Friday, August 10, 2012

Learning to be social..again.

We all have those times in our lives.  Suddenly, things happen and we find ourselves coccooned into our homes with little to no contact "out there."  Whether it's for the winter or for a few years, whether it's due to SAD or because the kids or finances make it almost impossible to get out, we tuck ourselves into our homes and barely ever see daylight.  Recently, I went through almost a year of that.  It's amazing how that year looked.  I couldn't even bring myself to get the toddler to the park.  Play was just not something high on our priorities.  Definitely, exercise and overall health wasn't focussed on at all!

While there is Facebook, Google+, Twitter, MMORPGs and a bazillion and one forums and online contacts, it just isn't the same.  You can often tell if someone is isolating themselves.  The trend of their posts, chat, etc. is one of surface expression.  Rarely do they post about themselves or anything deep or meaningful.  They go from chatty, friendly openness to redirecting the conversation on to anything except themselves.  Their Facebook or G+ go from their latest adventure to being full of reposted memes and links.  Trying to go for coffee with them is met with refusals, excuses, explanations and it's like trying to pull teeth without anesthetic.

For almost a year, we had a big problem.  It was a problem that is spreading around North America like crazy.  Bedbugs.  And our landlord wasn't too keen on spending the money to get rid of it properly.  Bedbug infestations are happening more often around our society and social contact is spreading it faster than anyone can get rid of it.  With that in mind, our family kept home as much as possible.  My older kids were homeschooled, we didn't go to friends and we certainly didn't invite anyone over.  Outings are costly in the winter, and being on a tight budget, were not really an option.  We got into the habit of not getting out, not socializing, not talking or being with friends and family.  It went on for so long, it became a habit.

Parents can feel like this when a new baby comes along.  When a person loses a job for any reason and the finances are nil for a while, again, not much one can do without a lot of effort to be out with friends that have incomes.  Illness and injury can create this.  And it becomes a habit that continues even after the circumstances have alleviated.

With a lot of help from friends, family, charities and politicians, we got out of our bug infested place, cleared what we did take with us of the creepy critters and moved into a great place.  It's open, light, clean and healthy!  You would have thought with our freedom that we would be back to being sociable again.  Nope.  It's an effort to remember to invite friends to visit.  It's an effort to remind people that we are available for coffee.  Their schedules have moved on and the places that you used to be in have filled because nature despises a void.  Everyone has to make the effort to make the changes to include you, including yourself.

This is all well and good in the realm of thought and theory.  It's a different story when you are in the thick of it.  When the finances balance out, when the children are old enough to be with sitters or at playdates without their parents, when the illness or injury have subsided, we regain our freedom externally, but we forget to free ourselves internally.  We forget to release those experiences into the past and step out the door.  Our habits are of staying in and isolating ourselves.  We need to let those go, they served us to make our lives simpler and easier for that time, but now is the time to move on to other behaviours.  Behaviours that help us grow and be happy.

Ever since we were mostly settled into our new home and were absolutely certain we hadn't brought the critters with us, I have actively invited friends and family to come visit.  I have made others aware that we are available and want to share time with them.  It's not as easy since it's not just my behaviours I'm encouraging change for, it's the whole family.  Sometimes, if there is an activity or behaviour we want to participate in more regularly, we have to do it consciously and deliberately for a while before it becomes natural-feeling.  Some people navigate the social realm with the ease of a dancer, but even a dancer must practice to regain their balance and steps after an injury. 

I have felt odd about inviting people over or accepting invitations out, but I know this is exactly what I need if I want to enjoy my friends and family again.  It would be easy to make excuses and stay in my habit of staying home and isolated.  I have to spend a moment double checking why I want to say it because I truly want to stay home or am I merely giving in to my habits?

I firmly believe we all need to be aware of our friends and family and watch for the signs they are isolating themselves.  While their choices need to be respected, keeping some time open to spend with them and never giving up on them is just as important and helps them come out of their shells if life has thrown them a curve ball.  We don't need to rescue them, there are usually very good reasons they are keeping close to home.  We do need to keep a line out to them to help them pull themselves out of whatever pitfall life has tripped them up with.

I am very grateful to the friends and family that kept those lines open for us.  Slowly, we are reconnecting and enjoying some fun.  Making it a habit to check in with friends and family we don't hear much from is an awesome way to let them know you care and haven't forgotten about them.  It keeps the line open, the line that just might be what they need to pull themselves out.

Thank you.  You know who you are.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

What would you give?

I walked past a gal at a train station being honest, wanting a couple bucks for a pop. I only saw the vending machines and pulled out my only change…4 quarters. I apologized as I handed it to her. She beelined for the convenience store behind me. I realized the possibilities and called her to wait, saying I was also thirsty (true). She tried to grab only a can of pop, but I waved her off and bought her a bottle, then grabbed her a bag of chips (not the small bag). She was shocked and thankful. When I asked her if she wanted a flavoured bag, she was poking at the bag as if she couldn’t read it saying she only wanted plain….was this bag the plain ones? (it was). So for her honesty, she got far more than she bargained for and she was extremely thankful. She then got on the train and left. Honesty pays.

Judging people for “lying” because they want a beer when they can’t afford food most the time, nevermind the beer, is not paying attention to our society. Our society is sooooo judgemental for someone looking to ease the stresses of their lives. After a hard day, I like a beer. Their entire lives are hard…why shouldn’t they get a beer now and again? They’re human. Not cast offs, not garbage…human. They aren’t some sales guy trying to make you buy something you don’t need. They might be alcoholics, but it’s not up to us to change them. They need to make that choice for their lives. Unless something changes (their luck, their opportunities, their choices), they are at the end of their lives…any day they could die. What would you give a dying man if he asked it?

They just want to remember what it’s like to be human and to have something nice when nice things don’t come along at all.

That said, I don't change my actions when they just ask for change.  I give what I have to give.  Her circumstances changed things because I realized could give more and meet her immediate needs a bit more than I originally thought.  I have gone into a liquor store near by and bought the guy a beer (or bought a half sack of beer for myself and handed the guy one).

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

When Corporations go against Families

We all know how corporations resolve disputes that require mediation or judgement.  Each corporation gathers up all kinds of fluff and measure it up in front of the mediator or judge and a decision is made based on who made the better pile of fluff, whether there is complete and total truth or not.  Spinning the truth is what they do.  The corporations don't have a vested interest in winning or losing, beyond the fact that winning is obviously better than losing.  If a corporation loses, it pays out of its profits.  If the profits aren't enough then there is the choice of dissolving.  No one worries too ever much about this.  A corporation always has the options of either reforming under different terms, scattering to become parts of other corporations or just simply dissolving and disappearing.  This is considered acceptable to our society and part of the risks of being in business.

When a corporation goes against a family, it doesn't change its tactics.  It doesn't change because to it there is only winning or losing and it's just not that big a deal.  It'd rather win, of course, but if it loses, it pays and it moves on.  A corporation isn't a person, it doesn't have feelings or ideas of compassion.

A family is not a corporation.  There are feelings involved.  It's the foundation of our society and is centered on the very real human experience of emotions, compassion and bonds, sometimes even spirituality.  A family can not just dissolve and disappear if a dispute is lost.  A family can not just reform under different terms.  A family can not just scatter to become parts of other families.  A family can't do these things because, for all intents and purposes, a family is as a human being; living, breathing, growing, and loving. 

When a family loses to a corporation, it is left intact with all the debt tied to it with no way of dissolving that loss in any way without dying.  Dying as a human dies is very different in our society than dying as a corporation.

When a family loses to a corporation, they become destitute in a very real, permanent, debilitating,  irrecoverable way.  There is no dissolving the debt by simply dissolving the life that the debt is attached to.  There is no way to simply walk away, the debt follows irreversibly tied to each individual that gave that family life.  Our society abhors human death, thus the idea of a family dying, or even dissolving is abhorrent to us as humans.

This is why corporations are wrong to go against families as they do other corporations.  There needs to  be compassion and indepth understanding as to the consequences when a family loses to a corporation.  There needs to be a change in how the processes work when a family is involved.  There needs to be caring that the family doesn't become destitute, a duty required of the process that the family isn't left without options, isn't left trapped in debt and a useless burden to society.

Corporations need to reach to their human leaders and remember that they serve a society of humans and those humans do not have the options to simply disappear and not exist.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Making a statement with an act.

Had a moment a bit ago where I seriously wanted to both keep on keeping on and at the same time hide under my shawl.

Bus driver was more than a little judgemental of an older guy with no money.  Something was hanging out of the far pocket and the driver assumed the guy must have money for "that" but not for fare so he could just get off and stop trying to get a free ride.  I don't know what "that" was, it was out of my sight.  The turbaned driver would not stop lecturing the guy.

I stepped up and asked loudly, "Is there a problem with the fare?"  and started dropping money into the farebox.  The older guy moved to the back of the bus and hid his face.  The driver had to be prompted to give me the transfer I had just paid for.  I looked around and walked the distance to the back and handed the guy his transfer.  As I walked up back to my seat, a few people grinned and one young gent started calling out that "that is what this world needs!  More people like you!  Good on ya!"  Others muttered more of the same loud enough to be heard.

When I realized how many people were paying specific attention to me, I realized the statement I had just made with my act and just how "loud" and public it was.  I was both feeling good and yet very shy and exposed.  It bothers me that someone asking for help is so pre-judged as being lazy, wasteful and useless, a thrown away piece of offal to be thrown to the streets and the garbage heaps.  It is an offense to me against my humaness (not humanity....humaness...that which is so very human) that a person is judged for having a pack of cigarettes with them (could have been given!), or that they should ask for a few dollars for a beer while poor.  Why shouldn't they?  Why should a person of priviledge be allowed to escape the day's stressors and pain with a drink or ten, but a person whose entire life is a struggle to just survive be denied an hour of relaxation, a touch of pleasure?  Are they not human, too?

How dare we judge or pre-judge another when there is not one of us that is more than a single accident, illness or misfortune away from suffering the same fate?  In this economy, that is all it takes to drive us into poverty.  How dare we allow another to suffer for the sake of a dollar or two when we have beds to sleep in, food to eat and the priviledge of the occasional drink or smoke or whatever other vice we might have?  How dare we judge the many by the one or two that do scam?I have given up.  I have given up the chance that this or that person might be one of the few scammers.  No more.  I will not risk not giving when it is needed on the rare and off chance that the person *might* be a scammer.  The scammer can learn, too and that also is a chance I'll take.  What if the person is a crook?  I don't care any more.  What if they are not?  It is far far more likely that the person is in need that I will not gamble that they are not.

I don't care what religion you practice, I don't care if you're atheist, christian, hindi, buddhist or pagan. I don't care if you believe in heaven, hell, the summerlands or nothing at all.  All these are trappings and decoration for the one thing that matters. The one thing that has the only value in life.  The one thing that if you have it, you have everything.  It is called LOVE.  It doesn't matter if you're rich or poor or somewhere in between.  Feel free to believe or not believe whatever you want but the one thing that has the power to change this entire era around is LOVE.If they have the gumption to ask, I have the gumption to give what I can.

If someone has the gumption to outright ask me for a beer, I'll walk them over to the liquour store and buy them a freakin' beer!  And I'm not being fascetious.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

We don't need to learn to Give

I just recently had a convo about this with a cashier.  A person ahead of me was shy just under a dollar...for that ever taboo thing call booze (/sarcasm). I immediately handed over a dollar and waved away the change. When the cashier gushed about how it was so nice of me, I explained my thoughts on it.

Giving is necessary. There was a time when people gave out of religious requirement. They never thought it was needful except that "God" required it. In this day of post-religion and a growing atheism or agnoticism, it is still needful to give. The reason is that we can not open ourselves mentally/emotionally/spiritually to receive if we do not open ourselves to give. It is a cycle that can not be broken without disasterous results. "Altruism" is required for the benefit of our society's survival.

This also means that we must be open to receiving. When people say no to "charity," being too proud to accept gifts and help, they close themselves to giving. This is where I believe we have gone wrong. By being too prideful and independant to receive the blessings and care of others, we have prevented ourselves from being able to give. We can not give to those that will not receive.

Universal law states what is good for one is good for all.  We live in a reciprocal society.  If we say no to receiving then we close others off to receiving from us.  As universal law dictates, if we do not allow others to give to us then they can not allow us to give to them.  Reciprocation.  If we say no to giving to others then others must say no to giving to us.  This is what our society functions on.  Reciprocation.

An excellent example is of the payments of KMart layaways by anonymous people.  By giving to others who were open to receiving, the receipients became open to giving (some were able to give a christmas to their kids, some used some of the money to "pay it forward") which continued the cycle.  We all understand the principle of "paying it forward."  Reciprocation of gifting and receiving frees us to move forward and really live.  If those who had their layaways paid for refused the gifts, KMart would have to reverse the payments and pass it on to someone else...or be holding money they can't account for which would put them in a legal bind.  So those people were open to receive and we able to give in return to others.

I firmly believe that the change our society needs most has nothing to do with learning to give...we are desperate to give, we know how to give, we love to give. I believe we need to learn how to receive...with grace, with dignity, with love. Open ourselves to the blessings and gifts of others. It is not greedy, it is not selfish. It is loving to allow others to give to us, for that opens them up to receive from us our blessings and gifts...which we all LOVE to do.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Spring Anomaly

Spring is in the air, the energy bursts forth and you feel the stirrings and awakenings of …what?

It is a similar feeling at the New Year…whether we celebrate it at Samhain, Yule or the beginning of the Gregorian calendar year.  Suddenly the feeling arises to make a change, have this year different from last, better, improved, and made over.  I reflect on this social phenomenon every time it occurs in the people around me.  Personally, I have stopped making those resolutions pressured on me by others in the spirit of the season.  Why?  Is it because I feel the uselessness of it all, self-defeat overwhelming me into apathy?

We often feel the obligation to make another promise to ourselves and to others that we will do better this time around.  When we do, do we really feel the need to change?  Are we ready to change?  Or are we just doing as we are told to by our peers and society?  Are we conditioned in our upbringing to play the same ritual out, without feeling; play-acting out our role in a time-honoured tradition that no longer has any meaning to us or any joy.  As an advanced society, we already know that to make plans to change when we aren’t prepared to do so equals failure in our mission.    It is lip-service to the trendiest trend of self-improvement.

We listen to stories of people who have made changes in their lives; extraordinary changes.  We reflect how wonderful it has made their lives and wish we could do the same.  I notice one tiny detail…they certainly didn’t wait for New Years.  They didn’t wait for Spring.  They just did it.  And that seems to be the marvel of it all.  They begin to live their lives with meaning, adding energy and life to every step, every word, and every task.  Their world is open and they look for the next challenge with anticipation.  Fear has been put to the wayside; there is no time in their lives for fear or indecision.  Dreams are rekindled and lived.  And what is the phrase we hear?  “No time like the present because tomorrow may never come.”

Usually, these people are awakened by some tragedy in their lives or in the lives of others.  A small child escapes the ravages of a fatal disease…or not.  A family is removed from our world suddenly, without warning.  The person is diagnosed with cancer.  Suddenly, they live as if they are living their last days…maybe they are.  I wonder why people wait for that wake up call.  Why wait on the right season, the right inspiration, the right person to come along.  Just what are we waiting for anyways?

Every day is a new opportunity to make goals, achieve them or just enjoy life as it’s presented to us.  Every day can feel like spring if we want it to.  Every moment is a new opportunity.  Even after just eating that last piece of chocolate cake.  Just because we make an oops one moment, doesn’t mean we are doomed to make it again.  When we don’t succeed, we get to try, try again.  So we reached for the cake instead of an apple this time.  And?  It’s called practise and it makes us perfect.   We can practise good health until we get it right.  We can practise our game until we succeed.  We can practise our writing until we get it just write…err right.

“But, I need to first.” 

Sometimes we have to wait for something to happen to get on with our goal…maybe it’s finances, maybe we need to get better health before we can even get into the game, maybe we have to reorganize our time and that means getting others to agree to change timing, too.  Ok, then there *is* the waiting...or is it preparation?

We know that successful changes take being prepared to do so.  These preparations don’t just occur; we have to do them ourselves.  If we want to run a marathon, we have to get in shape.  To get in shape, we have to get up off our butt and do something, either walking on a regular basis or joining a gym.  We can either wait to run the marathon for when we are in better shape, or we can prepare to run the marathon.  If we want a great job, we have to make ourselves ready to take it on.  It sounds like symantics.  It is, but that is what our brains work on.  Waiting puts our brains on pause, preparing puts it into gear.

When we set our goals, we have to look at whether or not we are ready to achieve them.  Do we have all we need in order to walk that path?  If I want to travel the world, I can cast whatever spells I want, implore Hermes to bless my ambition, and put up pictures of places I want to see on my Vision Board.  It will mean absolutely nothing if I don’t mail out my Passport Application.  It’s about being prepared to achieve the goals we want instead of waiting about for some mythical time and place to align itself to our vision.  When we are prepared to achieve, all goals are easy.  Preparation can start now.

So what are we waiting for?