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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Under Pressure

Heat and pressure vulcanize rubber to make it stable and durable. Heat tempers metal for the same purpose. But do you know what happens when there is too much pressure and too much heat? Rubben turns into a burned blob and steel becomes brittle. It is much the same with people.

Too much pressure and a person snaps physically and or mentally. We always want to push oursleves into doing and being more than the next person; to be on a level higher than what we are. We take on too much because we ignore the limits of the mind and body. We try too hard to please others. And we break.

Sometimes, friends, we break others. Oh it is completely unintentional. We see our friends in trouble and we try to use words to encourage them. But we use words that are not effective because we do not truly see who we are talking to. I have a sister who thinks because she is spurred by insult that she can motivate me that way. But I have not that temperment. I thrive, as I suspect most people do, I encouragement not the incessant listing of failures. If you hold my failures in front of me all I will see is failure. It does not inspire one to believe there is another alternative. So if all I do ends in failure, why should I do more?

I have had other friends in the past who thought that taking charge of my projects was encouragement. He changed my outline for my sucess into something which he could attach himself and his goals. I could do it. But I would have been doing it for him and his prosperity and not my own. So I took back my business plan and dissolved the friendship. He still sees that he did nothing wrong and I wasted so much time on his modifications that I missed windows of opportunity that were key to my development.

And still others have decided that cross words and threats were the way to inspire me. From mother to boyfriends the choice has been to make more money or leave. I am the sum of my accounts? To those who measure life only by their insecurities perhaps that is the case. I do not know. I only know that having been stolen from for my entire life the accusation that I have not enough to contribute sounds an awful lot like "I can't be around you since there is nothing for me to steal."

Friends, the way to encourage others is to be a safe place for someone to share their hopes and dreams. Even if some elements of, or the whole dream, seem impossible it is not for us to say "No." or "That is impossible." It is our sworn duty as friends and lovers to use better words to help our friends stay strong. If you don't think one of your friends can achieve a goal ask yourself why. Then gently say "That sounds great. Have you considered your strengths and weaknesses?" This should let them ask themselves the same question. Then rather than say "it'll never be done." or taking charge of another's dreams do not offer advice. Ask "Who or what is going to fill in the weak spots?" and maybe even "What can I do to help?"

And we have to realize that sometimes our friends have to leave us to make their lives better. A job in some capitalist machine is not going to make someone happy unless they truly have a servant heart and love that corporation. Bagger, cashier, greeter are all fine jobs on our way through school and adolescence as a proving ground for our personalities and to learn how to read people. But it is not the lifelong, self sustaining job that feeds the soul and makes for a productive person. Your friends see more in themselves than they let on. You may see even more in your friends than they can see. But the way to the means often is to let them go. Surely you will miss being in constant contact and the rituals that your friendship is built around. But can you really say that you love your friend if what is best for them to achieve their goals is school or an internship and you want them to get a job in a fast food joint so that they don't leave you?

Some people are suited for Walmart greeter-hood. Some people are suited for the bomb squad. Do you really want them to switch positions just because it suits you to not lose your friend for a short while?

The thing that I am strugglingwith right now involves making a choice to improve my life. It means leaving a lot of things behind and starting over. At 41 I do not want to do that but I have too. Several of my friends wish me well. Several more think that I am abandoning them and doing so out of spite. But I am so much more than a laundry folder. I know that. I am only afraid to take the next step because all I have ever been shown is my failures. My successes seem so dull in comparisson to the spectacular failures. The older you get the more expensive it is to change your life. The monetary outlay is greater and the pool of resources is smaller. The time to recover your investment in the workforce is considerably smaller than when you start your Post College life. While it is far better to begin in your youth, it is not impossible to reboot your life as an adult. The one thing that you need at 41 is the same thing that you needed at 21:
  • a clear understanding of who and what you are and want to be
  • the skill set to make that happen
  • a close circle of people who see and accept that vision you have for yourself
  • a clear understanding of your weaknesses and a plan for shoring up your weak spots
  • very clear boundaries that you enforce: no dream killers, no negative reflecting mirrors, no two-faced fair-weather friends, no dream thieves and no control freaks.
You are the captains of your own destiny. But in many cases, you are also the first officer on someone else's ship.

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