A Good Attitude is a Real Attitude

July 9th, 2013 § Comments § permalink

TruthFor as long as I can remember I’ve wrestled with my attitude. Some of this is Nature and some is Nurture. I’m a melancholy. There’s no getting around that. Much of my attitude is based on my feelings. Believe me, if you think it is hard being around me – you should try experiencing this from the inside. However, the other part of this is the way I was raised. I lived in a family where shaming, teasing, and not listening were the norm. I never really developed the skills to develop a healthy attitude or to appropriately wrestle with my feelings.

This has not been an easy issue for me. I often come across as moody, grumpy, and often negative. This isn’t really how I feel inside, but I definitely have projected these attitudes. This is where being alone is helpful for me. It gives me time and space to work through my feelings and attitudes. But in real life, it’s often not easy to find the time and space to be alone and to work through my stuff.

Marriage is hard enough, without having to live with an American Neanderthal who isn’t very in touch with his feelings. At this point, you may say a prayer for my wife. Let me explain.

Several years ago I was telling someone about a significant life hurdle I was facing. She asked, “How do you feel about that?” I was speechless. It never occurred to me that I should feel anything. It was just an experience – just something I was facing. It was neither good, nor bad – it just was.

But this conversation was eye-opening to me. I realized just how out of touch I am with my feelings. In the 12-13 years since that phone call, I’ve tried to paid more attention to my feelings. I’ve found that when I correctly identify what I’m feeling, I can better own those feelings and process through them. Sometimes it will take a few days to really understand what is going on inside, sometimes it is easy, but sometimes those feelings are very deep.

A few months ago, I found myself feeling sluggish, lethargic, and very unmotivated. I wasn’t depressed and I wasn’t upset – I just had no motivation. The next day I realized why. I was waiting for some news about a recent job interview. I was at peace with the process, but the lack of news left me feeling morose. Just identifying the uncertainty in my life allowed me to put a label on my experience. Within moments the lethargy lifted.

This was very educational for me. It confirmed the idea of “owning the truth.” Once I own the experience, feeling(s), and/or challenges, I (and many others) seem better equipped to move on.

Today I participated in an online video conversation that provided some valuable insight into this whole process. Here is what we came up with:

  • Own Your Feelings/Attitude

This is what I was talking about above. The first step is to always get in touch with what feelings you are experiencing.

  • Understand and Tell the Truth – Always

This is a hard one for most of us. We are afraid that if we tell the truth, people won’t like us, they’ll reject us, or worse, we’ll not like ourselves.

  • Be Clear About Your Identity

My feelings do not change my identity. Even when I feel like a failure, I am still valuable. Even when I am angry, I am still complete. Even when I am depressed, I am still a whole human being. Even when I am going through Hell, I am still worth as much as when I wasn’t going through Hell.

  • Reframe Your Story.

This one is challenging, and I won’t be able to address it very well here. The key take away that I got from the conversation, (and I’d recommend you watch it in its entirety), is that we need to remember those moments and times when we didn’t feel like we do currently. Grasp those memories and unfold those experiences, to reframe the current situation. For instance, when I went through the collapse of my first marriage, I thought my life was over. I now claim that to be one of the greatest opportunities of my life. In the midst of a current life-altering collapse, is it possible I would come to the same conclusion? Probably.

  • Experience a Near Death Experience in Order to Get Clear.

Universally, we all agreed that those life-altering, life-threatening experiences are some of the best tools God uses to get us to refocus our priorities and outlook.

Here is the video for you to view:

My problem remains – I’m a caveman when it comes to understanding my feelings. I get stressed, depressed, and distraught – but I often don’t know why. When I take the time, I can usually identify what those situations are and how I’m feeling in reaction to those situations. I am beginning to understand how important it is for me to take that time – daily – to meditate, pray, listen, and introspect. Without it, I can sometimes get twisted into a ball of ignorant feelings and attitudes.Melon Collie

My takeaway is that there are no bad attitudes, just poor reactions. Sometimes we are going through a rough spot, a life-threatening space, or a situation that seeks to destroy life as we know it. Understanding the situation, and the feelings surrounding that, will help us process our feelings and attitudes. As my friend Sovann Penn says in the above video, “A good attitude is a real attitude.”

Another way to look at this, from my friend Marc Schelske, “If you’re not growing, you’re not telling the truth.”

Or, as Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.


July 7th, 2013 § Comments § permalink

Sometimes as I walk around my neighborhood, I can’t believe I’m living in Lincoln, Nebraska. The most amazing thing is how much I’m loving it. Seriously? How can a Left Coast boy like me ever be happy living so far from the edge. I mean, adventure is one of my core values – there are no mountains here, no whitewater rivers, no ocean, no rain forests, and certainly no dangerous urban environments. I’m no longer on the edge – I’m in the Great Plains.

And yet, I feel really comfortable here. Our neighborhood is so much like the eastside of Portland, I can hardly believe I’m not in Portland. Sure, I miss the views of Mt. Hood, Mt. Tabor, Rocky Butte, and the West Hills, but when one walks in tree covered neighborhoods, it is hard to see those buttes anyway.

Lincoln, in many ways, is like a smaller Portland, urbane, eclectic, and almost hipsterish. Having an inner city, world class university helps. the 24,000 students at UNL make a considerable impact on the city. In addition, being the state capital, there is a decidedly progressive attitude here – which I did not expect to encounter in the midwest.

In addition, there are still many local restaurants, cafes, and shops. Once you get out into the suburbs, the franchises occupy the retail space, but in town, there is certainly more local fare.

Besides a few humid days, and the occasional monsoon thunderstorm, the weather is relatively temperate. I enjoy a regular evening walk through the neighborhood. The lack of HOAs allows for tremendous diversity. There is everything from colorful lighting, junk, and vegetable gardens in people’s front yards. Some people are clearly hoarders and others are meticulous OCD yard freaks, it is a plethora of sights, sounds, and smells. Just what it takes to excite the creative spirit in me.

When I was a kid, it would take about 30 minutes to drive across Portland and most resources were within about 15 or 20 minutes from home. Since about the 1990s, that time increased to 45 minutes and the city went from being a large town to a small city.

Here, in Lincoln, it is almost hilarious to hear people talk about different sections of the city. “Oh, we live way down in southwest,” they’ll say. Or another will talk about living way out in the country. In reality, most places can be reached in 20 minutes or less – and usually one can walk to a local store or drive within about 10 minutes. It’s almost too convenient! As I get more familiar with the area, I expect to walk, ride my bike, or take the bus more. Though not as convenient, this is certainly a town where one can survive without a car – or at least have only one car per family.

There is a feel here that I like. A friendliness, an openness, and a spirit of community that is often lost in bigger cities. Portlanders are by nature proud of our city and state, and there is much to feel good about there. But Lincoln seems to be a well-kept secret, probably because there’s a bit of a midwest inferiority complex – I mean, it’s Nebraska – really! In fact, most of the natives I talk with will apologize for being Nebraskans. It’s like they know they aren’t as cool as their neighboring Coloradans and they’re kind of ashamed to be neighbors with the Dakotas and Kansans.

New transplants are more careful, but one can detect a bit of apologetics in the way they talk about Nebraska cornfields and midwest flatlands. The one bright spot for everyone seems to be the Husker football team. And yet, I believe there is much to be proud of in this city. In fact, I haven’t been in a more family-friendly city in a long time. And, it is very bike-friendly. There is nothing to be ashamed of here.

Certainly there are some negatives. The bus system does not run seven days a week, and the schedule is a bit infrequent. It would be nice if there was a more geo-friendly addressing system – Portland has one of the best I’ve found. Also, some of the drivers here seem bent on proving they aren’t small-town hicks. They ignore the speed limits, zip in and out of traffic, and are oblivious to their surroundings. Yes, you’ll see these things almost anywhere, but here it seems like some of these folks are trying to prove that they aren’t from Lincoln and they have no patience for the well-mannered locals.

Overall, I am thrilled to be a part of this city. It’s the first major move I’ve ever made where I’ve been so quick to embrace my new address. I dreaded the move to Southern California, but grew to love it there. I struggled with my move to SW Michigan, and though it was OK, I was glad to leave. Wyoming was definitely never a place I would choose to live again. Our 15 long months there were a challenge. Colorado Springs took some getting used to. The climate was good, and we enjoyed being in a city large enough to have resources, but the town is very scattered and never felt very welcoming.

Lincolnites are very welcoming, friendly, and open. this is a good move and I hope to spend the rest of my days here.

No Regrets is a Myth – Mistakes Happen

July 2nd, 2013 § Comments § permalink

MIstakes HappenWhen I was in my teens and early 20s, I heard a lot of people saying they would live their lives without regrets. This sounded really good to me, so I adopted the value also. And then real life hit me upside the head and knocked me down a time or two.

Part of this value means to let go of mistakes and to accept them as a part of life. However, there is a second part – that of doing what one wants to do before it is too late. I used to say, “I don’t want to be lying on my deathbed wishing I’d done ‘this,’ or ‘that.'” In other words, if I wanted to try skydiving, I would go do it; or if I wanted to move to Europe, I would. This attitude/value, led to a lot of risky behavior – and in retrospect, I regret some of the choices I made based on this approach.

I was talking to a friend once about some of the things we used to do together when we were younger. I made the statement, “I wish I’d done that differently.” (Paraphrased: “I regret some of those behaviors and actions.”)

His immediate response was a rebuke: “Oh, but that is a part of who you are today. Are you saying you regret who you’ve become?”

I’ve often thought about that conversation and this concept. Last night, I realized the missing element in this conversation – shame.

The reason people reject regret is because of it’s associated shame. If they can claim they have no regrets, then there will be no shame to hold them back. But if they admit they made a mistake, hurt someone (or themselves), or really made a mess of something – they can carry a boatload of shame in their hearts.

I have hurt myself, I’ve hurt others, and I’ve made enough mistakes to enable a generation of wisdom. For me however, I’ve sought forgiveness and made amends whenever possible. I’ll never forget having lunch with my ex-wife. We forgave, we apologized, we laughed, and we cried. We let it all go and walked away without the millstone of pain and shame on our shoulders. A few years later I had a similar conversation with my ex-best-friend who was sadly drawn into the drama of that failed marriage.

Bouncing out of that divorce, I fell into the arms of a vulnerable woman who was in love with me. She was my comfort and medicine, but I didn’t love her the way she loved me. When I finally left, she was hurt – very hurt. Several years later I tracked her down to apologize. I admitted being a jerk and for the poor choices I made. I don’t regret the time we had together, but I did regret feeding her unrequited love.

Over the course of the past 30 years I’ve enjoyed some really fun activities, awesome relationships, and interesting failures. Yes, that’s right, I have failed at some things. But even some of those awesome relationships didn’t end well and some of the fun activities turned out to be detrimental to my long-term happiness. Because of the work I’ve done – to include spiritual, emotional, and relational growth – I’ve let go of the shame, regret, and self flagellation. I’ve apologized, sought forgiveness, and moved on.

So, do I have regrets? Yes. But I don’t have the associated shame.

To me, a regret is merely wishing a mistake didn’t happen. If I forget to add coolant to my car and it overheats, I’m going to find myself stranded beside the road and I’m going to wish that hadn’t happened. This may make me late for an important meeting and I may miss an opportunity. If this chain of events unfolds poorly, I will regret it. However, being the healthy person I am <grin>, I’ll forgive myself and move on.

Why would it be different for an error in a relationship, or a mistake in behavior? We all make mistakes, but that’s not the end of the story. My Sister-in-Law just explained to me a concept of rupture and repair. Rupture is normal, but the real power is in the repair of those ruptures.

RegretOthers have told me there is no such thing as mistakes. That all things work together for good. But I can’t accept that. I do make mistakes, and I see others make mistakes all the time – especially in their cars in traffic.

Like my example above of an overheated car. I could look at the unexpected roadside delay as an opportunity. It isn’t necessarily a “mistake” to forget to add coolant, but this was just a growing moment that is teaching me to live more fully. However, for me, I see life as a journey and each step forward moves me further down field. While I can turn the mistake and a delay into a positive experience – depending on my approach and response – the fact remains, I could be farther down the road if I had been more mindful of the situation and taken an extra few moments of preparation.

My regret is the missed opportunities, but those are easy to repair and forgive – then I move one, without the shame.

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