Dealing with difficult people

When I was taking karate with my son many years ago, I remember our Sensei telling us that the best response to a blow coming at you is not to be there. It surprised me at the time and even disappointed me. I was learning all these wonderful self-defense moves and I wanted to be able to use them!  If someone tries to punch you, get out of the way! And so my best advice in dealing with difficult people is to avoid them. Unfortunately this will work in only a small number of cases. Most of the time we cannot avoid these people. We either work with one, are in a social group or organization with one or maybe we are living with one! What do we do?

My second suggestion for those of us who cannot avoid them but who do not see them all the time is to be pleasant but do not engage. Keep your contact minimal. Smile, be respectful but do not go deeper than that, i.e., keep it superficial. Going beyond respectful pleasantries could be a recipe for disaster.

If that won’t work in your particular situation, I’d say this – look for something positive about them (not impossible). Compliment them (sincerely, don’t be fake). Be nice to them and offer to help when appropriate. You may be labeling someone “difficult” who could, with some patience, empathy and understanding on your part, become a friend. Sound incredible? It isn’t. This approach is most desirable if the person plays a significant role in your life.

I have worked with difficult people in the past. Every time I truly believed it would  be resolved as soon as I left that employer. Wrong. There will always be challenging people coming in and out of your life. Get used to it and learn how to cope. Try one of my suggestions depending on the situation. I believe it will make your life less stressful and might even make you a better person. God bless.

Enough!

My father was strict. My mother was a softie. It was a very good balance for me and my sister growing up, but my father dominated the household. If you misbehaved, it wouldn’t take long for the you-know-what to hit the fan. Those sixty seconds before getting spanked were horrifying. So the last thing in the world I wanted to do was make Daddy mad. And so I tried to make sure he was happy with me at all times. This turned me into a people pleaser as an adult. I enjoy making people feel good and keeping things peaceful. Don’t get me wrong. I have learned to confront when necessary; but it is not my favorite thing to do.

Because this is my nature,  I am prone to help when called upon.  Recently that situation came up at the barn (it seems like everything comes up at the barn) which is still ongoing. I have offered my assistance temporarily (6-8 weeks – we’re at week 5) which means more work for me and longer hours there. Initially it was novel and even fun. Now it feels more like work and I am beginning to resent the other person who agreed to share who isn’t. I am spending more hours there than I want to. I am exhausted when I get home and the other-than-barn duties I have are being ignored. I found myself getting irritable and upset enough to keep me awake in the middle of the night. I worried that I might be expected to carry on with these extra duties after the 6-8 weeks are over. No! I heard myself saying. Enough is enough!

I confronted. I was assured that the extra tasks are temporary and concessions can be made to reduce the amount of time I have to be there. Whew! A lot of the problem was in my head. That is not a rarity.

Sometimes people pleasers reach their tipping point. That’s what happened to me. Instead of being in a loving frame of mind I was becoming more grouchy. I knew something had to give. I stopped feeling generous and started feeling resentful. This can happen in a relationship and often does. One partner is not pulling his or her weight. The other person, initially being considerate and caring, slowly feels put upon and resentful. They may not want to confront their partner.  What happens then is that little things start irritating them and small fights break out. The fights seems to be over the little things but actually the culprit is the bigger issue of resentment.  Not good. Communication up front is so important. Your partner may not even realize they are taking advantage of your good nature. Talk to them before the situation builds to a huge fight and a confused partner watches you walk out the door. Deer in the headlights moment for sure.

I feel much better now that I have spoken out about what was bothering me. Years ago I would try to hold it in and tell myself I need to be kinder and less selfish. That doesn’t work so don’t even try it. Have a conversation. Lay it all out there but do not be angry and disrespectful when you speak out.  This is an opportunity for growth and understanding and that is a good thing. When it’s time to say “Enough!” say it!  God bless.

 

Rain, Rain, go away and other thoughts

Some day we might move to Portland, Oregon where it rains a lot. But we are currently living in Southern California, where it hardly ever rains. Wait a minute, where am I?

Don’t get me wrong. I love the rain, mostly. But right now I have two good reasons for not enjoying it. First reason:  My roof leaks, even though we just had it fixed. Well, we thought we just had it fixed.  I don’t know what the next step should be. Bring the same guy back who didn’t fix it and have him try again? Or hire someone new who will probably charge more?

Second reason: Although we probably have the best arena within a ten mile radius when it comes to drainage, the longer it rains, the sloppier it gets. And then there are the turnouts (3). They can remain unusable for days. If the footing at the barn isn’t good, we can’t even walk our horses. Although I have a slight advantage here. My horse is in a box stall at the top of a hill. The area in front of her stall is covered and therefore dry. There are four stalls in a row. I can do “laps” with her, back and forth in front of the four stalls and if it isn’t raining, we can go beyond her stall to the cross-ties and even as far as the wash stand (all uncovered). We generally do 25 laps. She’s a very good girl when we do this although she gets bored (so do I). At least it gets her out and moving. It’s not good for horses to stay stall bound for too long. I never leave her in her stall longer than one day.

Those are the issues I face today, vis a vis the rain. There are more serious matters at hand but I am trying not to be consumed by them. What do you do when things are bothering you? When they occupy your mind more than anything else? When you have to fight off the negative imaginings that flood your brain? My father used to tell me your worst fears never happen. I suppose for the most part that’s true. But what if? How do you cope with pressing concerns, fear of the unknown or life’s proverbial twists and turns?

I used to worry about it until it got better or at least got resolved. I lost sleep and remained unfocused during conversations with friends and family. To what end? Did it alter the outcome? No. Did it hurt me more than help me? Yes!

Now that I am a Christian, I know what I should do. Give it to God. Why is that so difficult? Because, if you are like me, you feel the very deep need to control the situation, to find the answers, to “fix” whatever it is you think needs fixing, even if “whatever it is” is a person. We can’t control others. It never works. I’ve tried. I can only control me, and sometimes my horse.

The simple answer is to give all my worries to God. To realize that He is in charge, not me. That things will turn out the way they will turn out. My power lives in how I deal with the outcome.

Trust God to get you though the tough times, especially if the tough times involve worrying about someone else. Remember that what looks like a bad situation often turns out to be for the best. Everything happens for a reason and we aren’t privy to the reason in the beginning. Have faith. Pray and believe – my new mantra. God bless.

I don’t wanna!

It’s 10:00 am. I’m getting ready to leave the house, go to the barn and do lots of extra work, in addition to riding my horse (the fun part). I push myself out the door, get into my car and off I go. Inside my head as I review the day before me, I hear a little voice screaming, “But I don’t wanna!”

A few minutes go by during which I ask myself if there is any way out it. Nope! Then shape up woman! Put on your big girl pants and go with a happy heart, not a sour face. And so I did. And the time went by and it was good.

There is a nasty “devil” on my shoulder lately who pushes me toward doing nothing, toward laziness, to staying in my comfort zone and living my day out in the fetal position. Really? Is it merely the result of getting older? But I’m not that old! I have to fight it. I’ll certainly not give in.

I look for other areas in my life where “I don’t wanna” whispers in my ear. “I don’t wanna make dinner.” “I don’t wanna clean up the kitchen.” ” I don’t wanna exercise.”  “I don’t wanna make big decisions right now.”

Maybe this is normal but I don’t like it. I’m not used to non-action. I’m used to doing the work and then doing the relaxation. First the work and then the rest, always. It’s my m.o.

Maybe it’s a phase…. No. I don’t think so. Perhaps it’s the result of me relaxing more and working less. Am I settling too much into retirement? Get off the couch, Sarah! Be productive!

Can you relate? Is it age? Laziness? Fear of leaving my comfort zone? Inertia? I say do what you need to do and then relax. Don’t feel guilty, especially if you are retired and have “earned” your couch sitting time.

Try asking yourself where it is coming from. Maybe you have been overdoing and need a break. That’s justifiable. Perhaps you have given in too much lately to doing nothing and it is becoming a habit, a pleasant habit. If it is seriously messing with your life and you don’t like it, push yourself to do something and then something else. Slowly but surely you will get back into your old routine of action and feel more in control. The lack of a rigid schedule (which is what happens in retirement) makes it that much more challenging. I went through this shortly after I quit working. Why is it coming back now?

My plan is that most of the time I will challenge the “I don’t wanna” voice inside my head. And occasionally, but rarely, I will let it win. :))

NYR’s

It’s the end of another year. Time to think about what you did well and what you would rather forget. Then make plans/promises/commitments to do it better next year. Clean slate. Usually your new year’s resolutions are things you want to do more or less of. How about something completely different? Something you didn’t do in 2016 but might want to try in 2017?

I have come up with a list of fifty-two things you might want to consider. I’m sure you are already doing some of them. You might want to try some new ones. Maybe take one or two each week and practice them. See if it’s a good fit for you. See if it changes your life for the better. Isn’t that the goal of a new year’s resolution? To make you a better human being overall? Give this list a try. I’ll bet you can come up with some really good ones that I didn’t think of. Add them on.  And have a safe and Happy New Year!  :))

The most common:

  • Eat healthier
  • Lose weight
  • Stop smoking
  • Quit drinking (alcohol, soda)
  • Exercise more

Action:

  • Dance
  • Paint/Draw/Write/Create!
  • Work less, play more
  • Listen more, talk less
  • Take more risks
  • Embrace your inner lion
  • Share your story
  • Hug someone every day
  • Learn something new
  • Find a cause and serve/donate
  • Help others

More Personal:

  • Keep your perspective
  • Maintain a good attitude
  • Breathe deeply
  • Put God first
  • Put yourself second, or third
  • Be the light
  • Find joy and wonder like you did as a child
  • Believe in the impossible
  • Be thankful
  • Choose to be happy
  • Read God’s word
  • Tithe
  • Be kind
  • Be gracious
  • Leave people feeling better about themselves
  • Make time for yourself
  • Find a way to reinvent yourself
  • Conquer your fears
  • Think outside the box – over and over again.
  • Get out of your comfort zone regularly
  • Challenge yourself

Things to stop

  • Stop complaining
  • Stop judging others
  • Stop comparing yourself to others
  • Stop gossiping
  • Stop listening to your inner negative voice
  • Stop procrastinating
  • Stop immersing yourself in electronic devices. Be with people!
  • Stop getting caught up in earthly treasures, i.e. material things

Things to do more of:

  • Save money
  • Read more, watch less television
  • Love more
  • Give more, take less
  • Laugh more
  • Smile more
  • Pray more

 

 

Seek ye first the kingdom

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.   Matthew 6:33

I open my eyes and automatically look at the ceiling to see the time. (We have a projection clock that shows the time and temperature.) That’s funny, I can’t see it. Maybe Bill turned it off. I glance over at the actual clock on his night stand. I notice that the projection piece that points upward is still in position which tells me that Bill has not touched it. Then I notice that the fan is not running either. (white noise)

I get up to turn on the light. We have no electricity! There is a storm outside which provides me with an immediate explanation. I leave the bedroom and go into the entryway where last night I prepared my desk for the inevitable leaks from the ceiling. The bucket I had placed on top of it now contains almost a full cup of water. Areas that I did not cover are wet. Not good for wood. I start to feel stress and anxiety.

I continue into the living room and see that a new leak has soaked the large comforter we had on the couch as well as two throw pillows. HELP!

I try calling Bill who is running an estate sale an hour away.  No answer. I try three different times. On the fourth try, he responds. I blurt out everything. I am looking for sympathy and comfort. Didn’t get it. He is upset that the roof is leaking again but doesn’t want me to think he is going to shell out thousands to fix it. I hear the frustration and anger in his voice. We hang up. That went well.

I call SDG&E. Their recording tells me that the estimated time for getting the electricity back is 11 am. It is now 9 something. Great, that means I get to put in my contacts in semi-darkness! This is turning out to be a wonderful day!

What has this got to do with Jesus and putting the kingdom first? Everything! I am not a bible scholar, nor have I been a Christian all my life, (although in my heart it feels that way.) so when I attempt to interpret God’s word, it is me talking, not an expert. This is how I see it, coming from my Christian infancy. Seek God first – in everything you do, in your thoughts, in your actions, in how you interact with people. Start with God, every day.

Yesterday, when all of this happened, I remembered that biblical passage. I stopped for a moment and reflected on it. I gave in to God. I released the stress and anxiety, offering them to Him. He accepted. I began to feel peace replacing the stress. It was right after that I turned on the closet light (habit) and it came on! It was only 10 0’clock, not 11! Yay!

I had a shift in my attitude. I was suddenly okay with the issues at hand. Granted, they weren’t earth-shattering but rain coming into my house hits a nerve with me, left over from my Portland days when our house flooded three times in less than a year.

Put God first and let everything else fall where it may. Make Him more important in your life than anyone or anything else.  He’s got this. He’s got you. It reminds me how my dad used to hold my back in the pool while teaching me to float. “I’ve got you,” he would say. Yeah, like that.  God bless.

Silent Night

Silent Night                                                                                                                                                            Holy Night                                                                                                                                                                All is calm                                                                                                                                                                   All is bright…

In the madness of the season, in the frenetic atmosphere that surrounds us, be still. Close your eyes and breathe deeply. Remember a scene from the past. A baby in a manger, thousands of miles away from where you are now, thousands of days and millions of hours away. Focus on that scene and put aside all the craziness.

Silent Night has always been one of my favorite carols. It has a serenity about it. It takes me away from this world and changes my focus. Each one of us has our own unique life with its  distractions, worries, even sadness. No one is immune. This time of year can be especially difficult for some. Try setting aside the pain and the heartache for just a moment. Go back in time and imagine yourself with Joseph and Mary. Be at peace. Be in awe. Feel the blessing of the event, the powerful meaning of it all. For just a moment, allow yourself to be away from this world. Enjoy the silence, the silent night.

I am in a pretty good place right now. That is not to say without worry or stress. They are very much with me and my family at the moment. There are so many people in the world who have problems far greater than mine or yours. We pray for them. How do we experience the joy of the season while in the midst of worry? How do we celebrate when it doesn’t feel like a celebration is warranted? We remember that night and we reflect on how it changed the world. How He changed the world. It is in that memory that we find peace.

There will be many moments, possibly days during this season when you are feeling overwhelmed. Stop, close your eyes, take a deep breath and remember why we celebrate. It’s not because we found the best deals at the mall or online. It’s not because we had enough money this year to buy everyone a gift. As important as it is, it’s not even the look on a child’s face as he opens that special present you purchased. It is the birth of Christ and how it impacts our lives today. How we are blessed and even cherished because of Him. How our lives may be at times sorrowful, painful, hopeless, and yet He is always with us. We are never alone.

Feel His presence when you are in the crowded mall, sitting in holiday traffic or trying to get it all done on time. Take a moment. Go to Bethlehem and remember.  God bless. Merry Christmas!

Sweet child o’ mine

Guns N’ Roses, 1988. One of my favorite songs. But not the topic of this conversation. I’m thinking about my children, one especially. He is going through a difficult time right now and I am on the outside looking in, with pain in my heart. It has been said that a mother is only as happy as her least happy child. Do you believe that? I do. I know it viscerally. Do all mothers feel that way? What about fathers?

The hard lesson for me is to stay out of it. I know that I must, even if everything in my being is telling me to butt in and give advice – all the life lessons I’ve learned, even though some may not apply. I have done this in the past, on more than one occasion. But now it has become very clear that unless asked, I need to keep quiet. Only speak when spoken to. And pray. That I can do, all day long.

I think back to when I had problems as a wife and mother when my parents were still alive. Guess what? They never offered advice, only if I asked for it. They let me find my own way, even if I messed up, stumbled or fell on my face. They would be there to offer a hand but that was it. I knew they were always there for me, but they didn’t interfere. That must have been hard for them, especially for my mom. She loved her daughters beyond comprehension.

You get to give your advice, teach all your lessons, tell them everything you know, before they leave the nest.  Once they are gone, you are pretty much restricted to only giving advice when asked for it. I confess, that has not always stopped me. But now I truly believe I have to let them figure out life on their own, as much as that goes against my motherly instincts. How does a child grow, change, become, if you are always there to help them? What happens when you are no longer around? Do they fall apart? I believe it’s called maturity.

And so for all of you mothers or fathers out there who are too involved in your adult children’s lives, try stepping back a little. Let them know you will always be there for them if they need to reach out, but that you trust they will make good choices. And when they don’t make good choices, you trust they will remake them. You raise them well and then you let them go. That’s the hard part. Remember they were loaned to you, not given.

Oh, oh, oh                                                                                                                                                              Sweet child o’ mine                                               

 

Too much Martha, not enough Mary

As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. Her sister Mary sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that mys sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.” But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”  Luke 10:38:42

Which one are you? Are you Martha, consumed by your daily tasks, caught up in the busyness of your life, missing special moments because you are too distracted by what needs to be done? Or are you Mary, confident in the knowledge of what is important, taking time for it, and leaving the “to do” list items for a later time. I confess. I am definitely a Martha. But I am getting better. I was worse in my young adult years. Work always came first before play. As a child I would come home from school, go straight to my room and do my homework, before going outside to be with friends. Weird, right? I did it on my own, not because it was the rule.

As a parent, I think it is most important to listen to, engage with and surrender to the desires of your children when they seek your attention. Don’t be the parent who says, “I can’t right now, sweetheart. I have to clean the house. Then I will play with you.” You may have seen the old commercial where the parent yells out in obvious frustration, “Not now, Jimmy! I’m busy!”

It applies to your spouse and friends as well. What are you going to remember on your deathbed, how you kept the house spotlessly clean, or the times you spent with the people most important to you? Are you going to remember how you always served dinner on time or how much fun you had playing with your children?  How you carved pumpkins with them at Halloween, made Easter eggs in the Spring, acted silly with them, camped out in the living room, ate dessert before dinner? What are the things you will look back on most fondly?

There are times my husband will say, “Come sit with me,” and I will call out from the kitchen, “I will as soon as I finish washing the dishes.” Dishes can wait. Memories need to be made here. People need your attention.

Jesus had it right. Get your priorities straight. Be remembered by your children as the parent who spent time with them, not the parent who was always too busy to do so. Be the friend who gives her most precious commodity, time. Not the one who keeps making excuses because you are just too busy. Don’t fool yourself into thinking they will always be there. They won’t.

Try to be more like Mary. It will ultimately make your life richer and more joyous. God bless.

Apparently tantrums are not just for toddlers!

“Knock it off!” I could feel my blood pressure slowly rising, my face turning red. I was completely exasperated and about to walk away. What was I doing? I was trying to clean the right rear hoof of my horse!

For the last month, out of the blue, my horse won’t let me clean that one foot.  She had her hooves trimmed recently and the farrier had no issues with her. My trainer assures me there is no injury there; she is just playing a game with me. I’m on the fence about that and will check it out if this behavior continues.

I kept pulling up her foot, using different methods and holding onto different parts of her leg. She was determined not to let me clean this hoof. I realized, as I bent my head down for the umpteenth time, that she could easily cold cock me and knock me flat. That was a disturbing thought. As that leg was being pulled from my hand with incredible force, her left hind leg went up in a threatening position.

I was out of breath and out of patience. I gave up and went over to the bench to sit down. I am not one who gets angry often.  I may get mad at circumstances or a person but it is over almost as quickly as it began. This was different. This was anger. As I was sitting on the bench, I began talking to her. “Do you know how much money I would save every month if I didn’t have a horse? A lot!” I heard myself say these words and I cringed inside. I felt mean and angry and I wanted a divorce.

I put her away and left, without saying a word. And then I got depressed. I left the barn defeated and miserable. Who was the loser here? My horse? I don’t think so. She was probably feeling pretty good. After all, she won, right? I was the loser, the one who would suffer for hours afterward. I felt lousy.

My point here is not that I got angry with my horse. My point is that it served no purpose and it ruined my day. Yesterday was my day to ride alone. I had come up with some ideas of how to get her to let me clean that hoof but I was afraid that if I failed,  I would get angry/mean/depressed again. I chose not to  try. I saddled her up and we had a great ride in the arena, practicing some skills my trainer had shown me the day before. I was determined to leave the barn happy this time. Nothing was going to ruin it,  not even my horse’s stubbornness. I was sweet to her and even apologized for being so mean. I’m pretty sure she forgave me.

My trainer is going to work with her to figure out the hoof problem. I am going to remain calm about it and try what she suggests. I will not let this get the better of me and I will not sell my horse! As I left the barn yesterday it hit me how important attitude is and how connected it is to your happiness. They are inextricably linked. Yesterday I changed my attitude, let go of the issue I was having with my horse and decided to have a good ride. And voila! I did. I left the barn feeling elated, the way you should feel after a ride. Not depressed.

Lesson here? When you find yourself losing it, give yourself a time out and get your mind straight. Don’t let things escalate the way I did, which left me feeling undone. Catch it early. Walk away for a few minutes. Regain your perspective. Get back on track and allow yourself to feel calm and more in control. Take a deep breath and let it go. Choose to be happy!  :))