Why Am I A Survivor?

August, 2011

Maybe, this is why I'm a survivor! :-)

Erik Glen Rogers: Oct. 29, 1971 -- Jun. 22, 2011

Why am I a survivor?” is a question I’ve been asking myself a lot lately. The question was brought to the forefront when my son died recently. On the surface, I realize his death isn’t directly related to my survival. Having stated that, I understand the concern of many of the doctors, nurses and other professionals who have asked me: “How are you doing?” They would often, outwardly, express their concern about the well-being of their patient’s loved-ones, especially me, who survived. The professionals warned me about the difficulties I would encounter when trying to answer the question: “Why am I a survivor?”

Glen Delmar Rogers: July 19, 1916 -- May 15, 1951

An event, that happened in 1951, has provided another dimension to the question: “Why am I a survivor?” You see, my father died when I was five years old. Include the fact that my son died when I was sixty-five years old and both, my dad and son, were in their thirties when they died and you can most likely understand the “bookend” loneliness I feel.

I have always thought that when things are tough, some people fall under the stress, while others are made stronger than before.

The Battle of Shanghai's sole survivor - why?

Why is it that some people are able to handle tough times better than others? Are these tough times for me? Yes! Am I falling under the stress, or am I being made stronger? Both! Yes, I am falling more than I ever anticipated, while at the same time, I realize I’m gaining a deeper insight into life. You see, the death of my son has made me feel stronger in my thinking about living life now. Before he died, much of my thinking about life involved planning a better life and trying to live that life in the future. Even though I would often proclaim that the “future is now,” I generally used the “now” only for planning/dreaming a better future.

Do reality-survivor shows manifest real survivors?

Another aspect of being a survivor is how the word, survivor, is used in our media. Consider the glut of reality-survivor television shows. Personally, I usually perceive these as shows that bring out the worst in human behavior. When I ask, “Why am I a survivor?”, I’m not asking about a “reality show.” Instead, in my case, I’m asking about why I’m in reality and my son isn’t. Or, is he???

The reality-survivor shows often display people trying to survive by wasting time complaining about what they lost and what didn’t go well. Real survivors, in my opinion, focus on creating a life that turns out well. In other words, survivors, interpreted in this manner, are those who take charge of their destinies.

If I live, laugh and love then I'll have a hard time remaining mad!

So, in my case, is it possible to take charge of my destiny and answer my question: “Why am I a survivor?” Well, in order to take charge of my destiny, I can immediately see it won’t do me any good to be mad at the world – an emotion I have felt and expressed too many times lately. I think it would be better for me to laugh at the world and get rid of the madness. In order to do that I’ll need to find options for my life, other than the “mad-at-the-world” one I’ve been choosing lately. When I’m in my “mad-at-the-world” emotional state, I’m mad at everyone – friends, neighbors, family and yes, me! Too much madness and not enough laughter!

The future is unknown, but I can handle it because I'm confident that I will find a way to make things work out.

Am I a survivor? Yes, and at the present time, a mad one! What kind of survivor should I be? I should be a survivor who can laugh more at his problems, stop feeling sorry for himself, and think more about his options and less about life and death. It’s easy to tell myself to do it, but it’s very difficult to do it. In other words, it’s easy to talk the talk, but difficult to walk the walk. :-)

You see, thinking only about life and death is using “either-or” thinking. We, as humans, have many other options. The future is unknown and the person who can handle it must have a personality that allows her/him to walk into it with confidence, knowing s/he will find a way to make things work out. I suppose, it’s more about developing positive expectations and beliefs and dwelling less on the past.

Why am I a survivor? Because, “I’m present in the present,” is the only answer that I’m sure of. :-)


What Precedes Peace?

June, 2011

Tweet Peace! :-)

A few years ago, I came across a quote from Ariane de Bonvoisin about peace. She stated: “On the other side of acceptance is where peace exists, where solutions are.” The quote was taken from her book, The First 30 Days: Your Guide to Making Any Change Easier. After reading the quote, I became curious about this concept we call “peace” and what it really means to me. You see, on the surface, I think the opposite of peace is war. Now, I realize, if we don’t have war, we still might not have peace. On the other hand, if we consider absolute opposites, then I guess war does mean the absence of peace.

"I guess war does mean the absence of peace."

But, what about de Bonvoisin’s statement about acceptance and peace? I suppose we cannot have peace without a great deal of acceptance. If acceptance is where peace exists, then wouldn’t we have to include change as a necessary part of peace. As people attempt to make peace, they must at least be willing to change their minds. Before we can change, we must have acceptance of current reality. And, what is the opposite of acceptance? Well, of course, resistance.

Resistance stops change, peace, progress, and in general, growth. Think about it –  don’t we see resistance at the root of all “un-peaceful” situations? Consider all of the wars we are involved in. Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya all have resistance as a reason why there isn’t peace in those three areas of the world. We sometimes call it insurgency, but it’s nothing, more or less, than resistance. If the “insurgents” wouldn’t resist we would have peace. How about the “war on drugs” or “the war on poverty?” Again, resistance plays a big role when considering the purpose for the wars. If there wasn’t resistance to avoiding drugs or “sharing the wealth,” we would have peace on those two fronts.

Give peace a chance!

So, how much power is there in acceptance? Before writing this, I never thought much about it. I remember using the old sixties/seventies  “song-quote” from John Lennon, “give peace a chance.” I guess, instead of acceptance, I focused on peace. “Just be peaceful,” was my answer to most “war-like” occurrences. Perhaps, if we consider that peace is on the other side of acceptance and focus on acceptance first, then peace will follow more easily.

Let’s consider a “non-war” personal example. I remember, when I first started teaching, proclaiming that I would only teach for a few years, after which I would leave to find a better paying job. I was resisting the job of teaching because I felt it didn’t pay enough. In fact, I remember being embarrassed that many who had graduated with me from college were making twice what I was making. When referring to the poor pay I received, relative to others with comparable education, I would often use the following quote by Miguel de Cervantes from his novel, Don Quixote, “That which cost little is less valued.” Simply stated, I felt, as a teacher, I was not valued enough.

After resisting the teaching profession for a few (approximately seven years:-), I came to the realization that, though the pay was not comparable to those in other professions, there was more than pay that should be considered. Other than the pay, my job-satisfaction was high. I came to an acceptance of this career (job) of teaching. When I accepted teaching as my career, I was at peace with the job and myself. And, when I gave peace a chance, through acceptance, I never considered any other job until I retired. The point is, acceptance came before peace and peace was the result of my acceptance.

Instead of resistance, I think we need to direct our thinking in the opposite direction. When working toward peace, we need to focus on acceptance. As we focus on acceptance, appreciation and “the present” must be in the forefront. We need appreciation for the life we have and realize that we live only in the present. Appreciation leads to acceptance and peace can only exist in the present.

So if you want peace, don’t resist, but instead, look for acceptance. If you want acceptance, then appreciate your life and be present in the present!

What (usually) precedes peace? ACCEPTANCE!

When You Commit, Are You Giving Or Receiving?

May, 2011

What do you do when you commit (pledge or obligate yourself) to something? Do you give only “lip service” when you commit? Do you “talk the talk, but not ‘walk the walk’?” What does making a commitment mean? From your point of view, does making a commitment really matter? The previous questions are all focused on commitment. If you choose to honestly answer the questions, then they can provide some insight into your point of view regarding the act of committing.

Drawings in the Cave of Altamira. "We've gone from posting pictures on cave walls to now, posting pictures on the internet."

I think we all have a deep need to be involved with others — indeed, a need to be involved in the world. The proof of this fundamental human need is constantly demonstrated by history. Consider how we humans have populated the earth, or how we explore/investigate every aspect of life. Or, consider how we continually invent ways to be connected, from beating a drum to beating the virtual keyboard on our iPhones. Another example is how we went from posting pictures on cave walls to now, posting pictures on the internet. The point is we, as a human race, want to be involved in our world.

Social media/networking helps with our need to be connected.

We also show our need to be involved by our desire for social and/or close relationships. We want “what we do,” to count for something. We want to feel valuable in life. We want to feel connected in a way that we are important to the connection. An outstanding example of this is today’s use of social media and networking.

So, what do all of these wants and/or needs have to do with commitment? Well, the commitments we make are often the results of wants and needs. In fact, I think we usually commit ourself to something that starts in our mind as a want/need. I know you might be saying to yourself that you commit to many things that you do not desire or want.

Because of my commitment, I want AND desire what is good for my family.

Perhaps, when you commit, desire or want may not seem to you, “on the surface,” to be the reason. Having stated that, I really believe when you look deeper into your thinking, the reason is, indeed, a desire or want. For example, consider a father who is committed to taking his children to an amusement park. He may take them, not because, on the surface, he wants to, but because he thinks that such a family outing would be a desirable thing for the family. Since he thinks it is good for the family, then he wants and/or desires it.

Commitment is a need or desire that we must enter into a relationship with! When we make a commitment, we should never count on gaining anymore than we are willing to put into it. Actually, we should make a commitment without hoping to gain anything.

Deep commitments, like marriage, allow us to discover who we are as individuals.

Commitments are actions of giving and not necessarily, receiving. What we gain from commitments is often less than or equal to what we are willing to put into them.

Deep commitments, like marriage, allow us to discover who we are as individuals. From our deep commitments, we grow to our fullest. It’s our deep commitments where we give freely to others. For example, consider how freely a committed teacher gives to her/his students. Commitment is not just a matter of thinking and speaking. Commitment is something you must do in the present. When you are truly committed, you are forced to be “present in the present!” It is something of which you must not only, “talk the talk,” but also, “walk the walk!”

So, when we commit, are we giving or receiving? If we are serious about our commitment(s), then we are giving and doing so, freely and presently. I hope you are committed, freely and presently, to giving a comment. :-)


What Should I Give Up To Forgive?

February, 2011

"Forgiveness is giving up hope that the past could ever have been any different."

What should I give up to forgive? What does that mean? After all, the word forgive contains the two words, “for” and “give,” which should mean I am “for giving” and not “giving up.”:-)

"To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you." --Lewis B. Smedes

For this post, I will focus on the following two definitions of forgive.

1. to cease to blame or hold resentment against (someone or something)
2. to grant pardon for (a mistake, wrongdoing, etc.)

Now, these definitions are all appropriate and I agree with their correctness. Having stated that, when I try to forgive a wrongdoing that affects me in a profound manner, I can’t simply grant pardon, cease to blame and/or hold resentment. I have found this to especially true when someone severely betrays my trust. But, who owns this problem of “me not being able to forgive?” ME!

"The stupid neither forgive nor forget; the naive forgive and forget; the wise forgive, but do not forget" --Thomas S Szasz

As I have proclaimed in many of my posts, the main purpose of my blog is “writing for learning.” In this case, I am writing to learn why and how I can be a more forgiving person. Why should I forgive? That’s an easy question. Not forgiving is mentally unhealthy.

When I don’t forgive, I find I have vented-up anger. That anger causes undue stress on my body and, more importantly, undue stress on those close to me. Besides anger, other negative feelings such as hurt, hatred, resentment, dissension, ill-will, revenge and abuse can arise from not forgiving. Of course, forgiving usually has to be done by the person normally thought of as the victim. Considering that, how should “the victim” approach the act of forgiving and at the same time, shed the feeling of being a victim?

Let’s contemplate some different points of view of forgiveness and how they might give me a way to forgive.

Forgiveness means giving up all hope for a better past.” --Lily Tomlin

When I blame or hold resentment against someone or something, I have a natural feeling to want what caused the blame or resentfulness to be made right. Of course, it is usually impossible to go back in time and change what happened. So, what can I do, in the present, to change the past? Uhmmmmmm…? Here are some points of view about forgiveness that I find insightful.

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” —Lewis B. Smedes

This quote suggests that I can treat need to forgive like the need to release a prisoner – forgiveness will set me free!

“The stupid neither forgive nor forget; the naive forgive and forget; the wise forgive, but do not forget” —Thomas S Szasz

Mr. Szasz suggest that if I am wise, then I will forgive, but not necessarily, forget.

"Forgiveness is giving up hope that the past could ever have been any different." --Oprah

“Forgiveness means giving up all hope for a better past.” —Lily Tomlin

Lily Tomlin’s quote gives me a way of living in the present and at the same time, facing the past.

“Forgiveness is giving up hope that the past could ever have been any different.” –from Oprah

I like this last one, from Oprah, the best. It is similar to Ms. Tomlin’s quote, but adds the realistic view that past is what it is! In order to forgive, I need to accept that the past will not change and therefore give up all hope that it could and will ever be different. I need to accept the past for what it was/is and use the present to help myself move forward.

“When there is a mature relationship between people, there is always compassion and forgiveness.”--Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk, is quoted as saying:

“When there is a mature relationship between people, there is always compassion and forgiveness.”

I’ve read that Nhat Hanh’s key teaching is that, through mindfulness, we can learn to live in the present moment instead of in the past and in the future. Dwelling in the present moment is, according to Nhat Hanh, the only way to truly develop peace, both in one’s self and in the world. For me to be present in the present, I must forgive or be doomed to trying to make the past different – an impossibility!

Ok, so what, specifically, should I do if I want to forgive? Though, not necessarily easy, I think the following steps will give me a method that enables me to forgive.

1) Choose the intent to forgive.

2) Allow new feelings to come in while still experiencing the anger, hurt, hatred, etc. left from the blame and resentment.

3) While experiencing the negative feelings, I need to constantly say to myself that I no longer want these feelings to be a part of me.

4) Be patient while I give up all hope that the past could ever have been any different.

Forgiveness is a form of healing. Healing, whether mind or body, takes time. In other words, I can’t expect forgiveness to instantly happen. Like a wound on my skin, I need to take care of it and be patient while it heals.

So, what should I give up to forgive? I should give up all hope that the past could ever have been any different!

Can I? Yes!

Have I, yet? No!

Will I? Yes! :-)

Who Should You Be?

February, 2011

Who should you be? The only person who isn't taken. YOU!

Who should you be? Probably, you know the answer, immediately! Who should you be? The only person who isn’t taken. YOU! :-)

"People who are trying to not be themselves are fighting against themselves!"

On the surface, this sounds obvious, but many of us are often not trying to be the “only person who isn’t taken. The people who are trying to not be themselves are fighting against themselves. They are literally living a lie. This is a lie that can only be corrected when they are true to themselves.

Ok, so let’s assume you agree that you should be yourself. How do you do it? How many times in the past have you had the opportunity to be yourself and instead, chose to be something different? For example, perhaps you wanted to impress someone by pretending you had a lot of experience that you didn’t really have. Maybe you purposefully implied that you knew something that you didn’t know in order to make a favorable impression. In order to be yourself, you will have to “unlearn” all of these parts of you that have been misrepresented.

Really, is it more risky to be yourself compared to someone else?

Is it risky to be yourself? As you unlearn the parts of you that aren’t the real you, you will have to take risks. Most likely, the main reason you were not yourself in the past is due to not wanting to risk your self-esteem. Yes, being yourself involves risk. But, not being yourself often results in living a lie. And, living a lie is often risky because you have to be concerned/worried about others discovering the truth. In other words, there is risk involved no matter which route you take – trying to be yourself or someone else. So, why not be your true self?

So, again, how do you do it? What are some techniques that you can use – other than unlearning the parts that aren’t really you? One technique is to try being yourself for just one day. For one day, do only what your inner-selftells” you to do. Forget or unlearn what isn’t the real you and do what you think reflects what your inner-self thinks you should do.

This is the way I express myself! :-)

Another important consideration when trying to be yourself is the need to express yourself – to show the world who you really are. This need is demonstrated in many ways. Some examples of this need expressed, at different age levels, are: an infant’s cry, a teenager’s stylish expression and an adult’s need to display maturity. It’s natural to want to express yourself and it’s important to make sure the “person you are expressing” is YOU!

We all have a deep psychological drive to be “present in the present.” In other words, we all have needs that can only be satisfied in the present. The greatest of these needs is to make clear to the world that “I am!” This is closely related to the identity statement of, “I am me” or “I am who I am.” The point is that you are who you are and not someone else. It is natural/normal for you to want your presence recognized and valued by others. It is much more difficult for that to happen when you are trying to not be yourself.

In summary: trying to be yourself, doing what your inner-self tells you to do and satisfying the need to express yourself, leaves you with only one true path to follow in life – your path. Perhaps, Shakespeare said it best in his play, Hamlet: “To thine own self be true.

Who should you be? The only person who isn’t taken. You! :-)

Why Not Change, For A Change?

January, 2011

Change is inevitable! Yes, this animal WILL change!

The only thing that is constant is change! To change everything simply change your attitude! Change is inevitable! To learn means changing your mind! These are all statements about change that I have heard and used through most of my adult life.

"The universe (Milky Way) is change; our life is what our thoughts make it."

Many well-known people throughout history have made insightful statements about change. For example: “Nothing endures but change” is a quote from Heraclitus (540 BC – 480 BC). The statement is similar to my first statement: “The only thing that is constant is change!” Another quote, from a person who lived a long time ago and has a similar message that brings our thinking into the process, is from Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (121 AD – 180 AD): “The universe is change; our life is what our thoughts make it.” The simple word, change, represents an important concept for humans. We can’t avoid change and we shouldn’t ignore it.

A question involving change that I have often heard and asked is: “If you could change one thing about your life, what would it be?” When thinking about this question one must realize that many things in life cannot be changed. We cannot change how tall we are nor can we change how old we are. On the other hand, we can change many things that we think are impossible at first glance.

Eat the sandwich, one bite at a time!:-)

Many of us want badly to change something that is changeable, yet we are unsuccessful. Why? Wanting to badly is a wonderful start. Having stated that, wanting to badly usually won’t get you anywhere, by itself. Actually, neither will the use of affirmations and visualizations, if that is all you do. This is because when we want to make a major change in our life we often try to “bite off too much.” Think of a change that you want to make as the act of eating a big sandwich. In order to eat the sandwich you must consume it one bite at a time. If you try to eat it in one bite you are overwhelmed by its size and either give up or choke! Either way, change in that manner is usually impossible.

Affirm over and over again the change you visualize!

If you really want to get started making a major change in yourself you should pick one reasonable/small part of the change to begin with. For example, suppose you wanted to become a more loving person with your mate. Instead of trying to change everything that causes you to not be a loving person, you should, instead, choose one part of your relationship that needs improvement. You might focus on always being cognizant when your mate is in your presence. This concept of “being present in the present” is valuable as motto to follow always and is especially so when relating to loved ones. This would be an excellent “first bite” toward consuming the “sandwich” of becoming a more loving person with your mate.

In general, make the change you want into an affirmation and repeat it over and over and over… Visualize how you will feel and behave after the change is made. Keep repeating your affirmation that supports your visualization. Make a plan, have sub-goals (those bite-size changes), and develop tasks that support the change. Hold yourself accountable and reward yourself as you achieve your sub-goals.

Consider your life to be your house in which its biggest room is the room for CHANGE.

Don’t worry about how long it takes — only be concerned that you are on track and working toward the change you want. Keep track of your progress and keep in mind that the journey is more important than the destination.

Life is a journey of constant changes, of which we have more control of than we often realize. Embrace change and make it a positive for your life.

Finally, here’s another (metaphorical) way of thinking about changing. Consider your life to be your house in which its biggest room is the room for change. Now, make that room for change a room for improvement and you will be on your way to having a better life.

Are You At The Mercy Of Now, Or…?

January, 2011

Now, here's a different way of considering: "Are you at the mercy of NOW?"

Mercy of what? Of now – now, as in the present? Yes! What does that mean?

Aren’t we at the mercy of fate? Do we have any control over our future? So many questions and so few answers! :-)

The Alamosaurus are truly "stagnant in the present!":-)

In many of my posts, I have emphasized the importance of being present in the present. I think that’s important, but I also think it’s easy to confuse being present in the present with being stagnant in the present.

Let’s briefly consider what it might mean to be, “at the mercy of now. If a person is at the mercy of now, then whatever s/he is thinking, living, doing,  etc. in the present, determines her/his future. Of course, our thoughts, lifestyle, etc. play a role in partially determining our future, but should it be such a determining factor that we are stuck in the now? I think not. Are we at the mercy of what we are nowOR, are we at the mercy of what we are becoming? I think the latter.

I know what I'm "bee-coming.":-)

You see, it boils down to whether you believe you are at the mercy of who you are OR who you are becoming. If you choose who you are, then you’re at the mercy of fate (now). If you choose who you are becoming, then you work toward what you want to be and have more control over your future. Frankly, it’s a belief system that affects what happens to you.

If you believe you have control over your future, then you are usually willing to change. Changing allows you to become someone different and ideally, better than the present you. Here’s an appropriate maxim that summarizes the main idea of this post: “What you are becoming is often more important than what you are accomplishing.” Accomplishing implies present and past. Becoming implies present and future! If you don’t want to be at the mercy of now (fate), then you must constantly try to be the new and “better than now” person. No, not “holier than thou,” just “better than now!” :-)

Sometimes, it's difficult to see how it could be "better than now."

I once heard a story about a depressed college professor for whom therapy, religion nor family were able to help. One day, the professor’s automobile had a flat tire on a major highway, many miles away from help. Unfortunately, the “absent minded professor” had forgotten his cell phone. At first, he didn’t do anything but sit in the car, stunned, and realizing that it had been over thirty years since he had changed a tire. After awhile, even though he wasn’t sure how to use tools needed for changing the tire, he started trying to change it. He read the manual, found the tools, made mistakes, had successes, and eventually, got the spare tire on the car. The whole episode took him two hours. Back in the car, while traveling toward his destination he realized that he no longer was depressed. Why?

For the professor, it was this relatively small and successfully completed task that showed his mind the way to approach larger problems. When we do such things, we realize we really do have more control over our destiny than our present-day thinking reveals. We can do more, if we try! We must believe in ourselves and try. We must dive in and start. We don’t have to be perfect, but we do have to be trying.

Are you at the mercy of now (fate)? Are you at the mercy of what you are trying (becoming)? Hopefully, BECOMING!

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