scanning for patterns…

humans are pattern seeking creaturesNOTE: There is no pattern. I doodled.  It’s random.

Our brains don’t like chaos, we want to believe things are connected, not random.

brainResearching 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.

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“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

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“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.”         

Why Do People Believe in Conspiracy Theories?  by Sander van der Linden Ph.D. Psychology Today

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. 

laundry clip art

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.

RESOURCES

a short video about fundamental attribution error from the U of Texas

US National Library of Medicine/National Institute of Health on conspiracy theories

Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman about slowing our thoughts down when making decisions and judgements.

more prairie stories…

 

 

grief is messy & highly caloric.

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.

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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

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John Lowell Lillibridge lived 79 years, 3 months & 21 days.

Rest, in peace, Big Guy.

You will be greatly missed.

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a constant swivel & an empty nest

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. 

constant swivel lisa lillibridgeAlice 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.  Im 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.)

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The Ideal Mother is a Terrible Parent

by Erin W

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.)

LINK:  https://sherecovers.co/the-ideal-mother-is-a-terrible-parent/

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.

empty nest

human beings are pattern seeking animals

I realize that TV shows from comic books (even the genius of the MARVEL world) don’t work for everyone. So, I wanted to just share a few passages of dialogue from the FX show LEGION that really made me think about how we think.  I recorded this passage on my phone while watching the show and I’ve listened to it a few times.  Today, I finally transcribed it.

“So what have we learned? That a delusion is an idea. That an idea can be contagious. That human beings are pattern-seeking animals. By which, I mean we prefer ideas that fit a pattern.

In other words, we don’t believe what we see. We see what we believe. And when we are stressed or our beliefs are challenged… When we feel threatened… The ideas we have can become irrational, one delusion leading to another, and another, as the human mind struggles to maintain its identity. And when this occurs, what starts as an egg can become a monster.” 

LEGION Season 2 Episode 7 on FX 

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APOPHENIA is the tendency to perceive connections and meaning between unrelated things. Apophenia has come to imply a universal human tendency to seek patterns in random information, such as gambling.

brain its the way it is lillibridgeAfter seeing episode 7 of LEGION, I realized that I was wasting a lot of time trying to make ideas & events fit a certain pattern of thought.  I committed to noticing when I was pattern seeking.  It’s really challenging at first.  However, with practice, I now feel more in control of my mind.  I haven’t eliminated the tendency, but I’ve increased my ability to notice more quickly when it’s happening.

“And now we come to the most alarming delusion of all. The idea that other people don’t matter. Their feelings. Their needs. Imagine a cave where those inside never see the outside world. Instead, they see shadows of that world projected on the cave wall. The world they see in the shadows is not the real world. But it’s real to them. If you were to show them the world as it actually is, they would reject it as incomprehensible.” 

LEGION Season 2 Episode 8 on FX 

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LEGION (David Charles Haller) is a fictional superhero appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics, part of the X-Men series. He is the mutant son of Professor Charles Xavier and Gabrielle Haller. Legion takes the role of an antihero who has a severe mental illness including a form of dissociative identity disorder, in which each of his alternate personas controls one of his many superpowers.

The television series Legion premiered on FX network in 2017. The lead character is portrayed by Dan Stevens (Matthew on Downton Abbey). The series is developed, written, directed, and produced by Noah Hawley.

alone for a few days in NYC…

 

 

 

 

 

 

I traveled alone for a few days last week. 

I moved at my own pace, noticed different things and returned home inspired.

Thank you New York City, you never disappoint.

  • street snaps of strangers
  • graffiti near Grand Central Station
  • coffee at the Fitzpatrick Hotel—44th & Lexington
  • The NoMad Hotel—28th & Broadway

on our coffee drive this morning…

Upon closer observation, I loved this tragic and truly fascinating creature.

I felt an odd kinship of sorts, being a bit prickly myself lately.

“The porcupine, which one must handle gloved, may be respected, but is never loved.”

—Arthur Guiterman, poet

 

Here’s my own version of that quote.

The end of the school year mother, which one must ‘handle gloved’, should be respected, always loved and often feared.

top rack only

On this Mother’s Day, I really wanted to be honest with myself about it all. Mothering my kids has been heart-shatteringly beautiful and sometimes just plain heart-shattering, without the beauty part to soften the daily blows. 

I can’t change anything and regret is a waste of energy anyway.  If I try to tamp the regrets down, I know they will leak out in uncomfortable ways at inconvenient times. 

Recently I noticed the TOP RACK ONLY button on the dishwasher.  “Jeff and I will be a top rack only couple probably a few nights a week when the girls leave for college.”  When I said this to myself, it made me cry inconsolably.  Damn, that’s bleak.  

These episodes are getting more frequent now as our nest nears it’s emptying…clearly a time for a little extra grace. 

When Ellis, Lucy and Willa were growing up, I often did a quick review at the end of the day, asking myself one simple question: Did I love them more than I was pissed off at them?  I don’t remember ever answering, NO.  It was all the encouragement I needed to wake up and mother them another day.

Happy Mother’s Day 2018!

what’s your comfort zone?

I know I have to get out of my comfort zone more often, especially in this current political & social environment.  Doing so might actually be an act of revolution now.  On a long drive yesterday I caught up on some podcasts.  The first one I listened to was:  TED radio hour: comfort zones.  I highly recommend it for everyone at every stage of life.

Here’s the link: comfort zones/TED radio hour

Last week my daughters and I traveled to Washington, DC.  Lucy participated in the admitted students overnight at American University.  She slept on the dorm floor of strangers, introduced herself to kids from all over the world and wondered how her skills and talents stacked up. Talk about a seventeen-year-old stepping out of their comfort zone, right?  She stepped way out, which provided rocket fuel for her growth and made me think about my own.

Human beings tend to stick with our own kind.  It’s soooooooo much easier.  Hearing other people’s perspectives or learning something that doesn’t gel with what we’ve held to be true requires intellectual agility.  It’s hard work and requires lots of practice.  That’s why we often end up sticking to what’s safe and familiar.

In adulthood, if we don’t force ourselves into unfamiliar situations, we can get really stuck. 

As an artist, I’ve worked mostly alone for years, with very little feedback or performance reviews of any sort.  If I want to grow, I need to be told when my work is bad, uninteresting, needs far more research or is hard to understand.

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I’m truly grateful for the encouragement over the years from my friends and family regarding my creative work.  The LIKES and comments have been very supportive, but it’s not enough.

True critical feedback is hard for people to give who are close to us.  If we want to grow, we have to actively seek it out ourselves from other sources.  It’s easier to hear when there isn’t an emotional risk involved.  NOTE:  I need to keep this in mind with my nearly eighteen-year-old girls now.  They aren’t asking and I have to quit offering constant feedback now.

In the podcast, a social scientist says that possibilities come from reaching out to our “loose connections” NOT our friends & family.  This makes sense to me especially when thinking about professional opportunities.

It’s time we all take off our fuzzy slippers, put on some sturdy walking shoes and start exploring the world way outside of the comfort zone.

 

 

the past, the future & the neglected now.

This week I read that forgiveness will only occur when we recognize that we can no longer change our past.  That’s a relatively simple concept.  I’m able to intellectually grasp it and yet…why am I wasting time with would of, could of & should of thoughts?  If thinking about my past can give me the blues and worrying about the future causes anxiety, why am I doing it?  I don’t have to feel this way.  I have a choice.

My past is my life’s circumstance.

I cannot possibly change one thing.

My future is uncertain.

The only certainty is that my life will contain both joy & some devastating heartbreak.

 I’m neglecting my NOW.

What can I do?

I tried saying to myself what I’m doing at any given moment.

“I’m calling the dentist now.”

“I’m watching a video my daughter wants to share with me.”

“I’m checking my email now.”

“I’m listening to (insert the name of everyone you encounter) now.”

You know what?  This really helps.  It slows time down and reminds me that I’m doing this one thing right now.  When I practice this, I feel more in control and less manipulated by those lousy would of, could of & should of thoughts.

“Realize deeply that the present moment is all you ever have.”

—Eckhart Tolle

 

It seems damn near revolutionary to try to be more present is our distracted world. 

I’m going to try.