Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Tag: book quotes Page 1 of 7

Wrap Up Notes from Surely You’re Joking – Part 2 of 2

And here it is! (drum roll) The much anticipated Part 2 of 2. It’s for your own protection really. I had posted it all at once yesterday, the lord only knows what would have happened. As you may recall, I posted about “Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman” back at the beginning of March when I started reading it and posted my immediate thoughts about the book on my Goodreads account and in my (now weekly) newsletter. I hope you’ll go read those!

Surely You're Joking book cover on the couch.

Don’t forget to go back and read Wrap Up Notes from Surely You’re Joking – Part 1 of 2!

“In any thinking process there are moments when everything is going good and you’ve got wonderful ideas. Teaching is an interruption, so it’s the greatest pain in the neck in the world. And then there are the longer periods of time when not much is coming to you. You’re not getting any ideas, and if you’re doing nothing at all, it drives you nuts! You can’t even say ‘I’m teach my class.’”

This reminded me of all the things that writers (or any artist really) do all their lives. We always tell ourselves, “If I had no distractions, I’d get so much more done!” But we wouldn’t. Sometimes the distractions are just the time filler between bursts of brilliance. They can also be excuses to the masses why you haven’t produced anything lately.

“You have no responsibility to live up to what other people think you ought to accomplish. I have no responsibility to be like they expect me to be. It’s their mistake, not my failing.”

Words to live by.

“…they could pass the examinations, and “learn” all this stuff, and not know anything at all, except what they had memorized.”

Speaking of engineering school in Brazil. I could write a whole post on this from an “unschoolers” perspective. This is what K-12 schools in the U.S. have perfected these days. They can pass a test, regurgitate facts, but have no solid knowledge of what they are studying. They don’t understand how history, literature, religion, and science are all related. That’s how I graduated high school with honors, standing on the stage thinking, “We’re screwed if I’m one of the smarter people here because I have no idea what I’m doing. I just followed the directions and got an A on the test.”

“That night when he came home from work, he was depressed. She finally got it out of him: He thought it would be nice to buy her that picture (at a museum they had visited earlier), but when he went back to the exhibit, he was told that the picture had already been sold. So she had it to surprise him with on his birthday.

What I got out of that story was something still very new to me: I understood at last what art is really for, at least in certain respects. It gives somebody, individually, pleasure. You can make something that somebody likes so much that they’re depressed, or they’re happy, on account of that damn thing you made! In science, it’s sort of general and large: You don’t know the individuals who have appreciated it directly.”

Reminds me of something Sheldon would say on the Big Bang Theory!

“…pompous fools drive me up the wall. Ordinary fools are all right; you can talk to them, and try to help them out. But pompous fools – guys who are fools and are covering it all over and impressing peoples as to how wonderful they are with all this hocus pocus – THAT, I CANNOT STAND”

Also sounds like a Sheldon quote, but I agree.

“But then I began to think, what else is there that we believe? (And I thought then about the witch doctors, and how easy it would have been to check on them by noticing that nothing really worked.) So I found things that even more people believe, such as that we have some knowledge of how to educate. There are big schools of reading methods and mathematics methods, and so forth, but if you notice, you’ll see the reading scores keep going down – hardly going up – in spite of the fact that we continually use these same people to improve the methods. There’s a witch doctor remedy that doesn’t work. It ought to be looked into; how do they know that their method should work? Another example is how to treat criminals. We obviously have made no progress – lots of theory, but no progress – in decreasing the amount of crime by the method that we use to handle criminals.”

I have no commentary on this other than, “Yeah, dammit.”

“If you’re representing yourself as a scientist, then you should explain to the layman what you’re doing – and if they don’t want to support you under those circumstances, then that’s their decision.”

What a concept! What if we lived in a world where you couldn’t vote to force people to do or pay for things you believe are beneficial? Instead, you had to present them with the facts in ways they can grasp and use, and then step back and allow people to make their own decisions…like say…vaccinations, health habits, and social issues.

The end and NEXT!

If you’d like to get a copy of “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!” and read it for yourself, check out Thriftbooks.com. Used books, free shipping, and points to redeem toward free books?! Yes, please! It’s a wonderful book, highly entertaining and left met thinking a little better about these weird physicists types.

Does Grendel Represent the Chaos of the Natural World? Part 2 of 2

When last we met, I was spiraling into the depths of a natural world filled with violence and chaos. If you haven’t read it yet, pop back to “Does Grendel Represent the Chaos of the Natural World?” and take a look.

Shall we continue?

“What does a kingdom pretend to do? Save the values of the community – regulate compromise – improve the quality of the commonwealth! In other words, protect the power of the people in power and keep the others down. By common agreement of course, so the fiction goes. And they do that pretty well. We’ll give them that.”

That is exactly what your kingdom, I mean, our nation’s government is doing right now. It’s also very much why I am leaning towards peaceful and non-violent anarchy. Live and let live.

“Rewards to people who fit the System best, you know. King’s immediate thanes, the thanes’ top servants, and so on till you come to the people who don’t fit at all. No problem. Drive them to the darkest corners of the kingdom, starve them, throw them in jail or put them out to war.”

This reminds me of my social media feed and tv news. Comply with what those in power wish or suffer the consequences.

“What is the state in a time of domestic or foreign crisis? What is the state when the chips are down? The answer is obvious and clear! Oh yes! If a few men quit work, the police move in. If the borders are threatened, the army rolls out. Public force is the life and soul of every state: not merely army and police but prisons, judges, tax collectors, every conceivable trick of coercive repression. The state is an organization of violence. Revolution, my dear prince, is not the substitution of immoral for moral, or of illegitimate for legitimate violence; it is simply the pitting of power against power, where the issue is freedom for the winners and enslavement of the rest.”

Public force and coercive repression, the cornerstone of any central government. When you pass a law by vote, you’re asking a separate group of people to use deadly force against those who do not comply. You may think it is best, but when people get held down, beat up, and shot by police for not stopping to receive the punishment for breaking that law, are you ok with that? When the police stop a teenage boy for not wearing a seatbelt, and for whatever reason they feel threatened and shoot him, that is the result of your law. When someone doesn’t pay the appropriate taxes and the government comes and takes everything they have, puts their family on the street, and takes that person to jail, that is a result of your law. When someone buys a drug and sits in their own livingroom alone to use it and relax, and the cops bust in to drag him to a box…I could go on and on but I’m digressing.

Bottom line is that when you vote for a law to be put in the books, you are authorizing violence on another in your name.

“Who says I have to defend myself? I am a machine, like you. Like all of you. Blood-lust and rage are my character. Why does the lion not wisely settle down and be a horse?”

Stop hating! Stop doing drugs! Stop … whatever. Geez! Let people be who they are and choose whether or not you want to associate with them. You know a lion by his look. You allow him to live his own way, in his own space. And you avoid running into him as prey. How about we do the same with other humans?

“Tedium is the worst pain. The mind lays out the world in blocks, and the hushed blood waits for revenge. All order, I’ve come to understand, is theoretical, unreal – a harmless, sensible, smiling mask men slide between the two great, dark realities, the self and the world – two snake-pits.”

I know, it’s all pretty dark and I had a bit of fun wallowing around in it today. I hope I didn’t terrify you. I do get a tad worked up though, especially lately. I’m feeling frustrated and lonely in this world. It seems everyone around me wants so desperately to live inside a fantasy world.

Nature’s reality can be terrifying and cruel, but we humans have a special gift, creativity. We can use it to recognize the world around us and attempt to do better for ourselves, or we can create a little bubble in our minds and live there as long as we can. That is until the bubble is burst and the world’s violence comes flooding in.

Me? I prefer to be aware of the real danger in this world and adjust my own behavior, take my own calculated risks based on my own experience (and the advice from trusted professionals), and allow everyone else to do the same.

I like Grendel. He’s a mean, nasty, violent dude. He has no remorse for who he is. He makes it very clear what he is and what he’ll do. It’s on you to be bigger and stronger than him or respect his boundaries and let him be.

Here’s something interesting I just found; this book is on the Banned Library site. Over the years it has been banned at several schools for being “anti-christian, anti-moral, and violent” and “profane.” Makes you want to read it even more, doesn’t it?

Looking For Inspiration for Writing Your Story?

If you’re in need of some inspiration for writing your story, this is the book you need to get. You can’t have my copy though because it’s riddled with notes, from pieces underlined to exclamations of joy. From the very start I felt a connection with the author, like a fantasy story where the book knows whose hands it needs to be in and finds its way there.

Inspiration for Writing in the form of a book. Wild Mind cover on a pile of blankets.

It’s been a month since I finished reading it and as I flipped through the pages looking for a good quote to riff off of, I realized that the magic I felt while reading it had already begun to fade from my memory. How can that be?! I remember thinking that I should go back and do many of the “Try this!” sections of the book, but never did. I had begun to incorporate them into my daily writing routine. And then life, I suppose.

No worries though. I plan on keeping this one out on my desk, not hidden in the bookshelf, to flip through when I need encouragement and inspiration.

The following are a few of my favorite quotes and some words of my own in response.

“Over and over, we have to go back to the beginning. We should not be ashamed of this. It is good. It’s like drinking water; we don’t drink a glass once and never have to drink one again. Over and over, we begin. This is good. This is kindness. We don’t forget our roots.”

As the Mandalorian says, “This is the way.” Writing, like most of life, is a long series of restarts. Each time through, if we’re paying attention, we learn something new and build on it. It’s a slow spiral up and then then we die. Hopefully we get the chance to share what we’ve learned with others before we go.

“When you write a memory, it isn’t in the past anyway. It’s alive right now.”

I have found this to be especially true when I was writing the memoir of my arrest, among other stories. It’s like I’m there, reliving it all in my mind. It hurt and it was terrifying at time, but the wonderous thing is that, as I write, I’m separate from the event while I’m reliving it. This time I get the chance to slow down and speed up the moment. That’s when I get to process and reflect on it, makes sense of it or choose to let it be. Then the pain of reliving it has a meaning and purpose.

“Katagiri Roshi said in his book Returning to Silence (Shambhala, 1988) that it is not important whether a spiritual teacher has reached the peak or not; what is important is how he has digested the truth he has experienced and how much this truth is manifested in the teacher’s life moment by moment. This is true in writing, too.”

And now I need THAT book (clicks over to Thriftbooks and adds it to the wishlist). The feeling behind imposter syndrome is just this. We don’t need to have all the answers. We don’t need to be completely with it and composed. We only need to have the beginnings of knowing ourselves and the drive and courage to be open and honest. We’re not leaders or gurus. We’re just people sharing our experiences with others.

“It is the nature of a human being, like having a heartbeat and a breath. Thoughts really happen involuntarily. …the brain continues to have thoughts whether we will them or not.”

Oh, those pesky thoughts. Reminds me of how detestable the idea of a “thought crime” in Orwell’s 1984 is. Contrary to popular belief, thoughts, like feelings, are involuntary. Once we are aware of that, we can hold them and examine them to see if they are correct or useful. First we hold a thought out in the light, put our glasses on, then we can decide what we want to do with it.

“Writing is elemental. Once you have tasted its essential life, you cannot turn from it without some deep denial and depression. It would be like turning from water. Water is in your blood. You can’t go without it.”

I’ve tried giving this up, really. Even when I’m at my lowest, laying on the floor in my livingroom, crying to my husband that “No one in the whole world is reading this! And even if there is, they are probably only reading it as an example of mediocrity!” I still get up the next day and start typing…or scribbling in my notebook. I’ll set it aside for a few days, but then I get hungry and begin again. I have to breathe.

“Writing is the act of discovery. If I knew everything ahead of time, why bother writing?”

It’s lines like this that made me smile. I’m not alone. I just start typing and sometimes she comes out to play.

“I am my own mind. I claim my thoughts. My mouth and the words I say with it are mine and no one can take that away. I can’t write like Dostoyevski or Henry Miller. I write like myself.”

If you sat with me over a cup of coffee, you’d hear the same words you read here. Maybe if you heard me talking with people at a party, you’d recognize me.

“You have to let writing eat your life and follow it where it takes you. You fit into it; it doesn’t fit neatly into your life. It makes you wild.”

I’m not a “let it go and see what happens” kind of girl, but the older I get, the more I allow it, and the more I wish I had started earlier.

“My writing self is braver than the rest of me. I follower her, trust her, but I know my human self, the part of me that is not a warrior of truth and words, lags behind me.”

Have you ever been in a conversation and then hours afterwards thought, “Dammit! I wish I had thought of that to say!”? That is her. She hides from view, taking notes, thinking of all the witty, clever, and brilliant things to say, but she’s too shy to make herself known face to face. She’ll save those words for later and write them instead. She also comes out of hiding when triggered to respond to social media posts and the sincerely regrets she has fingers to type with.

“You’ll lose your reader if you are vague, not clear, and not present. We love details, personal connections, stories.”

You can probably tell when I’m hiding behind euphemisms and creating characters to say what I want to say. There are things I want to reveal, pieces of me that I’d love to set free, but fear gets in the way. Who will it hurt if I do? What if I’m ridiculed for my beliefs? What if I’m wrong?! Our need to get along and fit in is strong, but we can be stronger..

“We are great warriors facing the barriers of truth. We are digesting experience for society.”

That’s the beauty of creative nonfiction. For what it’s worth, we write our experience so that everyone around us can share in it. It’s why I enjoy reading it, as well. Your story is now part of my experience.

“Stress is basically a disconnection from the earth, a forgetting of the breath.

Stress is an ignorant state. It believes that everything is an emergency. Nothing is that important. Just lie down.

All writers have a natural bent toward laziness. That is good. Utilize it. The couch is a good place. Lie there for a whole day in the middle of everything. It is like waiting for vinegar to settle after you shake it up with oil.”

The perfect ending. An excuse for why I spend just about every morning reading and writing, looking out the window, going for a walk, quietly cleaning my house. I’ve only begun to completely relax into it, to let it roll by while I watch. Little by little, I’ve realized that if I run from one thing to the next, if I fill up my days with activities, I miss the joy of life.

And there it is. There was so much more in this little book, but I’ve already shared too much. If you’d like to read my first thoughts on this book, you can find them at my original post, Wild Mind by Natalie Goldberg.

My Empty Nest is not the End of the Word, But I Could Use a Hug

Every parent experiences the empty nest at some point, I know this. But what if we didn’t have to tuck it all down and experience it alone? Vulnerability in the midst of struggle is not my specialty, but sometimes I feel that my saying something might be just what someone else needs.

The perfect quote for an empty nest on a winter sunrise background.

“And this, he decides, is what a good-by should be.
Not a period, but an ellipsis, a statement trailing off, until someone is there to pick it up.”

The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by V.E. Schwab

Goodbyes are so hard. The end of a chapter, the turning of the page. I loved this ellipsis analogy. I often use those, and my son tries to tell me I’m doing it wrong. “It’s not a pause, Mom!” I know but…I like it that way! Think about it.

“Goodbye.”
Door shut. Time’s up. It’s over.

“Goodbye…”
Turns slowly. Starts walking. What’s next?

It’s different and it feels so much better.

And then this one.

“That time always ends a second before you’re ready.
That life is the minutes you want minus one.”

The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by V.E. Schwab

Yes, it does. I’m going through a big one of these right now. My youngest child has gone off to University in another state. I’m officially retired from everyday Mom-ing.

I have an empty nest.

Everyone knows that once you’re a mom, you’re always a mom. We have an amazingly close relationship. I never experienced that “teenage” stuff, where they shut themselves off from me. I know they’ll always be texting, sending me pictures, and coming back to visit as often as they can.

But… (I did it again)

I’m alone here all day now. And when my husband is done working, we’re alone all evening and all night. And when I get up in the morning, there’s no reason to keep quiet. I can do what I want at any time of day. The TV isn’t on unless I’m watching it. No one is playing music in the middle of the night. No one interrupts what I’m doing. It’s so damn boring.

I’ll admit that I was excited to retire. We have three kids. When the first one left, we relaxed. There was a bit more space in the house. When the second one left, we were happy. There he goes! Two down, one to go! We looked forward to the youngest taking off. If all three of our kids were out in the world taking care of themselves, we were off the hook. We did it. Done! Children are a huge, long-term commitment. It’s incredibly stressful.

But… (he he he)

It’s so quiet. And then…I’m choking up again as I write…can’t we have one more day? One more drive into the city? One more dinner? One more, “Guys! WTF? Can you not?!”

I wasn’t ready.
I seriously underestimated how hard an empty nest would be.

But…

Are we ever ready? I don’t think so. We just have to dive in and keep flailing around until we notice we’re swimming.

I’ve hesitated to write about this for several reasons. It’s so fresh. I’m still working through it. I don’t need other people’s crap right now. But it keeps coming back up. A scratch in the record that needs to be dealt with, not ignored. You’ll only keep hearing it every time you get to that part of the music.

The first is, as usual, I don’t want to make my kids feel bad. They are doing nothing wrong by growing up and going out into the world. Pursuing our own path is what we all do. That’s normal and good. While I’d certainly have no problem with them living here forever, I want them to chase their own dreams without worrying that the mother they love so much is having a nervous breakdown. It would defeat the purpose of raising children into adults if they were so afraid to hurt my feelings that they never left home.

The second is that I’m not good at being this vulnerable. While I’m good at telling others what I’ve already been through and worked on, I cringe at the thought of asking for sympathy and help as I need it. I’ve recently come to notice that my culture fosters independence over just about anything else and I’m not sure it’s all that healthy. Stand on your own two feet. Buck up. Don’t be such a baby about it. From childhood and adolescence, into adulthood, marriage, children, and on until we die, we’re encouraged to keep our feelings to ourselves, to deal with our own shit alone.

I’m starting to question the wisdom in that. The times that I have reached out to talk to someone about something I’m going through, I’ve always found that I’m not alone. Life’s stages are common. We all move through them. Amazingly enough, no matter what you’re going through, there are others that have been there, felt that. The key is finding those people, and they’re usually very close by, remaining silent, believing they are alone in the world too.

And the third reason is people’s reaction. I don’t find support when I express my pain, I generally find platitudes, dismissal, or worse…help or sympathy. We’re not trained in supporting others through something difficult. Have you ever felt something so strongly, a feeling you just don’t want to feel and can’t get away from? Have you ever told someone about it and they said, “That’s just life. It’ll be better tomorrow.” Yeah…not helpful. Or worse, “Everyone feels that. You’re being ridiculous.” And “I told you this was coming.”

What do I want? To be completely honest, I’m not sure. Maybe I simply want to be heard and to get a hug. I’d like to hear an affirmation. “This must suck.” Or “I feel that from you.” Maybe even questions like, “What are you going to do?” I also really enjoy hearing other people’s painful stories. “There was a time I felt that way.” Or “I remember when…” I hear that and I think, “Yes. I’m not alone. I’m just one of the humans here. Life does go on.” And then I consider what’s next or cry some more. It depends on my mood. Sometimes I want to wallow in my sadness awhile.

Ultimately, the story continues no matter what happens to any of us. It isn’t a period, end of line, close the book. It’s just…what’s next?

I blogged about “The Invisible Life of Addie Larue” when I started reading it back in January. It certainly didn’t take me long to read it all. I couldn’t put it down! Have you read it? You can find it on Thriftbooks.com if you don’t have it. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments when you read it!

What is the The Key to Understanding Love?

Love is complicated. We can’t possess people like we possess things. We can’t turn a key and make people love us the way we love them. The key to understanding love starts with loving yourself as a complete individual.

Understanding love is not possession quote on a desert background.

“It’s because I love you that I won’t. Love is hungry. Love is selfish.”
“You’re thinking of possession.”
He shrugs. “Are they so different? I have seen what humans do to things they love.”
“People are not things,” she says. “And you will never understand them.”

The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by V.E. Schwab

I’m reminded of one my favorite stories here, The Phantom of the Opera. I always cry for the Phantom. He loves her, but she refuses him. Why? It’s not the ugly she can’t get around, it’s that he misunderstands love. He’s twisted and tortured into thinking possession is love. He twists and tortures her world in order to turn her toward him, to make her love him.

I always wondered what would happen if she decided to love him, despite his evil ways. Would it end up one of those “unconditional love changes people” stories?

That’s what Addie is trying to express here. The Darkness is so removed from humanity, (because he isn’t human), that he is incapable of understanding love.

Writing that I just thought this same thing could be said about the Lucifer character in the TV show. It’s part of why I loved it so much. There he was on earth with humans, learning about them in every conceivable way but love. Lucifer learns to experience love, what it means to be human.

Addie is right. He has confused love with possession, as most people do. That’s why he hasn’t been able to learn the difference. Examples of real love are few and far between. We should know and be able to practice the difference, but we rarely do. It’s easier to possess another than to love them.

Relationships are complicated and there’s so much to do. To experience real love (and not possession), we need to start with ourselves. And loving ourselves is no picnic.

I blogged about “The Invisible Life of Addie Larue” when I started reading it back in January. It certainly didn’t take me long to read it all. I couldn’t put it down! Have you read it? You can find it on Thriftbooks.com if you don’t have it. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments when you read it!

Ultimately, Most Life Choices are Just Best Guesses

There’s no way of knowing which life choices will end up getting us where we want to go in the long run. We’re working from a moving platform that is time, and aiming at a moving target that is satisfaction.

“…paralyzed by the idea that whatever you choose to do, it means choosing not to do a hundred other things…”

The invisible life of Addie Larue by v.e. Schwab

There is one thing that limits every human on this planet and that is time. We only have so much time in a day, a week, a lifetime. When you choose to watch an hour of TV, you choose not to do other things. If you choose to make a delicious dinner at home, you choose not to go out to a restaurant. It’s a fact of life that cannot be changed no matter how clever, rich, or powerful you are.

We all come to that realization at some point in our lives. Some of us have a very hard time accepting that fact and it makes us completely crazy. We stand there in distress, attempting to decide which is the better choice. What is the thing that make us the happiest? Which choice will lead us further down the “right” path? It’s enough to make any thinking person neurotic.

Ultimately, I’ve decided that it doesn’t matter. Once I accepted the fact that I can’t do everything, that I had to live with the choices I make, it started to become easier. The next step was to enjoy the choice I made. That’s where it got complicated.

At one point, you’re looking over the choices you have. You puzzle over it awhile and eventually make your choice. Then, while you’re happily cruising along, you start to wonder, “Would the other choice have been better?” And now you’re not enjoying what you have.

Now what do you do? Invent a time machine so that you can explore alternate realities where you didn’t tell that partner to leave, you didn’t take that job or go to that school, or you decided to apply for a job in another state and moved. Wouldn’t that be nice?

What if we had a machine that let you play out exactly what would happen after each choice you made, and then you could choose which would ultimately work out best? Oh! And it took no extra time! A perfect world.

It’s not possible, outside of sci-fi movies. What can we do instead? Make the choice that makes you most happy right now, and not worry so much or so far into the future.

Photo by Bhargava Marripati on Unsplash

I’m imagining back when my sons were taking an interest in indoor rock climbing. The woman helping them learn told them, “Your only goal is to find the top your own way. Hold on and look for your own next step. Make it. Steady yourself. And the look for the next one you can reach. You may need to go sideways or back down a bit, but you’ll get there.”

That’s life.

I blogged about “The Invisible Life of Addie Larue” when I started reading it back in January. It certainly didn’t take me long to read it all. I couldn’t put it down! Have you read it? You can find it on Thriftbooks.com if you don’t have it. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments when you read it!

Why My Personal Story Telling Helps Me Stay Connected

Story telling isn’t just for entertainment and gaining attention. And it comes in so many forms. What medium do you use to tell your story?

Story telling to preserve one's self quote on a desert background.
That’s Calico Ghost Town in the back ground. There’s a family story to that too.

“Stories are a way to preserve one’s self. To be remembered. And to forget.
Stories come in so many forms: in charcoal, and in song, in paintings, poems, films. And books.
Books, she has found, are a way to live a thousand lives – to find strength in a very long one.”

The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by V.E. Schwab

What drew me to this book in the first place was the reference to stories and a bookstore, so it makes sense that the first quote I share from it would be this. There’s a lot here, though, so I’m going to try to pull it apart a little.

“Stories are way to preserve one’s self.”

I’ve always been chided and teased for story telling in every conversation and not just because I’m getting old(er). Even when I was in my early 20’s, I’d be at work telling someone the story about the time I went water skiing and got so sunburned or the time my brother jumped off the roof. As I got older, married, had kids, etc., the stories just kept coming.

I take pride in knowing that I will be that old lady in the corner of the livingroom spinning my yarns, “I remember the time…” and all my great-grandkids will want to listen but everyone else will roll their eyes. “We’ve heard this one!”

Why do we tell stories about our past?

“To be remembered. And to forget”

I want my friends and family to remember the things that have happened to me and the things we experienced together. I can write them down for posterity, and I frequently do, but telling them is my favorite. Something about sitting and remembering together is so comforting. It’s like reaching out to touch your partner in the night, a reminder that we are all still here.

When we’re together telling stories, some of us add details or their own perspective, things each of us might have missed. We solidify the story each time we tell it, a verbal family history. It’s the ultimate “family bonding” time.

We also tell stories “to forget.”

In that moment, when we are together with friends and family, swapping stories about our past, sharing tales of our childhood, embarrassing our teenagers with their cute baby stories, we put the current time with all its stress way into the background. For those moments, we don’t worry about bills that need to be paid or that meeting we need to attend at work.

Hearing each other’s stories like this also puts today into perspective. We may be currently stressing over work, home, business, and the state of union, but when we hear all our stories, we can see that nothing has changed that much. Our parents and grandparents worried about the same things. Life just keeps on going, kids do crazy things, adventures are had, no matter what is happening in the world.

What form can stories take? Like she said, “in charcoal, and in song, in paintings, poems, films. And books.” Most of our stories come in the form of words told over the dinner table or sitting around the livingroom, but some come in the form of a quilt my aunt made, a ceramic figure my grandmother crafted, or painting by my mother and her friends. It can also be the song my sons play, the robot they tried to make with their dad, and the video my stepdaughter made and posted on youtube. They are all connected to memories, things that help each of us be remembered and live longer in other people’s memories.

And this, “Books, she has found, are a way to live a thousand lives…”

That’s why I read, but it’s also why I tell my stories. I am not just my life. I’m all the lives that came before me, all the lives and portions of lives that I’ve lived and heard of. My children and my grandchildren will have my life a part of theirs. Hopefully, my great-grandchildren will live a part of my life as well, even if they never meet me.

The quilt I made, the blog post I write, the pine tree I tended and got to grow tall, as well as the stories I told while we walked in the desert, are all part of the story that pass into the future.

Addie’s curse didn’t allow her to do that. She could live forever, be a part of the world forever, but no one will remember her. Her curse allowed me to see the beauty of what I have. And that’s why I love reading books.

I blogged about “The Invisible Life of Addie Larue” when I started reading it back in January. It certainly didn’t take me long to read it all. I couldn’t put it down! Have you read it? You can find it on Thriftbooks.com if you don’t have it. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments when you read it!

Can This Cardinal Rule of Politics Apply To Any Discussion?

What exactly is a “cardinal rule” anyway?

It’s a fundamental rule that acts as hinge to other interactions. Breaking a cardinal rule is something that can make a big mess of things, end discussions and relationships, and burn bridges.

“International politics is indeed a little like the mad tea party where Alice had to learn that you can mean what you say without saying it, as well as say what you mean without meaning it. The cardinal rule is this: Never reason from labels.”

The Philosophy of Peace by John Somerville

I read this and was floored, mostly because I’ve come to that conclusion myself and here it is again, in a 70-year-old book. This book was about politics, so the cardinal rule was related to that, but the rule applies everywhere and in every sphere.

What does it mean to “reason from labels?” I’m considering a scene where I’ve done this very thing…

I’m sitting in the grassy shade beneath a tree at the local park with my young “school age” children. They’re up on the monkey bars, swinging from the feet and hands, doing the crazy things young boys do. Another mom is in the park doing the same thing. It’s noon on a Tuesday during the public-school year, so I assume she’s probably like me, a homeschooler.

I approach and ask if she’d like company. She’d love it, she says. Being at home with kids all day, it’s nice to talk with another adult, especially another homeschooler. We can skip the usually why, how, and what about socialization questions.

We sit in the shade, sipping our iced tea, sharing stories about the kids. Her stories are filled with getting the kids to events, meeting with teachers, and testing. She has a been having trouble getting the kids to sit and stay focused on their assignments. One isn’t going to pass a class. And the other is below grade level. She asks how I deal with these things and I’m at a loss for words. I have no problems like these.

In my mind, I’m beginning to grumble. “This is not homeschooling!” is my main concern. I feel like she’s used the wrong label. I’ve bought a product and begun to use it, yet the contents of the package are not what’s on the label. What am I supposed to do with this?!

We’re at an impasse, unable to honestly communicate.

She could say the same about me. I used the label “homeschooler” and describe an entirely different (and probably shocking) life with my children. We have no teachers, curriculum, or tests. There is no grade-level, no assignments to complete. We simply read books together and go places. We read, talk, listen, and experience the world around us. That is our “school.”

When you put labels on people, you assume what’s inside based on your preconceived definition, instead of discovering the specific person you are talking to. I can create a profile and put a slew of labels on myself, and when you read it, you’ll think you know the kind of person I am. But you’d be wrong.

Time and time again, I’ve found a label for something I do or feel, discover a group with that label, and jump in. “These are my people!” I think, only to find that the people inside that label aren’t at all like me. “I must be a freak. I belong to no group at all.”

We do the same to others every time we label them and put them in groups. “You’re not a real (insert label here), because you don’t do this like me!” Then we all isolate each other.

What if we stopped? What if there were no other labels than your name? And when we talked to each other, we simply listened to the other person describe their feelings and experiences, their reasoning and the way they live, and we accept it as valid and correct for them?

What if we had conversations with people without labeling them or ourselves? Instead of thinking, “That person is a (label) and I’m not (label), so I can use none of that information.” We can instead think, “This person has an interesting way of living or thinking, maybe some of it will work in my life.” We may actually get somewhere, adopt some new and exciting behaviors, and make new connections in ways we didn’t know possible.

Labeling is the same as name calling. It pushes everyone not exactly like you outside of your circle. It make everything “us vs them” and ends any productive discussion.

I posted about The Philosophy of Peace by John Somerville when I started reading it. Click that link to read the post! I also found a great article about the ideology of peace and war called “Peace, War, and Philosophy” at Encyclopedia.com It was a nice summary of some ideas and led me, once again, down a rabbit warren of new things to read.


“Four Reasons a Newsletter is Better Than a Social Media Feed”
Bypass the social media algorithms and sign up for my weekly newsletter. Each week will give you a rundown of my favorites posts, podcasts, and few funnies. Read what you want, when you want, without getting sucked into the endless scroll mode!

Relationship Problems: You Need the Right Tools to Repair Them

Do you solve your relationship problems with the wrong tools? I frequently do. It’s reactionary. I sense an issue and immediately reach toward the nearest tool. What can I do instead? Wait. Listen. And communicate. Sometimes things just need time.

Relationship problems quote on a desert background.

“The trouble that broke up the Gordon Winships seemed to me, at first, as minor a problem as frost on a window-pane. Another day, a touch of sun, and it would be gone.

The Breaking up of the Winships by James Thurber

Imagine getting up one cold and wet winter workday morning. You come downstairs into the kitchen for a hot cup of coffee first thing. Thank god for coffee pots with timers! Make some toast, drink your coffee, while you stare out the window. Man, it looks cold out there. You glance at the clock, ugg…I better get moving.

Showered, shaved, and “dressed for success,” you grab your car keys as you open the front door and take that first step into the frosty air, only to find the car windshield covered in a heavy frost.

“I can’t drive it like this! What can I do?!”

You grab a hammer from the side of the yard where you were working on the fence over the weekend, walk back to the car and smash the windshield in, gummy tempered glass shards cascade down inside the car, covering the dashboard and seats with a glittery mess. You wipe it off with a mittened hand, letting loose a satisfied sigh.

“That’s better. I can see through it now.”

Only you can’t. There’s a reason that cars have windshields. By the time you get to work, you’re windblown and covered in dirt and ice.

No one in their right mind would do that. We all know that we’d wait for the sun to warm it if we had time, use the windshield wipers to clear it away, or get out the ice scraper in those colder climates where I still can’t believe people actually live. There is a myriad of logical ways to clear the frost and still have the comfortable use of your vehicle.

And yet that’s how we try to solve our relationship problems every day.

An old co-worker that used to like and comment on all your social media posts. A friend that used to call you every week for coffee. A lover that always brought a gift when he came to visit. Your partner seems to not be as excited to see you when you come to bed. Instead of having the patience to wait for a mood or situation to pass, instead of looking into the why and solving the mystery, we break the windshield and attempt to keep driving.

Communication is what’s missing from our relationships.

We all feel and react as if we are operating completely alone in this world. Each of us walking around in our own bubble of reality, believing that the beings that move in and out of our lives are simple non-playing characters in our game. What if we didn’t?

What if, instead, we began to take a breath and wait at first? We could observe, journal our thoughts for a bit. Maybe we’d find it was us that had brought on the frost. Our bad mood or busy schedule has made it difficult for our relationship to go as it had in the past. That can change. Maybe the other person is going through something. We could ask, take the initiative to spend some quality time finding what’s going on.

“I’ve noticed,” you say. “Is there something wrong? Is there something I could do?” And then you listen and respond.

We need our windshields intact to use our vehicles well, to get where we are going. We need our relationships the same way. Sure, we can survive without them, but it’s much more comfortable and safer if we have those people in our lives. Let’s learn to communicate instead of just breaking the windshield.

This book was filled was some wonderful short stories and memoir pieces that sparked my creativity and inspired my thinking. Want to read more? Go back to my first post about it, “The Thurber Carnival” by James Thurber.

If you want to read more about him and his work, check out his website James Thurber.org.

Making Space for Ourselves to Better Control Our Emotions

Identifying what we’re feeling is the first step to taking better control of our emotions. If we know what we’re dealing with, it’s easier to find a solution. But what do we do when there are loved ones around us that want to help?

Book quote on desert rocks background.

“There is no worse experience than to have someone shout at you to look out for something you don’t see.”

The Admiral on the Wheel by James Thurber

I’m standing on the stage, coiling cable, minding my own business, when I hear a shout from behind me. “Look out!” I jump up and look around to find what it is I’m supposed to look out for.

I’m walking a hiking trail in the mountains, watching birds, thinking the deeper thoughts that the quiet walk allows to the surface when I hear from behind me, “Look out!” For what? I turn to look and am confronted with a mountain biker.

It happens everywhere, every day. You’re warned by another human to “look out” for something you don’t see. It’s not helpful. All it does is startle you into a “fight or flight” mode, at which point you must quickly look around you to assess the threat, and then decide an action. It takes too long. By the time you’ve turned around to see, the threat is on you and you have no time to react well.

What’s a better thing to shout in an emergency when you need someone to quickly act? A precise direction. “Duck!” “I’m on your left!” Or “Don’t move!” That requires the person giving the warning to be aware of the need and communicative enough to express it quickly and well.

The same principle works well when you are trying to better control your emotions.

When you are angry, jealous, or tired, it is better a better thing for the humans around you to hear what you need them to do, instead of “Look out!”

And that requires that you know what you want or need and be willing to speak it and the work through it. That’s rarely the case for me when I’m having those feelings. It’s something I’m working on, something I get frustrated about too. I’m 48 years old and only just starting to get a handle on dealing with my feelings in a more positive way. Why is that? Why am I so slow? Everyone moves at their own pace, I suppose.

But I have discovered a new trick lately, a way to let those in my inner circle know that I’m dealing with something I’m not sure how to explain and that I don’t yet know what I need them to do to help. I say, “I’m trying to remember that there is no spoon.”

Remember “The Matrix”? There’s a scene with the little boy bending spoons. He says the trick is to remember there is no spoon and then you can do whatever you want with it. In the movie, the reality they are experiencing is only in their heads. They are all in a simulation and the physical world isn’t what they are experiencing in their minds. What they see is just computer code fed to their minds. Once you can understand that you can change the code as you wish. It’s not easy, and few can do it well.

I’m not certain our physical reality is a simulation. I know there is talk of that on the interwebs, but that’s not what I came here to sing about. I’m here to talk about the draft.

No, sorry, an Arlo Guthrie song got into my head there.

I’m a firm believer in the human ability to use their minds in amazing ways. Like being in the matrix and manipulating the code, it isn’t easy. Emotional states are reactions to the code your mind has built through experience, culture, and the world around us.

They are real, yes. I am disappointed that I didn’t get to do the thing. I’m jealous of the attention you are giving someone else. I’m worried that this might happen. But because we created them, we can change them. We can think, “There is no spoon.” And reimagine.

When I tell people, “I’m trying to remember there is no spoon,” I’m saying that I’m feeling something I’m not sure is healthy or useful and I’m attempting to reassess. I’m in need of patience while I try to make adjustments to my thinking. Is this feeling useful to me? Does it get me where I want to go? Can I change how I look at things and adjust? How can those that love me help me get where I want to go, emotionally?

They give me a little extra love, a pet (because my most prominent love-language is touch) and let me figure it out. Then we go for a walk and talk it out. It’s working so far. Mostly. It is still a new skill and I know it will take time to master. I’ve made little reminders to help me not yell, “Look out!”

There will be many days in the future when I will think to myself, “But I like the spoon. It’s so much easier just to accept what I see and not attempt to change the code underneath.” But then I remember those emotions don’t get me where I want to be, and I put my shoulder to the harder work again. This time though, I have the support of those that love me because I’m able to warn them in useful ways that I’m doing the work.

This book was filled was some wonderful short stories and memoir pieces that sparked my creativity and inspired my thinking. Want to read more? Go back to my first post about it, “The Thurber Carnival” by James Thurber.

If you want to read more about him and his work, check out his website James Thurber.org.

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