Why Idealism

why idealism

I have been writing this post in my head for a very long time. I have this idea in my head on how I want it to be but my words have never quite come together the way I want. I found this picture recently and it spoke to me, I knew it was meant for this post. I also knew it was time to just start writing, let it come out however it chooses to.

This is what it feels like to be an idealist, an INFP, for me at least. I am writing this in my “I” voice, not speaking for all idealists/INFPs, just me. The world at times, often times, feels magic. The wind in the trees, the way it makes the leaves move, the noise it makes.. Magic. Old trees that have lived much longer than myself, they have seen the world change around them but there they stand strong and true.. Magic. Human connection, one soul finding itself in another.. Magic.

When I was a child I was all imagination. I played in the trees but they were not trees, they were castles. I pretended my backyard was a wilderness filled with gentle wild animals who wanted nothing more but to be my friend, I laid out carrots waiting for rabbits that would never come. I lived a life of joy and fulfillment playing in a world I created in my mind and my heart. I understand now that part of this was out of necessity. Idealism, imagination, rose colored glasses, being inside my own little world.. It was a way to feel safe when my environment did not. It gave me somewhere to go when I could not be where I was. Idealism is part of what helped me survive.

I have never grown out of my idealism. It allows me to see the best in bad situations, it allows me to find hope when all feels lost, it allows me to find compassion for those who would hurt me, it allows me to feel safe when the world feels scary.

I know there is a balance to be struck, especially as an adult, but ultimately at the end of the day I am still very much an idealist. Some may see this approach to life through a negative lens. My response to that would be before you jump to criticism and judgement think about what this world view might mean to the person. We do not become who we are arbitrarily. I am willing to bet that I am not the only survivor of trauma that has used my sense of idealism as a tool for resiliency. It is absolutely a strength, it helped me survive. I went through what I went through and never stopped believing in the world, and life, and magic, and beauty. That is strength. That is resiliency.

Why Idealism?

Because the world is going to be what it is going to be regardless of me so why not try to see the best whenever possible, it is there, keep looking.

Because The world is full of beautiful magic and I can’t ignore it. I cannot help but be in awe everyday I get to be part of it.

Because safety.

Because there is no right or wrong way to experience life and this is my way.

My husband is a realist, we balance each other, I lift him up, he keeps me tethered to the ground so I do not float away. I admire his perspective and respect what it means to him. I can also be a bit of a cynic at times because I am allowed to exist in more than one way in my life and sometimes social justice issues are too big and awful to see through my rose colored glasses. That is okay too. I embrace it all.

You don’t have to be all one thing all the time. You can exist in your life in many different ways. Life is not as rigid as we are told it is growing up. It is flexible and forgiving, we make it complicated with our ideas about right/wrong/good/bad and other forms of dichotomous thinking.

So where do you land in all of this? Idealist? Realist? Optimist? Cynic? Anarchist? And why? You are not who you are by accident. What got you there? There is no wrong answer and your story, whatever it maybe, is sacred.

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A Luxury that should be a Standard

obey

 

I called this morning and made appointments for Todd and I with the dentist in town to get ourselves established as new patients. Admittedly neither of us has had a cleaning since we moved to College Park, this call was a few years overdue. While scheduling I gave the scheduler our dental insurance information and she informed me we have wonderful dental insurance, some of the best they see in fact. Todd works for one of the largest engineering firms in the country so this did not surprise me to hear. I already knew just from treating patients in the healthcare field that worked for his same employer that the medical insurance was good, it was nice to hear they take care of their employees health across the board. The company encourages their employees to have a healthy lifestyle through a program that adds funds to their HSA by logging their activity with pedometers as well. Free money for making healthy choices is something I can get behind.

The Hospital I formerly worked for was one of the largest, if not the largest, in the central FL area and they had a similar health program that gave incentives for making healthy choices. Now personally I thought their healthcare package was lacking, big time. But as a company they took care of their employees in other ways that were no lost on me. I believe they care about the well-being of those they employ. They were a wonderful company to work for, especially if you did not have to use their insurance package.

After I made our appointment I was thinking what a relief it is to not only have good insurance but encouragement to live healthy and make good choices. With that sense of relief also comes a small pang of guilt though. Why isn’t this the standard? How can I, as a socially conscious human being, truly enjoy the access I am granted to doctors and medical treatment knowing that others in more dire need than myself are denied that same access?! I am grateful for it, absolutely, but I cannot feel good about it, truly, in good conscience.

You have heard the adage, Happy wife, happy life? I think that could apply to employees as well. If great healthcare coverage (dental, vision, maternity.. the works!) was a given in all areas of employment doesn’t it stand to reason that you would end up with healthier, more focused, all around happier employees? I am reading The Power of Habit:Why we do what we do in life and business by Charles Duhigg. The most recent section I read talked about how a new CEO took over a failing company and turned it all around by focusing on employee safety. His goal was to have zero incidents reported not just at the factory level but at all levels of the company. This was a lofty goal but by turning the focus back onto the well-being of the employee instead of profits etc he not only met his goal but the company became profitable again. If you take care of people they take notice.

To be clear though, I do not think that healthcare access should be limited exclusively to those who are employed. This should be something that all people, regardless of employment status, income, age, race creed etc should have equal access to.

I am not doing any research here to back any of this up, I am just thinking out loud which means these thoughts are unrefined and maybe even a little oversimplified. But really, I think I have a point. A point that I know others before me have already made. This is not some radical idea I am suggesting. Healthcare, or in our countries case – lack thereof, is a topic that is constantly under heavy debate.

I just don’t think it is right for something like this to be considered a luxury. It is not a designer bad, it is someones health. Health, a decent education, refuge, all of these things should be a given not a rarity.

Yes it was nice to hear that we have good dental coverage I just wish that we lived in a society where that kind of thing was the standard. Then there would never be a reason to point it out to a person because it was true for all.

Poise and Grace

grace

 

Truth be told in terms of physical movement and motor control I do not possess either of the competencies listed above. That being said, in the realm of interpersonal relationships and human emotion/self-control these are two areas I am known to excel in. Now I am only able to say that last statement earnestly because I had, in the past, fallen short in those areas and made the conscious decision to work mindfully on my inner self  in order to grow in the area of dignity and grace.

I have been up front about my lack of inspiration of late in terms of the philosophical musings that are often found dancing along the pages of this blog. I have found myself once again struck, it is like an awakening of sorts and as per usual it has presented itself repeatedly in different forms as if almost begging to be expressed.

I have been re-reading Tuesdays with Morrie recently. I have had little time for leisure reading of late but when time allows I have been picking it up and putting it down. I have not had time for a few weeks but this morning I arrived to campus early. I managed to stow myself away in a quiet corner of an upper floor of the building where my classes are held and it was in this corner where my inspiration first hit. I am towards the end of the book and I do not remember exactly which chapter I was on. Somewhere between marriage, forgiveness and culture Morrie said something that ruminated with me, as so many of his insights do. He was talking about how people behave when they feel threatened and how this behavior when in this kind of crisis can tell you so much about a person’s character. I completely agree, as usual. I have certainly noticed this over the years, specifically in professional settings. Sometimes I have been surprised and disappointed, fortunately for me the few people I have looked up to as mentor’s in my life hold themselves to a high standard which I learned and adapted much like a child modeling their parent’s behavior.

I stopped reading after that chapter this morning, I still had about 45 minutes before class but I just wanted to sit and let Morrie’s words sink in. Ironically later in the day my advice was called upon by a friend and we had a long conversation about how to conduct oneself with class and recover from heart-break with grace and dignity. We talked about the negative feelings that were bubbling up inside of her and her impulse to lash out at those who caused them. I have mentioned on here before how I have always believed that no one can get the better of you unless you allow it so we explored that idea in terms of the way she was currently feeling. The resentment, the anger, the frustration and rejection. They were all valid feelings for what she was dealing with. Ultimately by the end of our conversation she had made the decision to take the high road, wish the person who had wronged her well and let go of the negativity in an effort to take back some control over the situation. She didn’t want to allow the person or situation to affect her in this way and chose to focus on the positive and move in that direction. We ended our conversation with some heart-felt admirations for one another and knowing how lucky we are to learn and grow together through each others vulnerability.

Much later in the evening I was watching my all time favorite TV show, the one show that time stands still for in my life, Project Runway. Tim Gunn is my idol, he is the epitome of style, intellect and absolute class. He is a teacher and a mentor by trade and an absolute inspiration as a human being. So like all seasons of this show there is a clear antagonist, the one aspect of this show I have never liked much. I watch this show primarily for my weekly Tim Gunn fix and secondary to that for the amazing art in the form of clothing. The artist inside of me feels alive and stimulated when I watch this show. The antagonist this season was particularly nasty, I speak in past tense because to my delight she was sent home on this evenings episode. Now although this is just a TV show I am talking about I still feel the need to say that my delight was not in this artist’s misfortune but just in not having to sit through future episodes of her negativity. The aspect of the show that applies to my current brain-work was her disgusting behavior once she knew the inevitable, that she was to be eliminated. She was cruel and spiteful and lashed out at artist’s that had never wronged her. It was the embodiment of everything Morrie illustrated in the book. He was essentially saying when threatened, some people react this way and if as a society we could foster a culture where we all work together we would be better for it.

It is a nice idea, something to work towards, in the interim I would find myself satisfied with little changes that can be made in daily life as a way to better ourselves and each other. Things like letting an extra car in when stuck in traffic, even if their driving is inconsiderate, or being kind more often than giving into the immediate gratification impulse of being nasty. Little every day events like this matter. This is a way to foster the culture Morrie spoke of.

So on  more personal note also related in a way to this topic of dignity and grace.. When I was working the front desk at Hospice this week a man came in carrying an exquisite stack of old leather-bound books. He was there visting a patient, I recognized him from the day before. On his prior visit he noticed that we have a small library of sorts in the shared living room and brought these lovely books to donate. They were so stunning even with clearly being aged that I asked him if he was sure, I would have trouble parting with such beauties. When he said yes I thanked him explaining how touching the donation was and made the appropriate person aware so they could process the donation and put the out to be displayed. While I waited for the employee to come down and collect the books I leafed through some of the pages. He donated a Sherlock Holmes, two poetry collections and then another book I was unfamiliar with but that was equally striking. While flipping through one of the poetry books I stumbled across a few poems that spoke to me, one of which was If by Rudyard Kipling. And in what I am sure is no coincidence it is quite appropriate for what I have touched on in this post so I wanted to share it as well. I have highlighted the lines that I really appreciate and identify with.

 

IF

By Rudyard Kipling

(‘Brother Square-Toes’—Rewards and Fairies)

If you can keep your head when all about you   
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;  
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same; 
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,   
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

 

Refusing to take off the rose colored glasses: a lesson in defiance from an idealist

rose colored glasses

“..Real courage is.. when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.” – To Kill a Mockingbird

 

2 months after I left work full-time and returned to school Todd and I decided to have a garage sale. We had moved into together roughly six months prior and had duplicates of almost everything. After living on your own for a while and then moving in with someone else who has been living alone as well this kind of thing happens.

Unlike Todd, I kind of like garage sales, hosting them at least. I see it as a reason to be outside and a wonderful opportunity for people watching. You never know what kind of interesting people you are going to encounter. What I don’t like about garage sales, haggling. I do not haggle. You tell me the price, I pay it. If I do not think a price is fair I do not pay it. That’s it. Everything is haggling with garage sales though. Ugh. Consequently I am not always as stern as I should be about my bottom line either which is where Todd comes in, he does not negotiate. This is the price, pay it or not. He hates his role at garage sales.

So, back to my point. At our first garage sale we were down sizing all of our duplicates as well as getting rid of  unused items that were taking up space. Towards the end of the day a woman came in and bought all of my books that were displayed. She and I were talking and discovered we have social work in common. She had just moved to College Park to be closer to her daughter who attends a local dance school but she had been a licensed Social Worker for 20+ years. When she found out social work was my intended major we exchanged emails to keep in touch and so I may ask her questions about the field. I immediately took her up on the offer of sharing field knowledge, I emailed her later that week.

Our correspondence was my first encounter with what I now think of as The Social Work Warning Label. In the last two years I have heard a variation of the warning label at least eight times. I know the actual number is higher but that is just the number of in-depth conversations I could remember off the top of my head and counted out on my fingers. There have been plenty of conversations in passing that have involved the warning label as well. So what is the social work warning label you might be wondering? Well if you are familiar or affiliated with the field I am sure you are already a few steps ahead of me.

Essentially it is the conversation that usually follows me telling anyone that has any experience with the field what my major is. It is the “be careful of this” talk ,and the “well this is what happened to my friend” talk, and all the other foreboding gloom and doom warnings that apparently come with this field. All of it is meant to be beneficial, none of it is meant to discourage me in any way. The phrase “burned out” seems to be synonymous with the field. This is just these people trying to prepare me for what may be the inevitable in their eyes based on what their experiences have been.

I was talking to Todd about all of this a few weeks ago after my most recent warning label conversation. This is what I have found, every person I have had interaction with in relation to this field has had either a word of warning for me or some other negative tid bit. I have never once heard one person say, “Oh Social Work huh? That’s great, I have been in the field for the last five years and I love it, most rewarding experience of my life.” or “My friend is a social worker and she absolutely loves it.” It is always more to the tune of, “I worked in X field as a social worker for 2 years and couldn’t handle it, now I do X job that is completely unrelated to my degree.” or “Oh my friend went to school for social work and worked for X out of college. She got burned out and now does X instead.” (Which is again usually completely unrelated to the degree).

There are positive inspiring stories as well but they are never what comes first and I feel they almost always carry an asterisk. It will be something like, “This is what I love about the work I do but you have to watch out for X, X and X.”

Balance, boundaries and self-preservation are always a reoccurring theme and clearly very important in this line of work.

I can admit, and have many times when having these conversations with people, that I may be at times a little more naive than most to the workings of the world around me. This, however, was not the case when making the decision to pursue social work.

There is a reason I did not start this journey until I was 28, I wasn’t ready. I have known since I was 18 that this is what fits for me. Even back then when I was still unsure of exactly who I was and who I wanted to be in this world, I knew. I needed time though. Time for life experience, time to mature emotionally, time to figure myself out. I knew all along that this field would be emotionally taxing, that at times I may be working with a broken system, that the work I do may be without recognition, that I could be putting my whole heart into a thankless pursuit and ultimately the work I do may never incur any kind of big change and in turn all I may ever be capable of is marginal improvements. It is still worth it, or what I mean to say is, I still see the worth in it.

In life I do tend to see the possibilities over how things currently are. I do look for the silver lining. There is good in everything and even if it kills me at times I know this is the only chance I have at feeling fulfilled. This is the one thing in my life that I am doing selfishly, just for me, because I know even if I am unable to make a difference in the big picture, trying will make all the difference in my own life.

I cannot be what I am not

balance

In life a challenge everyone faces is balance. Keeping balance in your everyday life is an important part of being a grounded, happy human being. When it comes to balance in my daily life the biggest challenge I face is keeping my emotionally driven personality in check. I am constantly trying to put my feelings toward any given thing into perspective, always trying to keep my eye on the bigger picture.

The problem I  face is that for me everything revolves around how I feel. Logic, statistics and analytical thought do not usually play a role in my decision making process. Being so far to one side of the scale in this aspect of my personality poses a real danger for me slipping into extremes. This is something I am afraid of and keep a wary eye on because I do not want to lose touch with reality.

Todd and I had a discussion this morning about something that has been bothering me and how I plan to handle it. I, like many Americans, walk around blissfully unaware of a lot of the yuck going on around me in society. When something is brought to my attention, however, it is difficult for me to ignore it and pretend it is not there. This is especially true when I have some level of control over whatever the thing is.

I do have a level of perspective about this, I know that I cannot single-handedly change all the defects of our society. I have to choose my battles and my causes. I do not have it in me to fight for every cause out there. However, I can choose what is best for me personally and not give my support financially to a company with immoral business practices for example. This is something small but it is what feels right.

What disappoints me so often is our society’s level of greed and what people and companies are willing to do for money. I see things and hear about things happening that are just wrong. Really wrong. But it is allowed to happen, there are no laws stopping it or those in place are loose and not often upheld.

I am not trying to change the world, I do not have the energy for that, but I don’t want to be part of the problem when I am aware of it and can make the decision not to be. It is exhausting to care this much but I would still rather be an exhausted person of principle than a carefree hypocrite as often as possible.

Identity: How we are seen, how we see ourselves

“You are not your job, you’re not how much money you have in the bank. You are not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You are not your fucking khakis. You are the all singing, all dancing crap of the world.”
Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

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Todd and I have been talking lately about our next car. Like the responsible ISTJ he is he managed to pay off his car loan early. I think close to a year early actually. So having not had a car payment for quite sometime and the recent addition of a large dog into our home he has started thinking about the next vehicle and what makes sense. He has decided we need a size upgrade so when he is ready he is going to look at SUVs. I must admit a piece of me is jealous.

It’s not just that he will get to drive an SUV while I am stuck in a car (I have never liked cars since being in a bad accident when I was 14). It’s the fact that I already know when the time comes for me to get another car I will be getting a minivan! It is what makes sense for us though. By the time I am ready for a new car we will either already be one child in or at least ready to start having children. When I was in high school my cousin and I always used to say we would never be “minivan moms” we were going to be the cool moms who drove SUVs. Well uncool or not I have grown up and watched my girlfriends struggle with baby seats in the back of their SUVs and cars plus at times not having enough room for all the extras you tote around not to mention trying to fit additional people in your vehicle. I realized it just doesn’t make sense.

Todd and I were talking about minivans and my silly ideas about them. Believe me, I know they are silly I do not need to be told. What would be more ridiculous though is not getting a minivan when the time comes because somehow I have attached my identity as a person to the car I drive. Or I allowed my ego to get in the way of what makes the most sense for my family. Anyway, Todd says Volvo makes a minivan so at least I have that. Half kidding, I do kind of love Volvos.

This whole idea of feeling less than because of the car I drive got me thinking bigger picture about my identity, about individual identity in general. What do we think of ourselves? Where does our self-worth stem from? How does this compare to how others view us? Are the two ideas in line with each other or are they incredibly skewed?

For example, They say the clothes make the man, what do my clothes say about me and how much do I let what I wear speak for me?

I think my style is feminine, relatively conservative and comfortable but always put together. I will usually pick a colorful flat over a heel to save my feet but I am not a t-shirt and jeans girl.

So I wonder what kind of first impression I give? What I always strive for is approachable. And in thinking about it I do identify with what I wear. I am not proud of it but I can honestly say I don’t feel as much like myself running around in a t-shirt and jeans, I actually don’t really own any t-shirts. I acknowledge that there is a degree of superficiality in allowing my mood to be affected by what I am wearing but I do care about how I represent myself in public. While I accept that this makes me superficial on some level I also feel it is about self-respect though and possibly even being respectful of those around me.

Let me elaborate a little, if I know I have a meeting with someone I will dress accordingly. It shows that I care, showing the person I am meeting with I take them seriously therefore have shown up put together. Not to mention in terms of the work world most companies care about how the people they hire represent them. I realize when I am out in the world I am not just representing myself but others as well. That means something to me.

When it comes to my identity, I do not want to be defined by material things ultimately. My car, clothes, jewelry, phone. I have never been into status symbols etc. I also don’t want to be solely identified by the roles I play in life.

Mother, Social Worker, Wife, Daughter, Sister, Friend. I have talked many times about wanting to be the same version of myself across the board, striving for authenticity. My hope is that as I go through life I am able to stay true to who I am in all of these different roles and that come across to those I interact with. I realize my children will only ever really thinking of me as their mother but I hope as they get older when they think of me it is more than just “Mom”. I hope my affection, support, empathy and compassion shines through.

I feel this way about all of the roles I will play in life. I don’t want to just be “Jill the Social Worker” or “Jill, Todd’s wife”. When people think of me I hope who I am transcends just the title I hold in their life.

 

Not in the business of politics

spce

Is a little perspective too much to ask for? How about a level of courtesy or appropriateness? Politics became a hot button issue at work this week which to me seems utterly ridiculous because my job has nothing to do with politics!

Our owner has strong political convictions, this is immediately apparent when you walk into our office and hear all three TVs playing Fox News. We, the staff, are not allowed to touch the TVs other than to turn them on in the morning and off in evening after the last patient has left. If anyone asks for the channel to be changed, the volume to be turned down or the TV to be turned off we have to tell them no (this does not come up often luckily).  The bottom line is, the owner believes what he believes and stands up for his beliefs, I have never been able to fault him for that.

I am not politically minded at all. I do not care. I do not mean to sound complacent or indifferent. It is not that I do not care about what is going on in our country, I do. Especially when it concerns our relationships with other countries and certain social issues nationally. I do not care about the agenda of the two political parties though. My views do not fit neatly into a some predetermined mold and therefore I do not like the idea of being labeled and attached to a particular party. I do not think politicians (as a rule) care much about the population. They care about their jobs (specifically, keeping their jobs) so they pander to their party. I care about the issues, the real issues not the propaganda they try to scare you with on the news. I do not care for politics or politicians I also do not care to ever have a conversation about this topic. It is one area where, admittedly, I am a bit of cynic and that is not my norm. Anyway, the truth is, I find the topic rather dull.

This week we had a chatty patient in the office who kept trying to engage my co-worker and myself in a political debate. She was admiring the doctor’s patriotism as she called it and wanted to lecture us about how President Obama is going to be our nation’s downfall. Um no, not interested. Sorry.

It is a person’s right to do so if he/she feels so inclined, but I have never been interested in President bashing.

This patient, Miss Chatty Cathy, would not let up though and she would not take a hint. I kept politely smiling and occasionally giving a noncommittal response. She finally tried to put me on the spot and force me to engage her by calling me out saying something similar to ” You keep smiling and nodding at me but you have no idea the severity of what I am talking about.” Her tone was condescending as if I am just a child that does not understand the “real world”. (She was talking gloom and doom about the President’s healthcare policy.) I was quiet for a moment and then replied, “The world is full of problems, so to keep a level head I try to focus my energy on problems I can directly impact such as helping patients like yourself feel better.” She suddenly had nothing more to say.

I don’t care what the patient’s opinion is. Again, this topic does not interest me in the least and I am not easily offended by a person’s opinion on the matter because I have no horse in this race BUT.. I am always offended by blow hard’s that feel the need to force their opinion down everyone else’s throat. It’s ear rape. Get some perspective lady, all of what she was saying was based on opinion, not fact and what’s worse it was not even original thought. She was just spouting back what she has heard some other blow hard say.