Zero to Hate in a Flash

498296601_4f1f24bae4_zWhen my son was in day care years ago, he came home with bite marks all over his back.  I was shocked, outraged, disgusted.  Was he spending time with children or animals?  The caregiver patiently told me that it’s a phase that toddlers go through and that they were aware of it and working with the children to help them learn it isn’t okay to bite.  In a few weeks, my own son was biting other children and me, I suppose to vent his frustration. We got through it.  You can’t expect a small child to be rational, so you deflect and say no-no and wait for his little brain to develop some more.

I fear that our society is comprised of a bunch of toddlers, lashing out at-will and with great eagerness.  When news of the gorilla incident hit the airwaves this weekend, outrage instantly erupted against the kid’s mother, the zoo, the kid, the designer of the zoo and his or her mother, the manufacturer of the gun that killed the gorilla, the trees that line the road to the zoo … virtually anyone or anything was fair game for blame, attack, disdain and hatred.  Internet discourse is now the stoning of Biblical days. Kill the heretic that we only just heard about!  There is only Good and Evil and [insert here] is deigned by me to be Evil and must be beaten to a pulp.

We have heard all the theories about social media, the internet, video games, music, ISIS or  global warming causing our collective psyche to have a hair trigger, to go to the extreme on a moment’s notice, to riot at a political rally, to cyber bully just to get clicks.  All of those theories may have validity, but I’m sick of the excuses.  It’s time to take back our rationality.

Sometimes bad things happen and there is no one to blame.  I know, it’s shocking that I, an attorney, would be an advocate for the “shit happens” philosophy.  But sometimes, that’s what you’ve got to work with.  Tragedy occurs and there may not be a villain to attack.  Sometimes someone makes a mistake.  There is no bad intent, there isn’t even negligence.  It happens.  We may be sad and angry that a bad thing has happened, but there may not be a bad guy.

And get this, sometimes someone can have a viewpoint that differs from yours and it doesn’t make them a bad person.  It doesn’t make them stupid or irrational or bad.  It makes them human.  Here’s a shocker:  we can disagree without hating each other or threatening families and dogs. (Yes, this happens to people in the public eye everyday.  Their lives and those of their families and pets are threatened because they support a given candidate or cause.  What is wrong with this picture?)

Sometimes people do have bad intent.  Sometimes people are evil.  That’s why we have law enforcement agencies, a free press (well, if you roll all the news sources together we may approach some level of the truth) and a court system designed to ferret out people who do bad things or act recklessly and hold them accountable. I know, these institutions are not perfect and sometimes they make mistakes and are the wrongdoers.  I get it.  But let’s take a breath before attacking.  Let’s wait to learn some facts before assuming the worst.  Let’s consider that someone’s opinion is just that and not a plot to take our freedom.  Let’s turn our attention to mending the fabric of our society rather than leaving bite marks on each other.  Go to your time-out chair, people. 





Filter? What Filter?

That moment when things go into slow motion and your ears seem full of cotton and you can’t believe that those words are actually going out of your mouth and you wish you could grab them and stuff them back in?  Yeah that.

I don’t blush often, but after one particularly embarrassing blurt I turned deep red as I KEPT ON TALKING just making it worse and worse.  The conversational equivalent of a horror movie — an out-of-body moment screaming at myself, “No, idiot, don’t go there!”

Sometimes the “incident” haunts me for days.  I re-live with horror each millisecond of the exchange leading up to the horrible words’ escape.  I try to imagine how it must have sounded to those around me and think about how I could have stopped it from happening.  As time passes, I may forget what I actually said, but I remember with a sinking stomach just how awful the moment was.

I can’t say how many times this has happened, a lot for sure.  I’m so envious of people who float through life with eloquence and grace.  Discrete.  Thoughtful.  Ugh.  I hoped that as I “matured” I would get this problem under control.  Unfortunately, with age does not come self-control in this particular area, at least not for me.

Maybe my “growth opportunity” is being more understanding when this happens to other people.  I can certainly empathize. And I take solace in knowing that at least one or two other people out there suffer from the same syndrome.  One friend confided that she would have nightmares of her teeth coming out after she had an unfiltered utterance event.  Then again, some people  blather on inappropriately and have absolutely no clue.  They don’t clamber to get those words back.   No pain. No sinking gut.  Maybe that’s better — at least they sleep well.

Got votes?

Here in Colorado, it is hard to ignore the fact that an election is coming.  We are one of the lucky states with a Senate seat that both parties are fighting hard to win.  We have been polled to death, and the local TV ads are relentless.  Sadly, I again am faced with a choice of which is the least bad candidate.  In response to the pollsters’ question, “If the election were tomorrow, who would you vote for?” my response is I don’t know.  I don’t want to vote for either one.  The fight for the Senate seat in Colorado has deteriorated to the single, polarizing issue of abortion.  Are we, the constituents, really the sheep they think we are?  Do we knee-jerk react when one hot button is pushed? I guess so.  Otherwise the campaigns would be a bit more, what?  Meaningful?  Broad?  Informative? Not to diminish the importance of that one issue, but there is a lot of other pretty important stuff that we expect our Congress to legislate.   I’d like to hear about a candidate’s views on some of those things, too.

In our local election for the state Senate seat, one candidate has relentlessly attacked the other as a “Denver liberal.”  <Shudder>  The libertarian candidate has decided to center his campaign on attacking her too.  So, the race is down to two candidates attempting to disassemble the third.  Pathetic.  (I’ve often wondered what kind of person is willing to put their lives and families out there for attack by running for political office.  Completely altruistic or completely egomaniacal?)

Along the lines of my earlier blog, it’s a vicious circle.  A candidate who soundbites the polarizing “evil” of the other seems to gain traction better than the candidate who presents her views in a coherent, well reasoned manner.  So they win.  And then we don’t like the way they behave when they get into office. . .

Are You a Misplanted Tree?


Trees are dying in my neighborhood.  It seems like every day, a crew is out there cutting up yet another big dead tree.  I live in essentially a high mountain desert, just west of Vail, and my neighborhood faces south, so it tends to bake in the sun.  The native vegetation is sparse, consisting primarily of sagebrush.  Thirty years ago, when the development of this neighborhood began, people planted trees and grass.  I suppose because that’s what you do when you build a house — plant trees to make it look nice.  Aspen, cottonwood and spruce trees.  When we bought our home several years ago, we liked how pretty the neighborhood was, with mature landscaping, flowers and shade in the summer.  We’re originally from Michigan and we like trees.

Alas, the trees have been assaulted by drought, disease and pests and they are dying.  Some are just old — they only live so long — but most are sickly.  Basically, the trees don’t belong here.  Never did.  It’s too hot in the summer, too cold in the winter, too dry from time to time and the soils aren’t right, allowing bugs and fungus to get in and kill them.

So, this morning, as I listened to the chain saws of yet another crew cut down another huge tree on the golf course behind my house, I thought that these trees are like a lot of people I know, including me.  For whatever reason, whether a bad relationship, the wrong career choice, changing economic circumstances or trying to be something because that’s what is expected, people can end up in the wrong place.  And for a while, they may be ok.  Their reserves sustain them, they grow and establish roots as best they can and they may even appear to thrive.  Eventually, though, they get worn down and depleted, cracks in their exterior expose them to the elements, and they get sick.

When this happened to me a few years ago, I was completely caught off guard.  I’m fairly smart, have a decent “emotional” quotient and work hard,  I was doing what I thought I was supposed to do.  People often told me how strong I was., whatever that means.  But I was in the wrong place, at least the wrong place for me, in my job.  And with every day that went by, I became less.  Less strong.  Less patient.  Less energetic.  Less me.  Eventually, I confided in a friend and colleague that I feared I was broken.  And then, when some really difficult situations came at me, I wasn’t able to deal with them from a place of strength.

A counselor then told me something I wish I had known sooner.  When in a place that fits you, you will gain strength, thrive and grow.  But, if the core of who you are does not align at least generally with your environment, you will be in a state of constant friction.  Even if you don’t feel that friction outright, it is there and it will wear you down.  Think Chinese water torture of the soul.  Something needs to be altered, and generally our fundamental selves don’t change.  So you need a transplant.  And if that’s not feasible, at least recognizing that you are in a situation that is depleting can help you find the resources to shore up and replenish.

As hectic and busy as life may get, invest some real effort in your introspection and in the assessment of your environment.  And check back in from time to time.  Things change.  Your good environment of five years ago may not be so good for you anymore.

Why You Gotta Be So Mean?

You know those stereotypes about girls and women:  vindictive, catty, controlling, and, earlier this year, bossy. . .  I can’t believe I’m saying this, but they are based on characteristics that a lot of women share.  When the whole “bossygate” thing was in the press this year, I was as indignant as the rest of them.  Why are woman considered bossy when men with the same style are leaders?  That’s outrageous!  Right?  Well, yes, that’s right as long as we’re talking about a good leadership style and fostering a culture of accountability plus strong teamwork.  But a lot of women behave badly.  Men do, too, of course.  Bad behavior is equal opportunity.  But in my experience, most of the time you know that a man is behaving badly so you can prepare for it and defend yourself.  Women have this unfortunate habit of passive-aggressive manipulation.  Whether in friendships or in the boardroom, their targets often don’t know what hit them until after it’s all over.  I’ll take a bombastic, screaming a**hole over a subversive, smiling bitch just about any day.

Why is this such a common trait in women?  I wish I knew.  I’ve been a member of the species all my life and I just realized that we aren’t going to grow out of this.  Seriously, for a long time I thought that the junior high behavior was just hanging on longer than it should.  But after a friend of mine shared yet another story of her women “friends” behaving badly, I reluctantly concluded that this is just they way a lot of women are.  They stir things up, look for the negative, magnify it, and turn it into something it should never have been.  Obviously, we should all be caring, supportive and constructive with each other.  And every so often, in work-life or in life-life, I am happy to observe someone who knows how to behave.  Someone who is all of those things, and is also able to hold herself and others accountable in a straightforward way.  It’s so refreshing.

I’m outing myself.  I have been guilty of bad girl behavior from time to time.  I’m a work in progress and I hope to be a better friend, boss, wife, mom and example of how not to be so mean.  I may still be bossy, but in a good way.

Come on, ladies, admit it.  Junior high wasn’t all that great . . .