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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What is courage to you?

I believe right now in American history is an important time to explore what courage means to us on a very personal level.  I’m working on a mission statement for myself, a courage mantra in succinct language I’ll be able to summon when needed.  

I’ve scribbled and doodled and drawn circles and arrows, however, I don’t quite have it yet. I’ll let you know when I do.  I would be curious to know if you have a statement of this nature that you would be willing to share. 

I hope you have a uniquely courageous day. 


Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere…

Jim Jarmusch on creativity:

“Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery – celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.

 

 

This is one of my favorite quotes of all time.  When I think I’m being entirely original that’s when my ego emerges and my work suffers.  If I take note of my inspiration (creative theft), then my work is often more authentic.  Thank you Jim Jarmusch and Jean-Luc Godard, “it’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to”.  Indeed.

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martyr v. trickster energy

One of my favorite books is Elizabeth Gilbert’s BIG MAGIC.  She writes about creativity and what type of energy we let dominate our lives.  She boils it down to two types.

The martyr OR the trickster?

“Martyr energy is dark, solemn, macho, hierarchical, fundamentalist, austere, unforgiving, and profoundly rigid.  

“Trickster energy is light, sly, transgender, transgression, animist, seditious, primal, and endlessly shape-shifting.”

“I believe that the original human impulse for creativity was born out of pure trickster energy. …Creativity wants to flip the mundane world upside down and turn it inside out, and that’s exactly what a trickster does best.  The trickster is obviously a charming and subversive figure.

But for me, the most wonderful thing about a good trickster is that he trusts.

He trusts himself, obviously. He trusts his own cunning, his own right to be here, his own ability to land on his feet in any situation. To a certain extent, of course, he also trusts other people. But mostly, the trickster trusts the universe.”

—Elizabeth Gilbert/BIG MAGIC

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Who wants to live with mostly martyr energy?

Martyr energy is a total bummer.

If the universe is meant to be played with, then we must PLAY.  This doesn’t mean we can escape the mundane parts of daily life, grief or death.  However, deploying our creative trickster energy when needed (even in very difficult passages of our lives) gives us more options and lets us access more creativity.

The trickster trusts and doesn’t let doubt or paranoia get in the way of a good time.

The trickster would invite the martyr to discuss something very serious and then maybe coax them into skinny dipping instead.

Come on, let your inner trickster out.

 

a late night conversation with myself…

Tonight I asked myself what do I want to understand a little bit better about America?  There’s something happening that feels very unique now.  Unfamiliar.   I paid attention to where my line of inquiry lead me.

First, I GOOGLED:  What makes people curious?

SOURCE: https://www.quora.com/Why-arent-many-people-curious

…’Curiosity’ is a discrete psychological trait that varies within human populations just like other personality dimensions such as extroversion/introversion and agreeableness/aggression.”

OK, some people are born curious and others aren’t.  Well, that makes a lot of sense, right?  Then I started wondering what’s the opposite of curious?  Skepticism? No, skepticism plays in the same sandbox as curiosity.  Disinterested?  Unconcerned?  It wasn’t very clear to me in any way.

I asked myself a question—How do I feel when I’m not being curious? 

I think I might feel certain.

I make assumptions based on my gut or environmental factors/circumstances.

I don’t feel very curious.  I don’t value other people’s ideas.  I don’t listen.

So, next I GOOGLED:  What makes people certain about things?

https://www.quora.com/Why-are-people-so-certain-about-things-that-there-is-no-way-they-can-be-certain-about

“,,,Certainty and similar states of “knowing what we know” arise out of primary brain mechanisms that, like love or anger, function independently of rationality or reason. Feeling correct or certain isn’t a deliberate conclusion or conscious choice. It is a mental sensation that happens to us…”     Source: “ON BEING CERTAIN: Believing You Are Right Even When You’re Not”  by Dr. Robert A. Burton

So, certainty is actually a biological feeling, a mental sensation independent of rationality or reason?  We choose certainty because it’s easier?

Damn, that’s really interesting.  Now what?  CERTAINTY is so polarizing in America (and in my own home with young adult children).  It’s a conversation killer.  It’s a deal breaker.  It keeps organizations from growing.  How do we find common ground in our nation now?  It’s late—2:53 am—this is way too much for my very tired brain.

I had to further narrow my inquiry. 

HOW DO CERTAINTY & CURIOSITY MANIFEST IN MY LIFE?

Curiosity results in greater understanding & builds trust.

Certainty tends to make me rigid & judgmental.

I don’t want to be rigid & judgmental.

I want to be curious.

Whew, that was interesting and pretty exhausting.  After many hours and lost sleep, I’ve confirmed that my desire is to be a curious person and that few things in life are so certain that they don’t require some investigation.  Life is really funny sometimes.

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And just for reference…This is where I started 4 hours ago. 

My husband, Jeff listened to a book about Jim Jones and told me about it—fascinating and horrifying.  I needed to know more.  Curiosity takes us on interesting journeys, huh?  I’m not going to read the book (39 hours of audio).  Jeff told me enough to want to know a more.  I stumbled upon this information.

Ten warning signs of a potentially unsafe group/leader.

By Rick Ross, Expert Consultant and Intervention Specialist

  1. Absolute authoritarianism without meaningful accountability.
  2. No tolerance for questions or critical inquiry.
  3. No meaningful financial disclosure regarding budget, expenses such as an independently audited financial statement.
  4. Unreasonable fear about the outside world, such as impending catastrophe, evil conspiracies and persecutions.
  5. There is no legitimate reason to leave, former followers are always wrong in leaving, negative or even evil.
  6. Former members often relate the same stories of abuse and reflect a similar pattern of grievances.
  7. There are records, books, news articles, or television programs that document the abuses of the group/leader.
  8. Followers feel they can never be “good enough”.
  9. The group/leader is always right.
  10. The group/leader is the exclusive means of knowing “truth” or receiving validation, no other process of discovery is really acceptable or credible.

Ten warning signs regarding people involved in/with a potentially unsafe group/leader.

  1. Extreme obsessiveness regarding the group/leader resulting in the exclusion of almost every practical consideration.
  2. Individual identity, the group, the leader and/or God as distinct and separate categories of existence become increasingly blurred. Instead, in the follower’s mind these identities become substantially and increasingly fused–as that person’s involvement with the group/leader continues and deepens.
  3. Whenever the group/leader is criticized or questioned it is characterized as “persecution”.
  4. Uncharacteristically stilted and seemingly programmed conversation and mannerisms, cloning of the group/leader in personal behavior.
  5. Dependency upon the group/leader for problem solving, solutions, and definitions without meaningful reflective thought. A seeming inability to think independently or analyze situations without group/leader involvement.
  6. Hyperactivity centered on the group/leader agenda, which seems to supercede any personal goals or individual interests.
  7. A dramatic loss of spontaneity and sense of humor.
  8. Increasing isolation from family and old friends unless they demonstrate an interest in the group/leader.
  9. Anything the group/leader does can be justified no matter how harsh or harmful.
  10. Former followers are at best-considered negative or worse evil and under bad influences. They can not be trusted and personal contact is avoided.

Ten signs of a safe group/leader.

  1. A safe group/leader will answer your questions without becoming judgmental and punitive.
  2. A safe group/leader will disclose information such as finances and often offer an independently audited financial statement regarding budget and expenses. Safe groups and leaders will tell you more than you want to know.
  3. A safe group/leader is often democratic, sharing decision making and encouraging accountability and oversight.
  4. A safe group/leader may have disgruntled former followers, but will not vilify, excommunicate and forbid others from associating with them.
  5. A safe group/leader will not have a paper trail of overwhelmingly negative records, books, articles and statements about them.
  6. A safe group/leader will encourage family communication, community interaction and existing friendships and not feel threatened.
  7. A safe group/leader will recognize reasonable boundaries and limitations when dealing with others.
  8. A safe group/leader will encourage critical thinking, individual autonomy and feelings of self-esteem.
  9. A safe group/leader will admit failings and mistakes and accept constructive criticism and advice.
  10. A safe group/leader will not be the only source of knowledge and learning excluding everyone else, but value dialogue and the free exchange of ideas.

I don’t know where all of this information will lead me.  I guess I wanted to better understand cult leaders.  This made me think about “ABC After School Specials” in the 70s and 80s when kids had to be “reprogrammed”.  In my memory, Jodie Foster was constantly reprogrammed after having fallen prey to a cult leader. 

 

 

SOURCES: wikipedia—Rick Alan Ross

cult education warning signs

Good golly, I’m certain it’s time for bed. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

 

 

It’s the last day of school…

here in Burlington, Vermont.  My twin girls will be seniors next year so I’m heading into my last year of parenting kids in high school.  I’m finding myself feeling uniquely nostalgic.  I’m not sad about the inevitable transition, but I am mindful.

Last Day of School Lucy and Willa

I have friends whose oldest or only children are graduating on Friday.  It’s big.  When my son graduated from high school in 2014, I was sort of a mess.  I believe there’s just something about transitions that requires us to take stock of our emotions.

The summer between my junior year and senior year of high school was rough for me.  I had a lot of friends in the class above me and they were all leaving for college and other adventures.  Every time during their senior year when we played a ball game, sang in a concert or went to the drive-in movie theater it felt like we were saying goodbye to our childhoods.

Last weekend in South Dakota I got to spend time with some of those friends who graduated a year ahead of me.  It was great!  I simply cannot believe how much time has passed…1983 and 1984 just don’t seem all that long ago in some ways.  I’m very aware of how my daughters are feeling this last summer before they graduate from high school…perhaps even a little too aware.

I guess to honor life’s transitions, we need to slow down a little and try to understand what it is we’re feeling…the good, the bad and the slightly confusing.

Happy Graduation Class of 2017!

 

Fee-fi-fo-fum

Close your eyes.

Think of yourself as a GIANT looking down on your life.

What do you see?

Do things you stress over seem smaller from this vantage point?

We can all access our giant anytime…Fee-fi-fo-fum.

I haven’t named my giant yet…but I have a few ideas.