Tuesday, August 6, 2013

What's getting in YOUR way?

How often throughout the day do you think to yourself, "Life sucks" or "Why me?" or "This isn't how I expected my life to turnout." If you feel this way then know that you're not alone, because I used to be that person. I walked around complaining about anything that wasn't the way I wanted, judging others as well as myself, and worrying about things I had no control over. I had a steady job, a nice home, nice car, a wonderful husband, and family support. But for various reasons I was always unhappy and this was before my husband's injury when life was smooth sailing. I felt like something was missing in my life, but it wasn't until I started consciously monitoring my thoughts that I was able to turn my negative emotions around. I didn't change overnight, but rather I evolved over the past few years. I'm not saying that negative thoughts will never cross your mind, but when you speak them out loud then you're bringing them to life. What if you took just a handful of your negative thoughts and turned them around? You might find that your perspective begins to change. So, what's getting in YOUR way?

Assume innocence: Let's start with something easy. How often do you get upset when someone cuts you off in traffic or when someone gets in your way while you're in a hurry?  I know that sometimes people are simply rude, but consider the fact that sometimes that person may not realize what they did. Maybe they received bad news right before they got in their car and they're distracted. Maybe they have a lot on their mind or they're exhausted. Can you relate to this? As caregivers of wounded warriors we can all relate to receiving bad news and I think most of us have a lot on our minds. So, try not to take things personally and assume innocence.

Being busy vs. productive: Stop trying to be everything to everybody! How many responsibilities have you taken on recently that have no meaning to you? Did you say "yes" to please someone else even though you really don't have any extra time in your crammed social calendar? I personally have a tendency to take on too much. When I thought about why I do this I realized it's because I want to feel needed and valued. However, you can only do so much for others before you wear yourself out. I know that as caregivers we want to make things easier for our veterans, but ask yourself if he is capable of doing it himself or are you doing it for him to make your life easier? It's more important to do the things that really mean something to you and are productive than simply staying busy.   Cut out the busy work and carve out time for yourself.

Forgiveness: This is a tough one. Who's in your life now or from the past that you haven't forgiven? Better yet, is there something that you haven't forgiven yourself for? After my husband's injury, I was angry at a lot of people for various reasons. Guess what? None of those people cared nor were they affected by my hurt. They had all moved on while I was left stewing and unable to forgive. I also had to forgive myself for not handling my husband's injury as well as I thought I should have. I'm not sure which was harder, forgiving myself or the other people. Forgiveness is not condoning someone's behavior, but rather making the choice to not be a victim, acknowledging your hurt and gaining control over your feelings. Like I said, this isn't easy but if you start by forgiving the little things (like the person in traffic) then after a while you'll be able to move on to bigger situations.

Stop trying to change others: Ouch! I really struggle with this one and think I will for the rest of my life.  I remember when we first got married and I spent 75% of my energy trying to change him and it didn't work. People are who they are, just like you and I are the way we are. I have to remind myself that other people's behaviors are not a reflection on me and that just because I think something should be done a certain way doesn't mean everyone else does. It was a big let down when I realized the world didn't revolve around me!

Comparing your life to others: It's human nature to look at other people's lives and wonder why they have more than we do when it comes to money, happiness, toys, friends, etc. How often do you look at the people that have less than you do and ask "Why have I been blessed with so much, while they haven't?" Did you have a nice hot shower this morning? Do you have a roof over your head? Do you have food in your pantry? I'll be the first one to admit that it's hard being a caregiver, but I try not to focus on the negatives or what other people have. It's so easy to forget about the basic things that we take for granted. Try to stop and think about others, because you may be surprised by how many people would be thrilled to trade places with you.

Passion: What makes you lose track of time or gives you a sense of accomplishment? Do you enjoy writing, drawing, gardening, reading or serving others?  We all need something that motivates us to move forward. For the longest time I had stopped writing, because I didn't think what I had to say was relevant. Then several caregivers encouraged me to tell my story and I took the risk. It paid off when I realized that being vulnerable and sharing my story was helpful to others while at the same time validating their feelings or thoughts. Ask yourself, "What did I enjoy doing before I became a caregiver?" and start doing it again.

Once you start consciously thinking about some of the items on this list then hopefully you'll see a shift in how you filter the things that happen in your world. Don't expect your feelings to change overnight. It's a gradual shift in your perspective and soon you'll be saying to yourself, "Life is good." Don't focus on the past, but rather learn from it and let your troubles transform you.

So, what's getting in your way now?

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Women and weapons

What happens when you bring the shooting industry's executives together for a weekend of competitive shooting in Cody, Wyoming? You get industry peers relaxing and having fun at a shooting event. HAVA invited Aaron and I, along with another couple, to participate in this event. HAVA works hand in hand with the shooting industry as you can see from this quote on their website: "As the number of injured men and women returning from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan grew, members of the firearms industry initiated a non-profit partnership called HAVA to aid disabled soldiers as they transition to their lives back in the United States. The ultimate goal is to increase their confidence and hope for the future by reconnecting with their love of the outdoors and the American traditions of hunting and firearms."  This event gave the industry executives the opportunity to see firsthand where their donations are going. The private industry is vital to the ongoing support and unmet needs of wounded soldiers. They pick up the shortcomings of the VA and the various branches of the military. 

For the entire 20 years of our marriage, I have watched Aaron drool over gun magazines, talk gun talk for hours on end with his buddies and go to the range anytime the opportunity presented itself. The way most guys are into sports is how my husband is with guns. He can never get enough! I never really understood this fascination until I participated in the Shooting Industry Masters event. The majority of the group was men, but I was surprised to see how many women were in the industry as well. It was the first time I had been around female shooters and seeing how well they performed brought out the competitive side of me. I had the chance to shoot in timed events, shoot black powder rifles, shoots with a laser and more. My favorite was shooting at the metal targets and hearing that plinking sound when my bullets hit the target.

During this event, I learned that the number of female shooters has increased over 51% in the last decade and that manufacturers are gearing their marketing to female shooters. Female shooters want color choices, accessories and pistols that fit smaller hands for conceal and carry. Would you have guessed that the most popular color choice for accessories is pink? Barbie pink is not my personal favorite, but if lavender or a soft teal were available I would snap it up. To learn more about female shooting clubs check out http://www.agirlandagunclub.com/ or http://babeswithbullets.com/

 I got a little side-tracked talking about my new interest and forgot about everyone else. Sorry! For the HAVA team there was a relaxed schedule which allowed us to shoot side matches and not actually compete. Many wounded veteran's bodies don't do well with a timed schedule and the stress it puts on them, so being on a relaxed schedule was perfect. Each station offered something different to shoot ranging from black powder 4570's, to target shooting with pistols or rifles, to skeet and trap, etc. Aaron and Nick (another wounded veteran) shot a replica of the Gatling gun, which is the forerunner for the machine gun. The Gatling was used by the Union forces during the American Civil War in the 1860's. Each time Aaron and Nick fired it, 20 rounds were expelled in a matter of seconds. This was easily Aaron's favorite as he shot it over and over and over again! 

To round out the weekend, we had a some downtime to sight see in Cody. We spent close to 6 hours in the Buffalo Bill museum, ate at the Irma Hotel (where Buffalo Bill's famous bar is located), checked out the Old Trail Town and spent each evening relaxing in the pool and enjoying conversation with our group. The final evening was a dinner with auction to raise money for the USA Olympic team as well as First Shots http://www.nssf.org/firstshots/ which assist new shooters in learning about the sport. Prizes were given out for various events to include "most improved with laser" shooting in a timed event. I was one of the 3 winners in this event, which awarded a Lasermax Centerfire laser of our choice. I joked that I won this event, because I didn't realize I was being timed the first round and so naturally I improved the 2nd time around when I understood that I needed to speed it up!  Unfortunately Aaron didn't win the Buffalo Bill replica rifle that he had his eye on, but Nick won a gift bag full of gun goodies.

Thank you to the Shooting Industry Masters sponsor -FMG Publishing, which made this event possible as well as all the volunteers. We had an amazing time and great conversations with genuine people who love this sport and we hope to participate next year. 

P.S. When we got home, a copy of Guns and Ammo was in the mailbox and I wrestled Aaron for it. On the front was a palm size .380 pistol with interchangeable frames in white, earth brown, black, purple and you guessed it....pink. I admit that the color choices caught my eye on the front of the magazine and at the same time I think Aaron liked that I wanted to read his magazine. Good job marketing folks!

P.P.S. I took a CHL class (concealed handgun license) last weekend and passed it. Once I complete all my paperwork, FBI background check and finger printing I'll be an official gun toting wife with her own small-sized weapon.Watch out boys!