Friendships along the way…

This is a topic I’ve wanted to write about for some time, but was unsure how to approach it or what direction to take it in. Instead of writing it representing the entirety of how other former military may feel, I simply write it from my perspective. As former military, I dedicated my entire adult life to something greater than myself. I enjoyed every moment and made it a successful career. Along that journey, I worked with and met amazing people from all backgrounds and diversities. I built close relationships with these folks both personally and professionally. These relationships would go on for years and I truly built bonds of closeness and friendship. But then, the hammer falls and its time for one or more of them to leave for another assignment. It’s a revolving door of people coming into and leaving your life. I’m left with an emptiness that I struggle with even to this day. I miss these people despite my best efforts to stay in touch. It’s never the same again and unfortunately more often than not you end up losing that connection forever.

I’ve had people tell me that I need to get out more and meet people. Although I agree with that observation, it’s easier said than done. Those I’ve previously built close friendships with share the same feelings and are bonded by our military brotherhood and sisterhood. Although we have social life’s outside of military life, we are still our own community of individuals united together by service and abiding by an oath to defend and protect the Constitution of the United States even if it costs us our life. This uniqueness is often hard to duplicate outside the military. Military life encourages team work, rapport and creates an atmosphere for building relationships. I must admit, building these type of relationships is hard, but also as I’ve gotten older my life priorities have shifted as well. I’m more into relationship quality versus quantity. I don’t require a ton of friends to validate me or make me feel important. I’m more comfortable with just a couple of close friends and a lot more acquaintances. I believe this is largely due to a couple of factors: first being that I’ve found it hard to build close relationships after the experiences of losing so many from military life.  Secondly, as a matter of personal choice I like to keep my circle small to avoid unnecessary drama or to those who have negative outlooks or lifestyles.

I’ve heard that former military have a harder time adjusting to making friends in civilian society due to contrasting ways of thinking. I’ve found this to be true to some extent but it’s not without effort from the individual itself. Let’s face it, making friends over and over again is hard and can take its toll on a person. People aren’t sure how to approach us and vice versa. Some have misguided ideas or opinions of how we are as individuals and may see us as tainted. I’ve been on the receiving end of feeling isolated and not knowing how to relate therefore becoming fearful of branching out. Although there is some validity to the disparity, I don’t believe it’s a show stopper. I’ve been out of the military over 4 years and realized that it’s a mind and personality shift that I’ve had to engage. I’ve toned down always being in crisis mode, relaxing on deadlines that really aren’t all that important, and embracing a different level of communication from which I was accustomed to from my former military life. This new-found way of thinking and communication has led to more positive interactions, although no new friendships at this point but that’s ok. It’s a step in the right direction and all good things take time and patience. From time to time, I do struggle with those lost relationships and that camaraderie that I miss so much.  Whatever the case, all I can do is continue down the positive path I’ve set for myself.  This includes continuing to build positive relationships through understanding and acceptance, hopefully making a few new friends along my journey.  Until the next time…

Change…it’s what’s for dinner!

Ahhhh change.  We all want it but not quite sure how to achieve it.  Some time ago, I watched a video where Steve Harvey said something that really resonated with me.  It goes something like this:  “When you first jump, your parachute will not open right away.  I’m sorry, I wish I could tell you it did, but it don’t.  You’re gonna hit them rocks.  You’re gonna get some skin tore off on those cliffs…you’re going to be bleeding pretty bad.  But eventually, the parachute has to open.”  He goes on to say “you can play it safe and deal without the cuts and the tears and you can stand on that cliff for life forever safe, but if you don’t jump…your parachute will never open.  You’ll never know.”  This powerful message reminds us that we all have fear of change, uncertainty or simply the fear of failure.  Facing the many fears that a person feels is like riding in a car with your grandparents…close your eyes and hold on tight!  I use to be one of those creatures of habit.  Being former military, I became accustomed to routine and predictability, except for that hurry up and wait mentality that seems to plague the military.  It wasn’t until a couple of year’s ago that I finally figured it out.  I thrive at my best when I’m challenged or forced out of my comfort zone.  Sure it’s scary and freaks me out, but I do it.  When I decide to jump, take a chance or a make a change, I’ve found that I usually succeed.  Prior to my epiphany of jumping, I had to realize a fear that was holding me back for so many year’s.  That fear was caring too much of what other’s thought of me to the point of isolationism.  Once I was able to overcome that introvert way of thinking, I found the clarity I had been longing for.

It’s something wired in our brains that makes it natural for us to resist change.  The biggest key that I’ve found is to dig deep within your being and find out what your true purpose in life is.  Once you’ve figured it out, you have to truly embrace and visualize the change you are wanting to make.  Writing your goals down is important but actually visualizing yourself making a change is motivation itself.  You’re probably saying, “Yawn…this is boring Frank.  You seriously sound like one of those crappy motivational people.  What makes your story so different from anyone else?”

I share my story on change in hopes that it motivates someone just a smidge of a bit.  Like everyone else, my life was stuck in a rut and I was pulling my hair out trying to figure out ways to pull myself out of the funk.  Finally, something just clicked and I began a personal brainstorming session.  Anything and everything that I’ve wanted to do, see or experience came out on paper through pen.  I’d made so many excuses and reasons for why I had not accomplished any of the things on that list.  It boiled down to the fear of making a change.  I was comfortable and liked being repetitious, which was my problem.  I’ve found that even the smallest changes bare the biggest rewards.  I’ve lived the majority of my life in fear of change thanks to internal perceptions and a little help from this thing called anxiety.  Sure, I’ve had failures from jumping, but the fact that I jumped has made me want to jump more.  You learn something new from every jump, keeping in mind that not every jump will bring success.  To those scared of change, I sympathize totally.  I’ve felt the fear, feelings and emotions.  The small changes I’ve made up to this point have given me clarity and a new sense of self-worth.  It’s like this…if you really want something bad enough, take the risk and go for it.  Until you make that change, there is a hunger deep within you that will constantly nag you.  Nothing but the fear and excuses are stopping you from making a change…so jump!

As David Coverdale, the singer for Whitesnake once so eloquently sang in their hit song from the 80’s, ” Here I Go Again”,

I don’t know where I’m going
But, I sure know where I’ve been
Hanging on the promises
In songs of yesterday
An’ I’ve made up my mind,
I ain’t wasting no more time
But, here I go again
Here I go again

But I really like the blame game…

A treasured personal value that I took from my mother as a young lad was to accept responsibility for my choices no matter happens. As I grew older, that personal value morphed into taking responsibility for your actions and not blaming others for the bad choices I’ve made or my own personal unhappiness. Seemingly, I’ve often seen people quickly pawn their bad decisions or choices onto others with little regard to the consequences or how it may affect that person’s life. I’ve heard about this magical light switch that’s supposed to turn on and people become aware of themselves and their surroundings. Boy, if this magical light switch does exist, I’ve met people in my life time I wish I could have switched it on for them.  What makes people act this way? Is it lack of proper parenting? Could it be that people simply thrive on making others miserable? Does the person not have a life purpose or proper morals and ethics to realize what they are doing? Do they not know the difference between actions and consequences?  Do they lack self-esteem or self-worth? Are they self-absorbed? Honestly, I don’t have the answer for this and it’s something that I still fail to understand.

I see this type of behavior just about every day and it absolutely amazes me that people function in this manner. I see people enable and accept this behavior like my Chihuahua’s when its dinner time…yum yum yum…they eat it up! Making excuses or blaming others for bad decisions or actions does nothing but lead to failure, both personally and professionally. The true hallmark of experiencing joy in life is to take responsibility for those choices realizing that it’s your life and your life only. Every choice a person makes has a particular outcome, whether good or bad. If it was a bad decision, own up to it and chalk it up as a lessoned learned. If it was a good decision, add it to a chapter in your life’s journey. Ok, so what’s the message here? The message is self-respect. Of course, we all know that everyone from the young to the old makes bad decisions or acts irresponsibly. However, when a person chooses to accept responsibility for indiscretions, self-respect shifts positively and it reveals something about that individual’s character. 

Failing to take responsibility not only discredits a person’s character, but can also bother you in such way that you feel regretful and even ashamed. You lose the admiration and respect of those around you. When I was younger, there were times when not accepting responsibility was an easy choice.  I didn’t care about the consequences because I had my whole life ahead of me with little regard to how my decisions would shape my future. As you become older, you become more aware of your current reality and life priorities shift. I’ve learned that life will not give you what you want, rather what you deserve. People that bitch and complain that life is unfair are absolutely right. Life’s not about being fair but embracing difficult choices and openly acknowledging failures and mistakes. So, with all that gobbledy goop said, I often advice those who ask that taking responsibility boils down to the following:  acknowledge that YOU are in charge of your choices (and only you), recognizing and owning up to the problem, coming up with a solution to the problem, and make changes in hopes that the problem doesn’t occur again.  Until the next time…

Raise your hand if you like boundaries.

Ok, so who among us has worked with someone at some point who was simply annoying to work with? Come on…let’s get those hands in the air! Throughout my former military career to my current civilian career, I’ve worked with individuals who tested my mental faculties to the tune of borderline self-lobotomy. From people who have inferiority complexes, drama queens or the perpetual slacker, it’s like a smorgasbord of annoyance.  What’s most concerning about these type of individuals is that they are totally unaware of the results of their behavior or simply just don’t give a hoot. So let’s be real here. We all understand its challenging working with other people, however we have this little thing in our personal arsenal called setting boundaries. I’ll give you an example just because I’m feeling a little bit spry on the topic.

This particular co-worker was the “smelly armpit guy” whose inability to realize what was radiating from his arm pits reminded me of cutting onions on a hot sunny day and then placing those onions on an Italian hoagie. My initial thoughts were maybe this guy has a medical issue or simply just ran out of deodorant. After the days passed, I finally pulled him into my office and we had the hygiene talk. Don’t get me wrong, there is really no proper way to approach such an uncomfortable issue such as this. We had a nice chat and come to find out he did not have a medical issue, he was simply unaware of his reincarnation of Peppy Le Pew. Some of you may be saying, “Frank you are being totally mean!” Those of you who know me know that I approach everything with grace, empathy and a little humor. That’s just how I roll. Together, we concluded that the deodorant he was using was not the right kind for him.  He went to the store that night and purchased a different kind of deodorant. The next day and every day after that, all was good in da’ hood. He found his holy grail of deodorant, he was more confident about himself and the relationship dynamics of the office changed for the better.

So you may be asking, “What’s the point for this blog Frank?” Well, as I stated earlier it’s about boundaries. Setting clear boundaries, whether personally or professionally is key to ensuring all your relationships are mutually respectful. Boundaries show case the self-esteem and self-respect you have for yourself. You set the limits for acceptable behavior for those around you so that there is no room for those to make fun of you, put you down or take advantage of your good nature.  Remember, the keys to effective boundaries are to be consistent and be mindful of your emotional triggers. Don’t practice a cookie cutter approach to boundaries, keep them flexible. Once you have established clear boundaries, there is a likeliness that people will respect you more (notice I said “likeliness”). This allows you be yourself and to be in control of your needs without being judged. Until the next time…

Note to self…stop caring so much!

There are many of us out there that quite frankly just care too much, wouldn’t you agree? Over my lifetime, I’ve always been the guy to lend an ear or helping hand to whomever needed it and without hesitation.  I was that guy that would offer encouragement, advice or simply just listen.  I’ve been told that I care too much about people and that the nice guy always finishes last.  Some would say, “So what Frank?  There are tons of people in the world just like you!  That doesn’t make you any more special than anyone else!”  Albeit correct, I’ve had to come to terms with how to objectively deal with not caring so much…the polar opposite.

Over the last few years or so, I’ve come to the realization that there are two types of people in this world:  givers and takers.  I myself am a giver, although it seems I’m typically on the receiving end of a burn most of the time.  I deeply care about those closest to me, which is only a handful and by design I might add.  I’ve learned that it’s not the quantity, but the quality of the relationship.  I’ve also learned that putting too much time and effort into people and relationships can lead to disappointment, especially when they don’t reciprocate.  Coming from a military background, I was accustomed to expecting the best out of people.  That people are genuine, bright and full of promise.  That isn’t always the case.  When I was diagnosed a couple of years ago with generalized anxiety disorder, I took it upon myself to see a therapist to understand my diagnosis.  I always suspected for a number of years that something was wrong.  I exhibited OCD like symptoms and certain inner behaviors that I never really understood.  My mother raised me to take extra care of things I owned, to keep them nice and in an orderly fashion for as long as possible.  She taught me at a young age how to do housework, the importance of cleanliness, independence and “please” and “thank you”.  My father was a hardworking man who taught me that you have to bust your ass in this world to get what you want.  Nothing is handed to you and when you work hard for it, it’s yours and you’ve earned it.  Being in the military greatly enhanced those parental attributes to the point of over expectations.

Back to my anxiety, I would never experience panic attacks, but just a sense of extreme nervousness or anxiety under the right stimulation.  This has gone on for as long as I remember and still does today.  However I’m now well aware of my triggers and how to control them.  One of those triggers is caring too much.  Through my therapy, I discovered that I expected too much out of people.  I believed that people are genuine, have common sense, integrity and cared about who I am.  Sadly, I’ve had to learn to lower my expectations of people or face disappointment.  I had to accept the fact that I live in a world that will use my gift of caring for their own benefit, with little hesitation or reservation to how it will affect me.  However, being self-aware of this trigger to my anxiety has led me to a better place in life.  I know longer commit to caring about those who don’t show interest or care about who I am or what makes me tick.

Some would say, “Well Frank, that’s kind of a crappy outlook to have don’t ya think?”  To those I say this: by not setting boundaries and reasonable priorities for those in your life, it will weaken you.  Your own wants, needs and desires go unfulfilled.  By the time you realize it, it may or not be repairable.  You become emotionally overloaded and you may need to take a step back and keep the relationship casual or simply walk away.   However a person chooses to handle caring too much for others is up to them, but take this to heart… it takes a strong person to walk away from negativity and toxicity, it takes realization that the result or validation you are looking for just isn’t there, and that you’re not giving up but simply removing yourself from a unhopeful path. Until next time…

Road Rage and Some Karma

Ahhhhh the daily grind of commuting to and from work.  It’s either enjoyable or an exceptionally grueling experience.  We all do it and we all have different feelings about it.  What fascinates me about the driving experience are those who exhibit such extreme road rage and quite frankly, just driving like idiots. “But Frank, there are idiot drivers everywhere you go!”  That my friends, I agree with you.  However, here in South Dakota, I’m not sure if it’s something in the water or from possible alien probing but it’s surely mystifying.  Case in point.  Roads become slick with snow and ice quite frequently during our crap winters. This makes for interesting driving conditions and seems to draw those idiot drivers out like some sort of force field. Although I drive a H2, I drive with caution during inclement weather.  Seriously, I would totally cry if I wrecked my military retirement present to myself.  Anyway, I was cruising comfortably doing 45 to 50 in a 65.  The stars were aligned and all was right with the world.  Then comes speedy truck man in the passing lane driving like it was NASCAR weekend at Daytona 500.  Apparently me driving slowly and safely and not endangering myself or others is sooooo like last year.  As he passed me, I could see the back-end of his truck slipping away from him.  Not to far down the road and hello Mr. Ditch, top o’ the morning to ya.  As I drove by him I couldn’t help but feel that karma finally got this guy.  Oh and might I add this little tid bit, this particular driver constantly drives like a maniac every morning so witnessing him speeding was nothing new.  I bring up this story of the guy in the truck, his constant erratic actions and how the consequence finally caught up with him for a reason.  That reason is what happened to Mr. Truck Man shows that karma is a bitch and does not discriminate.  You reap what you sow.  Be mindful and don’t talk negatively of others or create drama because you’re insecure about your own situation.  Treat others as you want to be treated.  I think of it like the tortoise and the hare:  slow and steady wins the race within relationships and life.  Running hard and fast only leads a person to crash and burn wondering why they aren’t getting anywhere in life.  Take the time to respect those who don’t respect you back, but don’t sacrifice your dignity while doing it.  Until the next time…

My first blog post

Welcome everyone to my very first attempt at blogging.  This has been something I’ve wanted to do for some time, but never really had the courage to do.  My first blog is about change and putting yourself into the mindset of change.  For me, it’s about visualization and goal setting.  Visualizing the goal and having a way to measure that goal is essential to actually making it happen.  Wishes are simply goals without a plan.  I hear all the time that people want a change in their life, but really do nothing about it.  They hate their job, their social life, their relationships (family, friends or spouse) yet will complain, waiting for someone else to make the decision for them.  You are the ultimate change agent in your life.  If you don’t like the direction your life is going, change it.  Get a strong vision for your current reality and make a plan. As I write this, I’m currently enrolled with GCU in Life Coaching and it has been quite the eye opener.  Whether or not I wish to pursue this as a career is still up in the air, however I’ve realized I have a lot of experience to share and I’m a pretty good listener. ~For things to change, you have to change ~ Jim Rohn.