The Edges of Prudence

natterings and musings of a girl just trying to "be good."


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On Surrounding Ourselves with the Best.

I’ve been thinking about the importance of who we are surrounded by in our lives, and feeling overwhelming surges of gratitude at the diversity and wealth of the people surrounding me in my life.  I can be hard on people, which comes with the territory of being the kind of person who is very hard on herself.  Sometimes I forget and put my own perfectionism on others.  This isn’t fair, I know.  It’s one more thing added to the list of “D’s stuff to work on.”

So this week has gone as expected: partially as planned, and partially chaotic and unplanned.  That’s a good thing I think.  I’m working toward goals and structure in some areas of my life, but I’m also working toward being consciously freed from the confines of my own expectations.  As I’ve mentioned, September is historically a tough month for me.  It always seems to be a transitionary time for me: one with lots of possibility and opportunity for change, and also one with lots of challenge and life lessons.  This week has been filled with both.  In my less graceful moments, Scott is the one who bears the brunt of it.  He sees me at my worst, when I’m catastrophizing about the world falling apart in all my neuorticism.

He’s come up with all kinds of coping mechanisms, many of which I’ve learned a great deal from.  He has the uncanny ability to make me laugh when I’m one hot mess.  Haha.  This week, he’s developed a new strategy: baking!  He made me cookies on Tuesday when I was having a little mental breakdown (me?  mental breakdown?  never…).  Then I came home from dance class last night to the smell of warm brownies fresh out of the oven.  I’m notorious in our household for “health-nut baking” whereby I try to create delicious things like brownies using non-delicious ingredients so I can have guilt-free indulgence.  My experiments rarely result in the product I’m hoping for.  Scott got fed up with my brownie experiments and baked the real-deal.  All-purpose flour and sugar to boot.  Let me tell you, those were yummy.

The moral of the story?  Well, there’s few:

1) Sometimes a little all-purpose flour and sugar is exactly what you need.  Indulge now and again!

2) Surround yourself with people who will see you at your worst and love you all the same.

3) APPRECIATE those in your life who will make you laugh when the world is falling apart.  TELL them, SHOW them, HUG them.

4) People who make you brownies to sweeten your life are exactly the “best” kind of people I’m talking about.

5) Take a moment to stop and appreciate the small tokens and gestures and love that likely surround you daily, and you take for granted.  Say it out loud.  “I appreciate you.”

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The Yoga Analogy.

Pre-script: Since I’m training as a yoga instructor this year, I must warn you posts like this one might become more and more frequent.  I’ll do my best not to relate everything to yoga, okay?

Growing up a dancer, I’ve become quite fond of imagery to assist in completing tasks successfully.  Imagine you are jumping on delicate flowers that you cannot squish.  NO ELEPHANT FEET! Pretend you are pushing your foot through thick peanut butter as you tendu.  And so on…

So my point is, imagery, metaphors, and analogies work for me.  But, as I was chatting with my academic friend the other day she commented “I enjoy yoga, but please don’t become one of those teachers who tells me my problems are going to poor out of my finger tips!”  Her point was, she sees the purpose of yoga, but she’s a logical and rational being who doesn’t fall for those lies!  No, her problems really wouldn’t literally pour out of her fingers.  At the end of yoga class, the world is still waiting for us with all its problems, whether those are revisions to a thesis proposal or a personal crisis.  Perhaps, I pointed out, it’s more reasonable to tell yoga students to imagine their problems pouring out of their finger tips.  Perhaps, instead, the purpose of yoga is not to solve all things but to better equip us to cope with what the world throws at our heads (yes, sometimes I like to imagine when things are going poorly that the world is a group of bullies throwing stinky gym shoes at my head.)  But semantics about the most appropriate way to address the yoga analogy aside, I am continually amazed at how appropriately yoga analogizes life.  It’s sort of ridiculous, actually.

Monday evening was my first day back in the Bikram studio for about a year and a half.  Prior to that I practiced Bikram studiously for about a year and a half, which ended abruptly when I wasn’t properly nourished to handle the major stressors in my life at the time and my 30-day yoga challenge.  30 days of 90 minutes in a sweltering hot room sweating my…well…you know….sweating A LOT.  By day 26, I had sweated out every last ounce of energy, I was emotionally and physically exhausted, and my back was in a rebound spasm.  I had nothin’ left.  I remember laying on the couch all akimbo with tears pouring out of my face (but I wasn’t crying, ever have one of those cries…you aren’t crying but the tears keep coming?  It’s easy to jump from those moments into pure existential crisis mode, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves here).

Scott was all “Dude, you’re mangled.”  I was all “I gotta get up and go to yoga!”  Scott was all “Dude, you’re mangled”  I was all “WAAAAHHH!  Don’t make fun of me!!!!”  Scott was all “Dude, you’re….” oh never mind…we eventually pulled ourselves outta the circular discussion to this:

Scott: “Seriously, 30 day challenge ends on day 27.  You’re done.”
ME: “WAAAAHHHH!  I’m a failure!!!  I gotta go to YOOOOGGGGA!”
Scott: You can barely move.  You can go to yoga if you can lift even one part of your body 45 degrees off the couch.  Try your arm, you might be able to move your arm.”
ME: (face turning blue with effort, desperation in eyes with the effort to prove my super human body moving abilities)….aaauuuugggghhhh. AUGGHGHHGHGH.  I can, I promise.  Augh.  I can’t.  (Flopped back on couch facing existential crisis: if I can’t lift my arm off the couch, do I really exist?!?!)
Scott: You’re done.
ME: *sigh.  *tear.  *sniffle.  *defeat.  “Yeah, I know.”
Scott: It’s cool, you just need to rest up, get some food in ya, and mend your back.  27 days is AWESOME!  Be proud!  You can go back when you feel better.
(These kinds of conversations between Scott and I happen a little more frequently than I’d like to admit.  The guy deserves a medal.)

…Then life happens…and here we are a year and a half later…

So I was STOKED to get back to the studio.  I was ready, willing, and prepared.  The night before I had packed up my bag with all of my Bikram essentials:

  • skimpy Bikram costume that I wear with pride and try not to look too closely in the mirror while I’m in it (essentially a bikini if you’ve never been to a Bikram class): CHECK.
  • THREE towels (two for the studio to pour my problems…er…buckets of sweat onto, one for the glorious shower afterward): CHECK
  • Emergen-C packets in case my body goes into full reject mode and needs a few electrolytes: CHECK
  • two water bottles because yeah, you need ’em: CHECK
So I spent the day consuming even vaster amounts of water than I normally do so I was good and sure I would be super hydrated and therefore, super amazing at Bikram.  Scott couldn’t help but mention “You know you can die from over hydration, right?”  Anyhow…

After work, I made a nice healthy meal, because I was not going to make the same mistake I made before and forget to fuel my body properly.  I ate with a couple of hours leeway so I could be sure I had properly digested (no one wants to be that person in the Bikram studio).  Off I went, with a little “Woohoo!  First day back at yoga!” statement to Scott as I hopped in my car.  I left him shaking his head and following Walter around the backyard with a poo bag waiting to scoop up saying “Go two Wally!  Go two.  It’s okay!  Go two!”  Yes, our dog likes imagery and coaching, as much as me.

I’m en route to the yoga studio now, a little earlier than usual, because this is a new studio that I’ve never been to before, and I’m a prudent person who likes to arrive to things in a timely manner.  As I approach the vicinity I know to be where the studio is, I frantically come to the realization that I haven’t studied google maps as well as I had thought prior to leaving the house.  I quickly pull out my iPhone to attempt to use Maps to guide me to my place.  This is always a poor choice when driving because
a) it will always take longer to load than you have
b) you may hit a cyclist
c) you may get a ticket for using your phone while driving
d) your boyfriend may send you a picture of his face as he’s just discovered the Instamatic app on his new iPhone and experimenting, which may lead to outcomes b), c) or worse…I do not suggest this.
So after frantically driving around in circles around my target, maniacally attempting to tighten the circle to no avail I watch the clock tick down and thinking of numerous dire circumstances that can occur if my timeline was skewed even just a little.  I eventually arrive at the studio, frantic and panicked since, well you know, the world’s about to end and everything.  It’s now about 10 mins prior to the start of class, which is when you’re supposed to arrive.

Here’s me:  But I haven’t even paid for my membership, or gotten changed, or been toured around the new studio, or ANYTHING.  They’re going to be all “Whoa, FAUX PAS little lady.  Turn yourself right back around and get the HELL OUTTA OUR YOGA STUDIO because anyone who shows up so LATE is obviously lacking in anything resembling respect or appreciation for the fine art of Bikram Yoga.  Oh yeah, and you suck as a person all around.”  No, I told myself, I can’t go, they’re going to yell at me and hate me forever.   I’m going to be THAT girl, who shows up at the yoga studio all disjointed and discombobulated and they’re going to kick me out.  You suck.  Go home.

Then I think (you know, the other me): (cue magical epiphany lighting) What am I thinking?!?!  You came all this way to go to yoga, you’ve been so excited.  Of COURSE you are going to march into that studio and yoga it up!  What’s the worst that can happen?  They say “Sorry, you’re too late for today’s class.”  Seriously?  This isn’t the world endin’ honey, this is you being a chicken.  Get your butt in there.

So I open the car door and start walking across the parking lot toward the studio.  I stop dead.  I forgot my yoga mat…at home.

Here’s me: Oh my god, you are SUCH a loser.  Get back in your car and go home.  You have no right to be here.  You forgot your YOGA mat?  SO DUMB.  Dumbdumbdumbdumb.

I walk back to my car and get in.  I sit there.  I realize that what’s dumb is me backing down from my goal over such minor barriers.  I can just rent a mat!  YAY!  TRIUMPH!  I get out of the car and start walking with determination toward the studio, “dumbdumb” chimes in: Where’s your wallet, dumb dumb?

Head hung low, I start walking back to my car.  I had left it at home on purpose because I wouldn’t need it while doing yoga.  I don’t have the $3.00 needed to rent a yoga mat from the studio.  I am defeated.

Smart-me takes over the attempts to steer me in the right direction: You can just tell them the truth.  Maybe they’ll let you pay the $3.00 tomorrow.  What’s the harm in asking?  You are wasting time with all this indecision and uncertainty.  Just go through the doors, ask the questions, see what happens.  You’re going to feel way worse if you give up before you even started.  Don’t be ridiculous.  

I continue to walk back and forth in slight circles in the parking like I I’m running some weird drills or having a seizure, smart-me and dumb-dumb arguing about how to handle these clearly catastrophic circumstances.

Somehow, I stop, turn on my heel and walk through the doors of the studio.  It was kind of like when you have to mentally trick yourself to jump off the high diving board as a kid.  You stop yourself from thinking and just go…pushing your body over the edge before your rationale mind kicks in to try to stop you from killing yourself.  Then in mid-air you start to protest to yourself, but it’s too darn late.

I am greeted by a pleasant, friendly, and bustling atmosphere if yogis and yoginis.  Everyone is friendly, easy going, and happy.  No one seems to care what time it was or that I don’t have a mat.  When I explain about my mat, the girl at the desk doesn’t even flinch.  She simply hands me a mat, smiles, and says “just bring the $3.00 next time, if you remember.”  TRIUMPH!  I overcame a series of ridiculous and innocuous pseudo-setbacks to achieve my goal. I am at Bikram.  Yogic life, here I come.

Later, laying in my Savasana (dead corpse pose) awaiting the start of class my mind wanders to the events leading up to the present.  I am struck by the obviousness of the analogy.  In yoga, we talk about “taming the monkey mind’, which is basically what I nearly let take me over en route to yoga.  The monkey mind is that impulsive instinctual part of our minds that flits from one thing to the next, without any rationale thought or control.  In yoga, the monkey mind usually takes over when we become fearful of a challenging pose and talk ourselves out of trying it.  The ongoing work in yoga is to find yourself exactly where you are in the moment, that is, to reach your limits and not go beyond them.  You want to touch your limit, challenge yourself, and then persevere.  Going beyond our limits in yoga usually leads to injury.  Not touching our limits, usually means no progress.  We work to get ego out of the picture, and focus on breath and posture and just be where we are in that pose at that moment.  Some of the best yogis lack depth in some postures, but have perfect alignment and breath, exactly where they are at.  

I can’t help but smile at myself.  Once again, the yoga analogy is clear in my life.  We so often back down from aspirations, big and small, because very minor obstacles get in our way.  Our monkey mind reacts frantically and we lose perspective.  I very nearly skipped out on a yoga class because of very silly barriers.  Missing a yoga class isn’t the end of the world, but I know that I want and need to be in the studio.  Had I given into my monkey mind, I would have blamed traffic, google maps, Scott sending me a picture at the same time I was trying to read the map on my phone, my stupid yoga mat for being all the way downstairs that I forgot it, and the list would go on.  Had I not made it to class, I would know deep down that it was because I gave up.

In yoga, it’s the postures we like the least, and are the worst at executing, that we need the most.  Our bodies reject them because our egos and monkey minds think “well I can’t do this perfectly, so I shouldn’t do it.”  It’s the opposite!  We should be doing these difficult postures over and over and over.  It’s the same outside the studio.  The cliché  “Anything worth doing is difficult” is so true.  We need to put ourselves in uncomfortable and challenging positions even though we’re scared of looking stupid and out of shape.

Class is amazing.  My body remembers and says “thank you for bringing me here today.”  I do not feel stupid or awkward and no one yells at me (obviously).  I am rewarded by huge amounts of endorphins coursing through my body by the end of class.  I come home happy, rejuvenated, and full of life.  I feel at ease, confident, and impressed with my ability to overcome the potential implosion of all things.  I realize how often we are defeated by the small stuff that gets in our way, sometimes more easily than the big stuff that tries to stop us.  When we face big stuff, I think we know that we have to overcome.  But our monkey mind creates drama with the small stuff and we use it to avoid facing ourselves.  After my 30-day challenge a year and a half ago, I gave up, because I was scared of failing again.  I love the analogy of yoga because in yoga, there’s no success or pinnacle or achievement.  Yoga’s success is in the process.  In the showing up, being in the studio, and doing what you can.  In listening to your true self, and ignoring the monkey mind.  Scott was right after day 27…I needed a break.  But I hadn’t failed, it was simply part of the process.

My instructor yesterday was talking about seeing people in the street who feel compelled to provide reasons why they’ve not been at yoga in a while.  He reminded us that being at yoga is about us, and not him.  He also talked about us choosing how difficult or easy our class is and that none of it has to do with successes or failures.  He talked about one class where he stayed in Savasana (corpse pose) the entire class.  He didn’t do one posture.  But he felt great after class nonetheless.  He hadn’t failed.  He had gone to yoga and done what he could at that time.  Simply being in the studio and deciding where we are at in this moment, meeting but not exceeding our limits, acknowledging that each day and each posture those limits may change – some days some postures will be easier or harder than others.  Achievement and success in yoga has no place.  None of that matters.  Being where we are , who we are, what we are right now is all that matters.

How can we ignore this obvious analogy to life?

I am here.

-D

“Who is imprisoning us in suffering? Your mother? Your father? Your boss? The person who cut you off on the highway? Are they the ones who are imprisoning you in suffering? No! We are our own jail-keeper. We construct the prison, we put ourselves inside the cell, we lock it up and throw away the key. And then we blame the world for it.” – Venerable Thubten Chodron


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Letter to Myself, Written May 30, 2010

When I participated in the MINERVA Foundation “Learning to Lead” conference in May 2010, I was tired, burned out, and nearly cancelled the day before I left for my weekend at UBC, which was a pretty big honour to have such a fabulous opportunity to learn about leadership from phenomenal women and mentor some younger women myself.  I did not take it lightly, and I do no shirk commitments.  So that I wanted to skip out is a pretty solid indication of just how low I was at the time.  But I summoned my energy and went.  The experience was amazing, breathtaking and rejuvenating.  You know the feeling you have after you go for a run or a workout even though all you really wanted to do was nap and then after you feel SO STOKED that you just did it?  That’s how it felt.  The weekend was better than any weekend spent resting, because it nourished me.

One of the last exercises we did was to write a letter to ourselves for one year later.  The wise women at Minerva saved our sealed envelopes and mailed them out to us one year later so we couldn’t sneak a peek.  Fast forward to now, and I’m just truly taking in all of the things I had hoped, dreamed and planned for myself.  I read the letter when it arrived in May, but was so busy (yet again) that I just read it and filed it.  I’ve been carrying it around with me storing it in miscellaneous places ever since, because I knew it was important, but I didn’t really know what to do with it.

The practice of writing ourselves letters can be a very helpful exercise to remind our future selves what our dreams were for ourselves and do an annual “check-in” to where we’re at in terms of reach our goals.  I had a pretty giant list of goals, and none of the activities on the list were any small feat.  I tend to be a little over-ambitious, and this isn’t always a good thing!  Sometimes we can get so bogged down by all of our goals, plans, dreams and commitments that we struggle to accomplish anything at all.  I had to consciously let some things go in the past year and a half, not because I’m giving up, but because some things need to be put on the shelf for the time being.  It’s not time yet, you know?

Anyhow, today it dawned on me.  I’ll share the letter here and a bit about the goals I’ve accomplished.  I think that this should be a regular practice – writing ourselves letters.  It’s different than writing a reflection in the present – it’s a way to speak directly to our future selves and remind us of who we dreamed we would be.

Dearest You:

Well, you’ve come a very long way.  What a year of growth!  Personally, you’ve learned to cherish and embrace your natural inner tendencies toward being a helper, coordinator and supporter.  You’ve also come to a place where the inner power you possess is no longer caged and then unleashed uncontrollably like a wild animal.  You’ve learned to harness your inner power and utilize it appropriately, effectively, and passionately.  

No longer does your deep seeded compassion for the “underdogs” of our world leave you hanging from a cross or burning on a stake as a martyr.  The compassion within you has shifted from a weakness and vulnerability to a power.  The word “sensitive” no longer represents “inability.”

You’ve become YOU in the most authentic sense of the word.  That 5 year old girl who hadn’t yet learned to have doubt in her abilities to stand up for what is right & just in the world no longer hides in the shadows stifled by adult rationality.  More specifically, you are making choices that establish, celebrate, and protect yourself and your family outside of forces that threaten your partnership.  You have, together, embraced the changes and transitions and grown stronger in your commitment to your selves and your relationship.  Victoria represents for you a place of balance in life – personal, professional, and health.

It’s amazing the journey which unfolds when you securely commit to yourself – enabling your true self to lead from a place of authenticity whereby the true YOU is preserved and protected!

What have you done? 

  • achieved balance in health in all sense of the words
  •  loved and laughed regularly
  • secured your future academic plans and working toward them
  • started your MA thesis
  • got a puppy
  • ran a 10K run*
  • started on the path to becoming a yoga instructor

*Remind me to tell you the story of trying and failing to do the 10K run.  It’s back on the bucket list.  I included it in the “accomplished” list to show that sometimes we can try at something and even if it doesn’t work out the way we planned we can still think of it as a success.  I still trained for the run, which was an awesome experience.  I became injured and couldn’t run the actual race, but I am not thinking of it as a failure, simply a setback.  Next time I will train smarter because I learned so much this past time around!

The items that I did not accomplish and did not share here are back on the list, but I had to re-evaluate the why and how behind them before re-commiting myself to them.  They are on the list, but are prioritized differently and will likely take a different form than I had originally imagined.  That’s the cool thing about dreaming and planning ahead – you can readjust if you need to.  It’s not a failure, it’s simply a change of plans!  When I look at the above list of accomplishments, I realize that this past year was all about taking care of me and that’s a good thing!  By reflecting back on what I hoped for myself a year and a half ago, I’m happy to see that I’m continuing on the path toward myself.

So this month, let’s write letters to ourselves for one year from now. Who have we become?  Where are we going?  What do our present selves wish for our future selves?  What will we have accomplished in this past year?

“To the person who does not know where she wants to go there is no favourable wind.” – Seneca

-D


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Connected.

I just watched the preview for “Connected” a film that I believe will finally address the ongoing conversation I’ve been having about my love/hate relationship with the way we connect in the world of technology.  The preview looks amazing and I can’t wait to watch the full film!  Once again, I’ve discovered an amazing human taking on an issue that I think is imperative we include in our ongoing dialogue about living life and the choices we make.

-D


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Thinking About the Things We Hate.

I remember one of my high school teachers once telling me that if there is something that makes you really really mad about the way another person behaves, you should evaluate what that says about you.  There’s a number of ways to interpret this, but more recently, I’ve been thinking about the things that ‘irk’ me and why it is that they irk me.  Sometimes people do or say things that I really want to VENT about, but I can’t exactly figure out why whatever was said or done bothers me.

So my post-typing process to re-interpret my thoughts based on what ended up falling from my finger tips to the blog has been slowly working its juices through me since I wrote in and around self-indulgence the other week.  There were a couple of specific events and encounters that spurred me onto my “boo all the bouncy happy blogging people”, I’m aware of this.  But what I’ve been thinking more carefully about is what it is about these events, encounters and behaviours that truly bothered me.  The final answer is: I don’t know!  BUT, I suspect it is some kind of self-conscious defence mechanism against seeing others doing well or doing things I wish I was doing.  It boils down to jealousy!  Isn’t that awful?  Yes, and no.

Jealousy is part of being human.  The academic literature commonly links jealousy to sex, and in the evolutionary psychological perspectives, some believe that jealousy emerged in humans as solutions to the respective adaptive problems faced by each sex (i.e., mating).  Some researchers have shown, such as Buss et al. (1992), there are large gender differences in jealousy, the factors that spur jealousy on in the respective genders, and our responses to it.  Jealousy itself, as most evolutionary adaptive processes now exceeds (in my opinion) beyond the mere competition to reproduce, and permeates our society in many regards.

Despite feeling jealousy as any human would at various points of time in my life for various reasons, I have rejected the notion of it and worked hard to avoid being seen as a “jealous person.”  I prefer to be a cheerleader.  To support others in their excellent adventures and be inspired by those doing fabulous things.  But at the end of the day, we all get jealous sometimes, and I’m not quite sure the right way to handle jealousy is to deny it (which I tried).  Perhaps addressing it, owning up to it, and learning about what has made us jealous and why can help move us beyond that unflattering green faced monster we’ve turned into.  So getting back to my snarky feelings toward the happy people.  I think I was jealous.  I encountered a couple of scenarios with happy people leading happy lives – to the MAX – and doing some of the things I would like to be doing in my life.  So instead of re-evaluating they way in which I spend my time and energy and considering how I might learn from those I was jealous of, I turned to my vice: I vented.  This felt pretty good, I’ll be honest.  But I still couldn’t shake that despite feeling annoyed by these encounters, I was also drawn to these people and behaviours.  I kept asking myself: Why?

Sometimes the things we hate are the things we wish more deeply for ourselves.  Case-in-point: I often wish I was more outspoken and said what I feel when I feel it.  Instead, I’m regularly more polite and reserved about my thoughts or feelings in the off chance I might offend someone or hurt their feelings.  When people around me are very outspoken, I often criticize them for it in my mind.  I am diplomatic in my ability to stand up for other people, but will shove my own feelings aside when I should be doing the same for myself.  I say “Yes” when I want to say “No,” but sometimes find people rude when they do say an outright “No.”

Are you reading this and thinking ‘Yeah, me too!”  I hope I’m not entirely alone in this.

So my point here is: maybe we should think a little more carefully about the people and behaviours we feel an initial dislike toward in life.  Is it possible that these are the very encounters and people who are teaching us important lessons?  Is it possible that we’re jealous of these people and their ability to be more outspoken, more happy, more motivated, more of whatever that we might be presently.  Do we secretly wish we could be even just a little more like those we initially criticize?

You all know that I love diversity and learning about people different than myself.  I guess it’s easy for me to uphold a standard of diversity in the larger theoretical and societal context, particularly when addressing politically salient issues about human rights.  But what about diversity in our day-to-day life?  What about those people who aren’t necessarily marginalized in society, but are just very different than ourselves?  Maybe those people have some pretty cool things to teach us, show us, and share with us.  What about those people who are quite a lot like ourselves, but perhaps a little further along in the journey than us.  Do we resort to rolling our eyes, scoffing, and throwing out a witty little dig at their expense?  Sometimes, I know…I KNOW.  But is that really how we want to handle ourselves?  In the last couple of weeks, I realized I was behaving like the girl who hated me in high school for smiling too much.  It doesn’t make sense to be annoyed with someone for living life well, does it?  But we do it, we do it (I did it…).  And then there’s always those who perhaps on a similar path as us, but still growing in some arenas we’ve already experienced quite a bit of growth in.  Do we stick our noses in the air and think “HOW IMMATURE!” or do we graciously and supportively view those around us as genuinely who they are and where they are and marvel at the joy in what an amazing and diverse species we are a part of?  In the quest to be our best selves, perhaps we need to analyze more deeply what we dislike in those around us to see if there’s any reflection of ourselves in there.  If we’re able to do that, maybe we can just let the people around us do their own thing in their own efforts to be their own best selves.

There’s some literature in positive psychology realm that points to the hypothesis that happy people don’t compare themselves to others, and unhappy people engage in quite a bit of upward and downward social comparisons (i.e., checkin’ out how we’re doing on the social ladder).  We feel good when we are able to compare downward and see people not quite measuring up to where we’re at.  We feel crappier when we look up and see people doing better than us in some area of life…particularly if they are at a comparable spot in life.  For example, if I look up at a 50 year accomplished academic, I feel pretty inspired to learn from them and I can justify their successes and stance in life by their greater and longer breadth and length of experiences.  It makes sense.  But if I compare myself to someone around my age on a similar path in life and see them doing much better than I in some area of life, it doesn’t make me feel inspired, it makes me feel kind of crappy about myself.  So in a knee-jerk effort to mask those feelings of feeling crappy about myself, I’ll quickly scoff at the person/place/thing I’m comparing myself to in order to avoid those yucky feelings about myself.  This is a common way we deal with our own issues of self-consciousness.  As we also know, despite my leaning toward positive psychological theories, I have been recently inspired and influenced by some other writings in support of pessimism.  So, after reading over my self-indulgence post I realize that I was relatively balanced in my view at that time too.  BUT, I would like to underscore that view with the perspective that a little self-reflection is often due when we find ourselves annoyed with things in our world that are completely innocuous.

There’s a little exercise in the Cognitive-Behaviour Therapy (CBT) world that I really find helpful in these situations called the “Downward Arrow Technique.”  Usually it is used to assist people in getting to the core of their negative self-beliefs.  However, I think it could also apply here.  This is a very rudimentary explanation and I’m adapting it for the current purpose, but it essentially goes like this:

YOU: “everyone at work hates me!”
ME: “If it were true that everyone at work hates you, what would this say about you?”
YOU: “well it would say that I suck at everything!”
ME: “If it were true that you suck at everything, what would this say about you?”
YOU: “That I’m a complete failure!”
…and so on so forth…

So let’s apply that to my theory that what we hate says as much about us as what we love:

ME: “Augh, the super over-the-top happy people are totally annoying to me!  I hate them.”
YOU: Why
ME: “Well, they’re just soooo happy, no one is that happy”
YOU: “Why do you think no one is that happy?”
ME: “Well, I’m not that happy…”
YOU: Why
ME: Well, I’ve been kind stressed out lately…I don’t have enough time to all those activities and then go write in my blog about how happy I am…
YOU: If it’s true that you don’t have enough time to do all those activities and then go write in your blog about your happiness, what does this say about you?
….and so on so forth…

Anyhow, basically, I think we need to take a look at what is causing our annoyance and dislike from within the context of ourselves.  It’s not about the other people…it’s all about ourselves.  Even though I think it’s pretty unreasonable to assume we’re going to entirely stop comparing ourselves, I think it’s important to be mindful in the activity and catch ourselves before we downward spiral into unhealthy comparisons and judgements.  When we compare with mindfulness perhaps we can find ourselves being a little more forgiving (of ourselves and others) and instead of being turned off of others, being inspired to improve ourselves in our journey toward our best selves.

Just as we build upon one another’s work in the academic world of research…we learn and grow and develop our knowledge only by sharing knowledge collegially…we can do the same from learning from one another in our day-to-day lives.  It’s okay for us to be different, even if they are in small ways and aren’t huge social issues.  So in thinking about the things we hate, maybe we need to take quick peek in the mirror to find out what we can do to incorporate some of those traits in ourselves.  I urge you to go away and think about something that has recently “irked” you, and that you subsequently wrote off or scoffed at.  Do a little more self-reflection and see if there’s something in that experience that is a key to growth in your life.  Is there something in your “hate” that resembles fear?  Are you critical of others making simple typos in memos at work?  Are you fearful of making a mistake and being seen as lazy?  Are you annoyed at the person across the hall who shows up at 7am and works consistently all day?  Do you think of this person as a boss’ pet?  Do you wish you received a little more accolades or appreciation from your boss?  Maybe you’re annoyance has nothing to do with the other person and quite a lot to do with a secret wish or desire you have.  Is this situation offering you an opportunity to learn and be a better you?  Think about it…

-D


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And so it begins…

Today was the first day of the year for me.  Like most academics, teachers, parents, and students alike, the beginning of September marks the beginning of the year for us.  For me, September also marks the month of my birth and historically, the worst month of every year for the past ~8 years or so.  Seems everything always goes sideways in September for me and so far this year, Sept, you are living up to your reputation.

But it’s okay.  Everything always works out okay.  Sounds trite, I know, but it gets me through the tough moments.

The way most people make resolutions on New Year’s Eve, I make mine at the end of August/beginning of September.  So despite lots of potential road blocks, I’m solidly dedicated to making this year the best of my life so far.  Imagine, if we all made just that one resolution each year, how amazing every year of our lives would truly be?  Every year will just get better and better and better…and ain’t that exactly the way life is meant to be?

Here is a list of the resolutions/goals/determinations/decisions that have been floating about in my head the past few days:

  • floss!  everyday, twice a day.  
  • stay the course…”  It’s easy to get sidetracked and distracted by the many many many things we want to do in life.  And as you all know, I’m definitely a proponent of the winding road, but sometimes we need to remind ourselves of our values, our goals, and our plans and simply stay the course.  Everything will happen in good time.  Just keep putting one foot in front of the other.
  • reduce consumption in all areas of life.  it is easy for us to consume.  to buy, to run the tap longer, to put THREE squirts of concentrated dish soap in the kitchen sink for extra sudsy squeaky clean dishes (I really like doing this), even though we know ONE squirt will work excellently well.  it’s easy for us to overlook the amazing things we already have.  is it really necessary to have so many pairs of jeans?  no, probably not.  these are the obvious ones, but I promise you, once you start looking around yourself you will notice the amazingly ridiculous amounts of consumption all around us.  make a concerted effort to minimize this for your own health and the health of society and the planet.
  • be grateful be grateful be grateful.  yeah, yeah, we hear it all the time.  but do we practice it?  when we’re stressed to the max and running amuck with all of life’s pressures and catastrophes to we truly remember to stop and think of and be grateful for the wonderful things we do have and are going well in our lives?
  • simplify!  we love to complicate things.  in everything from the clothes we wear to the products we buy to the choices we make to our interpretations and interactions in our relationships.  follow the KISS principle is all areas: KEEP IT SIMPLE, STUPID.
  • give people a break.  we are hard on each other.  we get wrapped up in our own baggage-filled bubbles of life and forget, sometimes, to give people a break.
  • dump the energy suckers!  I’m a huge proponent of loving unconditionally, trying to understand all the different paths of life, and giving people lots of room for growth.  I also believe that many of us who tend toward the “helping” arenas in life fall victim to “compassion fatigue” and all the love and support and helping and giving and caring ends up drawing the energy suckers into our arena and keeping the energy givers at bay because we run out of energy for them.  A very wise woman once said to me “remember, every relationship in your life, whether it’s with a spouse, a friend, a parent, or a child, MUST be reciprocal to work.”  In other words, it’s gotta be symbiotic and energy sharing.  Yes, we all have our ups and downs and there’s always the push and pull of relationships to be considered to make room for people’s different journey’s and places in life, but when you identify a consistent energy sucker, beware!  Consider the energy you are dumping into the relationship, what you are getting out of the relationship and re-evaluate the time and energy to invest into people and things in your life that are bringing you down.
  • only try to fix your own problems.  you are responsible for you and I am responsible for me.  Support, love, and compassion does not need to come the the expense of our own individual responsibilities.
  • yoga!  this is my year of yoga.  I’m training to become a yoga instructor this fall and am SOOO excited about.  I don’t believe yoga solves all of the world’s problems (as you know if you’ve read my blog for any length of time), but I do believe that it is an excellent holistic and comprehensive practice for a healthy mind, heart, and body.
  • dance!  personally, I’m getting back into the dance studio this year after a 10-year absence.  I will be studying with the Victoria School of Contemporary Dance  and I am sooo excited-slash-freaking out a little since it’s been such a long time.  but it’s something I love and do for self-expression and peace in my body and mind, so I’m going for it.  If you aren’t a dancer, this resolution still applies.  DANCE!  Like a goofball and who cares who’s looking.  It usually helps.  Seriously, try it.
  • organize organize organize.  organization increases productivity, productivity means we can do more of the things we like to do, doing more of the things we like to do makes us happier.
  • set aside ample amounts of time for laughter, hugs, and quality time with the people you love.  ’nuff said.
  • try new things.  no more boring routines!  adventure!  explore!
  • be you.  it’s pretty sucky trying to be something you aren’t, do things that don’t “fit” with your life’s mandate.  don’t do yoga because some perky sunshine girl told you it would solve your world even though you hate every single second of doing it.  don’t try to run a marathon because some hardcore runner told you it’s the only way to be healthy and happy.  try new things, more than once (I believe it takes three tries at something to truly know if we like it) and if it’s not for you, move on to your own or other new things.
  • stay determined, stay positive, and don’t let the barriers hold you back.
  • stop complaining.  as a society we complain, a LOT.  I’m challenging us all to reduce our complaints and increase our appreciation.  let’s look for solutions to our problems instead of griping and ruminating about them and doing nothing.
  • take action.  we tend to do a lot of talking.  let’s resolve to take action wherever possible.
  • feel what you need to feel when you feel it.  then let it go.  stop holding those freaking grudges…they’re seriously bad for your health.  get freaking mad if you have to.  throw something at the wall.  bawl your little eyes out (my personal favourite).  don’t feel guilty for your negative feelings.  it’s ridiculous to think that to be healthy we must be happy and perky and have it all together all of the time (actually, as i’ve previously mentioned, there’s pretty solid evidence out there that “happiness” doesn’t necessarily pave the way to health).  we’ll never be our best selves every single second of the day.  just be yourself, but bottling up all the negative emotions isn’t going to get us very far.
  • let go of competitiveness.  with yourself, with the world, with your family, with your friends, with strangers.  it’s really not a competition and don’t let your self-worth be tied into the concept of “winning.”
  • do cartwheels periodically.
  • never do anything to impress others or to get a “gold star.”  do things with appropriate intentions, that relate to you being the best you that you are.
  • make stuff.  do crafts.  bake. doodle.  finger paint.  whatever gets you goin.  create.
  • read in cycles: one to learn something you tend to avoid because it doesn’t come easily or intuitively to you (for me, it’s finances); one to stimulate your mind with excellent literature even if it’s a longer read; and one to simply escape into the pure joy of taking in a fabulous story (your total guilty pleasure books go here).
  • stop taking yourself so freaking seriously…seriously!  
-D


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Smart Sex. Yep, I said it: SEX.

I like to write about awesome people doing awesome things in our world.  I’ve come across Sex Smart Films which was sent to me by a rather intelligent woman I call my Aunt.  The website itself has a wealth of info and education (hence: “smart”) about sexual relationships (hence: “sex”).  There were three standout films on that site:

The film, Sexabled, which follows a number of disabled individuals and discusses matters of sexuality.  This is great!  I’m a student studying Disability Management.  I teach in the field of Disability Management and we don’t talk about sexuality.  A person’s health involves all the person, including sexuality.  In our society, while “sex” permeates our world through the media, social networking, and entertainment industries, we don’t talk about it.  We don’t have frank discussions about the topic.  And anyone who does is often viewed as being crass, crude, and inappropriate.  Now add into the mix a disability.  Again, inundation of sex, but no resources and supportive environments to have frank discussions about sex and sexuality.  This film is a great place to start, and I’m definitely incorporating this into my classroom this year!

Rev Bev’s discussion of “Young Christians Living in a Hook-Up Culture” which is the first frank, honest, and reasonable discussion I’ve seen approaching sexuality from the standpoint of Christianity.  In my experiences, in the context of Christianity, the discussion of it basically goes like this: “Sex is bad, unless you’re married.  When you’re married, it’s sole purpose is baby-making…not fun or pleasure or anything else.  You shouldn’t enjoy it too much, because that means you’re dirty and bad.”  And of course, the implication being any sex that’s not done out of love, marriage, and the effort to make a baby is considered wrong.  Rev Bev offers a refreshing revamp of the age old religion-sex discussion (including same-sex relationships) which she refers to as “determining a sexual ethic.”  Anyhow, if there’s anyone out there having any kind of “religion hates sexuality” crisis, this is an encouraging film.  In keeping with my trend,  I believe most things in our world tend to lie on a spectrum.  So of course, religious approaches to various social issues does too.  There are “progressive Christians” and “repressive Christians” and a little of everything else in-between.  Rev Bev breaks it down in a compelling manner.  She also writes one of the most eloquent articles I’ve read about sexuality.  For example, her take on porn (as opposed to erotica, as there is a relatively indefinable differences):

“…I am equally sure, however, the porn teaches people how to have bad sex by lowering sexual standards to an expectation of mutual objectification and exploitation even as it raises the standards of expectations of bodily perfection and performance…”

Enter Cindy Gallop.  She provides an incredible discussion of her website “Make Love Not Porn”.  This is a frank, (graphic), honest, and witty discussion of the impact that the porn industry is having on young people’s perceptions of healthy sexual relationships.  Cindy Gallop is one of those strong amazing people in our world who’s not afraid to tell it like it is.  And she’s taking the lead on the difficult discussions many people want to shy away from.  I have yet to encounter another person taking on the issue of the way in which the internet has propelled the porn industry into our homes.  The access is so ridiculously easy, it’s frightening.  And that’s the problem, lots of people are literally frightened by what’s lurking out there in the interweb for their kids to find.  But it’s clearly not going away and as Cindy points out, no amount of security features on your computer is going to stop it from invading.  So, let’s not try to shove these issues under the rug, let’s talk about it.  Openly, honestly, and frankly.  Kids are going to see what’s out there, kids are smart, and just as kids learn about relationships from watching the adults around them interact, they also learn about relationships from what they watch – on TV, in movies, on the computer.  Kids are influenced and shaped from the things they witness.  So I applaud Cindy in her efforts to juxtapose “porn sex” with “reality sex” in an honest and frank way without condemning the porn industry.  Because simply saying “porn is bad, stay away!” to our kids is about as logical and effective as saying “don’t have sex.”  Kids are going to make decisions around, about, and with sex no matter what.  Sex is part of being human, so why not empower kids and adults alike to make healthy informed decisions?

You can also find Cindy on TED, which is an amazingly awesome nonprofit focused on educating the world through technology.  Basically, it spreads ideas worth spreading.  There’s a whole world of amazing and free education on TED.  Go learn yourself up!

She also (seriously, this woman is amazing) created this super rad site called “If We Ran the World” which connects people to people to corporations to community by starting with the idea (“If I ran the world, I would…..{fill in blank}….) and developing actions and platforms to connect with people who have the same ideas, or allows people to start something new if there aren’t.  It’s a lovely form of collaboration utilizing social networking via the internet (I love it when people do good things with the internet!)

Go be smart & sexy,

-D