Friday, July 06, 2007

The Wisdom to Know the Difference

I love the serenity prayer:

God, Grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

When I’m up against anything difficult, I find myself saying the prayer over and over, hoping to find acceptance of the multitude of people, places, situations and things I cannot change.

The key, however, is in the last line: the wisdom to know the difference. I struggle mightily to know what things I have the ability to change, and to find the courage to change those things.

An alternative version of the prayer indicates that the only person I can change is myself, and that I agree with completely. Some say that all I can change is my attitude to the situations I face, and certainly that is what I have most control over. But some situations I can change, and that is where I need the courage, to face the situations I fear the most.

Certainly many African Americans in the South originally determined that slavery and racism was a given, a situation that they could not change. But some people found the courage, and changed the world. Imagine if women in the 70s had not found the courage to change their situation? Of if people in South Africa hadn’t rallied against apartheid.

The wisdom to know the difference, to know what situations I can actually change, is so vital, so important to my finding serenity. It’s more than just picking my battles and determining what fights are worth fighting; it’s knowing which situations I really have any possibility of affecting, and then mustering the courage to actually make a difference.

I have been building a radio station with a partner who has at best been absent, and at worst really dragged on the station’s ability to function. It has brought down the mood of the staff, and tripled my workload on a day to day basis. The little things that are meant to make running the station easier have never happened, and can’t occur because the passwords are held by my partner, forcing me to do things like DJ changes manually.

For the longest time, I put my problems with the co-owner into the category of things I cannot change. I can’t change his work ethic, or his participation in the station. I thought I simply had to accept his lack of participation and move onwards with the station, with the knowledge that eventually the station could be ruined by his absence.

Slowly but surely, I see the station and its morale falling apart as a result of the situation. And after praying about it, I realized it: I could change the situation, I just needed the courage to do so!

Tonight I turned in my resignation to BigDawgRadio. It was a tough thing to do, having spent so much time and energy building the station into a what I consider to be a wonderful station, with amazing DJs, and people I’m proud to consider my friends. But in the end of the day, to heal the station I had to make this move.

I’m still hopeful that my co-owner will step up and allow BigDawgRadio to continue in its present form. But if he doesn’t, I’ll start a new station, and invite the various members of the station to create a new, better station that can exceed the hopes and needs of our audience.

Today, God provided me the courage to change the things I can. I hope he also provided me the wisdom to know the situation I could change, and I believe he did. Perhaps tomorrow will be a better one for this station or another as a result.


Posted by Scottage at 2:03 AM / | |  

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Acceptance, Serenity, and Relationships: A Learning Process

Over the past few days I’ve had two situations where people have been very critical of me. This has led me to a serious struggle for acceptance, both of their having a negative view of me, and more troubling, how this has affected my relationships with others.

My first situation was at the reunion weekend. I received a number of questions about my future plans, and was letting people know some of my goals for the future. One of these situations took place around the dinner table, with my sister, with about 15 members of my family sitting around, including my nephew Eli, who I am crazy about.

Suddenly, my uncle began screaming at me that I should shut up, including some expletives I won’t include here, that I have always been a looser, and that until I actually accomplished something I had no right to speak about future plans. I asked him not to discuss this at the table, but he kept on going, until I finally left the table. He started in again the next night about me being a deadbeat, and I finally had a talk with him.

You see, I can accept that my uncle has negative views about me, and that he’s seen less than positive results from my past. It’s not for me to change his views, even though I don’t always agree that my past was as bad as he thinks it was. But either way, his views are his views, and I accept them. I don’t think it’s really his job to talk to me about them, but if he wants to, he has that right, and I accept that.

What I have trouble accepting is that he can embarrass me in front of my family, especially my nephew. I hope to be a positive influence in my nephew’s life, and to one day be a good role model for him. I know that will take work, but I am putting in that work. For my uncle to destroy my nephew’s view of me while embarrassing me in front of my family seems simply wrong and I have trouble dealing with this behavior.

The second situation involves a female friend, and the woman I love. We’ll call the female friend Linda, and the woman I love we’ll call Dana. The two of them were friends, off and on, for years. Linda would oscillate between treating Dana horribly and then extremely well, based on her needs.

In reality I suspect Linda cares little for Dana, and certainly doesn’t care at all for me, only really caring about herself. Linda is a great actress, and certainly makes people believe she really likes them, and she had me fooled for a long time, but all that changed when she had nothing more to gain from me. Then she turned on me as quickly as she had befriended me 6 months ago.

Right now, Linda has taken to lying to Dana about me in an effort to keep us apart. You know, I can accept Linda’s negative view of me, no problem; it’s her decision how she wants to see me. But telling these lies to Dana, knowing that they’re lies, trying to keep us apart, that is really difficult for me.

Today, she accomplished her goal. Dana and I were walking out of a meeting, and Linda called Dana. When Dana said she was with me, Linda said she wouldn’t talk to Dana if she were spending time with me, and hung up. She called back a few minutes later and had a 20 minute phone call trying to convince Dana not to spend time with me.

I got upset at Dana, which I feel tremendously bad about. For the most part, she really wasn’t at fault. I know if it were me, I would never entertain anyone who would try to tell me who I should or shouldn’t associate with, but Dana was right that I need to accept that she’ll see through the lies and not let Linda come between us. Meanwhile, I had lost all serenity from this situation, and had to remove myself from it.

I do love Dana, and want nothing but the best for her, whether that is with me or without me as a friend. And I accept that Linda has negative views of me, merited or unmerited, and that she has the right to have these feelings. But what I can’t accept is Linda trying to put a wedge in between Dana and I, and trying to keep us apart, especially with lies. That seemed like an attack, and just, for lack of a better word, unacceptable.

That’s where my issues lie: I am able to accept people’s views of me, which is a major leap forward for me. But I am unable to accept people trying to affect other relationships in my life. It’s an important discipline I need to learn if I am going to ever find true serenity in my life. In the mean time, I suppose it’s progress, not perfection, and hope people will be patient with me as more is revealed to me.


Posted by Scottage at 12:51 AM / | |  

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Home for the Weekend – Is it Live or is it Memorex?

This weekend I went home to Philadelphia for a family reunion, and frankly, the experience was very surrealistic. While the trip was good, and it was wonderful to see some family members I haven’t seen in a long time, at times I felt like I had drifted back to my past, and a past I do not remember fondly, per se. Perhaps that’s what going home is all about.

Certainly all initial indicators were that this was a live event: I saw my nieces and nephews, who I totally adore; I saw all of my Dad’s side of the family, a large diverse group of rather colorful individuals with extensive accomplishments and eccentricities; and I was back in the City of Brotherly Love, a place where I no longer live but will always be my home. But there the sense of reality ended.

First off, while this weekend was the annual family reunion, I had a secondary motive for this weekend: to make amends to my family members. As part of my program, I have to clean my side of the slate by revisiting my past and making right my past wrongs. Since it is rare to be around my family, I made a point of making amends to many of my family members this weekend, forcing me to spend a great deal of time reliving my past.

I made amends this weekend to both my father and my mother, my sister, step brother and cousin. This consumed the vast majority of the weekend, and forced me to relive the most shameful moments in my life. Certainly, there was a great sense of relief that came with apologizing for my actions, and I think my relations with all these people was strengthened by the experience. But the process was fairly painful as I experienced events I have worked hard to forget throughout my life.

I also must say that, though I feel like I’ve grown a tremendous amount over the past year, but coming back home I still feel like a kid. I reverted back to the people pleaser, trying to solve all the problems during the weekend, while having difficulty meeting my own needs. This is my traditional role in the family, and without realizing it I naturally fell back into this role.

Perhaps more than anything I felt like all my growth reverted back to pre-recovery Nomad when confronted by a certain uncle who thrives on ruffling the feathers of everyone around him. At first I tried to take a mature approach to his jabs, to take the high road, and discuss my needs rationally with him. But as he told me that he didn’t care about my needs, and ignored my concerns, I again fell back to my temper and the attributes I’ve been trying to eliminate from my character.

After I regained control of myself, and my uncle decided to acknowledge my needs as a result of the outburst, I was able to talk rationally and express my needs, with positive results. That in and of itself was a step forward for me. But I hated that the old temper, which I had begun to think had fallen away from me, could come back so strongly.

There’s a sayings that family members can push our buttons because they installed them, and I think this was particularly true this weekend. And perhaps my guard was down somewhat, from the stress of making so many amends, and the inability to hit my normal regiment of meetings. But in an instant, I was back to the same scared kid who has always gotten me into trouble. I hope he doesn’t come back any time soon.


Posted by Scottage at 1:22 AM / | |