Trouble Makers

wordart forget the dog beware of the kids

Trouble kids. What is your definition of trouble makers?

When I was 16, we had a new pastor come to our church. When I first met him I was sitting on the counter, legs swinging, in the church’s kitchen. We had a decent size youth group in our small church for the size of our town. We were active, loud, and enthusiastic. Normal. The one thing I later learned was that I looked like trouble, or so my pastor thought. This always perplexed me since I thought I was a good girl.

Going back in time, in junior high about 7th grade or so, I got into a scuffle on the bus ride from school. I was in the coveted back seat and a bigger boy wanted my seat. I didn’t budge. We scuffled and we both got suspended from the bus. I don’t remember much except being aggravated because I wanted to win and feeling scared of going to the principal’s office. The one thing I didn’t remember my mom had to tell me later. My dad confronted the bus driver. This shocked me because in my family is pretty quiet. We each handle ourselves and take care of our own issues, but apparently my dad was miffed. The boy was big, around 200 pounds; I was a little 80 pound girl. That wasn’t right, and Dad’s all about right.

You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs.

So, is it better to raise quiet, subservient children? Not in my world. In some situations being passive is helpful, but handling life as an adult you need some spunk. If you want a quiet, compliant, factory worker then fine, raise a child to never question authority, but I can’t stand that. We need to feel free to speak up, to call attention to injustice, and to think of solutions for our problems.

More recently in my life I’ve had a few minor verbal scuffles. And by a few I mean 6 months worth of hell. When asked to help on a project at work, I dove in feet first. I asked questions,

  • Why are we doing this?
  • What do we want to see as an end result?
  • How hard do we need to push the software company or do we adapt?
  • Are we missing any steps along the way in this process?

I ran across some gaps in our process so I spoke up. I spoke up about how things were done and what I saw that needed to be done. If one of the missing elements I noticed wasn’t done immediately, then we’d have a noticeable loss of income in 2 months. Someone would be irate. The task was done, but I ruffled a few feathers along the way. There are still some ruffled feathers even over a year later. Would I do it again? Hell yes. It may not have been my specific job, but it affected my job. I knew the software and I knew the tasks that had to be done to get the money in the door.

What concerns me is how we define a trouble maker. I see accomplishing a task as getting things done, even if you have to bump a few noses along the way. Trouble making, to me, is causing a problem because you want to stir up attention. I avoid attention, but I like to do a job well. Work done well is what counts.

Or as in the song “Stand Out”

And if your gonna make a mess make it loud

And if your gonna take a stand stand out

I highly recommend you listen to this episode of This American Life – Is This Working. Act 3 specifically talks about a school with an interesting method of discipline. When the method reached the real world things got interesting. Actually this episode made me want to punch an idiot. The shortened version – Act 3 Is This Working

Introvert Malfunctioning

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Do the thing that scares you, that’s the advice I’ve read over and over. And I, the introvert, have believed the mantra. I believed the mantra because as an introvert I function backwards in society. I push myself  to take more action than I am comfortable with.

I remember when my mom, who is an extrovert, constantly reminded me to say thank you and please, like most parents do. It was difficult at that time to get the words to come out of my mouth. I’d watch my older brother and think, he always says thank you; why is it so difficult for me? So in my mind, Difficult = Correct.

Somewhere in my 40’s my brain wiring malfunctioned. And it’s one of the best things that ever happened to me. I’ve delicately reassembled my interfacing, attaching wires in my head to where I think they should be connected. And guess what, I’m still an introvert. I’m an introvert who has learned to respond as an extrovert to society, but with all the fear and discomfort of being an introvert.

Being an introvert is not a malfunction. I must reconsider all of my earlier beliefs and this is one of them, do the thing that scares you. I get it. I know what they’re saying. It’s a quick way of pinpointing what you really want. But sometimes it’s okay to not do that thing. It’s okay to step back and decide, is it necessary to do this? Because sometimes, Correct = Not difficult.

Taking the plunge

Maybe that’s the problem.

Perhaps it’s better to commit to wading instead.

Ship, sure. Not the giant life-changing, risk-it-all-venture, but the small.

When you do a small thing, when you finish it, polish it, put it into the world, you’ve made something. You’ve committed and you’ve finished.

And then you can do it again, but louder. And larger.

It’s easy to be afraid of taking a plunge, because, after all, plunging is dangerous. And the fear is a safe way to do nothing at all.

Wading, on the other hand, gets under the radar. It gives you a chance to begin. – Seth Godin

Expectations vs Reality

Life

There is a Taoist story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically. “Maybe,” the farmer replied.

The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed. “Maybe,” replied the old man.

The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. “Maybe,” answered the farmer.

The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out. “Maybe,” said the farmer.

Expectations are just that, expectations. They aren’t promises or guarantees. We assume we know how life will go. I have heard that women tend towards forecasting in relationships more so than men. We meet a man, and in our mind we’ve got our house picked out along with the names of the two adorable children we will have. When the relationship crashes, we wonder what went wrong. Maybe nothing went wrong. It could be that it wasn’t as perfect as we’d thought. It’s difficult to process the difference between our imaginary relationship or imaginary job versus the one that really exists. We need to be careful to pay attention to what really is happening around us, then we approach life face to face.  Where were you looking when the roof caved in? Did you notice the first drops of rain? Or the buckets on the floor to catch the dripping roof leak? Maybe you were were visualizing life in another town.

So what are we to do? I love to redecorate my house in my mind and our imagination has its purpose. How would we ever make any progress, whether scientific or mathematically? Visualization gives us our map of how it could be. We need to remember where we are right now.

Avoiding magical thinking

But while your intent is pure and your goal is to create magic, the most common mistake is to believe that the marketplace will agree with your good intent and support you. More specifically, that media intermediaries will clearly, loudly and accurately tell your story, that this story will be heard by an eager and interested public and that the public will take action (three strikes).

Or, more tempting, that ten people will tell ten people to the eighth power, leading to truly exponential growth (some day). Because right now, you’ve told ten people and they have told no one…

Only count on things that have happened before, a funnel you can buy and time you can afford to invest. Anything more than that is a nice bonus. – Seth’s blog

 

Pebbles in My Shoe

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Some people seem like pebbles in my shoe. I’m walking along and all is fine. Dang it all, but there is something in my shoe. I pull off the shoe and brush out the offending pebble. With the shoe back on I start walking. Until another pebble gets in my shoe. Some days it seems as though life is just a series of offensive pebbles.

There are telemarketers and pushy sales clerks wanting your money. Late fees and long lines. Broken shopping carts and flat tires. If only you could just make them all disappear. These are the minor issues. What about the coworker who talks too loudly or the boss who misunderstands your jokes.

The fly in my ointment, the devil in the details, and the speck on my black pants.

Have you ever noticed that the more you list out the problems and label them as a nuisance, the more they tend to multiply like rabbits in free range? Snow that piles 3 feet high keeps you from driving to work or a sudden rain shower that spoils the ballgame , these can’t be planned for or altered.

From childhood we dream of our life with all the good times planned out in our head, but the path that we walk is our reality. The dream in our head is only a projected course. It’s all possibilities and potential realities.

“Man makes plans, and God laughs.”Yiddish proverb

There are people and events in your life that seem like obstacles. Somewhere between the time we’ve visualized where we wanted to go and when we actually get there, our path dead ends. How do we handle the pebbles? Get over them and keep walking? Or build a pebble wall of I can’t?

Instead of seeing obstacles as a pebble in your shoe, try seeing them as sand in the oyster. These inconveniences are the things that life is made of. The people who annoy you the most are not your enemy. They don’t have to be anything to you. Release the emotional grip you have on those in your life. There is no need to demand they act the way you wish. The anger that keeps you bound to your so-called enemy will only drain you of the energy you need to do more productive tasks. Look at that anger. Can you feel the energy it takes? Let it go and when you feel it again just look at it and let it go again.

Things that happen to us are simply the thing that happens. The pebble didn’t ask to be in your shoe. It didn’t place itself there to jump as you walked along the road.

 

I’m Not Dead Yet

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When I first walked away from Christianity, the one thing that scared me was dying. And the no-life-afterwards stance of Atheism. I felt like a child whose Halloween candy had been stolen. I’ve held on to the opinion that Atheists could be wrong. Denial in the first degree!

People like Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and Christopher Hitchens, have stripped away my belief in a separate soul, so what would be left to carry on after my body dies? Energy particles? It’s taken some time and lots of truth seeking. Richard Dawkins attitude has really helped with my perspective. Yeah, I may not have eternity in white robes, but I can live a full life and celebrate every day right now.

“We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here.We privileged few, who won the lottery of birth against all odds, how dare we whine at our inevitable return to that prior state from which the vast majority have never stirred?” 

Richard Dawkins, Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder

Denying truth doesn’t make it disappear. What happens after I die can’t be prearranged. The events are out of my control. Maybe I’ll be happily surprised with more candy or maybe I won’t. Either way it’s done. Richard Dawkins is right. We are the lucky ones.

Under Pressure

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You know that feeling you get when someone is watching over your shoulder? Or, you say you can sink a basket from the free-throw line? No pressure, right? Oh the deadline is Friday? For all of the discomfort it brings, pressure also can bring out the best in us. I’ve found the best way to motivate myself is to set a deadline. Even better is to tell someone about my deadline. If I can line up my goal with this type of pressure, I will almost always complete the task.

Here are my steps,

  • I have a thought or an idea.
  • I write it out either in Google Drive or in a personal notebook.
  • I decide what effort is needed, money or time.
  • I let it percolate inside of me for however long it’s necessary.
  • When the idea has built enough inside of me I usually get follow up ideas and at that moment I can plunge into the project.
  • I find tweeting my progress helps

My pitfalls

It’s easy for me to get lost in researching my ideas so, I try as best as I can to write everything out from the top of my head. Ad Lib if you will. Afterwards since the idea is written out I can edit as needed and add more details.

It took me a while to get comfortable with announcing my plans. Stating aloud “I’m writing a novel,” can lead to all types of feedback. Some think you’re bragging, but you’re not. Mostly I avoided it because seemed like too much pressure. It created that mind numbing turmoil in my head. Now if I don’t finish I am shamed. No one wants to look like a braggart or a fool, but people really have short memories. And they have their own lives to live. A week from now, their troubles will make them forget about the silly thing you stated. And when you actually finish the novel, run the marathon, or lose the weight, you feel the satisfaction. Isn’t that what you wanted?

Run for yourself, not anyone else. – runner’s world

suggested read:

 

The Passion of Hate and Love

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There are old relationships that I feel scratching to get out of me, like a chick escaping from an egg. Or maybe I scratch to get out of them and their mental hold. I want to be over them, but they seem to hold on tenaciously, so I’m trying to understand in the best way that I know, by writing. To know someone, know who they love and who they hate. This blog post began as my effort to understand someone.

“I swear to you, then,” said MacIan, after a pause. “I swear to you that nothing shall come between us. I swear to you that nothing shall be in my heart or in my head till our swords clash together. I swear it by the God you have denied, by the Blessed Lady you have blasphemed; I swear it by the seven swords in her heart. I swear it by the Holy Island where my fathers are, by the honour of my mother, by the secret of my people, and by the chalice of the Blood of God.”

The atheist drew up his head. “And I,” he said, “give my word.”

The Ball and the Cross (1909), part II: “The Religion of the Stipendiary Magistrate”, last paragraphs

When I started reading the first paragraph of the G.K. Chesterton’s writing above, “I swear to you, then… swear to you that nothing shall come between us. I swear to you that nothing shall be in my heart or in my head…”  I thought he was talking about love, then he mentioned the sword, “till our swords clash’” and I had to start rereading it in a different context, which made me remember the line,

“There’s a thin line between love and hate. Maybe you’re confusing your emotions.”

Simone Elkeles, Perfect Chemistry

Forgive me for a moment as I share my thought process with a piece of my journal.

Your problem isn’t that you hate so strongly. It’s not that you love so passionately. Your problem is that you feel nothing. And you want to feel it, but it scares you. You’ve turned off your passion because loving something so strongly and wanting it so much makes you a prisoner of that desire and you’ve decided long ago that nothing or no one will hold you hostage.

You once said we hurry ahead of God, like children before their parents. Too excited to stay with the current moment. This was my problem you implied, because I wanted things to happen. I wanted God to move and do his work. I see your waiting and so called patience as not caring, and to me that’s the biggest flaw. To care hurts. We have to be close to someone to care for them. To hate or to love someone means they have power over us. They are the ones who we are open to. We don’t even see anyone but them. These are the only ones we are aligned with, those we love or hate. – JKW

Saddles

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Ever see a cowboy dragging a saddle behind him? It doesn’t matter how well constructed the saddle is or how long the cowboy has owned it. It could have been in the family for years. Maybe it was his grandfather’s, then his father’s, until finally it was given to him. A saddle is a proud thing to own. Well crafted, hand tooled. I have nothing against saddles, but…

There’s no horse. Faith is like dragging a saddle. Old habits die hard because they’re familiar. And familiar feels right. That first Sunday you don’t go to church feels empty. I felt like I’d missed a step in the stairs and I was going to fall headlong. If you’ve ever noticed, people who have strong beliefs are afraid to let go of them. It’s been in the family for years. Their grandfather was a preacher, their dad a pastor, and they’re a Sunday school teacher. To leave this legacy is like spitting in the face of your heritage. It’s also how you define who you are. Sometimes you feel you’re not special anymore. I know this because I left this heritage myself.

To say I lost my faith is somewhat of a misunderstanding. I walked away. I walked away because I was going through the motions, which I could still do if I wanted. I could walk into church and still teach. No one would know the difference, but it wouldn’t be true. The horse isn’t there and I’d just be dragging a saddle around behind me.

 

Does the Dog Walk You?

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Walking a dog is supposed to be good for your health. What they don’t say is what type of dog. I had a dog, a 100 pound German Shepherd dog, that was difficult to walk. She pulled at her leash until she was hoarse. I’d listen to her wheeze and cough like she was a smoker, but it didn’t stop her. In my mind it didn’t make any sense. Why would she keep pulling so hard if it caused pain?

Ha! But don’t I do the same. This last week was a busy one, and the week before and so on. For approximately 2 months my office has been working overtime, catching up. Orders need entered and claims must be sent. You know how it is. We pull ourselves up and stop whining. And once the adrenaline kicks in we’re immortal. We can clean the closet, run a race, groom the dog, wash the car, mow the lawn, give blood, and feed the family. Right? Then it stops.

I realize I was like Crystal, my big lap dog of a German Shepherd, who didn’t know when to slow down. When your body and mind finally realized it’s exhausted, it starts shutting down. Some of us get headaches, others get the flu. As much as I’d like to preempt this, I also realize that I’m task driven and if it’s there, I will do. Just like my dog. I will pull at the leash and wheeze and choke the whole way. The best I can do at this moment is allow myself to crash. Ease up on the pressure I apply and like a fellow blogger put so perfectly, The Virtues of Lowering Expectations, 

When we expect ourselves to do everything  “to the very best of our abilities,” where do we think we’ll get more of the time, energy and focus necessary to be ABLE to  do everything equally well and at the top of our game?

  • Some of us will shut down in overwhelm, then beat ourselves up for our inability to activate, which makes things worse.
  • Some of us have discovered how to transform expectation pressure into a brain-stimulating adrenalin rush that allows us to slip into a getting things done perfectly state of hyperfocus that is just as disabling.

We wear ourselves down to a nub long before we realize we haven’t been functioning very well, so not much of anything was actually accomplished.

Finally exhausted, we slip into depressive ruminations when we can’t “make ourselves” keep up that pace.

There’s a book I read years ago called Three Black Skirts. Basically, it’s organization for young women. Keeping balance, it stated, was necessary for being healthy. I used to think that if I was going to do anything, I’d have to do it forever, such as writing 1000 words a day. I realize now that if something is more pressing, such as working overtime, then it’s okay to let up on other things. Balance is the key. I’m not abandoning an activity, I’m merely postponing or minimizing. Less wheezing. Less pulling at the leash. More at ease with life.