Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Mental Health Awareness Week

I was reminded today that this is Mental Health Awareness week. A good friend reminded me . ( )
I've not been blogging for quite some time and mental health is the reason why. I am one of those folks that is normally highly functioning - or appears to be. What lies behind highly functioning are choices to let parts of your life wait while carrying on with the bare basics. Everything else slips: home life, relationships, participation in activities that are normally sources of enjoyment....
I have struggled with mental illness since I was a child. Went untreated for 13 years and unmedicated for 20. I've spent the last 30 years learning all sorts of ways of coping, discarding early maladaptive behavior and peeling back the proverbial onion of self. God, I've grown to hate the onion analogy. There are always more layers and it seems like the work is never done. It's no wonder why most people don't embark on this journey willingly. Its hard and often painful work. Sometimes it seems that it is easier to be somewhat unhappy most of the time rather than have to confront those things about oneself that seem to painful to expose and bear.
Meanwhile, everyone else goes on living their lives, oblivious to the hidden suffering of those around them. Those that choose to deal with their illness and not take it out on others around them - are met with the typical 20 session per year limits for mental health visits - which when distributed between the therapist and the psychiatrist - are used up very quickly. The 32 weeks remaining in the year - mean thousands of dollars in personal expense. And people don't think we need a national health plan that would fill these gaps?
Often times the only thing between a person and harm to self or others is the therapist that is brave enough to care for them in their darkest hours. Its nor easy to help people in dark times. People with mental health issues are often abandoned by their families and friends when they are needed the most.
So - before you make jokes about prozac, or wide sweeping statements about psycho-babble, take a look around you and realize that 1 in 4 of the people you know are silently suffering with some degree of mental illness. That drugs and psycho-babble are the only things between us and complete mental breakdown - the proverbial visit to the local institution or funny farm.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Its 10 O'Clock Do You Know Where Your Children Are?

Yesterday morning, on my way out the door with the dog, I discovered that our condo and cars had been egged. One other person in our area was egged as well. It took half a day just to cleanup the mess and I'm not finished yet. And the smell is nauseating and there are compounds in eggs that eat away at paint finishes. This happened after midnight. We have a 10 p.m. curfew in our community for minors who are not gainfully employed.

What do the eggees have in common? Both have members of their families that are school teachers that taught or teach at the same school.
I beseech all of you who have children, to keep track of them at night. Instill in them early, that teachers are people who have feelings and real lives. Let them know how hurtful and destructive this kind of behavior is. No one deserves to be treated like this. It's a form of bullying and intimidation. This is not just a child's prank.
Children have a greater capacity for understanding when you make it real for them. Take the time, invest wisely in your children. Invest in your Community.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Office Politics Part II - Is Isolation the Answer?

I hit a bump in the road on this one; better yet, a sinkhole. I don't have a clever solution. So I stopped blogging for a while, which became a almost a month of retreat. I have been working from home and going into work once a week to get my social fix. And, I have felt better. But yesterday I went into work and talked with a friend and I got an earful. My tension levels went through the roof and my friend even noticed the change in my demeanor.

Well, isolation works as long as you can stay away from the fray indefinitely. But if you care deeply, you can easily get sucked back into the grinder. Several people have asked me in the past few weeks whether I was considering finding employment elsewhere. I don't even have to say that I'm overwhelmed. They just seem to know. I haven't been complaining either. I'm really surprised that people notice, since this seems to be par for the course for most of us.
The distillation of this is that we can choose. We can choose to keep our heads down. We can choose to rail against the machine and get noticed in a negative way. We can choose to play and get caught up in the game. We can choose to leave and find a place to work that is more compatible with our personal beliefs and work style.
I yearn to see a change in corporate structure that puts an end to self serving behavior and the desire to make more money, more money. One would have thought that the financial meltdown would have shaken people enough to start the ball of change rolling. But those that have survived have become more entrenched not less. They are scared and are relying on what they know rather than focusing on the unfamiliar yet more productive way of approaching business.
While economists and analysts are focussing on the next consumer crisis: the dependence on credit to finance lifestyle without the ability to pay it back; I am wondering why they aren't focusing on corporations that are doing the same thing. Businesses have adopted new ways of viewing profitability that ignore the simple mathematics of: profit = revenue - costs. The truth is hidden behind the huge debt these companies have, their frequent refinancing of that debt, and paying the minimum on the debt while accumulating even more.
This may seem a digression from the topic of office politics, but I believe this mentality has everything to do with the disconnect between executive management and priorities and the realities of delivering the services to customers and providing a fair working environment for employees.
Customers and employees are given the minimum amount necessary to retain them. Instruments are used to retain customers - given freebies at the onset and then held to contracts that have painful withdrawal clauses. Employees are given just enough income to make it appear they are being paid more than workers in other companies, but the demands on their time are so much greater. Employees become used to the income and find it hard to leave and take the pay cut.
This kind of environment is not healthy and actually intensifies the game. As Harry said to Hermione when talking about Umbridge's punishment with the flesh engraving pen, "This is anything but simple"
So, we are back to making choices.
The first choice is that of awareness: recognizing the situation the way it is and not falling prey to spin and other instruments of denial.
The second choice is that of self preservation: choosing what I need to do to maintain my sanity, security and self integrity.
The third choice is that of service to others: choosing to treat people the way they should be treated rather than following the corporate pattern. I may not be able to effect change on the corporate level, but I can make a co-workers life easier by recognizing their true value as a human being.
Isolation is dangerous. Without information I cannot be aware, make choices that preserve my interests or improve the welfare of those around me. This doesn't mean embroiling myself in these discussions and obsessing on them on a daily basis. Rather, a choice to take in and process information to maintain my awareness of the working environment. Anger and outrage do nothing to help me or others around me. These emotions feed on themselves and create anxiety. It all comes down to, and maybe you could see this one coming, to having "the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference."

Friday, July 3, 2009

If you play hard ball you better be ready when the ball comes back

I've refrained from discussing much about Sarah Palin - because I couldn't keep myself from making it very personal. I'm glad she is leaving. I'm glad she hammered the nails into her own coffin. She made her own bed and now she is lying in it.

She wanted to run with the big boys - but didn't have the stamina nor the wits to know how outclassed she was. She threw out hate, bigotry and lies . All of this is coming back to smack her up side the head. As almost all conservatives are wont to remind us, we have to take responsibility for our actions and our actions have consequences. Sarah, you are no victim. You threw out the ball and its coming right back at you. Here's to your consequences!!!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Office Politics Part I

I was chatting with a friend last night and she suggested we do complimentary blogging on Office Politics." I suspect her approach will be very insightful for me - since she is a positive and outgoing kind of person and is a lot more successful than I am in dealing with Office Politics. See

Definition of the Problem: Part I

On a personal level, I have always struggled with being able to maintain my own integrity while playing well with and bending to the perceptions of others. I also have difficulty with making an ASS of myself by jumping to conclusions, not reading e-mails completely, and not giving folks the benefit of the doubt.

On the other hand, I am rarely deceived by people. I seem to notice their failings long before others do. I am also an introvert, so it goes strongly against my nature to socialize just for the sake of climbing the office ladder by spending time with people I don't particularly like. That doesn't mean I don't socialize; I just limit it to the folks that I respect and appreciate and who most likely respect and appreciate me. It's not because I think I am better than anyone else, I just don't like exposing myself when I don't have to. I am what is called an amiable driver, so I am goal oriented and push hard, but I'm nice about it.

You'll find "positive" approaches to politics in tomes such as "How to Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie and The Art and Science of Negotiation by Howard Raiffa , or more "cynical" approaches in The Art of War by Sun Tzu or The Prince by Machiavelli.

The positive approach doesn't spend much time on how to resolve moral dilemmas resulting from acting "as if." There is very little advice on how to deal with unproductive people a la Peter Principle. And there is little acknowledgement of negativity at all. Practicing this approach leaves me feeling fake and disingenuous. I vacillate between disgust and envy at some people's ability to wield this approach successfully.

The cynical approach is more pragmatic. It suggests that you do what needs to get done to accomplish your goals: the ends justifies the means or the contribution to the greater good justifies the exploitation or suppression of the individual.

I take more naturally to the cynical approach up until it involves manipulation, lying to others,
distorting the truth. In other words I am wary, questioning, and allow others to earn my trust.
The positive approach by acts of omission can result in the same. It focuses on what I can do to influence others to do what I want or to see things my way.

Two things before I start thrashing out a middle road:

1. Research has show that Depressive (Negative) people have a better perception of their own limits and of reality

2. Research has shown that positive reinforcement is more productive than negative reinforcement

(I really don't feel like looking up the sources for this - but please feel free to investigate on your own)

The trick is to blend these together without losing an honest sense of self and attaining a positive approach to dealing with office politics. I am hoping to develop an approach that will work for me.

Definition of the Problem: Part II

Oh dear! I've come all this way and forgotten to define Office Politics. How funny! Guess I better do that first.

1. Trying to present yourself or a problem in the best possible light, even though there are serious issues. In other words, SPIN.

2. Avoiding blame for any issue for which one is responsible

3. Pleasing the people in power by telling them what they want to hear

4. Desire for or maintenance of authority that exceeds one's ability

5. Seeking greater influence over those in authority for personal gain or gratification

6. Taking credit for other people's work

7. Use of non work related abilities to gain favor: ability to party, snob, and other un-mentionables

The impact of self serving political behavior creates a lot of stress on hardworking folks that are doing their job well and mostly don't engage in Office Politics. They end up picking up the loose ends, putting in extra effort to meet unreasonable deadlines, and scrambling to make things work after the fact. Unfortunately, this response ends up enabling these political beings' self serving behavior and does nothing to discourage it.

To be continued tomorrow..... I won't read Jeri's post until I finish.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

What Will Judgement Day be Like?

These are my beliefs - I don't expect anyone to share them. I think that all religions have given us clues on what will happen when we die. Unfortunately the wording is often cryptic and not easily understood. Examples include: the veil will be lifted, The light of truth will shine, all will come to understand, all will become part of the one, the wheat will be separated from the chaff, etc. I believe these statements explain both heaven and hell in one fell swoop.

Imagine you have just died. Often times we hear that people see their lives pass before their eyes. Those that experience this and don't die, find that their world view is fundamentally changed. Why? Perhaps they have had a partial experience of what it is we will experience when we die. I believe that when we die, that indeed the veil will be lifted - for everyone. At that point we will no longer be burdened by our biases, fears, and other chaff. We will see our behaviours in light of the truth - it will become obvious whom we have hurt, how we have impeded the growth of others and chosen paths that were self destructive. I believe this will be an intense experience and we will all be overwhelmed by the depth of our own faults. I believe this is being held under the blinding light of the truth. I can't conceive of anything more hellish than being completely exposed and having all my false pretenses ripped from me.

But there is also good news here, the wheat is separated from the chaff - we lose those parts of our self that are false, and we become one with God. So while we regret and feel ashamed of our failures in the light of God - we find that we still exist and are brought into oneness with the source of love and truth. We neither lose what we are, because we have always been part of the one, but now we are a conscious part of the whole.

I believe that the core truths of religion are those that help us separate our wheat from our chaff, help us become more like God while we pass through the journey of life, and lessen the distance or separation between our embodied and spiritual state. I believe our separation from the whole is intended to be a learning experience for us all, and that we will understand that purpose when we are reunited. Our need for one another and fellowship is a natural result of a longing for the state from which we came, and our longing to create the same state while on earth.

I believe anything else, tenets, creeds, beyond these fundamentals are man made and result in more harm than good. Anything that causes us to focus on the path of others rather than our own has a very high potential to divert us from the truth.

Many of our most insightful prophets, bodhivisttas, and messiahs have warned us of the wolves in sheep clothing: those that have all the appearances of being righteous but are rotten to the core. These are the people that claim they have the exclusive rights to the truth, feel free in harming others in the name of the truth, and exploit the fears and doubts of others to gain power and self esteem. These are the people whose experience upon death will be the most disconcerting because they have built their houses upon foundations of sand. People who willing abdicate responsibility for their journey by allowing someone to do their thinking for them will also be surprised that they wasted the opportunity to learn something from the journey and will bring little to the table to enrich the whole. I believe there will be a lot of surprised people.

What will the heaven be? How about: all of our wounds being healed, heart felt reconciliation with others, and the giving and receiving of true forgiveness for what we did or failed to do while we were alive, the leaving behind of the imperfections and pains of our physical being. Sounds just absolutely wonderful to me.

Lets talk about “Special Rights”

Given the events in Anchorage over the past week concerning the attempt to grant gay, lesbian and transgender people equal protection under the law in housing and employment, I find my self compelled to speak out against the slogans being used by fundamentalist Christians in efforts to defeat this legislation. Their belief that there is a gay agenda and that gays are pushing for Special Rights is just absolutely ludicrous.

Here's a short list of what I would categorize as Special Rights. My definition of Special Rights is simple: benefits or protections which all members of society do not share in equal measure.

  • Churches not paying income or property taxes
  • Church members being able to deduct their tithing as charitable contributions
  • Deductions for each child on federal taxes
  • 13 years of education for children subsidized by businesses and single people’s property taxes
  • The right to live where you wish and work where you wish regardless of your religious affiliation
  • Subsidized children services by both state and federal agencies.
  • PFDs for each Alaskan child - which the parents can spend without the child’s consent and not necessarily to the child's direct benefit

I’m not going to argue whether society benefits from subsidizing children. But at the very least, the fact that it is given for free, should be appreciated and cherished by those that receive it. And this is a Special Right.

The non taxation of the churches was spelled out by our forefathers to prevent the interference of the government in the livelihood of churches. In the old countries, governments too often used taxation to control and persecute churches and church members by making it hard for them to gather together and promote their beliefs. This is called separation of church and state. This is a Special Right.

The deductions for tithing, I don’t really understand. Why should money that you give to support services that you mostly benefit from, be tax deductible: Church schools, buildings, staff, recreation halls, gyms, camps, parking lots, adornments, etc. After all these things are paid for, maybe there is something given to those in need. This is a Special Right.

This summary just scratches the surface of all the special rights and or benefits that heterosexual families and churches benefit from that are not shared by all members of society equally. Throwing around the term “Special Right” is just “Especially Wrong.”