Busy Being Humans

An old song of mine that has words related to duality http://jenniferstuart.bandcamp.com/track/let-the-noises-in-2

An old song of mine that has words related to duality http://jenniferstuart.bandcamp.com/track/let-the-noises-in-2

The Buddha pointed out long ago that we do not have a solid self. The denial of this fact can lead to suffering.

I’m noticing that we are expected to feel, often times, one way. Either hurt or happy, sensitive or tough, falling apart or totally together.

I’m noticing that this isn’t true to most of our experience.

If someone gives me criticism, it is one of the most potent times for me to notice that split. On one hand, I may really try to take in what they are saying so that I can fully absorb it. On the other hand, I may be a little hurt in a little kid way. On the third hand, I might be touched and thankful that they actually gave me feedback at all.

But it’s hard to put all of those things into a tidy sentence in the moment, or to wear it as a sensible facial expression.

When you think about how we are presenting ourselves to much of our world right now, via Facebook and texts and twitter and anything else, this idea is even more pronounced. You write a single status update, for every single friend. You send a text with no voice intonation, maybe even to someone you just met who doesn’t know the nuances of your speech patterns. We constantly seem to be in situations where having one thing to say or feeling one way is appropriate, expected, and normal.

This seems simple enough, doesn’t it? I think it’s a nice thing to think about, especially as we listen to other people talk. It’s sometimes useful to remember that every feeling has a whole lot of others that are also there, not always expressed, and not even always incredibly conscious.

My theory is that the more we all are aware of these things, the less we will feel like we are “doing it wrong” when we actually are just being humans, and the expectations apply more easily to robots. And the more we allow for this type of thing in others, the more everyone else gets to feel less isolated themselves.

I just lost my well-loved job. Now is a time of many mixed feelings. Maybe that’s why this topic is on my mind in this way. I spent a lot of the day making jewelry on my living room floor, listening to local music and thinking about the future. I have to figure something out soon, and until then, I’ll sell  necklaces at little markets and spend what I saved as little as possible while I wait for more potential work with the same organization to come back.

But yes, these are interesting times. I hope everyone is well, and I hope that I’ll be writing more often soon, I know it feels so great when I do!

Do you think that you often times feel just one way, or is it usually a mix?

Do you feel like it’s easy to express that mix in a way that people understand?

Do people ever expect you to feel one way when you don’t?

Harness Your Inner Opposite Day!

The other day I had this thought, and it has turned out to be a really useful one.

To set the stage, it was late at night. I fell asleep reading in a cozy bed with a dog at my feet. I believe my mind was saying something like,

“God I don’t want to get out of bed to brush my teeth. I just want to keep sleeping.”

And then it went,

“I wish I wanted to brush my teeth. How would that feel?”

And I proceeded to pretend like an actress that all I wanted to do in the whole wide world was get out of the cozy bed, put my feet on the carpet and walk myself to the bathroom to brush my teeth. I even pretended to look forward to the feeling of cold water.

The result was rather amazing. It made it a lot easier to do it than when I was fighting off my loathing for leaving the coziest place in the universe.

I continued to try this with other things.

“I am going to be so nervous when my friend asks me to sing with her later.”

Pause.

“I cannot WAIT to sing with my friend later. It’s going to be so fun. I am just so excited to see what happens!”

and then, even:

“I wish I never had to sing in front of anyone, ever. I don’t want friends. I don’t want to sing. I hate the whole thing!”

Like Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Sometimes you have to play around with extremes to see where you actually want to be.

The thing is, there are always many ways to see things. But usually we just stick with the first one. “I don’t want to do the dishes.” “I wish it was sunny out.” “I am not the kind of person that would enjoy walking in the rain, playing an open mic, dancing with a stranger, eating a salad for dinner…” anything at all. We get stuck and save time by not bothering to see things in the less familiar way.

We get these fixed notions, but what about trying for fun to see the same thing in the opposite way? And then maybe, a third way? A made-up way? A way that just reminds our brain that really, the first notion we have about the way something “is”, especially when that something is as complex and lovely as our human being selves,  is not necessarily the ideal one.

Just some thoughts for a Tuesday. I’m hoping that by continuing to do this, I’ll get through some aspects of stage fright and other patterns. Even if that doesn’t happen, the process of doing this is fun and leads to some cool perceptions. This picture, if it was moving, would display me singing in front of a new friend. So clearly, something is working.

Do you ever think about things in an opposite way just for fun?

Are you going to try it?

Do you know some of your most solid beliefs or ideas that you wish could change but you are just positive that they won’t?

Do you remember being different than how you are now, and wondering if life would ever change?

I hope your week is going well!

 

 

New Year’s Resolutions: Are You On the Bus or Off the Bus?

Following the patterns of flowers, we can see that blooming happens during all times of year, depending on the surrounding circumstances.

Following the patterns of flowers, we can see that blooming happens during all times of year, depending on the surrounding circumstances.

A lot of us make New Years Resolutions. There’s something lovely about them. A fresh start with no real conflicting feelings.

Other holidays have a different charge.

Thanksgiving can make my stomach turn thinking about the grace of this continent before strip malls and highways, Easter just feels odd and lost, Christmas can be a slayer. But the eve of New Years is pretty neutral, even though the whole year thing has something to do with Jesus.

The holiday is at least not a direct celebration of that, for those who are of different faith. It’s fun for lots of people. A fresh beginning.

People want to lose weight, to quit smoking. They want to learn French, or to send more query letters out. They want to save more money, spend more time with family, get a new floor finally. Whatever it is, they want to do it, and the first of the year is a good start because last year is shed like an old skin easily and effortlessly with the drop of a glowing ball in New York City.

This, my friends, is some magic worth harnessing.

Feelings are like Touring Bands

When your favorite band goes on tour, you probably make an effort to see them. Maybe when you are at the show, you feel painful sadness ripping the insides of your ribcage as they play the songs that tore you apart when you were younger. Maybe you dance and have fun, or just film the whole performance with your i-thing. Whatever you do, you show up, and you let yourself feel things because you paid good money to be entertained and emotionally affected.

Normal everyday feelings are like that too, except they don’t sell tickets and they don’t really give you a choice. They show up and do what they want with your ribcage or your endorphins, and sometimes you film it with your i-thing. You’re along for the ride.

One thing I sometimes do with some feelings is memorize them. It’s generally so that I can better write about it later in a book where the main character happens to be feeling the same thing. How does the floor feel under my bare feet when I’m sad, how do the walls look? How is this different when I’m happy, or during that moment when sadness fades into objectivity? Can I find that moment if I pay attention to the sadness carefully enough to catch it?

It’s fun to do this for various reasons. For one thing, you might end up writing better characters if you like doing that. For another thing, you aren’t fused with the feeling quite as intensely. You are noticing how the feeling feels, which means you are bigger than it, and that’s great when it comes to trying to live your life with more awareness.

New Year’s Eve: The Power of Letting Go

Even though New Year’s Resolutions are mostly about new beginnings, built into that goal by default is the feeling of letting go. Letting go of patterns that we want to stop, letting go of addictions we want to drop. It’s as if there’s a magic bus that pulls away from our stop every December 31st at 11:59pm, and offers us the chance to succeed with ease this time if we just jump on.

But I’ve got news, folks. That bus is always running, every half hour on the dot right on your street corner. You just have to get on.  But you can’t do that if you can’t see it, can you?

Harnessing the New Year’s Passion of Letting Go & Seeing the Bus

I can’t tell you how many rejection letters I’ve gotten from fiction magazines. But the thing is, as soon as I started putting out queries to magazines about psychology and consumer issues, I got more of a response. That’s because I have far more experience with those things. Now I’m focusing on them a bit more and realizing that I was rather short-sighted while being obsessed with fiction.

Letting go of trying to become some fiction expert relieved me of a heavy burden. The rejection letters that come trickling in don’t affect me like they used to because I’m not letting them impact my self-esteem. They used to, though, to some extent. I let go of that. Which is a surprise, because I generally find it awful hard to let go of anything.

But letting go is great. Letting go is natural. Letting go gets us places because we get better gas mileage. Celebration

So that’s my New Year’s inspiration post for you guys. Remember the letting go, remember to harness the feeling of “New Years” and allow yourself to indulge in that magic bus ride to easy-change during the rest of the year as well, because just as a passion flower blooms during November in Austin and in the summer in Connecticut, year-long cycles are always beginning.

How about you?

Do you guys have any great New Year’s resolutions that you want to publicly declare in this space?

Do you think the whole business of resolutions is rather silly?

Am I wrong about this holiday being a neutral one, is there something that should really be pissing me off about New Years Eve? I’m ready for it!

And last but not least, happy New Year!

Will it Ever Feel Like Christmas Again?

This is the extent of our decorations..and it's still 80 degrees..

This is the extent of our decorations..and it’s still 80 degrees..

The older I get, there are more sad associations build up around holidays. Especially this year because it’s 80 degrees, my nuclear family is a few thousand miles away, and hearts are broken all over my home state of Connecticut. The holidays just don’t feel as good and innocent as they did when I was little.

I remember being young and asking about Santa. I asked if he could get us anything, and my parents nodded, knowing that the huge box of markers I had in mind was already a done deal. I asked if he came to everyone’s house, they said he did. I asked why people who need money don’t just ask for it then, instead of presents. They didn’t have a good answer. Maybe they said the elves couldn’t make money in the North Pole, I’m not sure. I just remember that it seemed awfully unfair, but I didn’t stop believing just yet.

That’s the thing. The unfairness was harder to handle than disbelief, in some ways. It was awful, and yet there was nothing I could do. The elves can’t make money and toys don’t pay bills, so suffering would happen and my fleeting notion that I had solved the world’s poverty problem was thrown out the window.

The Difficulty of Grasping “It’s Just Unfair”

When it came to learning Santa was fake, it was far more simple. Okay, there is no Santa. Not a huge deal, I sorta saw it coming anyway. Being a big fan of magic, I was just happy that they taught my brain to believe in magic at all (Yes, that’s the kind of stuff I’d think about as a kid). It was harder to feel and hold the sadness and anger that I could get presents, but not get money to give to everyone that needed it.

Let’s go to the Connecticut tragedy for a second, because that feeds into this too. In the midst of conspiracy theories and extreme religious people saying that God planned it or something like that, I can’t help but feel like these mentalities are held by those trying to run from that feeling of how horrible it is that someone could do such a thing without being brainwashed or part of God’s master plan. Murder of innocent people is happening in so many places, so much of the time, and yet we can’t always picture it or feel sorrow. For me, it’s easy to picture a suburban Connecticut town in December right before Christmas; that was where I came from. Maybe if it happened in the high plains it would seem farther. But having the ability to visualize it and relate with the situation makes it feel more powerful to me, and I’m not going to feel guilty for that. I can use the high impact of the tragedy in my consciousness to lead to more empathy when I hear of the many deaths of children around the world, but the ones that are “close to home” are going to hit harder, I would imagine.  It’s just how it is.

Back to the holidays, though.

Sure Doesn’t Feel Like Christmas Time

It doesn’t feel like Christmas and I don’t know if it ever will. Even if I was with my family on the East Coast, there is less of that feeling. Perhaps the holiday joy gets deeper and less sparkly as we age. Maybe it gets grainy and raw, a holiday feeling that has Sam Elliot’s voice and the grumble of a diesel engine. Maybe it isn’t light and fluffy like movie snow, but resistant and firm like a wrought iron crowbar from hundreds of years ago, being dug up from the dust.

Who knows.

But it’s okay. It’s fine. It doesn’t need to be any certain way, it just has never quite dawned on me that perhaps it isn’t just “this year” that feels off. Maybe the holiday spirit has taken on a permanent new form for me. The amount of friends I have who have lost parents or people close to them is growing, my heart goes to them as the holidays roll around, and there is sadness. It’s not just about trying to wish hard enough for new markers or crochet a dozen last-minute scarves. It’s about realizing that the holidays are as much a trigger for pain for some  people I love as a reason to celebrate for others.

The Roots of the Magic Becoming Transparent

Part of it is the decorations and consumer-based nature of this beast.

Cute plush stockings are our only decoration this year, but I know that the places where they were made would probably make me a bit sick. There are so many illusions, all trying to support the idea of love, but distracting from it, too. Cut down trees, buy gifts, buy insane amounts of decorations. I imagine being in some faraway factory, bracing for the time when Americans go nuts for cheap treasures.

What am I saying here? I’m not quite sure. I am having a hard time thinking normal thoughts since the Connecticut shooting, and anything else seems rather trite. I wonder if other people are feeling the difference in holidays as they get older, and if this holiday season will feel like other holiday seasons to anyone who felt a connection to Connecticut and the other recent tragedies.

Are you having a good holiday season, whatever holidays it is that you celebrate?

Are you finding the joy in these times, even with the pain happening?

Do you feel like the holiday spirit changes as we get older, or does it change as a product of the times, with technology and blow-up decorations taking the place of hand-made presents and simple ornaments?

Any thoughts you have related to the above are completely welcome.

I hope you are all well!

Checking Stats: The Deception & Addictiveness of Simplicity

I noticed an interesting event a few mornings ago when I looked at the clock the second I returned from a dog walk. “Aw, 10:15 already?” I said, but a nanosecond before looking at the numbers, my mind said “you’re going to think it’s late.” I realized that no matter what the numbers on the clock were, I was going to think it was late, because I was feeling rushed. It had nothing to do with the numbers.

Numbers affect me. I’m competitive in some ways. If we start playing a card game, I’ll want to win really, really bad. Not for any good reason. If there’s a game of me versus myself, I’ll still want to win. And that is where the stats come in.

Noticing the Impact of Stats & Numbers

Many of us use WordPress Stats, and any other social sites you are on may also have them. The musically oriented Soundcloud, for example, recently added one big box that just says “Views today” and “Views Yesterday” side by side. You can see in one nanosecond whether or not you had more views today or yesterday. That shift really caused me to see how much my brain is attracted to and affected by rather meaningless numbers.

It happened instantly. I wanted the number to be bigger today than yesterday.

The same happens with the Facebook page for my blog. There are even red and green arrows showing how many more or fewer people saw my posts each week, and they affect how I judge myself, the blog, and the value of it all. It’s not always conscious, but I want to be told “Good Job!” by the numbers just like I tried to always get A’s in school. I don’t like red arrows pointing downwards and telling me that I did worse today than yesterday.

The Difference Between Stats & Meaning of Stats

Maybe yesterday I got 800 blog hits and today I have 12. Maybe today though, someone sends me an email and tells me that because of reading my blog, they realized they wanted to stop harming themselves. Or maybe that happens and they don’t tell me.

According to the stats and my stat-focused-mind, the 800-hit day was better. According to my meaning-focused mind, the 12-hit day was better, unless I don’t know about that person and their decision. According to the dog, the best day was whichever one included bacon.

The world is bigger than those stats but it shrinks to their size pretty darn fast. They can seem to eclipse all else, at least for me, especially if I’m already in “a mood.”

What does this mean? I don’t know. Just that it’s something to pay attention to.

Why Do Some Of Us Love Numbers?

My guess is that it’s because they are concrete at first glance. It’s easy to look at Soundcloud now and say “Yesterday I did better than today” because of those huge in-your-face numbers that you can’t get rid of.

I can go to my blog’s Facebook page and look at the red arrow pointing downwards telling me that I have 357 fewer views this week than last week and feel like I did “worse” this week. This week was “bad”.

Good/bad, right/wrong, dark/light, sick/well, these things are addictive because they are deceptively clear and simple. They let us ignore the feeling of being uncomfortable, of stepping into new territories, and of facing the moment in an authentic way that does not rely on duality for judgement. stats 2

And I think the developers know that. Numbers cause an instant reaction. I get a slight rush when the numbers go up, almost regardless of what they actually indicate. A minute ego-boost happens when they go up. When they go down, I want to fix it. Like a rat in a cage trying to get pellets.

Using This In A Useful Way

On that morning I realized that the clock was going to be “too late” no matter what time it said, I made a decision inside. That decision is to pay attention to how numbers affect my mind. To remember that the picture is always bigger than the numbers, even if that’s less comfortable to perceive or acknowledge.

Since I know that my particular brain is prone to latching onto the numbers in their alluring simplicity, I can keep a special eye on that. My world doesn’t need to be reduced in that way, regardless of what imaginary safety that provides in the moment. This is not restricted to statistics.

This goes for feelings of success/failure, good/bad, awesome/sucky. Any time I attempt to judge myself in this black or white way can probably be looked at more closely because in reality, things are never quite that simple. I’m going to see if this shift helps me to react less to these numbers and to let go of some of the habitual overly-dualistic thinking and self-judgement patterns that don’t quite serve me.

Your Turn:

How about you, do you have a huge tendency to check stats and numbers? Do you have a Facebook page with those red and green arrows, and do you use them or try to ignore them?

Have you found ways of making real use of the numbers and stats for your overall purpose on this planet, whether it’s to help people or make money or make art or anything else?

Are the numbers useless?

Are the numbers just here nor there for you and they are easy to ignore or look at without getting too attached?

 

Related posts for inspiration:

A Lateral Plunge: The Natural Laws of Blogging

The Therapy Booth and their Facebook page with the Don’t Worry Clock!