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How many dogs have you slept with???

When I was growing up, my dad often referred, however loosely, to old proverbs and sayings to help my siblings and I understand matters of everyday life that he considered to be important. One that comes to mind today is “If you lie down with dogs, you’ll wake up with fleas.”

On this past Friday, S&P downgraded the US Government’s credit rating…imagine the shock and awe of people around the world!  As if that weren’t enough, I peruse through the Monday morning news to see that Fannie and Freddie have also been downgraded. The reason?  Well, apparently, Fannie and Freddie are guilty by association.  They depend on the US Government so much so that their own credit worthiness has become tied directly to good ole Uncle Sam’s.  Unfortunately, that’s not where it ends.  Guess what folks who want to buy a house…this is bad news for you too!  If you want to buy your first home or just another home, those mortages are likely going to be higher than they were a month or so ago. 

So, what does all of this have to do with individuals and relationships?  Well, let us just take a moment to think about the many times that our lives have been impacted, no matter the size of the impact, by the choices, associations, and decisions of those around us.  Friends, parents, co-workers, church members, significant others, siblings…must I go on?  Have you ever had an unexpected expense come up and thought to yourself, “Ugh!  If only I hadn’t loaned that money to ____!  And if only _____ wasn’t involved with _____, I wouldn’t have had to loan him/her money and I would be fine right now!”  Or have you ever found yourself working late or on the weekend because you spent too much time chit-chatting with your favorite co-workers and didn’t get all of your work done–not that I know anyone like that–?

How would your life be different if you had not associated with some of the people in your circle (past or present)?  Would your career have taken a different path?  Your personal life?  Would you have more children?  Less children?  Be married? Single? Would you have gone to college or beyond?  Would you even live in the state or country you live in currently?

Now let me be clear.  Just beause you woke up with fleas doesn’t mean the dog you lied down with was bad.  I have a dog (see above) and he’s GREAT…but he can still attract fleas.

So that means two things for us.  Sometimes, lying down with dogs is unavoidabe, but  1) we MUST be proactive and do what we can to prevent fleas and 2) we can’t ever forget that the fleas are a possibility.  We must keep our eyes open (and never ignore the itching!)  Ok, so I’m having way too much fun with this analogy, so let me stop.

Moral of the story: Be mindful of who you share your time and life with.  Know that you are not immune to their consequences.

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August 8, 2011 Posted by | Relationships, Self-help | 6 Comments

Am I asking for too much? Really???

Do the people around you ever make you feel like you may be asking for too much?  You don’t feel like you’re asking for anything out of the ordinary, but they always seem to say or do the exact opposite of what you need them to do.

The other day, I heard someone say that children should not come into the world with a job. More specifically, children should not bear the responsibility of making their parents or caregivers feel happy, useful, successful, etc.  Of course, having a baby draws all kinds of feelings and emotions out of the people who care for them, but there is a difference between a child making someone feel an emotion and a child being responsible for making someone feel an emotion.  Having expectations of a baby is a lose-lose situation anyway.  Contrary to what some may believe, babies are not mind readers and cannot comprehend what is being asked of them.  Anyone who imposes responsibilities  on a baby is setting themselves up for disappointment because the child is not capable of meeting their expectations AND setting the child up for failure by asking them to do the impossible.

I said all of that to say that sometimes our expectations are much greater than what the other person is capable of.  Other times, our expectations are clear in our minds, but haven’t quite made it past our lips.  Either way, all of this made me wonder how many people are involved in relationships with people who are facing impossible expectations. Do the people involved even have a clue what their responsibilities are? Do they know what they expect of the other person?

Let’s think about relationships in the context of employment.  Suppose you were offered a new job, but weren’t given a job description and had no discussion with your employer about what your job duties would be.  For a week, you show up everyday (on-time), smile and speak to your co-workers, answer the phone, return e-mails, help customers, etc.  You think you did a pretty good job and go home on Friday feeling pretty pleased with yourself.  When you arrive on Monday, your boss asks to see you in his/her office.  They proceed to tell you that you’re not working out.  That you’re not meeting the company’s expectations.  What are you feeling in that moment?  Confusion?  Frustration?  Ineffective?  Unsuccessful?

All of these are to be expected when you’re in a situation where there are unspoken expectations.  Maybe the expectations weren’t unspoken, necessarily.  Maybe they were implied or hidden in the fine print.

So, what types of relationships are at risk of falling victim to the fine print (or lack thereof), you ask?  This would include ANY relationship that you are involved in without having discussed and agreed on what you and the other party expect of one another. Friends, boyfriends/girlfriends, husbands/wives, sisters, brothers, babysitter, housekeeper…I could go on forever!  The point is that, all too often, we hit bumpy situations in our relationships because he have/had an expectation of the other person that they weren’t aware of.  Sometimes, we don’t even know what we expect…until we realize we don’t like what just happened.  Think about the last few times you were disappointed by a friend, family member, or significant other. Did they disappoint you by doing or saying something that the two of you had agreed on or were you disappointed because they didn’t do or say what you expected?  If the latter is your answer, there’s good news and bad news.  The bad news is that a lack of communication may be to blame for some of the bumps you’re running into.  But the good news is that all hope is not lost!

So what can you do about it?

1.  Figure out what your needs are of the relationship in question.  Keep this task simple by making a list.  ‘What I need in a friend/partner/parent/sibling is…”

2. Share your needs with the other person.  I know it may feel silly to both you and the other person if you are not used to communicating in this way, but remember that you have to do something different to get something different.

3. Come to an agreement.  It is not enough to TELL the other person what you want them to do.  The two of you have to come to an agreement.  If you find that you cannot come to an agreement on things that are important to either of you, then your conversation may need to also include how healthy and/or beneficial the relationship is to everyone involved.

4. Repeat steps 1-3.  This is not a one-time deal.  Maintaining clear communication, in any relationship, is the job that never ends.

I know that these things may seem elementary and tedious, but you will get out of relationships what you put into them.  Good Luck and Happy Communicating!

August 1, 2011 Posted by | Relationships | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Looking for ______ in all the wrong places?

Have you ever headed to the grocery store to buy some, say, milk without a shopping list?  If you’re anything like me, you walk in the door and you’re greeted by the colorful fruit and veggies, tempting snacks, and a million other items that you’re sure you MUST need.  You pass on some of the things you see, but give in to others.  All in all, you’re ok with the choices you made, but you get home and realize that you left without getting the one thing you went to the store for–the milk!

Often times, we live our day-to-day lives in a similar way.  We start new relationships,  change jobs, relocate, join a new church, etc.  No matter the activity, the reason is often the same, we’re looking for something.  We start our new activity feeling hopeful or, maybe, apprehensive–wondering if we’re looking in the right place.  But once we arrive and engage in our new activity, we sometimes forget that we should never stop evaluating whether or not our search has been effective and our needs have been met.  We become so distracted by the intricacies of our activity, be they good or bad, that we forget to stop and say, “Wait! Is this person, place, or thing, meeting my original need or have I become sidetracked?”

So, what is a person to do?  How do we remain focused on our original need when we are complicated beings with ever-changing needs?

For starters, make a list.  Anyone who has ever tried to over come being sidetracked while grocery shopping has been advised to make a shopping list.  The list, in both our analogy and real world application, serves multiple purposes.

  • Evaluate.  Your list will serve as a method for taking stock of what you have and what you need.  Before you can do either of those things, however, you must determine what you want to accomplish.
  • Act.  Your list will also serve as your roadmap and will help you remain focused on your goal(s).  Although new goals, needs, and desires will likely arise along the way, your list will allow you to remember what you set out to do from the beginning.
  • Evaluate.  Finally, and maybe most importantly, your list will be your means of checking in with yourself and will allow you to evaluate your progress.  But here is the key.  If you check your list and realize that you are not accomplishing your goals, STOP!  STOP what you’re doing and make a new plan!  Your new plan is going to involve one of two things.  Either you will decide that you need to try accomplishing your goals in a different way or you will decide to be content with where you are.  Either way, the decision is your own, but take ownership of it and move forward knowing what you’re working with.

Secondly, keep a record.  Given all of the technology at your disposal, there are many ways to accomplish this, but the most basic way would be pen and paper: keep a journal.  Like keeping a list, keeping a journal also has multiple purposes.

  • Catharsis.  Freeing your mind of all that you have experienced makes room for new experiences to be processed in a clear way; independent of the previous day’s clutter.
  • Hindsight.  Although it is often said to be  20/20, it is also sometimes too late.  Journaling will allow you the opportunity to review your experiences relatively quickly and make adjustments as needed.  Sometimes changes can’t be made, even in the short-term, but many wonderful lessons have come from on-time Ah-ha moments!
  • Remembrance.  Journaling allows you to more accurately remember back as far as you have recorded.  Of the many things that can come from reviewing snapshots of your past, the most productive is, arguably, being able to see how far you have traveled.

While neither of these tips is a magic wand that will keep you on the straight and narrow as you navigate through tricky times, they can serve as reminders that you owe it to yourself to accomplish what you set out to achieve without getting stuck in the many distractions that are life.

Moral of the story: You may end up in the wrong place while you’re looking, but as long as you know you’re in the wrong place, you don’t have to stay there.

July 24, 2011 Posted by | Self-help | , , , | 5 Comments