I am a person who strives to treat each person I meet with respect and kindness, and I expect that those with whom I choose to work, socialize, and develop intimate relationships would treat me in the same manner. As a result, I am always temporarily taken aback when folks don’t respond in kind. Of course, I realize that humans aren’t always on their best behavior. We all have bad moments and sometimes even long, dark bad spells in our lives. However, once we schlep off those dark webs, we make our apologies and amends and rejoin the ranks of our mutually respectful peers.
There are, however, those who derive immense satisfaction from siphoning the respect and kindness out of our otherwise grace-filled lives. What is most saddening about these people is that they will often make a show of cooperation in public and then go behind closed doors with their conspirators to gossip and gripe and make assumptions about their coworkers/friends/lovers’ motives, authenticity, intelligence, and so on. These folks are, without a doubt, a serious drain on any intentional community’s resources. They stunt business growth; they sabotage friendships; and they poison intimate relationships.
Oddly enough, very often these purveyors of negativity don’t even know what they are doing. Their souls are so twisted by the gossiping and complaining that it becomes difficult, if not impossible, for them to straighten the spine of their character and see the damage they are causing. They likely believe that they are the only ones to see the “truth” of a situation.
Unfortunately, these are the people who find themselves terminated from jobs or passed over for promotions for what seems, to them at least, no reason at all. They are the ones who have constant falling outs with their friends and family. They cannot get along with lovers or spouses and believe the other is always in error. They are the ones who think everyone is out to get them. They sincerely believe that their constant foul mood is someone else’s fault.
Generally, we can distance ourselves from such people and not allow them to take up space in our circles of friends. However, in the workplace we face a difficult situation. If we are the coworker, we have little say in the person’s continued employment. Some will find a new job rather than put up with these energy vampires. Others will stay on, trying to help the twisted one straighten up and see the light. Some perfect the art of avoiding and ignoring the naysayers. Sadly, others will succumb to the negativity and become twisted themselves.
When we are the employer, we must be more proactive. Energy vampires have no place in an organization that seeks to grow. Coaching, mentoring, and training can and should be offered. Respect and kindness should be modeled by management and expected from employees. Those who can’t or won’t follow this lead should find themselves jobless. Respect and kindness towards positive, productive employees demands that managers remove those who disrupt the work environment.
I have been mulling over these thoughts and realizing that the necessary actions are easier to voice than to execute for those of us who truly care about the people in our lives. It seems that respect and kindness go hand-in-hand with hope and forgiveness. And yet, the day must come when action is taken before the integrity of the community is forever shattered.
I know several young women and men graduating from high school and college this year. In today’s world one of the best and most useful pieces of advice a graduate can receive is to review and clean up her social networking profiles. Although it may appear to the Millennials and Gen Texters that folks from older generations don’t have the tech skills or the interest to check them out online, your need to understand that not only will future employers look you up to see what they find but that what an employer finds online will very likely come into play when making a hiring decision. If you seem like a chronic complainer, a late-night party goer, a foul-mouthed hot head, a sickly slacker, or a whiny troublemaker, you’re hurting your chances of finding a job.
If you don’t think that’s fair… too bad. That is life in the 21st Century. The technology that makes connecting with others and expressing ourselves so easy also makes it easy for employers to determine if you would be an employee they want on their payroll.
Here are a few tips to help create an online image that makes you look professional and hire-worthy:
- Lock down your privacy settings so only friends can see your posts and photos
- Yet, that’s not enough – photos and posts that seem anything other than positive, friendly, professional and/or family-friendly should be deleted
- While your adjusting those privacy settings, consider not allowing others to tag your or check you in – don’t let your hard work at cleaning up your profile be undone by your friends
- Build a simple website that highlights your education, skills, volunteerism, etc. and shows why you’ll make a great employee (register some variation of yourname.com as the URL)
- Create a LinkedIn profile to showcases your education and experience
If all that sounds like too much trouble, take a moment to daydream about working at a minimum wage job… now, daydream about working at professional job in a field that interests you. If you like the looks of of the second daydream better, take the time to prepare yourself online and offline to achieve that goal.
I was looking at my calendar today and it occurred to me that there are some tasks I assign myself that I really don’t want to do. You could call it simple procrastination, but I began to wonder why we all sometimes willingly take on projects that really don’t thrill us; consequently, we end up procrastinating or simply defaulting on the task. I’ve come up with five reasons I believe that I (and probably you) do this and some ways to overcome these obstacles to personal productivity and fulfillment.
- The problem: Feelings of inadequacy. This may be especially common if it’s a task that requires us to stretch our abilities. We worry that we’ll fail or look like fools. We’re not sure we have the skills or the smarts to successfully complete the task.
The solution: We can take several steps to overcome these unjustified feelings of inadequacy. First, review past successes and confirm your ability to perform at the required level. Second, acquire whatever tools or skills we need to complete the task. Third, break the task down into smaller steps and tackle them one by one.
- The problem: Lack of interest. We don’t want to do it and can’t figure out why we ever thought we wanted to do it.
The solution: Decide if the task is important enough that it should be completed. If it’s not, take if off the to-do list and never think about it again. If it does have some value consider these options: 1) delegate it to someone else; 2) hire a sub-contractor; 3) find a way to automate the task so you have to deal with it less often; 4) barter with someone—you take on one of her tasks and she takes on one of yours.
- The problem: Misplaced priorities. We know we need to do the task; we know the project is important; we want to complete it. However, we keep finding other things that siphon away our fixed hours in a day, and the task just sits there on our to-do list staring up at us waiting for us to get it done.
The solution: Setting milestones works wonders for keeping your priorities on track; give yourself deadlines and work toward them on a daily basis. I find that setting timers on my phone to remind me when it’s time to work on particular tasks is helpful, but you can use any method that keeps you focused on what’s important at that moment.
- The problem: Unrealistic expectations. Despite my love of the Alicia Keys song “Superwoman,” that fact is I can only do so many jobs in a day. It’s so tempting to look at our calendars and start scheduling ourselves from morning to night with all kinds of interesting activities. And then it’s too bad we end up procrastinating and making excuses when we can’t meet all those obligations.
The solution: Schedule the mundane first. Yep, I said it. Schedule the cooking, the cleaning, the bathing, the dog walking, the date night, the dinner hour, and every other common, but oh-so important activity first. Once we have a grip on how much “real” time we have for all those other interesting tasks we’ll be less likely to jam them into our calendars only to put them off when we’re overwhelmed.
- The problem: Saying yes when we should say no. This issue is last, but it could be first because I believe it is often the root cause of all four preceding problems: 1) We feel inadequate because we say yes when we know we aren’t really up to the task. 2) We lack interest because we say yes out of politeness instead of interest. 3) We get our priorities out of whack by by saying yes to Angry Birds instead of working on that project. 4) And we set unrealistic expectations when we say yes to every promising activity that crosses our paths.
The solution: It’s a simple solution that can be maddeningly difficult to implement; say NO. I’m learning to love those two letters strung together in such a simple, single-syllable utterance. NO. The thing with NO is that it need not be followed by an explanation of why we aren’t the right person or not interested, why it’s not a priority or doesn’t fit into our schedule. Of course, given the scarcity of NOs many people may look surprised and expect an explanation. My favorite reply is simply, “Not at this time.” Who knows? Things could change but right now the answer is NO.
Next time you look at your calendar or to-do list and cringe at some of those items you keep putting off, think about these five reasons why you might feel that way and then take steps to defeat the problems keeping you from excelling at the things your were designed to do.
Yesterday, Parade Magazine published a piece called “America’s Bucket List 2011.” They said it was a list of “essential experiences every American should have.” I must be a good American because I’ve done all but four items on the list, but I probably won’t be adding those to my bucket list any time soon. The four I’ll skip are:
- #2 Watch a lawn mower race. I know people who go to lawn mower races. Does that count?
- #10 Volunteer to be a poll worker on election day. I won’t rule this one out forever. However, in my precinct the poll workers are all pushing 80 years old. I’ll wait another 25 or 30 years and then volunteer so I fit the demographic.
- #14 Learn the second verse of our national anthem. Why? My brain is tasked with keeping track of more vital information. I don’t need any trivia to keep track of.
- #26 Write a gratitude letter to a teacher. This one has value. Unfortunately, the only teacher I would have anything worthwhile to say to was my college adviser and speech professor who committed suicide a couple of years after I graduated. He showed me that I really could do what I wanted and that technology wasn’t all bad. I’ll have to sit and chat with him in another life.
To replace these four items, I’ll add four of my own:
- Live in the Florida Keys. It’s a beautiful place to vacation, but vacations are too short. Someday I want to send all my winter coats to the thrift shop and never buy another one. I want a wardrobe full of nothing by shorts, tank tops and flip flops. I may have been born in “Almost Heaven” West Virginia, but the Keys sound like heaven to me.
- Live “off the grid.” And I want to do it without moving to the middle of nowhere. Surely there are ways even city folks can transition from reliance on traditional utilities to more self-sufficient means? If I lived in the Keys I’d be able to cross home heating and cooling off the energy consumption list. Water and electricity would be the only needs to conquer.
- Learn Spanish. A useful skill whether living here in Oklahoma or in the Keys. Sorry, but I can’t get on the English-only bandwagon. Isn’t it odd that the U.S. is the only advanced nation whose educated classes don’t know how to speak another language? Yesterday, after the French Open, I listened as Roger Federer, a native German, addressed the crowd in perfect French; Rafael Nadal addressed the crowd in English and then in his native Spanish. American arrogance contributes to American ignorance. We shouldn’t wonder that our schools churn out a bunch of spoiled, half-literate young people.
- Win a ribbon at a county fair. I don’t know what category or what fair. But I think it would be a lot of fun!
…today, May 8, 2011, is Mother’s Day in the United States. It’s a day when people take time to show their appreciation to their moms. Some don’t even particularly like their moms, but they buy the cards and the flowers anyway. Last night, on Mother’s Day eve, the card and flower sections at Wal-mart were jammed with people who had waited until the last minute to decide whether or not they wanted to get something for their mother.
Lucky for me, no human being has to spend any time wondering if I deserve their thanks on Mother’s Day. I never had any children. By choice. Not by accident.
I’ve read many blog posts and Facebook notes about Mother’s Day. Not a few have acknowledged those women who do not have children. However, none has really hit the mark for me or a whole host of my non-mom friends. We don’t get teary-eyed when we see other women with their babies. We don’t feel any great desire to “mother” anyone. We don’t regret our lack of children. We don’t feel lonely. We don’t wish circumstances had been different. We aren’t still waiting for the right guy or the right time. We haven’t spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on fertility treatments and finally resigned ourselves to being childless and unfulfilled.
We simply do not want children.
Believe it or not, that is an extraordinarily difficult decision to make in the very mommy-centric United States. I know that the opinion towards a woman who chooses not to have children ranges from suspicion to scorn to pity. I know this because those opinions have all been made known to me by some well-meaning but misguided acquaintances. A short list of some of the accusations/comments:
1. You must be gay.
2. Why do you hate children?
3. You’ll regret it when you get old and there is no one to take care of you.
4. You are selfish.
5. You’re denying God’s purpose for your life.
6. You must have had a terrible childhood.
7. Your mother must have been cold and distant.
8. You are psychologically imbalanced. You need counseling.
9. Aren’t you lonely?
1. I’m straight.
2. I like children and children like me.
3. Please visit a few nursing homes and discover the hundreds of elderly women (and men) whose children never visit them.
4. It is impossible to be selfish unless my actions are causing someone else’s needs to go unmet.
5. I think I’m in good company with Katharine Hepburn, Louisa May Alcott, Beatrix Potter, Helen Keller, Amelia Earhart, Mother Theresa, Betty White, Jane Addams, Emily Bronte, and Anna Jarvis—yes, the woman who campaigned for Mother’s Day was never a mother.
6. I had a happy childhood.
7. My mother is the best mom ever.
8. I think you are imbalanced for worrying about other people’s choices. Please ask your counselor why you are so worried about whether or not I have children.
As I was out and about this Mother’s Day I was wished “Happy Mother’s Day” several times. At lunch I told my long-time companion that the waitress must have thought he was my son. At two local shops I wondered if invisible children were following me around. I guess in middle-age I look like I could be a mom. But I’m not. And I’m glad.
On Mother’s Day this year and all the years to come, remember: Not all women are mothers. Not all women want to be mothers.
Perhaps we ought to save our “Happy Mother’s Day” wishes for our own mothers and not foist it upon every woman who crosses our paths. One, it’s kind of rude to make assumptions about other people’s lives. And two, it’s just plain weird to wish “Happy Mother’s Day” to women who aren’t your mother. Okay, maybe that’s just me. But, seriously, save the greeting for women with whom you have an intimate, motherly relationship and who you know for a fact feel motherly towards you. Otherwise, Mother’s Day is just another manufactured, greeting-card-company-enriching holiday.
Wait, I think that brings me right back to the beginning and all those folks buying Mother’s Day cards and flowers at the last minute…
“Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.” ~Albert Einstein
Einstein is perhaps more eloquent than I. A recent status on my Facebook page read: some days I think I need a Warning Label: “Big girl with big ideas and big mouth. Converse at your own risk.” That status resulted in my having someone make this sign and hold it up in Times Square and take a picture. That’s my warning label.
Perhaps I have something in common with Oklahoma State football coach Mike Gundy who’s famous for saying, “I’m a man! I’m forty.” I’m well past forty, so I am certainly an adult. More than that, I’m an adult woman who is well-read and well-informed. I’m not a kid. I’m not naive. I’m not in need of patronizing guidance. I’m a big girl.
Although I’ll never compare to Einstein’s scientific brilliance, I do have grand visions and dreams. I spend a lot of time studying and analyzing and planning. You see some of what I envision in the various outlets for my business and more so for my ministry. God gave me a vision of living to 115 and beyond—still vibrant and active at that advanced age. Call me crazy, but, like Einstein, I will persist despite the nay-saying mediocre minds with cloudy vision. I have big ideas.
An adult with a grand vision finds it necessary to talk about the vision, promote the vision, defend the vision, and make the vision become a reality. Einstein didn’t sit in the patent office and hide his scientific breakthroughs in a desk drawer. Mike Gundy didn’t sit in his office and allow the rest of the world to define his team or his players. If promoting and defending my vision gets under the skin of those who don’t agree with me, so be it. I’ve got a big mouth.
I love talking with people from all walks of life and from all over the world. I don’t always agree with their positions and they don’t always agree with mine. That’s okay. What’s not okay is starting a conversation with the sole purpose of tearing down the other person’s ideas. That’s not a conversation; it’s an attack. It’s rude. It’s counter-productive. Don’t be surprised and upset when I already know the arguments against my position and am able to refute them. Remember, I’m a big girl with big ideas and a big mouth. Converse at your own risk.
After much debate I traded in my old car under the Cash for Clunkers program. I almost debated too long, as the dealer was getting nervous at the news that the program was going to come to a screeching halt after just one week.
The fate of the not particularly trustworthy Mercedes troubles me. It seems a waste on so many levels not to strip the vehicle of its most usable parts and recycle them. Once the dealer does the required procedure to disable the engine, the old 300E can’t even be a donor vehicle for those folks who are still trying to keep their 20-year-old MBZs alive.
On the other hand, a car that continuously dripped toxic transmission fluid and motor oil everywhere it went has been removed from the roads. It will no longer be contributing to nasty run-off into our waterways. It also won’t be burning as much fuel or emitting as many toxins into the air. Granted, I don’t drive much, but when I did , I was a super-polluter every mile I went.
Another factor in my decision was knowing that my old car was not going to last much longer. The repair costs were quickly adding up to more than it was worth. A cursory tally of needed maintenance showed well over $2000 of work just to keep the clunker safe and sound on the road. I’m getting older, but I’m not that old. This was obviously not a car that was going to last me into my golden years.
In addition, OKC is not getting mass transit any time soon. Every time I teach a class, go to church, or just go out to buy milk I have to drive. I can’t avoid it. I finally decided that if I was going to get around today, tomorrow, and many years into the future, I was going to need a more reliable ride.
In rolls the Hyundai Accent: cute, fuel efficient, a certified ultra-low emission vehicle, and amazingly affordable after the $4500 clunker cash. The dealer also offered an additional cash rebate and a discount for hail damage. I bought the car for half its original price.
The upfront cost and the increased insurance premiums make me a little woozy. However, with a 100,000 mile warranty, I’m fairly confident that I’ll get my money’s worth out of the vehicle.
No more leaking of toxic fluids. No more gas guzzling. No more excess emissions. Just me in my little green car zipping around the city listening to XM Satellite Radio.