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

Tag: philosophy Page 1 of 13

Disneyanity: New Read

It’s been a while since I bought a book because I saw in advertised in a magazine, but when I saw Disneyanity: Of “Walt” and Religion by Douglas Brode in Reason magazine two months in a row, I had to have it.

Background: Just in case you don’t know this, I am an avid Disney fan. How do I explain this? Here is one photo from high school to shed just a little light.

This is my “backpack,” or what I called it back then, “my travelling locker.”

I had everything I needed in here. All my books, my binders, my pens, along with various high school sundries. I had a locker at school, yes, but using it would require forethought and planning. I was more of a fly by the seat of my pants kind of girl, so I kept everything with me, just in case.

Me. Backstage as always. The “magic” maker.

Just in case what?

Well, what if I were in math class and already done with the assignment? I could work on history instead. And what if I were in the theater, which was where I was most of my day, and I found some downtime between rehearsals? I could work on whatever needed to be done…if I didn’t have to run to my locker and find it.

Knowing me, I’d forget what I was looking for while walking to my locker anyway, wander off and get a coke and a cookie instead.

Writing this I just realized something. This squirrel brain is not being caused by old age.

Like I was saying, I was (and still am) a huge Disney fan. You might even say more of a devout worshipper than a fan. I’ve fallen away at times, especially recently, but I always come back around. Don’t even get me started on the effects of the pandemic on my pilgrimages.

When I started working there, I was seventeen years old. I felt like I was entering the holy of holies, “maybe I should take my shoes off” kind of awe in my whole being. When I was ceremoniously cast outside the gates (fired) at 20, I was a “lost toy,” one of the darkest moments of my life.

And again, when I returned at 26, and finally chose to be home with my kids at 30. And then today…

Well, let’s say I’m worshipping from afar, dreaming of the day I’ll be able to return to the source of the magic.

disneyanity

When I saw this book promising, “a cogent and thought-provoking meditation on Disney Magic as Religious Belief,” I swooned. Could that feeling I’ve had since I was kid be a real thing, not just something I created for myself? Could others feel this way? I had to know more.

I’m 67 pages into the book already and loving it. It’s not what I expected. I’m not sure how I’ll share pieces of it with you, but something will come up, I’m sure. As the religious say, the spirit (or the muse) will speak somehow, if I allow it room.

I’ll leave you with one quote for today, one that sums up my feelings about fantasy and storytelling.

“’Fantasy is hardly an escape from reality,’ philosopher Lloyd Alexander stated, rather a ‘way of understanding it.’ As Disney realized, most people find everyday reality so unbearable that they must seek what appears merely blithe escapism as an alternative. Then again, what’s wrong with that? ‘Why should a man be scorned,’ J.R.R. Tolkien asked, ‘if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out or go home? Or if he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison walls?’”

from Disneyanity by douglas brode

Does this sound familiar, dad? I’ve heard you say it a million times. “I don’t watch movies to see real life.”

In some ways, it is an escape. And there is nothing wrong with trying to move away from what is hurting you, to get some relief. In other ways, fantasy and story helps us explain our reality. It’s easier to hear the underlying problem and solutions offered if we’re talking about aliens instead of foreigners, talking trees instead of gods.

Disneyland was my escape in high school, my happy place where I wasn’t just another theater nerd, not another kid at school to be corralled and contained until I was old enough to be let loose on the world. I was a whole person there, especially once I started working there. Then I was “part of the magic” that millions came to see every year, one of the chosen.

So, yeah, I’m looking forward to reading this gem cover to cover. It feels like more of a collection of short essays about each film, so I may just pull out my favorite pieces, the ones that speak directly to issues that are dearest to me. I’ve found a few I completely disagree with already, so I’m sure you’ll read at least one where I disagree with Walt’s vision of the world.

…sigh…

It feels good to be back here. Thanks for reading with me!

Want read more posts about the book Disneyanity by Douglas Brode? Check out:
Storytelling in the Form of Movies

The Game of Life: New Read

Right off the bat, I’ll tell you that I’m a little disappointed with The Game of Life and How to Play It by Florence Scovel Shinn. “A little” doesn’t begin to describe my feelings, and of course I’m here to tell you why. I’ll start with the basics, how we got here and what I was thinking going into this book.

the game of life

This book was this month’s read for one of those book clubs I told you I joined recently, and I was excited to read it because I am a big fan of self-help books. Unpopular, I know. We’re all supposed to poo-poo them, but I love them, and I will not hide it. I especially love older ones, the tried and true that are still in print years later. They give me perspective, so many ideas and thoughts about how one can make their own lives a little better. What’s not to love?

When I saw the title, I thought it would be a fun read. I like the idea of looking at life as a game to play. My personal philosophy is similar, and I celebrate my birthday every year as a “level up” day, taking stock of the special skills I have accumulated and the companions I’ve chosen to help me along the way.

When I looked the book up online, I found that it was first published nearly 100 years ago and by a woman. That was intriguing. I wondered how her life must have been so different from mine and what kind of ideas she would have about the game.

The description had me excited to read as well. “First published in 1925, this book has inspired thousands of people around the world to find a sense of purpose and belonging. It asserts that life is not a battle but a game of giving and receiving, and that whatever we send out into the world will eventually be returned to us. This little book will help you discover how your mind and its imaging faculties play leading roles in the game of life.”

Yes, please!

But then I started to read it.

I did assume that the book would have a Christian point of view because of when and where it was written, but I didn’t realize that the whole basis of the book is to use Jesus as a magic wish machine. All you must do is think what you want, speak it to Jesus, and you will have it.

What?

I’m not going to unpack each chapter, but I will say that for me, this idea never really held water, even when I was feeling deeply religious. I’ve read the bible several times through, done many bible studies, and I never found the idea that God grants wishes. The best we could ever do was to pray to be aligned and accepting of God’s path for you. Peace comes from letting go of desires, accepting what is, much like the Buddha’s path of non-resistance.

After the first chapter, I felt like putting the book down and walking away, but then where would I be. You can’t judge a book by it’s cover, clearly, and neither can you judge it by the first chapter. It’s only 111 pages long, so it’s not wasting too much time. Besides, I may find pieces that fit into my life, change my thinking, or at least come to understand someone else’s point of view.

So, like Adler said to do in How to Read a Book, I kept reading to understand.

I did find a few gems to hold on to. Things like, “Man has an ever a silent listener at his side – the subconscious mind.”

That’s very true. And how we speak to ourselves in our minds is how we perceive the world around us. Better to keep up the positive talk instead of shooting ourselves down before we even get started. Like reading this book, I can’t sit here grumbling. I have to take deep breath and listen to learn.

“You can control any situation if you first control yourself.”

I’ve found this not to be very helpful. I can’t control any situation, but I can control how I react to it and that makes all the difference.

I learned that the word “acme” means perfection. Acme is always the company the coyote gets his tools and contraptions from to catch the roadrunner. Funny.

“Life is a mirror, and we find only ourselves reflected in our associates.”

This…yes. All my life I’ve been so irritated with the people around me. That driver, that food service person, the post office guy…what the hell, people? But these days I find myself thinking, “Well, maybe there’s something wrong.” “I could have made that same mistake.” And “Everyone has bad days.”

What’s different is how I’ve been learning to treat myself. I’ve been talking to myself in new ways, learning to forgive mistakes and not have to be perfect, to allow myself to feel loved just the way I am. It’s made all the difference.

And then there was, “The robbers of time are the past and the future.”

Oh, wow. We know that! Right? Sitting here lamenting our past mistakes. Nothing we can really do now but move forward and do better. And spending all night worrying about what tomorrow will bring. Wastes the time we could be getting a good night’s rest so that we’re at our best no matter what happens.

See? I did find some little tidbits even though I felt repulsed at first. That’s what happens when you listen to people you don’t agree with, even fundamentally. We find common ground and move forward on it instead of staying at a stand-still.

No, I don’t believe that Jesus will put money in your bank account if you believe hard enough. But we can relax and know that things generally do work out eventually. Less attachment to outcomes, more acceptance of what is, does make life nicer.

No, mothers can’t attract illness to their children with worry. But mothers can make themselves sick with worry and cause their children to be nervous and timid because their protector seems so helpless.

There were more crazy things, like “death can be overcome by stamping the unconscious mind with the conviction of eternal youth and eternal life.”

And more great ideas, like “Real love is selfless and free from fear. It pours itself out upon the object of its affection, without demanding any return.”

Now my question is, what will the book club think about this book? Will they be in love with it? Are they going to be a group full of that kind of Christian? That’s me, worrying about the future, wasting time. Does it matter? Nope. I’ll go and enjoy whatever experience is presented to me because that’s what the game of life is all about.

From Strength to Strength: New Read

Just before my glorious weekend out of town, I started reading From Strength to Strength: Finding Success, Happiness and Deep Purpose in the Second Half of Life by Arthur C. Brooks. Why pick this one up? I can’t possibly even BE in the “second half of life” since I’m clearly far too young, but alas…I am…chokes…nearly fifty years old. And I am already starting my “retirement,” so I think I qualify.

And now I hear you asking, “Retiring from what, Michelle? You haven’t had a career or even a job in nearly twenty years!” I may not have worked outside my home, but I have been a housewife AND homeschooling mom and since my boys are finally (mostly) out of the nest, “Hello, Retirement!”

Let me tell you, it is a big shift. One I didn’t even realize was starting or would hit me this hard. Retirement is rough, especially if you’re a driven kind of person and you fully enjoy your career.

I found myself asking, “What’s next?! Is life over? Does retirement mean sitting here, reading a book until I die?” And then running around screaming and crying from time to time, much to the dismay of my poor husband who is NOT retired and works from home.

I’ve been doing some serious soul searching the last few years, and this book is only another chapter of that story, some research into another point of view. I decided to order it after I read one of Arthur C. Brooks other books, Love Your Enemies.

This morning I read this:

“The aspen tree, it turns out, is not a solitary majesty, as I learned by sheer coincidence later that day from a friend who knows more about trees than I do. He explained to me that each “individual” tree forms part of an enormous root system. In fact, the aspen is the largest living organism in the world; one stand of aspens in Utah called “Pando” spans 106 acres and weighs 6 million kilograms.

That “lone” aspen I was looking at was no such thing. It was simply one shoot up from a vast root system – one expression among many of the same plant.”

from strength to strength

I made a mark there in the book, a bracket around the paragraph and a small heart. I need to remember this picture, I thought.

Then I started thinking back to yesterday, when I met my sons for dinner out and spent over an hour talking about college classes, work, surfing, and philosophy, over some amazing tacos. We somehow got onto the idea of Buddhist enlightenment, when my eldest reminded me of the one drop in the ocean idea, where we discover we are everything and everything is us, a part of the whole and the whole at the same time. Once we realize it, we see ourselves in everything. My youngest chimes in with “Like a bubble popping. You float along, realize you are the whole and pop, you’re gone, dissipated and there but not there.” We stopped and thought about. Yeah. Nice.

This morning, on the way back from coffee with a local friend, I stopped at the post office to pick up a package. Waiting in line, I looked around me. The woman in front of me smiled and set down her package on the counter. We laughed together at the face the woman behind us made at having to lick an envelope. And it hit me: these are other aspen trees.

I smiled slightly, internalizing the moment of realizing that I AM connected to these seemingly disconnected people. My reaction to them changes them and theirs changes me.

We may look like we’re each a standing “lone” tree in this world, but we certainly are not. Like those aspens groves, beneath the ground our roots are all one system. Each of us has an affect on the other. When one falls, another grows taller. When one sways, the others sway with it.

Here’s what he says on the next page:

“The secret to bearing my decline – no, enjoying it – is to be more conscious of the roots linking me to others. If I am connected to others in love, my decrease will be more than offset by increases in others – which is to say, increases in other facets of my true self.”

My extended family, my friends, and those I connect with online and in person every day are what make life and death beautiful. Those connections, that love, lasts forever in the roots beneath the soil.

Relaxing And Philosophy: Sunday Repost

Sundays are for relaxing and philosophy, right? I’m not sure why but I’ve never been very good at relaxing, especially alone. I get nervous and talk to myself, and then we get into arguments. It’s usually a stalemate so I go looking for someone to tell myself that I’m wrong. It can get ugly.

Today I decided to use the whole day as if I were at a silent meditation retreat. My husband is busy in the garage working on a workbench for his brewhouse. He’s one of those “focused in the moment” guys. Once he’s onto something, he loves spending his whole being there, uninterrupted. What could be worse than worrying that your poor wife is alone in the house going crazy? Probably your poor wife going out there and insisting you come in and entertain her this instant! I don’t do that, not much anyway.

My gift to him and myself is to learn to be ok with being quiet and alone. It’s good for me. I am still loved and appreciated, even when everyone I love is busy doing something they love (that’s my new self-talk).

I’ve read, worked in the yard, started some laundry, and ate some lunch. And now here I am sharing an old post from October 2018. Hope you like it. It’s subject near and dear to my heart!

Those Stinkin’ Philosophers!

Philosophers have been generally despised throughout history. We don’t like those people that come in with their wild ideas, making us think about what we are doing and the reasons behind it. Just because one of those thinkers comes up with an interesting idea, doesn’t mean we have to adopt it, so why do we get so upset?

I think it just pisses us off to have to think about things that deeply. Think of it this way. You’re humming along, taking your kids to school, going to the grocery store, picking up the mail. Sometimes you may feel a little frustrated or disappointed with how things are going, but that’s just life, you think. If you just tweaked something a bit, if your kids would just straighten up and behave, if your spouse was a little more helpful, everything would run more smoothly, and you’d all be happy.

Along comes this philosopher guy and he questions what you are doing. She says, “Hey! What if you didn’t need to send your kids to school?” Another writes a post that asks you to reconsider getting married in the first place if all you are thinking is that you’ll have a controllable permanent partner if you do. And then there’s another that pipes up with, “Maybe we don’t have to pair off and only have sex with one person for the rest of our lives.”

Suddenly, you’re thinking about your life. You’re thinking that maybe there is something to what he’s saying, maybe you should reconsider how you do things…but that’s so freaking hard! So you tell him to jump off a cliff and continue on your way.

If you’re a thinking person at all (which most people are), you now have some little inkling of another way of life tickling the back of your brain and it bugs you. It sets the balance off on your day, like an unbalanced set of tires on your car. It bugs you and now you have to give it some of your precious time. I mean, really, we are all limited on time and energy. Why can’t things just run along smoothly?

That’s why most people don’t like philosophers. If you are saying anything important, life changing, or meaningful at all, it’s going to make most people irritable. That’s the nature of it.

For those who believe they are in control of things, it’s even more difficult to take into account what a philosopher might be saying. If what the philosopher says is true, or even if it isn’t, the person in control may be losing that control. That is really irksome to us. Think about it. There you are with all your ducks in a row, marching off to wherever ducks are supposed to go (regardless of how the ducks feel about it), and along comes some guy that scatters them. Now you’ve got tons more work to do and nothing is running smoothly like it should. Someone should stop that guy!

It’s not just the philosopher’s that get hated either. It’s those that consider their ideas and try to expound on them. Those that take new thinking and run with it, try to change their own lives to see if it works or maybe improve the lives of others. Those people…what a pain. There they are, living in ways you choose not to, being happy in their own way, making you think that maybe what you are doing may or may not be the best for you. Oh…the thinking, the consideration, the debate…it’s unbearable!


I loved stumbling upon this one this morning. It made me laugh and wonder what was bugging me that day. I bet you can guess. I think I had run into more than one someone that had opinions about how I live my life, so I decided to be snarky long form on my blog instead of telling where to get off.

I’m off to have another blessed cup of coffee and read more of The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. Oh wait! My copy of The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook by Neff and Germer came in the mail yesterday, so I’ll be spending time in that as well. The work continues.

Hopefully they will let me back into my spot!

I hope you’re having a beautiful Sunday wherever you are!

I Have Nothing To Say?

Me? With nothing to say? Yeah, I didn’t think so. Welcome to my train of thought!

I came online late this morning with every intention of posting that I wouldn’t be posting today, intentionally. It’s not that I forgot or ran out of time. I simply don’t have anything to say.

nothing to say

I’ve been reading, journaling, and thinking all morning. “In my head” as the saying goes. I have a lot to work on in there. I wish I had an excellent therapist that lived nearby, that I could call and say, “Do you have a couple hours to walk with me and hear me out? I need some feedback on this.”

Oh, and the money to pay for such professional “help.”

Yeah, I know. “Get a friend!” But friends need to be kept, relationships maintained. Some of the things I think, consider, and want to get off my chest, would make a “friend” run away. Too much of a chance laying that on a poor friend.

So here I am…not posting because I don’t have ANYTHING to say.

Yep. Welcome to my mind.

Once I opened my laptop and started typing the words, all the others started knocking on my door to come out and play.

Here’s the first. A quote from Andre Gide’s So Be it: or The Chips Are Down (1952)

“Believe those who are seeking the truth;
doubt those who find it;
doubt everything,
but don’t doubt yourself.”

I heard it quoted on the Secular Buddhism podcast yesterday and it rang so hard in my head, I scribbled it down to look up later, and then I DID! That’s how you know it resonated with me, I remembered it.

I don’t think we need to say much about it. Do we? I mean, it sounds like brilliant advice, advice I’ve been following all my life. Except the “don’t’ doubt yourself” part. I’m still trying to uninstall that software.

Here’s another. It’s from Wherever You Go There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn. I read it last month and posted about, extensively. I’m still re-reading it before my morning meditation, digging up the gems and storing them for future use.

“The next time you feel a sense of dissatisfaction, of something being missing or not quite right, turn inward just as an experiment.
…make a place for yourself…
Just sit. Reside at the center of the world. Let things be just the way they are.”

Sounds like torture. And it is. It’s kind of where I am this morning. My MO is to turn to something to “fix” that feeling, quick before it gets worse. It never works. I make it worse by reacting to a feeling that may or may not be indicative of reality. So, I’m trying it.

I’m sitting here. I’ve read, journaled, thought, read again, jotted down a note, taken a few breaths. I think it’s almost time to set it down and get on with my day. I have things to do. I’ll come back to these feelings later, now that I have them down on paper, and see if they mean anything. I’ll keep you posted!

Last one. This is from The Anxious Hearts Guide by Rikki Cloos, which I’m (unfortunately) reading my Kindle. I really have to stop falling for that. I want the book NOW and see it’s on Kindle, when I know I’m not the best at reading on my phone. I can’t make notes the way I want. I need to see and feel paper, all spread out in front of me!

“A deep-seated feeling that you’re not worthy of love is the culprit here. Insecure attachers tend to have the unfortunate trait of holding a deep, unsettling belief that they are inherently unlovable.

Contrary to what your brain is telling you, you don’t have to be perfect to be loved. You are actually lovable right now, as is, without any improvement at all. But without the self-awareness, self-work, and efforts to curb your problematic and toxic relationship behaviors, we’re going to end up pushing away anyone who is trying to love us in spite of our flaws.”

Before you rush to comment that I am loved, and YOU do like me, the problem here isn’t between you and me. It’s between me and me. I’m not my biggest fan and I’m slowly starting to see that that really needs to change. I’m working on it. This blog is part of that.

I wish I had found books like these thirty years ago. Where would I be right now?

How’s that for having nothing to say?

My post about deliberately not posting today so that I can continue my train of thought has now concluded. Thanks for being here. Comments are (as always) highly appreciated.

A Humanity Test: One of Us

A “humanity” test? There’s something to think about. What makes something “human?” Is it empathy or something else?

In 2022, most of us have thought about androids, machines that look and act as humans, maybe not in our daily lives, but frequently. Some of our favorite characters are androids. Data, in Star Trek Next Generation, for instance. We’ve explored his humanity quite a bit. I know there are many others, but this one is the one I like best.

Could you kill Data? Could you say he’s not human, or even really alive, and end him? Turn him off? I couldn’t. I have a hard time killing off anything on purpose, though, even plants I don’t want in my yard. I’m an odd ball. I know that. Weeds are different though. They are in my way and causing problems, so out they go. No problem.

This book was written in 1968, and the idea of androids was fairly new. Machines, created to serve mankind (not for dinner, DAD!) in much the same way as our dishwasher or vehicle, become sentient. They want their own lives, apart from serving humans, and escape back to earth, where humans can’t survive due to radiation.

The whole story (so far, I’m only halfway through) is about that. My questions: Why are we hunting them? What did they do? Humans can’t live on earth long anyway, why not let them have it? How can you kill something that looks at you and says, “Please don’t!”

Oh, yes. If we’re protecting ourselves, we can justify it. We can’t have a “species” living out its life nearby. What if they decide to invade us, take our things, rule over us? Does this sound familiar?

“What if machines became sentient?” is a great question. But what if another animal on our planet could communicate in a way that led us to believe it was also sentient? And then, my rolls around to, “What if people in other countries, other races, on other continents…?”

Yeah, get it? Humanity rules over other species, and our own. It is our nature to make our way, stake a claim, and defend it. All animals do. We just do it in more creative and efficient ways. The only way to stop us from destroying each other is for humanity to recognize others as our own.

I can’t say much more about the story (don’t want to ruin it) but now I’m thinking…

What if we created a test to show us whether or not another being is “one of us?”

Go back to my first post about Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick for more.

Who Am I? Still Searching

It’s Sunday! And that means a “Blast from the Past” repost from my old blog! Are you excited? I am, I think. I scrolled through old posts this morning, pulling up lots of angry words about wildfires, politics, and rants about Facebook, wanting to use my time machine to give myself a big hug. There was so much fear behind those words. Then I pulled up a post with the title, “Who Am I?” from August 3, 2015.

About halfway through reading it, I was reminded of the Zen koan, “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” I had it written in my journal in bold letters just this past week, along with the words, “OH MY FREAKIN…I GET IT!” Deep stuff, you know? Full of insight, my journal is.

who am i

Something other than politics and social media angst was driving my stress train in 2015. My sons were 13 and 14 at the time, my homeschool “career” was quickly coming to a close, changes were coming, and I wasn’t sure where I’d go next. I didn’t know who I was going to be without the title “homeschool mom.”

Sidenote: I’m still working on that. It’s a big part of why I started this blog.

On with the post!

Did anyone else read that title and think it in Jean Valjean’s voice? Am I the only one?

Why am I here? Why do I post publicly instead of in a personal journal? Much of what I write on my blog is about what I’m thinking. It’s what I would talk about if I were sitting among a group of friends, but hopefully more thought out and prepared. I read a lot; books, articles, blogs, newspapers, the dreaded Facebook post. I have thoughts I would much rather process out loud but when I talk my thoughts tend to get scattered and forget the words I would most like to use. When I’m writing, I can go back and edit a thought or find a kinder way to say it. And sometimes I’m not as kind in my writing as I would be in real life. Sometimes I just want to get an angry or dissatisfied word out.

But why not just write all that in my journal, close it, and move on? Why post it here for the world to see? Connection.

Out here in the desert you are alone a lot. It’s not necessarily lonely. I have a group of friends and very dear family. But the group is small and to continue to move in social circles you need to reign in the talk of politics and religion. Also, few people in my social circles read as much as I do, and I don’t know any that read the same books. There isn’t much of an outlet for discussion. It can feel like I’m the only person out there trying to put thoughts together, trying to make sense of the world around me instead of just marching on.

I post it in the hopes that there is someone out there doing the same. My hope is that my posts aren’t just rants and raves. Someone might read it and want to chat about it, politely challenge my choice of words or point of view. I know that isn’t likely. In the current online climate, I’d expect more people at best to dismiss what I’ve written, at worst to pass it around and ridicule me personally, maybe start a protest about what kind of an awful person I am because of my post. But I will still take that chance.

This is my second blog. My first was more of an online journal of our family’s adventures in homeschooling. It was there to entertain and inform my long-distance family of what we were up to, maybe even convince them we weren’t isolated and watching TV all day. Hopefully, somewhere along the line we inspired another family to investigate homeschooling the way we did. It changed our lives for the better and I’d love to spread that around! I’m working on another blog that will do that as well but not as personally as we used to.

This blog is only a few months old. It won’t be about my family or lifestyle really, although that does come into it a bit. It’s more about my personal journey, a search for intelligent life so to speak. My hope is that through writing my ideas out and sharing them with others, I can expand my world beyond my own backyard and share that experience with my family.

So here I sit after a long hot day, re-reading and editing this post with what we might have for dinner rolling around the back of my mind. Should I wait a few hours, read it again, and then post it? Or should I just go for it and set it free?

I think I’ll let it set sail and see where it goes.

What is the sound of one hand clapping? Perpetual solitude. To me, the point of solitude is to recharge and connect with yourself so that you can come back and move in the world in magical new ways. These ways cannot be created alone. They need connection and collaboration to take off.

I’m having a hard time putting it into words. It’s too big. I’m going to have to ponder this longer. But it has to do with why I write here, instead of simply journal in a book. I set my thoughts free into the world and see where they go. The magic doesn’t work in secret, alone, locked up on a shelf in my mind.

Yeah, I’ll be driving today thinking about it.

Me And Myself Have Been Arguing A Lot Lately

Yeah…so this day got away from me, and it all started yesterday afternoon.

me and myself
Me. And. My. Shaaadoow.

(insert memory special effect here)

I’m not even sure what happened, what triggered me, or who was the culprit. All I know is that my negative mind went down the rabbit hole of doom pretty quickly and that’s when I started texting people what I really thought about them.

Actually…wait. I do know. I didn’t want to go to the grocery store, but I did. And then the people…man…and then that checker…ugg…and then on I drove home and…

Yeah. I was in a funk.

This morning, against my better judgement, I met a friend for breakfast in the city and then went to Target, and I’m glad I didn’t listen to my judgement because I came home in a much better frame of mind.

Distractions can be a blessing of a reset.

I put my things away, harassed my husband while he worked a moment, got myself a bowl of popcorn and a Coors light and settled into the couch to continue my morning routine where I left off. I read a bit, journaled, meditated, and then finished reading Will by Will Smith with Mark Manson. I’ll tell you all about that delicious book tomorrow.

Today I have two things to share.

First, I found an amazing new blog to read, Voices in My Head: A Blog About Everything and Nothing. Her post Sunny Side Up thrilled me. It was like a far more productive and successful me was out there writing great stuff and now I’m inspired to get my butt in gear…again. Hopefully this time it will stick? We’ll see. Check out her work. I’m enjoying it immensely.

What was the other thing? Hmm…let me see… (thumbs through notes)

Oh yes! Something I made a note to myself about on the drive down to Panera this morning.

“Those moments in my day where I feel like I HAVE to talk to someone. What if I chose not to?”

Instead of listening to podcasts this morning, I just drove in silence with my notebook out. It felt good. About halfway there, I was thinking about the times I get moody and cranky. They are mostly when the house is just too quiet, and my mind is too active. Almost always, I send a few texts. When no one answers immediately, I start to panic. Then I start abusing my closest friends. How dare they all have lives and not have their phone in their hand waiting for the moment I call!?

Yes, I know…you don’t need to explain the problem here.

What got me thinking about it (other than feeling terrible about myself) was a podcast on lengthening meditation time. He said to sit in silence and when you feel like moving, or stopping, or whatever, see if you can set that feeling aside and sit a little longer, then stop.

What if I did the same thing when I feel like I MUST speak to another human NOW?! Instead of picking up my phone or running into my husband’s office and interrupting his workflow, is there something else I can do?

Possibly. Writing, reading, go for a walk, clean something, all might help ease that anxiety.

I’ve been curious what a silent retreat would be like. Why not try one of my own, right here in my house? Practice not reaching for help every time my mind starts saying mean things to me. Instead, I can sit with nasty mean girl and give her a hug, maybe see what the problem really is.

I’m doing it. The next time I feel that…ick…I’m going to tell myself I’m starting a silent retreat immediately. Maybe my mind and I will learn to get along if we’re left alone to face each other.

Mindfulness and Concentration Balance

Each morning, before I sit in meditation for twenty minutes, I read one chapter of Wherever You Go There You Are by Jon Kabat Zinn. Remember? I said I would go back and do this after I read the book straight through, and here I am crushing it.

Ok, maybe not crushing it, but at least I am getting to it most days.

This morning was something special. I read this:

“Without calmness, the mirror of mindfulness will have an agitated and choppy surface, and will not be able to reflect things with any accuracy.” Wherever You Go There You Are by Jon Kabat Zinn

I am great at mindfulness. I am hyper-aware of everything around me; the people, their moods, the air, objects, what needs to be done, etc. It’s my superpower and it comes naturally to me. It also drives me bonkers much of the time, especially when I come face to face with the fact that not everyone shares my awareness. What do you mean, “When did we move that trash can to the other side of the room?!”

With that tidbit of knowledge about me, you would think I would have an eye for minding the details, but…nope. I’m a big picture person. I take it all in at once, all the time, which leads to some pretty overwhelming thoughts and feelings that I have only begun to understand and accept.

What’s missing? Calmness and focus, concentration. Which is what this chapter was about. Concentration leads to calmness, and calmness is addictive. We can throw ourselves into it like an escape pod and stay there forever. It’s another form of attachment, a refusal to accept and move in the world around us.

Single-minded pursuit, complete focus on one thing, is a wonderful way to get things done, but it has its drawbacks. Have you ever known someone with that superpower? I’m in awe of them, and then I’m frustrated and angry with them because they will not look at me when I’m talking to them. They don’t notice that I’m there wanting to connect.

Where is the balance? Practicing focus and concentration alongside mindfulness. Being still allows the water around you to be still or flow quietly around you, while mindfulness allows us to see what’s beneath the surface and move.

I have typically fallen asleep during my meditation practice. I’m still sitting, sometimes nodding my head, but I’m dreaming. I’m talking to someone, holding my pencil, turning a page, or planning what I’ll do later. I’m never quiet for long.

Today, I put my mind on my breath and thought, “Calm the water.” I imagined standing hip deep in a warm river (I hate cold water) and running my hands in the water. When I moved my feet, the silt at the bottom floated up and mixed with the rushing water, obscuring my view. I stood still and let the water run and waited. Soon, the silt and leaves settled, and I could see the rocks beneath my feet, the fish swimming in the deep, and the sticks that might poke me if I moved too quickly.

It worked. I want to bring this feeling with me all day long and I’ll try. Every time I start to feel overwhelmed, I’ll take a breath and think, “Calm the water,” so I can see more clearly and make kinder decisions, respond in more helpful ways.

In the past (like this past week kind of past), I’ve struggled with trying to do everything. I’ve actually cried out loud, “Everyone says slow down, do one thing at a time, but when I do, I lose something, forget something, or fail!”

Just typing that made me think, “Yeah, Michelle, that’s attachment. You need to let things go.”

No one on the planet can do EVERYTHING. I’m getting more done, but not well, and in the process of doing I’m failing at the most important thing, being present and loving to the people around me. I’ve got lots of thinking to do, but first…stillness. Calm the water, so I can see beneath.  

To Be Known And Understood

I finished I. Asimov – A Memoir this morning in tears. I didn’t realize that he wrote this in the last couple of years before his death. I felt like I gained a friend while I read chapter after chapter. I saw him, I knew him well, we connected, and then he was gone. His wife edited the manuscript, added an epilogue, and had it published after he had passed on. The words his wife used to start her epilogue were what finally broke me up.

“One of the deepest desires of a human being is to be known and understood.” From I. Asimov – A Memoir

Each and every one of us has this desire and manifests it in our own special way. Through art, service, business, science, religion, or simply though living a life, we all seek to be known and understood.

I believe that is exactly why the internet, through blogs and social media, is so alluring to us. It expands the ability to express ourselves and be seen.

But are we ever understood?

I’m not sure.

If I don’t thoroughly understand myself, how can I be understood by others?

Every book or article I read brings new information. Every journal entry or mediation session sheds new light. Every blog post I write and share organizes my thoughts and gets me closer to what I’m really trying to say.

Do we seek to know and understand others?

I’m not sure we do.

I know that I do see people. I see what my family and friends are posting on their social media accounts. I read what others post on their blogs. But do I really engage with them? Do I try to understand why they are sharing, what they really want to say? Honestly? No.

I don’t think we have that capability on such a large scale as the internet.

To know and understand takes intimate and intentional contact. And we simply don’t have the capacity, the energy, or the time it would take to support that contact with more than a few people.

Instead of focusing on our immediate surroundings and the few people we are in contact with on a regular basis, we spread our attention all over the world and we lose something important. Connection with the people we really should be loving.

As much as we think we know and understand the people we see through their art forms, the people we interact with online, we don’t really. We know what they show us.

But that’s not a bad thing.

My personal philosophy is that there are different levels of understanding, as there are different levels of love and relationship. We simply need to be aware of them and react to them accordingly.

Like I said, I felt like I got to know Asimov and we became good friends while I read about his life through his eyes. And then he died, and I felt so sad, like maybe I should do something to mourn the loss of a friend.

That’s crazy talk. Awareness of what emotion was triggered, what I was relating to, reminded me of the level of understanding and connection I was at and brought me back to reality. It’s the same with social media friends, bloggers, tv personalities, and artists. Yes, I interacted with what they shared with the world, what they wanted to be know for, but I wonder… if I met them, hung out with them, were a part of their lives somehow, would they be the same person I know them as?

I often wonder what people think of me; those that stumble across what I’ve written, old co-workers or acquaintances that see what I’ve shared to my social media accounts. What I’ve found fascinating over the years is the few honest, aware, or reflective friends and family members that will tell me what they think they see in me. And as I get older and more reflective myself, I tend to listen to those accounts more openly instead of vehemently insisting that they “apparently don’t really know anything about me.”

That instinct to be known and understood is why I created this blog. Social media photos, quotes, and selfies just weren’t cutting it for me. I wanted to use more words, think more about what I was trying to say, open up just a little bit more. For some reason, blogging to strangers is much easier for me than talking with people that know me.

Even if you’re not a fan of Asimov’s work, or a science fiction fan in general, I think you might enjoy reading I. Asimov – A Memoir. He was a brilliant and fascinating person, honest and open hearted, and very funny. His memoir sheds light on another kind of human being, a life well lived, a thread in the tapestry of humanity.

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