self help

Commitment to Yourself

This will be a fairly brief post. The mission of a Work in Progress (A-WIP) is to better ones self. I have, in previous posts, outlined what this means to me. Through photography, philosophy, and creative writing I find the best way to live for me. I share this better self of me on this blog as an example of taking control of my life. Now this this idea of being better is different for everyone. Here at A-WIP we want everyone to reach that ideal self, and we believe the only way to do this is to make a commitment to yourself.

I want say this as gentle as I can, but this commitment cannot have excuses. I know that many people suffer from issues be that of mental, or physical and my goal isn’t to mitigate those issues. However, saying I cannot because of _____ just tells me that you have a crutch that you cannot let go of yet. To make a commitment to oneself is to know that these issues may affect us, but should not control us. There is the difference.

To make a commitment to yourself first find out what it is you want out of life. For me it is to live an accepting Christian lifestyle, this could be different for you, but what does life look like to you in the future? Who do you see yourself being?

Know what challenges are ahead for the choices that you make and create a plan for overcoming those challenges. If you aren’t sure what challenges await then at least create good coping skills for when issues arise.

Finally when you create this commitment let us know, and let us know your progress. If anything we want to be supportive of you in your journey along with us in becoming our best selves.

Toxic Positivity

This is a rather odd idea, how can someone being positive be toxic? We know that usually a toxic person is someone that brings us down. They might be extra critical of others, have strong views that they over share, or just are a generally negative person. A toxic person is someone that most of us try to avoid for our own sake, and sanity. How can they ever be positive?

Toxic positivity is the act of always encouraging positivity, but never allowing for processing. When we go to our friends and ask them for help, usually the last thing we want them to say is your fine just get over it. I’m obviously not fine, and that is why I wanted your help.

In a sense it is like when someone says that they are depressed or stressed, and someone answers with, just be happy or calm down. This is not a solution to the problem, but it mitigates the problem. That isn’t fair to do to someone else. Mitigating their problems is an issue because what they are going through may be the hardest thing for them.

I see this a lot in the church and I am just as guilty of it as anyone else. Someone may come up to me with a problem, and my response might just be, well you should pray about it. Yes, of course they’re going to pray about it, but that isn’t why they came to me. They wanted fellowship, and someone to listen. Just saying, well you should pray about it, mitigates their problem.

We all like to use comparisons. You think you got it rough, well look at them. This type of thinking is unfair to those that are suffering. If two people break an arm in the same spot doing the same thing, but one person has a broken arm every other week, and the other never has had a broken bone, who felt the worse pain?

Our pain may be relative to our situation, but it is no less troubling than if it was happening to someone else, or someone “stronger.” We are shaped by our pain and through our suffering we learn. I would hate for someone to learn through their suffering that they cannot count on me to be there for them because I mitigated their situation.

Just get over it

Go pray about it

You know I had it rough

Just be happy

Everything will be ok

These are positive things to say, but it isn’t what the person suffering wants or needs to hear. Instead of thinking of a response to say, don’t say anything at all. Let the silence be the response, I hear you. Sit close with them, and when they are done ask them, Is there anything I can do to help? If the person says no then you can tell them that, I know it is hard, but I believe in you. God believes in you.

Empower the weak, empower the suffering, empower those who are going through a hard time and feel like they are drowning. They deserve to have comfort in their suffering just like you did. Don’t mitigate what one person feels because you think it could be worse, understand that we all suffer. Why does God have us love our enemies? Because they are human like us, they suffer like us, they feel pain like us, they need help like us. Be a force of good for someone, but do it in a way that empowers that person no matter who they are or what they face.

Also remember there are of course the outliers as well. People who create suffering to feel empathy from others. For situations like that, do your best. They suffer in other ways.

There is No Proof of God

There is no proof of God.

Correction, there is no objective proof of God.

Correction, there is no objective proof of God that everyone can agree upon.

Correction, there is no objective proof of God that everyone can agree upon, and that is why we have faith.

Correction, there is no objective proof of God that everyone can agree upon, and that is the point of having faith.

If God came down every Sunday to all the churches of the world who could justify not being a Christian? If God performed miracles in front of live concerts played for the entire world, who would not believe? We would all try to be faithful, we would all follow the word of God, but what would be the motivation?

If we had objective proof of God then we would have objective proof of hell. We would have proof of an afterlife, and a reason to do good. When there is a reason that is objective to do good will we not do good, or least attempt good?

If you knew that you could steal a cookie from the cookie jar as a child wouldn’t you do it? Wouldn’t you at least be tempted by it? If your mother stood by the cookie jar, then that takes away the motivation to even begin with. You couldn’t dream of stealing the cookie as there is a capable person there to stop you.

God cannot objectively exist, and there can be no objective proof of God for if there there was then we would all act well. We would all act good, and follow commands to the best of ability. There wouldn’t be a questions of faith. How could anyone love by God by choice if we all knew he existed. We would all want heaven, not to be a better person, but to avoid suffering in hell.

Some say that they know God exists, I don’t. I try to have faith, but I am not convinced that there could be an afterlife. There certainly is a lot of evidence of one not existing. So, why am I a Christian verse a agnostic, or spiritualist?

The reason I am a Christian, even though there is no objective proof of God, is that I love God, real or not real. I choose to live by a moral standard, and attempt a good life. I do this not because it benefits me, but because I want to be a good person.

Now anyone can argue that “religion” has caused more suffering than good. That one doesn’t need a religion to be a good person, and that all of it is subjective to the situation. I would argue that if someone can find a more profound message than love your enemies, and provide for them, then I will follow that message.

This is why I choose Christ: love your enemies, feed the poor, be humble, and know that no matter what you are loved. I don’t have to do any of those things. In fact it’s rather detrimental to my own life if I do follow them. My enemies want to hurt me, why should I love them? Because you love all people, and understand that everyone has a perspective. That they are human to, that they suffer, and matter just as much as I do.

With objective proof of God you could easily be a Christian because you know your life was justified.

Without objective proof of God it becomes harder to be a Christian because you don’t know if it is justified, and you choose to limit yourself. I’m ok with that. I’m ok with that because I want to make a leap of faith, to stare down the absurd universe.

I am a Christian not because I want heaven, but because I love God.

Huh, Well that Worked Out: 10 Ways of Dealing with Crisis

Part of my wonderful (not being sarcastic) position at the local community mental health facility is jumping head first into crisis’s with people who believe that it is the end of the world. Maybe not the literal end of the world, but enough terrible no good very bad things are happening that it does seem like the end of their world. We have all been there before. It’s that moment in life when the peak quickly turns for a valley, and you quickly get this shocked feeling in the middle of the night waking you up in a cold seat as you wonder if you’re going to make it to the end of week. Which doesn’t do wonders for getting up the next day to actually deal with the problem.

So, here are ten ways of dealing with a crisis:

  1. Just like bad gas, this too will pass.

Yeah I know that’s a pretty juvenile thing to say, I’m aware of it, and embrace it. A crisis is something that is temporary, and causes immediate stress for a short period of time. Take some time to be grateful that this is not the “normal” state of your life. Remember what life was like on a more normal day.

2. You’re definitely not alone. 

Saddest part of hiking twenty miles in the mountains is reaching the point that you think no one else has ever been just to trip over a beer can. Whatever it is that you are going through (lost dog, car stolen, teenagers being too edgy) there has been someone else who went through something similar, and made it out just fine. You are not the first person to have this crisis. You won’t be that last.

3. It’s okay to have a freak out. Just remember to apologize.

Yeah, you’re pissed, you’re angry, you’re in a state where the next person that says “Gotta case of the Monday’s?” will be killed on the spot. It’s okay to have a meltdown, but try to cope with the problem before the meltdown happens. If you’ve already melted down from the crisis make sure that you take some time to forgive that person who set you over the edge, and yourself for going over the edge. What we do when we are emotional doesn’t need to last forever (nor should it(it will still wake you up at night)).

4. Do something nice for yourself.

This can quickly take a dark turn if you take the crisis you have then add onto it because of doing something dumb like getting wasted, and driving downtown for midnight doughnuts only to get a DUI. Do something nice for yourself that won’t add onto the crisis that already exists. I like watching movies at theaters shoveling a popcorn into my mouth like some starving child.

5. Find ways of making things seem more positive

Make a joke of the situation, or reminisce with others about better times (ahead or behind). Find ways to make the days bearable even if that means taking up a new hobby to distract yourself with. My wife and I will invent inside jokes as a way to cope because we are lame and have no life.

6. Avoid rushed decisions such as going to a animal shelter, and adopting all the dogs (I can relate).

We joke…..but its a really good idea and would totally make you feel better. However, that’s a lot poop to pick up, and food to buy. Again avoid adding to the crisis when you cope. Also try to avoid calling the crisis and telling them exactly how you feel. Give yourself time to cool off and be rational. What your email says may be right, but it can also be the right way to get fired or ruin relationships.

7. Some people suck, so what?

Sometimes when we are going through tough situations other people just make it worse. They may even be the reason we are in a crisis. My thought is, I know who I am even if they don’t. Take care of yourself and get out of the crisis. Forget anyone else who tries to bring you down. Some people suck that’s just life.

8. Go someplace different

 When I am upset the last thing I can handle is a mess (my life). I have to go someplace clean, and just live there until I am calm enough to handle my problem. Sometimes you may need noise, sometimes quiet. Change your environment to change your mood.

9. Come up with a really good plan

I’m talking about making a comprehensible plan with note tabs, and fancy ink. Make a plan that puts great generals to shame. Who cares if the plan is completely unreasonable, it helps to think of the problem in creative ways. This may lead to a simple solution you never thought of.

10. Recognize when its over, and learn from your mistakes

When its done, its done. Move on, and enjoy life without crisis. Learn what you did wrong, and how to improve for next time.

My last bit of advice is a crisis will solve, even if you don’t do anything. I have dived into horrible situations with clients where it almost causes me to have a crisis by helping solve their’s, and usually these things work themselves out in the strangest yet best way possible. Be open to that, and remember life is suppose to be fun.

Conversations with Death (Writing Like an Edgy Teenager)

I lost one of the most important people in my life, and now all that was left was to sit feeling sorry for myself. I cried, and cried on this bench. Then death came. It sat down beside me listening to me go on about the unfairness of my loss, and what I would give to change it all. Death, a patient individual, listened to every word. I finally turned to death, “Why did you do this?”

Death answers in reply, “Am I punishment? Do people only see me as a terrible thing that brings them pain? Oh, you are blinded by emotion, can you not see that I am as natural as these flowers, or the very air that you breathe. I exist because life exists. You were destined to meet me the very moment you took your first breath at birth. It doesn’t matter if you are a saint, or a sinner. It wouldn’t matter if you were rich or poor. Everyone will meet me. All of life groans for me as this world is pain and suffering.”

“She is too young.” I said, “How can you justify taking the life of a person so young and innocent. Her life was one that was never lived, and never experienced. She never knew love, or the oceans breeze. She never saw the starry sky, or the mountains”

“Why do you depreciate her? Do you believe that the time she has spent here was useless? Oh, you are blinded by self-pity, can you not see that she did amazing things with the time she was given, and to say her life was never lived is to destroy the great things she has done.”

“I want her back, I want to see my friend, I want to hear her laugh, sing, and dance.”

“Why do you want to harm her? Do you only think of yourself? You who is blinded by your own self-worth, can you not see she was suffering? All her life she suffered, and now she suffers no more. Am I not a gift to those who are in pain?”

Death leaves me to sit and ponder what was said, and I believe I can say it in terms that everyone can understand: Death is as natural as life. We don’t die as a punishment for the wrongs in life, nor do we die for the good we do. We die when it is time to die. To say someone doesn’t deserve death is to destroy the memory of their life. In life, we experience happiness, and joy. In life, we experience sorrow and suffering. Be thankful for today with those you love.

Bankruptcy! It’s a solution: Climbing out of the pit of despair

I have always had a fear of debt. When my parents fought it was about money. It happened so often that I had nightmares of it. I am afraid of it, and I still am. My worst fear became my reality, I owe money. It keeps me up at night, and stresses me out. With each new bill I am reminded of how little I have, and how I have to find a way to make more. Each day I get older I wonder if I will have enough, or if fighting at this point is even worth it.

Every step feels like a failure. We recently had to shell out 560 for medical bills, and 1500 for vehicle repairs all in one week. We blew our savings, and canceled our vacation. We still have another 200 in medical coming up. We are strapped, and tired.

When it gets bad like this I cope by watching 30 Rock. I have watched every episode at least three times, and its how I calm down. I can sit back and hypnotize myself letting all the worry leave me, but recently something clicked. In the episode, Into the Crevasse, Jack details a story of him mountain climbing. He states how he is cut off from the group becoming stranded. He details to Liz Lemon how he had to dig deeper to get out of the situation. He using this strategy to help out his company from going under, and Liz uses it to get Tracy out of her hair.

Sometimes the way up is down. So, yeah things are hard for me right now. I don’t get to go on a vacation I spent months saving up for. Instead I stay behind to fight for my life. That’s ok, because tomorrow I’ll still be around. Tomorrow I will get up, and keep on fighting. Tomorrow I will dive deeper searching for the bottom. When I find it, I can begin to crawl back up.

Peaks and valleys. That’s all that life is. It gets great, and then it gets worse. Yet once you hit the low part then the good part comes. It’s a cycle, and each cycle offers the chance to learn from. Every peak is a time of joyfulness, and mindfulness. A chance to be thankful for all that is. Every valley is a time of work, and perseverance. It’s a time for reflection and to remember the good in the world, the good that we have experienced.

I have to say I might be in the valley right now, but things will get better. I will learn, and I will grow into something better. Tomorrow I will be the best Felix yet as long as I am willing to try. Willing to keep on looking up for that sky that I have seen a million times before. The world around me is still beautiful even in the valley.

Today I sat outside fishing with my wife. We casted our rods out in the park as the sun set was lighting up the world around us. Everything became still as people walked their dogs, and the breeze flowed. I was happy that my family was together in Oklahoma even if I had to stay home. I thanked God for it all, even the bad because it can be so much worse. Be thankful because it can always get worse.

Part of climbing out of the pit involves letting go of the constant struggle. Letting go of the intense pain that overflows the body creating the fear that all is lost. It’s not easy, and it takes practice to learn how to stop ahead of the pain. Redirecting myself that all is not lost, and that this is a struggle. Each day in the struggle that I overcome my skin gets thicker, and my life get better.

Sometimes we have to climb down . Sometimes we have to embrace the pain. We do these things in the valley to get better. Don’t hasten to the peak, but seek to find the world around you. Enjoy the valley as much as the peak. Enjoy what is given, and what is taken. Life is supposed to be fun but also a journey.

Can you think of something you learned when you were in the valley?

How to Build a Boarder Wall!

I hope I snagged you with that clickbait title because we do have a very important topic to talk about, and it is related to a border.

If you ask my wife what her biggest issue is with me, it would be I let people walk over me. I don’t stand up for myself, and when things are wrong I don’t get them corrected. Most of what she says I agree with. I don’t like going back into fast food restaurants to get my order fixed, I don’t like complaining to others, and when I get bad services I rather just not go back instead of fixing the issue. My wife is very different. She will march into a store demanding what she paid for even if its just a few dollars of a mistake. She wants things corrected and done right.

For a long time, I would just tell her, Hey you just got to relax. Mistakes happen. She would tell me, Yeah, that’s fine but I paid for it. That was something I never thought about before. This was my money, and my service. Most jobs I worked were in the services industry or working with difficult people in tough situations. I have adopted this passive approach to a lot of my interactions with people because it’s a hard mentality to break. I have always been on the other side correcting mistakes, and I feel like I personally hurt others when I ask for something to be corrected. Mostly because I feel its personal when someone is in my face yelling at me how they bought this yogurt and needed a refund because it’s the wrong Toffeetastic flavor they wanted WayTooManyBerries. Its apparently my fault because I stock the yogurt and mixed up all the flavors making it too difficult for them to find the right one.

For anyone who works in retail, or for anyone who works with people in a services environment can relate to getting yelled at for completely unreasonable things. Having to back down or risk getting in trouble because management cares more about their customers then employees. Why wouldn’t they? Employees cost money, while customers are the people buying the product. After years in this environment I have gotten use to: It’s my fault, I am wrong, and if its not a big deal, let it go.

After working in a more therapeutic, case management environment I am still dealing with difficult people, but there must be a wall between us. This wall also makes it so that I am able to say no to people to better help them. Having this passivity harms the overall impact I can have in a clients life.

I discovered this with my first client who had a bill of over 4000 dollars. Part of my job was to find clients who slipped through our sliding scale and help them get a reduced fee. Normal therapy session for an LCSW is about 140 dollars without insurance. With the sliding scale the service could be reduce to 12 dollars (Depending on size of family and income).

I was very ambitious at this time seeking to change people’s lives and help in any way that I could. That led me to being used, and not helping a family in treatment. By always driving to their house I made it so they no longer had to get ready for the day. By going inside, I normalized myself to the point they no longer cleaned, or washed. By transporting them to all the places we needed to go they became reliant on me. It didn’t matter how much hand holding I did they kept regressing.

I brought this case to my supervisor who pointed out all my flaws mentioned above. I wasn’t helping the family with becoming independent I was making them reliant on me. If I was doing my job correctly they would no longer need to be my customer and learn to advocate for themselves. Its about meeting people where they are and moving forward from there. A part of that is I have to say no. No, I cannot take you to this appointment, I can meet you there. No, I cannot come to your home for this appointment you need to come here. No, I cannot do that for you, but I will gladly assist you. I will assist and help in the least invasive way possible till you are able to stand up and do it yourself.

It was like everything sort of clicked into place when she said that. You mean I can say no, and help people? You mean I don’t have to let others walk all over me? I can keep a boundary, and still help them? This was incredible news for me even if it was taught to me multiple times in school. Getting the experience of working with others made everything click into place.

I started recently applying these skills in my daily life. I started saying no to people. Instead of coming up with an excuse as to why it’s impossible to hang out with someone and not seem like a jerk, I just say no. I have boundary with them, they make me feel bad, and I’m not spending time with them. I’m an adult, and I can make these decisions myself.

We must create these boundaries with others. Its not that we don’t like them or want them to feel bad. We must care about ourselves. This doesn’t mean when the pimple-faced teenager rings up our WayTooManyBerries at the wrong price we get in his face and yell. It means we politely ask for them to double check it. Make sure we didn’t make a mistake, and we say no if we know they are wrong. It’s not about being a jerk, it’s about caring for yourself.

I picture the body as a nation. I am the nation of Felix. I have a flag, my county has a religion, we have an okish economy, we got a really hot ally (my wife), and the national sport is eating Doritos while playing D&D (Damn good nation). When I let people walk over me I let them take a part of me. They start eating away at my main resources: happiness, dignity, self-worth. I lose them to these invaders, and my people are still a welcoming people. We like to believe that others won’t hurt us, but we must have boundaries to protect our resources. To protect Felix from being broken down to the point of hate, pity, and humiliation. A place where we have all been before.

I know in the news there is a lot of issues going on related to the border. Don’t let this analogy get in the way of the message I’m trying to tell you. You need to be a patriot of your nation. You need to be a patriot in that you care for yourself enough to say no and stick to that no. Create boundaries with people, and don’t feel bad about them. You are a human, your only here for a short time. Is it so wrong to want those years to be comfortable? Is it wrong to want the same dignity and respect other people have?

I never felt like I deserved what other people had, I thought it was fine for people to walk over me. I am saying no. If I payed for it, it will get fixed. If I don’t want to spent time with you, I won’t. That doesn’t make me a bad person. It just means I am human, and I want to be happy while I’m here.

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