and while I know I would never take advantage of this perspective, I am sure there are thousands of people out there who would.

Like this guy I knew once upon a time, who regularly said unnecessarily cruel and critical things to unsuspecting people, all-the-while using the disclaimer, “Hey, don’t get mad at me. I’m just being honest.Yeah right. My theory is this guy got sadistic pleasure out of making people feel insecure or miserable. Messing with people’s heads was this dude’s personal enjoyment. I imagine he was doing it because he  wanted others to be as miserable as he was; or maybe that was just his personality; or maybe he really did think that was how psychology students were supposed to behave, as he said on many occasions. But the truth is, what he said made people miserable and it gave him pleasure. Whether or not what he said was true was not nearly as important as what were his motives. And those were selfish and unkind in nature. Lucky for us, there aren’t too many of people like this guy wandering around. No,… I would say, mostly all of us do our fair share offending and being the offended.

People say and do things that hurt people’s feelings all the time. Often people hurt others without the self-awareness to realize why they behave as they do (like girls in junior high who rip on other girls because deep down they are insecure about themselves).  They don’t fully understand why they are doing it, and don’t necessarily care to find it out. It’s just easier to keep doing what feels good.

And more commonly there are people who hurt others’ feelings without ever intending to do so, and without realizing what they said could be hurtful. Many times they are ignorant of what they are saying. Take the people who say, “That’s retarded,” or, “I jewed him down,” or, “I got gypped,” or, “That’s so gay.” Now, I’m not trying to be the language police. Matter of fact: I am a major user of swear words–it’s a vice I try to avoid but cannot eliminate, and often it’s one that I indulge pleasurably. In issues of language there are people on both sides of the fence (homosexuals who say, “That’s so gay,” and so on), but depending on your audience, those phrases can offend people. And this is something we should try to be aware of. My swearing offends people, and presents me in a less-than-flattering light, so I need to choose my audience carefully. And what the offended folks must remember is: some people don’t realize what they are saying is offensive. It might be a cultural thing, it might be badly phrased, it might be slang.  So before reacting, try informing them first. We’re all guilty of this offense in some form at one time or another.

And finally, there are the people who say 100% innocent things that are only offensive to a particular person with a particular point of view or private history. Everyone has had experiences we cannot know ahead of time that shape their attitudes and perceptions, and often something we say innocently can offend others.

So how can we manage this fact in a world where people are (endlessly!) offended by any number of things?

First, have compassion if you have been offended. You’re no perfect plum yourself.

Second, I say operate on this principle of forgiveness: unknowing offenders should be forgiven immediately–and when worthwhile–the offender should be informed of your feelings (nicely!) to help them avoid repeat occurences. Try not to judge their character, when it could be a simple issue of misinformation or ignorance. But do take note of those who are continually offensive, mean, or corrosive to others’ self-esteems and identities. Those people are toxic and should probably be called out on their behavior, or avoided. In those cases, chalk it up to their personality, and don’t waste time or energy being hurt by their musings. State your position, be open for a good dialogue, and if all else fails, deny that bummer-of-a-being your totally awesome friendship! There are tons of people out there just waiting to offend you unintentionally! Better you spend your energy on them!

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A little about parents on Mother’s Day

Aside

 

 

When I was little…

My mom is going to read this probably tomorrow night. So first: Happy Mother’s day Mom! I love you and you are a wonderful woman who I am so lucky to have in my life. You were amazing the day you gave birth to my squirmy 9 pound 13 ounce body, and you are even more amazing today. Thank you for… everything.

Today I want to write about parents. I’ve had this one on the list for a while, and it seems perfect to write it on a day like today.

Parents are perfect.

And parents are completely, ridiculously imperfect too.

I love my parents. I like them too. That, I think, is pretty impressive. Not many people can truly say they like their folks. But I really do. And I have four of them.  My parents divorced around 17 years ago and it was the best thing they could have done (aside from having me and my siblings I suppose!). Then they found these wonderful significant others that are so completely better for them than they were for each other.  And, somewhat atypical of most step-parent/step-kid relationships, I like my step-folks too!

But that’s not to say we haven’t had our rough times. Fights, mean words, grudges, irritation, frustration, hurt feelings. It wasn’t always easy. A lot of the good feelings we have now took a lot of hard work over the years from both sides.  And we’ll have to keep working at it in the future. After all the… stuff… over the years, if there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that parents always do their best. It might not have been the best that I wanted or thought I wanted, but it was the best that could be done at the time. When I realized this in my early twenties, everything got a whole lot simpler. All of a sudden, the anger I had carried for years regarding things I had no control over from the past began to work its way out of me. Do I think there will always be a little hurt, unease, or sadness in me about some of it? Yes. But knowing they had done their best was enough for me to let it go and accept it. To move on.

People always say, “We can’t pick our parents.” And all I can say to that is, “I am so glad!” I wouldn’t want to pick my parents–it would be like picking your kids! No thanks! Where would I begin? How would I know what was the best choice? What I think might be the best for me might not be any good at all! Like it or not, my parents’ weaknesses and strengths shaped me, made me who I am today. And I wouldn’t want to change that, and I couldn’t have planned for that either. I like me. I like who I am today. And all the crap and good stuff we experienced in our pasts congealed and made me what I am. There’s no sense to it, but it works.

Everyone on the planet has some idea of what everyone else should be doing to be “better,” but these notions are based significantly on our own desires. We love each other, we want one another to be better, to be our best. Because we care, because it will relieve us, because it will make our lives easier…. But what we have to learn to accept–in order to love them fully–is that all we can really expect out of our loved ones is that they do their best. Even if it isn’t as “good” as we’d like it to be. If they are doing all they are capable of at the time, how can we demean that with our expectations and desires? They are surviving, coping, managing, moving forward. They are succeeding! They are being nothing short of astounding–not everyone can give their best. (Are we giving our best when we pile our expectations on others?) Once we recognize that their best may never be what we expected, we might just realize that their best was better than we could have imagined. That their best achieves more, is more genuine and long-lasting; it inspired in them more than we had ever dreamed possible.  And in that regard, aren’t we lucky that we didn’t get our way?!

 

Compassion and illness

I visited a friend of mine in the hospital the other day–she had elective surgery and had no one to visit her that afternoon. So I popped by with a girlfriend of mine and brought some flowers to cheer up the room. It sure made a difference to her too, she was smiling ear to ear.

Unfortunately, I have had a fair share of relatives and friends whose lives have been touched by illness–cancer to be specific. My grandma has loved and lost quite a few to this disease. I asked her once if there was anything I could do for someone we care dearly about who is fighting it. She said something very wise:

Visiting the sick is very important. It helps the person heal, or deal with their situation. But visiting can be tiring for the sick, too. It takes a lot of energy to chat with someone when so much of his/her strength is being used to fight an internal battle. Grandma suggested, when visiting someone,  that we try to provide a service as well. For example, bring a ready-made snack and clean up afterward. Insist on taking care of the dirty dishes. Pick up some groceries on your way over. Sweep up some crumbs. Take out the trash. Fold up the blankets. Weed the garden. Mow the yard. Fill the bird feeder. Offer to help out in a way that contributes without taking away the person’s pride and sense of independence. 

A lot of times, this might include helping the person’s caretaker/loved one. It is hard for the loved one to be strong all the time for the person who is ill. Sometimes they might need a break from the dishes or the cooking. Offering your help may be all they need to feel supported and loved. Suggesting something specific is often a surefire way of ensuring your contribution is taken seriously. Just make sure that when you offer it, you mean it.

 

© Be Nice. Creator and Be Nice.(somethingsonice.wordpress.com), 2008-2009.

Successes

 I lost 65 pounds about 4 years ago. Around ten or twelve of those pounds have crept back on, but I have continued to make lifestyle  improvements: now, I exercise and pay attention to emotional eating habits. But for some reason, despite all these awesome accomplishments, I stress out about those extra ten pounds. I give myself a pretty tough time about it too. It seems once I grow accustomed to my new accomplishment, I take for granted all the hard work it took to get there. I forget. I ignore my successes and instead obsess about my newly perceived “faults.” For most people, this kind of mindset does little good to motivate us to greater accomplishments. It can often send us spiraling backwards.

It’s hard to keep up with all the ways to be a “good” person: be green, give to charity, go to church, keep a clean house, eat healthy, exercise, be a good employee, be a good boss, be a good friend, be a good spouse/partner. Jeez. How could we feel good about ourselves with everything telling us to improve (this blog is no exception to that, and I know it).

So, what if we changed our mind frame?  I suggest that we keep a successes journal. You might not be eating perfect, but you said no to ice cream today. You cleaned off the dining room table. You had a great conversation with your neighbor and gave consolation when s/he needed it. You may not have finished the laundry, but you were there to talk to your friend with whom you’ve been playing “phone tag” for two months.

These things are successes. They create a more meaningful life. Instead of judging ourselves against an idea of perfection, or someone else’s idea of what is best and worst, why not judge ourselves based on what we find meaningful? Don’t know what you find meaningful? Find out. That could be your success every day.

After about five days, look back on your list. How good does it make you feel to see all the great things you did? Imagine how those small things make a positive difference in the bigger picture. At the end of our lives, people won’t remember that we binged on ice cream last Sunday or if we kept a clean house. They’ll remember that we lived a happy, healthy life.  They will remember our character. They will remember the meaningful things, not those self-criticisms that take  up our time and thinking.

 

© Be Nice. Creator and Be Nice.(somethingsonice.wordpress.com), 2008-2009.

Gicky but good

I was thinking about good-doing. There are endless ways to do good things. But then I thought of things I don’t necessarily want to do because they seem gicky (gross + icky) to me. So, selfishly I shall post them here for you brave souls that can handle big needles and big surgery and for those of you with all your vaccinations who love the outdoors and being all generous and stuff (me, well, I do a few of them, but I hate hate hate needles! Eeek!).

Give blood.

Give plasma.

Give bone marrow.

Become an organ donor

Donate your body to science.

Adopt a highway (I don’t want to imagine what people find doing that job).

Keep a community or personal garden (I personally love to play around in the dirt, but I imagine my sister might not be such a fan).

And here are some not so gicky, but I thought of them while writing….

Offer your skills and expertise.

Donate your hair to locks of love.

Give your undivided attention. (To your children, lover, friend, neighbor, or relative.)

Volunteer in your community. (A great resource for this is idealist.org.)

  • senior citizens home
  • youth programs
  • local co-op
  • food bank
  • homeless shelter
  • animal shelter
  • community center
  • run for city counsel or go to the meetings  

Give your time.

Don’t have time? Donate your money, clothes, old dishes, food and unused appliances.

I bet each of you already do some of these things, so pat-pat-pat yourself on the back!

 

© Be Nice. Creator and Be Nice. (somethingsonice.wordpress.com), 2008-2009.

Happy Go Lucky? DON’T keep it to yourself!

Now, perhaps I’m a little biased, but I think that positive attitudes are worth spreading along, and negative ones are worth keeping to ourselves. That’s where this post is going….

In my last post, I wrote about how great my weekend was spent shopping and running around doing errands. Truthfully, that day when I shopped was so surprisingly great (since I dislike shopping so much), my enthusiasm was hard to contain. I found myself apologizing for my energetic happiness that afternoon, as if it would overwhelm those adjacent to my joyfulness.

Thinking on that today, I asked myself, “Why should anyone contain/restrain such a positive emotion?”  Should we have to worry that our happiness or our excitedness might offend someone? I’d say, absolutely not. If it offends someone else, there is something seriously wrong with that person, and possibly society. Positive emotions should be shared and demonstrated with abandon. It makes me think of the movie, “Happy Go Lucky”, about a woman who is so happy all the time, and subsequently must learn to deal with situations where others can’t stand her demeanor, or interact with others who aren’t happy themselves. [Sometimes I feel like that. I’ve been told by people my whole life that I am too much (too happy, too enthusiastic, too positive, etc.), and really I’ve come to the point where I think, why would that ever be a bad thing?]

So here’s to those people who are happy and positive and nice. If you’ve got it in you, share it with abandon and don’t feel bad about it. And if you’ve got meanness, negativity, or crankiness in you–keep it to yourself and try to bask in the sunny face next to you. Give in and be happy. You’ll enjoy it, I promise!

 

© Be Nice. Creator and Be Nice. (somethingsonice.wordpress.com), 2008-2009.

What is this tube in my belly & where did my appendix go?

In “Thank You Dr. So-And-So,” I mentioned the importance of paying respect/courtesy to our medical professionals…..  After spending a large amount of time in and out of a hospital this last month interacting with doctors, I have to say that many, but not all, doctors need to return the favor.

I know they spend years studying and that many things are boring and old-hat to them, but to the patient the issues are serious and a tremendous concern. Disregarding questions and concerns with a shrug or an irritated look is not only rude and insensitive, it is irresponsible and disrespectful. Who knows what a doctor might learn if they gave the patient a chance to speak? If they didn’t treat the patient like they didn’t know anything?

Many patients like to know what the doctors outside the hospital room are saying to each other about the patient’s case when on their rounds. Why not give them that option? Why do patients have to ask over and over for test results, for answers, for basic post-op care instructions?  This can be a problem with “bedside manner” or this can be administrative and commuicative error.  Either way, it would make the world a nicer place with a little more patience and information.

 

© Be Nice. Creator and Be Nice. (somethingsonice.wordpress.com), 2008-2009.