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The Balancing Act® E-Newsletter: December 2006

Balancing Act® is in four sections this month:

  1. Techniques for Balance
  2. The Human Condition: Victimization
  3. Musings for the Holidays
  4. ORTIYKMWOYBNT-O Department

  1. Techniques for Balance

    • Rich and fulfilling beat bigger and louder. A walk to see the holiday lights might be more fulfilling than a boisterous party.
    • It takes two to argue. Walk away from fights with family. They never help and they always hurt.
    • Plan to pick up the check. If someone else grabs it, then you're pleasantly surprised. If no one else challenges you for it, then you expected it all along and you look magnanimous.
    • It's just dumb to binge and then hate yourself after the holidays. Eat and drink what's good for you. If you think about it, there is no augmentation to festivities caused by feeling bloated, stuffed, inebriated, or incapacitated.
    • Whatever you plan to budget, double it.
    • Gifts are exactly that. If you get some that are unhelpful, inedible, unwearable, or unfathomable, then donate them or return them. It's not like you purchased them and the store cheated you.
    • Make a plan to call people you want to call because you can't see them. Write it out with dates and times or you won't get to it and you'll feel terrible later. (Or, worse, they'll call you first yet again.)
    • Make a donation to a charity. It's the ultimate gift.
    • If you need to do a little work, do it, and stop feeling guilty about it. There's a lot of time in the course of a day, just don't do it when you're expected to be helping out or socializing with others.
    • Don't make ridiculous commitments you'll never be able to keep. You'll feel terrible later. Make just those which you can immediately and consistently deliver on: a few things, one step at a time.

  2. The Human Condition: Victimization

    Someone who was in my Mentor Program four or five years ago recently wrote me and requested his money back! He said that it was no fault of mine whatsoever, but after enrolling and contacting me a few times, he decided to become a sculptor (unsuccessfully) and never had need for my help in that profession. He told me that I should keep his address because he was sure "some day I would see the light and make good on his bad decision."

    This is the essence of self-imposed victimization. Someone makes an admittedly poor decision but expects someone else to atone for it. Sorry, no refunds.

    I watched a speaker a couple of months ago in the UK who talked about the power of African tribes, and why it was a shame that tribes came to ruin in the face of modern nation-states. He suggested that we could all learn from the habits of tribes, and he suggested that he and others were the worse off for their demise.

    This was still more of the poverty-based, victim mentality. Tribalism, then and now, has been the cause of tremendous warfare, privation, and loss of life. Rather than bemoan an idyllic past, why not urge people to prosper in the pragmatic present? Heterogeneous populations succeed much more than tribal groups, not because of technological might but because of the power of the mosaic and diversity.

    There are organizations which foster victimization, but the most invidious kind is that which is self-created and self-perpetuated. Seeing one's self as a victim is too easy and terribly damaging: There is no responsibility for current circumstances ("they" put me here), energy is directed toward self-pity rather than improvement, and too many energy-sapping people are drawn to the misery for the purpose of commiseration. I've never seen the appeal of people who tell you that it's okay if you're feeling low, you deserve to, it's not your fault, and you're not alone. I prefer those who say, "Okay, you've had your time to curse your bad luck and bemoan your fate, now follow me because I know the way out of this place."

    Mensa, the purported high-IQ group, is a great example of paradoxical victimization. While claiming to be superior to the general population, they also claim they are discriminated against and held back in the workplace because of their "gifts." Huh? Not smart enough to figure out a way around that?

    We're not victimized by the department of motor vehicles or the tax people�they are equally obnoxious, bureaucratic, and unheeding to all of us. We are not victimized by the economy, technology, or competition.

    Others are thriving, so we can, also. A woman told me that she lost her job due to "political manipulation, her boss's resentment of her, and poor management." I told her that if her contribution had been truly outstanding she would still be there because they couldn't afford to lose her, so face the fact that she wasn't deemed all that important, turn the page, and move on.

    Victims enter a doom loop, in that they fully expect to continue being victimized. ("Oh, she won't hire me because of my age, no matter how well I do on the interview.") They live in a world of perpetual, learned helplessness, bemoaning the fates instead of attacking the frontiers.

    Don't allow society or your own fears to make you a victim. Dismiss setback as singular and don't immediately search for conspiracies. Change your course, learn something new, get some feedback, try again. You really have no choice if you want to lead a constructive and meaningful life.

    There are no refunds.

  3. Musings for the Holidays

    May your Holidays, whatever they are and whatever you celebrate, bring you true peace, at least for the moment.

    May your loved ones gather to retell and relive significant events and great stories, without reviving old animosities and jealousies.

    May you eat and imbibe with gusto and pleasure, but stay sober and not gain an ounce.

    May your plans proceed as intended, and if they are forced to change, may they produce a good laugh and even better results.

    May you experience and appreciate the twinkle of a star through moonlit haze, the laughing eyes of a child, the great and unqualified love of a pet.

    May you receive a few gifts of true worth and joy, and provide equal pleasure and gratitude even for those others which you're already scheduling for return.

    May the night be mild enough to walk outside without a coat, take a deep breath of crisp air, and truly feel enriched and a part of the planet.

    May those you love and know who are in harm's way be kept safe. May illness be brief and relieved. May you laugh at the fond remembrance left with you by someone departed, their indelible gift to your life.

    May you look around with comprehension and not merely consciousness. May you appreciate what the moment is like, so that looking back on it someday you have the comfort of knowing you enjoyed it at the time.

    May you delight in bouncing a ball, petting a dog, preparing a meal, talking sports, seeing a movie. May you truly enjoy watching someone else's slides and they enjoy watching yours.

    May you watch the sky and understand it is the same sky, same stars, same rich blackness that the ancients watched millennia ago, and that even in this war-torn world our common humanity is centuries old.

    May your true presents be eternal and not ephemeral, the gifts of love, friendship, health, compelling interests, productive work, and a positive attitude.

    May you see hope in the darkness, find comfort amidst the noise, and gain wisdom within the tumult.

    May you choose not to take a desperate leap into the dark, but rather take a thoughtful walk in what light we have.

    Happy Holidays from Maria, Alan, Koufax the Wonder Dog, and Buddy Beagle.

  4. ORTIYKMWOYBNT-O Department

    Me and the Wall Street Journal....

    Me: Listen, I didn't get my paper this morning, that's twice this week, and I'm getting annoyed.
    WSJ: I'm terribly sorry. Would you give me the account number on the paper address label?
    Me: How can I?! I don't have the paper!
    WSJ: Did you dispose of it?
    Me: No, it was never delivered!
    WSJ: Have you looked outside?
    Me: Yes, that's how I know it's not there!
    WSJ: Did you notice the color or license plate of the delivery person's vehicle?
    Me: No! They weren't here! I wasn't out there early in the morning looking for them!
    WSJ: So they may have been there earlier?
    Me: How could they?! There is no paper! Would they have come and not left a paper?
    WSJ: I don't understand that question. Of course they'd leave a paper.
    Me: Never mind.
    WSJ: Would you like a replacement paper?
    Me: Yes, please!
    WSJ: If you call prior to 9 am we can have one there by 2:30.
    Me: But it's 10:30 now!
    WSJ: Then I'm sorry, we cannot replace your paper. You must call before 9.
    Me: What time do you open?
    WSJ: Nine.
    Me: Then how could I call you?!
    WSJ: Do you need our number?
    Me: NO!! What can you do for me now?!
    WSJ: Sir, please don't shout. We will deliver tomorrow's paper and give you credit for today's.
    Me: What if tomorrow's doesn't come?
    WSJ: Then call us back, but to get a replacement copy you must call before 9 am.
    Me: What if I tell you now, well before 9 am tomorrow, that I need a replacement paper tomorrow?
    WSJ: Is tomorrow's paper missing?
    Me: Forget about it....