Walk around

May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.

In her delightful book, Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, Lori Gotlieb relays this encounter with her therapist:

“I’m reminded,” he begins, “of a famous cartoon. It’s of a prisoner, shaking the bars, desperately trying to get out–but to his right and left, it’s open, no bars.”

He pauses, allowing the image to sink in.

“All the prisoner has to do is walk around. But still, he frantically shakes the bars. That’s most of us. We feel completely stuck, trapped in our emotional cells, but there’s a way out–as long as we’re willing to see it.”

We cling to what we think is an agonizing choice between A and B and don’t even see choices C-Z. Sometimes we have the choice not to make a choice at all, to not be part of the conflict. Sometimes choices are knee-jerk reactions that maybe, if we had just paused, we will regret. Sometimes we need to step back and consider.

If only all of our choices could be made from a place of hope, seeing the best in ourselves and our neighbors, looking to build up rather than tear down, reaching for healing rather than harm.

What a wonderful world that would be.

The Courage to Stand Alone

True belonging doesn't require you to change who you are. It requires you to be who you are.

We are more separated into camps than perhaps we’ve ever been. It is now possible to watch news that confirms your world view, to go to schools or socialize only with people who share your perspective, and to alienate yourself from the rest, the ‘others’. But, even though we may think that being only with birds of our feather, might make us feel more included, it is really making us more lonely. Turns out what we have in common in those homogeneous group is mostly just a common set of people to dislike. Anger, distrust, alienation grows rather than wanes, and we become more apart because echo chambers breed loneliness.

In this fascinating interview, Brene Brown shares what her research has uncovered. That rather than stifle ourselves to fit in by conforming, what is ultimately freeing is showing up authentically in diverse groups. We are stronger in our community because of, not despite, our differences because there is a huge difference between fitting in and belonging.

 

 

Don’t miss the joy.

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We generally find what we look for. We are good at it, and that skill helps us to recognize that one face in a sea of faces, to ferret out clues at a crime scene, to heed the landmarks that lead us home. But when we are trying to process a barrage of information coming at us all at once and trying to make sense of it without being overcome, we need to look for the unexpected things, the startling things, the beautiful things. We need to seek joy.

In his Book of Delights, Ross Gay goes on a mission to write about something delightful, everyday. And, while he initially thought he would have to scrounge for delights, after a bit of practice, he learned to find them everywhere. The delightful things were abundant and overflowing. More important, those delights made him realize how interconnected we are and that we are caretakers, each for the other. In a world that can seem cold and callous, we are generally good to each other:

I suppose I could spend time theorizing how it is that people are not bad to each other. But that’s really not the point. The point is that in almost every instance of our social lives, we are, if we pay attention, in the midst of an almost constant, if subtle, caretaking – holding doors open, offering elbows at crosswalks, letting someone else go first, helping with the heavy bags, reaching what’s too high or what’s been dropped, pulling someone back to their feet, stopping at the car wreck – at the struck dog, the alternating merge, also known as the zipper. This caretaking is our default mode, and it’s always a lie that convinces us to act or believe otherwise – always.

As we scrounge for our delights, we begin to see them all around us–the groceries grown and harvested for us to enjoy, the clothes crafted and sewn, the traffic signs to keep us safe, the laughter of children, birdsong, smiles from neighbors, our dog eager for her morning walk. As we notice those delights, we metaphorically feel the embrace of a larger community and feel the joy from being lucky enough to be right here, right now, plop in the middle of the mystery of it all.

Ripple effect

Just as ripples spread out when a single pebble is dropped into the water, the actions of individuals can have far-reaching effects.

We never quite know where the ripples of our behavior start and stop. What did we see or hear about that inspired us to make that kind gesture, or, conversely, what made us lose our temper? If we really analyze it deeply, it’s never just one thing. We are influenced by all the stimuli around us.

Our actions, good and bad, ripple out and touch others, usually in ways we will never see or know. Check out this video below, and think about what ripples you want to put out into the universe today.

We’re hitched.

hitched

Where do you stop?

Is it at your skin, that organ holding all your pieces all together? If it’s there, at your skin, how do your words fly out into the air and touch, maybe even wound, someone else? Does your you stop when your physical self passes away? If so, how do memories of you inspire your grandchildren to smile long after your death?

When did you start? Was is at your birth? If so, how do you carry the genetic material of all your ancestors that have come before? How are you influenced by events that occurred long before you were born?

Is your you sufficient and complete in itself? Or does your you depend on many others, both human and not human? The plants and trees for oxygen? Other people for companionship? The air, the moon, the stars, the sun, plants, animals, gravity……a giant web of life, really?

It is hard to isolate our actions. Instead they ripple out into the world around us, resulting in things sometimes seen but more often unseen.  In this delightful video, we see an orangutan preschool, a learning community. But, at the heart of the delight in these darling animals is a cold truth: they were orphaned, probably by people that walked and talked like we do. Instead of spending the first seven or eight years of life with their mothers, they are spending it with people trying to teach them how to be orangutans.

When we put out our ripples into this world, let our words be gentle and kind and our touch soft. Let us keep in mind that we are not separate from each other and nature, but that we all share this place we call home. We are all hitched.

Consider the birds.

silence

Consider the birds. They have so much to teach us. They sing; they fly; they soar. When the storm is over, they come out and sing, fly, and soar again. They vary dramatically from the tiny hummingbird to the great bald eagle, but they have so much in common. And, when we are quiet, they remind us to look up, to look to the future and the possibility that lies there. It turns out considering the birds is good for our well-being, keeping depression at bay.

Be still and notice the birds. Do you see the vulture with its huge wings soaring above you? Do you hear the hawk shriek?  Do you see the crows tuck in their wings and dive to open them again and rise only after you gasp, worried?

Watch the little sparrows bathe in a puddle, delighting in the way the water splashes around them. Listen to them sing.

They sing for you.

New website

I have been away from Quotable Creek for a few months. A computer update made the program I used to make the posters obsolete, and many other commitments got in the way of my daily introspective time for this site. I will be returning to a practice of writing daily thoughts again in the near future. In the mean time, perhaps you’d like to take a look at my new website http://www.shariswanson.com where I also have a blog you can subscribe to. I made this new site in anticipation of my book release in January of HONEY, THE DOG WHO SAVED ABE LINCOLN. As always, thank you for supporting my writing. All best, Shari

Through the eyes of a child.

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Sometimes it is liberating to see the world through the eyes of a child. They come at things fresh, point out odd inconsistencies we’ve come to not even notice, and make surprising observations and connections. We adults come to expect the reality we encounter day to day. The child is able to point out that the emperor is wearing no clothes.

Take a minute to grab a piece of ‘gubble bum’ and delight in these expressions coined by children for everyday things. It is guaranteed to help you see the world in a new way.

 

 

 

Bird by bird.

wolves

Some tasks are daunting. So much to do, so little time. And yet every accomplishment begins with a first step. When we can break down the large projects into little, more manageable steps, we can move forward toward our goal.

In her book, Bird by Bird, Annie Lamott describes just this:

“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report written on birds that he’d had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books about birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”

Perhaps you are facing a huge decision or task. One step, one decision at a time. You will get there. Bird by bird.

Choose joy.

joy

Sometimes joy is a matter of perspective. It’s reaching down and being grateful for it all, the mess, the euphoria, the triumphs, and the tragedies. Grateful to be here, to have a voice, to have people to care about, to have a chance to make a difference. Joy in it all is a choice.

In Bread for the Journey, Henri Nouwen unpacks this further:

Joy is what makes life worth living, but for many joy seems hard to find. They complain that their lives are sorrowful and depressing. What then brings the joy we so much desire? Are some people just lucky, while others have run out of luck? Strange as it may sound, we can choose joy. Two people can be part of the same event, but one may choose to live it quite differently from the other. One may choose to trust that what happened, painful as it may be, holds a promise. The other may choose despair and be destroyed by it.  What makes us human is precisely this freedom of choice.

What is the promise behind the circumstances that threaten to steal your joy? Is there something hopeful there? Seeing that promise may just be the key you are looking for.