Category: Self Awareness

“The Comfort of Opinion…”

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“Without the Discomfort of Thought”

If you are unfamiliar with the man in this drawing, it is John F. Kennedy, our 35th President. This quote struck me as important in the current political/media/social climate. It tells me that having an opinion also requires me to think about what I believe. To examine my beliefs. To make sure, they are based in reality, and in fact; that they are not just rooted in what is familiar. Here’s the entire quote from a commencement speech:

“The great enemy of truth is very often not the lie–deliberate, contrived and dishonest–but the myth–persistent, persuasive and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the cliches of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.”

The Internet Changes Everything

OK, you’re saying… but how do I know if my opinions are grounded in a universal truth or just in “my truth?” This is especially challenging when each of us has… the Internet. We have access to so much of the world’s knowledge and data, at our finger tips. Just 30 years ago, our main source of information was libraries, books, radio, television and newspapers. For those of us over 30… we have a context for understanding ‘all the accumulated knowledge known to man.’ We have the advantage of history, of experience and, if we’re lucky…an education that opened our minds.

For people under 30, who have always known a world with the internet, it’s challenging to absorb, sift, integrate and potentially challenge everything they read. How in the world can they be expected to do that? I find their ability to spot a phony, uncanny. They value authenticity above all AND they can ferret out our inconsistencies with surprising ease.

Now What

Here are a few suggestions for opening your mind. I’m interested in your ideas.

  • Get your information from multiple sources. Read/follow news sources you think you don’t agree with. Keep an open mind. Work to understand the other point of view.
  • Work to meet people who are different than you. Race, economics, religion, anything that will give you a new way to look at the world. This is a gift you give yourself.
  • Help someone. If you’re feeling lonely or lost… find a way to do something for someone else. It’s really easy to find someone if you look around. You don’t have to do any ‘regular’ volunteering… just find someone who needs to be listened to or just plain seen.

My hope is that we learn to listen to and have more respect for the young people of our planet. They have so much to teach us.

Image credit: Foundationforconsciousliving.com

The “Un” Expectation

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 Some Expectations are Good, They are Spoken

When the winter ends and we expect the spring… (and it finally comes) … it’s good. When we work hard and reap the reward of that work… it’s good. When we put our trust in someone and that trust is respected, it’s good. When we are able to tell someone what we expect and we know they have heard us, and that expectation is met, it’s good. But most of us know that expectations… especially ones that we don’t even realize are there… can lead to disappointment at best.

Some are Bad…They are “Un” Spoken

EXPECTATION – OBSERVATION = FRUSTRATION

These are the ones where our lack of self-awareness or observation about the reality of the situation, makes us vulnerable to someone else’s whims, lack of integrity or just inattention. The ones where we forget to ‘trust but verify’. Where denial about the other person’s behavior puts us in jeopardy. Especially if it’s our family that lets us down. Social norms expect/require us to ‘love’ them, but some family members don’t deserve the love and trust that ‘society thinks’ they should have.

What We Can Do

Many people have ‘reasons’ why they can’t pay attention to the needs of others. They say it’s because, they:

  • have a short attention span
  • are not ‘tuned-in’ to others
  • see how easily other people do it and think they just can’t
  • think it takes too much energy
  • believe they have too many people to pay attention to

and a gazillion more.  The truth is that love isn’t a feeling, it’s an action. And one of the most important actions we can take, is to pay attention to our own expectations of others and work to clarify our expectations whenever possible.

Together, Let’s Work on These

  1. Be aware of your expectations. This takes work, but it’s worth it
  2. Check for the reasonableness of the expectation. Do we  think that someone will always behave the way we want? That’s not reasonable. Is this something that I want? Have I listened to what the other person says about why they can’t meet our expectation? Have they let us down before?
  3. Work to verbalize your expectations. This is tough because if we say it out loud, then that gives the other person the chance to say… no. And if we don’t say it out loud, maybe they’ll do it and we’ll get what we want. But let me assure you that whatever the let down of the conversation regarding the expectation… it is better than not verbalizing what you want or expect.

Let’s see what we can do to help ourselves to love those who deserve it.

The Case For Joy

There Is No Joy Without Gratitude - Joy Quotes

What Happened to Joy?

I take my dog places and she is such a bundle of happiness and excitement that many people comment on how much she loves life. She bounces up and down, licks hands, and is basically ready to play at any moment. People are genuinely entranced by her sense of joy. I’ve noticed that each person who sees her, also seems almost wistful when they look at her, or they may even say something like…” I wish I was that happy” or “It must be great to be that happy.”Whatever happened to our sense of  ‘joy?’ By definition joy is:

jubilation, triumph, exultation, rejoicing, happiness, glee, exhilaration, exuberance, elation, euphoria, bliss, ecstasy, rapture

When was the last time you felt exhilarated? exuberant? blissful? What do you think happens to our sense of feeling joyful?

Too Busy to Be Joyful?

I have no illusions that the ‘good old days’, were all that good or joyful. Just because things were simpler, does not mean that they were more joyful. However, we have worked hard to create more ‘leisure’ time and one would hope that in that time, we’d find our way back to a little elation or glee.

I wonder if it has to do with focus? If we focus on being like my dog, present in the moment… expecting good but simple things, the sunshine or the rain, the ability to smile at one another, getting or giving a hug. What if we just stopped a few times a day and looked for something to feel joyful about?

Just for Today

Follow your bliss, get out of the hallway, look for the good, appreciate the moment. Let me know how it goes.

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Image Credit: Joy Quotes

Follow your bliss

Short Skirts and Bra Straps

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Acceptable Dress

I was waiting in line at the grocery store the other day and the 2 women in front of me were wearing shirts with bra straps showing. I was thinking, at what point in the last few years did it become “acceptable” to show your bra straps? I’m old so I remember the days when showing a bra strap was beyond tacky… it was a signal that you were not a “lady”.

But now… these 2 middle-aged women were not only showing their straps… they were at the grocery store where everyone could see them! It made me stop and think about how ideas (as well as fashion) change and become ‘socially acceptable.’

Preconceived Notions vs. Independent Thinking

The idea of whether bra straps show or not is, of course, relatively meaningless. But I hope you see that the same social norm that said, in the 1970’s, that short skirts were ‘unacceptable’ and rebellious, now accepts both short skirts and showing bra straps.

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If we take this idea of what is socially acceptable to broader ideas… it can be useful to monitor our own thinking. What is one idea that you have, that is outdated? or unhelpful? or that everyone around you thinks is okay but you feel is wrong? or that makes you uncomfortable? Are there ideas or norms that you rub you the wrong way? Sometimes we don’t even realize it until we stop and really think about it. The other complicating factor is, how do we acknowledge our own position (that’s different from many others around us), without being judgemental of others?

Here’s My Broader Idea: We’re In This Together

I believe that I have an obligation to give back to the world in tangible ways. That I have a responsibility to:

  • find people to help in a way that fits with what I have to give
  • focus on being grateful for all the gifts I have
  • be aware of the needs of those around me
  • take steps every day to be present for everyone I meet

What’s that got to do with bra straps? I don’t know. Somewhere in my strange brain they’re connected. I have always been someone who doesn’t care much for what other people think. And finding my own way in the world is hard because it’s always easier to follow the crowd. But I’m not good at that. I hope this gives you a chance to stop for a minute and think about… your broader idea. I hope you have the courage and strength to follow through. I believe in you.

Photo credit: bra straps showing    70’s short skirts

 

The Case for “Abby Normal”

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Who is Abby Normal?

In one of my favorite movies, Young Frankenstein, the lab assistant (Igor), has to steal a brain from another lab (for Frankenstein’s monster). Igor makes a mistake and takes a jar marked.. ‘abnormal’ brain. When confronted, Igor says that the name on the jar was, Abby Normal. Watch the clip

Normal is Overrated

I have a split personality. Part of me wants to be abby normal. I have always said I am, “too weird for the normal people and to normal for the weird people.” I meant this as partly reality, partly to justify why I am happy and proud to not care what people think. The other part of me is desperate to be normal. Growing up with limited parenting, I often had to guess at what was ‘normal’. The truth is, I still have to guess, more often that I would like to admit.

The amount of energy I have spent to appear ‘normal’ is well, crazy. Had a listened to Maya Angelou (quote above), I would have stopped trying to be what other people think is “normal”. I would have embraced my inner weirdo and been proud. Instead, I spent years looking to ‘fit in’ or be someone that people think is okay. Why? Right now, I’m not sure I know. There is human/biological need to belong. Could that be part of it? But really, reflecting on this, I don’t understand … why did I feel this was necessary?

Breaking the “Normal” Mold

It’s good to be normal, AND there’s nothing wrong with being weird. If you’re like me and feel a little too weird for the normal people, then I ask you to love yourself. We are big tribe!

Image credit: Zero Dean

Never Try to Up Sell an Unhappy Customer

But I’m Not Wrong!

So, you’ve had a problem with someone. Your spouse, your customer, your kids… anyone. And now you need something from them. But you don’t want to apologize because:

  1. You didn’t do anything wrong
  2. You don’t like to apologize
  3. You’re sick and tired of taking other people’s crap
  4. The other person was wrong
  5. On and on and on…

There are 1001 and reasons why you shouldn’t have to say you’re sorry. All of them perfectly justified in your mind. So I’ll ask you this one question.

Do you want to be RIGHT? Or do you want to be HAPPY?

Some people will say, well, if I’m right, then I’m happy because I know I’m right. Oookaaay. If that’s how you feel, then you are all set. Or maybe you have a great example of how being ‘right’ is more important than being happy. I’m sure there are some. My point is that when we have conflict with someone, it may be because … we want to be right.

Is the Customer Always Right?

Of course the customer is NOT always right. But the customer is ‘righter’ than we are, because we need them. They are the lifeline to our business. They have the power to influence others, positively and negatively. The same goes for our friends, loved ones, co-workers. Every day we have a choice to be ‘right’. Every day we have a choice to graciously acknowledge that other people have a right to their positions.

Trying to convince them that their point of view is wrong… is, well, wrong. Even worse, trying to convince them that we are right (the up sell), is even worse. The best we can do is to listen and see if we can find a way to bridge the gap. We can maintain our dignity (no doormats allowed), and show that we are open to hearing something different.

I wish it were easier. I wish this was a skill we were taught in school, but like many important skills, we are on our own.

Image Credit: Steve  Steve Snodgrass

Walk Through The Fire

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“There are times when those eyes inside your brain stare back at you.”
Charles Bukowski, What Matters Most is How Well You Walk Through the Fire

I don’t know about you, but I spend way too much time in my head. I think about what other people are doing, why they’re doing it. I let their moods, problems, ideas effect me … more than they should. I rationalize that people are the most important thing on the planet so thinking about them is good! I think about the way:

  • they feel
  • they’re treated
  • what happens to them
  • whether they have food, friends, a home
  • how they feel in relation to other people

I was born a white, middle class girl. I know something of what it’s like to be a ‘minority’ because I’m a female and I’ve been put down, ignored, belittled, and shunned… in my personal and professional life.  I have a taste, the tiniest taste of what many people experience on a daily basis, just because they were born.

I’ve had a little taste of the ‘fire’, the pain and sadness. I hope I have walked through with some grace. At this point in my life, I want to see what I can do to help those whose fire is fixable or improved by education, political action, attitude adjustments, and perhaps a bit of magic, love and prayer.

I watched television host Trevor Noah talk about his upbringing and his book, Born A Crime.  Here’s where the title comes from:

“I was born a crime,” Noah said. “I was born to a black South African mother and a white Swiss father during Apartheid in South Africa, so them doing ‘the thing’ was illegal.” Apartheid , the despicable practice of white separatist rule in South Africa, only ended in 1990. Yes, 1990! The fact that Noah was born in 1984 to a black mother and a white father was literally a crime. How’s that for a fire to walk through?

When Noah is asked what he thinks about Americans complaining about our rights being taken away. His answer, “I never judge somebody for thinking their world is tough, because it is tough, to you.” Trevor Noah has walked through the fire and come out a man showing us how to live with the scars… with grace and humor. I tip my hat.

Five Things

Pick 5

If you could pick 5 things… right this minute… that you would like to have… right this minute… what would they be? Quick, write them down.

Be sure you write them down since having them in your head doesn’t count. Why? Because it’s easy to lose the lesson if you don’t. Do it. Write them down.

What Did You Pick

Let’s look at your list objectively. Did you put down ‘things’? Did you put down abstract concepts like love? Did you wish for things that would benefit someone else or just yourself? Look at your list. When you’re done, put it in a drawer, take it out next week.

My Picks

I am fortunate to work at home these days. When the weather is good, I’m lucky. When it’s not good, I’m lucky. I get to be out in it. This morning the temperature was perfect 70 degrees. Soft breeze blowing, lots of birds singing and swooping, my dog is pulling on her leash as we stroll the neighborhood.

When I thought of this question… I knew my answer immediately. I want my 5 senses. That’s it. I know I already have them but I don’t want to take them for granted, for one second, of one day.

  • Take a look at your hand and marvel at the wonder of all you can accomplish. Wiggle your fingers. Jump up and down.
  • Put a piece of bread in the toaster and smell the sweetness.
  • Look out your window and see, whatever you see. Revel in the miracle of sight.
  • Listen, really listen to the voice of someone you love. Can you hear the feelings behind the words? How often do you really hear their voice?
  • Yeah, ok, go get the chocolate or coffee or beer or whatever… really taste it.

You get the idea. Pay attention to your senses today.

Image credit: Five  Woodley Wonder

You’ll Understand (When You’re Older)

i wish it was summer already :\

 It Doesn’t Make Sense To You Now

Remember when people said this to you? “I can’t explain it to you, you’ll understand when you’re older.” That answer is infuriating, isn’t it? In some ways it’s true and in other ways, it’s bullsh*t. I am acutely aware of how we “older people” talk to younger people. I don’t mean little kids necessarily, but even with them, we don’t give them a ‘straight’ answer. We say, “Eat because children in Africa are hungry.” We don’t say, ” There are children who live 2 miles from us that are hungry.” We don’t drive them over to this neighborhood and show them how to help others. Look, this isn’t a lecture. Each of us has to raise our children the way we see fit.

They Know the Truth

What I’m pointing out is that I’d like each of us to consider how we talk to our children and not just those that live in our houses, but all young people. They know the truth. Much more than we want to admit. Kids are very sophisticated these days. We can argue about whether this is good or bad but there’s no turning back. They have a computer in a phone, they have way too much stimulation and are aware of what is good and bad in the world beyond where they probably should. Denying that there are problems doesn’t serve them. Acting as if they have no power is useless. It takes courage to be a good parent, good citizen, good role model. And it takes hard work. With so many things in the world to worry about, how do we tell them the truth without causing them undue worry and harm?

I’m Older and I Still Don’t Understand

Even though my next birthday will be a ‘speed limit’ (65), I am dumbfounded at how much I don’t understand the world. My goal is to take action, to do what I can to change what I can and I pray to know the difference between what I need to accept and what I can do something about.

Image Credit: Sophie in Red Hat  Mike DelGaudio 

With Walls of Purest White  Erin MC Hammer