Claudia Osmond ~ Reader, Writer, and Ruminator

Archive for the ‘ruminating’ Category

A Word About Strength

In a peek inside my head, ruminating on April 14, 2017 at 10:46 am

These are two of my favourite quotes:

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and1435760421-heres to strong women

Strength. Who doesn’t love the idea of being strong?

It’s just … how do we get there?

Luckily for you I googled it.

How to get strong …

So … what do you want to know about: Strong arms? Strong abs? Strong legs? Glutes? Pecs? Biceps? Or how about hair and fingernails? Bones? Teeth and gums? Social media connections? There’s lots of info on those, too.

A quick search of “how to get strong,” yields pages and pages of ways to strengthen your physical body; tons of ways to get ripped, shredded, sexy, and toned. All interspersed with tips on how to build your social media influence, avoid hair splits and nail breakage, and how to keep your bones solid, your gums pink, and your teeth rooted inside your head.

How to get strong …

Scrolling … scrolling … scrolling …

Ah! Page six. Here’s something different: How to get strong Pokemon!

Scrolling … scrolling … scrolling …

Ooooo … Page eight, onwards – now we’re forging into new territory: Steroid alternatives, wi-fi and cell phone signals, magnets, brews from your K-cup, marijuana roots, adhesives, sperm, and eyebrows like Rihanna. You can even get strong on E-Bay!*

Hmmmm … not exactly sure that search answered my question. Not sure those results are what my two favourite quotes are talking about.

So, what is it about those quotes anyway? Why are they so appealing to me? Why do I want to be like those women? What do they have that I don’t?

Maybe I’m asking the wrong question. Maybe the question isn’t “How do we get strong,” maybe the real question is, “Why do we think we aren’t?”

After my blog post last week a friend that I’ve known since college messaged me and told me she’s in the arena, too. One of her comments during our conversation was: “I thought I was way stronger than that!”

Don’t we all? Don’t we all think we are – or at least hope we are – “stronger than that?”

But stronger than what, exactly? What have we all been measuring our strength against? The condition of our abs? Rihanna’s eyebrows?

Or do we think strength is

having clout? The upper hand? The loudest voice, the wittiest comebacks, the most cutting remarks?

Or do we think it’s maintaining a packed schedule? Having our hand in as many committees, social clubs, teams, groups, opportunities as possible?

Or is it the ability to prove ourselves? To be independent, self-sufficient, not put up with any BS?

Or is it quite simply what google tells us: That if you strengthen your physical body all will be as it should be? Everything else will magically fall into place?

No matter which definition of strength we hold to, it’s no wonder we often feel we can’t measure up. It’s no wonder we think we aren’t strong. That we feel we need to be strong. Maybe it’s the tears that betray us. Or the need to take a break. Or not having an equally witty or cutting comeback. Or needing help. Or needing space. Or maybe it’s just feeling like we’re being swallowed alive by our own humanity.

Humanity. That’s the culprit! Our humanness! That’s what kicks in and gets in the way of us being strong! Our tendencies to think, feel, and respond are what trip us up. Especially those stupid feelings. Feelings make us weak. If only we didn’t have them. If only we could shut them off – then we’d be unstoppable.

But what if …

What if we were unstoppable? What if we could shut our feelings off? Would we be strong then? I’m not sure. But I am pretty sure we’d stop being human.

We don’t operate primarily on instinct, like animals do. We aren’t controlled by programming like technology is. We don’t even fall in with the hard-drawn laws of physics (and whatever other laws there are) like the rest of the universe does. We’re human and therefore we function at a very different capacity. A capacity that encompasses not only the ability to feel and think and respond, but also to develop character. Integrity. Self-control. Perseverance. Spirit. Grit. Tenacity. Confidence. Chutzpah!

(Or you may prefer to call it Inner Strength)

Aha! Something my google search on “how to get strong” didn’t find.

So how is this Inner Strength achieved? By feeling. By thinking. By enduring hardship and times of weakness. The very things we think betray us and take away our strength are what actually make us strong. Another two-sided coin, like darkness and light; another unsplittable part of our existence and growth as human beings. You can’t have light without darkness; you can’t have strength without weakness. Darkness makes the light possible; weakness makes strength possible. Strength achieved by any other means is a counterfeit. It’s hot air. It’s shallow and pompous and false. It’s self-seeking. Devoid of feeling. And it does more harm than good.

On this, Good Friday, I’m reminded of Jesus. Standing before Pilate, when accused, he said nothing. He was mocked, and remained silent. He walked the Green Mile as he walked his life: Humbly. Graciously. Assuredly. He didn’t try to prove himself. He didn’t incite violence or demand respect. He embodied Inner Strength. He taught us how to be human. How to feel deeply. He led this quiet, peaceful revolution that resulted in his death. But it was one that turned the world upside down. One that makes the darkness light. One that makes the weak strong. One that makes the dead alive.

As I write these words, I don’t feel particularly strong. Not in the popular understanding of the word, anyhow. But I live in an upside down world where the weak are strong and the dead have life. No googling required.

 

*I wonder if different countries yield different results. How many pages does it take before the focus blurs from the physical realm in other parts of the world?

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Respect Your Darkness

In a peek inside my head, ruminating on April 12, 2017 at 10:23 am

When my mom was around my age, she said to me, “Life isn’t easy. It’s not meant to be. And the sooner we get used to that idea, the better it will be for us.”

I didn’t understand what she was talking about at the time. I guess I hadn’t been face-down in enough arenas up to that point. Either that, or I hadn’t learned what I was supposed to learn while I was there. But I think I’m learning now. Or at least I think I might be starting to figure some stuff out.

She didn’t say if we get used to the idea, life will be easier for us – she said it will be better for us.

Better.

As in (as I’m starting to figure out)

it’s better to be awake to what’s going on.

It’s better to learn about yourself.

It’s better to face things (including what you learn about yourself!)

It’s better to be realistic.

As in,

it’s better to not get everything you want; for things to not always turn out the way you want.

As in,

it’s better to know and respect your darkness.

Life isn’t easy. It’s not meant to be.

That’s how I’m starting to reframe my thoughts. My perspective. My worldview. My prayers.

I pray. A lot, throughout the day, conversationally. And I love the thought of people praying for me, knowing I have people in my corner. Knowing God is interested and invested in what’s going on in my life.

But

I don’t expect it will fix everything. I don’t believe it should.

Imagine if a parent, each time they were petitioned by their child(ren), gave them everything they wanted. What if that parent protected their child from every single thing, so they’d never feel pain or hurt or disappointment? What if that parent rescued their child from any consequences related to their actions or inactions?

That child’s life would be pretty darn easy, that’s what. But it would grow up to be spoiled. Self-centered. Entitled.

But what if, on the other hand, that parent gave good gifts to their child(ren), but refrained every now and then? What if that parent, instead of protecting their child from every single thing, stood by them through their times of pain or hurt or disappointment? What if, instead of rescuing them, that parent required their child to endure consequences related to their actions and inactions?

That child’s life wouldn’t be terribly easy, to be sure. But it would grow up to be grateful. Considerate. Confident.

Better.

Just like a good parent, God doesn’t make things easier for us. But better. Not by removing our trials. Not by erasing our problems. Not by paving a yellow brick road of blessings before us.

Rather, he chooses to grow us. To strengthen us. To teach us. By refraining from giving us what we want from time to time. By standing beside us through our pain and hurt and disappointment. By requiring us to endure consequences of our actions and inactions. He lets us feel what it’s like to struggle, to regret, to long for, to be empty, to be in the dark. So we can recognize the light when it comes. So we can appreciate the light when it comes.

So we can be grateful. Considerate. Confident.

So we’ll have something to remember the next time. Something to refer back to. To hold on to.

So we can earn the right to enter the arena with others. To show up and be seen.

To just be.

I think we’ve been conditioned/culturalized/trained into believing we must avoid our darkness. To run from it. Hide it. Deny it. Try to pray it away. But why? Why do we think life should be easy? Easier? More comfortable? Why don’t we simply accept hardship as … part of life? Why do we assume it’s bad? That it means there’s something wrong? Why don’t we embrace it as part of the big picture of who we are; that it’s an integral, unsplittable part of our existence and growth as human beings?

Why do we think our darkness sucks so much?

Because easier is more appealing than better.

The danger, there, being that when easier doesn’t come, despair most certainly will.

You know what I’ve loved most? Those who’ve messaged and spoken to me to let me know they’re in the arena, too. Or that they have been there. Having people you can question things with, get angry with, cry with, relate with, be silent with, be loud with, be confused with is worth more than all the beautifully-crafted inspirational memes in the universe. Having someone to lock arms and do the hard work of life with can help change perspectives and ward off being overwhelmed by despair. But sometimes reaching out to lock arms with someone is hard, too.

Not everyone will understand where you are – just like I didn’t understand my mom all those years ago. And that’s okay. What matters most is being awake to the difference between easier and better. And choosing which to pursue, wisely.

Respect your darkness. Without it there can be no light.

 

 Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colours. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed.

            ~ James, from the Bible

 

 

Show Up. Be Seen.

In a peek inside my head, ruminating on April 7, 2017 at 10:13 am

I’m an internal processor. This means it usually takes me several days to process stuff like a new concept, a conversation, what’s going on in my life – pretty much anything. Whereas some people can talk through these things to figure out where they stand, I need to climb inside my own head to figure it out – taking into account everything that’s said by the external processors – before I’ll even have the words to use to express anything remotely related to the topic.

Just the other day I had a conversation with my husband that started like this: “Hey. I need to talk to you about something. I think I have the words for it now.” It was about something that happened three days before.

Now before you go and think “Wow, is she ever in tune with herself, has she ever got her shtick figured out!” let me tell you that that’s the very first time I’ve ever used those words. It’s taken lots of intentionality, self-talk, and therapy to get me to the point where I actually got myself to say that the other day. My usual routine is that by the time three days have passed and I’ve had enough time to process what I think, I start believing that whatever it was that happened is no longer a big deal because everyone else has moved on and so there’s no use in bringing it up again. So I stuff it. And try to move on, too.

Well, maybe that gig works for the external processors because they’ve already voiced what they think, but it doesn’t work for me. I might have had the time to process my thoughts, but I haven’t had the chance to verbalize them. Even internal processors need to verbalize externally at some point or the fear/stress/worry/hurt/jealousy/anger/misunderstanding/sadness/confusion… will start to eat them alive from the inside out.

A brief aside to the external processors: Please give acknowledgement, space, time, and value to the internal processors in your life. Realize they don’t operate in the same way and at the same pace you do. This does not give you the upper hand, nor does it in anyway indicate they don’t care about something as much as you do. Often they don’t say anything in the moment because they literally don’t have the words to string together. But be patient. Give them the time they need to formulate those sentences, and let them know you’re there for them when they do. And help them know their thoughts are just as valid days later as they would have been if they’d been able to verbalize them in the moment. Deeply valid, in fact, because they’ve taken the time to think things through before saying them. Know this: Internal processors are serious about their words and rarely speak off the cuff. And they will often offer perspectives on things that others don’t see.

I’ve had some time to think lately. I mean, as an internal processor I’m always thinking, but I’m talking about real, quality, silent time. And this is what I’ve been thinking about: We (I) need to be careful our life doesn’t become one giant internal process, with no external expression: Where we face difficult things and don’t let anyone know. Where we struggle in silence and try to carry on like nothing’s wrong. Where we choose to smile because telling the truth is too hard.

Maybe we don’t have the words. Maybe we’re afraid of what peoples’ reactions will be. Maybe we feel we can’t express what’s going on until we have a better handle on it or we’ll risk appearing out of control or weak. Maybe we feel like everyone else has moved on and we don’t want to be a bother and bring it up again. Or maybe we just don’t want anyone to know. Period. So we stuff it.

But if there’s one thing we can be certain about in this life, one thing that every single one of us has in common, it’s that we all will fall.

We all

will fall

It’s not a matter of if but when. And how many times.

Every. Single. One of us.

In her book, RISING STRONG, Brene Brown talks about “being in the arena” and lying flat on your face, covered in dust and sweat and tears. She talks about how you get to that place (by being brave, by risking vulnerability, by showing up and being seen when you have no control over the outcome) and she talks about being selective with whose feedback you let in while you’re there: “If you’re not in the arena getting your ass kicked, (too) I’m not interested in your feedback.”

In the arena

Risking vulnerability

Showing up

Being seen

Not having control of the outcome.

She also says, in the same book, We’ve all fallen, and we have the skinned knees and bruised hearts to prove it. But scars are easier to talk about than they are to show; with all the remembered feelings laid bare. And rarely do we see wounds that are in the process of healing. I’m not sure if it’s because we feel too much shame to let anyone see a process as intimate as overcoming hurt, or if it’s because even when we muster the courage to share our still incomplete healing, people reflexively look away.

We so desperately want to control the outcome, don’t we? So we’ve created a culture where lives are very carefully curated in public spaces. To make people look at, not look away.

Scars are easier to talk about than they are to show.

Rarely do we see wounds that are in the process of healing.

But we all will fall. Every single one of us. So why do we continue to pretend that we won’t? Or that we don’t? Or that we haven’t? Why do we continue to highlight our happy side, when all that does is underscore the feeling we all have that we need to keep our scars hidden? To process alone and in silence? Do we really believe we’re the only one?

Well, I’m here to say that I’m in the arena. Getting my ass kicked.

This is my arena: My doctor has put me on a short medical leave – circumstances of the past few years in my life, both emotional and physical, have led up to this desperate need for rest; desperate need to step back and disconnect. To heal. Those who know me have seen the gradual decline, the slow creep away from “me” towards … something else. Somewhere else. Neither who nor where I want to be.

Kind hands on the shoulder, out-of-the-blue texts, concerned glances that catch my eye:

“How are you?” “You alright?”

“Eh, I’ll be okay.”

But I’m not. I’m lying face-down, dusty and sweaty and teary-eyed.

I’ve been internally processing, which is totally fine, but I’ve not been intentional (or brave) enough to risk external expression. To risk vulnerability. To show up and be seen. To work towards finding words to express what’s happening in my body internally, externally. I’ve been stuffing it. Because I want control of the outcome.

Until now.

Sure. I mean I do still want control of the outcome. And I’m not particularly sure I actually want people to see my intimate process of healing – my internal processing. But I am sure that I’m not alone. I am sure that if I risk showing up and being seen, someone will be able to relate; someone will be grateful there is another person lying face-down in the arena with them, both of us dusty and sweaty and trying to string words together to make sense of what we’re going through. And I’m also sure that level of showing up can only happen now. Not after. Not “there was this time when …”

Even internal processors need to verbalize externally at some point, most of us generally preferring to write over speaking. So I’m not suggesting I’m going to suddenly become an extrovert and share my healing scars over coffee with everyone I meet. But what I am suggesting is that I will write posts about my process. I will commit my thoughts to paper.

I won’t promise that my posts will be consistent, because I’m not the consistent type.

I won’t promise that my posts will always make complete sense, because I’m in the middle of processing.

I won’t promise that my posts will inspire you. I haven’t the energy for that.

But I will promise that when I’m here I will show up and be seen. Even though I have no control of the outcome. I’m choosing to show my scars while they’re healing so those of you who are healing, too, will know you have someone in the arena with you.

I want to Rise Strong. This time.

I want to learn how to Rise Strong for next time.

And I want to share my experiences so you, my brothers and sisters who are in the arena with me, will know you have someone by your side who will lock arms and Rise Strong with you.

Who Hates?

In ruminating on June 12, 2016 at 5:42 pm
Who hates? And why?
Differences? Appearances? Perceptions? Beliefs?
Ignorance?
Look closely. Very closely:
Ignorance grows suspicion
Suspicion grows fear
Fear grows hate
Hate grows ignorance
Ignorance blinds
Suspicion segregates
Fear isolates
Hate corrodes
Humanity
Who hates? And why?
Haters gonna hate
what they don’t understand
what they don’t understand
Look again:
Understanding grows confidence
Confidence grows trust
Trust grows love
Love grows understanding.
Understanding illuminates
Confidence embraces
Trust integrates
Love builds
Humanity
Who hates? And why?
Look closely.

Were it Not for the Darkness

In ruminating, writing on December 6, 2015 at 6:47 pm

I’m not pretending to know what refugees go through, not even a little bit. But as I’ve been reading personal stories of those who have been displaced I can’t help but imagine myself in their shoes. And I wonder if it is possible for them to find shards of hope within the wide chasm of their hopelessness… 

 

Once celebrated for its fragrant, luscious olives, our province is now well known as an exporter of shattered, devastated people.

 

Run-aways.

 

Overnight outlaws.

 

Refugees.

 

We who fled on foot. And then drifted on water.

 

Oh, the immense darkness of the sea:

All encompassing. Suffocating. Black as pitch.

 

But were it not for the darkness, we would not know the existence of stars.

 

A distant spark.

A light.

A promise.

 

A glimmer of hope

For that which is not yet visible

But a reality all the same

Just as breath must pass through the cold to be seen,

And the day which rises from the east must first endure the night

So, too, hope comes to life only in the midst of despair.

 

A glimmer of hope;

Can you see it?

Among the millions that have been displaced and forgotten for so long, individual names are being remembered and spoken and are becoming known.

 

A glimmer of hope;

Can you hear it?

Above the rattle of tanks and gunfire and the hammer of running feet, erupts the sharp, impulsive cry of a newborn babe.

 

A glimmer of hope;

Can you smell it?

Through the stench of tear gas and gun smoke and death, cuts a fresh glorious rainfall that stirs and revives the sun-parched earth.

 

A glimmer of hope;

Can you taste it?

From within the smack of dust and stale air and the metallic tang of blood, emerge memories of warm falafel, savoury olives, and sweet honey in the comb.

 

Will there be falafel and olives and honey in the new land?

Will the rain and the earth smell the same?

Will all lives matter?

Will someone know and speak my name?

 

Of these things I cannot be certain. But when glimmers such as these appear, I must grasp them.

Hold on tightly to that which presents to me a future.

Any future.

For surely that which comes after is better than that which has come before.

 

I must hold on tightly.

 

Were it not for the cold, I may not be reminded I still have breath.

Were it not for the night, I may not be reminded of the dawn that is to come.

 

Were it not for the darkness, I would not know the existence of stars.

 

 

 

That Time Facebook Forgot

In a peek inside my head, ruminating on October 5, 2015 at 9:00 am

It was the weirdest thing. Facebook never forgets.

But it did.

It forgot my birthday.

Which meant everyone else did, too. I mean, everyone*. All day long. Not even one birthday wish. I mean, not even one.

I kept checking back throughout the morning. Zero. Afternoon: Zero. By the time evening hit I got to hoping it would remain zero – Zero would be better than one. Or two. At least if it remained zero I could assume that something went wrong and facebook didn’t send out a reminder. If I got one or two, well … yeah. That would just be worse.

I hate to admit it, but by the time I went to bed that night I was sad. I was disappointed. I was confused and hurt. I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced zero birthday wishes on facebook – without intentionally arranging your settings so you get none – but it’s not a grand feeling. It’s rather unsettling, actually. I felt forgotten.

So, naturally, I started blaming everyone else: Has the meaning and value of real time, important life events all but died? Do people rely so heavily on technology that they don’t retain anything in their own brains anymore?

But then I was suddenly reminded by that subconscious, authentic voice of mine that reminds me of my own stuff at the most inopportune times that I’m the worst offender when it comes to forgetting birthdays and anniversaries. And not only that, but if I was held at gunpoint and required to recall my husband’s or any of my kids’ cell phone numbers, I’d be a goner.

Fine.

So then I turned the blame on me and started chastising myself: How shallow am I? Do I really require facebook birthday wishes to feel significant? To feel valued? To feel loved and celebrated? Who needs stupid facebook to feel important, anyway?

Um, actually, if I’m painfully honest, it appears I do.

That subconscious, authentic voice of mine wasn’t about to shut up any time soon. And knowing how persistent she is, I relented and surrendered myself to her. Only to find myself in the middle of a giant conundrum:

I discovered that I needed something that was entirely not in my control to receive.

That is, not without a blatant Hey everybody! Don’t you all know it’s my birthday today?? But even if I did that, it wouldn’t have settled the inner struggle and uneasiness I felt regarding the painful discovery that, yes, I NEED this. I have reached a point where not getting facebook birthday greetings has a heavy effect on my psyche. Wat? Ouch.

So naturally this lead to more self-chastisement and asking myself: Why has facebook become so important to my self-worth? Why was I not satisfied to simply be loved and celebrated by my family, close friends, and co-workers on my birthday (just like in the good old days)? Why do I monitor the “happy birthday” count on my wall throughout the day, just like … Just like I monitor the “likes” on my posts any other day?

Why? Because it’s addictive. Because it’s affirming. Because it feeds my ego, makes me feel heard/respected/liked/important. And when I begin to feel these things, I want more. So I say, do, and be more. But experience tells me that more has no ceiling; more will never be enough. Ever. How do I know? Because I keep monitoring. I keep checking back. I keep count. I wish I didn’t. But I do.

Another conundrum. Or perhaps the same one as above: Discovering I need something that’s entirely not in my control to receive, but if by chance I get some, some is never enough.

Sure, I can try manipulating situations and people to get the desired result, (which, since we’re batting a hundred with being painfully honest, is what I’m basically doing whenever I try to think of something clever/funny/smart/controversial/inspiring/interesting to say on facebook), but ultimately manipulation is not sustainable because once I don’t say or do or be the “right” thing, the “likes” stop coming in and it all crumbles.

(By the way, all this does not only apply to my facebook life.)

So, what am I to do?

There are two immediately apparent options: Either I become resigned to the fact that all of the above is just life and it’s just the way things are and I should just keep calm and carry on, or, I become inhuman and turn off the careabout switch on any of the above in any of its capacities or consequences.

That’s eet? That’s all you got? Only two options? Are you keeding me?

Or … Perhaps there is a third option.

The option that acknowledges the needs I expressed above are legitimate, and that everyone shares them and tries to fill them in one way or another. The option that acknowledges that, in fact, everyone (who resists the urge to become inhuman and turn off their careabout switch) has six basic core needs,** and that we operate primarily with a leaning toward the need that is most dominant in our lives. That third option also says not to beat myself (or others) up for having these needs, but whatever I do, I musn’t depend on others to fulfill them, either.

But if not others, then who?

Myself. But not in the way I might think, or have tried. Maybe more in the way of one of my favourite quotes:

The meaning of life is to find your gift / The purpose of life is to give it away. – original author unknown

What if the way I’m wired – the legitimate, human, primal core needs I have that must be filled in order for me to be a whole, content, healthy and happy person – what if those things are a gift? What if the very core needs of my being are first to be unearthed and discovered … And then given away? (!!) What if instead of discovering what I need and seeking fulfillment of those things for myself, I discover what I need and intentionally aim to give those things to others because I know they, too, need the same things?

They say to give is better than to receive. But what if giving IS receiving? What if that’s why it’s better; because receiving is the free gift you get with your buy one get one giving voucher?

What if for me to receive fulfillment of my core need of significance, I must give it? Not grasp at it. Not devise ways to get it. But give it.

What if I operated primarily with a leaning toward giving from out of my greatest need? After all, I’m the most qualified to do so because I feel its value and power so deeply.

What if everyone did that?

Imagine if the needs we thought we had to fill and hold tightly for ourselves are the very things we’ve been created and gifted with to give away.

Imagine.

Imagine the freedom and power in realizing that the things that are not within our control to receive, are entirely within our control to give.

That’s a shift in perspective. A shift that that might seem backwards, but totally opens up a whole new – and attainable! – philosophy on the meaning and purpose of life.

Happy Birthday to everyone! Now go see to whom you can give your gifts away.

*Not my immediate family, mind you. (Whew!) We’re not exactly in the habit of always wishing each other happy birthday on social media. Because, well, we do it in person. With real cake.

**Certainty, Variety, Significance, Connection/Love, Growth, and Contribution – My top core need being significance (ahhhh … it’s all starting to make sense)

Back Away from the Internet

In a peek inside my head, ruminating on January 10, 2015 at 1:29 pm

When my husband and I were dating, the trendy thing to do among couples was to “take a break” from each other. To break up to see if you were really meant to be. Everyone was doing it. I mean everyone. We may have been the only couple that refused to do what we knew would only end in us getting back together anyway. Like pretty much everyone else did. But from time to time we did, and still do, back away from each other. Give each other space. Refocus on what our purpose of being together is.

Like any relationship, the internet can feed you or it can drain you, depending on what you focus on. Depending on what you make the focus to be.

Why do so many people break up with the internet? Even when they know it will most likely only last a few weeks to a couple of months? Why do so many people feel they need to “take a break” from it all? And why do they usually come back to report they feel so refreshed and wish they could disconnect forever?

Because the internet is distracting. It’s depressing. It’s competitive and cynical and assertive. Often, it’s even hostile.

But it has become a necessary relationship in our lives. It has created new ways to communicate. It has allowed everyone to have a voice. Everyone has a platform from which to say what they want. What they feel. What they think. I remember Twitter and Facebook were so thrilling in the beginning: I could post a status about whatever I wanted and someone who lived miles and miles away would actually comment back. Someone I didn’t even know on a face-to-face basis! Talk about connection! Talk about being heard!

It’s amazing how quickly the initial thrill wore off and how easily these platforms have become so comfortable, so freeing, so … important. Even those who would rather die several times over than have to climb the steps of an actual, physical platform and speak into a microphone to address hundreds of people, even just to say “Hi” never mind to say anything worthwhile or – kill me now! – personal, are grabbing their virtual mics and declaring whatever it is they want. And we’ve learned to do it within the posture of a monologue, not a dialogue.

George Orwell said, “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” I saw this on Facebook as one of those inspirational quotes you often see floating around. The kind I’m sometimes guilty of perpetuating. As you can imagine, there were lots of Yes!es in the comments, most likely from people like you and me who believe they own the right that Orwell was speaking about.

But what if someone were to tell them – US! – something they do not want to hear? Would the quote apply equally to the other person as well? What if someone were to try to turn their platform monologue into a dialogue? Would they still wholeheartedly agree? Would they still shout an emphatic, “Yes!”? Would I?

History is written by the victors. We all know that Churchill saying. But what about present, popular thought? Who is that being written by in this age of millions of voices shouting from their self-created platforms?

By the victors. By those who know how to wield (s)words. By those who display empowerment and authority via the Mighty Written Word. They are seen as the victorious. They are hailed as the heros. And we let them tell us how we should live:

We are to fight for our own empowerment. For our own rights. We must never let anyone else tell us what to do or what to think or who to be. We don’t ever have to agree or compromise or extend ourselves because we have the right to tell people what they do not want to hear, because we are liberated. Because we have rights. And we are right. If others don’t agree with us, so be it. Cut them loose. We’ll be better off without them.

It’s an appealing message. It’s powerful. It makes us feel powerful. So we all write it. We all say it. We all do it. Even with complete strangers via our new mutual friend, social media.

But how’s it working out for us? Truly?

We’re divided.

We focus on differences.

We are isolated.

We are angry.

We have no faith in humanity.

We need to “take a break.”

My husband always wisely councils me not to participate in social media smackdowns. Sometimes I heed his advice, sometimes I don’t because, you know – ugh! – that person really needs to be set straight! But every time I engage – Every. Time. – I walk away feeling one or more of the things listed above.

Who out there aims to draw out what we have in common, rather than what separates us?

Who out there uses words to create harmony, rather than using them to stir things up?

Who out there seeks to eliminate the noise and clatter, rather than contribute to it?

What if instead of seeking individual empowerment, we sought out unity?

What if instead of demanding our own rights, we extended grace?

What if instead of embracing our freedom to tell people what they do not want to hear, we actively rallied peace?

What if instead of being so self-reliant, we entered into relationship to learn from one another?

That would be truly counter-cultural. It would be refreshing.

And it would bring us together. It would create authentic solidarity and justice and kindness and restoration and quiet. It would eliminate the urge to disconnect.

That title up there? That’s my moto for 2015. But I’m not going to break up with the internet because I know we’ll just get back together again anyway. I’m just going be more cognizant of when we need to give each other space. I’m going to refocus on our purpose of being together. I’m going to try to be counter-cultural in my use of it. And I’m going to try to turn my platform monologues into comfy couch dialogues.

Who wants coffee?

Plot-Blindness and Walter White

In ruminating, writing on January 18, 2014 at 7:29 pm

I have a confession. It involves a condition I have.

Plot-Blindness.

A rare condition that can potentially be deadly. If you’re a writer.

Maybe I’m not the only one … Do you have Plot-Blindness?*

Plot-Blindess isn’t something that can be self-diagnosed. Unfortunately, you won’t realize you have it until it’s pointed out to you. But don’t fret, rarely – if ever – is it in a sudden and startled, “OMG! You’re plot-blind!” kind of way. No, Plot-Blindness reveals itself quietly over a long period of time – say about the time it takes to write several books, read several books, or watch several movies or t.v. series. It is only actualized when – while writing, reading, and watching – you are regularly exposed to comments such as “I was waiting for the story to begin,” and “Not a lot happened,” and “What was that story supposed to be about?” and you don’t get it. You don’t understand how these people have come to speak those comments, let alone how to go about responding. You never were good at writing summaries for the teacher at school; is nailing down plot the same kind of thing? Your mind just never has worked in a straight line like that. Heck, you can’t even draw a straight line with a pencil. Besides that, you have difficulty identifying main points; pin-pointing inciting incidents; recognizing if something is missing, if there’s a gap. Plot? Plot holes? *shrug* So you keep quiet. And smile a lot. If you are plot-blind you will find ways to hide your condition, all while wondering if you are indeed existing in the same realm as those around you. Perhaps you are not. You do not see as they do.

Being plot-blind you may begin to wonder how you are even capable of reading anything from beginning to end. How you even have the capacity to enjoy an entire film. How you ever make sense of anything. How you ever got anything published. (Like, seriously. How did that even happen?) Plot-Blindness can be quite distressing and once diagnosed, you will experience many emotions, among them being denial, confusion, frustration, anger, and fear. And like any good cycle, these reactions will eventually lead you to stage 6: Seeking a Cure. Once at stage 6, you will madly research ways of replenishing the depleted plot reserves in your system. It will overtake you. It will be your new obsession. But even though you do this, even though you spend hours and hours that equal days that equal weeks that equal years researching, discussing, and reflecting, even when you do find the cure (and you will, many times over) it will all have been in vain. Because you simply cannot grasp and absorb the remedy. It disappears before your plot-blind eyes like boiling water thrown into the frigid air of a polar vortex, turning immediately to a cloudy vapor and disappearing. Your plot-blindness, evidently, is terminal. You will never write again.

Really?

Truly.

Is it really too much work to find another way? Are you that spent, that tired of fighting that you’re prepared to give up? Have you lost your will to write? Will you simply roll over and let your words die? Or will you, like Walter White, get to business and start cooking up some superior new crystal meth writing mindset and get on with it? No matter the trouble you may face. No matter the extra hard work it will take. No matter what gets in your way, intimidates you, or tries to make you feel weak and incompetent. Face it head on. Focus on what you are skilled at. And use it. It’s a well-known fact that when one sense is lacking, another will compensate. What compensates for Plot-Blindness? Maybe superior word-crafting. Maybe killer dialogue. Maybe kicka** characterization. Maybe fantastic world-building. Maybe a combination of a few. Whatever it is, acknowledge it. Dig in. Focus. And start cookin’.

Get to the final stage.

Stage 7: Acceptance.

Acceptance of Plot-Blindness.*

Acceptance of compensatory strength(s).

Acceptance of a long, hard road ahead.

Acceptance that though something is lacking all is not lost – it can be worked out later. With help. From a professional.

You may always suffer from Plot-Blindness, but Stage 7 brings freedom and confidence, removes barriers, and sets you facing forward.

Now move.

*Plot-Blindess is my challenge. (Ummm … Kinda huge, right?) You may have a writing challenge of your own that gets you down, makes you want to give up. Don’t let it. Fight it. Work through the stages. Work hard. Start cookin’!

Perspective on Re-Solutions

In ruminating on January 1, 2014 at 4:01 pm

Resolutions.

re – solutions

solutions I’m re-solving

because something didn’t work quite right the first time

or the second …

or third

 

what hasn’t worked quite right for me

that needs re-solving?

 

why do i feel the need to re-solve, anyway?

and why do i feel an instinct-like urge to act against that need, to become anti-re-solve?

 

to re-solve or not to re-solve

 

either way, i know something hasn’t worked quite right

the first time

or the second …

or third

 

and i know i’m not satisfied to let it remain the way it is

whatever it is.

something needs to change.

 

but how?

 

should the re-solving involve numbers?

images?

people?

places?

things?

 

or attitudes

 

mind sets

 

viewpoints

 

perhaps i need a new perspective.

perhaps i need to climb out of my self-made re-solution-shaped box and breathe in new air. the air of clearer vision to see …

 

i’ve been ill-focused on symptoms. symptoms cannot be re-solved. they are what they are. they are predetermined

by root causes

 

analysis:

the numbers, images, people, places, and things i’ve been attempting to re-solve are symptoms.

symptoms of lost

love

joy

peace

patience

kindness

goodness

faithfulness

gentleness

and self-control

 

symptoms are un-re-solvable

are root causes solvable?

 

perhaps not completely.

perhaps not in this lifetime.

but they are re-solvable. and each desire to re-solve will not negate the last attempt and mock my previous efforts – neither will it urge me to act against that desire to instead become anti-re-solve.

on the contrary, love will build upon love. joy upon joy. peace upon peace. patience upon patience. kindness upon kindness. goodness upon goodness. faithfulness upon faithfulness. gentleness upon gentleness. and self-control upon self-control. so the beginning of each new year becomes a bridge for carrying on rather than a pressure-dam of a do-over.

and as a result, the previously focused-on numbers, images, people, places, and things can be let go and will be drawn into their proper space within the realm of priority and importance.

 

Resolutions.

re – solutions

solutions I’m re-solving

by changing my perspective,

pulling the plug on the pressure-dam

and building a bridge in its place.

#expressyourunpopularopinion

In ruminating on August 17, 2013 at 8:43 pm

This hashtag was floating around twitter a few weeks ago.

#expressyourunpopularopinion

I don’t participate in these kinds of things too often, but I did this time. This is what I wrote:

I think Ian Somerhalder is ick. And Ryan Gosling is ew.

It was just one of those fun kinds of rib-poking comments that often fly between my daughter and me. Of course she replied, “You’re crazy.”

But if I had more than 140 characters to write a more thoughtful #unpopularopinion, it would have looked something more like this:

There are two popular schools of thought that I find are very unhelpful to all of humanity. This is popular thought #1:

YOU happy

It’s not, “Do what makes you happy.” It’s “Do what makes YOU happy.”

Do what makes YOU happy.

No matter what anyone thinks.

No matter what anyone says.

No matter what it makes anyone feel like.

No matter what

if it makes you happy

It doesn’t matter if what makes me happy makes someone else miserable, I will do it. It doesn’t matter if the thing I don’t want to do could be the very thing to help someone else, I won’t do it. Because if it makes me happy, I will. If it doesn’t, I won’t.

And you know what else? (popular thought #2)

self help

Even if I wanted to, I’m told I can’t truly help someone else anyway until I have helped myself and am happy, first. Self-love, self-care, self-nurture. I need love and care and nurturing, but I can’t help others until I provide for myself what I need.

Because I can’t give what I don’t have.

Except to myself.

It’s like this: Me, myself, and I will inhabit our little island and make OURSELF happy by providing for ourself what we don’t have. We will provide this for ourself by ourself; even though ourself doesn’t have it to give. Then, once we have given ourself enough of what we don’t have, maybe then we can consider sharing it with others.

It makes perfect sense. If you’re fluent in Gibberish. (ie: Amising I som I hisoming hing heretherethethere?. Translation: Am I missing something here?)

Seriously.

Gibberish.

Do you know who the most unhappy people are? Those who live by the two popular thoughts above. I know. I’ve been there.

It. Doesn’t. Work.

But do you know what does? Living thoughts like this:

luther

and this …

Audrey-Hepburn-Inspirational-Quote

and this …

reason-To-Smile

These thoughts don’t mean we should sacrifice our happiness for others’. They don’t mean we should make happiness about THEM instead of ME.

These thoughts mean we should take our pursuit of happiness and get off our island. They mean we should make happiness about US instead of ME.

The balance between looking out for myself AND others; that’s where happiness is found. Actually, striking that balance takes happiness to a new level and transforms it into DELIGHT. JOY. BLISS. FULFILLMENT. CONTENTMENT.

I know. I’ve been there, too.

And there is no translation for that in Gibberish.