Archive for ‘From The Wine Cellar’

07/24/2017

An Exercise in Patience

One of the many things that I’ve learned over the years is the following: no one likes being in that “in-between” position.

Say what?

Yup, that “in-between” position. For example, the gap of time between jobs (more specifically going through the hiring process); the cooling off period during a serious run between the sheets; that final stretch in closing on purchasing a house or car; the week before moving; the waiting period for the good news that a loved one will be OK while in the hospital. These are all pretty vulnerable times and we cannot wait to just blast through them to get to our desired outcome.

What’s so significant about working through these moments? It’s all about managing those feelings that get kicked up. The fear, the anxiety, the nervousness are big ones, but not the only feelings we experience. We constantly cycle through these feelings: “what could I have done differently?” “Am I doing the right thing?” “Does my partner like what’s going on?” “What if the offer falls through?”

All of those are legitimate questions. If we step back and examine the grand scheme of things, human beings have come a far way to be able to exert some solid semblance of control over an environment that is planet Earth which is quite dangerous and unforgiving. But it’s when that sense of uncertainty…the loss of control…that tugs on our primal instincts in moments like these were we often can freak the F out and feel very helpless.

So what do we do? How do we reset and trust the process?

Well, it’s easier said than done. I’d argue that the first thing to do is acknowledge the emotion you’re experiencing. You’re feeling what you’re feeling because the situation matters to you greatly. Even if it makes seem trivial to someone else, it matters to you. Sometimes, we can get too caught up in justifying an entire approach. While there are certain elements of a situation that are up for discussion, people’s feelings shouldn’t be. You feel what you feel and those feelings should be acknowledged and respected.

Remembering that those feelings are based in our inherent nature to see if what we are doing is the “best fit”, the next step may be to figure out what those feelings are speaking towards. Sometimes that sinking feeling of a mistake is in fact accurate…sometimes the mistake is how that sinking feeling is interpreted. We make mistakes thinking we’re fixing problems that ultimately we’re never there before we decided to “intervene” with our “solutions”.

The rest of it is a matter of follow through on one’s own process…checking in with the other person or reviewing the plan and making adjustments wherever appropriate. The hardest thing is riding the emotional wave in those moments. My guess is contemporary society has been emphasizing the need to only respond in certain situations using a more limited set of emotions.

I’d never claim that doing this in the moment is easy…I’ve not trusted my own process and paid the price for it. But, therr have been times i did step back and that was the correct call to  do. Patience isn’t always about sitting passively. Sometimes, stepping back and working one’s own process is the most patient play to make, especially when in any of life’s most turbulent situations.

07/17/2017

“I’m Not into You; I prefer the friend zone.”

I Don’t Accommodate Uncontrolled Men
I was casually skimming WordPress recently between working on other entries and I saw this post above about the idea of some men not controlling their sexual impulses because they’re seeing how some women are dressed in their summer wear. As I read through the post, it got me thinking about the concept of being in the friend zone and platonic relationships across gender.

Ironically, most of my acquaintances and dear friends are female. So I’m used to being around women a lot of the time professionally and personally. Because of that, I’m usually stuck in the “friend zone” a ton of the time. Honestly, that’s never bothered me as there are very few women I’ve met during my dating life that I was mad about being in the friend zone about. In fact, one of my exes I had her initially in the friend zone and she was the one who pushed for us to have a relationship. My approach is clear: if I’m attracted to someone, i’m approaching it from that lens. If I’m interested in the person in a platonic way, that’s the approach I use. I try really hard not to mix the two, especially doing the latter as a means to get to the former.

The interesting interactions I’ve observed is encountering new women for the first time. The level of skepticism and wariness I’ll encounter (even in group settings) is just amazing at times. Initially, it used to bother me but now it doesn’t because I’ve tended to look at things from the other perspective. Women are still victims of interpersonal violence and abuse, sexual harassment, stigmas and all sorts of other unhealthy things perpetuated by men. Plus the whole lying cheating scoundrel thing is still there too. So it makes total sense for that cautious approach to be present from a woman’s perspective.

But just as the author talked about how her husband was able to exercise control over his sexual impulses and could view other women as women first, I wonder if our ladies are in a situation where they really know how to cultivate a platonic relationship with someone from another gender. And no, I’m not talking about the “gay best friend” stereotypes either. Maybe it’s having worked with female clients who’ve only seen the ills that men can commit, or having exes or friends who were survivors of abuse or even when I did outreach to youth I got the sense that people weren’t experiencing as much healthy cross gender relationships.

I’ve been in the situation before where colleagues at work and I were hanging out and I was taísked to escort the colleague’s close friend to a different dispersal point. I remember getting the “these are my good friends so take good care of them” speech once too. I’ve laughed in my head because these weren’t people I was attracted to and I knew where my relationship with the colleague stood on on her totem pole (lower than her connection with her friend), so I wouldn’t be stupid enough to do anything to jeopardize that. But the fact that such a conversation was necessary is telling in its own way.

I’ve even had a good friend who viewed me with great skepticism initially stated she appreciates our friendship being so platonic because many of her other male interactions (including dating relationships) have always had undertones of ulterior motives. It just begs to ask the question: if we sell the message of men by any means necessary conning their way into getting over on a woman for whatever reason, how can we really improve better gender relations?

In no way am I claiming sainthood here. It is also not an opportunity to seek sympathy for my own experiences. It’s just that for me whenever people dogging out an opposite gender I cannot help but wonder how many positive experiences they’ve had. Perhaps there is something I’m doing in these social circles that induces that wariness that I’m not aware of. Or maybe it’s just contemporary society is in a place where we get sold the expectations of genuine platonic relationships across gender lines are the exception and not the rule.

Still, the question I ask: if we teach each gender to readily identify unhealthy and not unhealthy situations where interacting with other genders, what do healthy interactions look like?

07/10/2017

“I’ve Outgrown You…”

Ever look back at a situation and go”man, I’m glad I don’t have to deal with that anymore?”

I was talking to a lady friend about her recent changes and it caused me to reflect on my own whirlwind situations over the past year. She talked about how she switched gym instructors and she feels that much more comfortable in her new space. She stressed how supportive the new gym was in that other members were focused on working out; how more interactive with her workouts the instructors were with monitoring her workout and being more constructive and consistent with their feedback. She mentioned her experience of having to go back to her old instructor during crazy holiday scheduling at the new gym. Her takeaway: while she was able to get a good workout in at the old gym, she was glad she stopped going there now.

It made me reflect on how I walked back through my childhood home and the first neighborhood in the Bronx I lived. It was great to do the trip down memory lane in each case but at the end I was struck with that same refrain: “I don’t miss this at all”. Now, there were parts of those experiences I cherished, but in its entirety, I don’t miss a lot of the experiences I’ve had in those spaces.

The same can be said for people as well. There are some people I really care about that I’ve met in my life course that currently aren’t in my orbit. While I do treasure the experiences I had with them, I don’t always miss them – not strongly enough to force them back into my orbit. Does it make me a villian with such an approach? As usual, it depends on who you ask. But I have no problem doing it that way either due to my perspective after reflecting on these relationships.

Some of us fake outgrowing a situation/someone/something. People have all sorts of reasons for this sort of approach. Ever seen that person who left a job and came back to shove their newfound “success” in people’s faces? How about that person who takes their new partner and parades them in front of an ex? How about that person who could never do anything right in the eyes of others who somehow pulled it together and now have a fabulous life? There is something to be said about outgrowing a situation in this way that reeks of “I did it and you cannot do a damn thing about where I am now” that feels quite vindicated.

Still, sometimes people talk about going back and doing things differently or trying to recreate lost magic. Maybe that’s appropriate and there are times the best core of action is to treasure the experience and si ply move upward and onward. To me at least, to truly have outgrown something/someone/an experience doesn’t denigrate it; it simply means you may have come to terms with its significance for you.

07/07/2017

Being Inspired by Reality

One of the thing I’ve always like with the American dream is the way in which many people have packaged it in such a way to make the successes that much more palatable.

Say what?

Maybe it’s the QHP training in me kicking in (medical and mental health professionals use as many acronyms as Mr. Trump has observed scantily clad beauty pageant contestants), but I have always been wary of the sales pitch of the American dream. As regulars here know I moonlight in the social services field for my 9-5 and recently procured my MSW (more acronyms again). Having gone through that process, I’m always wary whenever people paint a rosy picture of success.

Now, whenever professionally you are used to seeing people at their most vulnerable, it can skew your perception slightly of messages you hear. I do feel it is an advantage because it facilitates the need to see the whole individual and the growth they have experienced. There is still much power to be had in hearing when someone speaks and feeling the emotions connected to the realities they experienced to achieve their successes. It just makes the whole conversation more authentic.

I was watching some crime shows recently, the ones where you see how some sweet-talking entrepreneur swoops in and sells parts of the Statue of Liberty to investors who ultimately get bilked. It got me thinking how difficult it is to be able to trust the things that you see.  Make no mistake – people work hard here in the US. Even the folks who are con artists and vulture like opportunists work hard; nothing is truly handed to anyone here easily. Still, it is often important to look at all opportunities presented to us from a reality based lens. There are no constantly in bloom and thorn-free rose gardens in life.

I’ve gone to a few MLM (multilevel marketing) sessions in my time: companies selling financial products, insurance, high speed internet, etc. The atmosphere is usually very infectious and the speakers are often quite dynamic. People are very vested and you get this feeling of “come on in, try it out”. But, like with anything else, there is the underside of the level of work needed to put in; the cost of trying to build these independent businesses are very similar to other small business building ventures. Also, because they are network marketing based, the recruitment investment is often one of the hardest things to manage.

I was watching something recently where this solid YouTuber (with over 60,000 subscribers and climbing) was having connection difficulties with his internet. He was still running his channel which much acclaim with his target audience. He recently got his connection issues fixed, and you could see the weight lifted off his shoulders. He shared some details of his frustration of how his situation impacted his content creation and a few of his workarounds. Why this was so noteworthy was that he also shared both the support he received during the issue and his elation once this issue was resolved. It was a pretty good lesson in honesty and perseverance.

What does today’s commentary mean? Lots of things in life are flashy and inciting, but costlier than we may first imagine from the outside in. Also, a dose of real inspiration is necessary at times. People are never merely just the images they project or the stories they tell; but are a complex combination which includes how they choose to handle adversity and success.

To me, those are the lessons worth hearing about from other that I truly find inspiring.

06/27/2017

The “F” in Facebook Stands For…

So recently I decided to “renew” my relationship with Facebook. I logged back in, as a part of restarting my current commentary stretch here. To my surprise, the interface desktop wise has gotten very- busy visually, to say the least. But, today’s commentary isn’t about my gripes with Facebook’s current desktop layout.

For those aware, I haven’t actively used Facebook in about 4+ years. Back when I used to use it daily, people had a bit more leeway in terms of what they could put as their usernames. People changed names all the time on my friends’ list, so much so I stopped keeping track of names and went more my profile pictures. I recently decided to create a secondary account for my MMO (online gaming) endeavors under my in-game username and was promptly kicked off Facebook a few days later. Now, I should have seen in coming when I wasn’t able to find the section in the settings that allowed you to update your name in the demographics. I did remember vaguely seeing stuff about this over the past few years, but when you don’t use a service, it’s easy to ignore the changes.

I won’t lie: I was pissed for all of .02 seconds. Then, I started to do some research; the more I dug, the more comfortable I was keeping that account disabled. I think I hadn’t used Facebook in so long that they’d become an IPO in my absence – and didn’t own Instagram either. Now, in my absence, because Facebook now has investors and a slightly different focus on surface delivery, the name issue is more prevalent.

So, what’s in a new? Quite a lot, actually.

Facebook, if one looks at them from a purely social media space perspective, is one of the longest running threads in the social media age. Lots of people use it for the basic reason it was invented: to communicate and keep up with other people in a more unique manner than the traditional phone call/occasional meet up. For some of all ages, it is a very helpful tool. With many of these folks, they use the me that best identifies with them – their government name, and that’s that.

With others, it gets a wee bit more complicated.

Some people in the LGBT community, for instance, use social media sites like Facebook as great outlet to express their evolving identity. Some of those people want nothing to do with their government name and would prefer to use something that doesn’t meet the “traditional definitions” of a name. Some valued the right to change their names because different names may hold different levels of significance at various points in their life course. Now, Facebook could argue (and may have in recent memory) the following points: a lack of a “real name” doesn’t allow them to effectively meet certain obligations by being able to provide a targeted experience to end users (which is important to their business model). Another point is that because some have used Facebook for nefarious means (cyberbullying, coordinating violence and illicit activities), if people could use fake names easily, it makes identifying these people offline more difficult.

While I get that, it still sucks we are having this debate over what qualifies for a “real name” on Facebook. My intent was to not to use my real name because I didn’t want any of Facebook services, outside of accent to content for that MMO. My real account is cluttered as is and didn’t want to add it there. But while my reasons are somewhat superficial, there are others who having access to that ability to use the name they see fit due is of much more significance.

Have social media institutions like Facebook (and Twitter, since these two are some of the oldest), gotten to a point where they should conform more to societal trends? Well, Facebook within the past two years have tried to relax some of their restrictions on what constitutes a “real name” on their site. Yet there are folks who will clamor such concessions do not go far enough. I guess when you’re dealing with a still private entity, you’ve got to play by their rules to access their services.

For some, it’s just another entity trying to pigeonhole people into something they don’t want by dictating to them what names they are allowed to use.

06/24/2017

The Many Faces of Social Media

I’ll be the first to admit I am somewhat of a relic in my peer group – I don’t have a true footprint on social media. I’m not on IG/” The ‘Gram” (Instagram) or Twitter or Snapchat. No Reddit, Tumblr, or Blogger either. No Tinder, PlentyofFish, Match.com, eHarmony or any of the social dating apps. No Indiegogo, Kickstarter, or GoFundMe accounts. I recently started watching YouTube and even that’s most for tech and a very small list of things I’m interested in. If it wasn’t for this space, and 99 months’ worth of handwringing, I would not have been on Facebook either. For a while I was on Google + (mostly for tech chatter) and the most I do now is prattle on here and comment on a forum on a tech blog whose tech focus has shifted in a way I’m not fond of.

So why the fuddy-duddy approach to social media?

Well the answer is simple and slightly complicated. I did some of the ones I’ve mentioned at their very early stages – back in the days when it was only websites and the earliest versions of the apps were atrocious. Back in the days when I used to own an iPhone 3G and developers just started to pick up steam. No Snapchat then, we had Vine and other Snapchat precursors. Teens used Oovoo and other things I cannot remember to IM. I can remember the era when businesses and other social entities just started the branding of following them on social media. So, in part, I experienced all this stuff already – didn’t find that it was for me and dropped them all.

Has a lot changed since my early trial days? Sure. WordPress looks a whole lot different now from what I started out with where a lot more granular controls in how to make the blog look the way you wanted. Facebook wasn’t as convoluted as it is now in terms of the interface layout, but you had to dig harder to find certain things that is more in your face now. As many of the social apps come and gone, the longstanding ones such as Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook have gotten so interwoven in our fabric that if you’re not using social media you’re as much of a relic as Americana items are in 2017.

Yet, the other reason I stopped using social media has a lot to do with human nature. Even back then, I could see the abuse potential for social media. Recent cases have shown this with suicides, illegal activity and violence being tweeted, or livestreamed. People have literally opened up and posted their entire lives online, and there are things I have seen that unfortunately I cannot un-see. Cyberbully, internet stalking are serious concerns. Mr. Trump on Twitter isn’t something I need to explain. It is easy for controversies to spin wildly out of control based on who followed or unfollowed whom, or how a keyboard warrior chooses to interpret the next tweet or post. With the presence of social media, the power to impact folks offline has been magnified – whether it’s for positive means or to destroy lives.

One thing is clear – the feedback from social media is instantaneous. For some people, that’s the most attractive and the most difficult aspect of social media to comprehend.

I suppose I went old school and threw up a middle finger at it all and simply unplugged. Perhaps I have done so for the simple reasons of not wanting to be burdened by some of the rules of social media. My perception has always been some decorum still applies; not everyone needs to know where you are at all times, what you are always doing, what your most private thoughts contain and you most intimate moments entail. But even though I may not use social media much does not mean I am oblivious to its ways or its impact.

 

It boils down to intent, as at the end of the day, social media is yet another tool we have available for use at our disposal.

06/18/2017

The Many Shades of Parenthood

Two events where the source of inspiration for today’s impromptu commentary:

The first was a conversation I had with someone last night about the arc of parenting. Neither one of us are parents – she had wanted to be one at some point and it didn’t work out for her, and myself am still delaying such responsibility for a myriad of reasons. But, there was still much parenting related experiences to draw on which highlighted much of the complexities of parenthood. Now, you may think, how can two people who don’t have kids talk about being parents? Well, everyone was a child at some point – at least some of us choose to acknowledge that fact – and not everyone was raised in the confines of the stereotypical nuclear family. What made the conversation stand out was the lessons we learned from our caregivers as children and their impact on our perceptions of parenthood.

The second was a piece in today’s New York Times about the evolution of the concept of the “father-daughter dance”. Essentially the article tried to highlight the different variances in family dynamics and how said variances impacted the preservation of this tradition. Now, for some of us this tradition doesn’t matter; for others, it is very important to either preserve it as is or make accommodations to reflect family variance. I know of men and women who are single parents. I also know of LGBT individuals who are parents (single or co-parenting). Is it appropriate for a household with two moms and two dads to be wished Happy Mother’s Day and Father’s Day? I may be more inclined to ask them how they want to answer this one; some may say yes, others may say no.

What’s always struck me is hearing women who are single parents use the phrase “my child’s father”. You can often hear the heaviness in those words, many times it feels loaded with the more of the context of the relationship between both parents than it is about the relationship between the male and the children. I can recall many a conversation with single female parents in person and in the media and you would have thought the children were immaculately conceived (although that does happen). While you commend those women for their strength in parenting, you often wonder how the have chosen to handle conversations their children may have with them about the other half of their identity. I can also recall conversations with single men who are parents and how similar yet different their points of focus are.

Many people will handle co-parenting different ways. One of my friends who is a single parent, while her relationship with her daughter’s father isn’t the best has made efforts to ensure he can build a relationship with his daughter as she has placed a premium on the importance of that.  She has chosen to reflect and actively acknowledge the lessons her daughter is learning from her through observation how she interacts with men. Some parents may not see the need to be aware of those things. Some people need to have the courts involved with their parenting because of the continuous nature of the relationship between the parents.

Contemporary society has a strong patriarchal element that may not be going away anytime soon. I suppose my take has always been that if you’re receiving good parenting from one or two sources it’s all that matters. Ideally one may yearn for both to present and in a relationship together as that’s the narrative that has been sold to us for eons, but respect for each other can happen even in the absence of an intimate relationship between parents. For a society that values youth and the potential children possess, there is always conflicting messages surrounding what parents are and how people should parent.

Each human being has the capability to create life, but not every human being has the capacity to parent.

 

06/17/2017

Valuing Experience vs Education

So as a vice I play a popular MMO. MMOs are massively multiplayer online games. We recently had a discussion where there was a huge uproar over a difference of opinion that got me thinking. Basically the people who had experienced the higher harder content in the game where calling out people like me who have done research on the higher content as being “clueless”. While you may say “it’s just a damn video game”, there was an important observation I made upon reflection:

We live in a time where it is very difficult to balance the importance of having practical experience on a subject matter and appropriate theoretical knowledge.

Huh?

Hear me out for a second. Our current traditional and informal education model appears to be built on the dynamics between learning via experience and learning via observation (in this case what I will label education). So, people have had a series of experiences and have noticed some common themes. Instead of having more people have the same experiences to learn the same themes, it was decided it is easier to teach people those lessons without having them physically experience those things first hand – AKA the education system. That way, with those concepts as a base, people’s experiences can either build on those experiences by confirming and developing nuances, or change the course of those concepts by disproving their relevance and replacing it with something else.

Yet, it is more than just doing those things. There are social values being placed on having “more experience” in some situations vs learning through observation. For instance, parents and non-parents are viewed differently when talking about matters relating to child care. I find that still interesting though because even among parents, younger people who are parents are still viewed negatively in terms of their experience levels when talking about child care issue.

Sure looks like we still value first-hand experience over education. But that narrative is problematic in a world where education access for some has vastly improved. In other words, very few areas of industry in some countries you make good money with a HS diploma. On the flipside, too many people with undergraduate degrees have the expectation of being CEO level pay in the field at their first job merely BECAUSE they went to college. Should they get compensated because they have their degree? Sure. But a degree doesn’t always predict how well people will translate those lessons in the field.

So how do you balance the two? Well, that’s the issue there. Both have merits and for me that’s the crux of the matter. IT would appear our contemporary climate is so driven being dichotomy its harder than ever to appreciate difference. It just seems like it always is one way OR the other (experience OR education) as the best fit for ALL situations.

And here I thought true knowledge was the ability to merge both experience and education in a practical manner to grasp an understanding of a specific topic or concept. Silly me, right?