Friday, July 24, 2009

Gifts on the Street

July 24, 2009

Today, I was walking the streets of Golden, Colorado where I'm house sitting. It's Buffalo Bill Days which means the streets are closed off downtown and a lot of people are milling about looking at jewelry and buying turkey legs from vendors.

I had just met up with a new friend for tea and was on my way home when a stranger noticed me and started talking. He reminded me of my dad at first. I think it was his kind blue eyes. Right away he started talking about how he lives alone in Golden and works for Coors as a technician where he's been for over 20 years. He's looking forward to retirement in just a couple more years.

He said he's looking to date people but not ever get married again because he already tried that once and it didn't work out. They were together 17 years when they split up. It's been 10 years since the divorce but he still started crying when he told me about it today. He said she took a lot of money from him in the settlement. He thought she was the love of his life, and now he feels he is too old to trust anyone again. Not enough time.

He talked about his younger days, growing up in Houston and fighting gangs on the street. He talked about his first love-empty beer cans in the back seat of his car until he pulled over on the side of the road and slept until the morning. He says he still thinks of his first love every now and again but it doesn't bother him like it used to. Looking at his face, I could see the redness, the ruddy splotches and capillaries showing on his nose. Telltale signs, but maybe it's what keeps him going. Maybe it's what made her leave.

He regrets not having spent more time with his two kids. All those years working nights at the Coors factory and sleeping in the day when the kids had their baseball and soccer games. I wonder if they realize how much he wishes he knew them better.

So now, he looks forward to fishing on a lake somewhere. He says although he only talks to his four sisters once a year or so, he knows they'd do anything for each other.

His words of advice: stick up for yourself because if you don't stick up for yourself who will you stick up for? Know your limits: if your boss tries to promote you to a position for which you know you'd be incompetent at, don't take it. Learn from your past but take each day anew.

He was a high-school drop-out but after working at the factory 7 years, he was in charge of a lot of people. He said even though he knew what he was doing, he felt stupid around those other guys so he went back to school. He said it was the hardest time for him-working 8-9 hour days and taking night classes for 2-3 hours a night with a wife and two little kids at home.

He told me a few times how much money he makes and how much he'll be making in retirement. He says he wishes sometimes that he didn't spend so much of his life on work. There are things he realizes now that he missed out on.

I told him I had to go and asked if I could give him a hug. He said he really needed it. I could tell, that's why I wanted to do it. Touch is powerful and healing. He said it felt really good to get some of that stuff off his chest. I told him I appreciated him trusting me enough to tell it. I said it was a gift to me as well, and I meant it.

Tonight, I was just in a peaceful space. It started with the nice meeting with the new friend at the coffee shop. He was full of compliments for me which as much as I want to stay balanced about I must admit felt really good. From there, I guess I was just more open, more smiley, I could notice a lot of people saying hello as I walked the rest of the way home.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Taking Myself on a Date

July 18, 2009

So, I was supposed to go to Red Feather Lakes to meet up with some friends for a hike today, but that fell through because I was not feeling super great. I have a cold I think.

Instead, I took myself on a date today! First, I went to the climbing gym. I climbed a couple of 5.10's which I'd never done before. For those of you reading this who don't know what that means, it's basically just kicking things up a couple of notches from what I usually do. The climbs were very challenging and I had to struggle to get to the top which felt so good once accomplished!

After climbing, I cleaned up and went on a bike ride to my favorite frozen yogurt joint in Denver. Then, I hopped, skipped, and jumped to the movie theater to catch the Harry Potter flick. It was as lovely and exciting as I'd hoped it would be.

Phew! Since I'm not feeling really well, it was so nice to get to do what I wanted and not have to be social (it hurts a little to talk right now because my throat is sore).

All-in-all, I would recommend taking yourself out on a date once in a while. That's all I have to say for now. Have a lovely Saturday night, everyone!

Monday, July 6, 2009

How to Let Crazy Go

July 6, 2009

On my Facebook profile, I said that on my to-do list today was to let crazy go. I got some great responses from my friends, including one that said, "good luck with that-I've been trying to get rid of him but he keeps coming back." I have to thank the friend who made that comment, because it helped me realize something.

I've had that same experience, where every time something crazy happens, or more likely a person acts crazy to me, I want to try to make that craziness disappear and I never can. That then makes me feel crazy and suddenly I'm a dog chasing its tail.

My friend's comment helped me remember that crazy is always going to be around. It's like that weird guy at the bus stop. You see him every morning, maybe you start off saying hello and not noticing how insane he actually is. Eventually though, it hits you that he's really off his rocker in some way and now you still have to deal with him every morning when you get on the bus.

The times I get most upset are when the craziness blindsides me. If I don't see it coming, it hits me like a ton of bricks and takes me a really long time to recover from. But, if I can keep in mind that Crazy is always around, maybe I can deal with it more appropriately.

Maybe, knowing that the man at the bus stop is totally nuts, I can say, "hey there, crazy guy!" and smile and then let it go. He's still there and I know it, but I don't have to make it my personal problem that he exists, nor do I need to take him on as my cause. I only need to acknowledge his presence, if even just to myself. I can think, "Oh wow, there's Mr. Crazy again." But, I don't have to ingest it beyond that point.

So, for those friends who suddenly stopped talking to me for no apparent reason; for those people who act in any way that seems totally bizarre in a hurtful and thus crazy way; for all the hypocrisy, all the insanity that is just floating around in the world, I say, "hello, Mr. Crazy!" and then I let you go. You will not hold me down, at least not today. And, for as long as I can keep reminding myself to let you go, you will not take over or steal any more of my joy.

I know I won't be perfect at this. There will be things, probably everyday that will still surprise me for their craziness. That's OK. I don't want to be looking behind every person to see where their craziness is so I won't be shocked when I find it. I promise to still keep the faith when I meet a new friend, to trust people until they give me a reason not to, and to let life surprise me even if that scares me a little.

I just hope to recall, when I do get those inevitable shocks, that it's OK. Crazy is always floating around somewhere and I don't have to fix it or run away from it. I can just nod my head and walk on by.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Anti-Bullying Techniques

July 3, 2009

So, I just got back from this conference for School Counselors, right? One of the many useful workshops I went to was on how to help victims of bullying:

I appreciated that Izzy (the creator of the program) points out that we ALL can be bullies sometimes whether we want to admit it or not. And, just because we're adults now doesn't mean we are no longer victims and bullies.

He goes through different scenarios, showing how when we react strongly to being hurt by what a bully does or says, we end up looking like the jerk. When we are calm and even solicitous with the bully, we diffuse the situation and look a lot better ourselves.

I asked him what we should have the kids do who don't really believe in the things that we're asking them to say. He said, "Fake it 'til you make it."

Just to give you an example of what this would look like, let's say Joe is being bullied by Samantha. Samantha: "You are such an idiot, Joe." Joe: "I know, sometimes I really can be an idiot. Thanks for trying to help me get better. Is there anything else that you would like to let me know? I'd like to hear what you have to say."

Originally, I was thinking about how to help my students use these techniques. Then, I had a couple of situations come up recently in my own life where I was able to employ them myself. At first, I did what I tend to do-took things personally and got really upset and offended. Then, I realized that I was not making the situation any better. I thought, "well, I feel bullied right now, why don't I just experiment with using Izzy's techniques?"

With the way I used to do things, I would try to be right and I would try to convince the other person they were wrong. I would sometimes be manipulative, or at the very least try to send them on a guilt trip. I felt and acted like a victim. As Izzy points out, it's not bullies who end up being suicidal or homicidal, it's the victims who end up shooting people up.

With Izzy's way, I felt like a good person, the best of me was shining through so that it didn't matter anymore who was right or wrong.

I feel so free now, not caring so much what response I get back from people because I see more clearly than ever how that's not in my control. Before, I would try to control their responses by painstakingly explaining my point of view and expecting them to respond with total understanding and compassion. How could I expect of them what I was not doing myself?

I discovered from this:

1. Even if I didn't fully mean it, just by saying the words I changed my perspective. I was able to see that from the other person's perspective, this is reality. Of course, that doesn't mean that it has to be my reality, but still, what a wonderful way to show compassion to another human being.

2. It really takes away the conflict when I can just admit to being a jerk. After all, who isn't a jerk sometimes? It actually helped me take myself less seriously and show a little more compassion for me when I was able to just admit that I messed up.

3. Even if I have great intentions, am a good person and mean well, as Izzy points out, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions." To me, this is another way of showing that even if I know myself to be a decent, good person, that's not always enough. If another person was hurt by something I said or did, that is all I need to know. I can apologize, take my lumps, and not have to justify anything. By the same token, I also don't have to beat myself up for it. It's just a part of being human to sometimes hurt other people. It's a part of people to sometimes be hurt by each other. There's no way to avoid this, so I may as well accept it with compassion-for me and for them, deal with it as skillfully as possible, and let it go.

4. I can still hold onto and speak my truth. Just because I can enter into another person's world, see how they feel, and respond accordingly doesn't mean I have to ignore my own world. Sometimes, with the right people and in the right situations, I can even let people into that world-I can express to them how things they've said or done have hurt me. And, when I do this skillfully and with wisdom (knowing when, how, and who to do this with), I can actually reap the results I want-compassion, love, and understanding.

5. For a lot of other occassions, it is best to speak my truth in other ways and not directly to the person. It's good to start with myself. Often, t is enough for me to know my truth and have clarity within. Sometimes, when I try to explain it to another person who is not willing or ready to hear it, it just causes more conflict.

So, don't be surprised if you hear me say something like, "You're right. I really can be a jerk sometimes. Thanks for helping me out. Is there anything else you want to tell me, because I would like to hear about it?"

And, if any of you try this out I'd love to hear how it works, or doesn't work, for you.

I'd also like to hear if you disagree with this approach and want to say why.

Habitat for Humanity Build

Last Wednesday (June 24), I went out to Lakewood where Habitat for Humanity is building a home for a family and helped them paint the outside of the house.

I was a little surprised to find that I was the only woman there. Apparently, they have builds that are just for women, but this one was all dudes...and me.

There was something really nice about doing some good hard manual labor for somebody else who needed it. It was nice to get to know the guys in a casual way. Nobody tried to hit on me.

When we got done, we had something to show for it-a newly painted home for a family that needs it. They're an immigrant family from Russia.

The one thing that I'd like to see different is to be able to do a job that I haven't done before. Painting is one of the few construction type jobs that I've already had experience with. It was good for a first-time deal, but I want to learn how to hang dry-wall and stuff like that.

Perhaps I will try the women's build and see how that compares.

Still, what an amazing organization-helping to get rid of homelessness by building people homes. It was started by a very young and wealthy couple who just felt like they needed to do something more with all their money. Imagine if more of us felt that way. But, I guess the people I know would not be in the "have tons of money" category.

I think, though, that we are wealthier than we give ourselves credit for. Maybe not in greenbacks, but certainly in compassion.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Dallas Daze

It's almost 11:00 PM here, and it's been quite a ride in Dallas, Texas over the past five days.

I came here for a national conference for School Counselors-my chosen profession.

If you've ever been to a conference, you know what they're about more or less. You go, hear a keynote speaker, go to break-out session on topics that interest you (all related to the bigger theme of the conference, in this case School Counseling). They feed you buckets of food, the air conditioning is on full-blast so that even in 100+ degree whether you need a jacket, and then they fill your afternoon and evening with social events and raffles and oh, don't forget the exhibit hall where you will find booth after booth of vendor's materials for sale.

This was the same as any other convention that you would go to for your job. I enjoyed it and learned a lot but won't bore you with the details.

Some of you asked about Dallas and how the trip has been overall. Well, I got here a day early and was travelling to Whole Foods (to get my own food so I wouldn't be tempted to eat the mountains of fried chicken that was served at the convention). On the way, I young man tried to ask me out. He was about the age of the 8th graders that I serve as a School Counselor for. I knew this no matter how hard he tried to convince me that he was 21 years old.

While walking to get dinner, we came across a group of children performing on the street (singing a Michael Jackson song). On another night, we got to watch a very talented 9-year-old dance to "Billy Jean". He was stunning. I wonder if it is part of the Dallas culture to have children perform on the streets?

The convention center where most of the daily events took place was a five minute walk from the hotel where everyone stayed, but they had about three or four Greyhound buses that shuttled people back and forth all day long. I wondered how much gas they burned doing that.

I met a lot of people, including counselors from all over the world. (Korea, the Virgin Islands, Indonesia). I met a very nice man from Oregon. He was a little closer to my age so I was cool with him asking me out. No saucy counselor romance to speak of though, sorry. Just a very warm hug goodnight at the end of a lovely conversation and an invitation to email him in Oregon.

I went running this morning and checked out a little more of Dallas. It was difficult to really get a full picture of the place. Every street I ran down would have about a block of business offices and then maybe a condo unit and then industrial looking stuff. It seemed to be a hodge-podge of good and bad parts of town all wrapped into one. I think most everyone but the tourists drive everywhere they go. It didn't take long for me to run into the weave of highways criss-crossing the landscape. There was a lot of piss on the sidewalks and some human feces too.

I did get a sense when I attended a Weight Watcher's meeting on Monday that the women complain about their husbands frequently here. I don't know what that's about, but their accents were cute and I enjoyed listening to them talk.

Those are my not-so-insightful insights about the city, folks. It is a little more humid here, there is definitely a different culture here but it was a little tricky to fully discover what it was all about. Although I noticed pretty much everyone was married by the time they were out of college. I don't know if that has anything to do with the prolific spouse complaints or not.

Signing out for tonight, I say farewell to Dallas. I don't know when or if I'll see her again.

I look forward to getting back home.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Gifts from a Train

May 29, 2009

This will probably be my last posting for this month. Wow! It went by fast!! So, today I was riding the train home from my parents' house in Castle Rock. A man came and sat next to me even though there were other spots open. He didn't say anything at first, but after a while, he commented that he wants to get a Sudoku puzzle book like the one I had. He said the kids on the train drive him crazy. Funny, I was just thinking about those kids myself. I was reminiscing about the days I was in my twenties and flirted with other kids my age out on the streets of Denver. It was not that long ago, but it feels like forever. I was thinking how much older I feel now and how I couldn't really picture myself doing that today.

This guy obviously needed to talk. I was reluctant at first because I didn't know what his intentions were, but it turns out he's just here from Juarez, Mexico. He moved back here to be around for his 6-month old daughter. He and the mom are not together anymore. His only family in Mexico was his dad and uncle and they passed away, so he's all alone. He said he doesn't want any friends right now because the other guys at the restaurant where he works drink too much and he doesn't want to get into that.

He works as a cook at a fancy restaurant in Littleton. Then, he travels for hours to and from work and his home in Aurora. He sees his daughter, he goes to bed, he gets up and goes to work and repeats the process over and over again. That is his life. He is totally dedicated 100% to his little girl. He said she has to know how much he loves her.

He even told me about how he thinks the mom purposely got pregnant even though he told her they should wait until they were more financially secure. Why do people do that?!?

Well, Tony, my new friend, I wish you luck in your life. On behalf of little girls everywhere, thanks for being a stand-up guy for your kid.