I have so often been told to visualize the future I want. “Send out positive thoughts. Invite the universe to present it to you.”

I’ve always figured it doesn’t work because I’m too much a skeptic. Perhaps it’s because, as this article suggests, having once visualized what I want, I stop trying. My brain – that so-easily deluded brain that we all trust so implicitly – has decided I’m already where I want to be, so it encourages me to stop trying to get there.

Visualizing the worst seems counter-intuitive at first, but there is much to be said for it. If nothing else, you are planning ahead, even if unconsciously, what you might do if things don’t work out as you’d hoped. So you are better prepared for whatever result eventually arises.

It’s not seeking failure. It’s accepting that you need to be open to learning, to new approaches and new ideas. Turning all life experience into an opportunity to develop yourself, not to stagnate on one only-possible path.

Failure, even if only acting foolishly in a social setting, is an indicator that you are acting at your current limits. The key is to see failure as an opportunity to expand those limits.

From:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2012/jun/15/happiness-is-being-a-loser-burkeman

Whimsy

January 14, 2012

Even in the darkest times, a tiny touch of whimsy can bring a smile.

Self vs. Selfish

October 27, 2011

There is a certain wry amusement to be had in that the moments I feel most blindingly insightful are almost inevitably followed by an awareness of blithering stupidity. Every flash of wisdom must be learned for myself, I know, but why on earth can’t I learn from others?

For a couple of days now I’ve been pondering the difference between being true to self and being selfish.

What hit me this morning (watering plants is a generative act) selfishness only arises when you act in a way that’s contrary to what others have a *right* to expect of you.

So then I ask, what rights over myself and my actions have I given to others, and why? Did I assign this power consciously? Is it built into my culture’s social contracts? Was it implicit in other agreements? Or am I seeing it as a right when it’s not?

The reverse is also to be considered. Why do others assume they have rights over me? And, for that matter, who do I hold rights over?

Okay. I should have thought of that one sooner. The only rights I have over others are that I expect to be treated with respect. To be acknowledged as a person with feelings, needs, and yes, duties — to a point.

Example time. If I have agreed to meet someone for a walk and I decide I don’t want to go, I have an obligation to contact them as soon as possible so they aren’t standing at the trail head waiting for me. If I don’t want to go, but keep the engagement anyways, I have an obligation to be an agreeable companion for the duration. But I do not have an obligation to go if I don’t want to.

However, my decision to go or not must also factor in what I know of their needs. Do I know that they are depending on me to show up, not just for company, but because they needed to talk about something? That they are afraid to walk alone? If I have agreed to join them, knowing this, then I have an obligation to honor that agreement, and mere whim must not keep me from that meeting.

Again, though, if my situation has altered such that meeting them would be a true hardship, then I have a right to cancel.

So, I can choose to not meet with my walking partner and not be selfish, as long as I have taken into account all those factors, and made a decision that is as rational as is (humanly) possible. It would not be hypocrisy to go for the walk even though I didn’t want to be there. I was honoring a prior agreement and respecting them enough to show up — and be pleasant about it.

Fine mutations, dependent upon so many subtle signals and assumptions.If I were expecting my companion to show up for a walk, and they called before hand to tell me they weren’t coming, I would not see them as selfish. So why do I tell myself I’m selfish if I do that to them? Again – if they knew I was depending on them, and they cancelled for no reason, or for a frivolous reason, then I would call them selfish. But if I knew that they were abandoning me because of real need — I would support their actions. Because I care about them.

If I want to be true to self, I have to be certain I am not deliberately using others, and that I act with thought and care, not whimsy.

Society does impose expectations. Why else are women who don’t want children or people who don’t want to be married told they’re selfish? It is true that they are more likely to become self-obsessed, but selfish? Not at all. People who have the courage to recognize who they are, what they need and want, even if it’s different from societal norms — especially if it’s different from the norm — should be respected. It takes courage to defy the oppressive weight of society.

So I conclude with my oft-repeated one certainty: never treat others as objects.

As long as you strive to recognize that different is not bad, that you have no rights to tell others what to do and how to live, that you do have an obligation to treat others with respect, then you are not selfish.

And now I just need to make myself believe that.

People who dominate.

People who are dominated.

Who belongs in which group? Think about the people you know and how they relate to you or to others. Many people fall into both groups in their interactions with different people. In charge, subordinate, superior, smarter, older, younger, indifferent. Wives, husbands, siblings, students (except for what directly affects their grade), children.

Not listening is aggressive. I do not need you, I do not have to regard you as equal.

Not listening is passive aggressive. I do not find you worth listening to, but I don’t want to say so openly.  Or, I am being discounted by you, so I will retaliate quietly, by ‘not hearing’ what you say whenever I think I can get away with it.

I’m not putting friends in either group, you see, because that is how you know someone, whether they’re related to you or not, is your friend. They listen to you. They accept that what you say is valid. They act with what you say as a factor in their decisions.

People who listen are the people you want in your life.

Do you listen?

Thoughtless Cruelty

October 5, 2011

“The thoughtless cruelty of the young.”

I don’t recall where or when I read that phrase, but it stuck for some reason.

I do not by any stretch of credulity imagine that only the young are thoughtlessly cruel.

I experienced this act today. I think it must be the first time, as it affected me strongly. Being me, I immediately set about analysing why.

It seems that there are two distinct requirements for this category. People are rude, say hurtful things, do hurtful things all the time. Deliberate or inadvertent, but it’s part of life. Cruelty is deliberate infliction of pain and suffering. It also carries a connotation of power against a victim. Even the weather can be cruel: an apt metaphor at times.

Thoughtless cruelty, then is an unintentional act or speech that causes great harm to its victim. Thoughtless in both senses: without premeditation, but also without any consideration of consequences.

It is distinguished from ordinary rudeness by the obliviousness of the agent. They do not intend rudeness. They are only making an observation, or performing an act — one that they see as harmless. They are without intent to harm; they do not consider the effect of their act.

The cruelty is determined by the reaction of the target. What seems cruel to me might be laughed off by another. It is highly personal.

I suspect the phrase originated in the arrogance — at times endearing, at times maddening — of youth,  before the responsibilities and realities of life temper enthusiasms, shrink the amplitudes of their emotional ups and downs.

Generalizing. I don’t like it, but it has some use as a starting point for considering an issue.

Youth are, by their very freedom from responsibility, as a group, more likely to speak their thoughts without stopping to speculate consequences. Just as they are more likely to be activists, passionately devoted to causes and  perceived imperatives.

We need that enthusiasm. Again, it is not that energy, that tight-focused world-view I am criticising. In fact, I’m not criticizing anything.

I’m only commenting that I have learned what thoughtless cruelty means. And it was not a pleasant lesson.

I meant to take Labor Day Weekend off. I’d worked frantically and frenetically to finish my experimental young adult novel by the 31st of August. Pretty much accomplished my goal. Over 70k words, and some good editing / revising. I needed a break after that intense month of writing. Not to mention the horrifying realization that all I’d done was give myself three novels in revision instead of two.

But then it got hot. We’ve had such a gloriously cool summer so far, with too much snow remaining in the mountains for my son’s backpacking endeavors. I know many will say I’m complaining irrationally. Ninety degree days in September are not so bad compared to ninety degree days in July / August. The temperature goes up and down quickly — a spike rather than a long curve on a graph. And our nights almost always fall into the 50s. But I am very heat intolerant, and even with air conditioning it enervates me.

Thus my break became, so far, twelve days. I’ve stopped reading so many blogs and articles, read a few good books instead of (hopefully)  writing them, and didn’t post on either blog or on twitter. Which, by the way: I find I am using twitter more and more for posting interesting articles I find, and finding interesting articles to read. So less posting here.

Not a break from thinking, of course. As always, when I take time away from writing I find ideas rise.  In this case, too, I’ve been dreaming.

I’m not one for ‘interpreting’ dreams, but it is also quite obvious that sometimes dreams are telling you things.  Funnily enough, the last five nights I have had astonishingly clear dreams. No bizarre symbols or abstruse analogies. My dreams have been acting out, clearly and precisely, the issues I am grappling with. And, as a bonus, leading me into that marvelous light-wakefulness where ideas are born like Aphrodite from Zeus — whole and complete. I now know what my next project will be, how to work out a complicated emotional issue in the main novel under edit, and how to shape my time wisely to achieve (hopefully) my goals.

I am still pursuing little goals in the hopes of training myself for the larger ones. It seems to be working. I am making myself do things I am afraid of, reaching out to people I would previously been hesitant to approach, and remembering to do little things that make a big difference in mood. I am hiking (walking, if you’re a serious hiker) and have discovered a new and beautiful lake (not hard to do in this part of the world), and am finding out how very many wonderful hikes/ walks there are within a few minutes of town.

Last night we went for a walk under a salmon-pink full moon. A ten minute drive from home, up a path through an oak and fir forest to emerge in a hilltop meadow. The lights of town below, the Coastal Mountains silhouetted against the dying sunset, a strong, cold breeze blowing away the last heat of the day. Then back into the shadowy forest, leaves rustling, crickets and frogs chirping, and that wonderful full moon apparently dancing about in the clear sky as the trail twisted its way down the hillside.

This walk will, of course, be found in a story eventually. If only I had the right words to evoke how it actually was….

Taking this unexpectedly long break has also allowed me to reaffirm my plans for my life. The hardest parts of any life-change are patience and consequences. Patience to go slowly, and to work through setbacks with steadfast resolve.  And consequences, or the fear of, are debilitating. One must be constantly assessing and reassessing what one is doing, what one is working toward, to minimize harm to others and to self, but also to be ready to answer if opportunity knocks.

I wish I had a better sense of balance for such teeter-tottery living. However, my dreams seem to be convinced that I’m clear on what’s important to me. I hold fast to that in the midst of all the uncertainties.

Sometimes I feel like this. I keep trying to open things up, and I get swatted down again. By Ceiling Cat, no less.

But hey, it’s still a funny video!

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