Tag Archives: Parent

We live what we learn, then learn what we live…

27 Jun
learning to ride a bike - _MG_2933

learning to ride a bike – _MG_2933 (Photo credit: sean dreilinger)

You’ve heard the saying “We live what we learn” and the concept is truly how we raise our children in Western societies.  Parents and influencers teach us how to live based on their actions (and some of their words).  For our formative years, we live what we have learned, and often it is exactly as these people have taught us to live – by rules, customs, dogma, unspoken approval/disapproval.  Over time, our personalities emerge and either gel with our families – or they don’t (and we soon find out just how “disdainful” that might be!)

As adults, I believe the opposite thing happens.  When we are on our own in the world, living, loving, getting hurt, falling down, becoming successful, being disappointed, etc. – these ALL lead up to a series of New Learnings based on what we live.

While learning and growing is always a positive step – WHAT we learn is not necessarily so.

I have learned that the naive trust of others that I grew up with and carried through during many years of marital “bliss” was misguided.  Today, I no longer trust without verifying (a good thing) based on learning through life’s lessons.

I seldom get comments on my posts (maybe the content is solely my experience and isolated to my polarized view of life!) – but I’d love to hear what you’ve learned from your life!

In exchange, I offer you my list of adult learnings (and a + or – denotes whether this was a positive or negative discovery!)

  • The Royal We (me, myself and I) must come first, foremost and exclusively (except when small children are involved!) This is hardest for women, as we were taught to take care of the world (and everyone in it) before we take care of our own needs.   +
  • No one else can love me unconditionally except for me (and to expect anything else was folly). Self-love is the greatest love (thank you Whitney Houston)   +
  • Trust, but Verify – believe what others say at face value, but verify it with other sources.  Learn when someone deceives or violates your trust to verify before trusting again:  “fool me once, shame on you, but fool me twice —– SHAME ON ME!” +
  • Despite the traditional view that we “need” others, we come into the world alone, die alone, and traverse this life alone. We might “want” others, but we do not “need” others  +
  • “As for worrying about what other people might think – forget it. They aren’t concerned about you. They’re too busy worrying about what you and other people think of them.” – Michael le Boeuf   +
  • Alone and lonely are two different concepts. Alone = state of being solo.  Lonely is something that can happen even when surrounded by lots of people.  Alone does not equal lonely (and I am seldom lonely in the company of  the Royal We)  +
  • Never be a partner to anyone about whom you say “I hope I am never on their bad side” because eventually you WILL be!  +
  • Mean doesn’t go away.  (I mistakenly thought that cruelty was a learned behavior that can change.  Unfortunately, it is a character defect.) –
  • Never make anyone a priority for whom  you are only an option.  +
  • Become your own best friend – it is the best company you can ever find!  “Wherever you go, there you are!” +
  • Dating is an interview process – never ever settle for a second-rate candidate!  +
  • Make sure the Royal We (and your intuition) approves of your friends. +
  • Family (and friends) can be toxic to your health.  Life is too short to ingest poison.  –
  • Attitude trumps skill, looks, status, environment.  Always be positive! +
  • There are reasons that people from your past do not make it into your present or your future.  +
  • Never, ever waste a heartbeat on people who don’t matter.  +
  • Realize that a chance meeting with anyone on the street may be having a rough day – if you have a smile to share, do it! +
  • The Golden rule is a great theoretical rule for religion and children. People are far more selfish in practice.  –
  • Say no before saying yes to something that you will regret. +
  • Give freely without expectation of thanks or reciprocation! Giving and receiving are two unrelated concepts – giving is about you. Thanks and acknowledgement is all about the receiver (as is any reciprocity!)  I know that a perceived lack of gratitude (and acknowledgment) usually has nothing to do with me. +
  • Never stop learning.  I am learning that there is SOOOO much I don’t know that I don’t know. +
  • There is no one, true religion for all mankind +
  • Learn from your past (sometimes there are no lessons except how to avoid crap in the future) +
  • EVERYONE deserves respect no matter their age, creed, status, look, etc.  Be tolerant even if you do not accept their way of life – everyone has a right to live as they please without infringing on others. +
  • Don’t turn down an opportunity before it is presented. +
  • The internet is forever.Never write, post, text, tweet, or Facebook anything you would not be willing to say in public! +
  • You (and me) are whole, complete, and perfect just as we are. +
  • Be yourself!  Trying to be someone else for someone else sacrifices the great you and robs the world of your talents. +
  • There is nothing wrong with me! (and there never was.  Just because people in my past and present want me to change to SUIT THEM has nothing to do with me!) +
  • Having a boyfriend or significant other means NOTHING! I am beautiful, lovable and deserve love in this world, period. +
  • Never override intuition – anyone who says that “your perception is wrong” is delusional and emotionally unavailable.  (I lived this and now know better!) +
  • Not everyone you meet in the future is a clone of your past. Protect your heart. +
  • Be grateful for what you have! +

To my silent readers, do you have anything to add?

Have a great week and celebrate you!

Carol

Walking on Eggshells… Source of Back Pain?

22 Mar

First off, this post is not about physical back ailments, so I apologize if you came here to read about disk failures or arthritic conditions.  The back pain I want to talk about is the pain from having to look back and watch what you say or do because someone else explodes or behaves badly (and blames you)!

You probably have people in YOUR life who expect you to “Walk on Eggshells” (i.e., you have to be careful what you say because they explode if YOU say the wrong thing) – and it causes you grief!

Not only do you have to be careful what you say or appear to say for fear of negative retribution (often explosive) – you have to plan/rehearse/replay what you might say in your head to hopefully avoid a similar outcome. Even then, with careful planning, explosions invariably occur “because of what you said or did”.  Think about this for a moment along with Einstein’s definition of insanity:

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

So, if makes sense that if you constantly try to do something different (such as saying things in a different way) and you get the same explosive results, maybe the result has NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU.

People who expect special treatment from others are the prima donnas, narcissists, sociopaths, and bullies of our society and invade our work, play, and homes.  If you love someone who does this, you might feel responsible when they explode (especially when they blame you) or treat you badly.  (This is a classic model of abuse: the abuser blames their victim for inciting the abuse.)

Personally, I am at a point where I realize that the “walk on eggshells around me” person is simply unhappy in spite of or regardless of me.  It seldom matters how nice or kind or careful I am because the explosion is not predictable.  (I once asked my ex-significant other what words I to avoid so he would not react badly because it didn’t seem to matter what I said.  His response was “you think you are a good communicator – figure it out!”  The truth was that no words from me could change his behavior – only he could. )

People who use verbal outbursts to get their own way may or may not realize their responsibility for their own behavior.  Or they might have always gotten away with blaming their firework reactions on others!  Why change what works if it gets them what they want?

Is there an alternative to “walking on eggshells”?

When bad behavior is rewarded it continues.  Imagine a child screaming and ranting in a grocery store and the parent rewards them with candy to shut them up.  The same thing happens when grownup children rant and get their own way in board meetings or at home.  Bad behavior is like an addiction – and if we reward the abuser for outbursts (by giving in) we are enabling the behavior to continue.  Easier said than done especially when the other person is a spouse, a boss, a family member or a friend.  It is easier to avoid them or to give in to keep the peace.

I fell for this too many times in my lifetime and today I avoid these people when I can, and if I cannot, I work hard to realize that I am not responsible or a trigger for their outbursts. Still, no one including me, wants to be covered by verbal diarrhea or hit in the face with fireworks – and then be blamed for causing it.

Can you identify with these “walking on eggshell people” I meet or hear about from others?

Fireworks are fun to watch - if they are celebratory!

  • At work I used to work with a guy who huffed and puffed and got red when anyone challenged his authority as a self-appointed expert. Sometimes he even exploded in a room full of people!  I am grateful I no longer have to work with this person.  He eventually named his company after his first name (narcissistic), brags about his religious devotion, yet continues to huff and puff and literally explode when anyone disagrees with him. He is over 65 so one would think he’d have met his match by now, but executives and peers simply watch him pontificate and back away before the fireworks begin.
  • ParentsI see parents everywhere who bully their children into complicity using religious guilt, coercion, and downright  manipulation (“if you loved me/us you would think/feel/act the way we tell you to”).  Parents who are bullies create submissive children who can grow into embittered adults.  While their physical presence is temporary (child rearing years) their damage can be lifelong.  Parents whose behavior creates a “walk on eggshells” environment with their adult children often lose the very respect they “demand.”
  • Spouses/partnersIf you have/had a spouse who tells you that they only said xxx because “you made me say it” you know what it is like to “walking on eggshells.”  Should you dare to suggest that their responsibility for fireworks they ignite themselves, you might be “down the river without a paddle” so to speak.  I can tell you from experience that life can be grander without such a “partner.”
  • Children – We have the chance to influence a child’s behavior to a certain extent (personality weighs heavily here) by not allowing or rewarding tantrum-like behavior.  Even when corrected at an early age, there are plenty of adult children who use explosions and then hold their parents to blame long into adulthood.  I believe that we need to teach children accountability and consequences for bad behavior at a young age.
  • FriendsI have written about the types of friends who explode or behave badly when they do not get their own way (Do Mean Girls Grow up?) – and my solution is to walk away and find new friends.  On rare occasions when I confronted the person, it had  a good outcome, but more often it led to even worse outbursts.  These days I follow the advice of a New York friend who encourages me to say “Next” and move on to the next friendship.
  • People we do not knowIt is painful to witness someone verbally abusing another in public.  I do not believe that it is ever warranted to yell at another adult unless it is to alert others to a threatening situation or assault.  I see this happen all the time and I never know what to do.  When it is an adult verbally abusing a child, I often step in or alert a storekeeper for advice, but when it is adults involved, I am at a loss… I do not want to become a victim by confronting the offender, yet I do not want to show that I accept the behavior by complicity.

If “walking on eggshells” causes (back) pain why do we comply?

Is this an isolated situation confined only to me?

If you have found something that works instead of walking on eggshells, would you share them with me so I can also share them with others?

Wishing you a stress-free week of happy times!

Carol

Don’t take ANYTHING Personally…

21 Feb

The Four Agreements a book by don Miguel Ruiz, and the Four Agreements Companion Guide outline an incredibly powerful philosophy that can revolutionize one’s life.  My insightful daughter gave me the first book as a gift when she was only a teenager and I was still married to her father.  At the time, I took a lot of criticism and verbal abuse personally, and The Four Agreements gave me solace and started me on the journey of not taking anything personally (the Second of the Four Agreements).

Now, almost 8 years later, I am in a better place, happily single, and optimistic about whatever adventures lie in my future thanks in part to the teachings of don Miguel Ruiz and the Four Agreements.

Agreement #2: Don’t take ANYTHING Personally

For me, this is THE single, most difficult agreement to master – and the one that allows me the most freedom and solace.   When we realize that other people’s behavior has NOTHING to do with us and is not our responsibility, it allows us to be truly ourselves.  We should not take anything personally whether it is POSITIVE or NEGATIVE.

This is not easy to do, especially if it was ingrained from an early age to do just the opposite!

I grew up learning to take everything personally whether it was from family, friends, strangers, or even strangers who cut me off in traffic.

My mother is now over 80 and is a master of taking everything personally.  I recall many occasions where she would remark that she couldn’t understand why a friend would treat her so poorly and intend to hurt her.  When I tried to console her and tell her that it might simply be a matter of circumstance or misunderstanding on someone’s part, she would chide me by saying “of course she meant to hurt me – she does this on purpose!”

I also remember many times coming home from school and talking to her about some family occurrence (she was one of 9 children) that seemed to be blown out of proportion.  I remember my cousin choosing to attend another church (heaven forbid!) and hearing  “O M G! can you believe that my niece left the church?  How can her mother allow her to do that to her?  I don’t know what I would ever do if one of  you kids ever did that to us!”  And so it went… every time anyone, me, or my siblings did something of which my mother did not approve the response was the same:  “How could you/they do that … to me?”   At the time I simply observed and was confused.

Personally, none of my choices or behaviors ever had anything to do with my parents, yet they took every move personally.  I cannot imagine making a decision about my life and having to consider how everyone in the world might react, especially when it is not about them.  When I realize that I believed what I was taught, I can understand why it is hard to NOT take things personally.

Despite this realization, the second agreement is difficult to put into practice – but I am determined to make it work! Today don Miguel Ruiz posted:

Write this agreement on paper, and put it on your refrigerator to remind you all the time:
Don’t take anything personally.

So I did, and in a matter of hours, I had to stop myself three time from taking things personally. Here’s what happened:

1. A potential contract on hold:

I received an email from a company with which I am a candidate for an upcoming contract  (I interviewed with them twice last week.) The email said that the company has decided to consider a few internal people for the position before moving forward with me.

My gut first reaction:  I felt that I might not be qualified enough or that I did not make a good enough impression on the recruiting manager (who I only spoke to once).  It felt like it could be a personal slight against me.

Reality:  The hiring manager does not know me. The decision to consider internal candidates has NOTHING to do with me. It is NOT personal!  If the company decides in a few weeks to move forward with me, again it is not personal to me.

2. Email from my father:

My father sent me an email in response to photos I sent of my newborn granddaughter, ignoring the photos but saying how I am hurting my mother by not renewing ties with a toxic relative.  He cited religion as being the reason I need to go back to fix the relationship and said that whatever caused the rift should be ignored as irrelevant.

My gut first reaction: This felt like a personal affront.  My first reaction was to think that “there is nothing I ever do or not do that is good enough for my parents.  Unless I follow their edicts exactly, they will always reject me.”  The accusatory words and religious “guilt-mongering” from someone I love further made it feel personal.

Reality: The email is not really about me at all.  My choice about whether to embrace a toxic relationship is my choice and it has nothing to do with my parents.  It is purely an extension of the childhood “how could you do xxx TO US?”  and is a pattern.  It’s not personal.

3. A kind gesture from a stranger

Someone let me go ahead of them into the single merge lane in a construction zone; an act of small kindness.

My first gut reaction: S/he let me in because of all the times I have let others in. Maybe s/he liked my smile and realizes (?) that I am a good person.

Reality: This was NOT personal. When someone does a random act of kindness their behavior is purely a reflection on them, not me.

These were three minor events where my “gut reaction” (my ego) was to take things personally.  It takes conscious thought to overcome this tendency – especially when it is part of our family behavior.  With effort, we CAN overcome the old programming that causes us to take things personally.

Remembering not to take ANYTHING personally is a hard thing to do…
but mastering it brings power, peace, and freedom!

What do YOU think?

Have a great week!

Carol

Recovery from Childhood – a Lifelong Journey…

24 Jan

I am a big believer in The Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz and his recent book The Fifth Agreement.  In summary, don Miguel teaches us to get over the seemingly innocent agreements we entered into and made (often unconsciously) in early life.  We accepted these in childhood as a done deal imposed by parents with the noble intent of “domesticating” us into submission and assimilation into a civil society.

Our parents typically raised us in the same way they were, without consideration that such ways might not prepare us to deal with the disappointments and realities of adult life.  Case in point:  life is not fair, and there are no guarantees of respectful treatment, yet many of us learned to follow the Golden Rule.  Others were taught (especially females) to take care of others first and foremost (see my previous post Put on Your Own Mask First for more about this…)  These concepts don’t hold in adult world where others are focused on self-interests (as well they should.)

The Four Agreements and The Fifth Agreement are worthwhile investments for anyone seeking to understand relationships – especially because both books explain how to work with others and ourselves in daily life.  I love the writings and the works!

In spite of studying and practicing The Four Agreements (1. Live with Integrity; 2. Don’t take anything personally; 3. Never assume (ask questions instead); and 4. Always do your best) – I face challenges to overcome “childhood teachings”- even though decades separate me from those years.  Moreover, in talking to friends both older and younger, I am not alone!

Why is it that we spend the first 15-20 years learning how to live (childhood) and the rest of our life overcoming the same?

Some people do not have childhood baggage.  I know people whose childhoods abounded with unconditional love and acceptance, and their parents treated them as the apple(s) of their eyes. As a result, one friend has so much self-esteem that co-workers tire of her incredibly healthy self-image!  Unfortunately, I think that this situation is more the exception than the rule.

Is there ever a point when our parents can no longer get under our skin, or when they are no longer the voices in our heads?

Even though I am middle-aged, I routinely get emails from my father chiding me for not calling enough (I call every week), emailing enough (I respond and send emails all the time), thanking enough for gifts (no matter that I have).  These emails bother me, and it bothers me that they bother me!  I should be used to the treatment by now… and one would think I would stop hoping for acceptance!

As an accomplished professional, I know that I am a great person – so why would I still hold out hope that my father will someday notice this?  As a child, I learned that 97% was never good enough – it was always 3% short of the perfection that meant acceptance.

Why do we keep hoping for change in others even when we know that we can only change ourselves?  Why do grown women seek approval from judgmental fathers (and often marry similar men)?  Why do grown men keep hoping they will buy that perfect gift for an unapproving mother?  Why do we strive to make our parents proud long after it shouldn’t matter?

I know that parental love is expressed by pointing out shortfalls and faults, yet I still hold onto the dream that someday just being ME will be enough.  I’m not alone in the lifetime journey of recovering from childhood and some people have it much worse. I read about similar struggles on blogs, in discussions, and in listening to friends and colleagues worldwide!

I am optimistic as I watch my son and daughter-in-law raising two daughters in a loving, accepting and supportive home, and it warms my heart as they show their princesses unconditional love.  Even so, I wonder if anyone has a childhood from which they do not seek to recover.

Wishing you a peaceful week where you experience self-love and an ongoing recovery as you move forward in your life!

Carol

Dear Daughter, Lessons from a female engineer (part 2)

31 Jan

You might be hearing many people saying that these times are not “normal”, and if you listen to the media, you know that predictions say things will get better, get worse, or stay the same. No one has any idea what will happen, but because bad news sells newspapers, gloom and doom prevails.

Today is the “new normal”. It doesn’t matter what anyone says was normal before or what might be tomorrow. Your life is a combination of your environment, attitude, background, personality, and luck/opportunity and it is as unique as you are (I love that!)

This does not mean that life is easy as every generation faces new challenges.  You will emerge from today’s economic instability with renewed energy and vitality – the universe never throws anything at you that you cannot handle (even when things seem overwhelming).

Carrying on from last week’s post (part 1) I hope you will let me share a few more tips from my life as a female engineer:

  • Listen to unsolicited advice (but you do not have to take it). Advice is worth what you pay for it, and when it is unsolicited, that tells you something right there.  Take it or leave it, just listen and then decide for yourself if it has any merit. Most people (with a few exceptions) throw out unsolicited advice hoping it will help you – but only you can decide whether to pick it up. When someone tosses you such advice, thank him or her, and then consider the source.

  • Be proud of you! (And your accomplishments.) You deserve praise from yourself.  I can tell you that I am proud of you, as can your friends, but the most important is when you are proud of you!
  • Patience and tolerance can be a double-edged sword. Practice patience with people – especially when it comes to situations out of your control (delayed flights), children, the elderly, and anyone who may not be as adept as you are.  The double edge comes when people take advantage of your patience in business or your personal life. When this happens, remember the adage:  fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.  If someone takes advantage of you for being patient, learn from it and don’t let it happen again.

The same goes for tolerance.  Start out by being open and tolerant to people whose beliefs or behaviors may be different from yours.  This has paid off greatly for me in my international work on ISO software standards: I have many global friendships and enjoy cultural adventures everywhere I travel.  The double edge comes when one is too tolerant – such as being tolerant of verbal or physical abuse.  When someone says or does something that makes you feel uncomfortable, your intuition may be telling you that your tolerance is set too high.  Abuse and bullying is beyond anything you should ever tolerate.

 

  • There are consequences to every action and no matter how much you plan, not everyone will agree with you. Always do your best – with decisions, work, and relationships.  By doing so, you reduce your regrets because you took action based on the information you had at the time. This does not guarantee that others will agree, but at least you can look in the mirror at the end of the day and take comfort that you did your best.
  • It is better to face conflict than to live a lie. Everyone faces times at work and in personal life where we avoid creating conflict with bullies, controlling people, and people who disrespect us for our opinions.  Of course I know that you already choose your battles wisely (why create conflict when it is over something trivial), there are also times when given conflict is important.  When you have to suppress saying what you feel for fear of an outburst or tantrum from someone you love, consider that it might be a toxic relationship. We do not choose who we fall in love with and there is no guarantee that your love will be emotionally healthy.  While another’s emotional health is not your responsibility, yours is.  Better to be yourself and face conflict than to sacrifice your emotional health and live a lie. It’s not always easy, but you deserve to be happy as you.
  • Always be authentic. I thought that I knew what this meant when I read it in author don Miguel Ruiz’s book, The Four Agreements, but I did not.  Being authentic and living with integrity means never saying anything to yourself that you would not say to your best friend.  Our inner critic can be cruel and treat us with total disrespect (telling us that we are stupid or fat or naïve or a host of other harsh words). When we allow our inner critic free reign over our intellectual real estate (our mind) – we are not being authentic!  Make sure you treat yourself with the same level of respect you afford your best friend, and you will soon find that you have a brighter outlook on life.
  • Everyone carries baggage. Even the most gorgeous, thin, young, rich, poor, or athletic people carry baggage and you may never know to what degree.  Life is not fair in terms of who experiences what and when, but life guarantees everyone his/her own story.  Rejection, ridicule, embarrassment, failure, success, pain and joy are sprinkled in every life – some get more of the good or bad than do others.  However, no one escapes feelings of inadequacy or self-doubt.  Be kind to strangers (unless there is danger) – you just never know how much a kind word can mean to a person living with pain.

I will always be proud to be your mother no matter what you do and no matter where you live.  You have only one life  — do all you can to make it a happy one!

Love and hugs,

Mom

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