Thursday, August 28, 2014

I totally deserved that!

Today on talk back there was a debate raging about the idea mooted to legalise marijuana. Of course lots of pros and cons and a fairly balanced number of each.

A man rang in and started down the ''where will it all end'' route.  I rolled my eyes as I listened - yet another old guy complaining about young people and how when he was a teenager there were boundaries, and kids didn't misbehave, and all that other stuff that is completely not true but sounds good when you're a senior looking back with misty eyes on your youth.

But then the host made the comment 'actually I think the question is not whether this should be legal, but why we think it should be - seems we think that everything is a right these days regardless of it's impact on us or society'.

Wow how true is that.  I reckon in the time of my adulthood, we have changed from a society who 'got on'' and did stuff, and wore the consequences of bad decisions, to one that has a complete sense of entitlement, and worse, if it doesn't like the outcome will fight to the death for restitution.  Lose your job? Lodge a personal grievance.  Get a speeding ticket? Send in a dispute.  Unhappy with a product? Take it back to the shop and demand a refund.  Having a tough time in a relationship? Demand change or walk out!

Absolutely there are times when all of these responses are valid or reasonable.  But not ALL the time.  We have become a society who thinks we are the most important person in the universe and everyone else should take that into consideration - or worse, get the heck out of our way so we can charge on through it.  There's no such thing as tough luck any more. Not many people suck up anything.  There are few who would make a life changing compromise if there was an easier option.

It saddens me.  How did we go from being people who gave a damn about others, who didn't think twice about going out of our way for someone, stranger or not.  Who was so appreciative of having a job/wife/new TV/car that to question the validity or quality of these things was not the foremost thing in our minds!?

We are people who think the world owes us a living.  Its a broad generalisation but it's true.  Kids are encouraged to feel a sense of entitlement, and adults just get on and have one.  We DESERVE better. We SHOULDN'T HAVE TO PUT UP WITH THAT. And, the longer we dwell on those thoughts, the stronger they become.  Until reality is untenable at which point we write the letter or make tracks.

I've spent a bit of time of late in this camp.  I didn't deserve that. I TOTALLY didn't deserve THAT! And as for THAT - well frankly I should sue for it. Some of it I didn't. I really didn't.  But some is just life. Other people make decisions that impact on me.  And I can rage and burn all I like, but as long as the rest of the world is going to march on with it's sense of entitlement up high o the flagpole, my feelings won't make a blind bit of difference.  Sad. But a reality.

Yes, often it's true that we get something, experience something that isn't fair, or we really don't deserve.  But often it ain't - and maybe we should spend a little bit more time being grateful for, and gracious with, the things and people in our lives, and a little less time wishing they were better.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Speaking your truth (and other lies)

I was recently part of a discussion about the idea of ''speaking your truth''.  One person said it was vital to authentic living, another felt it was not only unnecessary but also risked being patently unkind. There were examples shared and when I learned what these particular truths were I was deeply saddened. Maybe it is the truth, but it certainly was not kind or loving. In fact it was, in my view simply an opportunity to justify an unkind action, dressed up as 'truth in love'.

I was intrigued...what did this concept of ''speaking truth'' mean? I did lots of reading - and this blog seems to sum up the concept quite well, particularly because it does so without being too ''new agey and spiritual''. I deeply admire people who are ''at one'' with the universe. Who proclaim to live love. Generally they exude a gentleness of spirit that I can only wish for! Perhaps this was the key? I need to 'speak my truth' more?

BUT, the more I read the more uncomfortable I became. And now my issues with speaking ones truth are many. I am absolutely in favour of being honest. I am absolutely convinced that the truth will always out. That's about integrity. Mores the pity more people weren't honest in this world! But I think there is far more to truth and honesty than truth and honesty.

The proponents of this concept (and every single article I read did this) talked a lot about the importance of being true to oneself.  They remind us that to live a lie is ultimately exhausting or worse, destructive. That to speak your truth is the only way to live life in order to be happy and fulfilled and at peace with yourself. They claim often and vehemently that no-one is responsible for the feelings and responses of another, often coupled with an extra disclaimer relating to karma, reminding us that nothing is right or wrong, it just ''is'' and the ''universe'' has its own way of dealing with things.That it is simply the selfishness of those who don't really want 'truth' that leads to pain. That pain is good if it a result of sharing your truth. Moreover, many of the writings reminded me that I should always offer peace and forgiveness to the person I have spoken my truth too.

That all sounds pretty good right?  Speak your truth! Be honest with your feelings! Share love and peace! So far, so good.

Its good to be honest.  It's important not to lie to ourselves. And it can be incredibly painful to self examine! But to think that speaking my truth in some way negates me from being responsible for anothers' feelings is beyond reproach. The line of reasoning saying  ''I am not responsible for their happiness'' is nearly palatable for me. I mostly agree, EXCEPT that saying things, doing things that I KNOW are going to hurt others surely means I need to own those actions?   ''You must speak your truth even if it hurts another'' is not necessarily responsible or the right course of action in my view - it neatly absolves me, the truth speaker, of owning consequence, as I can conveniently reason that the other persons pain is not really my problem. That I am upholding the true principals of love - essentially holding the truth in my hands and sharing it generously with the world.   By including a message of peace and forgiveness I am able to appear calm, centred, caring, when really it is little more than the Irish blessing ''sorry for your troubles''. (Often a  twee and meaningless response that sounds good but really has no depth at all.)

I totally agree that I am not responsible for the reactions of another person. And nor am I able to ultimately decide their actions. If I say something in ''my truth'' that is hurtful they have a choice about how to respond right? Right - except that I believe I am absolutely responsible for the drivel that can come out of my own mouth, and the emotional impact my words can have. (And believe me there's plenty of drivel....)

If I'm asked ''why didn't you employ me'' and my ACTUAL truth is ''you're an emotional wreck and you'll destroy my workplace'', what right do I have to say that!  Sure, it is possible to speak the truth in love (if you want to step even further down the new age path) - I don't think you're suited for this office...but I am yet to see evidence of anyone who subscribes to this way of thinking actually do that. It is claimed that these words are spoken in ''love'' but my experience of this is that actually it is based on the selfishness of the deliverer... and I make this claim because it seems that ''speakings one truth'' rarely relates to being truly mindful of the feelings of another  (one doesn't often hear about how speaking your truth can be uplifting, supportive and kind - its invariably about how to manage sharing negative stuff - or worse, used as a delivery mechanism of sharing opinion and unkind observations in the name of ''love'').

It is also worth nothing that speaking 'your' truth, as the gurus advise, is quite different from speaking ''the'' truth. It's a fine line, I admit, because, after all perception is reality, as these teachers remind us, and we can apparently only act from our own place of truth and honesty.

My post here on my other blog was exactly that.  That was MY truth, I make no excuse for it.   I was true to myself, gently and discreetly. BUT I did not say ''my truth''. I did not say 'I wish you peace''.  I did not say ''the universe will sort this out, one way or another''.  I said, I cannot support this action. There are consequences.  That is all I said. And I stepped away.  I could have not shared that truth.  I chose to and as a result I must own the consequence of sharing that. I lost a friend. More than one.

It seems that speaking your truth gives you licence to step aside from social norms. All the writers tell me so.  In fact, I'd almost go so far to say that the concept ''speaking/living your truth'' risks giving permission to abandon all else in the name of honesty.

I do not believe that we always ''speak our truth'' from a place of true love for others.  We are human and therefore inherently selfish.  I know I have said many things in my life that were hurtful and unkind and I regret that. I certainly will not hide behind those reactions and call them ''speaking my truth'' (although I like the seems rather attractive don't you think?).  Morality - or ones own version of it -  rarely figures. This philosophy of adding on the self righteous claim that our truth will lead to freedom and happiness and oneness is, frankly,  a blatant way of avoiding being responsible for the consequences of this truth. There's a reason I might add 'you can't handle the truth'' during an outburst. Because it's true. And in fact it is probably not my place, I think, to be forcing someone else in a position of having to handle anything because of my own feelings, wants and desires.

You see, for me, speaking ones truth means risking disregarding (or at the very least risking breaking) boundaries. Yes there are times when we have to make hard calls. When we see someone we love self destructing. When we feel ourselves crumbling. But there are times and places when it is better for everyone if we either shut up or step away. I will never accept that we should make ''speaking my truth'' a life's work. To continue speak ''my truth'' to an already hurting person is not loving and is destructive and unnecessary, especially if it was my truth that hurt them in the first place. If it really is THE truth they know it already and don't need to hear it from me, no matter how loving I might think I am being.

So, to all those who claim to want to live by this philosophy I say: sure, speak your truth if that will make you feel better.  But don't think for one minute that speaking it out loud, or acting on it, does not carry consequence. Or that the consequences (including pain inflicted on other people) are not your responsibility.

We speak our truth I think, because it suits our own needs and ends.  We might not admit it but it's true. That's MY truth.

Monday, August 11, 2014

middle class poverty

There's been quite a bit in the media recently about the ''working poor''.  How we have a growing underclass of people in New Zealand who will never be home owners, who live barely about the breadline, drowning in short term debt and heavily reliant on government support or charity to get through the week.  The claim that most people are only 4 weeks away from bankruptcy. The growing numbers of under educated, poorly fed families who are a burden on our tax system.

All of which is probably true - but that's not what this post is about.  The group that has come to my attention lately is not the truly poor, or even the working poor (as they are now known - those who work hard but still have nothing) , but the growing numbers in the middle class who are also barely making ends meet.

Before I got any further, let me say that these observations are in no way meant to ask for pity.  Nor is my intention to induce a flurry of unsympathetic, albeit well meaning , notes of advice.  I'm fully aware that most of the things listed below are ''choices''.  And that the reasons for being middle class and broke are wide and varied -  but seem to me to be largely rooted in ambition.

The middle classes aspire.  They want to give their children the things they never had, or, more often, that they did have - music lessons, Saturday sports, new clothes, experiences.  They want to own decent (read: reliable) vehicles.(which usually then have to be financed, but suggest better value than an old dinger that breaks down constantly).  They generally are homeowners (ergo they have mortgages. And insurance. And rates.)  They are educated (and are still paying off a student loan.  They like the idea of a parent being available to care for children after school, and on sick days, and having someone 'at home'' running a household.  They tend to have 1 1/2 incomes in their house rather than two full time.  They do this because when you run the numbers, it's around the same as working full time and paying for care (and the subsequent headaches that go with school trips, sick days, and so on).  As a result they end up, often, in the Working for Families merry go round - accepting tax relief because in no small part it actually works out more financially beneficial than the second income - and allows the flexibility already mentioned.

And so these families work hard.  They really do.  They pay their taxes, because its fiscally responsible. they pay all their school fees, full Doctors fees, house and vehicle insurance.  They try and keep the car as modern as possible, not because it's a dream car, but because it works out cheaper in the long run.  They buy as good quality food as they can - because they understand about nutrition and so on - but as a result probably spend more than most.  They use people like naturopaths because it seems like the responsible thing to do (but end up spending a heck of a lot more staying well than the person who is broke, gets sick and turns up at A&E every couple of months).  When their kid fails at school they pay for extra tutoring, which isn't covered by school fees because they've chosen to live in a ''good area'' and Decile 9 schools don't include that kind of extra support.  Similarly, they support every kid that comes to the door with a fund raising book.  Every community raffle.  They do the odd charity donation because you never know when you might need that particular cause. They belong to St Johns Ambulance.

And so it goes on.  These are good people. Smart, ambitious, focused, often environmentally aware and socially responsible.  And they are going backwards.


Wednesday, August 06, 2014

integrity don't pay the mortgage

I am lucky enough to be partnered with someone for whom integrity is one of his most valued traits.  It's something we share actually - the importance of doing on the outside what you feel on the inside.  It's led to some interesting conversations about situations we've seen, experienced and (obviously) have strong opinions about.

Integrity is an odd thing.  It's supposed to be a positive virtue right?  But it comes at such cost. Sometimes it means simply being challenged, (or challenging the actions and behaviours of someone else), at other times it means having to step out of a comfort zone, and occasionally it results in an absolute standoff where, whatever the outcome, there is going to be one ''winner'' and one ''loser''

It would be nice to think that justice always triumphs - that those people who act in an unscrupulous manner, or without regard to others...or even just without thought or care, would be held accountable for their actions.  It would also be nice to think that anyone who acts with the utmost integrity - even it that means being the very person holding another accountable - would not be maligned for such action.

But, as it turns out, this is not always the case.  In fact, I'd say it hardly ever is.  I have a friend who is affectionately described as ''always landing butter side up''.  I think that's a brilliant description - not just for that person (who is also, by the way, someone of high integrity).  My issue is with the ones that land butter-side up, time after time, despite leaving a trail of destruction in their wake, including, often, the people who chose not to compromise their integrity and didn't follow the maelstrom.

The reality it would seem, is that in the short term at least (and in my experience often the long), ones actions on this earth, whatever their motivation, process and outcome, have little bearing on the success, or lack thereof, of the unscrupulous.

Sure, we can use trite remarks like ''they'll get their come uppance'', or ''what goes round comes round'', but...really?  I accept that consequences really can suck.  And never is this more true that for the whistle blowers, the outers, and the uncompromising.  Because it's those people who end up with an ever decreasing circle of friends, or in terrible health, or no career prospects.

I find myself saying, more and more often: It's not fair!  I know it's a ridiculous statement - life isn't fair, I think we've all figured that out.  But it's true isn't it? Doesn't actually matter what your standards are, how strong your ''morals'' might be, or how strongly you believe in the triumph of good.  Doesn't matter how well you sleep at night because you did the right thing, Integrity, it would seem, is not necessarily the right way to win friends and influence people, after all.