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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Overcoming Great Odds

A few days ago I saw the movie "42." It is the story about Jackie Robinson. I have from time to time thought about what Mr. Robinson went through, but never could I fully understand the hatred that he felt from so many people. Watching this movie made me reflect on some of the trials of my own life. Many people think that life is hard, but we all have trials we go through. I am in no way comparing my troubles to the atrocities suffered by Mr. Robinson. However, there is a great lesson to be learned in how Mr. Robinson handled overwhelming situations.

Each of us has our own way of dealing with adversity. Some people stand their ground and fight. Other people may run. Then there are varying degrees of reactions in between. Few people I know have the ability to handle situations the way Mr. Robinson was portrayed in the movie. To do this takes great control and not letting your emotions dictate your actions.

I am reminded of a talk given by a church leader that I heard a few years ago. This man told a story how he started a sales representative job after college. He was assigned to work with a seasoned salesman visiting stores that carried his company's products. The duo had visited several stores and things were going well. Then they went to a store where the owner was extremely rude and treated them with disrespect. Upon leaving the store the senior salesman had a smile on his face and seemed unaffected by the conduct of the store owner. Noticing this the young salesman asked his mentor how he could be so happy after being treated so poorly. The answer was simple. The senior companion said, "I refuse to let others dictate how I feel."

We all have emotions and feelings. There will be times when others are going to do or say things that will step on our feelings leaving us to have a variety of emotions. We cannot control how others treat us. But we can control how we react to these intrusions.

Mr. Robinson was a man of character. Strong character is something that takes time to develop. Going through the trials of life can often times be extremely difficult. If a person fails the trials that are placed before him or her there will certainly be more trials ahead to help improve a person's character.

How we react to difficult times is a choice. Everything we do in life comes from choices that we make. Many people will argue that some circumstances are beyond our control. Yes, there are events that may happen to us that we cannot control. However, how we react to anything is a choice. Often times we think we are making the best choice for the situation. However, our judgement may be clouded by our feelings. Stressful times may need a period of cooling down before reacting. Therein lies the first choice.

Mr. Robinson was faced with a choice when he was being bombarded with racial obscenities from the opposing team and the fans. I am sure that this hatred was taking its toll on him. On the field he did not react. In one scene the hatred was overwhelming. In reaction he left the field and had a private moment of anger. The owner of his team approached him to console him. He was able to gather himself, go back onto the field and put the haters in their place by showing them how well he could hit a ball.

Mr. Robinson made a choice to not react to such hatred in public. He took some time to get his emotions under control. He then with a renewed determination went back onto the field and did what he was so good at.

How many of us when faced with difficult situations will take that time to get our emotions under control? How often do we react purely out of what we are feeling during the heat of the moment? There are going to be so many times in our lives when people will tell us that we cannot or should not do something that is a worthwhile venture. But that should not stop us. I say to the people with the negative comments to go and tell someone who is successful in that area that they cannot do it. Often times the negative people are just jealous.

What made Jackie Robinson such a great man? Was it because he was a great ball player? Was it because he was the first black man in Major League Baseball? That answer to both of those questions is NO! There have been many great ball players who were not great men. There was a whole list of players that the Brooklyn Dodgers were considering to be the first African American to play in the big leagues. What made Mr. Robinson a great man was his choices. What made Jackie Robinson so great was how he chose to react to overwhelming odds.

Each of of has greatness within us. The greatness comes from choosing positive reactions to both positive and negative events in our lives. We each can fly to a higher level than we think we can. We simply have to believe in ourselves. Sometimes we need a push up from someone close to us who truly has our best interests at heart. But we each have the power to rise above the odds.

Keep an eye on the sky!
Collin Hughes
The Prozac Pilot

Monday, April 15, 2013

Childhood Abuse

The abuse of a child is a horrible thing. Surviving childhood abuse affects a person in many different ways. Each survivor develops his or her own defense mechanisms to protect him or her from the pains of the world. A survivor sees the world in a different way than someone who has never been though such atrocities. It is difficult to explain to a person who has not been through such a horrific experience.

As an adult I am not sure what is worse. The memories that have resurfaced about the abuse or when people call my abuser a good man. Both are extremely painful. I have tried to share with people who knew my father what type of person he really was. But all to often I hear from them what a good man he was. I wonder how good of a man they would think he was if he had hit them as many times as he did me. I also wonder what they would think of him if he had called them stupid as many times as he did me.

Raising a family in the sixties a man was judged by one thing. He was judged on how well he provided for his family. That was the sole judgement of a husband, father and provider. Everyone knew my father as a good provider. That was what counted. That made him a good man. The fact that he was an abusive alcoholic meant nothing to the rest of the world. He was just good old Gibby.

I saw a different side of this "good man." I saw the provider like the rest of the world. One positive thing I can say about him is that he was an extremely hard worker. But I saw the man who would come home drunk and yell at the family. I saw a man who never attended the events of his children because he was either too busy working or was at a bar and was too drunk. I saw a man who could not control his temper and was not afraid to use his fists on his children. I saw the man who came home so drunk and angry one night that he got out a shotgun and nearly killed his family. This was the type of man that everyone called a "good man."

I grew up and started to become the man that my father was. I tried to change, but change came too late. I ruined the family that I had started. I was not there early on for my children. I ran from my obligations. Perhaps out of fear for being the same type of father that I had as an example. I have worked hard since then to be a good person. I strive to be the type of man that truly is good. I may fall short some days, but overall I think I am doing OK.

Society has come a long ways in how it views what a good father is today. Perhaps at times society may swing too far the other way when viewing the life of someone who has been abused. Today there are so many people who use their past abuse as an excuse that causes their bad behavior. Prisons are filled with people who claim they did not know any better because they had a rough childhood. There are also defense attorneys who use the history of abuse with their clients as a legal defense to get their clients a lesser charge for what ever crime it is the client may have committed.

Surviving abuse is not easy by any means. But it is not a reason to commit crimes or abuse others. Just as bad behavior can be learned at the hands of an abuser, learning to care about others in a positive manner can be learned as well. One of the things that makes me the person that I am today is that I DO NOT want to be anything like my father. How a survivor lives his or her life is a CHOICE! Everything we do in life, whether it be positive or negative, are choices. Each and everyone of us can make the decision to good or evil.

With this post I am reaching out to two different groups of people. First, I talk to survivors of abuse. Secondly, I attempt to speak to those who have a loved one who is a survivor. Both types of people are in a unique situation. The survivor has an extremely difficult task of trying to explain to someone what it is like to live with such pain that was inflicted upon them. The second group of individuals has to try to understand why a survivor views the world and relationships in a manner that most people may never understand.

Sounds frustrating doesn't it? Yes, it can be very frustrating. But the best way to deal with it is just put your shoulder to the wheel and push forward. Life may appear easy for some. But everyone has trials in life. Some people think that money would make life easier and they would have no problems if they were rich. If that were true people like Lindsay Lohan or Paris Hilton would not be in the news so much while being arrested for substance abuse.

So what is the answer to living a happy life if it is not money? The answer is simple, but sometimes hard to do. You simply do the best with the hand that is dealt you in life. If you feel you have been dealt a bad hand in life, then stack the cards in your favor. Work hard each day to make the next day better than the day before. For some people that might might mean having more success in their job. For others that might mean just getting out of bed the next morning. But what ever it takes, make tomorrow better than today.

Overcome the things that hold you back. DO NOT LET YOUR ABUSER HAVE CONTROL OF YOUR ENTIRE LIFE! Liberate yourself from the control of your abuser. Do not continue to let him or her have control over you. If someone tells you what a good person your abuser is politely tell them how wrong they are. Do not let anyone make you feel like a bad person for what happened to you. No one should feel shame for being a victim.

Many survivors feel they have done something wrong. The only thing wrong you have done in being a survivor is thinking you have done something wrong. The abuser is ALWAYS the bad guy. All survivors are VICTIMS.

Getting to the right frame of mind for a healthy life will not be easy. It will most often take therapy. Do not be ashamed to contact a mental health professional. Once you start looking at life in a positive manner so many things will open up to you. Do not waste your life by drowning in your sorrows. Make some happy memories. Always remember there is only one person who can decide the outcome of your life. YOU

Keep an eye on the sky!
Collin Hughes
The Prozac Pilot