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

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Human Behavior, War, and More: Podcast Roundup

It’s been awhile since I did a Podcast Roundup so let’s dive in. It’s Friday so I’ll make life easy for both us with one-line (maybe two if need be) takeaways from each episode.

Practicing Human – No Wrong Emotions

Making space and being honest and accepting of my own feelings doesn’t mean I need to express them or make other accept them.

Secular Buddhism – When Things Fall Apart

The dishes always going to get dirty, then you wash them, put them away, and use them again. It’s the cycle of life to fall apart and come back together again.

EconTalk – Luca Dellanna on Compulsion, Self-deception, and the Brain

Your mind is an has emotional driver and your navigator (logic) makes up reasons for those emotions.

              Book: The Control Heuristic: The Nature of Human Behavior by Luca Dellana

Practicing Human – You’re Responsible for Your Happiness

Self-work is for everyone around you. It helps you slip into the water without making a huge mess of everything.

Cato Daily Podcast – Deregulate Low-Income Entrepreneurs to Address American Poverty

I took no notes on this one and I don’t remember any of it. I think I was in my head.

People I (Mostly) Admire – Does Death Have to be a Death Sentence?

When we turn our attention to the hard things in life, you’ll find a lot of beauty.

Book: A Beginner’s Guide to the End: Practical Advice for Living Life and Facing Death by BJ Miller, MD and Shoshana Berger

Quillette Podcast – Shmuel Bar on the War in Ukraine, and the Failure of Western Deterrence

When we look at other world leaders and their actions and think “That’s crazy!” or “That’s evil!” we’re not seeing their decisions and actions from their point of view, from the culture, background, and store of information.

Practicing Human – Self-Sabotage

If you think you know what you want but when you move toward it something always gets in the way, there may be something you aren’t willing or able to feel/experience yet.


human behavior

How’s that for a round-up?! I’m off to get this place ready for our Friday Night Happy Hour. I’ll be playing some mean pool and maybe…with a little luck…I’ll win a game, maybe even two.

PS I really need to learn to take a day off after a run into the city. I have so much going on in my head that I would love to quietly process. I took notes, and have stored the ideas away for later. Maybe tomorrow I’ll take the day to stare out the window and reflect.

Allowing Things to Get Uncomfortable

This is going to be an uncomfortable post, because it’s about me learning to be ok with being uncomfortable for a bit. It’s starts as a gross personal story, so if you’re extremely squeamish, I’d skip to the next post, or maybe just the next few paragraphs.

uncomfortable
Photo by Spencer Backman on Unsplash
I picked this because it’s exactly the look I have when people are making me uncomfortable.

Years ago, I found myself with an extremely painful lump in my arm pit. I’m susceptible to ingrown hairs and I usually can get them cleared up on my own, but no matter what I did, this one just got worse. I will do anything to stay away from a doctor’s office, so you know it was bad because after a week of suffering, I went to Urgent Care in town to see what they could do for me.

The doctor there was so nice. He gently checked it out and confirmed that’s what it was. He said he’d drain it (it’ll hurt a little) and give me an antibiotic to clear it up. No problem. I took a deep breath and prepared myself for some pain that would subside momentarily, but ultimately be the cure.

Once he went to work on it, he realized it wasn’t an ingrown hair, it was a small cyst near the surface of my skin. “This is going to hurt more than I thought, but since we’re already here we should just remove it.” He was already working on it, no time for pain relievers.

I closed my eyes and leaned into it, focusing on my breath, allowing him to work as quickly as he could.

It hurt, you guys. Badly.  My high pain tolerance is source of pride for me, so when he congratulated me on being so tough, I was beaming. The assisting nurse was also impressed. I laughed (through involuntary tears), “Meditation does work!”

Bandaged up and sent home with antibiotics, the infection cleared, and I’ve never had another problem.

Why am I telling you this god-awful story?

Because this morning, while I was reading The Anxious Hearts Guide, I came to the part on “Becoming Secure” and “Sitting with Discomfort” and the experience popped into my head when I read “…those panic feelings are real, yes, but they are feelings” and “lean into and accept discomfort.”

Some feelings are unacceptable to me. When I feel them, I panic and react instantly, but rarely does this reaction help my situation. Surprise! What can I do? I think this is finally starting to sink in and be useful to me.

When I started to feel pain while the doctor addressed my wound, I could have reacted, pulled away, or punched him in the nose. Why didn’t I? Because I knew that the pain would probably be short, I trusted the doctor was not trying to harm me, and I knew I would be better for it. I am not an animal, communication was used, and I can expect a brighter future, so I let it be. I accepted it and waited.

I realized, over this past weekend, that I can do the same thing with my emotions. When I feel uncomfortable feelings, instead of running from them in panic, I can remember those same things: emotions are short lived, trust that no one is trying to harm me, and know that I will probably be better for it if I take a moment to let the feeling work its way past. Let it be. Accept it.

Emotions are warnings that something is there. They aren’t fool proof. I’ve found them to be quite susceptible to imagination and fancy. They come and go like the weather.

This is the practice I’m focused on right now, allowing uncomfortable feelings to be there.

“Search Your Feelings…”

“When you feel hurt, avoid jumping to conclusions and lashing out in anger.”

13 Things Mentally Strong Women Don’t Do” by Amy Morin

Sounds so easy. Duh! Of course! But we don’t. That’s the thing about pain. When something hurts, our instinct is to lash out in an attempt to make that pain stop…immediately. And many times, all we do is push the pain to others, or extend the pain’s timeline.

I’m thinking of instances where I can build up this skill. A text not answered. A message received. A social media post that makes me cringe. These are some of the things that trigger my “anger.” But what’s the initial feeling behind the anger?

“Search your feelings, Luke.” Star Wars comes up a lot in my daily thinking. I think the Jedi were onto something.

Much of what I react in anger to comes from hurt or embarrassment. My ego has been bruised somehow. It wouldn’t be so bad if it was only me lashing out, but it seems that every human on this planet is hurting in varying degrees and we all react to pain by causing more, creating ripples that turn into waves of more pain.

What can I do? Take a step back and ask myself, “Why am I angry?” And then sit with it awhile. Maybe use that meditation technique, make some space for that feeling to move around in and see what it shows me.

When You’re Wrong

“We both know you only get mad when you know you’re wrong.”

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane

That’s not true!
Wait. Maybe?
Hold on a minute. (searches through recent arguments) Dammit.

The last argument I started was over closing windows. Yes, you read that right. My husband had the audacity to close the windows and I proceeded to lose my mind. I wasn’t wrong to want the windows open. I wasn’t wrong to be irritated by his response. I was wrong to jump on him about it and then continue a screaming rant about how he ALWAYS does things like this. That’s actually what I was losing my mind about, the fact that I jumped to conclusions and escalated a battle.

When I get really mad, I’m 99% mad at myself. I can’t seem to stop the spiral downward once it starts. I feel the feeling, think the thoughts…and then the words start pouring out before I can stop them. Then I feel like I have to fight to prove why I’m right, to justify my outburst.

In the past, this behavior has gotten way out of control. I wish someone could see inside my head what’s going on when I act like that. It’s like an alter ego has escaped from prison and taken over my mouth. The real me is inside screaming, “Stop! You’re hurting them!”

Recently, as in the last few years, meditation has helped. The idea of “making space” for feelings and watching them pass by helped me change from reacting to responding. A few weeks ago, I was able to walk away from something I knew would trigger me to react. I spent an hour alone, talked to my brother, wrote in a journal, and then came back to respond to the situation in a way that (hopefully) wouldn’t make everything worse.

This last argument didn’t last long, so that was an improvement. The work continues.

All of Life is One Long Story

It’s an old story. The fates spinning their yarn and cutting off pieces. We tell yarns by the fireside, fantastic stories about people and places. Life is one continuous story, with no beginning or end, only chapters.

Wool is an amazing thing. Thousands of tiny strands are woven into one long piece of yarn. Each fuzzy piece is brushed and lined up with others. As it’s twisted, each piece reaches out to the ones next to it and bonds to the next, and the next. It can go on forever if you kept feeding it.

Watching a video showing how wool yarn is made reminded me of this quote from Orson Wells, “If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.”

Humanity just keeps stretching out over time like one long piece of yarn. Each new human is added to the spindle and it touches the lives next to it and the next, going on into the future. Only in fiction or history books does a story start and end. We create it in our minds. This is the story of X and it starts here with this and ends here with that. It’s up to us whether or not the story has a happy ending.

Reality, or at least the reality that we perceive, doesn’t work that way. Life is one long story, never-starting and never-ending, a chicken or the egg thing. With every event that happens in this world we can ask, “What happened before that?” and “What happened after that?”

I used to believe my Grandmother’s story had a tragic ending until I zoomed out to see the bigger picture and found that her story never really ended at all.

My Grandma was the center of our family, the key to all our gatherings until suddenly she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Her health faded quickly and within a few months, she was gone. She was 70 years old. I don’t think any of had ever even begun to think she could be leaving us any time soon. It was a big shock to our whole family. A shock that, 15 years later, we’re all still recovering from in some way.

Did her story have a tragic end? Only if you end it there, but you’d be creating that ending, manufacturing it in your mind. In reality, her story is still being told. It’s being told in how her family reacted to her death and how her children and grandchildren adjusted without her physical presence. It’s still being told in family photos, holidays where we talk about her, and how we all, including her great-grandchildren, still feel the effects of her presence in our lives.

And if you zoom out, she is simply another small piece of wool in the yarn being spun, a thread in a tapestry that continues to be woven. We all are. We all die but no matter how far we zoom out, the picture never ends. No matter how far we zoom in, we keep seeing more of the details that make up our universe.

When things seem scary and overwhelming, I like to imagine zooming the lens out and make those things smaller, tiny details in an otherwise beautiful story. Suddenly, I’m not so worried.

My belief, my hope really, is that when we die, when we leave this physical world, we can zoom out even farther and see an even bigger, more glorious picture than we can imagine from this perspective. Life is one long story, each new human, each event, creates new color, texture, and depth.

In East of the Mountains by by David Guterson, I felt like he also had this closed story sense of himself, as if he wasn’t a part of the bigger picture.

Memory Lanes

Memory is an imperfect thing. Over the years, I’ve heard “that’s not how I remember it” so many times, I’ve lost count. When I was younger, I blamed it on everyone else’s lack of attention to detail. “Oh, yeah, sure you don’t remember it that way, because if you did, you’d know you were so wrong.” But then I started getting the same remark from people that had no stake in their version of events being right and I started to think maybe I was misremembering.

I’ve also gotten “remember the time” a few times over the years, only to wrack my memory trying to remember the time and not finding a clue. At first, I blamed that on them too. They are probably thinking of someone else. I never went there or did that. I never would. And then there were pictures and I still don’t remember being there. It’s like looking at photos that slipped in from an alternate universe. Or maybe it’s me that slipped into an alternate universe. And if I did, what happened to the me that was here first?

It seems that events and details fade in time. Details about my life, things that have happened, relationships that were so important to me at one time have started to fade into the background. There were things I swore I’d never forget every detail of, things I wrote scarce words about in my journals, that I can’t recall as clearly as I used to.

They say time heals all wounds. I’m starting to see how much it does, especially if we don’t have detailed reminders about the past. I wonder why humans are set up this way. Why do we have such imperfect memories? Is it because it’s not important to our survival? Maybe it is better to let those things fade away.

What about holding on to anger and pain from the past? Are we right to be angry about old hurts and insults, knowing that our memory is so unreliable? Is it helping us to stand the high ground on a memory that is most likely wrong and changing each passing year?

I’m starting to wonder if it’s not better to just live in the moment and experience the world and the people in it as it is presented. Yes, you’ve probably done something to hurt me or piss me off in the past, but if you haven’t done it lately, maybe I’ll let it go. It doesn’t mean I have to relate with people I believe have caused me harm, but I don’t have to hold a grudge and carry that anger and insult with me into the future.

We could be holding on to memories that aren’t exactly true. In fact, it’s very likely we don’t remember it as it really happened but as we experienced it. And everyone else is doing the same. It’s like we’re all walking around in worlds of our own making and not realizing that everyone else is living in a different one, their own alternate universe. Actual infinite universes, right in our own heads.

Down Days

“Witness your emotions without acting on them.”

Interesting.

This came up in my meditation app this morning and I wrote it down to remember it.

I’m not having the best of emotions today. I feel pretty damn crappy actually and for no reason at all, which makes me feel worse than if I had something to be unhappy about. I’m unhappy that I’m unhappy and that makes for a pretty shitty day.

Am I acting on them? I’m not sure. I’m not changing anything. I’m not calling to tell people how crappy I think they are. I’m not on social media making the snarky comments I want to make. I’m not canceling all my plans.

I am making myself busy though. I stopped around noon today and thought (as I mindlessly scrolled through social media feeds, one right after the other), “This is a nasty feeling, maybe I should do something about it.”

Or maybe I shouldn’t.

I can’t always be thrilled to be alive. There isn’t always a reason or a trigger for a bad mood. It just is and no amount of tortilla chips and Pepsi is going to make it better (but I did get some anyway, just in case).

I focused on getting busy. I got one corner of my livingroom cleaned up from Christmas. I’m attempting to declutter the whole house and I did mutter “someone just burn it all down and help me start over” as I sorted through the old and broken ornaments. The dishes are done. Dinner is in the crockpot.

Maybe I’ll go for a walk in a bit. Or get me a nice shot of tequila on ice!

I know one thing. Bad moods don’t last forever.

Learning to Understand and Accept Change

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Photo by Ramiro Martinez on Unsplash

There is something important that I’ve recently learned to understand and accept. Things change. And they don’t always change permanently. Analogies about the cycles of the moon have become cliché but maybe there’s something to it after all.

I never really noticed the changes in the moon until I moved to the rural desert. The living room of our desert home is mostly windows, which makes the moon-rise, and the sunrise for that matter, very visible. Through our mostly uncovered windows, it’s obvious that the sun and moon rise and set each day more and more to the north and south as the earth wobbles on its axis. It’s amazing to watch and makes one see very clearly why ancient people might worship this cycle. It’s very comforting.

While the sun takes its sweet time moving across the sky, the seasons change day by day, week by week, the moon gives us a whole different feeling. To me, the sun is the big picture, the whole life, but the moon is our daily struggle. She rushes across the night, coming up at different times of the day or night, in different shapes and sizes. Her cycles are quicker and more dramatic than the sun’s. One week she comes up at sunset full of herself. The next week she’s late and half-dressed. Sometimes she comes up a shell of her usual self, right in the middle of the day. Some days we can’t see her at all. And yet, no one stresses about it. No one thinks, “Oh shit! The moon! Something has upset her. We have to fix it!” We just wait, because we know she’ll be back if we leave her to her own devices.

And the moon? I don’t see her as caring much about what the sun is up to, or the earth, or us. She just does her thing and we love her for it.

What if we were more like that? What if we became more aware of our own cycles and simply accepted them? What if we understood other people will have different cycles that have nothing to do with us, and accepted them right where they are?

And why is it that we think that we must live in a straight line or a climbing staircase? These analogies cause us to believe that if we fall to the left or right of the line or reach the end of a set of stairs with no way to go up farther, we fail. We look at our relationships with the world around us as if they can only escalate or die, reach the next level or die off.

For me seems to be more of a cycle that comes around again and again, sometimes with the same person, sometimes with a different person, with any type of relationship. Whether we’re talking about a romantic relationship, a platonic friendship, a sexual relationship, or a parent, child, or sibling, etc., makes no difference. All relationships cycle through and around and back, spiraling up, down, or laterally. Even the relationship we have with ourselves.

My relationship with myself is complicated. There are days and weeks that I feel like she’s doing a fine job of all the things I expect of her. I’m proud of her accomplishments, her strength. She’s a good, responsible friend to have. And then, even though she has not changed one bit in reality, my feelings toward her change. She forgot something I wanted her to remember or took a day off from responsibility to play. I blame her for everything that has gone wrong with our life. In time, again though she’s not changed at all, I begin to fall in love with her. She’s sexy and confident and I want to be close to her, to spend time alone with her. Then it’s gone again, she’s just another woman in my way and I long to break free. Days later, there she is again impressing me with her strength and brilliance. And we’re coming around on the cycle again.

In every relationship we have, each time we go around this cycle we learn more about each other. With every successful ebb and flow of the tide of emotions, we learn to trust each other more. What constitutes “successful?” We don’t walk away from the relationship and we don’t throw hurtful words or actions at each other to make the other do or act the way we want them to only to make us feel better. Success is loving the other unconditionally, regardless of our feelings at the moment.

The more I come to understand that how I feel is not necessarily a reflection of anyone else’s behavior, but merely a season or phase of the moon, the stronger my relationships grow. Every time I learn again that the cycle will return, that every feeling is temporary, the stronger that cycle turns into a spiral ascending into the sky.

Pretty “out there” isn’t it? It’s the truth though. You won’t always be happy. You won’t always be sad. No one needs to be fixed. No one needs to be set straight. It all just is. Accept it. Be in it. And wait for the moon to cycle back again.

Wild For A Time

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Photo by Michael Anfang on Unsplash

Do you trust me?

Will you let me go feral for a time?
Will you take the reins and tame me again when I return?
Will you be the stable I can return to, hot and sweaty from my run in the wild?
Will you hold me tight, wash the dirt and sweat away, and bed me down?

Can I trust you?

A New Passion Has Emerged

Screenshot_20191001-074713_Instagram.jpg

https://writerswrite.co.za/mos

At the beginning of the month, I found a graphic of one or two-word writing prompts for each day in the month of October and thought, maybe this would help me warm up a bit. I’ve been having a hell of a time thinking of things to write when I try to write every single day. Maybe this would jar things loose?

Seventeen days into October…it’s totally working. Some days I have things I’d like to write about. There are things that I read in books that prompt my thinking and things I hear people talking about or post on social media that I feel compelled to comment on. Podcasts and quiet time to think also spark my commentary. But these prompts, they are something different. I look at the word first thing in the morning and most times nothing comes to mind right away, but then, sometime around the dishes or watering the yard, it hits me. It comes in like a scene from a movie in my head. Sometimes it sparks a memory that comes out on the written page as an embellished memoir. Other times it hits me right at the center of my imagination and the new scene just comes pouring out.

All month I’ve been wondering where it came from. What new skill have I just discovered I can tap into? But yesterday, as I was driving to meet a friend for coffee, it dawned on me. It’s not new at all. I’ve always been accused of making something bigger than it really was, of attributing words to children that never said them and romanticizing the truth. And my worries, my anxiety? Guess where they from? My imagination. I don’t worry about little things, or what might happen in a vague way. I create vivid scenes in my head from a horrific accident to the details of the funeral and having to deal with people feeling bad about my loss. I don’t think, “Oh I hope my son doesn’t get into trouble.” And wring my hands over it. I see the whole scene played out before me down to the last detail. I don’t wonder what my husband is thinking when he’s quiet. I build up whole storylines about what could be going on in his head and end up sobbing in bed over the fiction I created.

When I was younger, I used to act on the feelings I created in myself with those imaginary scenes. I’d change my plans to go on a road trip because I imagined that I had a premonition about a horrible car accident. I wouldn’t let my kids play at the park the afternoon I imagined what life would be like if they were kidnapped and murdered. I went into a two-day depression spiral because I imagined that the reason my husband was late home from work was that he’d met up with new friends that coerced him into a going to party and got too stoned and drunk to get home to me.

It wasn’t until I was late into my thirties before I had some control over letting my imagination run wild. Why it took so long, I may never understand, but I finally figured out how to separate my imagination from reality on a permanent basis…mostly. I still embellish the truth a bit from time to time. Stories are much better told with a flourish of language in my opinion.

And now, because I just happened across a writing prompt graphic on social media, I’ve discovered a new passion and expanded on it. When I write fiction, it’s me in those scenes. It can get a little stressful because I feel it and sense it all. I want to sit in my imagination and find ways to describe everything I see, feel, and smell. I want to think the horrible thoughts, taste the food, and touch the things I see. When I write the story, it isn’t what really happened, it’s what I imagine would if I were there. I feel like I’ve finally found a healthy way to explore those thoughts which used to terrify me. I’ve found a way to express those imagined feelings without losing my grip on reality. It’s incredibly exciting and I hope you like reading them.

I’m thoroughly enjoying diving into that well of imagination and using it for good instead of evil. Who knows where it will go? I’m still writing non-fiction. I feel like I have a lot to say, a lot to process and share. But now, I feel like I have a new outlet, a new direction for my passion for words.

And don’t worry. I’ll clearly mark my “stories” fiction at the top. I’d hate for someone to read a non-fiction post from me one day and be inspired only to find a fiction one the next and wonder what kind of insanity has been occurring at this house!

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