Posts tagged: positive thinking

Skeptic or Cynic?

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We are “in dire need of stewardship and protection from cynicism. The best defense against it is vigorous, intelligent, sincere hope, bolstered by critical thinking that is clear-headed.” Maria Popova

With our presidential election weeks away, I hear people talk about how they hate the two party candidates… that they are not going to vote, that the country is a mess, that they don’t see how this election could possibly turn out okay.

I understand. This will be my 12th national election. Most years, I didn’t like my choices either.

It’s much easier to be cynical than to commit to a personal effort to change things. Does the cynic serve a purpose? I don’t believe that the cynic does much to improve things. He or she may feel righteous, but nothing really gets better. Skepticism, on the other hand, can help us be discerning. So skepticism is useful, cynicism isn’t.

But what I see going on these days is beyond skeptical… it is surrender, a complete abdication of responsibility to think through what is good for our nation and neighbors. And this, I do not understand. If you are young and cynical to the point of inaction, then I feel sorry for you. If you are old, then I am ashamed of you. It is our responsibility to help the young understand that life is full of ups and downs. The downs don’t push us to whine and moan. They push us to look at ourselves and to figure out how to contribute to the common good.

“In its passivity and resignation, cynicism is a hardening, hope is a stretching of its ligaments, a limber reach for something greater.”

If you haven’t read  Maria Popova‘s 2016 commencement address, I hope you’ll take a minute. Her message is inspiring.

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.

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

When a Wall Is Good

Early morning sun reflected off the Great Wall of China. This is the last tower in the restored section as you travel east from Jinshanling. Near Jinshanling, China, September 2005

Walls Divide Us

There’s a lot of talk these days about walls and bridges. Walls to keep out our Mexican neighbors, bridges to heal racial and social divides. But a wall is good when it sets a boundary. When it says, nope… don’t go any farther than this. Setting a boundary, telling someone, “I won’t tolerate being treated this way,” is hard. Well, it’s hard for me. As soon as I say it, I feel guilty. My ‘nice girl’ indoctrination kicks in and I feel like crap. Is this normal? Maybe. Is it normal for women of a certain age (yeah old like me), maybe. I haven’t discussed this with many people. I only know that when I set a boundary about 50% of the time I feel ok, 25% of the time I feel awful, 25% of  the time, I don’t think about it. I am just reacting from pure emotion. I don’t like this ‘out of control’ feeling but, I accept that I’m human.

Generosity Can’t Exist Without Boundaries

In the article, “10 Great Things That Happen When You Set Boundaries,” the wonderful Brene Brown  describes that in her research, (the surprising conclusion that) the most compassionate people also have the firmest boundaries. This seems counter intuitive. If you think about Mother Teresa, it would seem, as an outsider, that she just gave and gave without a thought for herself. “Generosity can’t exist without boundaries,” Brown tells us. This idea is just blowing my mind. “Boundaries are the key to self love, ” she says. Oh boy, my head is spinning just a little.

Selfish or Compassionate?

So for today, I hope you will think a little about what is acceptable to you and what isn’t and if you are comfortable setting boundaries. If you are, hurray for you. Are you also as generous and compassionate as you would like?  Sometimes, if it’s easy to set boundaries, it’s because we are selfish, not in a good way.

For myself, I am thinking about, “do I accept certain behaviors from some people (people I love for instance?) but would never accept from people who I don’t love?” How can I get better at setting boundaries? Ugh. The whole thing sounds like a lot of work. I’m going to start by reading Brown’s books, watching more videos and seeing if this old dog can learn something new. I dread it, I welcome it, I embrace it, I feel sick… here I go.

Photo credit: Image _1033  Brian Jeffrey Beggerly

The Case for Silly

What Ever Happened to Silly?

If you’re fortunate enough to be around kids under the age of 10, you know you’re going to get into the sillies. One kid says something and then soon everyone is giggling and carrying on. I love this. I live for this.

Younger kids aren’t all judgy. They might try to one up each other in the silly department, but mostly, everyone settles in for a good snort.

Something happens to us when we become teenagers. Most of us become silly-averse. We decide we need to act ‘grown up’ and our silly days are behind us. We get cynical, ‘cool’, and generally stuck up. The disintegration into hilarity rarely happens any more. What the heck happens to us?

Even as parents, we seem to forget to encourage the sillies. We’re so busy ‘teaching’ our kids to talk, read,  study, practice, whatever (all very important duties!), we seem to forget that laughing, and laughing in most basic way, is key to a happy life.

Let’s Revive the Silly Tree

I have the great good fortune to have 7 grandchildren, several of whom live in the same city as me and all of whom are under the age of 9. My ability to get to some silliness is pretty easy. But what if you are one of those people who doesn’t have access to little ones, you have to improvise. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Remember what’s it’s like to be kid, find a kid to hang around, volunteer around kids, etc. The fastest way to get there is to go to those who are closest to the source. Laughing is really good. If you need some hints, ask people what they do.
  2. Making people laugh is the purest form of ‘pay it forward.’  Watch this Ted talk on the power of laughter to save lives. (It starts off slow but it’s worth it if you can stick with it).
  3. Laughter yoga?  You exercise your body and your mind (and hopefully your spirit), but do you know how to exercise your silly muscle?
  4. Here’s what the world renowned Mayo Clinic says about laughing.
  5. Go to the library or the bookstore (remember those buildings that house real books?), go to the humor section. Read the joke books. Read funny authors. I happen to like Dave Barry, Steve Martin, Jim Gaffigan, and a raft of kids books like Amelia Bedelia. Don’t forget the movies! I’ll recommend a few of my favorite but what I think is funny may not be your cup of tea. Anything by Monty Python, Airplane!, The Jerk.

But I Want to Be Grumpy

I understand. Being overworked, under appreciated, running around, busy all the time, leaves us very little time for silly. But somehow, I hope we’ll all, just for a minute, today, pretend that there is nothing more important than seeing the silly in the world.

Q: What did one toilet say to the other? A: You look a bit flushed.

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Photo credit: Typical Riley Pose  peasap

The Tides of Confidence

PHOTO CAPTION: Delegates at the Pacific Youth Leadership Forum negotiate a confidence-building exercise at Camp H.R. Erdman, a YMCA camp located on the North Shore in Hawaii. The YLF was sponsored and hosted by Installation Management Command-Paci...

Confidence Comes and Goes

I was thinking about my confidence. How it comes and goes like the ocean tides. Sometimes, I feel supremely confident. Like my decisions, my thought process and my ability to ‘pull it off’ are good. No doubts, no questions. Then something happens. I’m never quite sure what happens. Suddenly, I’m questioning everything.

Like the ocean tides (although thankfully not as predictable!), my confidence almost disappears. I can’t control when I feel confident and when I don’t. For me, the first step is to realize when the tide is in (I’m confident!) and when it’s out (OMG, I can’t do anything right). The tricky part is to own the feeling and acknowledge when I’ve done something to deserve the feeling.

I Want to Be Confident All the Time

Because I carried a lot of responsibility at a very young age, I learned to depend on myself. And I know that I can… do a lot of different things, fix what’s broken, change, lead, and make good decisions. I know that I can come off as very confident. As a person who knows what’s going on and can handle things, and oftentimes, I can. But sometimes, I am paralyzed. I don’t know what to do and I can’t quite seem to muster any of that confidence that has served me so well.

In a heart beat, my confidence is like low tide, stinky and exposing everything. It’s like I only have 2 switches – on and OFF. This is not good. Cocky is bad. It doesn’t serve anything.  A dish rag doesn’t either. The really confident person stands a certain way. Even if they are unsure, they pay attention to their body language. They stand up straight, they smile, they’re usually kind.

Monitor the Tide

When it’s low tide , I try this: 1) take a deep breath (no really, do it now… take a deep breath)  2) stand a little taller 3) think of someone who loves me (unconditionally) 4) remember I can trust myself. Practice feeling confident when you’re not ‘feeling it’. Fake it ’til you make it. This is a very important skill.  Modeling this skill for our children is powerful. Realizing that confidence comes and goes like the tides, means that when I’m paralyzed… I have choices. And I won’t feel this way forever.

Image credit: Pacific Region Hosts   familymwr

Outlook: Grime or Prime?

This quote blows me away. It would seem like being miserable would take less work. Just head to the sofa or refrigerator or both and sulk. But when I stopped to think about it, I find that I agree.

I think the key word here is ‘work’. It doesn’t seem like I work at being miserable, it seems like it’s easy. Some other person just does something and I think I’ve been ‘wronged’. But I think the ‘work’ part comes from letting go. From not taking it personally. From thinking how important is this?

Sometimes it is very important. Most of the time it isn’t.

For today, I’m going to focus my energy on becoming strong. Set my intention to be calm and clear. Let go of miserable. Just for today.


When I was young, my dysfunctional family made daily life very chaotic. While I wouldn’t wish that type of churning nuttiness on anyone, it did several positive things for me. One was that it made me adaptable. I certainly wasn’t going to have things my way, so I had to learn to go along and get along.

I remember reading this:

Creating Change Makes It Easier to Manage

I knew that the best thing I could do, was always be ready to change. To always be looking for a way to improve and create something better. This way, change wasn’t thrust upon me. I noticed that when change happened TO me, I was resentful. But if I was part of the change process, I was ok, even joyful at the chance to try something different. I learned to be somewhat of a ‘victim’ from some people in my family. It’s a most unattractive and problematic position to be in. The victim doesn’t have to do anything, the victim can just blame someone else. But even true victims need to be responsible for taking actions towards their own healing.

Turn and Face The Strain

If you’re out of practice with creating change, try these:

  1. Practice daily gratitude. I kept a gratitude journal for about a year. Everyday I wrote down 5 things I was grateful for. The habit of focusing on all the positive things in my life (my eye sight, ability to walk, breathe, laugh) became second nature.
  2. Find a way to meet new people. I know, I hate this idea but when I do, I learn so many things about myself. The easiest way for me to meet new people is by volunteering.
  3. Stop acting and being so grown up. If you have a chance to be around small children, do it. If not, look at things the way a small child would. Stop being all “judgy” and prissy. Act like a fool. Who care if someone sees you? They’ll just be jealous anyway.

What are your favorite ways to help create change in your life? Look out you rock n’ rollers…

Image Credit: David Bowie Masayoshi Sukita

Self Respect and the Joy of Self Reliance

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“The willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life — this is the source from which self-respect springs.” Joan Didion Slouching Towards Bethlehem

But I Don’t Want To…

I hate discipline. I mean, I like it and appreciate it and then again, I loathe it. Why do I have to do so many things I don’t want to do? Dishes, listening, talking to strangers, doing my job? Why can’t I just do what I want, right?

The Journey to Self Respect

Maybe I can get self respect from having stuff, maybe I can get it from other people’s admiration of me (fame, money, position), maybe I can get it from ______ (fill in the blank). I can only speak for myself:  there is a direct line from discipline and self reliance to my self respect. There’s a Billie Holiday song, “God Bless the Child (listen here)” with these lyrics;

Money, you’ve got lots of friends
They’re crowding around your door
But when you’re gone and spending ends
They don’t come no more
Rich relations give crusts of bread and such
You can help yourself, but don’t take too much
Mama may have, Papa may have
But God bless the child that’s got his own, that’s got his own

The Struggle Is Real…Really

Sometimes I think we’ve forgotten what it’s really like to struggle. We have less money to spend on clothes or going out to eat so we’re upset. But we are not Syrians or Southern Sudanese where bombs drop on our homes every day. Most of us don’t want for food or shelter. In the most privileged country in the world, we still feel entitled to complain. This is not to take away from real problems and struggles of abuse, poverty, equality. We must fight to improve how we help and change the world.

People ask me how I raised my children to care about the world and not be materialistic. I hope I taught them to value experiences over things, to value a person and their dignity over, well, maybe anything. I have a long way to go in improving myself. I’m happy to report it’s a life long journey. I’ll let this serve as a reminder to myself to pay attention to my own ability to depend on myself and the joy and serenity that brings.

Image credit: Picture Quotes

Billie Holiday lyrics: God Bless The Child

Embracing the Mess

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“Embrace the glorious mess that you are.” Elizabeth Gilbert

“Doggone It, People Like Me” Jack Handey

I spent a lot of my younger years thinking that I was crazy, a mess, not that bright… very negative self talk. It took me many years to realize that everyone is a ‘hot mess’. That being a gloppy, bumpy, goofy, awkward human means that I am alive. That I am taking risks, putting myself out there, getting my hands dirty.

And that’s how it should be.

Change Your Self-Talk

So if you think of yourself as a mess, you’re probably doing it right. Work on changing your negative self talk to something positive:

  • Lighten up
  • It’s all good
  • I am enough (I used this affirmation for years)
  • Other people feel as awkward as I do (believe me, 95% of people do)
  • Easy does it
  • How important is it?

These days, I say, “it’s all good” nearly every day. The things I used to spend hours worrying about either never happened or whatever DID happen, I never could have predicted or prepared for.  Sure there are lots of things that happen in the world that are not “all good”- e.g. war, abuse and hunger. Today, I work to figure out what can I do something about and then do it. The rest of my awkward, weird, silly, ridiculous, lazy, lame and ludicrous self… I give her a pass.

Image credit: Enjoying the cake  Hoyasmeg