Mini-Post: 32 Flavors of Judgement

I was a bit proud of a post on my blog’s Facebook page a few days ago. It went a little like this:

If I judge myself based on the eyes of society, I fail because there are too many opinions.
If I judge myself based on my own criteria, I still fail because my mind changes moment to moment.
But if I learn to identify and recognize the particularly sour flavor of ‘judgement’ as it arises, I can spit it out and take a sip of water, savoring the complicated colorful glorious mess of perfection that takes judgement’s place. And then maybe I can do something from the heart.

If we learn to smell judgement, no matter how cozy it looks, we can put the cup down!

If we learn to smell judgement, no matter how cozy it looks, we can put the cup down!

This idea was rolling around in my head for a few sleepless hours during the night, and I was excited to wake up and explore it. It was inspired by the most recent blog post in some ways.

 

The Lose-Lose Situation of Judging Yourself Lovingly

I feel like a lot of times in self-helpy circles or new-age ones, there’s this idea of “The only person’s whose judgement matters about you is your own.” But see, that doesn’t work for me.

Because if I judge myself, I’m still judging, and judging is kind of a lose-lose situation. I’m either better-than or worse-than something or someone else, and neither of those feels good. When I feel worse-than, it seems like I should feel “happy” once I’m better-than, but if such a thing does happen through some quantifiable event, it still doesn’t feel good, because then something or someone is in the worse-than slot.

Maybe I’m a hippie and December 21st 2012 is coming, but I really am feeling like duality is falling away from me like an old skin. It’s still always going to be there, but there seems to be a light beyond it. There seems to be a choice now.

There is a line in a song I recently made that says “Duality only goes so far, and it always seems to stop just shy of right where you are.” That pretty much sums it up. We are never in an either/or better/than situation, so those words and judgements are never going to fully feel real and present. Reality just isn’t that way. Or as Greg Brown says, “This life is a thump-ripe melon. So sweet and such a mess.”

But What if I’m Only Thinking Happy Judgy Thoughts?

If we want to see ourselves as lovable and worthy, that’s great. I don’t think that’s the same as “judgement” if we are really feeling that sense of love, because feelings are not felt in words. Does that make sense? Thinking “I must be lovable!” creates a natural void where “not-lovable” lives, and we can fall into it at any moment as long as Judgement is our shaky wildly unpredictable ground.

But feeling lovable, even for a moment, is not creating an opposite, it just is. Maybe making the choice to feel the things we want (or try to) is better than thinking them with our all-positive-yet-forced judgement.

Those are the thoughts for this mini-post!

Your Turn!

Do you have feelings about judgement? Do you think that you are your own best critic, as they say, or do you think that something else is?

Do you like feeling “better than” other stuff, even if it’s just your previous selves that you are “better than”?

Do you think it’s possible to live outside of duality for more than a few seconds at a time? Do you think those seconds are valuable anyway?

Does the whole concept of duality just confuse you and make you want to go find a cozy blanket and watch the Alien anthology?

The “Enjoy Life” Mission is Not to be “Happy”

I’m not sure what the title of my blog causes people to assume, but I don’t, by any means, “enjoy life” all of the time. I feel like there is actually a very devastating and stressful pressure to “enjoy life” among a lot of people of my generation, and I’m hoping this blog can be the place where we can let go of pressures like that. Do you know what I’m talking about? Have you felt it too?

The Pressure to Be Happy: You Have No Right to be Sad

Maybe the pressure comes from the stresses that previous generations had to go through to get us where we are today. We have food on the table, so we really shouldn’t complain. That makes sense.  But then we have the other end of the spectrum.

The Pressure to Be Happy: You Should Be Rich Doing What You Love, Everyone Else Is!

We could end up being famous like entrepreneurs that run the social media websites and singers that compete on our televisions. We see people making millions for doing something they enjoy, so why shouldn’t we be able to do the same thing?

If we end up in a good job, there’s pressure to be “happy” in it especially if it makes big bucks and we worked our lives for it. If we aren’t in a good job,  we either should find a good job or make the next billion dollar idea or be the new YouTube sensation.

The possibilities are endless, so why are we the only ones in a mediocre job in an icky mood when everyone else is traveling the world having babies and creating masterful lasagnas and found-art garden statues from Pinterest while getting billions of views for that video they posted of their kid saying something silly?

Maybe the pressure comes partially from the fact that we are visible. We share our joy and love with everyone we’ve ever met through various “feeds” so we can graze on everyone’s updates like farm animals sharing space at the trough.

The last thing that I want this blog to be is a place that contributes to that pressure to be happy and joyous.

This Blog is Fueled By Frustration & Fear

I am a person plagued with insecurities, anxieties, fears and frustrations. I also meditate and like to try and improve my relationship with the world. My regular frustrations and insecurities are blessings because I constantly have something to work on, write about, and share to relate with others who are feeling the same things.

This blog is not here to make you happy or to add to that pool of one-sided joy you see in your feeds. It’s here so that we can catch ourselves responding to these pressures and realize that nothing is wrong with us. Everyone gets pissed off, feels unfulfilled sometimes, and wonders whether they were the only one who slipped into adulthood without passing the test that everyone else took that shows you do in fact know what the heck you’re doing.

The Point is to Be Willing to Feel Something New

I know that dishes in the sink will always piss me off sometimes and that I’ll always have frustrations with my job, no matter what the job is or what type of dishes they are. I could make billions a day for testing the softness of pillows and have rainbow crystal opal dishes and I would still get pissed sometimes. That’s okay.

When I pretend that I don’t get mad or that life is some perfect happy everything-happens-for-a-reason type of thing, my heart rots and I start to feel alone, feeling like everyone else gets to just do what they love all the time and that I should be doing that too. I need to remember that it’s okay to feel genuine feelings even if they are icky. I don’t have to run from them or make them all fit into the mold of “happy” against their will. Then I feel fake, and that’s not cool.

“Enjoying life” from the perspective of this blog is not about being happy. It’s about noticing the may ways we run away from the present moment and making the choice, sometimes at least, to feel something new.

Did you think this blog was about being “happy” when you first found it?

Do you ever feel the pressure to become something different or be somewhere different than where you are now? Does that pressure come from you or from somewhere else?

Do you think you’d have fun as an Internet Sensation?

Our Un-Psychic Audience: Reclaiming the Weight We Put On Magic’s Shoulders

So often we are saying this in different words.

Do you think about the way you communicate with the people that you expect to receive your art?

If we want to publicize ourselves, we need to think about what it is we are putting out there, especially if we want more attention than we are getting. We could also stand to have less of an expectation of psychic ability on the part of our audience. Let me explain.

There are times where we are expecting Magic to fill the gaps we leave. Once we see these places, we can start to fill them ourselves, leaving Magic to do bigger and better things. Maybe we can even admit that the less-than-desirable attention we are getting is actually related to the quality and energy of what we are offering.

Once we notice these things, we have more power to stop engaging in them unconsciously.

Indirect Communication & The Expectation of Magic

People can communicate indirectly. If you have been friends with or dated people who do it often, you know how frustrating it can be. “Don’t you hate when it’s chilly outside” can mean “Please turn the heat on, I’m cold.”  There are endless variations.

A friend who was studying linguistics told me that women are more likely to engage in indirect communication than men, and I don’t doubt it.

Within indirect communication, there is a kernel of an expectation of Magic. We expect that the proclamation of how we dislike cold is going to magically send our real meaning into the brain of the other person. It’s not always conscious, of course, but it is there. And it comes up in other ways.

Expectation of Magic With Writing

This pattern of expectation can affect our writing and other art.

With writing, if we assume that the background of a scene is laid out sufficiently when it is not, the reader can get confused. If we don’t think about a character’s underlying motives and personality, their drive is unclear and the story is not compelling.

This is why my first stories were crappy. I expected people to understand how interesting my ideas were because they appeared so in my head; like a child thinking you can’t see him because he is covering his own eyes.

Giving The Magic a Place to Stand: The Value of Effort

If you wanted to do NaNo, you could talk about it all you want from January to October. If November 1st rolls around and you still have to get yourself a computer, a desk, time off of work, typing lessons and a story idea, then you are not prepared.

If, on the other hand, you cleaned your desk, defragged your computer, stocked up on your favorite foods, had plenty of tea, took a few extra days off of work, saved money to cover that loss, and told your family and friends to expect less communication during the month of November, all by the middle of October, then your scene is set rather differently. You put in the work to give yourself the maximum amount of time to empathize with your characters and let the writing happen without extra hindrance.

I am willing to make an assumption that those who put in the effort before NaNo are more likely to write something that others would enjoy reading. And the same goes for other types of art and projects.

The Difference Between Frantic Advertising & Popularity

No matter how much we advertise ourselves to the world, we are not going to get real attention if our product sucks and if we aren’t really putting ourselves out there to the extent of our ability. That’s just how it goes, in my eyes.

Brene Brown‘s work on Vulnerability comes to mind. Despite the excited freshness with which she presents herself, she did many years of research before her famed TED talk. She was not just throwing some ideas together and hoping for the best like some people do with their blog posts (ahem). She did studies, she read books, she went to therapy; and only after building all of that solid ground did she share the results and touch an audience.

Music is similar. Someone who does a live guitar solo after years of practice is going to impress the crowd even if they make mistakes much more than the person who does a solo after playing for a month or two. The past effort shows, it informs the skill of the present, and it touches us when they can show us the extent of this skill in a vulnerable and fresh way. If the second person were to sing words that they’d been thinking about and reflecting on for years with a sensitive awareness, then that may be more touching than the guitar part; it all depends on what they share and when and to whom.

It basically seems like people recognize hard work and skill when they see it; not when they are told to.

How Do We Use This Information?

Maybe we can do a more honest acknowledgment of what we are putting out there, what we put into it, and how much that shows. Then we can reduce the tendency to think others psychically know that we deserve love and attention, and actually start showing them what we do and what we offer so that they can make their own choice.

Trust the things that you know, the things that you have been studying formally and informally. Trust them and share them, but perhaps be aware of where an assumption of a psychic audience  is creeping in. If people aren’t responding, figure out why it is the case. How would you see you if you were objective and had no idea of what was in your head? What is getting held back and does it add into the whole picture?  Maybe you will notice where you may not be reaching them with the greatness that you feel you have to share.

Aside from my closest friends and my mom, nobody would like the things I began writing at first.  I wasn’t deserving of praise and attention from an objective audience, and now it is obvious. But at the time, I was confused as to why my first blog posts weren’t catching on like wildfire. But now I get it, at least partially. I hardly knew what the hell I was doing, and still don’t, but I’m closer. Even if all of my friends share my posts, the people that come back and read them are those that are touched by what they see because they found it on their own; rarely if ever is it the people who I messaged and personally asked to come by. And I know that I have more sharing to do, more vulnerability to meet, and more techniques to employ in terms of applying the knowledge I’ve worked for many years to understand.

Maybe we need to understand our non-responsive audience more effectively. They aren’t psychic, we aren’t sharing something of value to them, and when we do, they will be touched and will come back for more. If we are sharing honestly and vulnerably and nobody cares, then perhaps we need to re-evaluate what we are doing if their attention is something that we require (such as anyone who wants to write or make art for a living).

This is a new way of thinking for me and I’m trying it on to see what new actions it may lead to. The last time I explored a mindset (paying more attention to vulnerability, from Brene Brown’s TED talk) I ended up cutting off five years’ worth of dreadlocks because I realized that the comfort I was gaining from them was not necessarily something I wanted to keep indulging in.

I  realize that my old writing was full of assumptions and expectations, laying a whole lot on the shoulders of Magic, and I’m only now starting to find my voice and hold that weight myself, letting Magic do what it wants and letting the psychic abilities of my readers be used for better things than figuring out what I’m trying to say. I’m supposed to be a writer, so it’s kind of my freaking job. I may as well step up to it.

What About You?

Do you think that you are getting the attention you think you deserve for your art, writing, or other type of work? If not, do you know what you want to do better? Do you want support in that regard?

Do you think that this is crazy and I’m totally off track, and that things can get organically famous and popular without the person having spent time on the skill or figuring out how to best share it with the world? Do those of us that are beginners have any hope of reaching people? Have you ever done something as a beginner and had it have a great impact on others?

Do you use indirect communication, or do you know someone who does? Is it less annoying to you than to me?

I always love your guys’ thoughts; they have helped me learn about my writing more than anything in the past.  Thank you so very much for sharing them, publicly and privately.

 

Finding Nourishment in the Roots of a Facebook Status

Sometimes there’s pressure to put on a certain face for the public world. But how do we really feel?

Lately I’ve been thinking a bit about Facebook statuses.

Maybe it’s because a lot of my friends seem to be sharing things that otherwise would never be known. Secret drunken laundry dance parties, for example.

Maybe it’s because the person doing secret drunken laundry dance parties is my sister. Who knows. The point is, a lot of my friends are doing well and having fun; this I know from their statuses. All of my friends that I talk to, however, are having hard times here and there.

Why do we share what we share, especially on these quick statuses?
Sticking with the theme of this blog, which is learning to see things in new ways and not be too automatic (sometimes for the sake of writing better material), I am going to write here about how we may gain psychological nourishment and extra story material by looking at why we choose to make certain Facebook statuses.

The Example of the White Gecko

Here is something I’ve been thinking about writing on Facebook as a status:

“For the first time ever, there was a pink gecko in the bedroom!”

Instead of writing that status, I analyzed it. Why, I said to myself, why do you feel the need to tell all the people that there was a gecko in your bedroom? You certainly wouldn’t call them and tell them. Except for maybe your sister. So…

Here’s what I came to while trying to deconstruct my impulse for posting about the pink gecko:

1. It shows that I am living in a place that is unique for me, because Geckos don’t live in CT or MA, where I came from.

2. It shows that craaazy things happen in my life, therefore, I am interesting.

3. Geckos are cute and perhaps people will smile just thinking of one.

4. I just want people to acknowledge my existence in this strange and fleeting life.

5. Was it really pink? Maybe someone will explain the process of color-changing to me.

Now, none of this was really conscious at the time of thinking “Gosh darn golly gee, I should write about that gecko!” Instead, it was just an impulse. Just like my impulse to quote certain lines of songs by Tom Waits and Bob Dylan quite often, which I also refrain from doing.

It seemed that what I really wanted was to tell a story. I really wanted to share something, to be seen, to be acknowledged, and to project a certain image through that. Like my sister and her drunken laundry party. She might have been hanging out alone, but at least everyone she ever met knew that she was having a good time.

I’m finding that that the impulse to post a photo (or just to get a photo) of a sunset, or the rainbow, or a cool view of the city skyline, is much the same. It usually breaks down to some combination of:

-My life is fun, believe me, here’s proof!

-I am interesting; please, god, friends of past, present, and future, agree with me that I’m interesting!

-I’m doing well, don’t worry, I’m happy in some moments, like this one, which you get to see in full color in all of its instagrammed glory!

-Smile, darnit! You are my friends, you should be smiling! Maybe this will make you smile!

A picture that my Facebook friends never got to see..

And others. I am never quite disappointed with the resulting feelings of asking myself  “Why do I feel I should post that particular status or picture to Facebook?”

Memories of External Validation

I think we’ve all had the  “If that person thinks I’m awesome/pretty/smart/interesting, then I will finally feel like it myself” feeling. For me, it happened a lot when I was younger.
Now when it happens, it seems to be related to work-stuff a lot. A boss, an organization, a magazine. “If they take my manuscript/essay/short story, I will truly feel like a good writer!” and it goes on.

Now, why is this? It is clearly repetitive and illogical. A sunset is gorgeous whether or not all of my friends see it too, a gecko on my wall makes me smile even if nobody else sees it, believes it, or can even empathize with it. The same story that one magazine rejects may be perfectly acceptable to another.

External validation has never worked, nor will it. So why keep trying, and is there any harm being done?

Do We See The Extent of It?

I remember reading a study about people feeling worse about themselves after seeing the very best pieces of all of their friends’ lives on Facebook. This is a big deal to me. It’s a lot like those studies of magazines many years ago where the psychologists basically watched girls’ self-esteem go down the more pages they looked at of mainstream magazines.

The reason it matters is that it affects people I love, and it also might be a factor in helping to be aware of the causes of depression or bad moods in myself.

So, when we try to extract the happiest and most validating moments of our lives, our friends see that. Then, they get an unrealistic idea of our lives, and judge their own based on that lens that everyone contributes to. They choose to then show their happiest moments, and we feel that we need to also be that perfect. This keeps compounding itself.

The more we show our best sides, the more one-dimensional the whole situation seems to become. That’s why I’m rooting for honesty and examining my intentions before leaving any type of status to see if it really will meet the need I expect it to.

Usually what I come up with is that I need to validate my own joy and interesting-ness, so I end up doing things like making faces with materials that fall from the trees at the coffee shop to make myself smile. But I’m not going to show you those.

Turning The Mirror Around
I think that in terms of writing fiction, thinking about this kind of stuff matters. The world seems to be moving me in a direction of more automatic behavior. Instead of reading street signs, I can just watch the arrow on my GPS. Instead of dialing each number of someone’s phone number, I can scroll to find their name. These are little things. But they add up, as I’ve mentioned before.

So before I start making automatic status updates to try and reach for some sense of validation or present some image that I’m not, I may as well think about where those are coming from. It helps me to see inside some of my characters for the various fictional pieces I’m working on. Because what are our characters besides pieces of ourselves, and how are we going to know their true and genuine responses to things and motivations when we are not exploring our own?

We can start with what motivates us to make a status, if we want. I’m starting there, and my stories have been pumping out like crazy since the cancelled gecko status. It may be cause and effect, it may not be.

How about you?

Have you ever explored the feelings behind why you make certain statuses? Do you feel like you are completely honest in them, or that you are showing your best or most upset sides?

Do you feel different after looking at Facebook for ten minutes than before? Does it help you feel more connected to people, or less?

And also, I lied about not showing you the face made from fallen objects at the coffee shop.

Sometimes, you just gotta sit alone and make an acorn face.

Re-Claiming Your Stolen Sense of Intuition

I was eavesdropping on a conversation many years ago at Puffers Pond in Amherst, Massachusetts. It was a conversation between a young child and her mother. The mother was clearly in a bad mood, talking in curt little sentences, shoulders hunched, plowing her body through the sand and dragging the kid alongside her. The child asked,

“Are you angry, mommy?”

“No. I’m fine.” was her abrupt, angrily spoken answer.

“Oh. Okay!” The child cheerfully replied.

I watched them, and had a moment of revelation. That child had a great intuition. The child was correct in picking up on her mother’s obvious body language. At the same time, she was too young to say, “Are you sure you aren’t angry, mommy? See, you are walking much faster than me, your shoulders are showing obvious signs of tension and your voice is coming out in a rather abrasive manner…”

My concern was that from then on, the child was going to have similar intuitions, and think back to this day, even subconsciously. She was going to remember that if her mother had similar body language, she was probably not actually angry. This is a huge problem.

The child had a blind trust in the mother, as many of us do as children, especially if our parents are generally kind to us most of the time. We sort of have to. They feed us, protect us, and we know that we need them.

And yet, they are usually a bit crazy. They have to go to work, sometimes to a job they do not enjoy. They have to make money, they have to feed us, they have to give up some dreams in order to tend to ours. They have to conform to a society that is inherently working against their nature, working against their ability to touch in honestly with their emotions. And they pass that perverted blessing down to us without even realizing it.

They have to. We have to. We grow up and get some of our intuition back, but it takes work. And then, after those blissful years of thinking that we can change the world if we try hard enough, we realize that actually what we need is a job and an iPod and someone to marry us. Then we have kids and lack the patience to truly deal with our emotions, so we teach them to do the same. This is how I see the situation in an egg shell, even though there are many more bits and pieces.

The problem is that touching in with our emotions takes time. Not time tomorrow, not time next week or on our next vacation; time. Time. Right. Now.  It requires us to stop with the work, stop with the incessant thinking, and sit down. It requires us to be vulnerable, to express that vulnerability, to truly feel ourselves being in pain or being scared or being happy, even. It requires some spaciousness in the present moment, and this is precisely what many of us lack.

We all have our ways of touching in with our emotions and allowing ourselves to be. For some of us, there is meditation. For others, there are long jogs where we let our brains shut off. Everyone figures out some way to do this, but rarely do we have in-depth discussions about it. Especially with our kids. It is hard to teach these things, and we definitely do not learn about them in school.

And this is why the mainstream nuclear family’s ability to deal with emotions is steadily going down the drain. Everyone has their own room, everyone has their own music device and personal television, everyone can isolate and pretend that they are the only ones who have crazy emotions. The world around them is basically telling them that no one else struggles with these things, everyone else is fine, and their parents “love” them.

My earlier post about magic words dealt with this issue. Here, I want to go more into the idea of “I love you.” These words require almost nothing to say. Saying them out loud burns a half a calorie at most, depending on your personal metabolism.

Your parents may have said this to you a lot when you were little.  Maybe they still do. But what do they mean? Sometimes they look at you with pity and ask if you really need that second serving of dessert, but they love you. Sometimes they yell and tell you that you’ll never be a good driver if you use your brights on a side street, but they love you. Sometimes they look at your new partner with condescending eyes and barely listen to a word they say, but they love you. Is this love?

Personally, I don’t think so.

Or, maybe it is. Maybe it’s love, but not respect. Either way, it can cause a lot of confusion down the road. Whenever someone, especially a parent who you still have some respect for, says “I love you, but…” you are getting a very mixed signal. You are hearing that they love you, you are trying to figure out what this  means (or at least, at 28 years old, I still am) but you are seeing that there is clearly not a sense of respect at some moments. Sometimes there are even a lot of conditions on this so-called love. And then, there is the almighty “If you really loved me, you would…” and this is utter nonsense.

If someone is claiming to have unconditional love for you, and then treats you horribly, maybe they do love you in their own twisted version of the word. But they are not showing you respect, and you have to stop the wheels of your mind for a moment in order to touch in with how you feel.

No matter what someone means when they say they love you, you have to listen to your own feelings. How are they treating you? Try not to think about it in terms of concrete examples of what is love or not-love, but just think of how you feel. You can tell when someone is genuinely spending time with you, and you can also tell when someone is in their own head while with you and is hardly present at all. You should pay attention to the same things within yourself.

The problem is that our culture teaches us numbness at every possible moment. You are supposed to get a job, make money, come home and turn on the TV. You are supposed to work yourself to death to pay for things you never really  needed. You are definitely not supposed to sit in silence, taking breaths and feeling the air come into your body and fuel your very existence. This would be a waste of time, I mean, you could be working.

And this is what our parents have been taught. This is how they grew up, and this is how we are growing up. I love you is a set of words that is supposed to mean something, but often times, even coming from those that we have known the very longest, they mean nothing. They symbolize an intention, a play of power, an excuse. They are often times backed up by nothing, and yet we can hear them and turn into ourselves, trying to figure out why we feel insane.

The reason we feel insane is that we have been the little girl. We have all had intuitions that have been true, and yet the people we were intuiting about have told us we were wrong. We believed them. We repeat the process, hiding our fears and moods from those around us, telling people we love them when we have no clue what that means. We say it while thinking of other things, we say it without truly feeling anything. Even though we know the feelings are in there somewhere, we don’t have the time to stop our minds and touch in with them.

This is the problem. And the only solution is to stop. To listen. To trust your feelings, and let go of trying to make the square peg fit in the round hole. To realize that sometimes, people say they love us, and what they mean is something different. Sometimes, a parent or partner is truly disrespectful, regardless of how many calories they burn on words. The words I love you coming from their mouth does not need to make you second-guess your intuition. The words do not need to make you feel as if you are crazy, or not seeing something that you should be seeing.

All I’m saying is that I’ve been there, feeling crazy, trying to make myself believe something. God knows how many calories that burns, but regardless, my wish would be for myself and those around me to remember that our intuitions are valuable. Our time is valuable. Our lives are valuable. When someone calls us out on something, it may be hard to admit that they are right, but the more that we can foster this intuition in ourselves and others, the more this culture of isolation will be put in its place.