frustrated girl

A Crisis in Confidence

Now, more than ever, I try stay off Facebook as much as possible. I post my daily It’s My Life, Inc. contribution and stay in touch via Messenger, but I rarely scan through posts. The hate and misinformation on both sides shakes me to my core.

This past week I had a Facebook incident that left me dismayed. A friend posted something from a website. Instead of ignoring it, I looked up the website and found that the ownership was blocked. Unfortunately, I did not stop there, as I shared what I learned about the website on his post. The poster and another friend encouraged me to click the link which they found funny. I didn’t. It was hateful, not funny. I felt bad for seeing the post, researching it, sharing my input unsolicited, and learning that my friends found making fun of others delightful.

The whole incident was not a big deal, but for me it just intensified what I have been feeling. I am sad watching our country, families and friendships being pulled apart by polarizing politics. I am disheartened that so many people look to attack and discredit “the other” versus learning to understand and find common ground. I am losing hope that things will turn around and we will come together for the good of humanity.

Photo by Henrikke Due on Unsplash

Thankfully, I have two life rafts I hold on to which help me navigate these depressing times.

This is not the end

A while back I wrote about a movie quote, “Everything will be alright in the end so if it is not alright it is not the end.” This may be a simplistic look at life, but it also tends to be the reality. So many times, in my life and in the world, the tragedy being witnessed is not the end of the story. It may take days, weeks, months, or years, but eventually, things get better. I hold on to a glimmer of hope that this is the case now.

A short while back I ran across President Jimmy Carter’s Crisis of Confidence speech. The speech was given back in 1979 in the midst of the energy crisis. What surprised me was how many of the sentiments in the speech, relate to what I am experiencing now. The President said many things 40 years ago, that feel like they could be written about today. “I want to talk to you about a fundamental threat to human democracy.” “We can see this crisis [in confidence] in the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our nation. The erosion in our confidence in the future is threatening to destroy the social and the political fabric of America.” At the time, two-thirds of the people did not vote because they didn’t think it mattered. Many Americans thought the next five years would not be better than the last five years. I am sure that it felt like the end of America, and maybe it was a mark of its decline – all I know is that it did not end in 1980. Things continued.

Many sages over the centuries have said, “this too shall pass.” They are right. No matter if what we are experiencing personally or on a global level, it is not permanent. Holding hope and taking the right next step can help shift and move us all in a positive direction.

I have power over my experience

No matter what others are doing or what is happening on a global scale, I have the ability to adjust how I react. In my book, From Type A to Type Me, I mentioned how Nelson Mandela was treated poorly in prison but he “felt he would lose himself if he lost his love for his fellow man. The results: often the warden had to replace Mandela’s guards because, once they experienced his kindness, the guards could not be severe with Mandela.”  We can do this too.

We have the ability – and the responsibility – for our individual experience. Sometimes I need to remind myself to put on my big girl pants and take responsibility for my life. Blaming or trying to control the actions of others does not work. The only thing we can truly affect is ourselves, our thoughts, our words, and our actions. What helps me is to stop looking at others and to take personal responsibility for my experience.

When the reality of today gets you down, look at what you can control, stop blaming others, and know that this too shall pass. If you need any help or support during this time, reach out to me or others. Taking care of ourselves also means reaching out for help when we need it.

good omens - angel demon

Accepting Humanity

My friend and talented author, Nan, introduced me to the Good Omens series based on the book by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. The video series has been my go-to escape during The Big Time Out we have all been given. It is funny, brilliant, and very insightful.

One of the main lessons I learned through the Good Omens series is that we are neither inherently good or bad, we are just human. We have days where we can act like perfect angels. We have other days where we make choices, say things, or act in a way that is purely demonic. In truth, however, we are neither good nor bad. We are just human. This concept has helped me accept myself, and others, at a deeper level than I had been able to before.

Most of my life, I tried to be that angel. Acting perfectly. Striving for more. Looking for recognition. And I completely ignored where I was a demon. Saying the wrong things to the wrong people at the wrong time. Allowing my own fears to self-sabotage my dreams. Attacking others to keep from falling into my own insecurities. Until recently, I thought one day I could be all angel. Now I have come to accept that I will always be part angel and part demon. This acceptance helps me feel so much more comfortable in my own skin. I embrace and accept my full humanity.

Good Omens - angel and demon

This acceptance of myself, has also helped me accept others. What if I met you on one of your demon days? Is it fair to think that how you acted on your worst day, is who you are all the time? Or what about the times when all we see of someone is angel and then are devastated to see their dark side? No one is perfect all the time in all ways. Having unrealistically high expectations for another – or ourselves, only leads to disappointment.

In a snippet of talk by Ram Dass, he adds another facet to the idea of self-acceptance. Ram Dass responded to the question “how do we love ourselves more”, with an answer of “why we need to accept ourselves fully”. Ram Dass was pointing out what I do so well, judge. I judge myself. I judge others. I judge the actions of society as a whole. But judging does more harm than good. Judging separates us. It is natural to notice our differences, but to attack or demean another, or our ourselves, because of the difference leads to separation and hate.

What is interesting to explore is what we are using to judge. Who sets the rules and the measuring stick? When I was younger, I judged myself against the super-skinny models of the 1970’s, to which I would always lose. As I changed careers, I judged myself against others’ success and notoriety. I have even judged myself against others’ spiritual depth. In all these instances, I had to first decide by which scale to judge myself and other people.

Ram Dass gives a nice example of when someone is in a forest, they just enjoy the trees. Unless they are a lumberjack and have a scale to judge trees, the forest walker only sees the beauty of the forest as a whole or the uniqueness of a single tree. The person does not judge each tree as too crooked or too short. They just are. Which begs the question, why do we judge ourselves and others? Why can’t we accept ourselves and others as we are? Why do we feel we should and have the right to judge ourselves and those around us? Are we not just trees in the forest of humanity? By judging ourselves and others we are missing out on the absolute beauty and peace of acceptance and understanding.

What scale do you judge yourself and others by? Where did you learn and agree to that scale? How do you feel when you judge? Self-righteous, better-than, superior or fearful, lacking, and victimized? How would your experience and life change if you no longer judged, and just accepted people as they were?

Photo of Victorian Multicultural Commission, Melbourne , Australia

Come Together

Almost every day my husband and I have the same conversation. We are spending less and less time on Facebook because of all the hatred and resentment being spewed back and forth. Don’t worry, this is not a post about current events and who is “right.” What I would like to explore is how this time is helping us see how our ego (our sense of self, beliefs, politics, ideologies) has become more important than basic humanity. And how we can begin to correct this.

On both sides of the political table, I see hate, judgment, and labeling. The basic result is the same, “I am right. You are wrong. You are a bad person.” Our ego, our self-centeredness, our narcissism has taken hold so strongly that we see ourselves as separate – and usually – superior to others. What we have forgotten is that we are in this together.

Photo of Victorian Multicultural Commission, Melbourne , Australia by Pramuk Perera on Unsplash

No one is an island. No one can survive without someone else. Our lives are so intricately interwoven, yet we often think we are separate.

Are you one of the lucky ones who is financially stable and using this time to relax? Could you relax without artists creating moving pictures for you to watch, technicians maintaining platforms delivering entertainment, and engineers ensuring you have electric and internet to receive it? Could you survive without farmers growing food and someone delivering that food to you?

For those survivalists who think you can do this all alone, maybe you prepared by having your own seeds and land to farm. Maybe you have the skills to make your own clothes and to keep water and power coming to you. I know of one such guy. If I was ever to end up alone on a desert island, this is the dude I want by my side because this guy can do it all. And yet, I see that even he can not make it through this time without his family. Without connection. Without love.

My wish is that this time of isolation, teaches us all how we truly are NOT isolated in this world. We are connected to and intertwined with the planet, our neighbors, and those living in countries far away. I understand fear of the unknown – and I think fear is what is causing most of the hate these days. When we become afraid, we try to protect ourselves. But shielding ourselves from the outside world is not protection; it is separation. It is like the child who covers her own eyes playing peek-a-boo. Just because she is choosing not to see, does not mean there are not others around her.

Try these exercises to help broaden your perception on our interconnectedness:

  • Go Around the World: My husband plays this on laundry day. Read the labels on your clothing as you are putting them away and see how many different countries you can find. You can try this game on all your household goods and supplies too.
  • Six Degrees: Many people know of the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game. Why not play that yourself and see how many people you can connect to? I am two away from Conan O’Brien which is cool and am three away from the Kardashians, which is not.
  • Six Degrees World Edition: Combine both these games and see how many places in the world you have visited or lived, or where you know someone who lives there or came from there. The world becomes a little smaller when we can equate a country to a friend or experience.

And next time you notice being upset about someone’s post or a politician’s rhetoric, breathe. Take a moment. See if you can identify their fear. Close your eyes and send them peace. Conflict only breeds more conflict. Understanding and compassion breeds peace.

handling covid-19

Dealing with the Fear of Uncertainty

At an online work meeting the other day, management shared this graphic which was found on LinkedIn. The message is beautiful, but unfortunately the author of the graphic could not be found. The graphic is focused on the current pandemic, yet the message can be applied to our lives in general.

who do I choose to be during the Covid-19

Over the last month or so, if I am going to be absolutely honest, I have been wavering between the fear, learning and growth zones. Two weeks before our state announced official stay-at-home requirements, I fell into the fear zone. The unknown tends to send us into fear. In the States, fear transformed into lack of toilet paper – for whatever reason. Being in a hurricane zone, it was funny to watch how like myself, my neighbors prepared for the virus like we would a hurricane. We stockpiled water and food. I saw lines at the gas stations. Our fears from previous storms, made us act similar ways – even though surviving a tropical storm is very different than surviving a virus.

Isn’t it interesting how our fear – fear of the unknown, fear of loss, fear of others’ actions – makes us act in unhelpful ways? After leaving the hoarding phase, I noticed my tendency to use food (usually bad-for-me “comfort” food) and distraction (Candy Crush / Netflix) to make me feel better. If it did do anything to alleviate or dampen my fear, the affect was usually short-lived and often caused more issues than it solved. My unconscious mind thinks coffee, chocolate, and binge-watching are the easier, softer way to reduce my fear. All it really does is puts fear on a pause button, and then fear comes back with a vengeance once the pacifier is removed.

The seemingly easier, softer way is in the fear zone – sharing information (without fact checking), hoarding, blaming others, and drowning overthinking-brains in alcohol or carbs. Unfortunately, no matter what is going on, this does not work. What does work is when we can move into the learning or the growth zones.

These zones are full of acceptance, surrender, compassion, and conscious action. This is where we stop fighting reality and learn instead the power of accepting what is really going on. We surrender to the new reality and surrender our misguided belief that we can control the uncontrollable. We stop having pity-parties for ourselves and begin look to who we can help. Sometimes we are able to help in big ways as in the case of the front-line healthcare workers, sometimes it is an action like delivering food to shut-ins or those without work, and sometimes it just means picking up the phone and connecting with someone who needs to hear a friend’s voice.

The difference is that in the fear zone we are avoiding reality and believe we can control the uncontrollable. In the learning and growth zones, we accept reality and act on what is within our means to affect.

Take some time to review how you are handling this unprecedented situation. Which zone are you spending most of your time in? Don’t attack yourself for spending time in the fear zone; it happens as we are all human. Just use this review to consciously decide where you want to be and how you want to spend your time.

Hang in there. Share your success and struggles with us here.

we look at the smae moon but live in different worlds

I Do Not Like That Man. I Must Get to Know Him Better.

Amid all the hate speech on and offline, I thought this quote from Abraham Lincoln provides some sound advice. He is noted for saying, “I do not like that man. I must get to know him better.”

Isn’t it easy to see something we disagree with online and immediately dismiss the person who wrote it? Isn’t it easier to attack or discredit them than to be the bigger person and reach out to make a human connection?  I can’t tell you how many times I have spoken to someone who hated this group or that ethnicity, but when I said, “Isn’t your friend Sammy one of THEM?” their response is often, “Well he is different than the rest of THEM. I know him.” Knowing someone personally helps us to accept, understand, and even become friends with those of different cultures or backgrounds.

As the world becomes smaller and smaller, we are not able to isolate and insulate ourselves like in the past. It is time to come together as a global community and begin to understand those who are different than us in appearance, culture, or thinking. Here are a few ideas to make that happen.

Photo by Arie Wubben on Unsplash

Stop Lumping

One of the biggest culprits of bias is lumping people together by some label. All men, Mexicans, Republicans, or St. Louis Cardinal fans are horrible. Really?  Every single one of them? Our mind likes to label and name things because it helps us to recall information quickly. Yet in grouping people together, we are creating our own perception and judgment about people instead of seeing the unique individual. Look at yourself. What groups or labels could you be categorized by? What assumptions could people make about you if they only looked at a single aspect of you? What are they missing out about who you are if they only see one facet of you?

What Do You Value

When we label others, we are choosing to make some aspect of the person important above the rest. What does it say about you in how you choose to label?  What are you deciding is important? Nationality, gender, wealth? Why do you choose that element to judge others? When we prejudge people by one element of their being, we are saying more about our own fears than about the true character of the other person.

Second Chance

Let’s cut each other some slack. I would hate to be judged because of how I look or where I come from. I am guessing you feel the same, so why not extend the curtesy to others by not judging? Instead of judging and attacking, have the courage to reach out to someone who irritates you or someone who is different from you. Learn about them. Learn about their culture. Learn who they are as an individual. You may not become fast friends, but it will make moving around in the world easier.

Who have you met recently who has irritated you? Why was that? Are you making assumptions because of one element – nationality, ethnicity, culture? Try to be more open and welcoming this week. See if you don’t find more connection when you take the time to really meet and know those around you.

rhino painter

What is getting in the way of seeing things clearly?

I love this cartoon and how it perfectly illustrates how our perception colors, or in this case, blocks how we see the world.

If we perceive something, we are “seeing” it using our five senses. Perceiving can also mean to understand a concept in our mind. Perceiving is the act of awareness. To perceive means only that we recognize or notice something.

Perception, on the other hand, is our judgment about a thing. We can perceive one hundred dollars in our bank account, but our perception about this fact may be that we have too much or too little money. Perception is based on our prior experience. Perception is clouded by what we feel and think about other similar situations in the past. Perception is distorted by our beliefs, ideologies, and expectations. Perception is not fact but our interpretation and belief about that fact.

How we perceive can be off like when I struggled with my eyesight or when my father was experiencing cancer. How we perceive is influenced by the ability of our senses to work properly. If our senses are working well, we perceive correctly. On the other hand, I would argue that our perception is almost always off because our perception is always clouded by our own unique interpretation. Just like the rhino’s horn showing up in everything he looks at, we all have beliefs, world views, and expectations that show up in all that we experience. Our perception colors our world – sometimes for good, sometimes not.

Self-Protection

Most of the time our perception is colored by self-protection. We see the world through a lens that allows us to self-preserve, to survive, to maintain our life as we know it. Even if something is bad for us, if our ego thinks we need it to survive, thinks this perception is who we are or who we need to be, our ego will hold on to it, justify it, and interpret everything to allow us to continue as we are.  

Accepting Others’ Perceptions

We do not accept other perceptions often because these are often seen as a threat to us and our way of life. We can’t be open to another worldview because that would mean we can not righteously hold on to our uncompromising beliefs. But there are different world views. There are millions of worldviews based on where we are born, what we learned, what we experience, and what we are driven to do. Rigidly denying that others have a different perception and holding on to the false belief that our perception means fact, causes many of our disagreements and challenges.

What is Reality

Much of the conflict in the world today is a clash of perception. We all look at the same situation, but our perception of that situation varies. To help clear this conflict, we first need to stop clinging to the false belief that ours is the only and true perspective. It is not. It can not be, because we are each constantly judging life by the “horn” only we can see and that we take as a normal part of life. Second, we need to be open to growing. We usually cling to our beliefs to protect ourselves; it feels safe. In actuality, holding on to previous beliefs keeps us stuck. Everything in life changes, transforms and grows. Why should we be any different? Finally, question everything. Question every belief, every “fact,” every perspective. Release the assumption that we mere humans can know the ineffable. Things that were a fact yesterday are not today. Uncover your beliefs and release the ones which are not making your life and the lives of those around you better.

Change Perception, Change Your Life

When I experience pain, it is usually caused by my expecting to experience something different from reality. When I can release my expectations and release my clouded perception of how things are or should be, I begin to experience a more free, amazing, beautiful life.