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

Tag: friends

A Walking Meditation with a Friend Invites Our Minds to Slow Down

The clouds of a storm being pushed through the pass and spreading out over the desert. Like the walking meditation, the wide open space slows the storm down.
A storm being pushed through the pass and spreading out over the desert.

When you think of a walking meditation, you probably think of being alone with your thoughts, quiet contemplation, and frequent stops to just take a deep breath. Mine are something quite different.

I’m a noticer. Go for a walk with me anywhere and you’ll see it. Even in my own neighborhood, I walk along excitedly pointing out plants, animals, clouds, and…ideas. When I have things on my mind, which is always, walking helps me sort it out.

I don’t like to walk alone.

It’s the talking that I need, getting out of the metal loop. I need that the other human that will listen and bounce things back at me.

Yesterday I walked with a friend. We took “the longer route” around the neighborhood. I had things to sort out, conflict that need to be looked at and resolved.

We headed north down the dirt road. I pointed out the place where it floods every time it rains a lot, the kind of mud that you can’t drive through because the tires slip every which way in it when you attempt to climb the driveway. And it reminded me of the track my sons raced at that had that terrible river silt mud that would slip out from under your feet or get so deep it would suck your shoes off.

We met the dogs at the end of the road and I predicted their behavior. The one leaping and barking like she’ll eat you. Rottweilers seem so vicious behind a fence, like Cerberus guarding the gates of hell, until you’re invited inside, and they commence to loving you. The older Australian Shepard runs the length of the fence, chases her tail, runs back, chases again, barking the whole time. The two will get into skirmishes about who is doing a better job and chasing off the intruders, while two goats stand watching and wondering what all the excitement is about.

Making another turn, we find the abandoned razor scooter that has been laying there for several years. I still wonder how it got there. It’s a dirt road full of sandy ruts, not the place some kid would be riding it, accidently leaving it behind.

Dogs bark behind every fence we pass, rural alarm dogs. They warn us that someone is approaching the house, but it’s usually coyotes they are barking at. After a while, every owner knows the different barks. The visitor at the door, delivery truck, large bird, invading dog, coyote, all their barks are distinct. They’ve been doing that job long before surveillance cameras.

We keep walking and talking.

When one part of my brain is busy keeping my feet going in one direction, noticing and identifying all the mundane things around me, another part of me begins to relax and open up. Then I start to talk, ask questions, and listen to answers. My emotions take a slower, more regulated pace so that I can identify them and sort them out, then I can begin to respond instead of react to the things I’m feeling.

It’s a long walking meditation where the good stuff starts to happen.

The same part of me that makes me jump from the car screaming “Real prairie dogs!” is the same part that makes me scream, “You’re not the boss of me!” and “This is the worst day ever!”

Most people don’t tell you to tone your joyous reactions down. Some do, trust me. I’ve heard them. “You’re making us look bad, Michelle. Can’t you settle down?” “Try not to be too enthusiastic. It’s hard to keep up.” They are few and far between, but I know they are still out there. I see them at the grocery store when my sons and I are getting loud about the cost of an item or that there are no Vege Tables (more like Vege Stacks, my son says).

Almost anyone will tell you tone down your anger, frustration, or sadness.

They don’t want to see that part of you. And why is that? Why do we label one emotion as good and the other as bad? Why can’t I say, “I’m sad today and the whole world sucks ass!” without someone saying, “Don’t act like that!”?

I feel like I’ve spent my whole life being told that some emotions are negative and should be avoided. The result of that has been me not knowing what to do with those emotions. Like a small child with no place for the big emotions to go, I end up having a tantrum, yelling, and looking for ways to hurt others the same way I’m hurting.

“I need attention! Help me with this feeling!” I feel myself yelling in my head. What I get in return is a time-out. I’m left alone to deal with those feelings, and nothing gets resolved. I only hurt in quiet or lash out in anger for being a human being.

I don’t blame the people around me for doing it. We don’t know any other way. This is the way we raise our children, and this is the adult behavior we get from it. You end up being good at being alone with your “bad” feelings, avoid them, or start using coping mechanisms to deal with it. None of them are healthy.

Raising my own children through Peaceful Parenting methods (and I can hear people that know me laughing at ME using the word “peaceful”) helped me notice where I lacked in relating to other people. Finding Radical Unschooling, helped me learn new ways of learning. Both approaches to raising children have changed how I develop my adult relationships.

Michelle, you’re doing it again. What does this have to do with going for a walk with a friend?

Everything! Walking with my family is the way we made time and space for the big emotions that lead to the deep conversations and connections. The longer and easier the walk the better. Now that my children are grown and on their own, I’m more focused on my adult relationships and that’s where the walking meditation comes in.

I’ve been doing it for years, but this past weekend is when I noticed the connection. We had a lot on our minds to talk about but never found the time. We’re always doing something or going somewhere. I instinctively asked for a long walk and while we were walking, it dawned on me what was happening and now I can use the process deliberately.

When I ask a friend to go hiking with me, I’m asking them to make time and space for connection. I’m saying, “Let’s talk. I know we all have things we need to get off our minds.” It’s better than a cup of coffee or a few beers. It’s focused “us” time with a bonus of exercise!

Hot Tip: If there’s some reason you can’t walk; weather, health, etc., try a driving tour. It works the same way.

Why Do I Get Up In The Morning? – Episode Eight

There are days when I wish I had more friends to invite to a party. Wouldn’t it be nice, I think to myself as I sip a glass of whiskey, if this porch and house were filled with people? Maybe.

Then I look around me. There aren’t many of us here every week, but the feelings fill the room. A couple of us are here every weekend, some come occasionally, some stay for an hour, and some stay well into the night.

We are fortunate to live in a place where an “outdoor livingroom” can be a thing, and we’ve used it to our advantage. Just about every week we cook, we drink, laugh, and talk out there. We share stories, listen to music, shoot pool and keep a tally of winners and losers. “You marked that one down, right?!” is often heard yelled across the patio as the winner goes to pull another home brew from the keg and the loser reaches for the rack to set up the next game.

There is only one rule on Friday nights, “No bullshit.” This is the place we leave the outside world’s shit behind. We may talk politics, but we do not fight about it. You may bring your kids, but we don’t share opinions about parenting choices…unless we are asked for them. Fighting with your spouse or girlfriend? Leave it outside. There have been a few flare-ups. Even good friends disagree, but it passes quickly because we are all the type that forgive and forget offenses.

This is the time and place to celebrate simply being alive. Come if you want, or don’t. Bring a friend, or not. Bring food, or not. We’re all here to relax and enjoy each other’s company for a few hours.

The night starts with food, proceeds through games and beer, and then people start trickling out the door. It usually ends with the last of us laying on the couch snoring. It’s a wild bunch.

Would it be more fun to have a larger group of people? Possibly, for a time. But this small group of neighbors is irreplaceable. I can’t imagine the week without them.

It’s Friday My…Friends!

Inspired by an old podcast interview by Tim Ferriss yesterday and an amazing blog I found this morning called Sagittarius Viking, I’ve decided to add a new page to my website called, “It’s Friday my…Friends!”

Every Friday I plan, I say “plan” here because what actually happens is usually far from what I planned much like most of my life, I PLAN on creating a candid, what’s going on around here post. It’ll be short and sweet. A “Things I’m thinking about, doing, noticed, or reading” kind of post.

How should I do this? I could just ramble on every Friday, but I don’t want to bore you! How about a set list of things?

Picture of the week, Complaint/Venting, Something I Learned, Something I Listened To, and Something I’m Reading, Quote (Sometimes),

Picture of the week! 20190524_0542535479430215762652509.jpg

Abe, my sweet prince, loves to sit next to me while I read in the morning. I guess I got up for too many cups of coffee today because he looked a little annoyed…and it was adorable!

Complaint! I feel like I got nothing done this week! I took my older son the airport, which took all day. The next day I was exhausted. Then I had a lunch date with a friend…an hour and half away. It was worth it though. Something I constantly struggle with is keeping focused and on track. I’m easily distracted, and I tend to feel like I have twenty kites up in the air and they’re all about to fly away with me!

Something I Learned! Much to my most painful surprise, I learned that I may be happily married to the love of my life, but I’ll still make a fool out of myself in front of attractive men.

Something I Listened To! I love podcasts! I listen to them while driving or while I’m doing the dishes. Sometimes I listen and play video games. This week it was Tim Ferriss’ interview with Derek Severs  from a few years ago. It may be an old interview, but it was perfect timing for me!

Something I’m Reading! I have two books open at the moment. “Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community” by Robert Putnam. Sounds depressing, especially since it was written twenty years ago, but it’s not. It’s slow reading for me, about twenty pages a day, but I’m really getting a lot out of it. I’ve got loads of notes and I’m doing my best to look up newer statistics and wondering if he, or someone else, has written a follow-up.

“The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt. When I got this, I had no idea what it would be about. I’m nearly halfway through and I’m still wondering. I’m loving every page though and just dying to know where she’s going to go with all this!

Quote! I’m need to keep better track of the quotes I find awesome, but here’s the one I want to share today. It’s from that interview with Derek Severs

“I think I would make a billboard that would say, It Won’t Make You Happy, and I would place it outside any big shopping mall, or car dealer. So, ideally –you know what would be a fun project, actually, would be to buy and train thousands of parrots to say, it won’t make you happy!”

Nothing makes you happy. Happy is the side effect feeling you get when you’re doing things in the right frame of mind…like right now as I’m writing this, after fighting sitting down and writing all morning long. I finally showed up and then the happiness overflowed.

Chaos Wins

Remember “The Butterfly Effect” movie? Chaos theory has always been fascinating to me. You just never know what kind of an effect anything you say or do will have on anyone else around you. I try to keep that in mind and do my best to keep a positive attitude and to use kindness to everyone around me, even in the smallest interactions. It doesn’t always happen, but I think I do better when I stay aware of my thinking.

One of those moments, one that changes your thinking in some small way, happened to me last week. I didn’t know it was happening at the time, but once I took a moment to meditate on the meeting, it hit me like a ton of bricks.

I was out for coffee with a new friend and we were talking about people, the town we live in, politics, the kinds of things you talk about over coffee. Coffee meetings need to happen more often folks, seriously. We could be doing wonders in this world!

He was talking about hiring new employees and had come across a young adult woman recently that said “No, don’t call me. I have social anxiety. I’d rather just text.” This is something I have said myself and was thinking, “That’s a girl who knows herself.” That’s when I was sent in another direction.

He said, “Can you believe that? That’s what we’re calling immaturity now, social anxiety. Grow up. People have to talk on the phone and in person to get work done. Yes, you may not like it and it may make you uncomfortable, but you have to grow as a person not just sit in your first instincts like an animal.”

I smiled and nodded, politely mentioning that I’ve struggled with similar issues myself, but we moved on to a new topic quickly, so I didn’t get into it much. To be honest, I was a little put off by his attitude.

We finished our coffee and conversation over the next hour or so. It was a glorious morning. Talking with new people, especially ones I feel I can be open and honest with and that want to hash out life’s intricacies really lights my fire.

On the way home, I kept thinking about what he had said about social anxiety. I’ve struggled with it all my life and about ten years ago realized that it was common and that there were millions of people that felt the same way. We want to interact with people. We aren’t introverts, happy to be alone, but for some reason we’re fearful of people. I’m not sure whether my feelings were caused by some traumatic event or if it’s just my natural inclination, but I’ve pretty much always felt it. Talking on the phone, specifically, has always been a problem for me.

My mother tried her best to help me over my natural “shyness” to no avail. I’ve had friends that have coached me on how they deal with the anxiety, the fear really, of dealing with new people over the phone and in person. But once I found out that there was a diagnosis for it, that other people “suffer” from it, I pretty much stopped trying to learn new ways to cope and get stronger and started using it as an excuse not to do things I didn’t like doing. Besides, the invention of texting and email made it very easy to avoid.

What kind of a life is that? It’s not like I’m happier alone. I crave contact with other humans. I love having lots of friends to talk to on the phone, through text, or in person, but for the last ten years or so I got it in my head that I was not capable of overcoming my shyness. I took refuge in raising my sons and being near my husband and left it at that. I had social anxiety. I had an excuse. What could I do?

There are lots of things shy people work to get over; speaking in front of groups, going to parties, not looking like a stammering idiot at interviews. It’s good for us to try and push our boundaries and do things we aren’t naturally comfortable doing. So why would I give up on something as simple as being brave enough to make a phone call?

So, this past week, I’ve worked on that. I’ve called people I don’t usually call. I’ve answered the phone instead of letting it go to voicemail. Once, when a local friend texted me, I offered to meet at McDonald’s and talk over a big iced tea. We had a great time and we’ll probably do it again soon!

Now, what I want to know is, how do I keep a hold of this “empowered” feeling? If I can overcome one fear, I bet there are others I can face up to as well!

Connections

 

When was the last time any of us met up with a bunch of friends for no other reason than to hang out?

In our teens and twenties we did it all the time, but when we marry and have kids our focus changes. Our social lives begin to revolve around the kids. Birthday parties, school and sports events, along with our work holiday parties, seem to be the only place we see people in person.

But what happens once the kids are grown? Where did all our friends go? I think social media is giving us a false sense of connection. We think we already know what’s going on in our friends lives because we see it on our phones every day, but that’s not reality. It’s nice because we can always reach out to old friends and new. We can reconnect passively when we find the time. My favorite thing about it is knowing that everyone from my past has gotten older too! But it’s not the same as sharing a beer and talking things out. It is more effort to go out or to host, but it’s so worth the cost.

This past year I’ve made the conscious decision to be the place where friends can connect in person. I started with hosting “Norwegian Independence Day,” a couple pool nights, and then my birthday. Everyone is invited and they come if they can, when they feel led to. It’s one of those “If you build it, they will come,” kind of things. It feels wonderful! Especially when people that I don’t usually get to see or haven’t seen in a long time make the trek out.

The weather is starting to warm up again, so last night we hosted another get-together. Half the people that said they would come ended up missing out for one reason or another. We all have our issues, right? But the ones that did come? We had a blast and I can’t wait to do it again.

There’s just something special about sitting around with a bunch of people, gathered together for no other reason than to visit. We drank, talked, argued, laughed, shot pool, played darts. Every time I do it, I’m reminded why I do. Everyone seems to love it so much and need it as much as I do.

I feel human again, a tired one, but definitely human. It’s magical.

Fast Friends

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“Max glanced at him for a moment. They had found each other – this was the moment. Did they both realize it? With those few words a bridge had been built. Max knew he had been seen through by Onno as never before, just as Onno felt understood by Max, because his aggressive irony had not met with resistance, as it invariably did, but with a laugh that had something invulnerable about it. They had recognized each other. A little embarrassed by the situation, they were silent for a few minutes.”

Ever meet a new friend like this? I hope you have. It’s like falling in love and lasts forever. Till death do you part! The friendship between these two men and what happened to them is what I liked most about this book and I’m not sure it’s what the book was really about. Or was it?

Down The Rabbit Hole

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“The hardest advice to listen to is your own.

No one to blame when it all turns to shit, right?!

But then it’s worked before. And usually gets the best results because I know my own heart, strength, and situation, best.

But…being responsible for my own actions just sucks sometimes.

How do you guys like listening to me talk to myself?”

My morning Facebook post, one line at a time. The first line was the post. Each following line was a comment as I thought of them over the course of an hour. I typically don’t post things like this. They are cryptic. People don’t know the situation I’m talking about and usually think I’m talking about them…which reminds me of song…

I try to limit my personal posts to what’s happening at our house and what I find interesting. You know, posts about what the kids are going (which are fewer and fewer since they are becoming grown and on their own), awesome things I find in the yard or around town, and cool articles and podcasts. Things people would be interested in. Things that might bring my friends to know me better, as if we are interacting in person instead of online. But then I thought, why wouldn’t my friends be interested in what I’m thinking? And I’ve been thinking a lot lately! So here it is. Use it if you like.

I won’t go into the details of who and what. I’ll just say that he hurt me with his words, but I know he lashed out because he’s hurting too. I had a part in why he’s lashing out. Much like when one of my kids has been pushed to the limit and lashes out in anger, I want to help. He’s a friend, a fellow traveler. But I also know that people need their space when they are hurting. They also need to know someone loves them and is waiting to love them more, but they need to be alone in their feelings until they reach out for help.

He said his piece, probably in frustration and anger. I tried to express my feelings of interest and friendship better. And now I have to leave it at that.

If you love someone, set them free. Right? But, to tell you the truth, I’m not very good at that. I loath so much to be misunderstood or to be on someone’s shit list that I push to have my heart known and sometimes that comes off as desparate or fake.

I do love every one of my online friends. It’s why I have them there. And I’ll always be there for any friend that reaches out, regardless of how many years it’s been or what has happened between us.

Anyone Out There?

I’ve been feeling a bit disconnected lately. Ok, maybe just today. I had a great weekend but some pieces of it fell short of what I had hoped. Some pieces exceeded my expectations! Honestly, I just want to connect with real people lately over real things.

Is anyone really out there? I mean, really? It seems that we’re all talking to the walls. I’m having a mental breakdown on the internet lately. I’ve always been firmly in the camp of ‘the internet brings people together,’ but lately…sheesh…people!

The internet does connect people. Most of the people I know right now I met online through first Yahoo groups and then Facebook. I’ve used it as a beacon to find like minded or at least like scheduled people to get together with.

My first use of the internet to meet people was joining Yahoo groups to find other local mom’s and meet up for park days. “Playgroups” were awesome back then. It made going to the park so much more fun because you knew there would be other mom’s to talk to and the kids would have friends to play with. We met every week, rain or shine. We’d move it indoors if it were too cold or wet outside. And eventually we moved it to each other’s homes. We all bonded over the kids and their crazy antics. I still know those people thanks to Facebook.

Yahoo groups also introduced me to my first homeschool park day. I met those families every week, too. We’d meet at the same park at the same time, kids in tow, with picnic lunches and lawn chairs. We had the most fun there. Again, I still know some of those families. I’ve recently learned that homeschoolers don’t really do this anymore and it just breaks my heart.

My sons have made friends of their own on social media. And, yes, they are real people with real lives and some of them we have met in person now.

It’s been overall a pretty positive experience. But lately…

It’s as if people are only there to argue. Most people don’t really read a post. Several times now I’ve asked for specific answers to questions from a personal point of view and all I get is someone “googling it for me” or telling me why I should do something else. If I post that I’m looking for a friend, lovers raise their hands. If I say, “Does anyone read books?” I get “Movies are better!”

You know what I’d like right now? I’d regular park day to hang out at, a weekly thing that we all bring lunch to and sit and talk to each other. I’d like a monthly book club where everyone reads something and shares it over coffee and we all freely associate what we’re reading with what everyone else is reading, or just spend time laughing about not having time to finish any book. I’d like to have people over every Saturday afternoon for a potluck.

Host those things! That’s what you’re thinking. I have. I have done most of them fairly regularly over the years, but people don’t come anymore. They all say they will. They all say they’d love to. But when the day comes they flake out and I’m stuck sitting there alone, more depressed than before I started. I just don’t have the emotional fortitude to sit at a booth at IHOP waiting for all those people that said they’d be there, only to get a message an hour later that they aren’t going to make it after all. It’s just a lot of effort and I’m tired.

I’m not sure what to do about it. I’m not sure if there is anything to do about it.

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