Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Can You Say "No"?

        It’s why I whine and moan from time to time about being overwhelmed. It’s why I sweep through a week’s worth of my calendar and cancel anything that isn’t critical. It’s why I keep my office door closed at home, keeping out those who love and just want to support me.

          I can have a really tough time saying “no.” I can say “no” to a stranger or a more anonymous request than I can to really close friends or family.

The Need to Get Sick

          My latest trick is to agree to something and then back out later when others have just gotten used to the fact that I’ll be there, that I’ll take care of it, or that they can count on me. And, if I can’t gracefully extricate myself from a commitment it seems I wind up getting sick:  “Oh, my cold is so bad, and I don’t want to infect everyone so I have to bow out.”

          This doesn’t happen often; I do have healthy boundaries for the most part about saying "no" but it seems there’s always an awkward situation that surprises me, and I find myself sputtering about with excuses instead of just saying “No, I’m not able to help you this time.” 

Some Suggestions

          Recently I checked out some good suggestions for saying "no" gracefully to anyone … even to a close friend or esteemed colleague. Some of the suggestions include:

          -Don’t put it off. Waiting several days to say “no” 

               to any request will only make it more difficult. 
               People who need something from you won’t 
               forget about their request, so jump on it then they 
               can look to others for assistance.

         -Avoid using excuses like “I’m just swamped,” or 
               “I’ve been sick,” or “I have to work,” (or have 
               to do something else at that time) unless they 
               are true.

         -Make your reason for saying “no” brief and then 
               be quiet. More blubbering with added excuses 
               and laments will not make it easier for you or 
               more believable to them. Just repeat your short 
               reason and then zip it. You don’t really need 
               an excuse anyway. Either you can or you can’t 
               and that’s the bottom line.

         -If you can genuinely make an alternative offer, 
               do so. Like "I am happy to do it next week if 
               it helps."

          In general, not jerking people around when they've asked you for something is always the best policy, but it doesn't always go smoothly. What happens when the person who needs you gets upset? As I've said so many times in previous posts, I try to learn from my mistakes and then move on. Also, I always try to remember that a person who gets angry when I say "no, sorry," might not be the true friend I thought s/he was.

          Practice makes perfect, so keep at it!

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Tuesday, April 7, 2015

A Letter From Jail

      On April 12, 1963, in Birmingham, Alabama, civil-rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. participated in a peaceful protest march in defiance of a court injunction banning demonstrations there. King was arrested and jailed. While there, he replied in his now famous Letter from Birmingham Jail to white clergy who stated they were opposed to segregation but were upset by “outsiders” like King stirring up trouble in the Birmingham community. He addresses their concerns and criticisms in this emotional letter. 
          Next Sunday is the 52nd anniversary of this event, and I took time this past week to reread his direct response. He begins by explaining that he isn’t an outsider who has come to cause trouble but rather was invited to Birmingham by an affiliate of the Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC). King also provides a moral reason for coming to Birmingham to battle injustice. He believes “all communities and states” are interdependent and that he wants to work for justice anywhere injustice is being practiced. Dr. King in turn criticizes the white clergy for only focusing on the protestors without equally being critical of the racist causes of the injustice that is being protested.

I Learned Something

          I’ve never really understood the purpose of peaceful protest marches, and it wasn’t until I heard King’s explanation in this letter from jail that I began to finally get it. His explanation for the power of protest marches is that they create a “crisis” and “tension” of sorts and that negotiations can’t happen without that upset, which forces unwilling parties to negotiate, hopefully in good faith. I see what he meant. I finally get it!

          While the letter goes on to respond to the numerous racist and one-sided remarks made by the white clergy, I drifted off in my thoughts to questions that continue to rise in my consciousness as I age. Why are we still not “there” with regard to equal rights? Why is the abyss still so wide and deep? Has there been any real progress during my life to feel we are making headway?

          I’d love to see a unification and an amalgamation of all the peoples of the world who are excluded or ridiculed or bullied and chastised … in my lifetime. Sounds like Pollyanna? It doesn’t matter how it sounds.

What to Do

          I believe the best thing I can do is live my life as a mirror of how I want the world to be…to not shut people out because they are different or their beliefs and ideals are different or because they live differently than I do. If I can accept someone in my own circle of family and friends who believes differently, worships differently, raises their children differently or follows a different path to joy, I can do that for someone across town or across the world.

          I see many senior citizens looking to the younger generation to make the needed changes. But we are all leaders, aren’t we? Regardless of our age, there is much work to be done.

          It has been said we're living in post-racial America. This is just not true. Each and everyone of us is still part of the problem as well as part of the solution. Your "peaceful protest" counts.

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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

What's for Dinner?

          When I went on the very first diet I can remember, back in the early 1960’s, all I had to do to lose weight was eat the burger and forget the bun. I recall that it worked. In addition, in those days doctors gave 12-year-olds Dexamyl, a powerful amphetamine that would curb my appetite. It most certainly did curb my appetite, and I was always getting in trouble for being too chatty in class when I took it. At the time, I think my mother's wisdom dictated being thin was more valued than being an exemplary student.
    Years later, in order to diet successfully I was allowed to eat the bun (whole wheat please!) but no longer the burger. I drank Tab (a diet cola containing saccharine) my whole life until it was no longer easily found on store shelves in the 1990’s.

          Desserts were, of course, off the menu but with diet jello and fat-free Cool Whip (a quasi-petroleum product) I could get a sugar-like rush, that is, if I could get passed the heartburn it gave me. I knew, because I was taught so, that food manufacturers always looked out for our well-being and the government would regulate producers to ensure my safety in all that I consumed.

          Oh, how I long for those simple days. Since then, I’ve been a vegan and a vegetarian and a pescetarian (a vegetarian who eats fish). Yet I have never in my life been more confused about what to eat for good health.

What's Best

          I believe the best diet for me is one that is low in carbs and sugars, has enough calcium and lean protein and contains no gluten, even though I’m not gluten intolerant. The way food is produced nowadays makes good tasting food taste better, and eating too much bread makes me want more and more.

          A few years ago I made a conscious effort to reduce pesticides, where possible, by avoiding GMO foods. I can’t imagine families who, like me, wish to eat mostly organic foods. It’s expensive, very expensive for the average family on a limited food budget. Even avoiding chemicals in my foods, I still drink wine that is non-GMO and coffee that is grown in countries that load on chemicals to keep crops abundant and pest-free.  

Another Wrench in the Works

          Lately I’ve had a huge wrench thrown into the problem of what is best for me to eat. Oxalates. Without a boring medical diatribe that I’m not qualified to make, suffice it to say oxalates cause the calcium kind of kidney stones I’ve had recently so I desperately need to avoid them. Wanna hear the top oxalate-producing foods?  Spinach, beets, soy, chard, chocolate, nuts, beans, and wheat bran. So much for ever being a vegan again, not that it would be impossible, just very challenging.

          I met with a nutritionist recently to get some information about what I could eat to 1) keep my sugar, salt and fat intake low, 2) avoid oxalates, 3) lose weight in the process and 4) satisfy me enough so I wouldn't want to eat a whole sleeve of Ritz crackers because of feeling deprived. And the good news is there’s plenty of stuff out there. It'll take me a while to figure how it all works. Why does it have to all be such a mystery and why does it take a Ph.D. to figure out what to eat?

          In the meantime, when someone asks me what's for dinner? I wish I could just say “I'll take a burger … without the bun and a Tab.”

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