How to survive friendships during the election

“There comes a time in your life when you have to choose to turn the page, write another book or simply close it.”

Shannon L. Adler

 

Lose any friendships over a spat on social media? Get so angry with someone or them with you over a political or religious issue that you are no longer on speaking terms with him or her? Regret any Facebook, Twitter or Instagram posts or emails? Well – I have been there – done that. And I can now accept responsibility for my actions. But I am learning – slowly I am learning.

I love Shannon Adler’s take on “a page.” I could easily have used Kenny Roger’s famous lyric on “know when to fold ‘em,” but alas I can’t sing. Each of Shannon’s three options is our choice to make. The trick is in knowing which one is the preferred option at the time. Over the past year, ever since I began writing in this space I have been at loggerheads with one friend I will name Jacob. Jake, like some of my other friends from my recent past have taken issue with my evolved approach to the world, to politics and to religion – I have indeed changed in countless ways and was much more aligned to them and their views than I am now. Many of the social media exchanges between Jake and I became rather acrimonious – and a couple of weeks ago it happened again. To me this one was particularly awkward and uncomfortable, and I did not feel good during the give-and-take. I am sure many of you have been there too. We get caught up in the debate, can’t for the life of us understand someone, least of all a friend, who can become so irrational on a point that seems to us immensely sensible and even objective. And of course, I become the same illogical bloke to him. So the question we face almost on a daily basis it would seem, is what to do about it? Do we fight? Shall we turn the other cheek? Do we focus on “one-upmanship?” Let’s delve into that latter one at bit.

When I fall victim to my ego on social media encounters I believe it is because of time. Time to think. Time to come up with that ever so clever, “I’ll show you” ridiculing statement that not only is directed towards my opponent but to everyone else who may be reading my brilliantly eloquent, irrefutable rejoinder to that outlandish, inane and dense comment I just read “of yours.” But what if we remove time and audience from the mix? I turned to private messaging and suggested to Jacob that we meet to discuss. He quite cheerily and swiftly accepted. The social media exchange – on this topic – ended there.

Sometimes the divisions we face are purely ideological, sometimes they are personal, oftentimes they are centered however, on ego. The distance and sometimes anonymity of social media has many downsides towards human understanding. In fact, we tout the wonderful benefits of social media to shrinking the world and opening doors to common understanding amongst a diverse audience but too often the opposite occurs. What we are witnessing now is that due to the reliance on social media to communicate, we are slowly losing the ability to speak and share ideas one on one.

Though Jake and I disagree on many matters today, we had no issues at all face to face. In fact, meeting over dinner, for the first ninety minutes we discussed everything but our disputes. We talked about his retirement plans and business matters, about women and the dating scene (we are both now single and middle-aged), and we also discussed – no, that was it, just business and women for the first hour and a half. We finally did get around to talking very specifically about the online issue we had. There was no acrimony and in fact the discussion was perfectly respectful. There was no yelling. We both listened attentively to the other. Speaking for myself I learned to better understand his perspective.

Though I am grateful to Jake and I feel emboldened by the actions we took together, I can’t say that it always works out that way.

I had another exchange where it went badly and again I reached out on private messaging to attempt reconciliation to the dilemma. My approach was rebuffed. His public pronouncement against me was condescending and exceptionally judgemental. Upholding hollow religious rituals were once again front and centre in my life but this time it was reminiscent of me looking into a mirror from the past.

We are entering unprecedented times. What is going on south of the Canadian border is to say the least, unbelievable. Though as Canadians we have no horse in the race for the White House, the moral dilemma our America friends face is powerfully drawing us in. Let’s hope that we remember how to properly and respectfully communicate with friends and family. It won’t be easy. And sometimes you’ll have to “fold ‘em.”

 

 

 

 

Anger and Accolades

“The greatest remedy for anger is delay.”

Lucius Annaeus Seneca, Roman statesman

 

What will become of this week? More violence? More bigotry? More anger? I expect that an endless supply of anger triggers will be reverberating over the airwaves, social media and into our email inboxes all week long. Are you ready for it? How do you expect to react to it? And this week, anger will also be in our everyday lives, as it was last week, the week before last and throughout much of our time on earth – anger was and will be forever present, just waiting for the next trigger to unleash undesirable actions.

I have not attended synagogue much lately, but I chose to go last Saturday morning. Funny how I seem to enjoy going much more when I choose to go instead of when I feel the obligation to go – but that is another story. Our synagogue has an assistant rabbi; a common practise for synagogues of a certain membership dimension, and this past Sabbath service (unbeknownst to me at the time) was to be his last one before most deservingly heading off to lead a congregation of his own in the United States. This young, articulate, passionate, brilliant and soulful communicator left this congregant immensely joyful and uplifted by my choice.

Too often, we hear of negative influences of religion upon the flock. Terms like, blind-faith, non-relevance, archaic or incitement are just a few of the less than stellar descriptions commonly attached to really any of the monotheistic religions. The weekly sermon, whether on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday, is the clergy’s opportunity to influence the congregants, with an unimpeded, unidirectional lecture of laws, guidance and observances. Rabbi Eli (not his real name) spoke of the famous incident involving Moses, where out of anger he struck the rock to draw out water. As his punishment, God did not allow Moses to enter the promised land of Israel and instead would live out his remaining days only able to view the land from on top of Mount Nebo. But from this story, Rabbi Eli connected the biblical interpretation to everyday life like I have never heard before and his was anything but unidirectional.

Anger. It was the theme of anger that Rabbi Eli spoke of. And – normal is how he described the emotion of anger. Not a guilt-ridden emotion. Anger is an almost instinctual reaction to a trigger we have encountered. But while the feeling of anger is understandable, he said, acting out our anger is not. That is when he drew me in and I believe the rest of us present in the sanctuary as well. As I wrote last time, we cannot deny what someone feels since that is what he or she is feeling. There is no biblical punishment to simply feel anger. Reacting to anger however is a choice. As a radio personality said recently, “acting out anger never ends well.” Many of us need help in preventing our anger from manifesting itself in tangible or explicit actions. Acknowledging that is step one. For some, that is enough to be able to catch oneself and not allow the anger to present. If self-control is not enough just yet, then please reach out to the multitude of available resources for assistance. Anger has ended relationships of all sorts, careers, one’s self-esteem and sometimes lives.

Sadly, we will be tested more this week. I hope that we can recognize the anger we hold inside ourselves, and heed that warning or trigger that Moses himself was not able to contain. He paid a high price for his unforgiving action. Can we then learn to delay our anger?

I wish that there were more rabbis, priests, imams, ministers, pastors, preachers, vicars or reverends like Rabbi Eli. Even in giving a sermon, Rabbi Eli I know received much of what he gave. In that sense his sermons were not unidirectional. That and more he will take with him to his next assignment and his new congregants have much to gain and to learn from this beautiful religious teacher.

Black Feelings Matter

“The issue isn’t with individual police officers who abuse their power.

The issue is a system that supports police officers who abuse their power.”

 

I was driving back from a country outing on the beautiful long holiday weekend we had recently. Up ahead on the road I saw police stopping vehicles before being allowed to pass through. “I wonder what’s going on? Maybe a child is lost or missing. Perhaps the road is closed for an accident.” A smiling police officer approaches the driver side of my car and I roll down my window. “Have you been drinking alcohol today?” “No officer,” I replied. “Have a nice day then” she said and that was it.

Not for a moment, nor a split second, did I have any fear or anxiety; that I could potentially be mistaken for a suspect in a crime and wrongfully arrested, that I could be dragged out of my car and beaten, that the police officer might shoot me while sitting in my car and bleed to death. Nope, not a thought at all from any of those hypothetical scenarios entered my carefree holiday mind. But then again, I am a white guy.

We are living in amplified, hyper-sensitized, polarized times. Black Lives Matter or #BLM, and it’s unfair counter – All Lives Matter is causing numerous visceral reactions across the political and social spectrum in the USA and also in here in Canada. I am not sure that it is a case of political correctness run amok but I am beginning to believe the Caucasians amongst us just don’t get it. We are trying to appear fair, understanding and balanced, but we are badly missing the mark. It appears that we are telling #BLM and their supporters that they are wrong to suggest the singularity of perceived injustice is transpiring in their community, and unless we emphasize the totality of the collective human condition, highlighting one group in such a manner is prejudiced toward all others.

No, I believe we are hijacking the symbolism of #BLM and advocating an improvement or modification like All Lives Matter and in some cases dismissing #BLM in its entirety. It is almost analogous to redefining what Holocaust means and applying its use more broadly and thereby watering down its true and accurate representation. I know how apoplectic many fellow Jews become when “Holocaust” is used in a context not related to WWII. “How dare they use the word Holocaust?” Well, I wonder how African-Americans feel when we are attempting to redefine or diminish their own intentions and meaning of #BLM?

I read the quote above, a Facebook post by a friend’s husband in the wake of the death by police of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling. One may choose to agree with the statement or not. But reading those words helped me to begin to understand the feelings, frustrations and anger within the Black community, concerns that I couldn’t possibly have when I was stopped by the police on that long weekend trip. How can we tell anyone how he or she should feel or that they are wrong to feel a certain way?  One feels what they feel. That is not up for debate. I believe that our inability to be fully empathetic to the Black experience is perchance unconsciously rooted in our own fear and judgment that we carry with us. Not of the African-American individual, but in the unknowing of who we truly are. The walls preventing us from understanding something or someone dissimilar from ourselves needs a wake-up call in self-awareness in order to begin to tear down these destructive barriers and allow for our individual liberation, freedom and inner peace.

Don’t think you are not like me

“People are pretty much alike. It’s only that our differences are more susceptible to definition than our similarities.” Linda Ellerbee, award winning American journalist.

I was recently watching a late night 9th anniversary episode of Seinfeld where a portion of the show highlighted in rapid-fire succession numerous personal smears, childish insults, mockeries and criticisms – all humorous mind you. Though that season aired eighteen years ago and it was unqualified comedy, I felt I was watching US presidential politics in 2016. Day after day whether it is viewing political theatre, observing and I dare say participating on social media, invective after invective, antagonism after antagonism, we are at one another’s throat with polarized accusations, intolerant viewpoints and abject disrespect for a dissimilar opinion. Sometimes and tragically this had led to deadly violence.

Is it just me or have you also observed this changing social condition? As I have broadened my horizons, invited those in where otherwise I had built-up walls to keep them out, I am beautifully reminded more each day of our similarities than ever before. We are after all, similarly created. The basic building block of who we all are is our DNA. What is increasingly evident to me at least, is the role played by the social construct that is exacerbating not just racial tensions but so too tensions of opinion. It can also be labeled as a state of separateness. People who one might guesstimate to be “like me” or “like you” are locked in a thought battle of intolerance and anger against us. Or as you may have read from visiting here before, the battle is often within us. Us vs. Us. But that is not for this post.

We often mistake this construct as an inherent difference of background, culture and fundamental belief system. But while many may turn to our existential confrontation with Islamic extremism erroneously reassigned into an anti-immigrant backlash witnessed real time across the globe, we can be as indignant towards the former as against and within our own community and within our family as well. Our children, born of our genetic make-up, with like abilities, temperament and failings can be our fiercest critics yet they are most like us if anyone is. Still the battles rage on.

I choose to believe and act in a manner (as often as possible) that underscores our similarities. I do fundamentally believe that you are very much like me and I am very much like you. I remember a speech given by Angelina Jolie a couple of years ago where she ostensibly opined how if not by the quirk of birth, what really makes us that different.

“We are all, everyone in this room, so fortunate. I have never understood why some people are lucky enough to be born with the chance that I had—with this path in life. And why across the world, there’s a woman just like me with the same abilities and the same desires, the same work ethic and love for her family who would most likely make better films and better speeches. Only she sits in a refuge camp, and she has no voice. She worries about what her children will eat, how to keep them safe, and if they’ll ever return home. I don’t know why this is my life and that’s hers.”

As I re-read that quote by this exceptional person, I am pained by the increasing vitriolic debate on gun laws, Republican vs. Democrat (USA), Conservative vs. Liberal (Canada), refugees and immigrants, and the holier than thou proclamations emanating from the nationalistic, protectionist and isolationist corners of where we live, when it is only by an accident of birth that we are here and they are there, or by lessons learned that I think this way and you the other. What if we spent as much energy on looking for the likenesses between people and not the divisions?

 

 

 

An Open Love Letter

“If you are pained by external things, it is not they that disturb you, but your own judgment of them. And it is in your power to wipe out that judgment now.”

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

It has been quite the horrific and surreal past couple of weeks for Orlando. First came the shocking news of the murder of Christina Grimmie, a beautiful and talented young singer many of us watched blossom on NBC’s The Voice. Her death was a senseless and terrifying reminder of what can tragically happen with fame. Then just the next day, also in Orlando came the bloodthirsty tragedy that befell the gay nightclub Pulse, and murder of forty-nine souls committed by an Islamic extremist. Two days after that at Orlando’s Disney World theme park, we learned of the gruesome death of a toddler snatched at the shore of a lagoon by an alligator as the little boy was wading in shallow water. So much to bear for one city within such a short span of time.

In the last two of these tragedies, there was blame, recriminations, anger, even an immediate and repulsive, “I told you so” by a male US presidential candidate within hours of the murders. Inside the same day of the killings the battle lines were already drawn by the sanctimonious rhetoric of the pro-gun, anti-gun and anti-Islam positions. In the wake of the shootings, my mind has been littered with feelings of bewilderment, helplessness and bitter sadness. To the parents of the dead toddler, my heart bleeds for you both. Not only have you endured an unthinkable horror, but also you have undoubtedly heard the shock and consternation on social media and the airwaves accusing you of not properly caring for the welfare of your child directly resulting in his death. Who can say that to these grief-stricken parents?

If only the Pulse patrons had weapons, the killer would have been eliminated sooner therefore saving lives, says the same male US presidential candidate! If only Muslims were banned from entry to the USA this tragedy would never have taken place – ya, by the same male US presidential candidate. If semi-automatic weapons were not for sale, this wouldn’t have happened. If the government did its job the murderer could not have made the legal gun purchase he did. Now the world knows what Israel goes through, so do something about the Islamic terror network! How could those parents not have held their child’s hand, AT ALL TIMES? Why didn’t Disney have proper alligator warning signs posted by the lagoon’s shore? Disney should have neutralized the known threat that alligators on their property presented. The blame and judgements have been incessant. And also deeply troubling is us. We are a big part of the problem. We become apoplectic. We take sides but zealously only one side. The polarization is now of epidemic proportions. For example, why can’t we be against the existing US gun laws and at the same time also seeking legitimate solutions to the dangerous radicalization of Islamic fundamentalists? Must it be a zero sum game? But that argument has been an impossible one to have this past week or so. By ostensibly assigning cause to unlike positions, proponents of the other accuse you of being soft or worse, ignorant of their raison d’etre and vice versa.

So what is all this? It is fear. Fear of what you may ask?

It could be very much related to our general anger at strangers. Anger at ourselves. Frustration with others. Intolerance of others. Self-loathing. Hating others. And Confucius says, if you hate then you have been defeated.

My fear is only a self-reflection of what I desire. My fear is rooted in wanting something I cannot have. My fear is for the future and the uncertainty that awaits. My fear is that I expect you to behave in a certain way – and you don’t. My fear is that I know what you are thinking. My fear is that I see what is not there. My fear is that I don’t understand the understandable. My fear is that you can’t understand me. My fear is that I see me in you. My fear is based on ignorance. My fear is that I am dependent on what I hate, what I want and what I see. But the answer is love. Love of oneself – fully, completely and without preconditions. The more we love ourselves, the less room we have to fear anything. So my promise to me is hopefully found in my fulfillment to you. If I am pained by your actions, I now know that it is not you that needs to change, it is I.

 

When I met Malala’s parents – part 2

“There was no judgement at this event. Despite the genesis and reason for it – there was none. Neither were there political nuances. There was no blame. Just love and it was so beautiful. “

Last week I penned the above in my blog regarding the delightful experience at a gala event and meeting Ziauddin and Tor Pekai Yousafzai, the parents of 2014 Nobel Peace Prize award winner Malala Yousafzai. And as I reflect upon that week, prior to and since, the theme that rumbles most with me, with my soul, is love.

You may recall the other experience I had with that old buddy of mine in the piece I wrote about “sleeping naked” and describing himself to me simply as love. If you are thinking something that is NOT there then please go quickly and read that one too! In the week that ensued I received an email from him and the subject line read, “Bad news”. The body of the message informed me on the untimely and extremely sudden passing of his younger brother. I know that were it not for that earlier encounter, the tragic news would not have arrived in the timely manner as it did. My friend was to pass through Toronto Pearson airport for a connecting flight to join his brother’s family in their grief and for the funeral – over 3000 kilometres away. Though we only had about fifteen minutes available to us between his customs call and the connecting flight – I had to be there. Eerily related, earlier that morning I was randomly introduced to a song that stirred me. And in response to it, I shared a blog I had written last February, which also contained a song, Disturbed’s cover of The Sound of Silence. http://lettersandwalls.com/?p=88

Reading that piece that I wrote several months ago and listening once again to that song – I must be up to 51 times by now – I knew that it was necessary to send it to my friend right away. As he walked into arrivals where I was waiting for him, his tear-filled eyes spoke volumes to me. He had Wi-Fi on the plane and read my piece and listened to that song on the short flight to Toronto. Who knew that a trigger I received only a few hours prior would lead me to presenting to him just what he needed at that time. I had reached into his soul and touched it and he touched mine. The truth is, I needed it more than he did. He certainly was love. I am still working on me.

Muhammad Ali passed away this week. We all know that tens if not hundreds of millions have been deeply impacted by his life. But not all. For some, bitterness, hate and intolerance are regretfully still a part of their core. And good old social media was at it again, happy to provide a platform of hate in the wake of the death of The Greatest. Some couldn’t care less for a “boxer” who died, especially a “boxer” who spoke certain unappetizing words 50 odd years ago. But Muhammad Ali was much more than a boxer. He was to become a game changer, one perchance without an equal. And love became a part of Muhammad Ali.

What I gleefully observed when I met Malala’s parents, was far-reaching opposition to hate and anger when they have as much a reason as any to harbour those feelings. I have been blessed to be able to see much love all around me. Not everywhere, but what I have, I am grateful for.

Love is a positive emotion. Not loving or not hating is neither positive nor negative. Apathy is that state. Apathy is not love or hate. Hate is a negative emotion. So the opposite of hate is love and vice versa. And both are choices we can make. Anger, a close relation to hate is ugly. Look into the mirror when you are angry – what do you see? Furious at what Ali said in 1969? Loving yourself is the start. The love allows forgiveness into your heart. Maybe that is what my friend meant when he said he is love.

When I met Malala’s parents – part 1

There are people in the world whose mere presence speaks volumes about them and their journey. When we need look no further than into the eyes exposing their pain but also their mission. Where an infectious smile draws in the stranger to them and to their purpose – and of course because we also know of their astonishing story.

Ziauddin and Tor Pekai Yousafzai, the parents of 2014 Nobel Peace Prize award winner Malala Yousafzai, accepted an honour on behalf of their daughter at a gala event I attended in Toronto earlier this week. Malala would have attended in person had it not been for her exams, but the world’s supreme campaigner for the education of girls could not skip out of an exam merely to be feted in Toronto. The evening after all was dedicated to the education of Muslim women yet I found this to be much more compassionately and spiritually about all of us. Named Daughters for Life, it is in memory of loss of life – the heartrending wartime loss of three daughters to Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish. Not inconsequentially, the master of ceremonies for the event was Toronto media personality Erin Davis who acknowledged during the evening’s festivities that earlier this month was the first anniversary of the sudden passing of her own daughter.

Also receiving an award was Canadian politician and diplomat Stephen Lewis and his wife Michelle Landsberg, well known Canadian journalist, feminist and social activist. It took me over 37 years but thanks to an elevator ride at the event with the exemplary couple I was finally able to share with Stephen my very amusing but true story when I surprisingly received a swift return call from my then sitting MP, the late Robert Kaplan, whilst in my university dormitory. Mr. Kaplan’s secretary mistakenly scribbled down Stephen Lewis instead of Stuart Lewis on the message pad and hence the hastily returned call. Stephen was quite tickled by it. But I digress … Michelle, in her brief address made one comment that resonated deeply. She said, “Those who have lost the most give back the most.” Seated with me were women representing Bereaved Families of Ontario, an outstanding organization supporting individuals who have suffered loss. The BFO support group are those who themselves have similarly suffered.

Also seated at my table were several doctors, one a Canadian born Palestinian. We had a chance to share our mutual stories and without going into details, the following day the doctor ended an email to me by commenting on the palpable aura of love filling the room that previous night and how if imaginably replicated in other facets of society, “could change the face of humanity”.

There was no judgement at this event. Despite the genesis and reason for it – there was none. Neither were there political nuances. There was no blame. Just love and it was so beautiful. And it was a choice for us all to be there. To support the cause. To support one another. And definitely not to judge. I am so grateful to be learning that lesson myself. All of this is a choice. That is our power to control over ourselves.

Yet if there was one small iota of “politics” heard that wonderful evening it came from Ziauddin Yousafzai. He spoke so eloquently, passionately and I must say skilfully, clearly the apple of Malala doesn’t fall far from that tree of her parents. He concluded his remarks by declaring, “the greatest gift to peace in the world was through the education of women”. That kind of politics I can accept.

 

with Malala's parents

The liberation by sleeping naked

“Don’t be fooled by me.

Don’t be fooled by the face I wear.

For I wear a mask, a thousand masks,

Masks that I’m afraid to take off,

and none of them is me.”

Charles C. Finn, from the poem Please Hear What I’m Not Saying

A busy day comes to an end, the stress of earning a living, maintaining relationships, exercising and pursuing that fountain of youth, trying to eat well but feeling guilty for that scrumptious indulgence, and then it approaches, one final waking moment and then we are alone. We are in bed, our eyes are shut, dreams may soon materialize taking us to strange, unforeseen and illogical places, but it is only us. No more masks, no more “being on”, no one to pretend to – no act to play out. We are figuratively and quite possibly literally, blissfully, naked. We hide no more. The rolls, those extra pounds, the blemishes, all those imperfections are now completely exposed once all our masks are removed. Our nighttime slumber is our refuge from the masks. It is our opportunity for rejuvenation IF we have not yet learned how to unmask ourselves during our awakened state.

Think about it, when are we truly ourselves? When are we not trying to impress our co-workers, our boss, our friends, our significant other, our children, our parents, the driver stopped beside us at the traffic light, that gentlemen riding in the elevator with us, the stranger sitting on the plane beside us, or our doctor during that uncomfortable annual physical (well at my age it is uncomfortable)? What they see most often is our outward masked self, and we too, so at times we lose sight of who we truly are.

“My surface may seem smooth but my surface is my mask,

ever-varying and ever-concealing.

Beneath lies confusion and fear and aloneness.

But I hide this. I don’t want anybody to know it.” Charles C. Finn

We live in a society that today values Kardashian-esque motifs and in our own way we have succumbed to the counterfeit façade that promotes our own flawed self-identity. It is a trap that seems only escapable by the Great Houdini himself.   It wears on us, fatigues us and drains our daily source of vital but limited energy. The voices in our head constantly debate the principle and meaning of life with our soul, our true self but the debate’s victor is still awaiting the seventh and deciding game.

“It’s [love] the only thing that can liberate me from myself,

from my own self-built prison walls,

from the barriers I so painstakingly erect.”   Charles C. Finn

The love that I interpret here (which may not be the intention of the author) is the love we have for our own self. I was having dinner with an old friend this week who described himself as love which got me thinking. We are love? Imagine how that changes our perception of who we think we are. I don’t suppose my old buddy realized it, but with that utterance, his masks tumbled down first for him, but also in front of me. I saw this friend like I had never seen him before. I saw his essence. It may have been the most profound utterance I have ever witnessed. It was a special moment in time and indeed a liberating one too – at least for me.

Sleeping naked has its merits, but being awake and naked for all to see is something else all together.

 “Who am I, you may wonder?

I am someone you know very well.

For I am every man you meet

and every woman you meet.”   Charles C. Finn

Feeling gratitude – dedicated to the residents of Fort McMurray

“Your mind is a garden, your thoughts are the seeds. You can grow flowers, or you can grow weeds.” Emily Fletcher

Emily Fletcher wrote an article entitled The Neuroscience of Gratitude.

“What are you most grateful for in this moment? Right here, right now. Seriously, stop and ask yourself. If you’re having a tough day and aren’t able to come up with anything off the top of your head, that’s all the more reason to ask the question.”

Believe it or not, our brain, our temperament and our well-being are positively fed by thoughts of gratitude. She even goes on to write that gratitude can be a natural antidepressant. So why don’t we make this a habit? The truth is, we have not trained ourselves to do it. It is something we have yet to learn. We all have our own sh*t that we are dealing with on a regular basis and in attempting to distract our pain we say to ourselves “well she has cancer and I don’t – that is far worse than what is troubling me”? And moments later we all recognize that is a fleeting interruption at best and we promptly return to our particular misery. That is natural. We all do it.

 

I am a failure.

I am fat.

It’s Mother’s Day and I am not a mother.

My car is old and it needs repairing.

I can’t pay my bills.

It’s miserable outside today.

My job sucks and my boss is an a*hole.

I am always lonely.

I need new clothes.

My sister is the favourite – why not me?

I have diabetes.

They always disrespect me.

My best friend just died.

HE can afford that great vacation.

My daughter hates me.

I have cancer.

I hate my life.

My house burned to the ground.

 

But we can always find blessings in our life. We can seek out reasons to smile. I gave up my seat last night in a restaurant waiting area to a young child with her mother. Both the child and the mother smiled at me. I held open the exit door at the gym and the fit young man expressed thanks to me. But we can also look around our life and be grateful for what exists.

 

My mother is alive.

I have loving memories of my departed husband.

I am able to walk outside today and enjoy the sunshine.

I woke up.

I can watch an uplifting movie right now.

My children are healthy.

I had breakfast today.

Someone texted me out of the blue to see how I was.

I have regular bowel movements.

I own a car.

I will be sleeping in fresh sheets tonight.

Spotting the first crocus of spring.

My pet brings me such peace and unbridled love.

I have one very special relationship.

Morning music.

Having a job.

My ability to think and to reason.

I am the recipient of good deeds from strangers.

 

We can all find gratitude for moments, people and things in our life. It is an active not a passive activity. I know – it is working for me.

If you are feeling gratitude today, perhaps you can demonstrate that by donating to an agency like the Red Cross and support the effort in assisting the residents of Fort McMurray Alberta.

https://donate.redcross.ca/ea-action/action?&ea.client.id=1951&ea.campaign.id=50639

 

 

 

What’s wrong with people?

I could easily title this “what’s wrong with me” but work with me for a minute.

Before the Passover holiday began a video snippet of a stand-up comedy routine was circulating on social media about an Italian-American joining his Jewish girlfriend at her mother’s house for his first Passover dinner (seder). Most would agree, especially Jews familiar with the multi millennia old practise that it was priceless in every manner conceivable. The comedian’s shtick is his observances of people; what they say, what they do and how illogical many of their respective actions and utterances are. He is a kind of modern day George Carlin. He is Sebastian Maniscalco. I sought out more of his work and now find him outrageously entertaining. I discovered a sketch called, What’s wrong with people? “I got a problem with people … I was at Starbucks the other day and this lady in front of me ordered a scone, a muffin, I don’t know what the hell it was but they gave it to her in a brown bag, and then she was eating it, she was like fingering the muffin out of the bag [imagine the exaggerated visual hand motions from the bag to his mouth] … TAKE IT OUT OF THE BAG.”

Sebastian is a brilliantly funny comedian; he openly acknowledges his problem with people via his comedic genius. And of course it is an act, but sometimes I think many of us carry out an act every day of our lives. And then again, I not am sure if it is an act, or about living in denial. So what are we eating out of the bag?

I saw something the other day on social media that I reacted to. Someone asked for comments only on the facts presented and not to offer an opinion on those facts. I rather strongly suggested that his “facts” presented in the context in which they were indeed represented his opinion. Well – he was rather offended as were a couple others. They mistook my opposition to his premise as support of the opposite opinion that I stated more than once was not the case. “TAKE YOUR OPINION OUT OF THE BAG.”

But people can’t change until they are ready. They are vulnerable to something. They are afraid of thoughts and ideas antithetical to their own. But they – we – don’t see it. And just maybe, we are afraid to admit when we are wrong as that too exposes our vulnerability.

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.” 

One of my favourite scholars and public speakers – Brene Brown.

It will be liberating to learn, as Dr. Brown’s research supports, to accept and acknowledge our own vulnerabilities before we can improve our condition and begin to feel stronger about who we are. Our vulnerabilities present as our walls to those all around us. They subconsciously keep people out and prevent us from enjoying life to it’s fullest potential. Dr. Isaac Newton famously established in his third law of physics, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. How often does one’s opposition to something we have done or said shock us – even repulse us? When someone reacts negatively to our words or emotions, it is most often directly related to that opening salvo. Yet in defiance we are self-justifying, protective and ultimately resist looking within which is where the answer will be found. Some call it having baggage. What is in your BAGgage?