Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Time for a Change

I love it when people have opinions, thoughts and beliefs that are different from mine. I enjoy being able to have healthy conversations that explore the world around us while exchanging views, ideas and beliefs. Unfortunately, so many people are not interested in the conversation, they are interested in being right, having the one right view, the one right belief and have no interest in exploring, growing or even entertaining the thought that maybe, just maybe, there is a different reality out there they know nothing about.

I see it all day, every day. There are times when there is nothing I can do about it, except take full control and accountability for my actions and words and try to not get bogged down in the mire of negativity, anger and hatred. There are other times when I do have the choice to do something. I am careful about what I watch on TV or what movies I see. I’ve noticed that if I take in too much violence, anger and hatred on TV, it affects my mood and my reactions. I have learned that, for me at least, what I consume sets the stage for how I react both externally and internally.

Which brings me to Facebook. I know there is a lot going on the world today and I know a lot of people, including myself, have some very strong opinions about issues. From Obama to Caitlyn Jenner to unemployment, healthcare, terrorism, the environment and the list goes on, we all have opinions. Many of those things are things we don’t understand and historically, we humans don’t like what we don’t understand. And too often, we don’t want to understand what we don’t understand. It is easier to hate it, to push for its destruction.  

On a daily basis, I see so much anger, hatred and disrespect on Facebook and I have noticed it really affects my mood and how I act during the day. One thing I love about my life is that I know people from all different places and all sorts of life experiences. I really enjoy when a conversation is started that facilitates learning. I am working with a group right now to help them start a business and we spend a few minutes of each class talking about race, talking about things that most people can’t or won’t talk about. It’s wonderful to have a real conversation, with no anger, no finger pointing, no blame or guilt, just an open exchange of ideas and experiences. I have learned a lot from those types of moments.

While I love the differing opinions of people and I truly believe that we should all be able to express what we think and believe and question what we don’t understand, I do not believe the “I’m right, you’re wrong” blaming type of dialogue that lacks any type of respect or empathy is ever appropriate. Tell me your opinions and respect mine. When people take the “my way or the highway” approach, it does nothing but build walls, create division and further the gap between people of differing minds.

I decided this morning that I am not going to accept it any longer in places where I have a choice. Facebook is one of those places. To anyone I am friends with on Facebook, I value your opinion. I value and respect your beliefs even when I disagree or don’t understand them. They are what make us individuals. I do not, however, want to see hatred and disrespect. I don’t want to see things that have been posted just to anger or belittle other people. There is enough of that out there in the world and I am making the choice to keep it as out of my life wherever possible.

Instead of getting angry or dwelling on a comment or post that is meant to do nothing more than spread the misery, I will no longer respond to it beyond blocking and un-friending. I get angry too. I get scared at times. There are many things I don’t like or understand. I do understand I have a choice. I have a choice and I choose for respect and dignity of others.

I invite others to do the same. Think about what you write. Think about who it might affect. Think about a person who may be struggling with something. It may be the person next to you. The person you think you know best that you perhaps don’t know as well as you think you do. Think about what your child or best friend might be going through and then think about that thing your want to post on Facebook. As an uncle and soon to be dad, I think about what I am passing on, what example I am setting. I know I fall short and that is part of being human. I don’t strive to be right, I strive to learn, to be authentic and live in a place of integrity. To me, that means taking responsibility for my actions and words.

It is possible to have an opinion and to hold true to your beliefs and values without losing respect for others.  

Monday, May 11, 2015

Mother's Day 2015

Yesterday was Mother’s Day. I spent days debating with myself whether or not I should call my mom. Each time I call or stop by, I always hope that maybe that time will be different, maybe something will have changed, maybe she’ll have some sort of break-through. It usually ends up the same way and even if all goes really well, it is as though the countdown to disaster has begun. It is only a matter of time before the good transforms into something unhealthy, volatile and toxic.

The few weeks leading up to Easter and a couple after that, she seemed at least a little happy. She was actually kind. I tried to see the situation as positive, yet history has shown me countless times, that it is only a matter of when, not if, the bombs would start going off and once again, there would be piles of emotional debris to sort through.

That day was yesterday. I phoned to wish her a happy Mother’s Day. Honestly, it wasn't that I really wanted to, I just thought I should do it to keep the good trend going and not provide her with any more ammunition. I decided before I dialed her number that I would cut the conversation short if it took a negative turn. I can’t control or even influence her emotional swings, but I can control my actions and reactions and I decided that I would end the call before getting caught up in something I didn't want to be involved in or saying things I knew I would feel guilty about or regret.

It started about two minutes into the conversation and rapidly plunged off the cliff. As usual, my part of the conversation was mostly limited to “uh-huh, uh-huh, ok, uh-huh” as she rambles from topic to topic. I won’t go into the details of the conversation and they just aren’t worth reliving or distributing. I stayed true to my commitment to end the call by simply saying that I needed to go, which was met with her yelling “Happy Mother’s Day to you too!” to me in a very angry tone before she hung up.

I have been struggling with this relationship for decades and each time, I feel smashed each time it comes to this point. I was going to tell her that I am going to be a dad soon, and then decided not to. This is one of the most exciting adventures I have been on and I don’t want that experience tarnished.

Once again, I am debating whether or not it is worth continuing. Part of me wants to shut the door and seal it off. Part of me wonders if I am giving up too easy. Everyone who has experienced my relationship with my mom first-hand has told me I need to end it. Everyone who has heard the stories is always surprised when they meet her. Surprised that while they thought I was exaggerating, the quickly learn I was downplaying it all.

I haven’t made the decision yet. I want to. I don’t want to. Why I keep feeling torn between these extremes is something that has confused me for a very long time. Now, because of the fostering classes I am taking, I understand it a bit more. If I cut all ties from her, then I am letting go of hope. Letting go of that “maybe” I have been chasing for so long. I am letting go of the idea I have of my mom, the one where she is the person I would like her to be. The person I believe she will never be.

I don’t know what kind of father I will be. I like to think I will be a cool parent, like Ken or Christina. I know there will be arguments and tough times. I also know I will never make them feel the way my mom has made me feel. They will never wonder if they are loved. I will never give them reason to doubt that they are anything less than perfectly enough, just as they are. 

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Detour Through My Mind...

I recently realized something new about my brain and how it works. It is something that has led to me and other people being frustrated. I didn't figure it out until fairly recently and haven't written about it yet because, well, I forgot.

And that is the issue.  I don't actually forget things. As far as I know, I haven’t actually forgotten anything at all. Just a few weeks ago a friend of mine was in town and we were talking about when we went out to dinner a year ago. I immediately remembered where we ate. I remembered the name of the waiter I had not seen before or since. So the information is all there, but sometimes it seems like the car keys that have been put in a place where we won’t forget and then we can't remember where they were and suddenly when we find them, we remember putting them there and the logic for choosing that space.

My brain works like that now. As far as I can tell, I don’t really have that spontaneous memory that I used to have, that most people have. I don’t remember to call people. I don’t remember to write. I don’t actively remember that someone is ill or has an ill relative. I remember these things when there is a trigger. I will see a picture, go to a place or someone will mention it and all the knowledge is there. Without the trigger, it is very hit or miss. It’s like when you wake up in the middle of the night with that amazing idea and you know you should write it down but you don’t and then you wake up and it has been forgotten and stays forgotten until something triggers it and it all comes rushing with back. I get that all the time.

Things that are part of my routine, I remember. I noticed that I usually phone John around the same time each day. I remember to feed the dogs because it happens at the same time each day. I need things in a routine in order to remember, or, and  it pains me to say this, I have to make lists. Looking around my office right now, there are lists taped to the wall for all the things I need to do that are not part of my everyday tasks. Things like expense reports, updating marketing materials and so on.

I understand that people think I have forgotten them or that I just don't care. That isn't true. I forget to phone or email Ulco. In fact, I saw an update from him on Facebook that made me remember to plan some trips for his visit that then reminded me I have been meaning to write about this issue for a couple of months. That is the normal process and it is difficult to explain. It’s difficult for me to understand. It was something I didn't notice, because it’s not like I can’t remember things. I remember most everything, I just need a trigger of some sort to bring it to the surface.

So if I haven't called, messaged, emailed or reached out to you, I am sorry. It is nothing personal at all, I have just temporarily forgotten to, thanks to two brain injuries in less than four years. But if you call, text or reach out to me, that will be enough of a trigger to contact you. It may not happen all the time, as if I see something late at night, by morning, it’s been filed away for another time. Be patient and try again.

I am trying to send emails and make calls when the triggers happen, but it’s not always possible.  It's somewhat frustrating, but then I don't really remember the frustration until it happens again.

Friday, May 01, 2015

A Bit Further Down The Road

I can’t believe we have past the halfway point of the foster and adoption classes. Only four left to go and it seems to be flying by. The classes have been quite heavy at times, talking about all sort of horrible things that children go through and trying to get at least something of an understanding as to what it must be like to have to leave everything behind, take only what you can fit into a box or bag and move to a new place, new family, perhaps new school and new life. Many of the children will go back to their parents at some point or go from foster home to foster home. We have had to do a weekly assessments of our strengths and needs, to see how they have changed based on our education and insight into what might be coming our way.

We had our home visit two weeks ago. For me, that was the dreaded moment. The thought of someone coming into your home and looking for everything and anything that can get in the way of getting licensed. Cleaning products need to be locked up. Paint in the garage needs to be up high. All medicines and vitamins locked up in a cabinet. We get assessed. The pets get evaluated. Trashcans in the garage get looked at to make sure they have lids. The yard gets a walk through, closets and cupboards get opened and examined. After all of that, we had a very, very short list of things that need to be done.

The harder part was the interview. The application itself asked all sorts of difficult and deeply personal questions. The interview was a chance to elaborate on those things and answer all sort of questions. That lasted for about two and a half hours on the visit and then we had to stay late for about an hour after the following class to finish up. There’s a lot in my background and I have been worried that it might get in the way. She told us that while there is a lot, she feels I am at a point where it can really help someone else. That was a huge relief.

John and I have been on a couple of local sites looking at the profiles of children that are available in the system. There are a few that seem to be a good match and in another two weeks, we will be far enough along in the process to be put forward as possible adoptive resources. No idea what all happens after that, how long it will take or even if it will move forward at all.

Our class has gotten smaller each week, some people quitting because they don’t meet certain criteria, others maybe because it isn’t the right time. I’ve had my one moment of extreme doubt. Drop me in a country I have never been in, where I don’t speak the language and have no was of getting around and I am perfectly comfortable and at ease. This is a whole different type of unknown.