Reality Reflection: The Legacy of Ireland

Today we’re celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, honoring the man who was later honored with the title of Saint, as well as remembering and celebrating all things Irish. As I’ve been enjoying learning more about the world of Ireland, celebrating my Irish heritage and appreciating the beautiful products they create, I have been reminded time and again about something that isn’t really unique to the Irish but is part of who they are: history, legends and lore. Whether you believe in faeries, pots of gold, leprechauns, luck or not, these stories have been passed down through the generations, and are a big part of the culture. Also woven in with the legends and lore are symbols that are iconically Irish like the Claddagh, trinity knot, and many knitted patterns like the basket, honeybee and cable stitch.

These symbols may not be only found in Irish culture and products, but all of them have a story connecting back to Irish history that is uniquely Irish and has remained tied in to Irish beliefs and lifestyles. For example the Claddagh is based in a story of a man who was kidnapped before he was to marry, learned to create jewelry while away from his bride-to-be and came up with the Claddagh design and presented her with that ring when he returned to her and they were married. Many other connections tie in with the land and work that people do like fishing, bee keeping, and basket weaving. And we can’t forget the clover leaf, which became an icon when St. Patrick used it to explain the concept of the Holy Trinity when he came to Ireland.

I think these stories, icons, symbols and legends do more than make Ireland a place tourists visit. I think in many ways the stories and rich history has given the Irish a leg up in life where the history of some other places and cultures has been a point of contention. The joy of finding 4 leaf clovers, looking for magical fairies and pots of gold, and believing in love that lasts has taught many Irish to have a better outlook on life, to respect each other more and have more faith. That doesn’t mean they don’t have challenges, bad days and problems, it means generally they’ve learned how to bounce back better and to keep the faith. It makes me very proud to be part Irish.

What do you appreciate about the Irish, or about your heritage?


Reality Reflection: Know It All

When was the last time you asked someone a question? What were you asking them about? Maybe it was directions or the location of something, or their experience or insights on a situation. Asking questions is something important that we do in our lives, and is an integral part of learning, growing and creating a life that we enjoy. Sometimes there are even the times that someone gives you an answer without you having asked a question! Sometimes it’s interesting, sometimes it’s helpful, and other times we’re frustrated by someone giving entirely too much information or showing off with the information they’ve got.

One of the most frustrating experiences is when someone asks you a question they already knew the answer to because they want to confirm they’re the smartest person in the room, or asks you a question without really being open to hearing what you have to say. There’s a difference between wanting confirmation on something and being a know-it-all about something, and a lot of it has to do with attitude. Some people who give advice for a living feel the need to know everything or be right all the time, but I try to make it really clear with potential clients that I don’t know everything and that I’m committed to growing and learning constantly both personally and professionally.

Being a know-it-all means that you can’t possibly fully experience life. I don’t think you can be exposed to or appreciate the variety and the details that others who are open to life and learning experience. You also run the risk of not being liked by people because of how you treat them or communicate with them. If you’ve ever been called a know-it-all and aren’t totally thrilled with that title, one step you could take would be to slow down and learn to really take things in before passing a judgement that you know it or outright dismissing the other person. This isn’t a step that really threatens your knowledge or IQ, it just gives you an opportunity to create better relationships with those you interact with, and gives you a chance to respect the time and effort they put in to giving you the answer you’ve asked for.

What about you? How do you deal with know-it-all people?

Reality Reflection: When Practice Becomes Reality

Over the past week and a half the US has been dealing with another school shooting and with the aftermath of the shooting.  One of the things that has been discussed is the actions (or lack thereof) of the resource officer and police first on the scene.  While there are no official results or reports yet, the story is that they didn’t take the actions that most would think they should.  I don’t have all the answers and I don’t know the full story or history of these individuals but hearing these possible stories of people who were supposed to be saving lives not following through got me thinking about reality.

Law enforcement officers are given training in a multitude of situations and take an oath to protect and serve, much like a medical professional takes regarding not harming anyone.  One of the arguments that has always circled regarding the education we give our kids these days is that book skills don’t really translate to the real world.  While those in law enforcement have more hands-on training than the average student does, there’s no way to truly duplicate what happens in life during practice.

I’m not discussing this to dismiss or in any way make it OK if trained professionals didn’t take action, I’m suggesting that you reflect on your life and the reality that while you say one thing and really believe one thing this minute, if reality shows up you may react very different.  No, you shouldn’t doubt yourself that you’re not going to follow through on your training or beliefs, but understand that sometimes reality is so much more overwhelming, scary, hard and different than you could ever expect.

Everyone has a responsibility to treat others with respect and to treat others as you would want to be treated, but not everyone chooses to follow through on that responsibility.  With every failure we’re given the opportunity to revisit and revise our understandings, plans and even our skills. In those moments of failure and pain we’re also given the choice of whether it will strengthen our community and our relationships or break them further apart.  People’s lives will never be the same because reality came calling a week and a half ago.  The choice is where we go from here and how we approach and practice for reality.

Reality Reflection: Flying Snow Fun

This past week we had some winter weather. It was just enough to snarl some travel and make some piles of snow and ice, but not really enough to really play outside with the kids more than just a few snowballs. As I was driving the next day I was witness to quite a few flying snow roofs. Now, I did clean off the roof of my car but I know it can be difficult to do, especially if you’ve got a big car and you’re short. However, technically you’re supposed to clean off your roof before you drive, because it can be dangerous to have all that flying snow and ice.

So as I’m driving along I was watching these flying snow roofs and I have to admit that I thought they looked really cool. I know it’s not something I should encourage, but there might have even been some oohing and aahing happening. It’s kind of like watching a really big building be destroyed to make way for a new building (blowing up a casino to build a new one for example), or watching a shuttle launch in person, or even something a lot more normal like watching fireworks.

The reality is that icy snow flying from car and truck roofs is dangerous. Yes, it can be a real rush to watch the snow break apart or even to fly over your car, but the rush doesn’t remove the danger. The rush of watching two cars race on TV or around the track in front of you will never be as great as the rush of being in the race yourself, but is the increase of the rush really worth it? I’m not saying you shouldn’t live life to the fullest, just to be smart about the risks you’re taking, especially if it puts someone else at risk or may leave your kids without you should the risk be realized.

I encourage you to embrace life and to love your life but never forget that you’re part of a family, whether they’re blood or not. You matter to other people and you’ve got the ability in countless big and little ways each day to impact their lives, and the lives of others you may never personally connect with.

Together We Are More

We’ve all got failures in our pasts, and we’ll all have more in our future.  None of us are perfect and none of us can be perfect given the way things are in the world at this time.  But what it will take for the world to become a place where our failures haunt us less and we’re less concerned about being perfect, will be for us to care more honestly and deeply for those around us.

When we’re more concerned about what goes on around us, we’ll be more conscious of our actions and the impact that our actions (and our words) have on the world around us.  We’ll be quicker to notice that we’ve hurt someone’s feelings, quicker to respond to situations that are going to pot, and quicker to forgive and accept forgiveness.

What difference would this make you ask?  Simply put, it changes the entire equation.  By being more conscious of what is going on around us we’ll realize quicker when things aren’t right.  But beyond that, when we’re more focused on caring for those around us we’ll actually make the necessary changes to rise above the situations that arise.

Right now many of us are semi-motivated people.  We get up and go when we can’t take it anymore, when it’s in our best interests or when most people have already hopped on the bandwagon.  We like to know that others are doing things we’re interested in, and we really like to know that we’re not alone in the world.

Which brings us back to our point: if we knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that other people around us were just as concerned and interested in us as we were in them we would be less insecure, less self-conscious and more ready to take action because we knew we wouldn’t be judged for our mistakes.  In fact, people would be more likely to come up and lend a helping hand when things go awry.  This will mean that instead of picking stupid fights we’ll be focusing on improving the lot of the world and helping each other out.

Together we are more than we could ever hope to be apart.  Remember that you’re not alone in this world, but that there are other people who truly care about you and want to support you.

“To be capable of steady friendship or lasting love, are the two greatest proofs, not only of goodness of heart, but of strength of mind.” William Hazlitt

The Revelations of Christmas: Separate and Together

I’m enjoying our look at Christmas this month and learning what it reveals to us about this holiday and about each other. A recurring theme we see in the different Christmas stories is that they all talk about both separation and togetherness. Scrooge is famous for being separate, he lived alone and didn’t like others. Joseph planned to separate from Mary when he heard about her pregnancy, and Herod separated families and friends so that a census could be performed. Even Santa leaves the North Pole for his Christmas Eve sleigh ride.

But that’s just where the stories begin. Scrooge learned, 3 ghosts later, that it was better to give than receive and better to be with friends and family than to be alone. Joseph stayed with Mary and they were even joined by shepherds and wise men. Santa brings presents to good boys and girls, toys they can play with and share with each other. Today most of us have a Christmas tradition that involves being together with friends and family. Many also have the tradition of putting ornaments on a tree, ornaments that have been passed down through the generations or ornaments that were purchased to honor an event, gathering or memory. And many groups get together to visit the shut-ins and those in nursing homes or hospitals to bring them some Christmas cheer.

With Christmas just a few days away you may be getting a bit tired of all this togetherness and all the hustle and bustle that goes along with it. If that’s the case I would encourage you to hang on a bit longer because in just a few short weeks you’ll be wishing we were back in December and sharing, giving and laughing together. But, as the story of Scrooge teaches us, Christmas doesn’t have to be a 4-week or one day thing. It should be something that we keep in our hearts all year long. Who will you share a little Christmas cheer with today?

Have a Little Respect

Over the past week we’ve been hearing stories of #metoo, of primarily women who had unwanted attention showered on them by bosses, people of authority and other guys in general. It’s actually a campaign that’s more than 10 years old, but you and I most likely heard about it really over the past week and weekend with the news breaking from Hollywood. Many of my blog posts are about relationships. We’re all in relationships, whether of the sexual kind or the friend/coworker kind. That’s how our world runs. But not everyone is sensitive to or aware of, or caring how damaging seemingly simple things can be to a person and a relationship, not to mention the big issues like rape and domestic abuse.

As far as romantic relationships I fully support working with a counselor or therapist and trying to work things out when you and your partner hit a rough patch.  We all change as we grow up and grow older, and adding kids to the mix changes the dynamic between the two of you as well. Not to mention all the exterior challenges like work and health and other people that can be like a baseball or tennis ball automatic thrower that just keeps beating at your relationship. But sometimes the best thing to do is to walk away. It’s not always the easy thing and it’s not always the popular thing. And depending on the situation, even if it is the right thing to do you or your partner may have a season of hurting and healing ahead as you deal with the cause of the fallout and the subsequent separation.

I don’t believe that anyone should be in a relationship of any kind with someone who’s violent or demeaning. But as we’ve talked about here and overall as a nation and world, there’s a lot of growing and changing that has to happen with regards to race, violence and women, beyond all that we’ve already done to work on those issues. This most recent discussion won’t solve all the problems, but if anything, I hope it gives a few more women the strength and courage they need to stand up and get out of the not healthy situation they’re in. The violence may be all they (or you) know, all they grew up with or the only way they know men to behave.  I may not have the horrific stories that other women do, but I’ve experienced more than one uncomfortable situation with a guy.  I know that there is something on the other side of that wall. I know that each and every woman is capable of saying no, of having a say in how they’re treated and has something amazing to contribute to society other than, or in addition to, their physical capabilities as a woman and mother.

It starts with all of us women standing up and saying that it’s not right for anyone to be treated disrespectfully and doing something about it.  But nothing can happen if the men of the world won’t stand up as well and say that they’re going to treat women better and follow through on that promise.  Danny Brown shared a powerful blog post recently on the subject from a guy’s point of view and I would encourage you to check it out as well.  Let’s work together to make sure there are fewer ‘me too’ stories in the future.