Friday, July 22, 2011

What Do You See?

The disclaimer first.  Pretty much same as always.  It's my blog.  I write what I write.  If you don't like it, don't read it.  If it hits you in that place, then maybe it was meant to, but to assume it was written specifically about you, well, we all know what's said about assuming. 

I write lots of blogs.  Some I print, some I don't, some I save and print much later. 

This one is about focus.

Sometimes we focus on the wrong stuff and keeping the balance and correct focus is a challenge.

Sometimes we focus on others.  We get all caught up in not hurting someone that we forget to take care of ourselves.  We let others abuse us.  We let them take advantage of us.  We simply give too much of ourselves away. 

We don't do that to ourselves because we like to feel like dirt.  No one likes that worthless feeling.  No one likes to be living in that hole of darkness and pain.  But we justify it by saying, if I stand up for myself, if I protect myself, if I take care of myself, if I live my life, and so on, I'll be hurting the other person and that person is someone I love.  And the logic goes on here like this.  If I love this person, if I'm a good person, if I care, if I'm a Christian, if, if, if....I would put them first and do whatever makes them feel happy. 

This cuts in a couple of ways.  We are not designed for abuse.  We are not designed to by self-sacrificing to the point of unhealthy relationships.  We are not responsible or able to make another person happy.  Not completely.

We do bring happiness to each other in a number of ways and healthy relationships are very mutual and generally pleasant and positive, but if one person is looking to another human being to be the source of happiness or satisfaction or contentment or validation or all of anything or everything, there will be great disappointment and frustration.  Only God fills a person completely and fully in all ways.  Humans only do parts.  And no single person can be all of everything to another.  In truth, no single person can even be all of any one single thing or even all of one area of life to another.  No one can really do that. 

Here's the flip side of this issue. 

Sometimes we focus completely on ourselves. 

Now, this doesn't always look like straight up selfishness or self-centered-ness.  Sometimes it wears the guise of loving someone else.  Sometimes it wears the look of jealousy and envy.  

We've all done it.  Probably in middle school or high school or maybe even later.  Usually its in the new boyfriend/girlfriend vein.  It looks something like this.

I love Johnny so much and because I love him I want to know everything about him.  I want to know his friends and have them know me because if they're a part of him and important to him and he loves them and he loves me and I love him then we should all know each other and love each other.  I care about him and what happens to him so I want to know where he is and who he's with and what he's doing because I love him.  I want him to tell me everything and I want to know everything about him, his conversations with others, what he thinks, what he feels and on and on and on. 

It feels a little stalker-ish and obsessive doesn't it?  We all knew these people, these couples back in high school.  Sometimes we were these people.  It happens.  We all knew what happened in these relationships too.  They failed.  Hard core.  Big time.  Epic fail.  Because one person smothered the other, took over and took the life right out of life.  The person being loved left the relationship to save himself, to reclaim his own life and start living it again. 

Sometimes we get all focused on ourselves by having a little combo pity party and envy thing. 

It's easy to slide into.  Everyone has hard times, hard seasons in life.  Even sometimes some big depressions.  I've been there.  The trick is getting yourself out of the hole or getting some help to find the way out.  It's learning when the hole is too deep and when you've been in it too long to get yourself out and then knowing all the warning signs so you don't end up there again.

So anyway, back to pity and envy.  It's easy to fall into this trap and then keep on sliding.

All it takes is one little thing when we're feeling a little insecure and suddenly no one likes us and everyone is out to get us and everyone is having a spectacular amazing life and we're missing out. 

I know how it goes.  I really do.  I've felt it many times myself.

It's that party invite you didn't get or the night out that you were left out of.  It's easy to take that as a personal thing, thinking I wasn't invited on purpose.  Maybe, but most likely not.  Most likely you're not making yourself a part of what's going on.  You're not inviting so you're not being invited.  Or you've been invited and not gone numerous times so people have stopped asking because they think you're blowing them off. 

It's complicated.  Relationships are.  People are. 

But it's all in perspective. 

When I get left out of something, how do I see it?  That's the question.  When my writing is rejected, do I take it personally and fall apart?  Do I sit back saying, oh, I knew I could never do it.  My writing sucks.  I'm not good enough.  I'll never be good enough.  When I get overlooked as a speaker, do I think it's all about that I'm not connected to the right social circles?  Do I doubt that I know what I'm talking about?  Do I just wallow around thinking I could never be this or that or whatever?  Does it become a personal snub?  You know, that person never liked me anyway.  Or that group never appreciated all the things I've given, done or sacrificed for them anyway. 

It's easy to go there, but it's not really real.  Not usually. 

Yeah, sure.  Everyone once in a while it really is that way.  But most likely, it's not. 

Probably your work was not selected because there were just so many to choose from that not everyone could  be chosen.  Your invite didn't come just because it didn't come.  It wasn't personal, it just didn't happen.  Those social things, a night out, a coffee, a field trip, whatever, it's hardly ever personal.  It just happens.  And that's just the way life is.  Not everyone can go to everything all the time.  It's like with kids, you can't always be first or be the winner.

When we put ourselves into that pity party place and start being jealous of some one's perfect life, we're not really looking at their life or our own.  No one's life is that great and no one's life is that bad.  We all have our junk, some of us focus on it, some of us focus on the positive. 

Now, I'm not saying that when you get a terminal diagnosis you're not allowed to get depressed or angry or whatever.  Not at all.  But it's important to know when it's slipped out of the normal reaction/response catagory.  That's all.  I'm not saying everyone should be all pink fluffy clouds and pot of gold at the end of the rainbow every minute.  That's not real.  Not at all. 

Yup.  It stinks when the invites pass us by.  It's not all that fun to be sitting at home by yourself on a Friday night.  But, it doesn't mean you suck or your life is a big stupid stinking pit of garbage.  It probably means you need to call someone to go out with or be content alone.  Alone is not failure, it's simply alone.  Maybe you have some work to do at home.  I always have a huge to do list from the most junky chores like dishes, laundry and mopping to the big stuff like dejunking the basement or painting a room a new color.  Maybe it means it's time to put some time into a hobby.  For me it means reading some of the books on my stacks that I either haven't read or need to reread.  Often it means doing some writing that I'm not wanting to put the time into.  Maybe it means calling some people you haven't talked to in a long time.  Maybe it means getting to the stuff you relentlessly put off like updating that resume or balancing the checkbook. 

Anyway, the point is this, a happy, content, full life is easy for anyone to have depending on your perspective. 

Let me give you a real life example for a minute. 

Little One.  He was "ours" for over two years.  He came here as a very tiny baby, just months old.  We were led to believe from the very beginning that he and his siblings would one day join our forever family.  In the end, Little One left us and went to live with his extended family.

This is a set up where it is easy and in a way, justifiable, even, for us to have been angry and hurt.  For a while, we were hurt.  It was very sad to give up the hope of having Little One and his sibs join our forever family.  It really was.  It was easy to get mad at the system, the workers, his parents, his family and so on.  It was easy to point fingers and say how we got the short end of the stick here. 

But can I tell you something?  Those feelings ate our joy.  They stole our energy.  Those feelings made us snippy with each other.  They bred bitterness.  In that pit of yuck, it was easy to look around and be jealous of those "lucky" families that had their case work out better or got a quicker adoption.  It quickly became easy to see all the "bad" in each other, you know?  Like where the kids didn't behave well enough or our house wasn't good enough or the summer vacations weren't  shaping up to be like what we thought every other families vacations were going to be like. 

After a while, for our own peace and sanity, we choose to see it differently.  And I mean that.  It was an active choice.  Every single minute.  It still is sometimes.  I decide to see that it's a good thing Little One went to live with his sibs and extended family.  I decide to see it as a happy ending.  I decide to see it as what was best for him and his sibs instead of seeing it as my loss and my hurt and my heart ache. 

It's a choice.  This whole crazy life is a choice.  Every minute.  Every interaction.  It's a decision to see something beyond yourself, but in balance and not to the extreme. 

The final little say is my public announcement about mental health.  It's just like physical health.  We need to proactively take care of it.  Yup, we pray and trust God.  We also look around with eyes open and see what God has given us in terms of practical, physical real on Earth help.  So if I break a bone, I go to the clinic and get it set and I pray about it.  I get a minor infection, I pray about it and ride it out for a while to see if it heals or not.  I use the wisdom God gave me to realize when it's too long and to go to the clinic for some extra help in healing.  It's the same for mental health.  I'm addressing it because I tell a lot of people to get professional help and it's been suggested to me that I don't know what I'm talking about.  Plus, I've had my share of professional help, and you know what?  It helped.  Therapy and/or medication aren't a failure or a cop out or anything to be ashamed of.  They are like the equivilant of getting a broken bone properly set so you can use that limb again with strength and confidence, only difference is it's your mind, your heart and your soul that gets the healing. 

Here's the thing.  We all get depressed.  We all get angry.  We all get stressed out by life.  It's normal.  Life isn't easy, even with the right perspective.  Most of the time, we pull ourselves out of it with prayer and some help from our friends.  Sometimes we can't, and that's when we need help.  A good clue is the length of time you've been dealing with your issue.  6 months or less, don't worry about it.  More than 6 months, get help. If you can't figure out how long you've been feeling this way, it's been too long.   Do your feelings impact your relationships, your job, your sleep, your eating, your spending, etc.?  Get help.  Not for a one time thing, but in the bigger sense.  Look at yourself honestly or start looking at what your friends and coworkers and acquaintances are saying or not saying around you.  Everyone has a sleepless night once in a while over a bill that's due or a big project at work or a bump in a relationship. 

It's like I tell one of my "special" kids, you have to use the clues.  Stop and look around, really look for real and see what's going on.  See and study how other people act and talk and behave and interact so you can learn for yourself how to act.  It's like how another person in my life always says, "check yourself before you speak or you'll wreck yourself" or more likely, you'll wreck someone important to you.  That one's a real wise one, that woman. 

So check yourself.  Take care of yourself.  Be looking through the right lens of perspective. Get help when you need it.  Before you wreck yourself.