Sunday, June 15, 2008

Somtimes ya gotta hurt feelings

The number one value in my family is compassion--compassion for ourselves, each other, and for those we don't know. That means many things.
1. Forgive yourself. We often make mistakes and the hardest part of making a mistake is forgiving yourself, but you have to do it.
2. Forgive your family. Sometimes we can't understand a person's unique point of view, but when it is your family you must try. If someone is having a bad day or a bad experience, be supportive and forgive their attitude or sadness.
3. Give people the benefit of the doubt. For example, if someone cuts you off in traffic, why get road rage? Instead remember that you have probably cut someone off before. Maybe that person is in a bad place or having a crisis or maybe they just made an honest mistake.

Given all of this, sometimes you have to hurt people's feelings. This is especially hard for me because I try to have compassion for people in every situation. I was thinking about this after reading an article on MSNBC on preemie births. I was reminded of the first time my oldest daughter got really sick. My daughter has struggled with some fairly serious health problems that doctors have attributed to "an otherwise unspecified immune deficiency." Basically that means that she has a compromised immune system and no one is really sure why. She has since outgrown this condition, but when she was younger, she really suffered.
The first time she got severely ill, she was five months old. I was moving into a new apartment, and she hadn't been feeling well all day, but in the hustle and bustle of moving, we gave her Tylenol and didn't give it much thought--after all, kids do get sick. After we had finished up for the day, we started noticing that she was really lethargic, and being a young, first-time mother, I freaked out. We took her to the hospital on the corner. The emergency room nurse took her temperature in her ear and told me is was 102 degrees and the doctor would be in to see us shortly. Well as time past, she seemed to be sicker and sicker and I was questioning the temperature reading. I went out and nicely asked the nurse for a recheck, but she told me there was no need, and I trusted her--after all she was a nurse. But after sitting there for several hours, I knew something was wrong and asked the nurse to please come check again. Well, she relented and came in. Her fever was now 106.5 and she was septic. She was sent in an ambulance to the nearest children's hospital and it was touch and go for several weeks. I always wished I would have stood up to that nurse, but I didn't want to make it seem like I didn't trust her or understand that she was the expert.
Well after several more hospitalizations, when my daughter turned 18 months old, she had another crisis. Again, they took her temperature in the ear, and said it was nothing to worry about. Again, I knew this was something far more serious. We sat in the lobby for a little while, but I knew that I had to do something this time. Again, armed with my compassion, I asked the nurse nicely to recheck her because I knew something was wrong, but she refused because she was a nurse and she knew better. So, I had to hurt her feelings, and I called a patient advocate at midnight. I didn't care if I hurt her feelings or not or if I woke someone up. My child was sick. Guess what? She had bacterial spinal meningitis and was patient zero in an outbreak. One of the children in the emergency room who had a broken arm actually contracted it. I am glad that I spoke up and did the right thing even though it hurt someone's feelings because it was the right thing to do and probably saved more people from contracting it.
When I called the patient advocate, that nurse was on fire. She treated us horribly and said something about me being a hypochondriac parent and she didn't have time to deal with me. After my daughter was in the hospital for a few days, that nurse came an apologized to me. Maggie almost died. In fact, we were told to prepare ourselves. She pulled through, and I have been forever grateful that I was nasty with that nurse.
The point is that sometimes, compassion just won't work and you have to stand up for what is right even at the expense of others' feelings.
But how do you decide? Well, it is an individual decision, but here are some of my guidelines.
1. Is this an important issue--For example, are you trying to right a wrong. Did your cellphone company really screw you up and now you are trying to fix it, etc. Then yes, you need to stick up for yourself. Compassion is not about being a doormat.
2. Never be mean. You can always accomplish your goal without resorting to eighth grade name calling. There are always avenues to solve your problem. In my example, I used a patient advocate. In different situations maybe you need to speak to a manager or owner or possible contact the better business bureau.
3. Have your ducks in a row. If you are going to challenge someone, make sure you have all your facts and figures together. If you are calling someone out, you want to make sure that you are right.
4. Sometimes people need to know that they are wrong. We all hate to be wrong. We all hate to look foolish or incompetent, but sometimes we all are. It is not a unique experience to be wrong or to do a poor job on something. So, sometimes we need to correct that wrong. As you know, probably from experience, when someone points out that you are wrong--man does it hurt your feelings. So, naturally, when you point out someone else's faults, their feelings are going to be hurt, but maybe it will make them a better person, especially if you do it in the right way.

Remember be kind, be compassionate, but don't be a doormat.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Little Dog . . . Found

A few weeks ago we found this lovely white Shepard at my parent's house. She was playful and sweet, and you could tell someone had really loved this dog. We tried to ignore her and send her on her way, but she just kept hanging around.
Finally, my husband broke down and decided to bring her home. Well, I called the Humane Society, scoured the newspapers, looked for signs, and there was NOTHING. We assumed that she was truly a little dog lost. With wide and welcoming arms we brought her into our family. We had her sleep next to us, we took her to the groomers, the kids walked her, we really enjoyed having her around.
We just knew that we would never find her owners, and so, we took on the role of owner and really fell in love with this dog. For those of you who have pets, you know they really become part of the family.
Then the unimaginable happened. My daughter saw a sign for a lost dog. The picture was of our dog! My eldest daughter immediately let me know about the poster and how we should return the dog. I have to admit, for a few minutes, I actually considered not calling. My daughter, of course, thought we should "do the right thing." My middle daughter, on the other hand, said, "right thing? who cares about the right thing?" This perfectly highlights what was going on in my head. On the one hand loomed this great "right thing." But on the other hand was the very real to me reality that I loved this dog and considered her to be part of our family.
After all, the owners of the dog were strangers. I had never seen them before. I had no idea who they were. And, they had let the dog get lost. Maybe she was better off with me.
I think many of us go through life with this mask on. We don't know that stranger. We have no intimate knowledge of their feelings and we are only aware of our feelings. Since our feelings are more real to us, we tend to think about our own feelings almost to the exclusive exclusion of other people's feelings.
So what did I do with the dog? I called the real owner. When the nice couple showed up at our house to pick up the dog, I knew that they loved her and had missed her terribly. It was hard, but because I considered how worried and upset the real owners must be, I knew I needed to call them and give them their little dog back. Of course, they offered a reward, but we didn't take it. Knowing we had done the right thing was enough.
We had done the right thing because we considered the feelings of others above our own selfish feelings. You know what? That felt better than keeping the dog ever could have. Now she is frolicking in someone else's yard--happy as a clam and loved.
This was a great lesson in how giving sympathy and compassion to others can help us love ourselves. You release your selfishness and you release an inner angst. Trust me, when you think of others and show compassion and do the right thing, you win in the end.
Till next time . . . live, eat, and be well.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Can we have another topic please?

I (heart) self esteem! But, as promised, each month we are going to explore a new topic. I had planned on talking bunches more about meditation this month, but unfortunately I still don't have my audio issues at home worked out.
So, instead, I want to focus this month on "doing the right thing." I could call it compassion for others or having fortitude, but when it comes down to it, our lives are a series of moments that are strung together by what we choose to do when no one is looking. How we behave when we don't have to do the right thing, but we do anyway.
Now, I am not trying to get all moral on you. I may discuss my morals in the process of giving examples, but understand, that doing the right thing does not mean that I am trying to impart my personal morals on anyone. Rather, I want to share with you my journey to finding the strength inside to do what I know I should.

See ya tomorrow for our first doing the right thing post.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Love yourself--Half the Battle Exercise #3

Hello friends and readers. Today, we are going to start on exercise three. Now, we have already really gotten a good start on this one. First, I want you to take out that list we made awhile ago. You remember. The list with things we don't like about ourselves. This time, we are going to write the things I do like about myself list. The purpose of this exercise is to see how the good things in us can really address or diminish the bad things.
Step One:
Get out your list and on the flip side start a list of things you do like about yourself. As with the list of things you don't like about yourself, it can be anything.
A sample of my list is as follows:
My eye color.
My hair color.
My compassion for others.
My ability to work quickly.
My desire to do what is right.
Step Two:
Just as in the former list, we are going to divide this list into things that are changeable and things that are not. Now this may seem counterintuitive because we don't really want to change the things we like about ourselves, but these are things we have control over. We can use these traits to improve ourselves, and we can continue to improve these traits. Besides, somethings that are counterintuitive work out just right in the end!
Changeable: My compassion for others, my ability to work quickly, my desire to do what is right.
Unchangeable: My eye color, my hair color.
Step Three:
Pick one thing off your "I don't Like" list and see how you can address it with one of your "I do Like" list items.
My "I don't Like" list contains procrastination. I don't like that I wait until the last minute. But my "I do Like" list contains that I work quickly. Perhaps, I wait until the last minute because I like how working quickly makes me feel. So, how could I take this dislike and address it with my like. Well, this is one I am actually working on right now, so I don't know if it will work, and I may need to come back and modify my approach. But, what I am doing is allotting 15 minutes everyday to work on a project and assigning a certain portion of the project to that 15 minutes (mini-deadlines). This is forcing me to work quickly but at the same time is dealing with my procrastination.

Let's try another. One of my dislikes is that I am overly critical. However, one of my likes is that I am compassionate. After thinking about it, I realize that I am most critical of myself and those I truly care about. It is my desire to see both myself and my friends and family succeed. The criticism could also come from my own insecurities about my station in life or my success compared to others. However, if a person were in need or hurt or acting out, my first response is always to be compassionate. So now, I have started every critical statement I am about to make with "I am compassionate about." For example, the girl up the street from me is missing a tooth. I feel very critical of this because she lives in a beautiful home and should care more about her teeth. However, today when I saw her, I thought, "I am compassionate for this girl because she is probably very embarrassed about her tooth and she may not have access to a dentist or some other health situation may prevent her from addressing it." As soon as I said it, I quit feeling critical of her, and I was able to connect with her on a much better level.

Step Four:

Put this paper in your notebook along with your other self esteem workouts and regularly visit it. Even if you just spend a few minutes reviewing your goals and what you need to work on, it will really pay off in the end.

And remember to Live, eat, and be well.