Tomorrow may never come

Tomorrow may never come. It is important to make sure we are living our life today.

Since what my wife kindly refers to as “the incident” I have continued to spend time being reflective of my life and the impact which I have had in this world. I have experienced much gratitude secondary to some of the amazing teachers which I have had in my life. Some have been outspoken and others have been quiet, so much so one might not recognize their presence in this world

I became a social worker hoping I could be part of the process of change for the better for those individuals who have sought my council. Money, while important to some aspects of life, has never been a primary motivator. For this I am also grateful. I enjoy giving away as Jim Weigand once told me “pearls of wisdom without being the anchor around someone’s neck.” I feel I have achieved this goal and hope I have been as successful in this endeavor with my wife and children as I have with the clients with whom I have worked. God only knows on more than one occasion I had to ensure my value system  was in correct alignment to allow this to happen. There have been jobs which I have held, one for less than one year because on more than one occasion I have felt my value system so badly out of alignment it had begun to negatively impact my mental and physical health. Jim used to remind me of how easily the needle of a compass can swing away from one’s “true north,”

As more time and space is conjured between “the incident” and this current day, I continue to have others in my life who have continued to reach out with questions about my health and continued wishes for good health. Some of these people who while separated by great distances have ensured the survival of even the most basic of relationships. One of them, Jim who I had the luxury of spending many days for several years kayaking on Lake Champlain. Jim and I had the privilege of engaging in outdoor therapy with kids who had the misfortune of growing up in households where their parents struggled to keep their familial moral compass oriented toward a true North. Despite the several years and many miles since Jim and I spoke face-to-face, I recently received a text message from Jim. Jim shared he had also “been reflecting a lot about people who have meant a lot to me.” He completed the thought by adding “You made the list.” I paused and my eyes filled with tears. It is the times and statements such as these which cause me to stop, think and remind myself that I am a kind individual who does his best to ensure the needs of others are met. This is easy for me to forget.

Placing the needs of others before mine will ensure that my life remains out of balance and my true north is always out of reach.

Namaste

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Our Moral Compass is all Fucked-Up!

I saw something that disturbed me enough the other day that I felt the need to journal about it. My journal and what I write about in my journal is often the fodder for many of my posts.

As part of my job, I am required to be on-call for Crisis Services for one week approximately every other month. Late last night I was called to the home of a 16 y.o. who is home on a home visit with her family. The child, I call her that because that’s what she is. She’s not a “young adult.” She is a child, who had been allowed, based on my brief observation to do whatever it is she wants to do. This observation is based on the fact, that’s right, the fact that the therapeutic residence in which she has been placed for the previous 12-months had been unable to reach the child’s mother via the mother’s cell phone over the past 24-hours. The residence had been monitoring the child’s Facebook account. That’s right, the residence had been monitoring the child’s Facebook account. The child had made several statements on social media indicating her desire to engage in self-harm. Simply put, she had posted several statements indicating she had a desire to kill herself. I arrived with the police to find the parents totally oblivious…as it appeared to just about anything. I asked if there was a problem with the phone, the mother responded, “Oh, I didn’t know they were calling.” Perplexed, because I have and still use common sense, I asked where her phone was and she explained it was in her daughter’s possession. The same daughter using the same phone on which she was making posts on Facebook about self-harm. This is a head shaker for me. To many of you reading this, my head shaking is obvious, for those of you who it is not, why the Hell was this child allowed to have her mother’s phone, unchecked for the period of time which it was in her possession and why was her mother, knowing this behavior has been problematic for the past several years, at least not looking at the phone and its content? This is the parent’s responsibility not that of the treatment program.

There is/was no reason why when this child returned home for a home visit from her inpatient treatment provider, that she be allowed to keep in her possession the cell phone belonging to her mother. There is no reason why a large marijuana leaf should be allowed to be painted on the wall in her bedroom. By the way, it’s not “her room.” Neither of my kids had a room. I had two extra bedrooms in which they were allowed to live their lives when they lived in my house. They could decorate their rooms as long as they did not violate the simple norms of safety, respect, responsibility and being goal-directed. Call me old-fashioned or call me a parent who cares. The parent explained she “wanted to give her daughter her space.” Well, the parents of one of the Columbine shooters felt the same way. They chose to not go into their son’s room. Perhaps if they had, the ugliness that was Columbine would not have taken place.

I don’t understand this gender thing either. You are either male or female. Recently during a therapy session, I was told by an 18 y.o. she was a “Binary Unicorn.” What the Hell is that?! That doesn’t exist! This is what I mean by the lens of our moral compass being broken. We have developed into a society who feels people deserve the right to do exactly what they want to do regardless of the possible consequences. We are afraid to say anything to anybody because we might be violating their “safe space.” Recently I was in a coffee shop having lunch with a friend. It was Saturday so school was not in session. There was a table of four children who appeared to be no more than 12 or 13 who had become loud. Two of the children were making spitballs and spitting them through a straw at the ceiling. As their behavior grew louder and more aggravating, at least to me became more irritated by this behavior. No one, not even the management of the restaurant said anything. Finally, the manager of the restaurant did approach  their table and told them to “stop.” They laughed and the behavior continued. It took me calling the police to get these punks to stop.

I see every day the lack of respect for almost any type of authority. Especially with kids who feel they “deserve to be respected.” I was brought up understanding respect was earned and there were people in m,y life who received respect because they deserved it.

We need to fix this moral compass we have in this country!

April 1, 2017

I stand before you with arms outstretched in gratitude.

It’s Saturday, April 1st. Well, that’s when I first began to write this article.

The first quarter of the new year has come to an end. I enjoy looking back over the last quarter to see what I’ve accomplished during this time frame. As a social worker the regulations which I must follow necessitate that a clients treatment plan be assessed every 90-days. I usually reassess a client’s progress at least once more during that time frame. This is also a practice I have adopted within my own life.

Goals are fairly simple things to identify if we allow ourselves that courtesy.  Whether it’s writing a treatment plan with a client or writing my own in my journal, I use the acronym SMART. SMART stands for Specific (simple, sensible & significant), Measurable (meaningful, motivating), Achievement (agreeable, attainable), & Relevant (reasonable, realistic, & results based). If goals aren’t written in a similar fashion, it’s questionable if they’re really goals. If they’re not goals, they’re probably dreams and if they’re dreams, it’s not likely we’ll achieve them. Dreams make us feel good and help us get through some difficult periods of time. Dreams are great things to have but if they stay dreams and re never converted to goals, they become useless. When this happens we can begin to feel that we have not been successful in our attempts to achieve whatever we have set out to achieve. Dreams can become goals, successful goals with the right planning.

In developing goals, we also need to have a clear understanding of the difference between needs and wants. Needs are the things we must have in order to live while wants are dreams. “I want a Ferrari” is a great goal but not a realistic one if I am employed as a social worker and have a mortgage and family to support. Goals such as these can spell disaster in other ways. I often hear people say how “depressed” they are because they cannot afford to make a purchase. That’s not depression. Sure there may be some small amount of sadness connected to this goal, this desire; but this is why it becomes so important to make sure the goals we define are in fact realistic goals.

Do you have the tools?

In developing goals, we also need to ask ourselves if we have the support and the tools we need to achieve our goals. Support comes in many forms such as financial and emotional. Emotional support can be found in the people in our lives with whom we have entrusted some support and within ourselves in the form of resilience. Support also comes in the form of financial. Do we have the financial means to achieve our goals?

It’s like this; I want to purchase a car. Is it a new car or a used car? What type of car? What is the cost of the car? What are the payments for the car? Do I have/make enough money to pay for the car, gas, maintenance, insurance, etc.? Through this assessment we go back to the drawing board and make the necessary adjustments so we have a better chance at success or sit back and complain about how bad your life is. How nothing ever works out for you. How the entire world is against you. Maintain this level of negativity and you are assured to continue to be unsuccessful in whatever you set out to achieve.

Goals are useless things if they’re not realistic if we don’t accept ownership for our part in their success. Conversely, we need to stop and assess our progress from time to time. If we don’t stop every once in a while to assess their completion, well then, we’re more than likely to fail. If you’re like most people you’ll blame others for your failure. This is a pretty common concept in society. I look at my schedule and my to-do list every morning. I ask a quick question. “Is this goal realistic to be completed today? Do I have the time and the resources necessary to complete the goal? If those answers are all “yes”, it remains in my schedule. At the end of the day, I assess what was completed. If a goal was not completed I ask the same set of questions plus “Was it a realistic goal? Is it still a relevant goal and if so when can I reschedule it for completion?” I look at my to-do list several other times throughout the day and do “mini-assessments” which include the above questions. On a larger note, I look at my week’s schedule every Sunday night and then assess my weekly to-do list. I ask the same set of questions and make the necessary adjustments. In my day-to-day journaling, I use Stephen Covey’s Decision Making Matrix which basically encompasses all of the above questions and provides a remarkably simple visual tool to help use ensure success in our goal setting. Remember, like any other tool, if we don’t use it regularly and make adjustments along the way, it won’t be successful.

Image result for covey decision making matrix

Lastly, you need to ask yourself what your investment is in any goals which you set. They’re your goals. Set them, monitor them and don’t allow other people to stand in your way of achieving them. There is a commitment to this process, to accepting we may not like certain things in our life and acceptance of the fact that we don’t like in which direction our life is going. Accept those things and make the necessary changes/adjustments and move on. You’ll find your life improving.

Namaste