Abulia

From dictionary.reference.com:

abulia

/əˈbuːlɪə; -ˈbjuː-/
noun

1. (psychiatry) a pathological inability to make decisions

I love it when I come across a word I’ve never heard before, and this one is a beauty. It just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it? And it is a very pretty word for a type of personality trait that drives me up a freaking wall.

I’ve known several indecisive people in my lifetime and I can’t relate to them at all. I make decisions. Granted, I’ve made some massive mistakes along the way, but at least I didn’t sit there on the sidelines wringing my hands.

This type of behavior sets my teeth on edge because along with this inability to choose comes a huge amount of anxiety with which you are expected to sympathize, and I can’t do it. I just can’t. Unless you are being asked by a Nazi which child you wish to sacrifice, why hesitate? Pick a side. Turn left or right. Settle for the stuffing or the potatoes, I could care less. Just make a flipping decision and move on, man!

And then there are those people who seem to enjoy being inconclusive. That way they don’t have to take responsibility for their actions, or lack thereof. “You decide for me. Then if it all goes pear shaped, I can blame you.”

And I absolutely want to strangle those for whom the decision seems blatantly obvious. “This medicine will cure my condition, but gee, I don’t know…” I want to grab this person by the scruff of the neck and force the pill down her throat like I would do with my Italian Greyhound.

Even harder for me to comprehend are those people who think they are indecisive when in fact they make decisions all the time. My late boyfriend was like that. He used to say he couldn’t make decisions, and would be paralyzed when faced with a detailed menu. But he never starved to death. He woke up every morning and chose what to wear and when to leave the house, and what job to work on and for how long. He was a roofing contractor. He had to decide what job to take, how much to charge, what supplies he would need, and how to respond to his customers’ questions all day long. A menu should have been child’s play to him.

I think the problem with a lot of people who have trouble making choices is that they don’t think they deserve the good things those choices will bring. They don’t think they deserve to be cured, or have a good meal, or wear that red sweater. They think people will judge them based on their decisions. It exhausts me just thinking about it.

So I have made the decision to eschew abulia, and I recommend that you do the same. But of course, that’s your decision.

Abulia

[Image credit: unusedwords.com]

“Love Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry.”

That’s a quote from the movie Love Story, and after that movie came out in 1970, you saw it everywhere. I mean everywhere. It’s one of the top movie quotes of all time, and because of that, I think Erich Segal did us all a great disservice.

I mean, give me a break. If you truly love someone, you ought to have the courage to say you’re sorry when you screw up. Because you will screw up. Everyone does, sooner or later. You should say you’re sorry as often as necessary, and be sincere about it when you do. Love should not be an excuse for being a dick.

So many people in this world think it’s a blow to their ego to apologize or admit they’re wrong. In fact, being able to do so demonstrates one’s decency and respect for the other person. Admitting that you’re human and that you make mistakes shows maturity and emotional intelligence.

Being unwilling to say you’re sorry when it’s called for reveals that you are an emotionally stunted child, and perhaps you are not capable of holding up your end of a relationship and shouldn’t be in one. My mother used to say “When you make a mistake, try to fix it, but if you can’t, then own up to it.” I couldn’t agree more.

Saying you’re sorry is never fun, but it’s necessary for growth and to avoid festering resentment that will ultimately destroy the love that is there. Saying you’re sorry means you’re more interested in making amends than you are in winning, and thus causing your partner to lose. People who can’t or won’t say it really are incapable of any healthy form of love.

A better quote would be, “Love means having the guts to say you’re sorry.” Or even better, “Love means doing the best you can to never have a reason to say you’re sorry, but saying you’re sorry when you do have good reason.” Okay, so it’s not as catchy. So sue me. Er… I’m sorry.

Love Story

Seventeen Fatal Mistakes Managers Make

I have been working since I was 10 years old, and have experienced every type of manager conceivable. There is quite a bell curve on the spectrum of competence. I’ve seen many of the same mistakes made over and over and over again. These professional landmines should be easy to spot and avoid, but apparently not, because they get stepped on with annoying frequency, and it’s all so unnecessary.

In no particular order, here are some of the most common errors.

  • Creating adversarial situations. Believe it or not, most employees want their company to succeed, and want to feel like they are part of the reason for that success. When you force them into a position where they are made to feel that you are on opposite sides, or when you pit one employee or department against another, it’s demoralizing. Imagine how much more functional your company would be if everyone were allowed to feel as if they were on the same team.
  • Not allowing employees to have dignity. If an employee needs to be disciplined, for God’s sake, don’t do it in front of coworkers or, even worse, customers. Allow them to save face by taking them aside and discussing the situation one on one. Your goal should be to correct, not to humiliate. And there’s never any reason to shout. You’re talking to an adult, and odds are good that they can hear you when you speak in a reasonable tone of voice.
  • Not trusting staff. If you treat employees as though they do not deserve your confidence, they will eventually lose the desire to be trustworthy. What’s the point of striving for trust that can never be achieved? If you truly have no faith in your staff, why did you hire them in the first place?
  • Enacting changes without consulting employees. This is one of the most costly mistakes an employer can make. Your front line employees are your best and most vital knowledge base. They can usually tell you what will work and what won’t and why. Before making a policy change, run it by them. You’re not trying to get their permission. You don’t necessarily have to take their advice. Most people, after all, are resistant to change. But they can point out problems that you may not have considered. If you have their input, they will be more likely to buy into your change. Time and again I’ve heard of large companies that pay consultants 250k to help them improve efficiency, when they could have simply asked the people who actually do the job. What a concept.
  • Wasting time. Don’t have a meeting just so you can look like you communicate. Own it. Actually make it worth the effort. If you have nothing important to say, let them go do their jobs. Likewise, don’t make employees sit through training just so you can say you’ve trained them. If the information isn’t relevant, or if it’s self-evident, don’t take up time that could be better spent.
  • Turf guarding. If you allow your employees to shine, you will be bathed in the glow as well. Why, why, WHY can’t managers grasp this basic concept? Don’t take credit for things that your employees have done. Don’t hold people back. Recognize the accomplishments of your staff, and sing their praises from the rooftops. This will make them want to do even better, which in turn will reflect well on you. It’s sort of like a perpetual motion machine of success, but one which is hardly ever taken advantage of.
  • Micromanaging. Have you ever heard of anyone who likes this behavior? Of course you haven’t. People like to feel as if they can be trusted to think independently. If you weigh them down with an ever-increasing mountain of petty rules, you will create anxiety, resentment, and a whole lot of people who are coming up with ingenious ways to look as if they’re complying without actually doing so. Worst of all, you will lose any respect that you might have had. Before imposing a rule, ask yourself what would happen if that rule didn’t exist.
  • Being inflexible. Employees are human beings, not robots. Sometimes you need to accommodate them. This does not mean you play favorites. It means you take unique circumstances into account. If you are reasonable with people, you will gain their loyalty. If you are rigid, they’ll simply consider you to be an a**hole, and won’t cooperate with you.
  • Weak link-itis. If you have an employee who isn’t up to snuff, you might think it is easier to have your more competent employees pick up the slack, but all this does is eventually burn out the good employees, causing them to become less productive as well. It also breeds resentment. Rather than lower everyone to the level of the weak link, form a backbone and get the weak link to rise up to the appropriate level or get rid of that person.
  • Throwing people under the bus. If you’ve screwed up, or cause your department to screw up, own it. Don’t blame it on your staff. If you cause a traffic jam in New Jersey, fall on your sword of stupidity and pettiness. Don’t fire your underlings and act as if the crisis has been averted. Everyone will know you’re lying.
  • Forcing employees to make fools of themselves. If you insist that your employees wear silly uniforms or say inane and insincere things like, “How can I provide you with excellent customer service today?” You are going to be the one who winds up looking like an idiot, and if they take the opportunity to run you down with their car no reasonable court in the land would convict them.
  • Creating anxiety in terms of job stability. People aren’t working for you for the fun of it. They have families to feed and bills to pay. Don’t make them live under the constant threat of possible discharge. That’s their livelihood you are messing with, and it causes unnecessary anxiety, a distinct lack of concentration, and probably a lot more turnover than you would have otherwise.
  • Not being open to suggestion. Your employees spend a lot of time thinking about their jobs and how best to do them. Every now and then they may actually come up with something that you haven’t considered that will greatly improve production. You’ll never know this if you behave as if there’s a brick wall between you, or if you get angry when someone seems to be trying to upset the apple cart.
  • Losing perspective. There are at least 100 billion galaxies in the universe. In the overall scheme of things, there is very little that we do on this tiny little planet that is worth getting spun up about. Relax. It’ll be all right.
  • Lack of appreciation. Everyone wants to be acknowledged for their hard work. You don’t have to like your employees, but you do have to realize that if they weren’t there, your company wouldn’t exist.
  • Putting your pride before logic. If you come up with a stupid idea, own it, rescind it and move on. Don’t continue with the insane policy simply to save face. It’s counterproductive.
  • Not sticking up for your people. In all my years of employment, I’ve only had one boss who was willing to stick his neck out for me, and that’s my current one. Because of that, when he needs me to go the extra mile, I’ll go an extra ten. He has my loyalty, because I know he has my back. On the other hand, if a boss lets me be unjustly attacked by upper management or clients, he or she is dead to me, and I’ll only do the bare minimum to remain employed. The customer may always be right, but don’t assume that means that your employee is always wrong.

bad-boss-2

[Image credit: wanttoworkintelevision.com]

The Dark Side of Achievement

I’ve always been a huge success in the academic world. Top of my class. The envy of my peers. So everyone, including me, assumed I’d be a huge success in the real world as well. I’m fairly certain my mother believed I’d be the CEO of a fortune 500 company by the time I was 21. Yeah. Not so much.

I don’t know what little cog is missing inside my head, what chink appears in my armor, what mote there is in my eye, but there is a flaw somewhere in my system that has prevented me from taking the world by storm. Stormless, I am, despite the perpetual cloud above my head.

It’s not for lack of trying. I’ve made some monumental mistakes, and that takes effort. If even one of those attempts at life improvement had worked out, things would look very different. For a start I wouldn’t be sitting alone on a drawbridge at 4 in the morning, fighting sleep so as to remain employed. And yet here I am, keeping the waterway safe for the boating public and trying to keep my eyes from rolling up into my head.

I do have a roof that keeps the rain off of me, although it belongs to someone else, and to date I’ve managed to keep my two dogs in kibble, so I must be doing something right, but I have to say I’m rather disappointed with the lackluster state of my curriculum vitae. But there is something to be said for profound lethargy.

For example, all of my successful friends seem to have at least one divorce under their belts, and many of them are seeing their whimsically named home offices transformed back into bedrooms for their adult children. I can’t imagine a worse hell than that, frankly.

And you’d think I’d have more stress-related illness living hand to mouth as I do, but in reality most of my successful friends are in much worse shape than I am. Apparently fighting to keep up with coworkers in their unrelenting pursuit of corporate greed seems to take its toll. High finance isn’t for sissies.

Other items to my credit: I’ve never foreclosed on someone’s home or been foreclosed upon. I’ve never looked into an employee’s eyes and boldly lied about their future. I’ve never misappropriated funds, and I’ve never hidden funds to get out of paying my fair share of taxes. Having never climbed very high, I haven’t had to step on someone else to do so.

I think that the more successful you become, the more likely it is that you’ve had to do something shady to get there. It may have been an incremental shift in your perspective until one day you woke up in the land of deceit, but on some level you know that’s where you’ve come to reside. Congratulations.

On the other hand, I feel as though I’ve gotten through life with my integrity intact. Perhaps it’s my moral compass that weighs me down. If so, I’ll gladly bear that burden.

keeping someone down

Gaining Your Temper

Temper

[tem-per] noun

1. habit of mind, especially with respect to irritability or patience, outbursts of anger, or the like; disposition: an even temper.

2. heat of mind or passion, shown in outbursts of anger, resentment, etc.

3. a substance added to something to modify its properties or qualities.

Everyone loses their temper once in a while. Lately I’ve had quite a lot to be angry about. I’ve experienced injustices of a personal, societal and political nature, and I’ve also made some epic mistakes. Sometimes it’s hard not to be perpetually pissed off.

Your temper is something you’re taught you should never lose, but that leads me to believe that it’s something you must first have. You can’t lose something you don’t possess, and apparently it’s valuable or the whole world wouldn’t be urging you to hang on to it. So I started thinking about this thing, this temper, and what it means to have it and to lose it.

If you look at definition number three above, you’ll note that a temper modifies you. Think of tempered steel. It’s stronger and harder than regular steel. It’s also magnetic. I want those qualities. I want a backbone of tempered steel. I want to be able to withstand the slings and arrows of life. I want to persevere. I want to endure.

The temper is also contradictory. You can be even tempered, or you can have a temper, which means you’re prone to fits of anger. I like the idea that a temper can be what you make it, that you have choices.

I am going to try to let my temper temper me. I am going to attempt to let my righteous indignation about injustices make me stronger. I’m going to make an effort to stand up straight and make choices about the woman I want to be.

I want to gain my temper.

blacksmith striking anvil

Why can’t People be Saved?

Okay, before you get all worked up, let me start by saying I’m not talking about religion here. I’m not touching that third rail. At least not in this particular blog entry.

I’m referring to the fact that the older you get, the more often you can see some people’s lives as slow motion train wrecks. You stand there at the platform watching that train go past, wanting to get it to stop, knowing in the very marrow of your bones that it’s about the jump the tracks, and there’s not a thing you can do about it. It’s a horrible feeling.

You feel it when a young girl marries the guy who has “only” hit her a couple of times. You feel it when someone thinks they can handle heroin, or when they take unnecessary risks with their safety or their money. You hear the chug chug chug of the train at family get togethers when Cousin Bobby has had a little too much to drink and is clearly about to tell Aunt Georgina some home truths that he’s been saving up for her for decades. You whisper, “Don’t do it…” but he does.

It’s a natural instinct to want to save people whom you care about. But it’s also a natural instinct for people to want to live their own lives, and unfortunately that includes making their own mistakes. People are not pawns on your own personal chess board. You have to let them make their own moves, no matter how hard it is to watch.

If someone asks for your advice, feel free to give it. If someone wants you to listen, listen. If someone asks you for help, by all means provide it if you can and if you think it will make a difference. By all means assist in the clean up after the fact. But don’t spend too much time on that platform, bearing witness, or someday you might get hit by the debris.

train

Learning your Lessons

Every one of us has certain lessons to learn throughout his or her life. Some lessons we are doomed to repeat over and over again. Other lessons impact us on such fundamental levels that it only takes one time to get the message. It doesn’t always feel very good when we get schooled, but like it or not, it’s always a valuable experience.

Learning from our mistakes when we are young can be particularly humiliating. We are already in a phase in which we feel we know it all and are utterly self-conscious about the ways we are perceived by others, so when we receive a moral or ethical smack-down it particularly stings. In hindsight one can accept that lessons learned when young are the most valuable of all because we benefit from them for the rest of our lives, but at the time it feels as if it’s an exercise in torture.

Here’s a lesson I learned when young. Friends who are cruel to others will eventually direct their cruelty toward you as well. It might be fun in high school when there are cliques and insecurities and pecking orders are being established with a vengeance, but in the wider world, bullies are less accepted and can be even more destructive. Take a stand and defend those who are being attacked. Do not tolerate aggressive people. Pit Bulls turn on their masters every day.

Take a moment to appreciate the lessons you have learned in life. They have made you a much better person. They are gifts.

One of a Kind

I intended to start this blog entry by writing about snowflakes, a subject near and dear to any fractal artist’s heart. I was going to say that we’ve always been told that no two of them are alike, but then I thought about the absurdity of that statement. How the heck can anyone really know if that’s true? You’d have to look at every single snowflake that has ever fallen, and you’d have to be superhuman to do that, because most of them would melt before you ever got to them and…I’m digressing again.

I do that a lot. That’s part of who I am. And that’s the whole point of this entry. I can say with 100 percent certainty that no two humans are alike. We are all a product of our life experiences and our choices, and it would be impossible to duplicate those experiences and choices. I am who I am because of the people I’ve loved and the people who have loved me. I am a product of the things I have learned and the places I’ve been and the mistakes I’ve made and the luck I’ve had, both good and bad. I have a different set of skills and neuroses and abilities and problems and talents and quirks than any other person on the planet, living, dead or yet to be born. No one could possibly duplicate every single one of my successes or failures.

The enormity of that realization struck me as I was driving to my very unique job on a very unique road at 11:00 pm last night. What an amazing gift my life has been. What a mind-blowing amount of abundant variety makes up the human race. Life is a lavish luxury indeed. We should all revel in its richness.

snowflake

(Image credit: Energy.gov)

Will You Marry Me?

Marriage and I have a fragile relationship at best. At 19 I was told by someone I was in love with that I was “not the kind you marry.” That was cruel enough, but what was worse is that he would not elaborate, and that gave me infinite ways to interpret that statement. In fact, here I am at 48, and I never did marry. Saying that his comment was the reason is according it way too much weight, though. In actual fact, there have been a few occasions when I’ve wanted to be married. But apparently the men in question were not on the same page. And there have been times when I’ve been proposed to, but not by anyone I wanted to marry. So there you go.

Do I feel that I have been worse off for being perpetually single, a spinster, an old maid? Not at all. I’ve seen very few examples of happy marriages, and a whole host of examples of married people who are living lives of quiet desperation. If I’m to be miserable and lonely (which I am not, most of the time), I’d much rather do it on my own, calling my own shots, crying into my own flavor of ice cream.

After all, marriage as an institution came about when the average life expectancy was not even 40 years old. You can get along with the devil himself for 10, maybe 15 years, can’t you? But when it stretches out for decades…then it becomes more like a life sentence. That has very limited appeal for me.

So part of me is kind of bemused by this battle for marriage equality. It seems to me that a great deal of fuss is being made over the ability to enter into an institution which, frankly, I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. I really don’t see the point of marriage in this day and age unless you have children and are therefore trying to provide them with a certain level of legal protection.

But do I think everyone should have the right to make their own mistakes? Definitely. Absolutely. No doubt about it. And that’s really what this battle is about, isn’t it? Fundamentally, every human being on this planet should have the right to be able to do what every other human being has a right to do. And therefore, by extension, I think that any person who willingly wishes to enter into a marriage contract should be allowed to do so. (Marriage against one’s will, or due to unbearable cultural pressure, or when so young that you can’t really make an informed decision is a topic for another blog entry entirely.)

This is not the 1600s, when only men who owned land could vote. This is not 1840, when slavery was considered acceptable. I’d like to think we’ve evolved beyond a time when we considered one group of people inferior to another. When viewed that way, the situation seems ridiculous at best. Why on earth would anyone want to hold on to an antiquated belief system that insists on making people comply to a completely random hierarchy, a set of boxes, and expect people to say in “their place” and shut up, and behave? Insanity.

And the main reason for all of this hubbub? Religion. Don’t get me wrong. I think having a spiritual standard that helps you to hold to a moral code is a good thing. But I also think that whatever divine power you subscribe to must surely expect you to use your common sense. I’ll use the Bible as an example only because it’s the book used in my particular culture. Here goes:

Have you ever played the game telephone? You whisper a sentence into your neighbor’s ear, and he then passes it on to the next person, and so on and so on, until at the end when you hear that message, it has changed so dramatically that you can barely recognize it? That’s the Bible in a nutshell. After having been passed through Aramaic, Coptic, and Greek, as well as the various historical contexts that it went through during those various translations, much of its original meaning has been lost. And then when you consider the many controversies over what books to include in the bible and what books to leave out, who knows what the original “story” was meant to be? I’m not saying that there isn’t value in the text that we know today. I’m just saying that we must use our common sense when interpreting it. Anyone who thinks that it can be taken literally when it has been changed so dramatically over time, and when the readers of today are so different than the writers of yesterday that they might as well be from different planets, has no sense of history whatsoever.

So don’t use the bible as your excuse for prohibiting gay marriage. Not when there are parts of the bible that advocate slavery and polygamy, and tell you not to interact with a woman who has her period, and don’t wear clothes of multiple fibers. For heaven’s sake, use your brain.

If you want to convince me that gay marriage is wrong, then come at me with a non-religious argument. Then maybe I’ll listen to you. Probably not, but maybe. In the meantime, if my nephew or my best friend, both gay, and two of the most amazing and loving and decent men I know, want to throw themselves into the utterly unpalatable institution of marriage, then I will be right there, pelting them with bird seed and crying tears of…well, who knows what they will be tears of. But more power to them.

marriage

Riding the Planet

Today is my birthday, and yesterday, my grandnephew Carter was born. Naturally, this has given me ample opportunity to compare our two situations.

Having spent almost half a century on this planet, you might think I know a thing or two, and I suppose I do. I can pat my head and rub my stomach at the same time. I have memories of my travels, and of friends both present and past. I’ve had regrets, I’ve learned from at least half of my mistakes and I’m proud of my achievements.

Carter, on the other hand, after just one day of life, is simply riding the planet. That’s what I call it when you just trust that gravity will hold you to earth’s surface, and you let the planet hurtle through space without making any effort to steer. You’re not there to stress out over anything, you’re not trying to solve anything. You’re just entrusting your fate to the universe, and you’re along for the ride. I try to do this when I meditate, with mixed results. But when I achieve a full state of planet riding, I’m content. Everything seems so much easier. Carter was born with the ability to do this. He trusts that he’ll be fed and cared for. He has faith that things will work out for him. So who is wiser? Nobody’s feeding me, giving over their entire existence to make sure I’m safe, or rocking me when I cry. Lucky kid.

Unlike Carter at the moment, I seem to be in a constant state of surprise. For example, just yesterday I discovered that this creature exists:

Pink Fairy Armadillo

That’s a Pink Fairy Armadillo and it lives in central Argentina. Granted, I haven’t spent copious amounts of time wandering around the heartland of Argentina, but still, I cannot believe that I’ve shared the planet with this animal and have never known about its existence up to now.

And a few years ago, they found an entirely new Indian tribe in Brazil that has never had any contact with the outside world. The only reason they discovered it at all was that an airplane flew over their longhouse. Here was a whole group of people living their daily lives, being born, laughing, loving and dying, and yet we didn’t even know about them. How freaky is that? http://news.discovery.com/human/newly-identified-tribe-in-the-amazon.html

I suppose the point I’m trying to make is that you’ll never stop learning, so Carter, even though you’re just starting out, even though I might seem comparatively wise, in the overall scheme of things, we’re really in the same boat, and we’re both just at the starting line of life.

So keep dreaming your newborn dreams, dear Carter, and let the world take care of itself. At least, for now.

Carter