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“This world of ours…must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.”
—Dwight D. Eisenhower
“Fear in America”—mixed media • layered digital image—2018
NOTE: There is no pattern. I doodled. It’s random.
Our brains don’t like chaos, we want to believe things are connected, not random.
Researching pattern seeking got me thinking about conspiracy theories…of which I am not immune. I went down a rabbit hole after 911, wanting to make sense of the attack on our nation and all of the lives we lost. I really thought I was finding all sorts of insider information. I wasn’t.
Humans are pattern seeking creatures. There’s so much interesting research on this subject. Our brains are capable of gold medal worthy gymnastic moves to confirm our preconceptions. I know I like feeling that confirmation buzz. That heady feeling has a shadow side though.
“A reliable way to make people believe in falsehoods is frequent repetition, because familiarity is not easily distinguished from truth.” —Daniel Kahneman
This quote reminded me of when I hear a song I initially don’t like. If I hear it over and over, it begins to grow on me. Next it becomes familiar…I even begin to like it…hell, maybe even love it, playing it often. With repetition my brain will eagerly override my initial dislike and discernment. This is great when you’re making a conscious choice.
Not so great when the goal is manipulation or brand loyalty.
hate + repetition = acceptance
“The premise of (most) conspiracy theories is inherently unscientific.”
“You should be skeptical of any theory that starts out with the exact same premise every time: Some malevolent and ill-intentioned individual, group, or organization is somehow out to get you.”
“It is not wrong to have a hypothesis. What is suspicious, however, is when that hypothesis never changes.”
“The interesting thing about conspiracy theories is that they start out with the need to confirm a particular premise (i.e., some evil actor must be responsible).
“…psychologists refer to it as a fundamental attribution error—the tendency to overestimate the actions of others as being (intentional) rather than simply the product of (random) situational circumstances.”
Here’s an example of FUNDAMENTAL ATTRIBUTION ERROR:
My husband started the laundry SO obviously he thinks I’m lazy and not holding up my end of our shared household responsibilities. OR…and far more likely, he needed some clothes washed and is just doing the laundry.
It’s so easy to make this error. I know I need to slow my brain down a lot more often before I jump to conclusions in many aspects of my life.
We inadvertently create mini conspiracy theories when we attribute people’s actions as personal and not situational in their nature.
The trick is to learn when to take a moment to see if our attribution is actually accurate.
When I slow down my pattern-seeking brain, I feel more in control of the chaos around me. When I don’t, and I often don’t I feel far more anxious and uncertain.
If all thoughts are creative & inform our reality, then noticing our thoughts must be a survival skill of sorts. We can see our though patterns emerge by paying attention. I think about this, I feel hopeful. If I think about this, my heart races. If I think about this, I feel rage. We don’t have to stuff our negative emotions, they’re trying to tell us something. It just means asking questions about why these particular thoughts are so front and center right now. WHY?
Here’s my noticing list from this morning…6 to 8am.
MUSIC & HEART: My husband plays Summer’s End by John Prine on the guitar. Today, there was a story in the NEW YORK Times about this gorgeous song. Jeff watched the video through the eyes of a father. I watched through the eyes of a child. Summer’s End video & lyrics
DEFINE: I learn something when I look up the definitions even of common words.
- FEAR/transitory adjective—1.to be afraid of 2. to have a reverential awe of
- OTHER/adjective—1. not the same 2. different
- EQUAL/adjective—1. like for each member of a group, class or society
THOUGHTS ON GRIEF: Elizabeth Gilbert from the Brain Pickings Newsletter.
“People keep asking me how I’m doing, and I’m not always sure how to answer that. It depends on the day. It depends on the minute. Right this moment, I’m OK. Yesterday, not so good. Tomorrow, we’ll see.”
INSPIRATION: An 18-year-old delivery guy at Steve’s Pizza in Battle Creek, Michigan does something so full of heart. Steve’s Pizza story on CNN
ALL POLITICS ARE LOCAL: South Dakota’s democratic gubernatorial candidate, Billie Sutton was on Morning Joe today. www.suttonforsd.com
I believe that differing viewpoints bring dynamic ideas to our challenges whether in our civic, social or private lives.
A fork in the road indeed for the good people of the 605.
We all are a bunch of contradictions. It’s hard for me to admit that this is true—every part of me wants to deny this about myself. I would rather have elective dental surgery than investigate this further. Actually I need some dental surgery, I’ve been putting it off…another contradiction.
I did this quick check today to notice my noticing.
I stared at the words I wrote that are entirely at odds with each other.
Can I actually hold all of these contractions at the same time?
YES. I can easily throw all of these messy, contradictory emotions into my bag, grab my keys, walk out the door and go on with my day. We all do it all the time.
NOTICING is helping me understand myself a little better.
I have a lot of emotional work to do
AND I don’t really want to do it.
LIFE IS AN ABSURD AMOUNT OF GREY AREA.
BLACK & WHITE thinking can make us rigid, limiting available options.
Just ask my kids, well, no actually please don’t.
Head or Heart. Winner or Losers. Right or Wrong.
This just isn’t the way the world works. When it does, things can fall apart.
I came across this website today…interesting: DIFFERENCE BETWEEN.
“‘Believing’ means that you have chosen a truth, but ‘knowing’ means that you are certain about that truth.”
I had to read that line about ten times.
AND JUST FOR FUN…
Good luck with your noticing.
HORIZONTAL MYSTERY SHIP when you leave at seventeen rarely home more than two weeks at a time months, years and decades can be surprisingly unreliable markers of adulthood only once in the summer of ‘88 a recent college grad wide-eyed and wanderlust-fueled my tonsils required more I stayed a whole month once healed, packed, and in possession of necessary visas off to the southern hemisphere a young pioneer in search adventure and different stars now, when visiting after a lifetime lived elsewhere grey hairs visible no matter my efforts I find myself sliding into a peculiar second adolescence of sorts driving Dad’s truck windows down, hair blowing mile after mile of expansive, wild beauty the prairie a determined cellular homesteader forever staking a claim in my blood and bones I want to sneak out to the bar play Space Invaders sadly, no longer a standard unlike 1982 drink beer, eat junk food and avoid the endless expectations of being a grown-up Looking back with midlife sensibilities I realize those late nights in high school tenth grade, I believe laser focused, playing Space Invaders provided a surprisingly valuable education initials entered, quarters stacked protect the bunkers, defeat the aliens monitor the horizontal mystery ship with vigilance my peripheral vision unknowingly trained to notice things beyond immediate scope bonus points pinged while friends waited impatiently twenty more minutes, please under a waning August moon only one lunar phase ago I was still my father’s daughter a middle-aged, South Dakota teenager pretending time actually plays tricks wanting desperately to disregard reality one more visit on the calendar one more phone call cheeseburger or ice cream cone one more evening watching Everybody Loves Raymond M.A.S.H. or Mayberry RFD twenty more minutes, please quarters stacked no longer Space Invaders the nearly forgotten teenage relic of a heartbroken fifty-something fatherless daughter once again, I am protecting my bunkers monitoring a new horizontal mystery ship paying very close attention to what's just beyond my immediate scope just twenty more minutes, please
This bouquet from a friend was so lovely when she dropped it off ten days ago or so. I have to admit something that perhaps won’t surprise you. I actually enjoy flowers even more when they start to turn a tiny bit brown, curl on the edges and drop a few pedals.
I know many of you won’t understand this, that’s OK. I promise I won’t send you a decaying bouquet. Although one time, while a student at the University of Wyoming a boyfriend in South Dakota sent me a red rose in the mail. It was almost black, shriveled and curled when it arrived. I still found it oddly beautiful.
When I no longer have to trim the stems of a bouquet, check the water or pinch the drooping leaves, I feel some odd sense of relief. The flowers, no longer expected to be perfect, are free to naturally fade and droop. And I get to enjoy the inevitable state of fading beauty, often leaving the pedals wherever they fall.
I lost my Dad in the early morning hours of August 30th. He was a generous, loving, humorous and complex man. He also was in a great deal of pain. Thankfully he no longer is. But, damnit, he isn’t here anymore either. Now, I’m in pain and I would like to talk with him about what bullshit it is to lose someone I love. He knew this pain, he lost his baby brother, my Uncle Tom, almost exactly one year ago.
I flew home to South Dakota from Vermont the morning Dad died. I wept through both airports—Burlington, Vermont and Chicago’s O’Hare. I had a light blanket wrapped around my shoulders that dried my tears as needed. I walked to my gate in Chicago, blanket draped and carrying a garment bag. I caught the eye of a few people who offered nods of acknowledgement and held my gaze, maybe understanding that grief is messy.
Oddly, I kept hoping I could tell someone, anyone that I just lost my Dad. I now understand what to do if I see someone else in the shape I was in. To hell with privacy. I will offer a hug. Or I will buy them a coffee. Or I will ask them why they are crying and listen, even if I only have a minute before my flight.
I arrived mid-afternoon. Flowers, casseroles, baked goods, fruit baskets, cheese and meat trays had already begun arriving at the house. The doorbell was ringing. The landline was ringing. Our cell phones were ringing and pinging. Hugs and tears filled Mom’s back entryway and helped eased the weight of it all.
I knew the process of the “business” of death wasn’t going to be easy. However, writing the obituary, picking out Dad’s casket and clothes, making phone calls and so on—these things kept us busy. Busy is needed those first few days. Making arrangements gave us something to focus on with a deadline, providing a little scaffolding to a messy emotional process.
There were times before the prayer service and funeral, I wanted the whole world to just leave me alone in my sorrow, because I just lost my Dad.
Thankfully the world didn’t.
I’m now keenly aware of how I didn’t give nearly enough attention to the loss of other people’s parents. I’m sorry if I seemed cavalier. I just didn’t know how much even a small gesture could mean. I always thought of grief as a private process. I understand better now what’s necessary to get through it all.
I’m so sorry for your loss, no matter how many years it’s been for you.
The outpouring of love, time and culinary talents from the good folks in Burke, South Dakota made it the whole process a lot more bearable. No one would’ve loved having all of those goodies around more than John. Right, Dad? Although I think he would’ve hidden the bag of Dorothy’s famous peanut butter cookies in the freezer and pretended they were already gone.
I’m grateful to you all. Thank you so much.
PLEASE NOTE: Is there a metabolic trick that helps burn the calories (mostly from homemade baked goods) that are delivered to the family during a time of loss?
grief + baked goods + casseroles + visiting + crying + fatigue = COMFORT
John Lowell Lillibridge lived 79 years, 3 months & 21 days.
Rest, in peace, Big Guy.
You will be greatly missed.
I’m writing a work of fiction about a middle-age woman, newly empty-nested and figuring out her next stage of life. This week my husband, Jeff and I dropped off our twin daughters at college—Lucy at American University & Willa at Wheaton College in Massachusetts.
It won’t take you too long to figure out who “Alice” is in my excerpt.
“Although, she didn’t have the feeling so many of her friends described of instant familiarity with their babies…some bullshit, mysterious, ancient connection. She felt something else, far less magical, perhaps it was a twin thing.
Alice remembers how immediately after holding Frankie and Pearl for the first time she had a feeling that she was ignoring one baby whenever she turned her head and looked at the other. I’m already screwing this up. She couldn’t possibly have known in that moment that this feeling would never leave her. Alice’s head and heart already on a constant swivel, less than an hour after giving birth to twins.”
As many of you already know, it’s quite an emotional roller coaster to send the last of your brood out into the world. I’m only 16 hours in, so this is all still pretty raw for me.
I believe whenever my wholeheartedness is required,
the process just can’t be rushed.
In the remarkably funny (and raunchy) Netflix series Big Mouth, the character of Jessie’s mother, Shannon has the best line to describe what I’m feeling right now.
“Let’s finish basic training before we go to Fallujah.”
She was describing using a maxi pad, when her daughter asked about tampons. A great line for lots of situations though.
BIG MOUTH was created by Jennifer Flackett, Andrew Goldberg, Nick Kroll and Mark Levin. The voice of Jessie’s mother, Shannon is Jessica Chaffin.
(PLEASE NOTE: Do not watch BIG MOUTH with young kids.)
The Ideal Mother is a Terrible Parent
I stumbled upon this article recently, which helped knock back some of those ever present parenting “should haves”. Thank you Erin W.
“Eventually I smothered the ideal mother. I killed her dead. I introduced myself to my kids and started practicing “organic parenting.” I yell, I curse, I kiss and I hug. I hold onto them and push them away. They hold onto me and push me away. Together, we horrify and delight each other, all the time.” (I love this line wholeheartedly.)
My solace will come from many sources. I’m riding the unpredictable waves as they roll in and I’m trying to listen to my inner self . I know she’ll guide this process far better than any outside sources ever could. I have to be willing to actually listen though.
Hang in there fellow empty nesters.