What Lessons Are Left?

Life lessons learned so far:

Be kind – It takes more strength to return selfishness and anger with kindness and empathy than it does to lash back at the person or try to prove you’re right. This doesn’t mean you are obligated to subject yourself to cruelty from others but returning anger with anger or hate with hate doesn’t produce anything of value.

Don’t judge others for superficial things – You rarely know what other people are going through, or what their true intentions are, and we all see the world a little differently, so putting other people down because they are different from you won’t actually make you feel better or solve any of your own problems.

Fear is often a liar – Back when we were primal creatures fear was an integral and much needed emotion to keep people alive. However, now that we have much easier access to food, shelter, and society (most people, not all, there’s still lots of poverty and war) fear is bored and it likes to manifest in insecurities that cause people to lash out at others. Projecting your fears onto someone else doesn’t make your own insecurities go away. Pushing people away before they can potentially hurt you in the future doesn’t protect you, just keeps you isolated. Fear has its place, usually to keep you from doing dangerous things that could kill you, but often it’s just lying to you and ultimately causing you to miss out on amazing people and experiences. Learn to recognize when fear is useful and when it’s just fucking with you.

Money is nice but it isn’t the most important thing in life – Money is a tool that you can use to trade for goods and services, to travel and experience new cultures, to provide a sense of security for everyday living. However, it is an arbitrary item that we all just agree has value, it’s an inanimate item that can not provide you with authentic love or happiness long term. It is worth having but shouldn’t be your sole focus in life.

No one is perfect and life needs balance – You will fuck up plenty in your life. You make mistake so you can learn what not to do. Your mistakes do not define you, but your repeated actions do. Eventually you have to make a choice about the kind of person you want to be. Some people will be destructive (usually because they’ve experienced trauma or weren’t taught any other way) others will be constructive and strive to create general goodness in the world, but without the contrast how could we define one or the other. Many people will be a mix of both good and bad over their lifetime depending on external factors and internal feelings. Indulging in questionable choices or vices, when they don’t negatively impact others and are done in moderation, can provide a balance that helps you figure out who you are.

Life is less stressful the more open minded you are – When you don’t close yourself off to new ideas, new experiences, or new people you don’t have to waste your time freaking out about anything that differs from your pre conceived notions or pulls you from your comfort zone. Instead the sense of security you get from having a vast store of knowledge lets you face life with confidence and fortitude. You also get in less fights or pointless arguments with people online.

When you love, do it unconditionally – Love, real love, doesn’t come with conditions. Again, this doesn’t mean you subject yourself to abuse in the name of love, but learning how to love another person regardless of their flaws is one of the greatest experiences in life. Having the strength to be open and vulnerable with another person and to have them feel safe enough to do the same…fucking magic right there.

Anything worth doing is worth doing well – I’m not sure how much explaining this needs, but basically it always feels better to take pride in what you’re doing.

Leave the world and people better than you found it/them – Don’t shit where you eat. Don’t destroy the planet you depend on for survival. United we stand and divided we fall. Building others up is more beneficial than tearing them down. Lead by example. Pet all the soft furry domesticated animals that are friendly.

You are never done learning – I get the irony of listing this in contrast to my title but I already understand that for as much as I know, in relation to all knowledge I know barely anything and each day will bring new information, new ideas, and new ways to accomplish things. That being said, please do share the life lessons I’m missing because I’d love to add them to my list.

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How Do You Deal With an Alcoholic?

It’s a classic tale I tell today about two friends who have lived next door for almost their whole lives. The younger friend, M, grew up with irresponsible alcoholics and battled depression, drug use and excessive drinking. The older friend, D, tried to help by offering to have her move in and get away from the toxic family environment. Except several years later M still battles depression and excessive drinking, no effort made to change her behaviors.

D, who is a wife, mother and college student, has dealt with M’s drinking, poor choices and the drama that comes with that for several years now. D has gotten increasingly more stressed out watching M skip college classes, invite underage co-workers over to get drunk, trash her area of the house, leave alcohol where it’s accessible to her daughters, be drunk in general around her daughters, drive drunk and throw continued pity parties for herself. After repeated attempts to help M address her alcohol dependency with no success D decided she’s had enough and asked M to break the lease and move out. M has simply been ignoring her ever since the request was made.

I have no advice to offer really. I support D’s decision because I don’t think M has any desire to change her destructive behaviors and it isn’t fair to D or her family to have to deal with the repercussions of M’s choices. I also know that there are specific and serious underlying triggers that cause M’s behaviors and I don’t know what she will do if D cuts her out of her life. Will this be M’s wake-up call? Will she use this as an excuse to try to end her life? Maybe she will just quit college and  move back in with her alcoholic parents. I don’t know. I don’t even know how D is going to get M out of her house if M refuses to acknowledge the eviction notice. I am just glad I am not the one who lives with an alcoholic. I don’t think I could handle it. Any advice?

The Secret To A Healthy Relationship

See me through lover’s eyes, not critic’s eyes.   Love me with a selfless heart, not a selfish heart.    Speak to me as you would a friend, not a student.    View our time together as something to look forward to, not as a chore to endure.    Do not dwell negatively on my imperfections but instead embrace them as endearing traits, proof that I am comfortable being myself in your presence.     Understand that your desire to “fix” me is nothing more than an indication of your own inner unhappiness.

Those who are content with themselves are free to give their love to others, those who don’t love themselves do not know how to love anyone else either.

It’s Here!

My spin-off blog, that has a focus on open discussion, debate and advice (helpful hints) for navigating through this crazy world we live in, is officially live! Please take a moment over the next week/month to check it out and I would absolutely love to hear your opinions.

http://thesocialsage.wordpress.com/

 

Lowered Expectations

When I think about my husband there is a wide array of emotions that are conjured up. Some days there is nothing but love, other days just the sound of his voice puts me on edge. I often wonder what actually makes up a “healthy” marriage and have come to the conclusion that to have a successful relationship, one must lose or lower their “fairy tale” expectations.

When I was a teenager I thought that a sign of a relationship that worked was when we always wanted to be together and never fought about anything. This was unrealistic of me, but I know lots of people who still think that’s a sure indicator. The problem with this theory is that it goes against human nature. Since everyone is different and interprets words, situations and non-verbal indicators differently, it would be impossible to never disagree about everything. Husband and I fight about damn near everything but any anger is momentary and I would much rather be honest and stand up for my beliefs than to stay silent and build up resentment. Also it is awesome to have personal (free) time away from him to do all the girly things he would hate, spend time with friends and to create my own experiences that I can then come home and share with him. Since we are confident in our relationship there isn’t any fear that spending time apart would decrease the love between us.

Another misconception I had was that we needed to have lots of things in common in order to enjoy each other’s company. Again, this was a dangerous notion that has ruined many potentially great relationships I could have had with people. Some of my longest lasting friendships have been with people who were very different from me. When you team up with someone who has different strengths or interests you create the opportunity to broaden your own horizons and learn new talents you were lacking, which I find way more beneficial. Husband is the opposite of me, where he is weak I am strong and vice versa. Together we can take on anything and he inspires me to want to learn new skills and be a better, more well-rounded, person.

The third biggest expectation I had was that someone who loves you would never do anything to hurt you. The problem with this is that we have emotions, we have bad days, we take out our frustrations on the ones we love because we expect them to understand that we don’t really mean it and that their love for us will allow them to forgive us our momentary venting. We say things without thinking about how they could be interpreted incorrectly from our true meaning because perhaps our partner didn’t tell us they were feeling insecure that day. We tell little white lies to keep the drama level low, or perhaps don’t realize that our recollection is different from what actually happened. We are human, we make mistakes, sometimes these mistakes hurt the people we love, but it doesn’t mean we don’t love them or the relationship is doomed to fail. Love does not guarantee protection from pain, love does not suddenly make us perfect and capable of reading the other person’s mind to know exactly what to say and do. If you do not lose this unrealistic expectation you open yourself up to constant disappointment and pain, allowing pride and ego to push away understanding and forgiveness. I am not advocating you let someone physically or verbally abuse you, but understand that at some point the person you love will do or say something that will hurt your feelings. You have to choose how to handle it.

I have come to realize that I am not married to myself, I am married to another human being, a person who will try my patience, piss me off, hurt my feelings and cause me untold stress. I also married a person who has chosen to stand by me, take care of me, find ways to make me smile for no reason, go out of his way to help me and to share the challenges I face. There is no perfect relationship where you are always happy with each other and spend all your time enjoying common interests and bringing joy to one another. The sooner you realize that the sooner you can sit down with your partner and have an open conversation about realistic expectations you can have for your relationship. I would rather have someone who doesn’t love me every second of every day but chooses to stay and face life with me, knowing that the love will resurface soon enough.

Steps To a Successful State of Mind

If you can, you should have your parents start this lifestyle prior to even getting pregnant with you, however I understand that it is a currently impossible feat so I will just layout the steps that an adult can follow to adopt a Successful State of Mind.

First, you need to actually want to improve your life and be willing to put forth the effort to let go of the allure of “drama” and “pain” and “trauma” which tend to be counterproductive to a successful state of mind. If you are serious about it then get at least a decent night’s sleep and when you wake up start your day by:

-SMILE, I know it sounds lame but even if all you want to do is crawl back under your covers and slam your hand down on the alarm’s snooze button you need to get out of bed and look at yourself in the mirror and say, “Today I am going to be the best version of myself that I can be” and SMILE dammit. You don’t have to smile all day, but at least flash your teeth at yourself to set the tone for your day.

-Dress nicely…wash your hair (take a shower, whatever) and make sure that your appearance in general will let other people know that you respect yourself enough to put forth the effort to look put together. Other people are not going to respect you if they don’t think you respect yourself. Also the compliments you get when you’re clean and nicely dressed are always delightful.

-Eat something at least moderately healthy within 40 min of waking up. This gets your metabolism kick started and helps keep you from being tired and crabby. It’s easier than you might think to do this, even if you just grab a breakfast shake from the fridge and slam it in the car/on the bus.

-Engage in personal positive reinforcement during the day. Don’t wait for other people to tell you you’re great, you might not be yet or they might be having a bad day, and waiting for others will just leave you disappointed and depressed. Give yourself a compliment, acknowledge when you do something well and believe that even some small success is worth being proud of…just don’t get arrogant about things, arrogance is also counterproductive to a successful state of mind.

-Be observant of your surroundings and use that information to your advantage. Give appropriate compliments to others, this spreads goodwill and shows other people who you pay attention which in turn will/should prompt them to be more observant. It never hurts to double-check your work or re-read any written correspondence before you send/submit it. If you take the time and care enough to ensure that you have proper grammar, spelling & facts it sets a standard that other people may/will feel the need to also uphold.

-Set personal standards that are achievable. Once you have achieved them, uphold them and if you feel that it won’t lead to an anxiety disorder set new and higher standards. You don’t have to continue to try to outdo yourself forever, but there should be a bare minimum of personal standards that you adhere to at all times.

-Always keep an open mind about new information or situations, do not make assumptions out loud, get all the facts before you act, never think you know everything and be willing to admit that you have made a mistake. Making mistakes doesn’t make you a loser, or a bad person….unless you continue to make these mistakes over and over again. Learn from the mistakes you make and take that knowledge and turn it into a tool for personal improvement.

-NEVER EVER think you are exempt from the universal rules…drugs are addicting and will ruin your life, even if you have tiger blood. If you break the law you deserve to be punished. When someone doesn’t want to have sex with you, move on…don’t force your will on others. Driving a vehicle after drinking is a terrible idea and shouldn’t be done, yes it’s inconvenient but pay the cab fare or make the late night sober cab call because it is less inconvenient than totalling your vehicle or hurting/killing someone else. If something doesn’t belong to you….DON’T TAKE IT, you are not entitled to anything and that includes your parent’s money, if you didn’t earn it it isn’t really yours.

-Keep your promises, follow through on any obligations you have consented to, don’t lie to people because once someone doesn’t trust you then it is nearly impossible to have any sort of beneficial relationship with them and you never know when they will be in a position to benefit you. Remember that people LOVE to talk about other people so if you have a reputation for being a lazy douche who lies about everything the ramifications of that perception could be more far-reaching than you would ever suspect.

-Choose to look at the positive aspects of all the situations you find yourself in, it’s easy to get mad when you don’t get your way, someone insults you or screws you over or something is taken away from you. However, it is part of life, things can not always be happy and wonderful and some people will have times in their life that aren’t fun and if you focus on the negative aspects then you just bring more negativity into your life. It is ok to be unhappy about something, and to be upset when you’re screwed over, but you can’t dwell on it forever. You need to be proactive and find a solution to your problem instead of playing the victim card and crying about it to everyone.

-Be willing to distance yourself from people and situations that are harmful, negative, or counterproductive to personal growth. If you have people in your life that just use you, encourage bad actions or put you down, you need to stop the cycle of negativity by informing them that you don’t deserve to be treated that way and if they continue you need to stop interacting with them. If these people are in your immediate family or are your spouse this can be tricky, however it can be done. If you are underage and can’t just up and leave then you need to find an advocacy group or organization that can provide you with support and positive reinforcement to build up your self-esteem so that you don’t continue to allow others to take advantage of you. Understand that there are assholes in this world who are so bitterly unhappy they feel compelled to make everyone else drink their bitter kool-aid. Remind yourself daily that their problems don’t have to be yours and you can rise above their petty selfishness in time. If it’s your spouse then get counseling and if that fails just suck it up and get a divorce.

-LEARN as much as you can possibly absorb everyday. Never stop learning, ever, in fact learn how to love and then love learning.

If you follow these steps then you will be on your way to achieving a Successful State of Mind