When I carefully choose what I want to pay attention to, my heart swells.
When I let the world be in charge of what I should pay attention to, my heart sinks.
My thoughts are way too macro right now.
Today, I’m choosing to go micro in my thinking.
I believe my brain will thank me for the respite…even if it’s fleeting.
I think our civilization clearly depends upon finding some middle ground. I know my own family isn’t talking as much because of the polarized political climate. We may be reaching a tipping point of sorts, at least that’s what it feels like to me. I’m hopeful that we can shift course. I believe in the goodness of our shared humanity.
We are living in unprecedented times. A time of chaotic polarity in our civic lives. The lack of middle ground is causing stress to the many systems we all operate in; family, community, government and work. My husband and I are trying to hold some middle ground and manage the stress and anxiety in our home. We’re listening to our children and trying to offer counterpoints to the dizzying array of sound bites & headlines out there fighting for our attention every minute of every day.
I don’t think I’ve hidden my politics from anyone, however, my moderation might be surprising. Labels are easier for all of us than asking questions or being curious about the WHY of someone’s beliefs. We’re ALL guilty of not asking questions and making too many assumptions about others.
We can’t really be heard if we aren’t willing to listen too.
My politics were left leaning before I left conservative Sioux Falls College (now the University of Sioux Falls) in 1988. For my family it was easier to blame my democratic husband who hailed from Massachusetts than to believe I was an outlier. My first experience out of college was to move to New Zealand and work at a non-denominational Christian Radio Station (Radio Rhema) http://www.rhema.co.nz/. My friends were from all over the world and it was fascinating. I actually met the King of Tonga. I heard stories from so many unique perspectives and experiences. This time in my life greatly shaped my personal beliefs. Travel made the world seem quite small in some ways, completely accessible and ready for exploration.
I consider myself proudly American AND a global citizen. My early travel opportunites had a big affect on my choices. It eventually led me to Burlington, Vermont, where I’ve lived since New Year’s Day 1990. Our community is rich with diversity and I feel it’s been quite an education for myself and my family.
My daughters have friends from all over the world (including Muslim kids, many who spent time in refuge camps). They’ve heard interesting stories since early elementary school from their classmates. This is simply our family’s circumstance of living in Burlington, Vermont. I acknowledge that not having contact with people of various nationalities, who dress, speak, and worship differently can make people more fearful. I do understand this from growing up in rural South Dakota AND I don’t pretend to understand what other people feel about this issue. I’m only speaking from my own experience.
When I wrote and asked about the opposite of FEAR last week there were so many thoughtful responses; acceptance, curiosity, love, hope, community and Mark P. wrote; “ACTIONABLE FAITH is the opposite of fear.” I love the idea of actionable faith and that sounds a lot like curiosity to me.
Right now in American life, it’s seems convenient to align ourselves with our political teams and operate in MOB MENTALITY. Reciting talking points from the side we’ve taken without listening isn’t real dialogue and won’t ever promote deeper understanding.
The significantly more challenging and intellectually exhausting space is to take a breath, listen to your own thought and those of others and try to find some middle ground. It’s really uncomfortable to differentiate ourselves and our views when it puts us at odds with our team or the people we care about. Uncomfortable, but really necessary.
I went to bed last night wondering what is the opposite of FEAR. Nothing came to mind immediately for me, or nothing that seemed exactly right anyway.
This is hardly an original ponderable on my part, but I wanted to research and see what resonated the most for me. You won’t believe how much comes up on a google search on this topic. Here are a few others: hope, love, bravery, courage, faith, trust, fearlessness, gallantry, unconcern, audacity, calm…and many more.
Out of all of the answers I thought and read about, I landed on CURIOSITY. When I feel most fearful, the more I know the less fearful I am. When I thought about the other possibilities, curiosity kept bubbling up again and again.
Please let me know, let’s start a dialogue.
diagnosed with ADHD inattentive presentation. I’ve suspected this for years, but at this stage in my life it was becoming unmanageable. As an artist and mother of young kids I naturally had to shift gears constantly just to keep things running in our household. There were endless ways I could stave off boredom and feed my brain’s insatiable hunger for disruption, distraction and change.
I could hide my challenges quite easily because the whole universe was operating in a constantly distracted way. The endless buzz in the world rewarded my brain with “quick fixes” and made me believe I was managing just fine.
Then four things collided at roughly the same time.
1. My children became more independent and my day to day responsibilities shifted.
2. My husband, children and friends were telling me that I was leaving out crucial information in my communication AND I was getting defensive about it.
3. I studied positive psychology and the necessity on both a personal and societal level to quit spinning, slow down, reflect and get more focused on how I want to spend my energy and talents.
4. I turned fifty.
I know people joke about the endless diagnoses out there. I’m a little OCD or that’s my ADHD talking or I can’t get that done because of poor executive function etc. I was resistant for years because I didn’t want to be off the hook for the behaviors that were affecting my life and those around me. I did however, need some answers and solutions for help to narrow my focus and allow me to better utilize my skills in both my private and public life.
Now being able to look back at the ways ADHD manifested in my life has provided a certain amount of ease and less shame about my deficits than before. As a child I was highly adaptive, creative and curious about so many different things. However, I also was a day dreamer, a poor tester, I rarely followed directions and was often told that I wasn’t working to my potential. I was always armed with loads of ideas and didn’t follow through on them. I created a narrative around my deficits that I was less than.
I fell asleep during the science portion of my ACT test in high school. I got the minimum score required to go to private schools in South Dakota. I also dozed off during the ADHD test I recently took with a psychologist. I think my brain was bored and the competition of it all wasn’t enough motivation for me. I wasn’t getting any juice so my brain just shut it down.
I recently remembered as a high school kid reading one page of the dictionary before I went to sleep to boost my vocabulary. When I think of this now I believe I was trying to find ways to boost how my intelligence presented to others because it was less quantifiable than my siblings and my peers. The really smart kids wanted to be friends with me, but my grades were very average unless I loved the subject. Then I could focus. Thank you English and creative writing.
My husband remembered that my Dad told him when we got married that he would have to help me with certain things—paying bills, insurance and so on. My Dad knew on some level that I had some challenges with organization. I recently found insurance paperwork he had requested in the 1980s for me to sign and send back. I never did. I guess he asked me again.
I did all of the stuff I was told to do to quiet my brain and help my focus—manage stress, exercise, meditate, rest and eat well…and yet it just wasn’t quite enough. I’m taking a low dose of a psychostimulant on the days more focus is required of me. Now, with greater knowledge about my brain’s chemistry, I have renewed hope and focus about my life.
So, I’m unsure why I need to share this now on such a public forum. I guess I feel that storytelling is what we need now more than ever in this uncertain world. I believe that a willingness to be vulnerable and share our stories and fears is very important in 2017.
I don’t want to hide behind this diagnoses. I really am the only one that needs to understand my brain. However, if my story helps you share your story than this was well worth my time. We are all in this together.
Seek wonder—it is everywhere.
I am quite insignificant in the scheme of the world.
Rest is a sign of strength and self-preservation.
I was reminded today of something from my children’s early education days.
That was fine when my kids were developing a sense of how to behave around other kids and caring teachers were asking them to give language to their feelings. However, as adults that’s not nearly enough of a “gut check” on the huge amount of messages coming our way all day, every day. Our bodies give us so much information…heart rate, muscle pain, hunger, thirst, fatigue, shaking hands, sweating and so much more. I know at least for me, the more I notice, well, the more I notice.
Terribly well written, I know. If we were talking in person that might make way more sense to you. OK, I’ll try a little harder…
On one hand it’s a good quick question to keep in mind? Does this feel “yucky” to me? However, yucky alone requires deeper exploration as grown-ups. Is my body trying to tell me something my mind wants to override or disregard?
My mind wants to override messages the rest of my system is sending constantly.
Sometimes I have to tell my brain to step out of the room. Because it says some utterly crazy bullshit sometimes. I’ve had a quickening heart rate in a situation recently and I took notice. When I listened, I realized that what was required of me was courage, not medical attention. I know I’ll tell my body to leave me the hell alone and let my brain take the wheel again, but now that I’ve noticed…well, you know, I can’t NOT NOTICE.
Positive Psychology teacher/author, Tal Ben-Shahar teaches that sometimes we’re having a “bad brain” day. It’s simply offline. Makes sense, right? Just like having a bad: hair, back, skin, belly, knee, wrist, neck etc. day—we should gives ourselves permission to recognize that we can indeed have a bad brain day. It’s just sending some false data today and if that’s the case, listening to our bodies instead can be the balance our system requires.
If I want to improve my listening skills with other people, I have to at least try to give myself the same courtesy every once in a while. That means I have to listen more. Talk less. It’s 1:24 am and my body is telling me it’s time for bed. Goodnight folks.
Why we need to question everything
This form of psychological abuse typically plays out like so: The gaslighter states something false with such intensity and conviction that whoever is on the receiving end is confused and begins to doubt their own perspective.
The term comes from a 1938 play called Gaslight, in which a husband drives his wife crazy by secretly altering things in her house and making her question her grip on reality.
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