Running through mile 20

I ask my reader’s indulgence as I run this marathon. For me, tax season is always a marathon, demanding everything I have to give. Stay tuned. I’ll be back with a special message.

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Sowing seeds

We get so entrenched in our own perception, that we come to believe it is reality. It is the only reality that we know. Should someone challenge that reality and say, “I see it differently,” we can even be a little incensed.  How dare they?  I see life the way it is. They see life the way they are … or so we believe.

I was wallowing in my own misery. It’s tax season, I had broken my arm, everything just seemed to be a little out of sync, and I was hating it. I was sowing the seeds of negativity and I didn’t even know it. Normally, I think I’m a pretty positive guy, but I had brought my wife to tears, and the rest of the family wasn’t very happy with me either.

So we started a little game where every time I started traveling down a negative path, a hand would shoot up and the observer would call out, “Negative.”  Then it was up to me to stop what I was saying and try to shed a more positive light on it.

“You are going to try to go there on Thursday night?  You know it is supposed to snow again.”

The hand pops up, “Negative.”

What?!?  I thought I was just trying to deliver an honest forecast, and help by forewarning you of some impending doom … oh, never mind, I see what you are saying.

Interestingly enough, we had a presentation at the office a couple of days later on the happiness factor. Some lame brain’s idea that successful people are not happier, happier people are more successful. In a video, Shawn Achor discussed the Tetris effect. You know that game where people have to form a straight line as shapes drop from the sky. In an experiment, people who were forced to play Tetris for five hours in a confined space found themselves doing strange things like lining up the bread on a grocery store shelf after they left the experiment.

Now Mr. Achor had the gall to make an analogy of this to a tax manager who spends all day looking for errors in tax returns and then might go home and find nothing but errors in the way his wife keeps the home. As a tax manager, I deeply resented that. Nothing could be further from the truth … or could it?

So now I am a little bit more conscientious about seeing the glass half full instead of half empty. Of course, my son the engineer sees the glass as completely full, half with water and half with air, but we will leave that to another blog.

Roads without lines

There is a cultural shift in the United States. It is as if people are driving down the road ignoring the lines that form a boundary of where your car should be, only it isn’t cars, it’s in the communication.

Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend wrote a terrific book called “Boundaries”. Maybe it is a true cultural shift or maybe I am just getting older, but it seems to me that more and more people have given up what we used to call “common courtesies” and adapted an attitude of “out of my way, I’m coming through.” That so many people are adapting this attitude puts us in constant conflict with those people.

You can actually see it when you walk through a parking lot. Cars that are crowding or crossed over the line usually have drivers that have no problem crowding or crossing over the line when they are dealing with other people. In many cases, you could walk into the store and find the driver with no other identification. They are the ones with their carts in the middle of the aisle who ignore you as you come down the aisle. They have shopping to do, and if they are in your way, tough.

From the book, “Boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me. A boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins, leading … to a sense of ownership.” Further, “We are responsible to others and for ourselves.” “Problems arise when people act as if their ‘boulders’ are daily loads, and refuse help, or as if their ‘daily loads’ are boulders they shouldn’t have to carry. The results of these two instances are either perpetual pain or irresponsibility.”

“Miss Manners” visits the preschool daily because 3 and 4 year olds are just learning their limits. It’s amazing how the modeling at home plays through and becomes the behavior at preschool. Parents who get in the face of the teacher to tell them their child is not reading as well as their sister’s kid, the school needs to step up its program, but have no problem that their child is biting, kicking or scratching other children.

It’s a difficult road to travel. The lines aren’t well defined. What one person sees as a boundary, another person sees as part of their territory. Those who respect boundaries are in conflict with those who refuse to acknowledge them, or worse, manipulate them. Appreciate your own boundaries and those of others.