Unhappiness: You Can’t Change Your Past

September 23, 2009

Another therapy day in the household. Emotionally it can be a trying day. Especially when you come home and have to explain that one of your daughters will only be having 1/2 the therapy she’s used to having in that given day. We are on a weekly therapy schedule with one daughter and a bi-weekly schedule with our oldest- it’s based on where they are at when it comes to processing their past and handling the stress of the present.

I spend a full session with my youngest daughter and her therapist- mainly because she doesn’t want to really do any sort of work. She’ll deflect, get easily distracted, feign tiredness and sickness- ask questions about anything else but doing the work to become closer to us as a family. Today we focused on her increase in temper tantrums over the past few weeks. She believes that when my wife and I have a disagreement, we are going to break up like her birth parents did. She also thinks that I look a lot like her birth father- so she disassociates who I am sometimes and then becomes controlling and fearful that I will be abusive in some way.

The therapist and I asked her how often she’s unhappy about her life. Sadly, she mentioned at least once or twice a day. She believes that her life would be so much better if she came out of my wife’s belly, or if she never experienced the neglect and abuse of the past. We keep reminding her though that the only person who can change that unhappiness is her and her alone, and the therapist mentioned radical acceptance needs to enter into her frame of mind.

She’s lived with us now for 3 1/2 years. If we were going to give up on her, we would have never had her come back to our home when she’s been hospitalized a few times due to her physical and emotional outbursts. It’s very sad to me that she struggles still to look me in the eye when we are having a heart to heart conversation. She doesn’t want to listen to reason. She struggles to accept the fact that she’s adopted and can’t go back to live with her birth family.

She also feels like she was the cause of everything bad that happened around her- thus she’s permanently labeled herself as a bad kid. You can’t change poor self-esteem of a 12 year old in one week of therapy- or even one year. We just want the inner turmoil to settle. I know that if she continues down this path of pushing everyone else away and wanting to control everything within her world, it’s going to be a rough, unsafe adulthood for her.

What amazes me is she asks after therapy is over if she had a good session or not- almost oblivious to the sighs, deflecting and struggle to answer any straightforward question about her past. Maybe it’s wrong of me to get frustrated. Even now as they settle down to sleep, instead of talking about their feelings they spend too much time getting into back and forth petty drama- not usual sibling drama but annoying revenge drama.

I almost feel like that 45 minute therapy session works for me better than it does for her- I have another source to release all of my pent up emotions in a better manner without running away. Time keeps ticking away, and I wonder if they will look back on this and wonder how much they let negativity rule the clock, and its something you can’t get back once its spent. I have to remember I’m happy most of the time, and when they feel pain it’s not a reflection on my ability to provide the safety and security they need in a loving family.

I’ll be there when they need me, but I’m no longer a punching bag.


Check Yourself Everyday

September 22, 2009

Well, in my continuing saga that is my life, I spent most of my afternoon in search of a fair price to fix my wife’s brakes on her car. Turns out I should have gone to my mechanic in the first place.

The first two places I went to or talked to on the phone didn’t exactly like my research prices before you approach tactic. They made me feel like I’m just a stupid consumer who knows nothing about the car repair business. In fact one spoke to my wife on the phone and freely admitted that the parts places and the business “deserve to make a fair mark up” on what they sell.

My mechanic frankly informed me that the highest end piece for the brake that needed to be fixed would be necessary only if the back brakes were gone, due to the fact that it also controls the emergency brake system. However we are talking about her front brakes- so I felt correct in going with my instinct in knowing that I was going to get literally taken for a ride in terms of the cost.

So the car will be getting serviced tomorrow. I know that the job will get done correctly. I know that my mechanic will only do what’s absolutely necessary to get the car driving again safely. I know that I will be called before any repairs are done with the estimate of the price. This is why I should have gone to my mechanic in the first place- even if he’s never done work on my wife’s car before.

In case you don’t know, I’ll be happy to spread the word to my friends and family about the other auto services and their poor practices. Too bad that their quick judgments and unhealthy attitudes will cost them a lifetime of oil changes and other minor preventive maintenance services. I’m guessing that these businesses believe it’s easier to make up the difference in number of customers rather than keeping a customer for life.

Whatever happened to people going the extra mile to retain a customer? I’ve been reading books about networking over the past couple of days, and when it comes to connecting with people you need to look outside yourself and genuinely help the person you want a relationship with. These employees obviously look at the auto service industry as a job and not as a passion- because they couldn’t fairly and honestly answer my questions and when I did have good points to make, instead of acknowledgment I received disdain and ignorance.

So remember in a world where people spend so much time building a relationship with a new person- always remember you need to sustain your old relationships much like fruits and vegetables in a garden if you want total satisfaction. For someone you’ve lost touch with in the past year, figure out a way to creatively get back in touch with them.

Maybe there’s something going on in their favorite hobby or passion that you can inform them about. Maybe you can take them out to lunch or go out to a play. Whatever it takes to reconnect not only on-line but also face to face- reach out and do it. Check yourself every day and see that you are enhancing the lives of others at least once a day and you’ll receive a balance of good health, good harmony and good graces.

In the meantime I’ll be doing my best to learn more about my mechanic and plug into his interests, as he’s been there for me in my times of car needs for the past year. The connection I made through my body shop (when I had to get my car fixed twice from previous accidents) is worth the development not only in terms of my finances, but also in terms of the good person that he is.

Research: Don’t Take Things at Face Value

September 21, 2009

Today at the local automotive service the employee let me know that I would be needing more than just a replacement of brake pads and rotors for my car. Yes indeed, the calipers are gone as well. When I asked what the price would be to fix them including labor, I heard a familiar quote: “they are expensive”. However after hearing the price for both the calipers and labor, I decided to do a little research of my own.

My first stop would be the local auto parts store where I fed them the information regarding the part in question and make and model of the car. Amazingly, the quote was 50% of the original price the auto shop quotes me for the parts. Wanting to make sure this was consistent with other shops, I asked my wife to look online and see what the average prices for that same part would be. The price was within the same ball park figure as what I was quoted at the auto parts shop, not the auto service.

Why in this day and age would auto places think that consumers would not do the research if they believe they are being over charged for parts and service? Do they believe I have zero access to looking information up on line, finding other stores that service the make and model of my car and comparing and contrasting the prices?

This same particular automotive service store six weeks previous tried to over charge me when originally replacing the pads and rotors for the same car. It’s amazing when I stated that there’s no way I could afford it and that I would be going someplace else how a 25% discount came into the picture. Whatever happened to honesty and integrity within the car repair business? What other businesses practice similar bait and switch ethics to try to increase their profitability?

Remember in today’s market, if you don’t like the service, pricing or standards you receive from one business, there’s nothing stop you from switching in an instant. I don’t mind paying a higher price for certain items or services based on my needs, wants and desires (as I do with my bowling needs), yet I do practice the quality versus pricing issue on other areas in my life that I think can be variable (my cell phone… I chose the free one that comes with the plan because I don’t feel like I need the latest and greatest model the cell company is advertising to the hilt).

It’s ok to seek out opinions from others who’ve used the company or service, find forums online that discuss a particular make or model you are thinking about purchasing before you impulsively get yourself into a mess. I took my family’s thoughts into account, did my own store research and also looked into a few things online to come to a collective conclusion: I’m not accepting the inflated price at face value!

On a brighter note, my oldest daughter decided to take my words at face value and apologize to me, unprompted by my wife, for how she’s treated me as a father over the past week. Her feelings were hurt when I felt like I needed some alone time over the weekend, but I had an honest discussion with them about the words they say and their attitudes in the afternoons that make me feel like I’m not worthy to be their father. We’ll see if this week she makes more of an effort to be aware of her feelings and emotions and uses her therapy skills to be appropriate with me.

I’ll keep everyone posted on both events as they play out. In the meantime- don’t go into any unsure price or future purchase without doing some research. People are tempted to accept the first item thrown at them- assert yourself and be unafraid to ask the questions you need to know as ultimately you have to be the one satisfied with the outcome.

What Would You Do… For A Working Internet Connection

September 20, 2009

Sorry this is coming on so late in the day. It’s been a bang up day in my household. Children with colds, children with attitudes, cars acting up, and then losing our internet connection around the apartment. That’s why I haven’t been online all day to write my entry.

My wife set up our new linksys router this afternoon while I caught my power nap. Working overnights as I get older, that 2 hour nap keeps me going on the first night back to work. So for the foreseeable future I would expect no problems with me getting on the internet and accomplishing my work from here.

Yesterday I went on a library tour of certain towns within my area just to explore, to clear my head and to come back to the home refreshed and vigorous. I took out 2 more library books, one about networking with people and another a parable regarding the art of influence. I’ve been learning that my local library has a lot of things going for it that other smaller libraries struggle with- adequate staffing, plenty of room for books, excellent tools for online resources, etc.

And out of the 6 libraries I went to, my local library would be the only one with a wi-fi connection. I guess in 2009 that surprises me. I remember back in February when my desktop hard drive went kaput on me, debating whether to get a laptop or a desktop for my next computer. Now I feel like I couldn’t live without the portability and accessibility of this laptop. You can get up and go within a minute- that’s something that won’t happen with a conventional desktop.

I’m back though, back with a purpose. Taking my knowledge and information acquisition and starting to put things into action. It’s one thing to have a plan, it’s another to have goals and break them down into steps- it’s quite another to step into it and just as Nike ads would say “do it”. I’m sure you know many people in the world who talk a great game, yet seem stuck in the same holding patterns when it comes to changing aspects of their lives.

My daughter talked with me in the car about her struggles with my wife in terms of her communication style. I told my daughter that if she’s not happy with what’s going on, she needs to change something about it. Talk is cheap- actions are huge. Would you keep drinking the same water if it made you sick? If you want someone to listen to you- figure out a way of being nice and show her with your actions that you want to be real, respectful and responsible. I told her it’s time to talk the chalkboard in her mind, erase it of all the past hurtful actions and start anew.

So I hope everyone is having a wonderful day, sorry this is so late appearing online, but at least I now have my connection back within the apartment. Until next time, be happy and pull someone up that needs a little boost in the world.

Just One Of Those Moods

September 19, 2009

Yesterday for me was just one of those days where I struggled to get in a good mood. I don’t know whether the September weather change has anything to do with it (as the temperature dropped 10 degrees), or if the fact that I got restless sleep made a difference. I didn’t feel like dealing much with my family yesterday, and I so badly wanted to just crawl back into bed and be Rip Van Winkle.

Have you ever had that happen to you? Even if there’s nothing on the surface that appears to be going wrong, for some reason you just feel a little down in the dumps?

It’s a rarity for me, as I can usually find something to be cheery or at least take my mind in a different direction. Watching the Red Sox baseball game didn’t change it. Going out to a local record store and the Barnes and Noble book store didn’t elevate my mood. Surfing the web, answering e-mail and talking to my wife about our new nephew… everything just seemed very apathetic to my head space.

I’m up early this morning and my emotions feel much more normal and I’m less irritated then I was the previous day. I guess Thursday night before I left for bowling, my daughters were showing off to our new babysitter about how they can treat me disrespectfully with their mouths. I realize they have stress coming at them from all school angles- but I don’t think it’s right that when they are at home they can feel like I’m a perfect target to attack when they don’t want to discuss what’s going on in their heads calmly and rationally.

Hearing a news story about a local family having their house burn down and the two sisters living while the teenage boy died got me thinking about how we treat each other in situations when we are going away from the home or school. How we want to make sure that you don’t go to bed angry at another person- because you never know what could happen next in this world. Would you want to feel pain if a person you loved thinks that you are angry at them if they got into accident and couldn’t talk to you anymore?

One of my favorite things to discuss with my children when they want to get on a pedestal of control is: do you want to be right or do you want to be happy? Because being right may feel good in the moment, but it could lead to long term ramifications when it comes to your relationship. There are times where compromise is a good thing. You may not understand the other person’s point of view right then and there, yet if you lose the trust and bond with the person because you feel like you have to be right, is it worth it?

John Maxwell talks about in one of his seminar discussions working on the important issues of your life just for today. You can make a decision at one point in your life, the important thing to control is managing that decision for the rest of your life. Just for today I am going to manage my negative states and lift people up rather than tear them down. Life’s too short, and I need to let everyone know how important and special they are in my world.

Next time I think I will go for a run in the fitness center where I live- to radically change the blood flow throughout my body. Until next time have a wonderful day!

Challenge or Instant Hero: Which Do You Prefer?

September 18, 2009

Promises abound through the commercial media with instant results. Lose 10 pounds in one week with this miracle diet or piece of fitness equipment. Settle with this debt consolidation company and you’ll be home free financially within a year. Buy this particular program and all of your wishes will be granted immediately and without little investment of effort.

Sure the advertising appears enticing- but the fact remains that no one can hand you the keys to success, fame, fortune or happiness without your personal application and investment in the process. The odds are stacked against you if you believe you’re going to make your millions through gambling or the state lotteries that proliferate our country.

I believe taking the challenge to become a better person each and every day will make you a complete being- better than any quick fix, instant recipe cooked up to try to ‘pump’ you up. Let me give you an example from my life to illustrate this point.

I currently bowl two nights a week in two different bowling centers, one on Mondays closer to my work and one on Thursdays that I’ve bowled in for a couple of years. The Monday center is a small 12 lane house on an air force base, well maintained and very friendly. The shot they put out is fair, and you have to earn your scores as bad shots will result in pocket splits or 4-5 pin combination spares. The Thursday center appeals to the instant hero mentality. the bowler who wants to feel really good about their ability but can only be accurate within a 6-8 board margin for error.

I enjoy the challenge that Monday’s house represents, but I’m also aware of the fact that my scores on Thursday are definitely inflated because of the conditions and carry characteristics of the house- not because I’m that awesome of a bowler. Would I like to see the scores decrease a little on Thursdays? Sure- but I also know that the center’s belief is the higher scoring the shot, the more people will consume food and liquid beverages at the bar… thus increasing their night’s profit margins.

I’m going to do my best in all situations when it comes to bowling- that’s my personality. I just believe that there’s nothing wrong with having to work at a craft, applying technique, trial and error, outside help with coaching, etc., than to just go down to the lanes without more than 4-6 shots of warm up and instantly you can average 240. Have we as a culture become that jaded and lazy? Do we need instant gratification every time, or is there nothing wrong with having to work at something for months and months, years and years to reach a pinnacle development?

No one hits a home run every time they go up to bat. A lot of times the superstars you see on your television screens every day spent years behind the scenes improving their chances for the spotlight by practicing for hours, studying their heroes, asking the right questions and putting themselves in the right situations for success. There’s nothing wrong with taking a step back, looking at where you are and seeing what you need to do to accomplish where you want to go in 3 months, 6 months, a year, 3 years, 5 years or 10 years from today.

So if you want to improve in any particular area of your life, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Look at your network of friends, family, colleagues at work, people you may know that provide services for you and let them know about where you want to go and see if they have resources that can get you stepping in the right direction. Take the course on-line or after work that can boost your salary and make things easier for your boss. Show people you are active in your vision and they’ll be more likely to come along for the ride.

As far as what I prefer? I’ll take a challenge every time. Thanks to Mark Victor Hansen, I’ve learned that life is all about how we handle challenges that get placed before us- I refuse to let the word problems come to my table anymore.

So Close… Yet So Far Away

September 17, 2009

The title of this entry refers to one of my favorite Hall and Oates songs. There aren’t many Hall and Oates songs I don’t like- they were one of my favorite duos growing up in the late 70’s and early 80’s. In most parts of America during 1979-1985 if you listened to top 40 radio at all, they had a ton of hit songs on the radio. Although my favorite album still remains “Private Eyes”, I even follow their new material and have indoctrinated my children to the wonderful rhythm and blues, soul and rock sound of this Philadelphia two some.

That’s not what I plan on talking about though. Once again I’m feeling intense overload with pressure. My daughters are in their third week of school. The youngest one seems to be moving along better with her day in and day out school routine, and while complaining about the sheer amount of homework per day she’s receiving, she’s been getting through it with minimal amounts of losing her cool. My oldest daughter though is struggling with her sophomore year of high school.

It appears that the subject matter is harder- and I think there are times that she wants the challenge yet doesn’t want the bar set too high as to fail and fall. Instead of one assignment per subject for homework, some of her teachers are giving her 3-4 assignments, and I think she feels like she can’t complete it to the best of her ability. Today when she came home from school, instead of asking for help on the reading assignments we had a full out power struggle in which she decided name calling and over powering my role as her father mattered more than getting her homework done right away.

It all started wrong when she called from school before getting on the bus home. She asked if she could hang out at the city library to do her homework, claiming a distraction free environment away from her younger sister. Even though my wife and I had a family discussion yesterday about going to the library alone due to other issues, I reminded her the answer would be no unless I go in a supervisory role. Getting off the phone and watching the frown upside down look as she entered the house followed by the abrasive “Don’t talk to me!” made me want to run for the hills.

An hour later after a nap and a talk with my wife, she did apologize and we were able to get some of the homework done peacefully. The emotional roller coaster every afternoon though is something I didn’t grow up with- so it’s tough for me to handle 5 days a week, and sometimes this spills over into the weekends. Couple that with changing hormones and continual doubts about birth family memories, and I wonder when the ride will ever lay off.

As a father I want to save them- I want to help them- I want to take all of their worries away. My wife reminds me though that my propensity to teach them life lessons isn’t necessary in that given moment of mind confusion. They need short, crisp sentences- easy to understand and easy to process. There’s a time and place for the why’s- just get to the facts and repeat them if they don’t understand the first or tenth time.

So I may take a mental vacation this weekend. I need some time to go back within myself, reflect and understand what I need to really do as a father to be great for my daughters. They don’t need frustration, impatience, lectures, anger- they need support, strength, guidance and love. Maybe it will be a weekend show, or visiting some good friends in another part of the state- who knows. I just know I need to take a break so that I give 100% of myself for my wife and kids, and not feel like I’m just a punching bag or a taxi cab or a bank resource.

Until next time, thank you again for listening to my ranting and raving. If you have any help, suggestions, or feedback, please feel free to comment away. I read everything you have to say and I appreciate everyone who takes the time to read my entries whenever they get the chance to.