Monday, March 21, 2011

Spring Forward

It happens to me when I least expect it. I change my mind. As the wheels start turning inside my head, I imagine that as a result of some new decision I have reached, I will hurt someone else's feelings. I will allow thoughts to churn away in my mind for weeks before gaining enough courage to ask someone for what appears to me to be a huge favor. In their reality, they looked at it as a chance to lend a helping hand. I have experienced first hand someone coming to me for a favor. In their eyes it is perceived as an imposition on me. In my eyes I see it as an opportunity to share and be grateful.

And I know this happens to other people because I was asked by several people this week how to avoid this very thing. One person decided to opt out of a housing arrangement for next year's college term. The conflict arose as they were coming up with a reason why they decided to change their mind which would not upset others involved. Another person was worried about telling an old high school friend they hadn't seen in years that they couldn't bunk in for the week while visiting from far away. A third person was concerned about not offending an overbearing whining child who was throwing a tantrum. These examples illustrate how easily we allow other people to control our lives and intrude upon our personal boundaries. And how in all of this we deal with feeling guilty or selfish for not wanting our lives turned upside down.

Now that we have just reset our clocks for Daylight Savings Time, why not consider resetting our internal control panel and take a look at how often we take responsibility for another person's feelings in exchange for some relief of guilt or fear. Spring is a time of rebirth and renewal. The amount of effort we use in trying to help others or on walking the fine line of offending someone is enormous. We quickly become zapped of energy and fall prey to confusion and pain. The amazing reality of all of this is that it usually is happening only in our imagination. We want to please everyone; we don't want to hurt anyone's feelings; we want to make everything nice. In short, we want to feel like we have some control in our lives.

The irony is that the more control we take over other people's lives, the less control we have of our own. I suggest some internal spring cleaning. It is very important to develop an awareness of where responsibility in our lives lies. We are in fact showing great disrespect for someone when we decide that we have a better idea of what is best for them than they have for themselves. We also are showing a lack of compassion for them and for us. This internal spring cleaning involves taking some time out to reflect on how we can use the precious time we have on earth to be of benefit to others without producing a negative end result for ourselves or others.

When I was a young boy, I remember my father explaining to me how to evaluate a situation using "the yellow pad". Drawing a line right down the center, he suggested writing the positive aspects on one side and the negative aspects on the other. This enables us to see the balance or imbalance of the situation and make our decision based on reason. This kind of thinking can happen in the blink of an eye with some practice. It can also be used to thoroughly investigate a challenge we face which may be of great importance. This technique works because we become more aware of how we feel about something and how our actions might affect other people.

Taking some time to consider our actions, both what we say and what we do, provides us with an opportunity to discern what is an appropriate course of action from what is inappropriate. Spring is the season to do this. Yes, it requires a commitment of time. It also gives a chance to reorder our priorities, to have a reality check. If we truly want to be of service to our communities and to our family and loved ones, it helps to be balanced on the inside. I encourage everyone to take a "time out". Push the reset button. Give people a chance to take responsibility for their own lives. They can do it!