Colleen's thoughts on writing, directing and coaching, and her unique take on life itself!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

I am...um, always here to help ....

For better or worse - and in some cases both - I am a helper.

If someone drops something, I pick it up and give it back to the dropee.

I replace items that have fallen off shelves in stores, homes, schools, or pretty much any building I happen to be visiting.

For some unknown reason, people visiting from other countries who speak every language known to humankind stop to ask me for directions. Which I always seem to know - or find for them.

They see right through me.

I'm a helper.

Someone needs assistance crossing the street? No boy scout, me, but I'm an eager crutch, cane or seeing eye dog fill-in.

A friend is getting LASIK surgery; I gave her a lengthy 4-1-1 on caring for her eyes after the operation (having gone through it myself -- keep 'em moist with lots of drops). Her eyes probably glazed over as I gave her the information - she probably knew it all already. But I wished someone had emphasized that to me when I went through it.

Just had to lend support any way I could.

Feeling down? Let me help.

Count on me to know CPR, know how to stop the bleeding and be the first person at a car crash to take the right steps. In fact, I'm a former volunteer firefighter. Several years ago I took care of a farm (including vegetable and fruit plants/trees and animals) in exchange for room and board while I wrote a book - so I joined the only firefighting/first responder unit in the area. Which was volunteer.

What if one of the cows or chickens needed CPR? Or first aid? What if my aging cat Kitzel got sick? What if lightning set the owner's house on fire? Or the nearby forest? Or what if an electrical short set my own little handy person's house on fire? Yep, I should definitely be ready.

Training was tough. When we fought the one house fire that broke out while I was there, between the air tank, yellow suit, boots and hat, I was wearing some 75 pounds of equipment. The water hose (from the water truck - we were out in the boonies without hydrants) is also very heavy. Very.

Here's a helpful hint - do you know the most dangerous part of fighting a house fire is the poison released when furniture and materials containing chemicals become toxic when they burn? We spent a long time learning to automatically put our air masks on before approaching any building fire (we practiced on a couple houses that were burned for us to practice on).

A helpful hint? There I go again.

I suppose it's a natural part of being a teacher or coach, though I try to contain my helper gene to my work, but sometimes I just can't help myself. I mean - I *can* help ... me, too, like I do others - I just can't stop myself.

Take last night.

I was at the grocery store, minding my own beeswax, carefully reading ingredients on packages tempting me, when I saw the head and torso of a man swaying, as if he were becoming faint. I saw he was with a little girl - his daughter?

I took a fast second glance, preparing to rush to his rescue if he really was ready to keel over. My hands were CP-R (CP to the Rescue) ready.

He didn't stop, he kept swaying!

I dashed up to him, putting my hand on his shoulder (first action to take - it gives patients confidence, relaxes them, lowers the heart rate) and asked, "Are you all right?"

Whereupon the little girl reprimanded him with, "I told you, daddy!"

What? Told him what?

They both laughed.

He was kidding around ... holding an oddly shaped large product box that appeared to weigh a lot - that he pretended was too heavy for him to carry. Thus the little dance, swaying under its "weight."


After the laughter died down - mine a bit uncomfortable - he thanked me kindly for caring.

You bet. Any time. No one else noticed, did they.

Then I decided maybe I'm not just a helper. Who can be a little too helpful here and there with people who don't really want or need any.

Maybe I'm just someone who cares.

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Friday, March 23, 2007

Are you happy? (part deux)

Responses* to yesterday's happiness essay were twofold:

First fold: spot on! Great blog! So true!

The second fold is the subject of this blog.

It's the concern that sometimes we indulge ourselves in the delusion that happiness is an excuse to do nothing. To simply accept everything going on around us no matter how dysfunctional, abusive or empty.

Um, no.

Genuine happiness means we know and are pleased with who we are, how we treat others and are treated and how we live. That doesn't happen if we passively let life happen without participating, therefore letting life itself pass us by.

In fact, the reason I believe that happiness should be such an important component of our lives is because when we are happy - we are true to ourselves, we're energized, we excel, we are industrious, we are caring, generous and loving, we are forgiving, we do what we were put on earth to do - for ourselves and others.

Fundamental happiness is created when we dig in, discover who we are (our true identity) - like and even love the person we find - recognize our life's passion, determine how we want to live, the type of people with whom we want to surround ourselves and how we would define our personal state of joy.

None of which necessarily comes easily or without cost.

True happiness takes courage.

Don't like your job? It's making you unhappy and you wish you could quit. Think of the courage it takes to speak up, to try creating a more positive atmosphere, better personal interactions and performing tasks in a way that would not only make you happy but please your coworkers and boss?

Most people would rather stand by and allow whatever miserable developments take place - and remain unhappy; quitely accepting a miserable working circumstance; waiting nervously to be laid off or transferred.

The worst dilemma takes place when there is a buyout.

A medium-sized local company - where employees were over the moon happy - was bought out by a very large company with the promise that the healthy positive working culture would continue as usual.

Loyalty and hard work were supported 100% by every employee at the company being bought out because they were included in all decisions that would affect them, people were allowed to be creative and were actually rewarded for speaking up about problems they saw or were concerned would grow. The very reasons the company grew so much, so quickly.

The pitch was that the financial support from the mega-corporation would only boost business, create more possibilities to be innovative, expand the number of employees, yadda yadda yadda.

I warned someone working at the local company that the buyout corporation has a wretched reputation of being greedy, cold, inconsiderate of non-executive employees and having serious customer service problems.

Despite that, my friend told me they were "guaranteed" that the fantastic working conditions, creativity and freedom at the company would continue. As usual.

Ouch. I knew avoiding the truth would leave everyone consummately unhappy. The mega corporation has a reputation of not just buying out companies, but of crushing them.

Sure enough, the megacorporation changed a healthy working environment from literally feeling lucky to show up for work (on time) into fear; employees no longer felt important or part of the process but just lackys expected to execute orders - and not very interesting tasks at that.

Mega corporation executives who knew nothing about the smaller, successful company or its culture were placed in key positions and dragged it down rapidly with their inappropriate rules and treatment of the employees. And last, but not least, these formerly happy workers found themselves fielding ridiculous customer complaints they never had to deal with as part of the original business.

The quagmire: whether to continue unhappily, to challenge The Powers That Be (which was seen as useless or they may be seen as a "complainer" or "troublemaker") or to quit.

Having experienced a genuinely healthy, happy working situation before the buyout, the vast majority quit.

Not everyone found employment right away - some remained happily unemployed until they could find a new position at a healthy enterprise; some became entrepreneurs, creating their own businesses - willing to ride the rough tide as they worked to establish themselves pursuing their passion.

In short, they loved themselves enough to find their passion, to love what they do, who they are with and how they live.

If simply showing up to do the tasks assigned for money so you can go home and live a rich, rewarding life makes you happy? Kewl. That's your definition of a happy life and you're living it!

Of course the same is true of relationships.

It can feel way easier to live from day to day without paying attention to your needs, wants or desires; without paying attention to your partner's needs, wants and desires; or without paying attention to your relationship's needs, wants and desires.

While you might present yourselves to the world as "happy," you know exactly what is going on behind closed doors.

I don't feel lonely. That is, I don't need to be around people to feel OK or not alone.

However, the only time I did feel lonely was when I was in a dysfunctional relationship. I felt extremely alone and unhappy.

It takes tremendous courage to step up and discuss these matters because it may mean the termination of the relationship.

True, but it can also work the other way. It can strengthen the relationship if both people are equally as invested in the relationship - finding new ways to make each other and themselves comforted and happy.

I confronted a relationship in which I lost trust - a relationship I did not want to lose, but the thought of being treated in a way I experienced as neglectful, untruthful and disrespectful was worse.

The relationship ended.

After grieving its loss, I found myself surrounded with people I not only trust, but who treat me very well, indeed.

I've also discovered happiness is dynamic.

The more we understand it, the more successful we can become at re-defining what happiness is, how it feels and what it looks like.

Being in touch with ourselves and our feelings can give us the courage to seek what we need to be happy - finding and living our passion and enjoying the company of others who share those values.

Caveat: The one person whom I have known to never recover from trauma and unhappiness is the adult who loses a child. No matter the age of the child, no matter the reason. To them, I can only say I hope you find some comfort in this lifetime before you, hopefully, join your child in a more peaceful, loving place.

*Please feel free to respond to my blogs by clicking on "comment." Thanks for the emails - they are wonderful! But feel free to share your thoughts with the community as well. Incredible readers from 68 nations read my blog!

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