south dakota, vermont & cape cod

1. South Dakota (heading west)

2. Vermont (a rainy day road trip)

3. Scorton Creek (meandering to Cape Cod Bay)

beautiful obstacles

beautiful:  exciting aesthetic pleasure

obstacle:  something that impedes progress or achievement

I’m beginning to understand that life’s obstacles are an invitation, not an interruption.

 

cognitive, emotional or compassionate?

This morning I read an article by in the Washington Post. There’s been a lot of discussion about empathy lately, however this was the clearest explanation about the three types I’ve ever read.

I thought a quick reference would be useful.  Seeing this in black & white allows me to understand empathy much more clearly.  I hope this is helpful for you too.

three types of empathy

With cognitive empathy, you understand what someone else is thinking and feeling.  Great for business discussions, making plans and solving conflicts.

With emotional empathy, you actually feel their pain. This can be exhausting and take a toll on our health, relationships and sense of well-being.  I’ve started asking myself; is this actually my pain?  Often, it is not.

EXCERPT FROM WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE:  “Neuroscientific research on empathy shows that if you’re empathizing with a person who is in pain, anxious or depressed, your brain will show activation of very similar circuits as the brain of the person with whom you’re empathizing,” notes Richard Davidson, a professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.” 

LINK: Washington Post article about empathy

And there’s compassionate empathy, where you feel concern about someone’s suffering and you’re motivated to help in some way.  I think of all of our nation’s recent natural disasters…we’re moved by compassion to send money or participate in clothing drives.  When we are motivated (or activated), we don’t have to actually feel this pain.  This can be a self-esteem boost and isn’t usually draining.  We feel empowered that we took action.

 

 

 

ancestral wisdom…

Today, I picked up, “The Literature of South Dakota” by John R. Milton.  This book was a gift to me from my grandfather when I was in college.  It fell open onto a short story, “ARCADIA IN AVERNUS” written by my great, great uncle, Will Otis Lillibridge 1878-1909.  Actually a pretty racy story for the time.  “For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind” is the subtitle.  Here’s the summary.The literature of South Dakota

Unhappy wife leaves marriage of convenience for another man, the couple running away to the Dakota prairie to set up housekeeping. All seems romantically well… until the ex shows up. Surprisingly modern (if a little theatrical) novella from the early 1900’s. From the posthumous collection of Lillibridge short stories, A Breath of Prairie, 1911. Arcadia In Avernus
There’s a term that’s haunting me.  In the short story a woman has a dream that she’s in a desolate place and she hears out of the darkness the sounds of human suffering.  The voices grow louder and she sees a man and woman walking toward her.  They are bent beneath a tremendous burden and both have wounds where they’ve carried the load.
lillibridge swing and farmhouse wall
In her dream she asks the man, “What rough load is that you carry?” and he wearily answers, The burden of conventionality“.
“We dare not drop it”, says the woman, hopelessly, “lest that light, which is the searchlight of public opinion return, showing us different from the others”.
He answers her gently, “But the burden isn’t useless, the condemnation of society is an hourly reality.”
We all must carry the burden of conventionality sometimes.  However, we also can choose to write novels (or join the circus or whatever) because we just never know how much time we have.
Thank you Uncle Will, you’re unconventionalness is a source of inspiration indeed.

Lillibridge looking back at SD

 

 

fade & shift

Memory…is the diary we all carry with us.

—Oscar Wilde

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South Dakota—my interior geography

Last week I was in South Dakota for a funeral and a wedding.  In between those emotional events I found some time to drive back roads with my husband, see the stunning late August countryside and find some much needed quiet.  I’m always reminded of how much the prairie landscape resides in my cells, bones and heart.

This landscape gives me clarity, helps me understand my choices and guides me back to my personal True North when I get off course a bit.

South Dakota is my interior geography, no matter where I am in the world. 

Recently, I had to draw a compass at Courage Camp in Bristol, Rhode Island.  I laughed at myself because the way I still figure out directions is to imagine I’m standing on the front porch of my childhood home.  It’s there that I’m most confident in knowing my directions.  (photo below)

IMG_2852Standing on the porch I know which direction the sun sets and how to get to Nebraska. With that knowledge, I can find my way most places.

I often think of my intrepid ancestral homesteaders who ventured West, uncertain of what they would find in the Dakota Territories.  However, and more importantly, perhaps they knew they could handle whatever the prairie offered them. 

I understand that now, at the tender age of 50, in a way I didn’t when I was younger.  I don’t know what’s next, but I know I can count on my interior geography to help guide my way.

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Courage to me is…

listening to my AUTHENTIC SELF even when my SOCIAL SELF is screaming at me to act in accordance with societal expectations and not listen to my inner voice.

AUTHENTIC SELF: who I am at my core, the true substance of what makes me uniquely me, how I desire to live in my heart and soul, who I am when no one is watching

SOCIAL SELF: who I am in relation to others, more protected and very concerned about how others see me, often scanning for what’s appropriate in any given situation, ego

When my authentic self and social self are out of whack, things get pretty weird and I can feel like a fraud.  I don’t want to feel like a fraud.

However, now that I’ve identified what courage is for me, I’m noticing which voice I’m listening to much more quickly.  I think simply noticing is a great first step.

Authentic Voice Lisa Lillibridgeletterhead lisa lillibridge