Shephard Summers

Turning the Page

This post stands on its own, but it’s a continuation from last week….

Relationships flood our lives with value and challenge and opportunity. Thinking about healthy relationships, I started with a big priority last week: Free Yourself from Negativity/Negative People  ( my post: “The Nine Rings of Relationship” from last week) was pretty impactful.  It touches not only day to day, but the big pictures especially.  I find equal significance in the next guideline.

Let Go of The Past and Those Who Are Already Gone.

We’ve all heard the helpful quotes meant to keep us focused:
“When one door closes, another one opens.” 
And, “Some people are with you for a reason, some are with you for a season, some are with you for a lifetime.”   

It’s truly all about mastering the reason/season part of that quote. But there are cycles in my life when I just hang on, despite the writing on the wall, when I lose sight of the reason, or refuse to move on to the next season.  This is always based on what I am expecting, or hoping for (same thing).  Who I am hoping or wishing they will be …or who they used to be.  

It’s tough to recognize that the change happens without our permission. When there is no longer a reason, a purpose, or when holding onto the relationship becomes a toxic thing, the only real decision we have to make is HOW LONG are we going to hang on?

Holding onto relationships that have evolved beyond their usefulness, beyond their season, isn’t just holding on, but it’s holding me back from the future I deserve. It’s limiting my evolution.   As a writer, I think of my life as its own novel, and the people are characters, sometimes whole chapters.  But you don’t get to enjoy the story if you don’t turn the next page. In the last 2 years, there have been some doors opening that are wonderful additions to my life that I’m grateful for.

I resolve to march through that door to the future. And I will close the door behind me so that my focus is on what’s in front of me, and around me. I’m blind to the potential that’s in front of me if I am turned around focusing on the past. 

Stating clearly for the record, there aren’t any specific situations prompting these thoughts this week.  But the amazing thing about evolving relationships is the likelihood that there will be relationships in flux that represent any number of these guidelines.  I find these perspectives infinitely helpful in keeping my priorities in relationships on evolution instead of stagnation.

~Shephard 🙂

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The Nine Rings of Relationship

A friend posted a focusing guideline to relationships on her FB page – almost like a healthy resolutions list. I didn’t even get 2 bullet points into it before I knew I wanted to start a series about relationships.  

For me, I look at my life as a whole, and I realize the best way to give individual relationships what they deserve is to do seasonal weeding. 

1. Free Yourself From Negativity/Negative People.
What if you work with them? Or they are family?
If you can’t give them the ole heave ho,  prioritizing is almost as good. 

The people in your life help define your life.  
It’s so important to think about how much energy we give and to whom we give it.  I have an inner dartboard.  At one point, I thought I needed a baseball field that players rotated through, but then I realized that was too vague. A dartboard of concentric circles feels very clear to me.  I will call it my:

Nine Rings of Relationship

1.  The inner circle is me. 

2.  The next ring is B, my husband (spouse or significant other).

3.  The next ring is dear friends who are kindred spirits. The kind I can say anything to. The kind who value honesty and don’t place limitations on our relationship.  –If you have dear family members, they would be here also (and aren’t YOU lucky if you do).

4.  The 4th ring is a ring of trust. Trustworthy friends.  It’s the largest ring most likely.  A lot of variety here.  Many of them, I can depend on.  People I love for who they …even in spite of any flaws… I know who they are down deep, and there’s mutual respect.  Some family maybe.  Some I may not see as often.  They may be busy people, people whose lives or the cards dealt them monopolize their time, their mind, their resources. But they are true friends.  The only thing that separates them from the previous ring: a self-placed limitation on their part that gets in the way. 

5.  The next ring is a ring of respected acquaintences whom I enjoy.  They have a positive effect occasionally. And they have their baggage under control.

6.  The 6th ring is peripheral associates, people I like, work-mates of B’s etc. They are neutral until otherwise noted.

7.  The next ring is for new people –I’m open to whatever this relationship becomes.

8.  The 8th ring — people who are not good for my health –not with intention, but just by being who they are.  They are unaware of how they affect others in general.  They are negative, but don’t seek to do harm on purpose; it’s just who they are and how they see life.  Workmates and even relatives can land here, or people who change due to trauma or stressful life situations.  They may even be fun or entertaining… but… in small doses.   

9.  The 9th ring — They have broken trust, perhaps multiple times.  Takers, vampires, those who envy, criticize and tear down.  They are a bad influence on self-esteem, health, life outlook, habits and well-being.  They are as far from the center as they can get without being strangers.  And many of them managed to get to at least the 4th ring at one time. 

Of course this isn’t a literal dartboard, and people do jockey for positions once in awhile.  Nothing is carved in stone.  There are always exceptions and room for change. Some people even manage to straddle rings.  Then there’s guilt by association.  Or our own tendencies to forgive because we love someone.  

One quote really struck me: “When you free yourself from negative people, you free yourself to be YOU.”    When I think about those who are no longer in my life, it’s largely because of this.  It seems so obvious.  Get rid of the takers, the cynical, the fence-straddlers, those who are negatively competitive…  mean-spirited… and hyper-critical.  Yet it took me decades to make this a priority. My life has been so much happier ever since. 

Just this one choice will make a massive difference in anyone’s life. 
Imagine if we taught this to our children.  Just imagine.

~Shephard 🙂

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Be a Squeaky Wheel

One of my biggest challenges is to allow people to believe what they need to believe, regardless of the facts.  But after a couple decades, I learned when to speak up, and when it just wasn’t important.  Getting to that point was a long road, and my choices and beliefs were often as wrong as they were right.

I know where I got this need for definitive fact-checking.  My father. 

You see, my father lived in a mental fantasy of “if it sounds right to me, it must be true.”  Perhaps in a reasoning, logical person, this is not such a huge flaw, but my father had an 8th grade education and bible-thumping farmer-parents from Nebraska.  So what sounded true to my father was often the furthest thing from it! (disclaimer: I’m sure that bible-thumping farmer-parents in Nebraska are much smarter today than they were 60 years ago).

(In other words, The Squeaky Wheel Gets the Grease)

When I learned how often my father was wrong, I became a person who questions everything he’s told (to this day).  Needless to say, that catapulted me in the opposite direction of blind faith and organized religion.  And for my teachers at school, well, let’s just say those who didn’t like to be wrong were about as fond of me as my dad was.   

I grew up in a family who stubbornly masqueraded opinion as fact.  So, I personally tend to be less patient about that.  But growing up with it was just about the best training for the real world.   I learned how to deal with blind beliefs and poor fact-checking early on.  But I also stepped on a lot of toes before I realized where the fine line was.   I eventually discovered that I don’t care what people choose to believe, as long as they’re reasonable and respectful and compassionate.

Today is Martin Luther King Day, a day that reminds us that standing up for compassionate truth is important.   

If you tell me the blue sky is actually orange, it hurts no one.  If you are comforted by this, I am happy for you.

But if you tell me black people or gay people are second-class citizens, I will challenge your bigotry. 

If you vote for politicians you think will be great for the economy but also knowing they will take civil rights from anyone, I will not quietly tolerate your looking the other way.  Because no person who devalues civil rights is good for the country.   

If you tell me that god exists, and you know exactly what he believes and thinks, I’m happy for you that you have found your truth… but if you tell me that anyone who disagrees with you is wrong… I will not validate your intolerance, because you do not have the right to decide this for anyone but yourself.  

Today is Martin Luther King Day. 
A day to remember that civil and human rights are inalienable rights not decided upon randomly by what a person chooses to believe.  We owe all our freedoms to those who came before and fought so hard to preserve and win them.  I wish I’d learned how important this is when I was younger.  Imagine the choices I might have made.  Likewise, imagine the choices a new generation will make if we choose not to forget.



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