Monthly Archives: January 2018

Comfort With Discomfort

There will be many times I will ask you to consider your boundaries and the value of stepping into discomfort, to be brave in challenging yourself to experience something more fully and to shift perspective away from “black & white” or “good & bad” to something more complex. We often equate “good” with the things that we expected, are familiar or wanted, and “bad” with the opposite. And, though I am just as guilty of that as anyone – like you, I have waded through enough of both to understand the latter helps us to grow and the former serves to reinforce our comfort zone.

It is, therefore, with some amount of irony that I chose the article I’m suggesting for our first article discussion because, at its core, it’s about the damage that being comfortable with discomfort can cause in society.

The difference between the two forms of “comfort with discomfort” is who benefits from the discomfort.  Challenging yourself to grow beyond your present self into your future self may certainly benefit others, but ultimately it all benefits you. Asking one person to bear the cost of another’s convenience or desire is something different.

ARTICLE
Loofbourow, L. (2018, January 25). The female price of male pleasure. Retrieved January 28, 2018, from http://theweek.com/articles/749978/female-price-male-pleasure

When a woman says “I’m uncomfortable” and leaves a sexual encounter in tears, then, maybe she’s not being a fragile flower with no tolerance for discomfort. And maybe we could stand to think a little harder about the biological realities a lot of women deal with, because unfortunately, painful sex isn’t the exceptional outlier we like to pretend it is. It’s pretty damn common.

QUESTIONS
Let’s discuss! Here are some questions I thought of. I’d love to hear your questions in the comments!

  1. Does this article hit home for you?
  2. What do you agree with?
  3. What do you disagree with?
  4. Did the author leave anything out?
  5. What is your take-away quote from the article? or What from the article do you wish you could automatically make others understand?
  6. How can we deconstruct the problem? What are some “what can I do” solutions?

N.B. I do vet the comments before they are posted, and trolling – anything that is written with the assumption that anyone is stupid, or less-than, or any other form of ugliness or hatred – will be deleted without apology. If you are genuinely curious, open to self-questioning, and are just looking for more information, but aren’t sure whether your perspective will be perceived as trolling, the best advice I can give is, first, to ask a question rather than make a statement and, second,  ask yourself if that question depends on an assumption being true. If there is an underlying assumption that is something other than all people are worthy and equal, then I’d ask you to dig deeper and start with a question that has a universally valid premise.

DISCUSSION
For me, core argument of the article was that good women and men, alike, have been acculturated to believe that when work must be done to bridge a gap between male needs and female needs, that the costs will be primarily paid by women. The main example used to illustrate that point was the recent story about Aziz Ansari, asking us to imagine why the woman who brought her story to light – even if you believe she could have made a different decision – what could explain why a woman  in that position might believe the path she chose was the only real option she had in the situation.

Honestly, I cried when I was reading the article. Even though the number of people I’ve dated is a pretty small sample size, I think it’s remarkable that I can’t say I’ve ever dated a guy that didn’t, at some point, make me feel like my hesitation or refusal to do something he wanted must mean that I didn’t deserve to be treated as well as before, or that I wasn’t worth the same investment of energy as before.

I’m not talking about poor choices about men, either. If you know me, and know my husband or any of the guys I dated before him, then you know that even the worst choice of partners that I’ve ever made was considered by the majority of people that knew him as being a decent guy, certainly fun and personable, if not kind and considerate.  Furthermore, I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t describe my husband as a great guy. And yet, although I haven’t run the numbers, I wouldn’t be shocked if there wasn’t a statistically significant difference in the number of times sex has led to my having an orgasm compared to my partners, and yet, I feel like the consensus of the world around me is – “well, female orgasms are just so …. tricky. Be grateful you’ve had any.” So, to read an article that so emphatically suggested that wasn’t just my problem, and to suggest that the dirty secret behind the perpetuation of this behavior is not the salty-man-whores of the world, but that both good men and women buy into a double standard of social and behavioral expectations; further, to suggest that women are allowed to question why we asked to bear that burden? In many ways, I cried tears of both relief and fear.

I think it’s easy to imagine why I would feel relief. But the fear? Maybe you understand that too. Fear that there’s a limit to how much “good” you’re allowed to have without paying for it the way someone else chooses, not giving a second thought about subjugating your needs or wants. Fear that standing up for your needs will result in poorer net treatment. Fear that you’ll have to give up all of the comforts of relationships to escape the burdens of “minding the gap.” Fear because you’ve repeatedly felt all of those consequences of standing up for yourself, and then some. Our brains aren’t wired for isolation (Banks, 2016), but when we aren’t collectively comfortable with discomfort, discomfort turns into a threat to which we retaliate by isolating the source of our discomfort; pushing it away.

I’m not sure the attitudes this article outlines are the best approach to solving the problems we’re facing as a society. I’ll leave it to you to decide how those attitudes contribute to the causes of those problems. But, again, I’m curious to read your thoughts about this article, your answers to the questions I had, and what your own questions are!

Love you all,

The Conversations We Don’t Have

This month I’ve been contemplating the impact the last year has made on everyone around me. Not to ignore the possibility that I have just taken on a particularly pessimistic view, but it seems like most of the people I know have been struggling, in one way or another, more than I have ever known them to be before.

Me being me, all I feel I can do is step back and try to understand if there’s anything I can do to make it better. It’s a double edged sword, because though I feel busy with my thoughts and I feel control by distancing myself from the rawness of all the emotions, ultimately I just feel isolated, wondering whether I have any real ability to understand the minds and actions of others, especially when few people seem to be interested in talking about the questions I want to ask.

I’ve always been the most curious about people from whom I could learn the most. I don’t just mean people that got better grades than I did – but people who thought of questions that didn’t occur to me, people to saw and traveled paths that I didn’t see, people who understood the value of something that I didn’t, people who felt strength in a situation where I felt lost; It has always been the people who saw the world in a different way than I did who have always been the most precious to me.

People who were different were the ones who helped me to see what I didn’t know that I didn’t know. They were the ones who helped me to expand the lens through which I viewed the world. They were the ones who helped me better understand the value of things I wasn’t familiar with, or how to handle situations that terrified me. Even when they weren’t kind about our differences, our interactions have helped me to become wiser and stronger. And I hope that I have, in any small way, been able to reciprocate that.

However, we are still being sold a message that similarity is a sign of value and character, and it feels like we’re still buying it. One person who was extremely dear to me once told me they were scared that if they weren’t as smart as me that they felt like they were just one conversation away from being discovered that they weren’t what I thought, no matter how aggressively I tried to explain otherwise. Ultimately, they chose to leave rather than confront that. Ignoring that the kind of “smart” that is valued (whether intellectual, or financial, or technical, or creative) typically represents a very narrow slice of what intelligence actually incorporates, my own hypothesis is that our time has become so precious, in our pursuit to survive in the Western world, that we (feel like?) we have very little time and, thus, feel very little justification to spend time with anyone that doesn’t make us feel comfortable, even if it’s unintentional.

I have become increasingly convinced that the most helpful thing I can do is to shake the cage – whether metaphorically or physically – to help people take a step out of their comfort zone and have a hard conversation with someone they love.

If it makes us too uncomfortable to have a hard conversation with someone we love (or like), how do we have a productive, compassionate, difficult conversation with someone that we don’t? 

Isn’t that what this last year has been all about?

We need to reach out and practice compassion, and patience (with ourselves as much as with others) in conversations with people who love us. We need to practice compassion and patience when people approach us with those conversations.

Maybe you all do this! Maybe I’m the only one stuck. As much as I haven’t been enjoying this feeling, I think I could bear it if I knew that it was just me, and that I was the only one that needed to grow. I recently acquired a new tool to help me, and though it’s silly, it helps.

So tell me, please! Am I the only one who struggles to have hard conversations with people? Do people avoid you when you want to talk about difficult topics (things they aren’t interested in, are scared of, or things they don’t believe they have power to change), or is it just me?

From where I’m sitting, all I can figure is that we’re being told that being unable to solve a far-away problem removes our agency, and if we don’t have power to change something – in ourselves or in others – then there’s no point in discussing it. I believe, however, that the only agency that matters is our ability to broach difficult topics and have genuine conversations, whether or not they have concrete outcomes, with the people we care about. I think the greatest power we have to change anything (and everything) is to get the people who love us on our side, and to show others that we’re not so different, and that we’re all worth loving, and that love isn’t always easy – in fact, that love – platonic, romantic, fraternal – is always hard as hell at one point or another, and it’s still worth it.

Am I wrong?

What do you wish you could ask someone and get an honest (compassionate) answer? What would happen if you tried? Do you think spreading this message can help change their reaction? Do you wish it could?

Does anyone try to have conversations with you that you don’t want to have? Do you avoid them? Why? Do you have a sense of the impact that has on the other person? Is there a cost to avoiding the conversation? Do you think you understand the true cost? Is the price worth it?

Love you all,

Dr King: The Lesson of Loving One Another

Let’s pretend for a moment that I’ve had any real claim to struggle and suffering in my life. Like many people that grew up in dysfunction and poverty, I didn’t have an idyllic childhood, and I never felt like I fit in. But, let’s be real. I’m super white. I have blonde-ish hair. I’m a girl. As long as I was willing to be vulnerable, people were always willing to help me. Although I deeply resent the superficiality of it it, I deeply appreciate the advantage; it’s helped me a great deal and I don’t know that there’s any other appropriate response than – gratitude.

So, it’s with a great deal of humility that I suggest that I have something to contribute on the day we use to celebrate the legacy of Dr. ML King.

Because of and despite both the positive and negative aspects of my life, it has been one of my life’s goals to understand the nature of human interaction and love. There are few people in history that have demonstrated the power of love more than Dr. King.

Love is the critical ingredient in making something that’s good for one of us, good for all of us.

But what Dr. King also showed, better than most, is that loving can be crazy-hard; and that the love that challenges us is the love we have the deepest responsibility to pursue. It’s easy to pursue selfish love; it’s much harder to look at the bigger picture and believe in the power of love that we give away, especially when we don’t have faith that it will grow and come back.

That sounds exactly as irritating and frustrating to me as it does to anyone else. I tend to see the world around me in a big-picture way. It’s always felt more comfortable to navigate my feelings in the abstract than in concrete one-on-one terms. What I’ve come to realize in the past few years, and this year in particular, is how important and difficult it can be to love your neighbor. But, what I’ve come to question is whether, in our inability to love our neighbors, we must face our own immaturity in love.

When I say neighbor, I don’t just mean the greasy guy next door that doesn’t ever wear shirts, throws beer cans into your yard, and shoots bottle rockets at your roof. Yeah. You don’t have to like him, but showing that person genuine human compassion and understanding isn’t about giving someone something they haven’t earned, but creating an emotional environment that makes Life better. It’s what gives you the wherewithal to create positive change. But, by neighbor, I also mean someone that you genuinely like, but struggle to understand; or someone that you love, but struggle to like. I hope I’m not the only one that rationally thinks that shouldn’t be hard, but feels like the struggle is suck-tastic.

So, I have a challenge for us. I created ten Thank You cards to show gratitude to (ten different) people in our lives. Some of them are things it’s easy to be grateful for, some aren’t. They’re meant to be colored – both as a meditation and as a way to show you’ve invested effort and time – then they’re meant to be given away. Anonymously or not. But, even if you can’t bring yourself to give them away, write names on all ten and spend some time in your awareness that these ten things and those ten people deserve acknowledgement and gratitude, even if it’s silent and even when it’s hard. In the end, confronting those difficult feelings is what makes us strong and whole, and I think that’s worth fighting for, even if and especially when others benefit, too.

Thanks and Gratitude Cards
Thanks and Gratitude Envelopes
(download links)

Which is the card that’s going to be the easiest to give away? Which is going to be the hardest? Who is the person in your life that’s the easiest to love, and why? Who’s the hardest? Why? What do you think could change if you loved that person better (the way they needed to be loved). What do you fear might happen if you did?

Love you all,

Unpacking Emotions

I’m going to read your mind. Let’s ignore, momentarily, how impressive that is – especially since I can’t even read your face right now – because this is important.

I have a sense that. very recently, you’ve had so many options in some facet of your life that you didn’t know how to begin sorting it out.

I wanted to make sure we could all imagine being in the same boat when I told you that I’ve had so many ideas for this blog for so long, that I’ve spend the last week spinning my wheels to try and sort out where I wanted to start.

Cue: Radio Silence.

But, it seems to me that’s as good a place to start as any; maybe even the most important place. Where better to begin than the place that feels the most confusing and chaotic. I always find it’s more helpful to wade through a mental mess by talking it out.

Here’s where I’m going to admit something that I’ve only ever told my two best friends in high school, though the people who’ve lived with me have kindly pretended not to notice: I talk to myself. Not just muttering and rambling, either. Full on conversations with fully-realized-yet-not-really-there people. If I’m not careful, I spend my whole day that way, trying to sort out some preoccupation of mine. I think it’s my way of trying to see beyond the limitations of whatever lens I have to look at an issue; some inherent optimism that there’s a solution, even if I can’t see it.

Some of the people in my inventory of imagined characters include: “Ivan,” who is brilliant, logical, condescending, and irascible. He’s a jackass, but I like him a lot. I understand him. “Alexander,” also brilliant, but believes it’s more important to be kind than to reinforce your view. I love him and hate him at exactly the same time, mostly because when I’m imagining him, I’d much rather be screaming and kicking than feeling empathy and compassion. There are others that don’t have names. But, what’s common between them all is that they have very specific points of view that I can use to separate myself from something that might be emotionally overwhelming and analyze it in very specific ways, in a rational manner. At least, as rationally as possible, given said emotional overload.

Here’s an example.

If someone is making me insanely frustrated, usually (but not always) I can reason out that blowing up at them is not going to solve anything. My conversation with Ivan usually makes me feel, first, like I’m justified in feeling what I’m feeling and allows me to be present with it, and it also makes me glad I’m not as mean as Ivan would be about it. My conversation with Alexander makes me think about what external forces could explain the behavior. It helps me consider ways not to take it personally, which is helpful, but it also forces me to acknowledge that we all get to be imperfect, and bad behavior isn’t (usually) about poor character. Usually, at that point, I’m tired of being rational, and I’ll invent someone to gossip with about Ivan and Alexander, and then we make up inappropriate lyrics to loud Beethoven music and sometimes go outside to draw lewd things in sidewalk chalk that I blame on “uncivilized children.”

I’m going to keep this conversation short-ish today, but I’m curious – how is it that you begin to dig out from something that’s confusing and bothering you? What works best? Does it feel crazy to you? Any less crazy than the things you’re preoccupied with? At what point do you start to ask yourself if feeling crazy is better than stuffing things down? Does everyone get to that point? Why or why not?

Free Printable: Weekly Calendar

It’s a new year. For me, this year is one of change. I’m transitioning from being a stay-at-home mom and professional artist for the last nine years to working toward getting accepted to a Ph.D. program in Social Psychology.

My undergraduate degree is in History (Medieval Europe) with a minor in Anthropology (Archaeology), and my master’s work was in Curriculum & Instruction (Social Studies Education, and Gifted Education & Talent Development). Although my Master’s work was heavy in developmental and educational psychology, I still have some work to do to be a strong candidate, which means classes and working as a research assistant in the Social Interaction Lab at the University of Minnesota.

Hence, my need for a weekly planning sheet. I wanted it to be fun. You might think it’s irreverent, but on the off chance you need a free weekly planner sheet, here it is:

The standard caveats apply: not for commercial use, profit, electronic or physical redistribution, not to be altered to remove the copyright, and not for lining birdcages or litter boxes. Reuse and recycle responsibly – origami and paper hats are encouraged.

What features do you like to have on your weekly planning sheets?

Enjoy!

Hello!

Hello! I’m truly glad you could come. I’ve been looking forward to this conversation for a long time. Make yourself comfortable! I’d like to offer you a cup of warm tea … but you’ll have to get it yourself.

Seriously! Something warm in the hands. I’ll wait.

Very briefly, my aim is for us to have a conversation about the feelings and relationships — questions and discussions about the thoughts and observations we have regarding the struggles of being a person that’s trying to be a better friend, partner, parent, neighbor, or human. My personal approach is from a psychological/neurological/philosophical perspective, so, have your vodka handy.

My pie-in-the-sky goal is to post four times a week: once with a conversation piece, like this one; once with a link to a journal article, summary, and some thoughts and questions for discussion; once with an image of a quote or something funny to help us embrace our humanity; and once with work I’ve created (or found) that aligns with the theme of being human, imperfect, and beautiful. I’m hoping that, since it will align with my school and lab work, that won’t be unrealistic.

Since half of our conversation has to happen via mind-reading, I hope you’ll be patient with me and correct me when necessary because I don’t just want to imagine that I’m getting to know you. I’m more curious than you might imagine. But, not in a creepy-stalker way; there just aren’t enough hours in the day for that, and I don’t like sifting through trash cans – your neighbors are surprisingly suspicious.

Now, enough about you …

The first thing that I’d like to tell you about me is that, despite the limitations of this medium, I hesitate to filter out my dry humor. It amuses me, and I hope that it will occasionally make you laugh, too. But without the shifting eyes and barely-suppressed giggles that you’d observe in person, it may come across the wrong way … or, perhaps, the right way, without the veil of humor covering it … but either way, if you’re wondering, “was that meant to be funny?” the answer is, yes! And, yes, I’m working on it. I’m unshockingly imperfect.

My word processor is telling me that “unshockingly” is a new word. Huzzah! We’re creating new ideas already!

So, let’s formally compile the goals for this post:
1) Getting to know each other (underway)
2) Introducing you the theme for this blog (underway)
3) Creating new ideas (done and done!)

I feel like we’re making good progress.

The meandering path that has brought me to this place is long and interesting, but most of those stories deserve their own conversations. Most succinctly, the connections between all of the paths in my life are linked together by my dangerous curiosity, tears, and introspection.*

No matter where I’ve been in my life, I’ve always had the same questions: Why do we do what we do? Why are some people more motivated by something than others? What makes it seemingly easy to understand one person but so heartbreakingly hard to understand another? Is it possible to get our minds and our hearts on the same page? How do we better accept our own imperfections so that we can better love imperfect others? Does that mole look normal?

What I’ve come to realize is that those questions weren’t just ancillary curiosities as I pursued other interests; rather, my other interests have helped me flesh out the deep and broad significance of those questions.

I’m guessing that between you and me, we’re a pretty mixed bunch. I’ve had the honor of meeting so many diverse and amazing people, and if our paths have crossed I hope that you’ve tagged along to see where this crazy circus landed. For the rest of you, welcome to the party! I think you’ll fit right in.

Some of you are all in and want to explore these questions as much as I do.

Some of you are cautiously curious. You might wonder whether we should try to answer questions that seem unanswerable, or try to unwrap thoughts and behaviors that you or others might consider deeply private and/or make you feel vulnerable in a world that seems full of raging, insensitive assholes.

Some of you are 100% sure this is all new age bullshit, and that there’s no reason to mess with what works. Suppress those goddamn emotions and get on with life.

(See how long I resisted the urge to use profanity? I think I’m going to be great at this!)

No matter what questions we’re exploring, usually you’ll be wrong … but then, so will I. Probably mostly me. And that’s okay. I believe that the only real truth lies in the spaces between us and that we need each other, curious and willingly vulnerable, to shine some light on it, pick it up, drop it and pick it back up, to ask what the heck it is, and if we can’t sell it on eBay, to learn from it. So, that’s why I’m so very glad you’re here.

Next time, I’ll bring wine. You bring the cheese, the good kind.

In the meantime, comment below and tell me what camp you’re in. Do you believe that asking hard questions has value, even if it doesn’t produce actionable answers? What kinds of questions do you ask? Are you aware of anything in your life that led you to give that/those question(s) significance? And, how much do you think we should ask for on eBay?

Love you all,

* I am an Oxford comma woman, but I feel like those two needed to be together, like peanut butter and jelly, and whole-wheat tortillas. The quesadilla, reinvented.