Monday, October 21, 2013

Rounds (#PoetryMonday*)

The sun fails suddenly
Beyond the standard horizon
Springing dark upon us
Like a trap.
The moon comes out
And pokes around among the stars,
Glowering and full,
As haggard streaks of clouds race
Insanely across the foreboding apparition.
Quietly, we put on the masks,
Bringing our fears to the surface
In these horrific plastic expressions.
Bravely we clench our paper bags
And go out into this crazy
Halloween night.
Miniature spirits, imps, wildlings
Of questionable nature.
Friend or foe? Fearsome or funny?
Solemnly we collect
Our various booty with some risk,
Making the rounds of the neighborhood,
And tracing our small anger on the windows
Dark and empty against us
With crayons of pure soap.
Then race home through the whirling leaves
Scared silly and laughing, anxious to
Eat the treats and tell the tales
Of our treacherous tricks
And the stalking goblins
Sifting through the shadows, at our heels.



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 It's PoMo! To learn about PoMo, click here and then scroll down. 
This one is from my only collection of poetry, "The Godtouch."

This is a not so scary poem about Halloween in a more innocent, less bloody time, when scared silly was just that; more silly than scared. Frankly, I abhor the boundless horror that has attached itself to what once was a much more fun experience. There were no worries about razor blades in apples. Kids roamed the neighborhoods safely searching out treats. No one would have thought to try to scare any of us "to death" in the now much too literal sense. Wouldn't mind returning those kinds of Halloweens with more fun and far less terror.


You can get "The Godtouch" using these links:

• Kindle version.

Paperback.

Hardcover.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Bwahaha! See the funny crazy lady go wacky! What a hoot!


Crazy people are so darn funny, aren’t they?

On September 26, 2013, CNN reported that Navy Yard shooter “Aaron Alexis was under ‘the delusional belief that he was being controlled or influenced by extremely low frequency electromagnetic waves’ before he embarked on a bloody shooting rampage at the Washington Navy Yard, an FBI official said Wednesday.”

Everyone wonders why Alexis, who reported his mental issues to various agencies, was not helped.

Why didn’t anyone take him seriously before he snapped and killed 12 people?

I wonder how many of those he reached out to had a good laugh when he told them how he heard voices.

Not you, of course.

See, I knew they were all nut-jobs!

Just recently, as the House was wrapping up its vote to reopen the government, there was an unfortunate incident.

House stenographer Dianne Reidy, reportedly a nice, normal woman who has worked there for several years, snapped.

She calmly walked to a microphone and began ranting. Her rant referenced God, Jesus, Free Masons, the Constitution, and Bible passages.

Those present who know her reasonably well seem to uniformly agree that this was unusual for Reidy, completely out of character; they expressed concern for her mental well being.

Reidy clearly had a mental break of some sort.

Just a few days ago, another woman experienced a similar meltdown while on an American Airlines flight. Details are sketchy, but the woman apparently had just lost her mother and was grieving.

Both Reidy and the woman on the plane were victims of stress and other issues of which we are unaware. And, frankly, are none of our business.

Today, both are the butt of many jokes, particularly Reidy.

Instead of expressing concern for Reidy's well-being, public comments on the various news reports (links below), as well as in social media, are not kind. Many are vicious and cruel.

And, of course, there’s the Christian-bashing, which is apparently PC-approved these days. For these commenters Reidy is nothing more than proof-positive that all Christians are moronic, anti-intellectual, conspiracy-fabricating nut-jobs.

And she was just so stinking funny! Am I right?

Helplessly crying out for help

Several years ago, while I was on the West Coast working on a book project with a client, I got a phone call from a friend back home, several states away. Let’s call him John, which is not his real name.

He was incoherent, rambling, and raging. He would rant wildly then pray for the blood of Jesus to cover him.

That’s nuts, right?

My friend was a Christian and a very intelligent man. He had a good life and a wonderful family. He was as solid as they come. What I was hearing was not in character for him.

Being so far away there was little I could do. I listened. Prayed with him. Did my best to calm him a little.

He finally handed the phone to his wife at one point; she was terrified for her husband, their kids, and herself.

Over and over she said, “Stephen, this isn’t the John I know! This is not like John at all!”

Thankfully she had called 911 and medics arrived quickly, subduing and medicating John.

He was held in the hospital for a few days, given some medications, and put in touch with a good therapist.

He experienced what was diagnosed at the time as a chemical imbalance in his brain. It might be called something else today. But it was a mental health issue.

Talking to him later, he expressed that it was as frustrating for him as for his wife. He knew he wasn’t acting sanely but couldn’t seem to stop himself.

During the episode, he was terrified, too.

As I talked with him, it was clear that he was still a little embarrassed by it. He knew what some people thought.

I assured him that I didn’t think it was funny or that he was crazy.

It’s not funny

Every time I hear about someone experiencing a brief break with reality as my friend John did, and as Dianne Reidy and the woman on the plane did, I’m grateful that all that happened was a little crazy talk.

They did not attack or try to seriously harm anyone.

They did not get a weapon, walk into a busy workplace or theater, opening fire.

They did not plant bombs or send ricin through the mail.

They didn’t drive their car into a crowd.

They didn't attempt suicide.

They screamed a little. Maybe swore a little. And, sensing in the midst of their delirium that they needed help, they cried out to God.

To me, this kind of behavior does not deserve ridicule. It is not the fodder for opinionated, vacuous,  anti-religion rants. It’s not appropriate for office jokes or social media cleverness.

It deserves our respect, compassion, and understanding.

It could happen to you

I think some of the humor around these events grows out of nervousness; a weak attempt to ward off the thought that any of us could go bonkers the same way at any minute.

It could happen. To me. To you.

Stress-addled brain chemistry does not play favorites. It’s an equal-opportunity messer-upper.

Any one of us, given the just-right juxtaposition of factors – environment, diet, and what-not – could go over the brink just like my friend John, the woman on the plane, or Reidy did.

In public. For all the world to see and mock.

I know John was a Christian. I suspect the two women were also given how they gave expression to their episodes.

When you crack, I wonder what will come out?

Will you call on the name of Jesus?

Or will something truly ugly come out of your unhinged mouth?

Or perhaps you'll react beyond words into some aberrant behavior? Maybe pick up a gun and start shooting?

Think about that for a minute.

The right response

The bottom line is that these people deserve compassion and help. They don’t deserve to be made the butt of our jokes, fuel for our cute and clever quips, or fodder for late night comics.

The more we mock mental illness and those afflicted by it, the further underground we drive these hurting people. There, they will stew in isolation, feed their frustrations and rage, and finally come out shooting.

You won’t be laughing then.

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Links to articles about Dianne Reidy:
Link to video of woman on plane

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Do you think it’s okay to make fun of people who have public meltdowns such as Reidy did? Why? Why not? Sound off in the comments.
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UPDATE: A report in Politico indicates that Reidy claims she spoke because she believed she was being prompted by the Holy Spirit. This is only my personal opinion, but while she was well-intentioned, when the Holy Spirit speaks through someone, the message is usually far more coherent. I have no doubt that her convictions are very real. At the same time, I believe Reidy needs to seek counseling with her pastor and a capable therapist.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Longing for the asterisk free life

I grew up being told, “You can be whatever you want to be when you grow up.”

I’m sure you heard it, too. It’s still being inflicted on new children.

It’s a noble-ish thought and the intentions of the tellers are good.

Still, I always had a nagging suspicion this really wasn’t the whole truth. Particularly when it came to me and my life.

Add to this that my growing up was very centered on church.

Okay, some of you are already quick-drawing with your criticisms and slams. And I’m going to add one of my own. But, let’s be nice and intelligent here: Churches have their issues, but not everything about Christianity is bad. In fact, when the peripheral baggage that isn’t really central to faith is unloaded, most of what’s left that is truly Christian is good. But, let’s set that whole discussion aside for now.

Moving on.

Back to my life and church.

There, I was often confronted with the well-known Pauline bumper-sticker exhortation found in Philippians 4:13, as stated in the King James, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”

I was always annoyed by this verse. First, “which” should be “who” as Christ is a person not a thing. And second, well…

Really? ALL things? As in everything all things?

Connect this high holy concept to society’s version of becoming WHATEVER you want to be really piles on the pressure and squeezes out more than a skosh of skepticism.

Especially for an introvert.

Not quite everything

The truth about Paul’s quote is that he does not mean “everything as in all things” the way so many try to apply it. Within the context of the surrounding verses, it’s clear he’s really saying that, as a Christian living in crisis, being imprisoned, facing torture, not always having a warm meal or a soft bed – basically, while enduring all manner of hardships for his faith – he can endure it all, but only “in the strength of the Lord.”

This verse gets mis-preached a lot.

As any sane student of Scripture knows, context is king. And here, the context unmasks any misapplication that might lead one to believe they have access to some superhero formula that can magically transform them into something they are not, that God did not design them to be, or that He did not intend.

For example, this passage doesn’t mean that an introvert can be transformed into an extrovert. Well, not permanently anyway.

Because my own experience did not align with how this verse was often preached, and it seemed that things I thought I might like to do weren’t within my reach for some obscure reason, I felt there must be something wrong with me. More on this later.

Discovering personality type

A little older and on my own in jobs set in the exciting world of business, work teams, discontinuous change, and the like, I began encountering workshops on temperament and personality.

At first, I wasn’t too keen on what seemed like mumbo-jumbo. In college, I was somewhat abused by a misuse of the MMPI, a test I loathe to this day. So my shields were up, so to speak.

But these at-work experiences were far different from that. The tools and profiles presented actually made some sense and were helpful. For the most part.

It was through encountering DiSC, Myers-Briggs, and the like, that I discovered I was an introvert. But that I also had “A-type” leanings and could more or less adapt my personality style to fit situations. And I was gifted in several areas.

But I was an introvert.

I was assured by the facilitators that there was nothing wrong with being an introvert. That this could be “overcome.”

Sigh.

In other words, I could do “all” things as an introvert, only with some exceptions. It was like having an asterisk attached to my life: “ You can do anything! *See footnote for exclusions to your expectations.”

The universe might positively love you!

I’m not a fan of all those cutesy quotes about being positive and “true to yourself” and “trust the universe so all your dreams will come true.”

You know the ones I mean, I’m sure.

They’re all over Facebook and Tumblr and still sneak into our email inboxes from time to time.

Sometimes they’re attributed to someone famous. Often they’ve been generated by motivational gurus or scraped out of books on how to be successful in sales and life. They're frequently marred by poor logic,  flawed thinking, and bad philosophy.

They’re often very Rah! Rah!, upbeat, and dripping with “positivity.”

Why don’t I warm to these lovely, sappy, syrupy sentiments?

Because of the asterisk.

I am what I am

Let’s go back to that old chestnut I opened with and how I, an introvert, tend to see it:
“You can be whatever you want to be when you grow up!” *

* As long as you’re more outgoing, personable, articulate, quick to speak up in meetings, love to go out and network…and act more like a bubbly extrovert.

In other words, to succeed in anything, I have to be pretty much everything I’m not, personality-wise.

This is the same as saying, “Be true to who you are (*) unless you’re an introvert and then you need to be more like you’re not and then when you’re more outgoing just maybe the universe will let some of your dreams come true! Yay!”

In fact, being introverted is viewed by many as being stand-offish, critical, closed, shy, slow-witted, suspicious, anti-social, and the list of negatives goes on and on.

Even within the faith community this can come across as being “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14), but, as an introvert, not made exactly right. You know, one handful of mud short of being a complete person.

As I’ve written before, growing up in a Pentecostal environment had distinct challenges (click here to read). Some of these challenges occur even in non-Pentecostal settings as we’re supposed to be “bold” in the Lord, and bold is usually defined as “extroverted.”

Can you see me now?

I’m reading The Introvert Advantage by Marti Laney, and I came across this line: “The introverted person feels unseen.”

Yep. That ‘bout sums it up.

On the next page, she writes, “Growing up being compared to extroverts can be very damaging.”

Duh!

The damage doesn’t end with the end of childhood, either.

Extrovert adults can be hard on their introvert colleagues, usually without knowing it, and sometimes willfully not caring.

Why? Because in the thinking of our culture extroverts rule and introverts need to “grow a pair.” And you, dear extrovert reader, don’t tell me you’ve never thought this. In fact you’re probably thinking it right now.

My colleague, my naysayer

Most of my business career has been lived out being a “communications professional.” Let’s use CP for short.

We CPers are supposed to be sensitive to personality style differences because introverts and extroverts don’t hear the same way; they each respond to different kinds of communication. In fact, most CPers, in my experience, are themselves introverts. But not all.

Just a couple of years ago, as I was discussing the fact that I was an introvert with a CP colleague, explaining that while I can get up in front of people, it’s tough for me, she stunned me.

Her “sensitive” response? She said bluntly, with a look and tone of dismissive admonishment, “It’s okay to be an introvert, but you shouldn’t be telling people you are. Just act like you aren’t.”

Again, sigh.

So, even now, as an adult, a “seasoned" professional, someone who’s been around the block a time or two, I still long for that asterisk free life.

A lament is not a whine

If you’re an extrovert, you probably stopped reading about a thousand or so words back.

But I hope you’re still with me. Even if you may be thinking something along the lines of, “What a whiny cry baby!”

Which, if that’s the case, you are affirming my sense that extroverts, unless they really try, don’t get introverts at all. And possibly don't really want to.

But, let me clue you in to something: We do get you. And that gives us a quiet advantage.

Here are a three other things to keep in mind when it comes to introverts.
  • We are the 50%+. Roughly half of the population consists of introverts. By some accountings, it’s closer to 51%. We’re here and you should want to get along with us just as we want to get along with you. It’ll go better for all of us if you recognize that we’re simply different and neither personality style is better than the other. You have your weaknesses and strengths just as we do.
     
  • You need us. Introverts are differently visioned than extroverts. By that I mean we see things extroverts often miss. You will run full speed ahead making everything around you seem a blur. We sit still and zoom in on the details you’re ignoring and can point out pitfalls and opportunities you are blind to. Listen to us and perhaps you’ll not crash into that wall you're headed for.
      
  • Discrimination is always bad. You already know better than being prejudiced against an ethnic group, preferring a man over a woman for a position, or slighting someone because of their religion or race. Well, putting down or pushing aside introverts is just as wrong.
     
When you think of your introvert colleagues, employees, relatives, and friends, drop the asterisks!:
“Bill’s a great guy (*) but he’s just too quiet; it’s just a little weird.”

“Jill’s got real potential (*) but she doesn’t speak up in meetings.”

“We like Sam’s resume (*) but he’s just not that upbeat.”

“Sally does great work (*) but she always declines speaking in front of groups.”

“Allen seems friendly one-on-one (*) but he stands off in larger groups.”

“Mary is a sweet girl (*) but she’s always got her nose in a book.”

“Jack would make a great leader (*) but he needs to be more outgoing.”

In all the descriptions above, everything that comes after the (*) should not negate what’s stated before the (*). Letting the asterisk stand devalues people who just happen to be talented introverts.

There’s gold in them thar introverts! Finding the gold requires digging, not dismissing.

Besides, one day, the introvert you set aside may become the introvert you end up working for. After all, CEOs of some of the most successful organizations are introverts.

So, yes, while we all may have the potential to become whatever we want, our choices will be guided by who we are, which will also shape how we do what we become. Introverts will lead, but will do so more quietly.

And how God created each of us is equally okay, neither personality style is more complete than the other.

Extroverts, please note, we introverts are many and we have you surrounded! But we’ll be far more gentle with and accepting of you than you tend to be with us. That’s just our nature.

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As an extrovert, does any of this make sense to you? As an introvert, can you relate? As either, do you agree, disagree, don'tcare? Sound off below in the comments section! (Note: If you don't see a comment box, click in the "Comments" or "No comments" link.)
Here are two excellent resources to help you understand introverts (and extroverts) better: