Category Archives: Friendship

I Challenge You to be Respectful in the Face of Conflict


Did you know that it’s possible to be friends and/or maintain positive connections with someone even when you fundamentally disagree with each other about how to do life? If you’re friends or colleagues who keep in touch outside of the work place/space, then there must be something you like or admire about each other. Perhaps you like their ability to tell a story if they’re an author or perhaps you like their sense of humor or you admire their experiences or their ability to see the good in everything.

These are all reasons why I have rarely ever unfriended or unfollowed anyone on social media, and why I’m careful about who I do friend or follow. About half of my social media contacts are colleagues in the literary and/or academic fields, and in the ideals most important to me – Faith, lifestyle, fundamental freedoms, and yes, even politics – we rarely see eye-to-eye.

But that isn’t reason enough to turn my back on them. I love the diversity – intellectual, physical, spiritual, emotional – of my friends, family and colleagues. I don’t seek to agree on every topic with all of my connections. That would be disastrous to my growth as a person of intelligence and reason. People who seek to befriend and network only with those who agree with them are severely shortsighted and, dare I say, foolish. I’ve been persecuted and denied for my beliefs and opinions, and refuse to do that to others, as long as we’re able to preserve a mutually respectful connection. I maintain constant vigil on my conversations to ensure that I remain respectful, even in the face of disagreement.

I did recently unfriend someone on Facebook and unfollow another person on Twitter. The former Facebook friend is someone I know in real life, someone who’s company and conversation I’ve enjoyed on multiple occasions. What I couldn’t stomach and refused to make excuses for any longer was their constant disrespect and vitriol (talk about hate speech) toward my conservative friends. All of whom I’ve known longer than this individual. It got to the point that some people were questioning whether they should unfriend ME because of this person. Which quickly raised my anxiety level. I made the decision to unfriend this person for my sanity and to save my other connections; one person wasn’t worth further endangering my established network.

I don’t have a problem with debate and disagreement, especially when I’ve posted something encouraging it on my page, but I DO have a problem when you can’t keep a civil tongue in your head, and post a hateful, mean-spirited word vomit on my page. Especially when said words are uttered (or written) by someone who is supposed to be mature. An adult. At least according to their chronological age. If nothing else, dealing with people should teach you that you draw more bees with honey (respect will get you further than truculence).

To me, descent into name calling and hurling insults is something that we learn to rein in somewhere about the time we graduate from high school and realize that the rest of the world doesn’t operate that way. Or it shouldn’t, anyway…as our minds and bodies mature, so should our conversation and ability to disagree or debate with courtesy and civility.

The person I unfollowed on Twitter is an author I’ve followed for years. Someone who’s books I’ve read for years. I will probably continue to read their books. But their constant foul-mouthed and hateful comments against the current presidential administration – and that’s ALL they have been tweeting about lately – were triggering. This person has the absolute right to think, feel and say whatever they want, just as I have the absolute right to unfollow them so their vitriol won’t continue to blow up my Twitter feed and make the blood vessels in my eyes burst.

Here’s what I believe – what I’ve always believed (well, at least since I hit mid-twenties and actually began to THINK and not just ACT or REACT) – and have found to be true in 8 out of 10 cases (because there are always those who cannot sustain a relationship when they disagree on fundamentals). Treat others the way you want to be treated. AKA: The Golden Rule. And it IS golden. That’s it. Well, with a healthy dose of humor thrown in for good measure. That’s the secret to gaining and maintaining friendships and connections across dissenting views on lifestyle, religion and politics.

No matter how my connections respond – whether they love me or hate me, or something in between – I have to stay sane, be true to myself, be able to look at my reflection in the mirror every morning and every night. I have to be able to sleep at night and wake in the morning. I have to be able to meet my Maker with a clear conscience. Treating others the way I wish to be treated, with a side of humor, even – maybe especially – when we disagree, ensures that I can do all of those things.

Everyone has something to give. Everyone is unique. Everyone has something about them that makes them special. Everyone has a story to tell. I encourage you – I CHALLENGE YOU – to focus on those things, the qualities you first admired most about them, and let the rest go.

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Filed under Anxiety, Friendship, How To, Humor, Life, Mental Health, Musings, Real Life, Relationships, Stuff, writer

Don’t be Quick to Accuse; Research First


 

Photo by Alex Iby on Unsplash

 

Jumping to conclusions is, I believe, part of being human. However, this doesn’t mean that you need to RESPOND with that jump to conclusion without doing your homework first to be sure that your “jump” isn’t going to land you in quicksand.

Don’t be so quick to make accusations without researching a problem, issue or situation and gathering all the information you can to make an informed, adult decision – and therefore, appropriate response. By making accusations and judgment calls instead of asking questions and seeking evidence, you may damage or even destroy a relationship, whether personal or professional. And along with that, the level of trust that existed in that relationship may be difficult to regain.

Now, people who know me well may say that I’m the pot calling the kettle black. But if those same people are paying close enough attention, they’ll realize that in most cases, I don’t just throw out accusations or spout off without doing some thinking and research first. When I DO respond to a person, or situation, it’s with some facts to back up my position.

I have a temper, and historically, have been quick to judge and offer my often unsolicited opinion (well, I still do that, but it’s usually from a place of experience and knowledge instead of just wanting to hear the sound of my own voice). I also am about as far from “politically correct” (an oxymoron, if I’ve ever heard one) as you can get and still be somewhere in the realm of “tact.” In the past few years though, I’ve been striving more to consider the thoughts and feelings of my fellow humans (you’re welcome), by applying The Golden Rule to my responses and opinions.

In case you’ve forgotten the meaning of The Golden Rule, it’s simply this: to treat others the way you wish to be treated.

Here are a few things that I’ve learned to employ that help me with this:

  • I write out my “rant,” either in the notes on my iPhone or in a Word doc on my computer. This helps me word vomit my feelings and jumps to conclusions without need for editing or considering how harsh or sarcastic my language. I know that THIS version will NOT be shared with anyone, so I’m free to be my most instinctive self in this medium.
  • I pray about it. I know that praying should be first, and quite often it is, but there are times that I’m so angry or so hurt or offended that my default engages…my default is to write. So often I pray while I’m word vomiting. Whichever comes first, I usually do both.
  • I “vent” to my mother. Sometimes this venting session is immediate, sometimes it’s after the word vomit, if I need a voice of wisdom. I thank God daily for my mother! She’s been my sounding board for years, and I trust her more than any other human on earth.
  • If there is research to be conducted or education to be obtained (the issue is political or religious or scientific or some such), then I research multiple sources across the spectrum so that I at least have an idea of what I’m talking about. If there is no research to be gathered (it’s a personality conflict or difference of personal opinion with a co-worker or a friend, etc.), then after the word vomit, praying, and sometimes after the venting session to my mother, I’ll sleep on it.

I’ve discovered that all of this is important to my mental health. Recently I’ve discovered that if I don’t set boundaries with people, when my knowledge and experience are challenged (I don’t mean that people are asking my qualifications, I mean they are flat-out accusatory or demanding something I’ve already stated is either beyond my abilities, or impossible within a certain timeframe), I experience mini panic attacks. I HATE panic attacks! And the more birthdays I have, the more often these mini panic attacks happen if I don’t set proper boundaries. Therefore, the older I get, the less nonsense (“nonsense” as defined by me) I’m willing to put up with, the less compassion and tolerance I have for peoples’ drama (“drama” also as defined by me), and the more bridges I’m willing to burn.

These are all reasons WHY I employ the above steps before responding in most situations. As much as my knee-jerk reaction is to flood my social media and text messaging with hurricanes of sarcasm, virtually burn bridges both personally and professionally, the part of me that’s still in touch with reality in those moments realizes that by giving into those thoughtless reactions, I will end up marring my integrity and (mostly) good reputation. And my integrity and spiritual and mental health are more important than the momentary satisfaction that comes from a hurricane of sarcasm.

 

How about you? What methods do you use to avoid knee-jerk responses and less-than-thought-out reactions on social media or in private emails or text messages?

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Filed under Anxiety, Emotion, Family, Friendship, How To, Life, Mental Health, Real Life, Relationships, Research, Sarcasm, Writing

It’s the Most Magical Time of the Year…and Depression


Photo Source: Unsplash.com/Ben White

Photo Source: Unsplash.com/Ben White

The Holiday Season. Winter. Christmastime, Winter Solstice, Hanukkah, Boxing Day, Kwanzaa, New Year’s. All of it. It’s here again (or will be within weeks).

People are stringing lights across the eaves of their houses, smothering their front yard bushes and trees under ropes of brilliant bulbs of color, tiny fairy lights and large luminosities of red and green, Nativity scenes and Menorahs. Stockings are hung from the mantle or the chimney (or from stocking holders placed on shelves if you live in South Florida, because we don’t have mantles and chimneys), toy trains and holiday villages brighten up hallways and front rooms while trees sparkle and bow beneath their weight of lights, tinsel and decorations. Ugly Christmas and Holiday sweaters make their limited engagement appearances. Millions flock to Walt Disney World for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, Holidays Around the World, and festive dining experiences.

It’s the most magical time of the year.

It’s my favorite time of the year. From the day after Thanksgiving (when I begin playing Christmas music) until Christmas night, those glorious, wonderful 31 days are when I’m happiest, each year. Attempting once again (and probably once again, failing) to compose and send out cards to those who are special to me, letting them know I’m thinking of them – all year long, but especially now – by the 2nd week of December. Searching for the best bargains on items from family members’ Christmas lists so I won’t go broke…again…

Christmas parties and luncheons, the annual church Christmas concert and children’s drama that always surprises and delights. The joy of finding that special gift for a member of my family, or a friend; imagining the pleasure on their faces when they open those gifts I’ve painstakingly wrapped in beautiful paper and ribbon. Decorating the tree while watching Christmas movies. And the Christmas movies! There are new ones each year to enjoy and ones from years gone by that have become favorites.

All of this I look forward to each year. Something magical about peace on earth, good will toward men.

But there’s a dark side.

These 31 days are also some of the most depressing days of the year for me and so many other people living with depression. There’s a bitter-sweetness to the celebrating and expressions of love and joy. Perhaps it’s because we struggle to feel the same wonder and carefree happiness that so maafter-the-new-year-graphicny others seem to feel; perhaps it’s because we feel a lack within ourselves – a lack of family or friends or significant other(s), someone with whom to share the joy; or perhaps it’s because there lurks beneath it all the understanding that this won’t last; after the New Year, most of us will go back to our everyday lives that magic never touches, good will and peace will be left at the curb with our dead and dying trees, and churlishness will accompany the deconstruction of all those pretty lights, trains and holiday villages. Back in the boxes, sheds and attics go our decorations and ugly holiday sweaters – at least the ones that survived kittens and puppies and toddlers – to save for next season. And so, apparently, do our belief in magic, joy and goodwill toward our neighbors. (Now THAT’S a depression thought.)

That’s part of it, sure. But for me, another part of the depression is old-fashioned self-pity. I’m single (not alone, because I have family and good friends nearby, but single…there’s a difference, you know). For someone like me, a romantic who dives into Christmas/holiday stories and movies (almost all of which end in some form of Happily Ever After, aka HEA), and watches – teary-eyed – all of the Christmas commercials about family and love, being single at Christmastime is downright depressing at times. Especially this year. Why is this year different? Well, 3 young couples with whom I am friends got married this year. I’ve been privileged to watch ALL 3 romances begin and grow over the past few years, and to see them each begin their own HEA in holy matrimony, and watch them begin their lives together…well, it’s bittersweet. Also, perimenopause is rearing its uncomfortable, heightened estrogen, emotional trainwreck, night sweat-slicked head. And, no sex. Also, no snow. 😦

Changing things up.

So while this most magical time of year is my favorite…and I suffer depression more acutely at Christmastime than any other, I’ve changed things up a bit this year, to see if perhaps I can survive the rest of this year less depressed:

  • I’ve not picked up one Christmas romance novel; instead, I’m reading the final book in an epic fantasy series (The Faithful and the Fallen series by UK author John Gwynne). I might be depressed at the end of the book, but I’m pretty sure it’ll be because the series is finished and not because I’m still single.
  • I’m gathering all of my tax documents – medical bill payments, copays, charitable donations, etc. – updating my writing and editing income and expenses spreadsheet so I’ll be ready – early – for tax time.
  • Keeping an eagle eye on my finances so I’ll be able to afford a nice birthday shin-dig for my son when he turns 16 (!!!!!!!!!!) in January.
  • Making a plan (which includes pep-talks at myself) for exercise, healthy eating and a little weight loss after the holidays (I’m soooo not into depriving myself of all the holiday goodies), so I will have enough energy to enjoy myself on my planned birthday trip to Disney World mid-February, and look good while I’m there! 🙂
  • Taking a little time each day to thank God for His blessings, and reflect upon all of the successes in my life (such as letting my son live another year – that’s a big one!).

So while this most magical time of year often means a deeper struggle with depression for me, I’m determined to enjoy the holidays with family and friends, revel in my independence and strength as a woman, and not dwell on the tiny, rather insignificant fact that I am single.

How about you? Is this your favorite time of year, and/or do you find yourself more depressed during the holiday season than any other time of year? If so, why?

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Filed under Depression, Disney, Emotion, Event, Family, Friendship, Holidays, Humor, Life, Mental Health, Musings, Real Life, Relationships, Romance, Thankful