Feelings have a lot more to tell us about wellness than they do about truth.
“Thrank you” - an expression of gratitude issued when [Child] complies with a requirement at the last moment at which it is possible to avoid a negative consequence.
Example usage: “[Child], there is a small mountain of toothpaste on your toothbrush. Stop adding toothpaste. Seriously, stop. Now. One… two… thr- ank you.”
We walk through our lives backwards. Too often we have our eyes fixed on the experiences we have already passed, as we go stumbling into unanticipated obstacles heels first. Our mortal selves cannot turn around. We are reliant on our spiritual senses to visualize the clear course through the unseen. Our souls can see what our flesh does not: a path to a future that has already been.
Chalk the long outage up to rather unexpectedly moving. Like, wasn’t really thinking about it, and then BOOM we’re moving. Chaos aside, we are settling in pretty well and there are a lot of great things that have come out of the process.
And now it’s time for a whimsical positivity break.
If you feel like you’re in trouble
I love you, therefore you are lovable
If you feel forgotten and miserable
I see you, therefore you are visible
When you can’t get two and two to make four
Start with four, and then find three and one
Sometimes it’s easier to see what you have
When you know where you’ll be when you’re done
Hi, my name is Jane, and I take notes.
It started simply enough, with learning to take precise bullet-list style notes in 6th grade social studies. I remember that the paper was longer than the usual 8.5 x 11, and that everything I absorbed during class was meticulously organized on those oh-so-long pages. My lack of enthusiasm about the subject matter and instruction style faded to unimportance.
I was hooked.
In 7th grade I started taking notes on my life (because what else is a diary, really). Sometime in high school, "diaries" morphed into "books of random thought" and ultimately settled into "journals" - and it didn't stop there. Outside of class, I took notes on library books, computer game solutions, religion, and worlds upon invented worlds.
In college I began using my notetaking powers for Awesome when I joined a few roleplaying groups. Once my habit made itself glaringly apparent, game sessions often began with: "So Jane, where did we leave off last week?" Also there was this one day when I was exhausted from an all-nighter and fell asleep during class... but kept writing. I discovered upon jolting awake that I'd had a brief but flavorful dream about purple zebras.
Obsessive notetaking for almost 25 years ends up looking something like this:
That's RPG notes and journals only - no academics. And no filler in those piles. It's turtles all the way down.
A couple weeks ago, I unearthed the diaries and journals, and -- as I have on previous occasions -- wondered why I was still holding onto them. Truly, I cannot think of a more awkward, uncomfortable, embarrassing era of my life than 7th to 10th grade. I was hypersensitive to criticism, perceived indifference and carelessness as hostility, and withdrew deep into myself as a defense mechanism. I felt adrift in a choppy sea of inscrutable social interactions. And while I myself desperately wanted to be understood, I had no idea how to make that happen and little faith that it ever would.
These threadbare sentiments and conclusions drifted through my head as I flipped through the linguistic snapshots of late middle school. And then the critical analysis part of my mind flared to life, and I noticed something that I hadn't before: those harsh, confusing moments that have loomed so large, so long in my memory were really rare.
I wondered if I was really seeing what I thought. I scanned through probably three times to make sure, and could not dispute the conclusion. I had written something, even if just a sentence, every single day for probably two years. Most days were varying degrees of routine, regularly spiced up by friends and new experiences. In an entire year of notes, I could count the noteworthy negative days on one hand. The way those few memories reverberated forward is doubtless reflective of various intriguing properties of human learning, but that's not my point. Getting to look over a fairly complete data set with the benefit of a mature perspective is a powerful opportunity to recognize the Actual Size of the bad. The stand-out problem days were few and far between, and the ambient malaise that picked up in later entries is directly attributable to hormonal shifts, amplified by medical conditions that I did not then have the life experiences to recognize as such. I think those thorough life-notes have finally fulfilled their purpose.
Seventh Grade Me wrote a few "In case you forgot" notes to Future Me. Now I get to turn around and peer along the path I've walked to whisper a soft "Thank you" back to that girl.
That which forsakes
all it is not
has failed itself.
Dinosaur souls wear smaller clothes
Spirits thrive while bones repose
Where lives shall end Life still grows
In myth and memory juxtaposed
My mother's mother passed away in July of 2017. Eight months later, I'm ready to write about it. (Sometimes I deal with things fast, sometimes it's glacial). This isn't intended to be a biography; more of a poem, or a handful of Polaroids.
Phyllis Mulbarger -- "Mo" to her four grandchildren -- was, and ever shall be, an inspiration. Her love was boundless. She was nurturing, forgiving, generous, spiritual, and snarky as all get-out.
A couple years ago, Mo gleefully informed my mother: "I want my obituary to say that I was flippant and sarcastic." She dealt with a wide array of life-junk in her decades on this earth, and I think she summed up her secret to strength and joyous living in those two hilarious adjectives. I can imagine her saying: I'm not going to take this garbage seriously, and nobody can make me. Live your life. Laugh it off. Embrace the grace and grit of unbridled irreverence. "How else do you think I lived to be 90?" she queried rhetorically.
When I think of her, I see the sparkle in her eye and the impish look on her face.
A giggle rises from down in my gut and soul, and in that bone-deep humor I feel the bright thread of light that binds me to my entire family before me, and all to come after.
In honor of a mighty woman, let's be flippant and sarcastic. Sláinte.
There is a profound difference between the language used to convey information, and the language used to convey propaganda. Here is a trivial example.
Information: Right now (1:06 PM on March 6, 2018) I am holding my cat. He has curly black fur, gold eyes, and he is purring.
Propaganda: People everywhere are enjoying the immense benefits of pet ownership.
The information statement includes specific subjects and verifiable details, and leaves room to ask follow-up questions that can further identify the subjects and ground the information in time and space. The propaganda statement invokes poorly-defined subjects ("people everywhere"), a relatable emotion (enjoyment), and something to desire ("immense benefits").
What happens in your head when you read the propaganda statement? If I imagine someone else saying it out loud, I can trace my own physiological responses and most likely thoughts (assuming I hear it while in an unguarded state).
"People everywhere..." (I am part of people everywhere!) [Receptive, ready to relate]
"...are enjoying..." (I want to enjoy things) [Imagining feeling enjoyment]
"...the immense benefits..." (I could seriously use some immense benefits) [Imagining feeling healthier]
"...of pet ownership." (Oh cool! I own a pet. That makes me one of the smart people enjoying immense benefits. Keep talking, you're making me feel good about my life choices.) [Feeling validated]
I think language has powerful effects on our state of mind and emotional well-being. I don't know how common it is for people to develop the self-awareness to notice those shifts as they happen, but I think it's mission critical to aspire to that self-awareness.
The above was intended to be a benign example. However, propaganda language can be (and, I think, often is) used to place an audience in a negative emotional state (such as fear, anger, dissatisfaction) and then tell the audience how to fix the problem. So here's my goal: every time I hear a propaganda message (from any political origin) and feel my emotions start to shift under my feet, take a few deep breaths and tell myself, "I am happy." Lather, rinse, repeat as necessary.
Meaningful action need not be contingent on negative emotion.
Well, it seems like updating two times a month is about my speed right now, so I'm just going to embrace that and go with it. All things in cycles, right?
Today's focal thought is one that has popped into my head and made me laugh quite a few times in the last decade: Everything is a metaphor for something else. A glass of water describes optimism. A sunny day expresses happiness. Our minds are homes, climate change is like a fever, and our bodies reflect the entire world.
In things outside of ourselves we see ourselves, and we build the rooms of our mind from the visions we invite to stay. I drew a picture of my mental house once. It's an exciting place: it has a library, a courtyard with a tree, a dedicated A/V room, a work console, an incinerator... And then I lost the map. Fitting, really. I've always felt slightly nuts anyway.
So now, picture with me: a bright light shines inside an infinitely-faceted prism. The light shines through every side, and looks a little different from every angle, but it's the same light. All are facets are equally touched, equally illuminated, one has only to look through.
That is my working metaphor for God.
Today's post is inspired by this TED talk by Jay Smooth about the way people discuss race and racism, and this Washington Post article about how calling out racism is good for your health. To summarize, Jay Smooth wisely advises that racism is not an all-or-nothing state of being. Recognizing and dealing with racist thoughts doesn't work like this:
Racism is, among other things, a byproduct of how the human brain responds to social and cultural influences. Just as those influences are ongoing, dealing with racism is an ongoing process - like brushing one's teeth.
I am quite sure I've had a big green leaf of racism caught in my teeth from time to time. It is never, ever intentional and it is completely counter to my dearest beliefs, so it's really hard to admit that it happens... but it does. I don't think it's okay. I don't broadcast those (rare, I think?) thoughts, and I don't accept them as part of myself. I try to keep my mouth shut until I can find the mental floss - but if I screw that up somehow, I hope somebody tells me before it gets caught on camera.*** (EDIT: I don't really like how this paragraph turned out - I think I did a better job with the idea below. I'm leaving this here as an example of something I expressed that left me feeling really awkward.)
The social ramifications of racism are horrific and daunting. Recognizing and countering racism on an immediate personal level doesn't have to be. It's about what we do. It's about building good habits. Humans think all kinds of things, good and bad, shifting moment by moment - but just because we noticed a thought flitting through our brain doesn't mean we have to believe it. To invoke another metaphor, we get to (and have to) choose which thoughts we cultivate, and which ones we weed out.
*** Adding on to this three days later...
This post didn't feel done because I'm not sure I picked the right words above to express what I'm going for. I felt inspired watching Jay Smooth, so what I'm trying to do is go through some self-examination and then share what I find to be most helpful in moving towards the goal of resisting and overturning systemic racism.
One of the problems in working through this stuff is the word "have." In a culture where people are frequently identified by what they do and do not possess, saying I "have" thoughts can unintentionally imply that I identify with them. Maybe it's more accurate to say that I "notice" the thoughts. I think the gardening metaphor works best for me here. I don't plant weeds in my garden, but the wind blows and birds poop and seeds get into my garden that I never wanted. I don't claim ownership of the weeds. But because I do claim the garden, I own the responsibility of doing something about the weeds when they crop up.
So that's what I'm going for. I don't "have" racist thoughts - I don't claim ownership of them. I do notice problematic voices, words, phrases, and interpretations in my mind from time to time, and I own the responsibility to respond appropriately. I can choose to incorporate those words in my head into my outlook on life and let them shape my behavior (NOPE!), or I can say "This doesn't belong here." I 100% choose the latter. Weeds don't go away if you pretend they don't exist, they go away when you dig them out.
...and if the weed is something like poison ivy, digging it out without getting a horrible rash is an involved process.
I never like the first week of the year. Any time January 1st falls on a weekday it feels terribly disruptive to me - instead of a last day of relaxation, it represents having one less work day to deal with the inevitable backlog coming out of the holidays. "What do you mean 'relax'? I need to start getting stuff done..."
This year has been no different, but at least I realized that I'm allowed to reschedule anything and everything that doesn't absolutely have to happen this week. This is in part inspired by my post last week about (effectively) the cumulative risks of wearing ourselves out. Self care is incredibly important for a lot of reasons, including that it keeps us capable of doing our best.
On that note, what I really need today is to hear from Fred. Hi, Fred!
Thanks, Fred. Happy New Year!
Decision fatigue "refers to the deteriorating quality of decisions made by an individual after a long session of decision making." Studies have found decision fatigue to lead to irrational trade-offs, impulse purchasing, and impaired self-regulation, although one professor observed that people who believe willpower is a limited resource are more affected than those who do not. I choose to believe that willpower is unlimited. However, I am well aware that in the absence of conscious and deliberate intervention, my internal monologue tends to get louder, more disruptive, and increasingly negative when I don't want to make a decision because I would rather be doing something else.
As a connected concept, information overload is "a term used to describe the difficulty of understanding an issue and effectively making decisions when one has too much information about that issue." Basically, when we're bombarded by more data than our brains can process, it impairs our decision-making.
Autocracy "is a system of government in which supreme power (social and political) is concentrated in the hands of one person, whose decisions are subject to neither external legal restraints nor regularized mechanisms of popular control..." In essence, a system in which (for everyone but the autocrat), all decisions and consequences thereof are nominally someone else's responsibility. I say "nominally" because, as history has shown, people can always choose to fight - it just costs something.
The following is an extreme simplification of what I found to be an interesting idea. In the modern information age, in the U.S., we have access to an enormous amount of data, and have the opportunity to make decisions about many, many small things throughout the day. If we deplete the reserves we can (or want to) call upon making a thousand small choices, what happens when we're faced with a big, complicated choice with consequences that can positively or negatively impact thousands, millions, or billions of human lives?
"I'm spent. Can't somebody else take this one?"
"You bet," says the would-be autocrat with a smile.
Fred likes it when people are decent to each other, and Fred has some ideas about what that means. I think we can expect to see more of Fred in the future.
Happy Friday! Here's a poem from the archives - this appears to be one of the first creative things I wrote after we moved from New Hampshire to Montana. Originally drafted October 23, 2008.
Variable intonation -
raw imperfect separation -
inflections of then,
by decisive glee in now, here.
Primarily, the mountain snow
(seeming first dreamed long ago)
calls together friends
of any weather
dismissing every distance, fear.
In humble tribute, autumn's pass
fosters change to cold and glass;
in swirl of sigh
breathe loose the furl
of waving standard, planted near.
Read futures in an ice reflection;
prophetic tones in recollection.
No matter how the
winds will scatter,
the binding brand shows clear.
(c) Jane P. B. Hozier
It's the end of a long week and I seriously have nothing interesting to share today. I'll make up for it next week, really I will.
love at the red roots
hearts suit it, but followed
by the mimicry of scorn
beware: what hope heals
truthless verdict leaves torn
fire and fallen leaves, stunning
glow of a dying day in orange
points the way to rebirth,
recreation, truth unended
unoffended by narrow confusion
that mistakes light for merely illusion
life's gold is the sunlight we taste, swallow whole
yellow flower in power unfolding
we eat of one sun and become fellows in
spirit, the green fulcrum, heart of the arc
where the many stand reflected
and join in hand to
one light in the dark
my soul is a string that sings
in my voice, blue melodies
take up a refrain
and in the echoes our names will remain
cooled in indigo memory
keep yourself in mind
and in still waters find
your ripples rebounded
your meaning expounded
washed up clean on the rock of our
on the cusp of transcendent unseen
in between one word and the next
what connects us to our best selves
when the rest falls away?
let us pray
(c) 2017 Jane P. B. Hozier
Distinguishing oneself from one's habits is the foundation of personal growth.
...the people who accept your faults with a wisecrack.
...the people who share your love of graph paper and packing tape.
...the people who have gone before, stretching out in a line of unknown names and untold love.
I give thanks.