Friday, September 23, 2016

What Is A Good Man?

I ran across a quote a while back that I have held on to and pondered a number of times.  It struck me at the time I first read it, and since then I have continued to contemplate what it means.  The quote is: A good man can only live a lie for so long before he becomes just a man.  It kinds of reminds me of the chorus to a song I recall from many years ago, and like the words to a song, it can be interpreted different ways.

A good man can only live a lie for so long before he becomes just a man.

My initial attempt to make sense of this runs along the line of being true to oneself and not presenting a false image of who we are.  People often have an impression of what they believe they should be, most often linked with how they define success.  Based on that impression they sometimes succumb to creating a false image of themselves so that others view them as successful.  Based on the quote above, they live a lie, but eventually they are exposed and others see them for who they truly are.  I think back to a person that I knew about thirty years ago when I was a young teacher.  I’ll refer to him as Richard, a person who had returned to his hometown after receiving an education at one of our nation’s military academies and serving his country as a military officer for a number of years.  Once back in his home community he began a career in the financial business and by all accounts accumulated a great deal of wealth in a relatively short period of time.  He was more than a little arrogant, and was a fairly influential person in the community, though he was not highly engaged in voluntary groups, or for that matter, any community organizations.  Neither he or any of him family members “flashed” wealth, but it was believed by most they had a lot of money because they would take what at that time were considered exotic trips. 

Eventually stories started circulate around the community that Richard would take advantage of his pilot’s license and fly his wife to the east coast for a Friday night dinner at a five-star restaurant because he could, or send his wife and daughter to L.A. for a three day weekend and shopping spree on Rodeo Drive.  Then word of week-long vacations to the Caribbean and Europe started to circulate, though few if any people ever heard about them first-hand.  Were the stories true, or were they part of the typical small town rumor mill?  One would suppose that there was at least some truth to that because all of a sudden in the late 80’s, Richard suddenly disappeared, running out on his wife and kids and blowing out of town.  Gone like a ghost.  Why?  Well, not long after it was exposed that through his financial dealings he cheated a number of people and regulators eventually caught up with him.  The positive is that he was found and justice was served as he spent time behind bars.  He was exposed.  He wasn’t the patriot, wholesome family man, and honest businessman people had thought.  He lived a lie and was nothing more than a man.

I most often look at this quote and believe that it best references being honest with oneself, and the importance of continuing to become a better you.  Particularly after we have lived for a few years, we have a chance to reflect and assess whether we are being the best person we can be.  Everyone makes mistakes in life, poor choices, and probably shared a few white lies.  Many of us have acted at least a little selfish, some making the decision to do something for ourself rather than something that could benefit others.  We tell stories over a few beers and stretch the truth and as time goes on and our memory fades a bit, perhaps that truth-stretching is unintended.  Maybe we have been obsessed with chasing the gold ring and having nice things at the expense of developing strong relationships with sons and daughters, family and friends.

I once lived in a community where status was very important.  Even if one did not have a great deal of money or a job that is highly respected, they would buy expensive cars and boats, party hard in expensive clothes, and act as if they were extra-special and better than others.  I could not wait to move on, and it was nice to live in a couple of communities where people accepted one another for who they were, and people were not obsessed with putting on airs.  Being able to accept oneself and who you are is admirable, and hopefully that comes to each of us sooner rather than later.

A good man can only live a lie for so long before he becomes just a man.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Drama Queens: Gotta’ Love Them!

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When I first saw this I had a really good chuckle, and then I shared it with our guidance counselor, Bill Clark.  I cannot begin to estimate the number of conversations we have had over the years about the “drama queens” that create such chaos at school.  A few years back I referred to these girls as ones who “starred in their own soap opera.”  They love attention.  They believe that their experiences are different than anyone else’s.  And, they end up causing a lot of trouble and a lot of collateral damage.  A drama queen is an attention hog who isn’t happy unless they have 1) caused a number of people to express a level of concern and 2) they have caused emotional damage for at least one other person. In my years of public education, the unscientific estimate is that there are generally one to three of these in each class of 70 to 80 students.  

Social psychologists have written at length that we are currently living in a period of unprecedented narcissism among young people.  Never before have we had a generation of teens and young adults that are more wrapped up in themselves than those that we have today.  This is reflected in their music, as noted by Tim Elmore who recently wrote about how many of the popular songs today have “I” or “me” in the title.  The Youtube phenomenon allows anyone who wants to be seen or noticed to put their “show” up for anyone to watch.  I was amazed how popular and recognizable people I have never heard of from online “channels” are who were running the Amazing Race.  If you own a smart phone, you can shoot video and  get people to watch you!  

From the perspective of a school employee, working with drama queens becomes very time consuming and emotionally draining.   They can become a real problem.  Digging into this, there are various definitions that describe these people.  Wikipedia defines a drama queen as a person who habitually responds to situations in a melodramatic way.  The Urban Dictionary has a similar definition: an overly dramatic person.  Webster defines them as a person (especially a woman) who acts as though things are much worse than they really are.  In an article published in Scientific American, they are referred to as a person who reacts everyday with excessive emotion and behaves in a theatrical, attention-grabbing way.  Does this sound like anyone you know?

At school, the individual that has to deal with drama queens more than anyone is our counselor.  However, they have an impact on nearly everyone they are in contact with.  They often become “time suckers” and force people to spend time with them.  In order to do that, other work they may have, or other people they need to attend to, are often pushed off to the side, to be attended to later.  At times they create chaos because of the reactions and responses from other students.  Sometimes they turn quickly on their closest friends and the resulting fall-out taxes the resources we have available.  It is not unusual for them to threaten violence toward themselves or others, and many of them suffer from depression or anxiety.

Drama queens are very real.  Some of the ones we have at our school have become one due to trauma they experienced in childhood.  Research by the Child Trauma Academy found that some "children who experience trauma undergo changes in brain chemistry that result in them becoming moody, oversensitive to stimulation, and unable to accurately assess certain social and environmental cues."

Neglect is another factor in young people craving the attention and acting in the manner of a drama queen.  Parents that ignore or dismiss a child’s thoughts, feelings, and emotions may find their child behaving in a much more dramatic fashion in order to get their attention.  In fact, some children develop borderline personality disorder (BPD) and will do whatever is necessary to get attention, from dressing provocatively to telling wild stories.

A 2004 study by John Gunderson of Harvard Medical School suggests that drama queens may have come about due to their DNA. According to Gunderson,  "27% of the relatives of a person with BPD display aspects of the disorder’s problematic relationship style.”  Simply said, drama queens are often the progeny of drama queens.

When we accept that these students and their over-reaction to sometimes common events may have their behavior ingrained on their brain, we can develop strategies to that help us teach other students to distance themselves from them, and at the same time practice empathy.  As adults we can also be better equipped with strategies to help them acknowledge that their problems are no different than those faced by others.  Giving them time initially is a basic human response, but the learning  comes when lines are drawn  so that the drama queens develop an awareness of others.  When that is reinforced consistently, there can be less drama in our queens!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Cubs Have Nothing On These Guys!

On May 7, 2016, the Leicester City soccer team hoisted the Barclay Premier League cup high into the sky in front of their fans signifying that they were the champions of the most prestigious league in professional sports in the world.  Actually, they clinched the title five days earlier when the second place team, the Tottenham Hot Spurs from London were tied by their across town rivals Chelsea, making it impossible for them to accumulate enough points to catch Leicester City.

Known as the Foxes, the story of this championship team is the most amazing story in sport in terms of the underdog or the unexpected.  Taking home the trophy energized a community as it represented every David over Goliath, small city versus big city, small-budget versus deep pockets story one could conjure up.  A team of journeyman players, some who has spent more years playing in the “minor leagues” of professional soccer than on the big stage, came together and put on a season-long display of teamwork and unselfish play that will be long remembered by their fans and sports aficionados.

How impressive was their victory?  In a nation know for betting parlors setting a line on nearly any competitive event, and in a league with online betting companies sponsoring more than one team, the consensus odds on Leicester City winning the Barclay’s Premier League prior to the start of the season was 5000 to 1.  Comparatively, the odds for defending champions Chelsea were 6 to 5 and for Manchester City they were set at 12 to 5.  They finished 10th and 4th respectively.  The longest shot to win the Kentucky Derby rarely has odds less than 80 to 1!  Actually, there is really no analogy to make here because of the truly ridiculously small chance that anyone gave the Foxes to win it all.

To add more perspective, Leicester City had never won a championship of any kind in their 132 year history!  Hey, at least the Chicago Cubs won a World Series 107 years ago in 1908!  To compare, Cubs fans have another 25 years to wait before they can truly complain, though one would have to believe that they have the best shot of winning it all this year that they have had in decades. 

In England’s incredibly fair tiered system, Leicester City was in the third tier as recently as 2008.  To put that in perspective, that would be as if the recent World Series champion Kansas City Royals were playing in Double A ball eight years ago.  All of the leagues have what they call relegation, and in the highest level, the Premier League, the three teams at the bottom of the standings at the end of the year move down a league and the top three teams from the second division move up.  It happens all the way up and down the league structure.  So that means that in seven years the Foxes moved from tier three through second division and into the “major league” of British soccer.  And then they become champions!  That is an incredible story!

Hopefully for long suffering Cub fans this will be the year.  Perhaps the odds are too good for that to happen since they were the favorites of Vegas oddsmakers prior to the start of the season.  But if not, maybe they should call a Leicester City fan to see how they deal with years of frustration and disappointment since they had more practice . . . until now!