Wednesday, May 26, 2010

No It's Not You...It's Me

Now over the years I've heard some very informative, educational, even inspirational words of wisdom come from the mouths of funny men. Comedians, meant to entertain, but ended up teaching me a little about life and myself. I missed the Redd Foxx, Richard Pryor era, I grew up with Eddie Murphy, Martin Lawrence, Chris Rock and my favorite Bernie Mac. Somewhere between the profanity and an occasional "who you wit?!" I learned a lesson. One in particular came from the mouth and mind of Katt Williams.

"One girl came to me and said..."

"You hurt my self-esteem..."

He replied..."B*tch it's called SELF ESTEEM! Esteem of your mutha------ self!" Truer words were never spoken.

Often we find ourselves looking for someone else to tell us how we should feel inside. How we should feel about ourselves, them, the world...everything. No one has control over how we feel. When something is said or done, we make it mean something to us and choose how we respond.

If a stranger came up to you on the street and professed his love for you it would probably get met with a blank stare, maybe even a frightened clutch of some pepper spray. But if someone you love made the same announcement, it would probably fill you with a different sensation. More of comfort, affection, security. Eventhough the act is the same, we choose to make it mean something different. We have control.

Just as you can decide what food you feel like having for dinner, you can control what you want to internalize or not. I just think more of us need to know and recognize that. Never allow a man, woman, job, movie or magazine to tell you how to feel about yourself. It's great when you have a support structure around you (family & friends) to help, but in the end we're responsible for our own happiness.

Now Katt was very blunt, but correct. Self esteem is not established in the minds or opinions of other people. We have to know, understand, and love ourselves. We live in a world filled with self-medicating (drugs & alcohol), self-destructive behavior, and self loathing (depression), all of which is condoned in movies, tv shows and society. We're told that it's not our fault, excuses are made and we're shown how to "get by". No.

Happiness is a choice. I know we all have garbage in our lives, but it's not our problems that define us, it's how we deal with them that does. It's not about the job you got fired from, it's the career you started afterwards. Not the girlfriend that dumped you, it's the woman you met after her and are happily married to. Maybe it's the enjoyment of single life...whatever? The point is, it's up to us to appreciate and make the most of the lives we have. To be stronger than our circumstances. To know inside and out, we're worthy of happiness.

So let's take this moment to toast to ourselves in true Katt style. Raise that glass, or chalice, and point that pinky to the sky... "who you wit?!"

Proudly..."me."

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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Who Knew?

If you don't see the world quite like everyone else it is said that you "think outside of the box". I like to believe that there is no box. I believe that everything is relative and interpretational. An old friend of mine likes to argue that math is the only truth. That numbers are constant and exact...in other words...a box.

I posed to him this question, and i'll pose it to you as well. Would you bet me a million dollars that 2+2 DOESN'T =4? That's right, that it does not equal 4. I'm sure right now you're thinking "of course". Because you've "known" since the first grade that 2+2=4. Seems like a no brainer.

This is where the box is taking form. We create these borders within our minds to simplify thoughts, to make things easier to grasp, but in the end we just limit ourselves. We create this false understanding of what we "know".

We "know" it to be true because everyone else thinks the same way. Remember playing with building blocks? You take them, stack them on top of each other, build stuff. So if I gave you a 1000 building blocks, you could probably create something pretty big. A house, castle, even just a giant wall. But what happened to the first block? It's buried somewhere beneath all of the others. Forced to conform to whatever the collective becomes. Buried by so many other blocks that it has no idea what it even helped to create.

People are not blocks but often we think in that same manner. We think on such a limited level, we hold ourselves back so much, that we find ourselves like that first block. Lost. So if we're limiting ourselves so much, how much do we really "know"?

I've always been one to look for "the possibility". Which brings us back to our bet. Here's how 2+2 doesn't equal 4. What are 2 halves + 2 halves? I'll wait...

The answer is 2. If you take 2 halves added to 2 halves, that equals 2. 2+2 equalling 2. This is where the box begins to unfold. When I asked does 2+2=4? The first question should have been, 2 of what? 2 halves may equal one item, but a half is something to itself. So 2+2 does not equal 4. Now this is far beyond the simple first grade math you were probably expecting, but this is how we break that box down. From this question alone think of all the new ways you see 2+2, now apply that thinking to the rest of your life.

Just because you've thought a certain way your entire life, doesn't mean you can't at least think there is another way of seeing things. Destroy that box. We are so quick to say what we "know". Why? Because everyone agrees with you? Because that's what you were taught? Because that's what you've always thought?

In the movie "Men in Black" Tommy Lee Jones explains something that I never forgot. It gave me a better perspective on how I approach things. "1500 years ago, everyone "knew" the Earth was the center of the universe. 500 years ago everyone "knew" that the Earth was flat..."

2 minutes ago, you "knew" that 2+2=4

"...imagine what you'll "know" tomorrow."

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Frog And The Scorpion

"The Frog and the Scorpion" is one of my favorite fables because it resonates so deeply in the root of human behavior. Often times we want to see the good in people because deep down we want the good to be seen in ourselves. We will look past patterns, beliefs, behavior, and history for that one moment of change.

The Frog and Scorpion story has had many variations, but the one I love and apply daily goes like this.

Once there was a scorpion. He had grown tired of his daily life and wanted a change. He left his home and ventured out in search of "something new". He walked through the forest until he came upon a river. He walked up and down the bank but there was no place to cross. Unable to swim he knew he was forced to turn back. Suddenly it began to rain and his way back was filling with water. The scorpion climbed on top of a rock for safety. Soon the rain had stopped but the scorpion was trapped. With nowhere to turn, he looked out upon the water and saw a frog.

Knowing he would die if he didn't get off that rock, he called out to the frog. He asked him if the he would give him a ride on his back to the other side of the river. Knowing the scorpion's history the frog said no. He believed that if he came close he would be stung and die. The scorpion explained,"why would I sting you? We will both die." The frog again said no. Stating that as soon as he helped him across, he would then sting him. The scorpion then again stated that he wouldn't sting him. That he would be so grateful for the help that he would leave him be.

Scorpions are not a new species. They are nearly prehistoric. Their behavior, attitudes, and patterns have been well documented. Just like in life, sometimes we know who we're dealing with but choose not to see it. We have the information, a pattern of consistant behavior...a mold of who they are, but we still give in hoping for "that" moment.

So the frog agreed. He allowed the scorpion on his back and began swimming across the river. About halfway across the frog felt a sharp pain and realized he had been stung. Filled with fear, doubt, hurt and question he looked into the eyes of the scorpion. "Why?" In our quest to offer those an opportunity for redemption, sometimes just to save themselves, we put our own lives and well being in jeopardy.

The frog's legs began to go numb, his body tense. Thinking to himself, he knew what the scorpion was like but couldn't believe he would make a decision that would kill them both. Where was the logic, the reason? With his last breath, he looked at the scorpion and again asked,"why?"

The frog died and the two of them began to sink into the river. Coldly the scorpion replied,"because it's my nature."

The scorpion didn't do anything outside of his character. His actions were consistant with who and what he had always been. In the end, it was the frog who was inconsistant and illogical. Wishing for an outcome that was unrealistic. It's not about the situation or the pursuasive talk...at the end of the day...we are who we are.

Because that's our nature.

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

I'm Not Saying He Should Have Hit Her...But I Understand

Let me first say that I am in no way promoting the abuse of women, or men for that fact. This is not about passing judgement...i'm just telling a story.

A true story in fact. Let me paint the picture...it's late on a Saturday night. The boyfriend arrives home, intoxicated and in a rather bad mood. Moments after he enters his home shouts of profanity and anger fill the house. He's screaming accusations of infidelity at his girlfriend...she denies.

The door opens, an older gentlemen quickly leaves the premises and drives off into the night. The yelling continues growing louder and louder. Soon screams by the women can be heard, more accusations, infidelity, theft, betrayal all igniting more rage from within the boyfriend. Fearful for the women's safety, nearby neighbors call the police who arrive shortly.

The man escapes out of the back before the cops notice. He sneaks around the front and flees on foot. The police chase him down and arrest him. Upon bringing him back to the residence, the woman can be seen with a blackened eye and drying tears. The boyfriend is arrested and the night ends.

Pretty clear right? Well I was told that I was unsympathetic because I did not feel sorry for the woman. After all she chose this gem of a man and put herself in a rather unsafe situation. (personal responsibility) I was viewed as heartless, but I just knew the whole story. Let's see where you stand.

The girlfriend lived alone. After losing her job she moved in the man she had been dating (to help with the bills) he thought out of love. Neither worked, he collected a state issued check. He would sign the check over to her to pay bills, and never saw a dime of it. Though he gave her every penny, it wasn't enough to cover all of the expenses. So the girlfriend found herself a "friend" to help make up the difference.

The "friend", we'll call him Bob, an old co-worker, older, way older and friendly. He was known to frequent the house when the boyfriend was away. On this particular evening the boyfriend came home to find his girlfriend and Bob sitting rather closely on the couch. True the boyfriend had been drinking, but was clear eyed enough to see what was going on.

Quickly enraged, Bob got the hell out of Dodge leaving the girlfriend to plead her case. The boyfriend accused her of cheating, then found an article of mens clothing that wasn't his but remarkably was in Bob's size. In the heat of the moment, he struck her. Now I believe he is 100% responsible for his actions, let's just look at the facts though.

She was taking all of his money and sleeping with another man for cash. She played with his heart and emotions leading him to believe they were living together to solidify their relationship when really it was a finacial move. Then he caught them together in the home HE was paying for. I'm not saying he should have hit her...but I understand.

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Excuse Me

One of the best life lessons I was priviledged enough to learn oddly came from an old coach. "The only difference between an explanation and an excuse...is the spelling." It just feels like more and more we are not only a nation but a planet of excuse makers.

We have an excuse for everything. Why this happened, or that didn't, "my kid was sick" to "my alarm didn't go off." One after another. But I feel where this is most detrimental is, we have become a planet of excuse "takers". We accept all of the bs and excuses because we need our own to be accepted.

Often I am accused of being insensitive or unfeeling, because excuses made to me fall on deaf ears. More to the point...I don't care. I don't care if your alarm didn't go off. I don't care if you're having car problems. I don't care if you and your spouse are "going through it." I don't care. Even those who use their children, I can't because I have to take my child to the hospital...still an excuse.

For all the elaborate, creative, and sometimes funny excuses people come up with, at the end of the day you either did or you didn't. I'm not saying we need to become a planet of uncaring, unsympathetic people, I just think we shouldn't demand it. Compassion is a gift, not an entitlement.

Now what if the person with the sick child's job was to deliver packages? He had a box to drop off across town to an office building. What if that box's contents were vital to the employment and livelihood of its recipient? Then what? That box never makes it and someone loses there job and can no longer support their family. What about them? We all have responsibilities.

I understand that life throws you curve balls, but it's up to us as individuals to plan right and adapt to the problems life brings us. It's not my fault that you bought a crappy car, or live in a high traffic area, or married the wrong person. Take some personal responsibility for the decisions, actions, and moves you make. Stop making the world carry the burden for your bad decisions.

I know I have some unpopular views but just think about this...for the parent that dismissed all responsibilities to take their child to the hospital...if your child needed to have open heart surgery, and the doctor to perform it didn't show up, would you accept their excuse? Their car broke down...they were stuck in traffic...they overslept..?

Would YOU care why? Would their "explanation" matter to you...or would it just be an excuse?

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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

It's Not Discrimination...It Just Looks That Way

"Give us your poor, your tired, your huddled masses longing to be free..." A timeless sentiment that has encouraged, calmed, and comforted the weary souls of many immigrants into this nation seems to be forgotten...almost.


Recently the state of Arizona passed a law to battle their increasing issue of illegal immigrants. Gov-Jan Brewer of AZ has met much scrutiny for this aggressive and deemed somewhat discriminatory act. The law states that it is a crime to live in or travel through the state of Arizona if you are an undocumented alien. Law enforcement has not only the right, but the obligation to ask for documentation of someone suspected of being in this country illegally or risk prosecution themselves.

A few of the arguments are that undocumented workers take jobs away from American citizens. Also they weigh down our resources through social programs, hospital debts, and crime. In this double digit unemployement era and recession, these things are vital to this nation's recovery.

The other side, illegal immigrants do help the economy. They spend money, pay taxes, and the work they do allows smaller businesses to remain open.

This being said, the state of Arizona has over 500,000 illegal immigrants. Gov. Brewer stated the law,"represents another tool for the state to use as we work to solve a crisis we did not create and the federal government has refused to fix."

President Obama criticized it,"to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well as trust between police and our communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe."

Now I agree there is an immigration issue in this country, and if this is the first of a nationwide movement, let's really talk about the problem. All illegal immigrants are not Mexican. In this country we have this tendency to group people together. If the issue is undocumented aliens then let's address all the undocumented aliens.

All the Asians that come over and stay after their visas expire. All the Eastern Europeans that migrate into this nation. All the African immigrants that call this their new home. All the Canadians that start a new chapter here without paperwork...My point is, no one is talking about them. Is immigration and border control an issue? Yes. But until we address it completely this will be nothing more than racial profiling and harassment.

Or maybe not. Let's see if the good folk of AZ really stand behind this law. Let's see if they care when the police detain Juan, Miguel, and Ramon for being "suspected" immigrants when stopped or approached. Let's see if they care when Kim, Bo, and Nga are detained. How about when it's Raj, Neetu, or Amjad? I want to see the reaction when Olga, Andre, and Vitaly are in cuffs. But the true test will be when it's Becky, Tiffany or Johnny...or will it ever be? Will the police take the same attitude and aggression towards European or Canadian immigrants? Let's see.

Now i've traveled around the world, when stopped or even passing law enforcement in some countries the first thing they asked for was my passport, and I did it with no question. It's the law. If that's the direction we're going, fine. Just make it universal.

This issue is dividing up the state of AZ and soon will make other states choose a side. There has been a question for years about "what does an American look like?" Well ladies and gentlemen...we're about to find out.

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