Money and energy

If somebody comes up to you and asks for $20 and you give it to them and it’s not a hardship for you, then everything is okay. They aren’t borrowing it – they just want $20.

But what happens when they come up to you the next day and ask for another $20? Do you give it to them? If you do and it’s not a problem, then again everything is okay.

But what about the next day
and the next day
and the next day?

If they keep asking you for money and you keep giving it to them you might start to feel resentful. You might think “I really don’t have this kind of money to give away. Why does this person keep asking me for money?”

Really the question is – why do you keep giving it to them if there’s a problem?

This isn’t about money, but money is a good way to get into this idea. Money represents energy. Someone can’t take something from you without your permission. Someone can’t take advantage of you without you letting them do it.

If there’s a coworker who is constantly shirking at work and you constantly have to pick up her slack, then that’s your problem, not her problem. She is a genius. She figured out how to get paid to do half her job. Meanwhile, you’re doing twice the amount of work for the same pay.

If you feel put upon and upset and hurt by this, then that is all about you not establishing safe boundaries for yourself. Time to say no, and mean it. The other person will push you and test you – this is normal. Keep saying no.

Why do we so often care about not hurting other people’s feelings, while feeling hurt and upset ourselves? Time to change things. We don’t need to turn this so far around that we aren’t considerate of how others think and feel, but we do need to factor in how we think and feel. It isn’t fair if feelings aren’t equal.

Poem Road

The path is the place.
The road is the way.
Remember?
You don’t ever really arrive.
Just keep moving
towards the goal,
towards the good.
Just keep moving
Forward.

Running away from
isn’t the best plan.
You’ll trip over
God knows what.
You’ll end up
God knows where.

Make your path towards
what you envision,
see forward,
seek further.

With each step examine,
is it in the right direction?
Does it build up or tear down?

Just like English motorways,
if you don’t aim yourself
at something approaching
where you want to be
with every roundabout,
you’ll end up 50 miles or an hour
away from
where you were headed
with no easy way to turn around.

Life is like that.
You may have a map
or maybe not.
But look out the window
frequently
so you don’t end up
stuck.

On women’s clothing.

Women’s clothing is often shoddily made. Thin fabric, loosely stitched – it doesn’t last more than a season. That is part of the design because that style is out of date by then anyway. So women are constantly buying more clothes.

For some, that isn’t a problem. Many women practice “retail therapy” and go shopping when they feel down. Many women have closets full of clothes that they have worn only once, if at all.

This is a society encouraged addiction, and it is destroying us. We are being distracted from what is real.

Women’s energy is being diverted, diluted, disturbed.

Our time, our effort, our money is all the same. It is all energy.

When we are encouraged by society to shop, we don’t have time to think. We don’t look at what we are trying to “treat” in the sense of “cure” when we practice “retail therapy”. We treat ourselves with treats. We buy things instead of addressing our problems.

I know, from being a person in recovery that only causes more problems.

Also, when we are forced to shop for clothing because it falls apart or because it is out of style, we have less money for real things. We’ve also wasted our precious time not only shopping but also at work earning that money.

Imagine with me a world where women are freed from the social expectation to be beautiful and fashionable. Think how much time, money, and energy they would have to do things that matter, be people that matter.

Imagine the art that would be created. The diplomacy that would happen. The inventions, the solutions, the discoveries.

We have to be the ones to make this shift. We have to be mindful of how we are spending our time, money, and energy. This isn’t an “us and them” thing. This is just an “us” thing. It doesn’t matter who sold us this idea. It matters that we bought it. It is time to return it, like the broken merchandise it is.

“What you focus on expands”

I don’t have children. I read a lot of child-rearing books though. Whether someone is three or thirty, the same rules apply. Often you can learn about how to deal with adults by reading books about how to deal with children. Sometimes adults are simply children in bigger bodies. Getting older doesn’t always mean getting wiser.

I know a lady who insists that dog-training books are useful for learning how to deal with husbands. I know I’ve certainly learned a lot about customer service by watching “the Dog Whisperer.”

Either way, energy is energy. It is all about how you direct it and how you spend it. It has nothing to do with changing the other person. It has everything to do with changing yourself. If you present positive energy, you’ll get positive energy back. If you expect trouble, you’ll find it. So change yourself first.

The basic message that I’ve gotten from these sources is that any attention is better than no attention. So if you ignore your child (or dog, or coworker, or customer) when he is behaving correctly, and yell at him when he is misbehaving, he will keep misbehaving. Ignore the bad behavior, and praise the good.

Ignore what you don’t want. Don’t give it any energy.

People want energy, and they will take it any way they can. Even if it is negative, it is better than nothing.

Workplaces do their employees a huge disservice when they only communicate with their employees when they have made a mistake. It is far healthier to praise them for doing something right.

I have had several bosses who never got this. Their opinion was that you should know when you were doing right. You should know how to do your job, and take pride in it. They only talk to their employees when they messed up.

To them, they messed up a lot.

There is a lot to be said for praise. There is a lot to be said for letting people know that they are doing well. We all need to hear when we have done well.

Now, does this apply to everything? Can we take this and apply it to all things –not just people? Can we apply it to pain, and loss, and hurt? Can we apply it to physical as well as emotional pain?

Maybe. I’m working on it.

It seems like focusing on the good is always a good idea. Oprah says “What you focus on expands.” This seems very useful. You just have to be mindful of what you focus on – what you give attention to.

I’m reminded of the phrase “You’ll either find a way, or you’ll find an excuse.” It is your choice.

Energy – attention is attention, whether negative or positive.

Don’t give your energy to something that isn’t good. If there is a performer on TV who has “jumped the shark” and done something so egregious that the dictionary now has a new name for her actions, don’t talk about it. Don’t post pictures of it. This just gives it more energy. Negative energy is still energy. Let it go away. Let it disappear. Don’t even mention her name.

This is the same thing you learn with bad behavior and children. If you want a child to stop doing any bad behavior, don’t comment on it, but comment on the good behavior instead. Any attention is attention. If you yell at a child for doing something wrong, it is still attention. All people crave attention. If you yell or fuss, that behavior will happen again. Yes, this makes no sense, but it is true.

This is the same with celebrities or groups. This is the same with people who are celebrities just because their fathers are famous, or groups that use the forum of media to spread their message of hate.

As long as the person isn’t doing something dangerous, ignore it. Don’t comment on it. Don’t post about it on your Facebook page. Don’t talk about it at work. Energy is energy.

Don’t spend time on things you don’t like. Don’t give them your energy or attention. Focus on the positive. Talk about what works, not about what is broken.

Yes, I’m kind of breaking my own rule here. I’m trying to shift a way of thinking, so I have to point this out. We have to shift the way we think in order for change to happen.

Musings from kindergarten – time and attention

I have to be very flexible when I’m tutoring. Each child is different. Each child learns at a different pace. Each one finds different things interesting. I have to adapt myself to them.

The way I want to teach isn’t always the way they want to learn. So instead of expecting them to conform to where I’m coming from, I get down to where they are. I’m here for them, not myself. I already know my letters. They are the ones who have to do the work. I’m there to cheer them on when they get it right.

Of course, sometimes they aren’t really interested in learning at all and they really want to play. Sometimes it is hard to tell. Learning looks a lot like playing sometimes. But when it looks a lot more like playing than learning it is time to redirect. Sometimes I’ll say, “Do you want to work on this, or do you want to go back to class?” I’m happy either way. If they aren’t ready to work, there are three more after them who are.

It is interesting the number of kids who say “pick me!” They want to work. Getting to work with a tutor isn’t seen as a negative thing. This is excellent. There is no stigma. The kids who I work with aren’t seen as being a little slower, or having a harder time getting concepts. It is a treat, a favor, to work with me. This makes my job easier, but also harder. I’d love to work with them all but I only have an hour a week. There isn’t much quality time available so I have to have a list of who needs me.

I don’t pick the children I tutor. I get a list from the teacher, in order of need. I start at the top and go as far as I can. Sometimes the list has five children on it, and I only get to the first two. That is OK. Those two needed more attention that day and were willing to work. If I can get them in that frame of mind, I’m running with it.

One day I worked with the same child for three quarters of the hour. That was a big deal. Oscar was from Mexico, and it took half the year for him to even answer me back in English. Actually, I don’t even think he was answering me in Spanish most of the time. I think Oscar was speaking Oscar. He was very enthusiastic about it, but he didn’t make any sense. I have a feeling that his parents thought that he was speaking English but they didn’t know English so they didn’t know any better.

That day I was reading a book to him, and I was using every trick I had. How many ornaments are there on the tree? Where is the yellow box? It may sound silly, but there is a lot more to reading a book than just the words. I wanted to fully engage him.

Mostly, I wanted him to hear English. If you are going to live here, you have to know English to get by. Being able to read and write is certainly nice, but if you can’t understand and speak it, you are in a world of hurt.

By the end of the year, Oscar still wasn’t doing very well with writing and reading. He would cover up the words on the page and look at the pictures. I’m not sure that he understood that I wasn’t just making up the story. I’m not sure that he didn’t get that those words weren’t just squiggles. He at least was responding to my questions in English. Mission accomplished. It wasn’t much, but it is a start.

Sometimes the teacher will assign a child to me who is doing very well. We’ll go through the lesson that we’ve been assigned, and she will do fabulously. I’ll ask the teacher why I was assigned this student. Often it is simply that the child needed a little attention and time. Sometimes it is because Mom is not at home – she is still back in their home country. Or Dad has been deported. Sometimes it has nothing to do with learning letters and numbers, but everything to do with personal attention.

It is amazing how simple it is to offer a little bit of time, and how much good it does.

Bully

I’m often torn about the best way to deal with a bully. Do you call attention to the fact that he is being a bully, or do you ignore it?

The point of calling attention to it is to say you don’t agree with it. You speak up because to be silent is to participate. You speak up to stop the abuse.

But to be silent is to not give attention to the bully. A bully, at the heart of the matter, is someone who wants attention. It is someone who didn’t get enough attention for doing good things, so he does bad things. 6 or 60, it makes no difference. A bully is a bully if he is harmful to another person, either mentally, physically, or emotionally.

So if you ignore the bully’s misplaced attempt at a way to get attention, will it go away? Will he figure out another way to get the attention he craves?

We all want attention. We all want to feel special and important. A mark of a well adjusted person is that she does not constantly need validation from others in order to feel this way. She is comfortable as is. A well adjusted person can self-soothe, and knows on her own that she has done well. She doesn’t have to seek approval and encouragement from others constantly. She doesn’t have to tell stories about all the important things she has done or all the famous people she has met.

But a bully hasn’t gotten to that point yet. Perhaps he was bullied as a child by his father. Perhaps this is just normal to him. Perhaps he will always be an emotionally stunted person. Perhaps everyone is afraid of telling him he is wrong, so he has never gotten the feedback he needs. As far as he knows, he is OK. He feels big by making someone else feel small.

The few times I’ve stood up to bullies it terrified me. I was afraid of the repercussions. All were authority figures, and I had something to lose in every situation. But in every situation I’d finally had enough of being pushed around and lorded over.

A funny thing happened, every time. I spoke up, calmly, and respectfully, but assuredly. I pointed out how my point of view coincided with reality, and how it differed from the point of view of the bully. And every time the bully backed down. Every time it was like deflating a balloon. Every time the bully developed a new respect for me and never pushed me that way again. It doesn’t mean that the bully suddenly became a great human being. But it is as if I drew a line. I said I’m not willing to take this, and he never went there again.

Now my dilemma is when I see another person being bullied. Say it is an adult child of a bully. This person has been bullied his whole life by his father. This abuse is normal. The adult child has been taught that he is not worthy of love. He has been taught that he deserves to be treated badly. He has been taught that he has caused his father’s anger, that he is responsible for the abuse he gets.

If I stand up for him, am I short changing his growth? Baby birds have to peck their own way out of their shell or they won’t be able to make it in the world.

I remember a time when I lived near Washington DC. The lady I lived
with had three cats. Two were Siamese, and they were siblings. One was a Main Coon. His name was Bill. Those crazy Siamese cats were newcomers to this home, but they ganged up and made sure to get in the way every time food was put out. There were three bowls, but they would make sure they ate first and Bill ate last.

I felt this was monstrously unfair. One day I put out their food and held back those two punks. Bill just stared at me. I sang out to him, encouraging him. I told him to go ahead and eat. Hesitantly, he did. After about five minutes, I released the Siamese siblings. They looked at me in amazement. Bill didn’t get in their way, and Bill didn’t eat their food. They had theirs, and he had his. It was as it should be. This was all it took. They got the clue, and shared from then on. Bill didn’t become a bully to them out of revenge. Harmony was restored.

But it isn’t that easy with people. You’d think it would be easier. I couldn’t speak to these animals – I showed them how to behave. I showed Bill that he was valuable, that he had a right to eat. Not first, not better, just the same.

I think there is some lesson in here for me. Perhaps I have to do a little of both. Perhaps I have to stand up to the bully, to let him know that his actions aren’t OK, and show the victim that he has value. And then I have to wait, to let this seed take root. You can’t force growth, and you can’t change a lifetime of being oppressed overnight.

I believe in the power of prayer, but I believe in prayer made visible more. Sometimes I’m impatient for change.