The Structure

Just when I thought I had this internal conflict figured out, or at least a resolution decided on, I realized that something about the circumstance, the item, and the purpose stuck around and I couldn’t sell or throw away the issue. The book, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg came into my possession in January and has felt like an emotional albatross ever since. I had read reviews of the material and had seen online interviews and parts of lectures given by the author regarding the book and something about the presentation of the content gave me a sick, sinking feeling.  The whole concept of a woman measuring herself against the ‘white male standard’ and looking in that direction for the definitions of success and leadership just doesn’t fit and I don’t want to waste any of my energy perpetuating such an outdated vision. But, the crazy thing is that I haven’t read the actual words for myself.

I was ready to sell that book, but felt horrible since it was a gift.  Nevertheless, I was going to stick to my guns….then, I saw reports regarding the World Economic Forum.  The media presented highlights of the wealthy and powerful individuals and business/government representatives that met in Switzerland to discuss global economic issues. I read a related CNN article that pitted two journalists against one another. The male journalist said that the people who realistically make the decisions about how the world operates are at this meeting.  The female journalist said that the people who work for the wealthy and powerful matter as well.  The article presented itself as a class, power-struggle argument – should those without abundance be pissed and lash out at those with vast amounts; should those who have be content to believe that they are in a bubble of longevity, detached from those who have not?

My reaction to the initial reading about the forum was curious because, as I wrestled with what I thought was an internal conflict dealing with one item (the book), I realized that the topic of the World Economic Forum gave me the exact same heart burn.  Two seemingly different topics that had flowed into my line of vision since the beginning of the year that caused the same hiccup in my brain.  Could it be that this is the auto-reaction to which I am doomed for 2014, or do these two items share something other than the creepy crawly pit dagger sensation?

So, with my admittedly periphery knowledge of both things, I compared them to see what could be the common denominator.  Structure.  Structure of a system.  They reflected a common structure through which concepts, agendas, discussions and subsequent plans of actions are based and must be measured against to come to fruition.

I understand that modern society survives within a certain structure, but is this structure the one that we should believe in and perpetuate?  I’m kind of blown away and insulted that (a)maintenance of this structure, (b)patching up this structure or (c)trying to make this structure work better are the only options that mainstream outlooks want me to believe are even in existence.  Why is it presented that the only choice is to find solutions that work within this framework? Perhaps with further analysis, I will find the initial question or awareness about the system that is presented, the conversation about recognizing the concepts that are in place, the structure in which we hold ourselves as a society and if we would even want to perpetuate and give our energy to that vision of the world.  Okay…so, further research – I guess that means reading that book…..sigh.

© M.R.Collier, A Way of Your Own, 2014

Detachment: emotional education and a writer’s vision

I watch a handful of television shows, mostly the addictive ones that suck you in, leaving you to hang from perilous cliffs between episodes.  For example, I have sporadically watched “The Walking Dead” series and finally caught up to the mid-season finale show that aired in early December 2013.  About half-way through this particular episode, perhaps from the shock of storyline events, I abruptly decided to stop watching.  Some boundary had been crossed and the reaction was immediate. “Nope, I don’t buy it,” I said to myself and clicked the screen off, a $1.99 wasted.  An investment had hit rock bottom, depleted, zeroed out. With that last severed head, I had severed my emotional connection to the characters; their past, present and future.

This reaction was extremely interesting to me; especially, the emotional investment aspect.  The script writers had created their vision of the zombie apocalypse world and I could believe it for a couple of seasons. Then, certain elements began to crumble until the whole thing exploded into tiny pieces in that episode.  I could no longer believe that in a system failure, only a few humans maintained their moral integrity, and that those who did were somehow weakened and now victims who would be ultimately murdered.

Even though the writers may have needed to continue the fabrication in that direction to progress the story, why would I invest my time, attention, and emotional energy in perpetuating a point of view when I do not believe in its underlying messages?  If I do not believe in a vision that someone else is providing, why not just stop watching, listening, or investing?

While this perspective can be applied to every energetic decision made, to stay on “television” topic, the questions made me think of emotional education obtained (with one’s knowledge or not) through watching shows and movies.  It’s common place to discuss stereotypes and “normalized” opinions perpetuated through Hollywood-generated plots, but what about learned emotive responses based on the manipulation of viewer’s emotions through the presentation of the writer’s vision of the world, expressed through a character’s actions and reactions, or fate.

Is emotional manipulation an intention so entrenched and normalized in our relationships off-screen that they are inevitable and the norm on-screen?  Does this create an unhealthy relationship between a viewer and the television show?  From experience (ie I have watched “The Walking Dead” for four seasons), compromises and excuses may be made by a viewer internally to maintain those unhealthy relationships with damage or “energy suck” occurring sometimes without realization.  Specifically to “The Walking Dead” series, this type of unhealthy relationship, could lead perhaps to a detachment from emotion or caring altogether, after repeated emotional burns.  (Example:  the graphic murders of well-liked characters who appear to represent wisdom, compassion, innocence and future in a brutal manner and then tugging at the viewer to forget about it, move along, disconnect.  Maybe after a few repetitions of this action, the viewer will remember not to get attached and to expect violence and murder. In that presented environment, why would it be “safe” to connect on any level to any other characters again?).

So, does the repetitive intake of a world vision, through one or multiple television shows become a type of emotional education for the viewer?  And does that emotional education influence the viewer’s off-screen interactions and personal visions and perspectives?  Of course, this brings up the discussion whether the art is a reflection of society, or if the society is a reflection of the art.  Why would it need to be one or the other?  Perhaps, they help each other along.

As a seasoned audience member, I realize that in most cases, the world presented on-screen is make-believe, not necessarily a representation of the world we live in; however, since humans are depicted in most storylines, there is an inevitable and undeniable connection and therefore, a likelihood of miniscule to maximum influence experienced with viewer awareness or not.

© M.R.Collier, A Way of Your Own, 2014

My First Steps

The new calendar year begins.  A prime time to think about life, direction and perspective; to reflect on past thoughts and seek out new lines of reasoning. So, on a rainy fog-filled morning, with coffee cup in hand, I strained my eyes thoroughly, browsing through the multitude of headline stories presented by online media outlets.  At the start, I searched for inspiration among the black and white lines of text.  Then, as my posture slunk further to a form that asks “are humans really supposed to sit for hours this way?,” I realized that inspiration was the distant star of emotions triggered by my perusing.  Frustrated, disconnected, fearful, sympathetic, enraged and ultimately betrayed – those were the emotions and reactions ranking near the top of the list.

From death and destruction caused by suicide bombers, to people complaining about the requirements for the Nobel Peace Prize, to a child plagued by unstoppable weight gain due to a surgery side-effect, to a list regarding the ‘11 Dumbest Things Said By Media About Women In 2013.’ These were just a smattering of story lines; each snagged my attention and triggered a distinct emotional response.

Actually, because of my responses to those stories, I am reminded of my earlier blog post (“Frustration Loop” published October 2, 2013) when I mentioned briefly a method of thinking, described as reaching outside of one’s self as an immediate response to anything encountered.  I then continued by asking if perhaps there is another first step, which would include “reaching in.”

To develop and apply the concepts of thinking methods, I wanted to break down how I normally think, which I will describe as “looking outward” and then try a different perspective or method of thinking, that I will describe as “looking inward.”

So, what is that first step in the method of thinking timeline (either outward or inward), before any emotion, or any action may be triggered?  Is that initial step so natural and engrained that it pushes my train of thought down a well entrenched path without me even thinking about it?  I think so, or else that’s just my excuse for procrastinating with this blog post and staring at a blank screen.

Okay, down to business then.  In order for this to make sense to me, I need these concepts (looking outward/looking inward as methods of thinking) in a useable everyday format.  Let me work with a concrete example.  I’ll take a media story that I just saw online and process the experience in both methods and try to note the timeline and details of both.   Here goes….

I  just saw a story streaming on the Today show about a teen bullied because of her looks and deciding to get plastic surgery.  She got a nose job and a chin implant and feels confident enough now to go back to school and make friends, after not wanting to leave the house for a couple years.

Outward – First Steps:

*I think about the story as it is told, those involved, the circumstances, the choices, the outcome.

*I feel judgments rising, emotions gathering energy.

*I feel frustrated that this kid got plastic surgery in an attempt to affect people’s judgement of her.

*Then, the frustrated spiral continues when I ask myself, are these the values that we want our kids to live by?

*Then, there is the counter-argument in my own brain – she is empowered and can do what she wants as long as there are the resources for it.  If it raises her confidence, then great.

Ah, the loop of no clear answers and frustration, feeling a pressure to form an opinion and a convincing argument, the automatic and expectation that I should have or make a judgement.  I am left feeling slightly manipulated, drained a bit of energy, leaning toward  ‘who cares’ apathy.

Inward – First Steps:

*I listen and watch without judgement – a calm pool.

*I gather the details for the sake of knowing, observation.

*I have no opinion; I feel compassion.

*I understand the story’s perspective, but give no energy to it.

*I maintain my perspective.

*And I let the encounter go.

*I move on.

There is no analysis, comparison or pressure to form an argument. In this example, I do not think as the first step, I listen.  I am not launched onto the mind’s path of judgement, of creating an opinion.  I do not personalize the story, or take it in.  I maintain my own perspective and empathize with the characters involved in the story and observe the various facets of a society intertwined.  I feel full and deep with the warmth of heartfelt interaction.

Interesting.  So, the first few steps lead perhaps to more questions, to more “concrete example” work.  Hmm…another coffee cup in hand, another rainy fog-filled morning and the new calendar year continues….

© M.R.Collier, A Way of Your Own, 2014

A Reflection on Control

This morning, I jogged around the lake close to my home.  The foggy cold paralyzed my senses momentarily.  But, once my blood felt safe to actually circulate throughout the entirety of my body and I could feel my ears again, I began to hear conversations from some people I passed on the path.  Since I am only an accidental eavesdropper, I caught just a few random words and phrases, but one sentence seemed to stick out.

An older couple walked towards me at a brisk pace.  They matched in their puffy down jackets, black jogging pants and gray beanie hats.  They leaned their heads in toward one another, while their arms pumped and their warmed breath smoked around them.  The woman spoke rather loudly to the man, probably from the physical exertion and of course the thick wool caps covering their ears. Just as they passed, she exhaled “the sad thing is, there is nothing you can do.”   Without context or any extreme inflection in her voice, I had no immediate emotion or image to anchor the words.  I guess there was a bit of concern in her manner, maybe a hint of frustration.  For the most part, the words appeared to have been thrown out there, more of a figure of speech or something to be said because there was nothing else left to say.

As I continued past the couple, I slowed to a walk.  My brain definitely tends to function at a slightly higher level when it’s not figuring how to conserve as much energy as possible while immersed in an aerobic workout (jogging) and not simultaneously providing a continuous stream of arguments against the benefits of the aerobic activity (jogging).  With the walking decision made, my thoughts turned toward the statement I had heard.  “The sad thing is, there is nothing you can do.”  Applied as a universal concept, I look at this sentence as potentially limiting and definitely just a matter of perspective.  Assuming that the latter part of this statement is correct “there is nothing you can do”, does that lack of control make it a “sad thing?”  Or does the realization that you have no control in a situation equal another emotional realization besides sadness, dependent on the circumstances? This could be anything from extreme anger to extreme tranquility.

Or does the realization that you have no control in a situation present a different perspective all together that suggests that “control” is conceptual, self created, system binding, defined inaccurately, a root of “how” humans are taught to think (along the lines of opposites – control vs no control).  Taking the perspective further, could it be suggested that we are deluded  to think that we have control and we only think we do because we don’t want to think that we don’t?  But are those two extremes of having and not having the only choices available to us?

I had asked in an earlier blog post ‘what can you control?’ and provided a possible answer, ‘you control you.’  Perhaps adjusting the definition of “control” would help to align the concept I was talking about before and the concept I am talking about now.  That is the concept of awareness, becoming aware of situations, intentions, and ultimately decisions.  This includes an individual’s involvement in that process, in order to engage one in one’s path, choices, actions and reactions.  The awareness concept addresses all of the details and hues of “control” as we may perceive the word, but without the lockdown effect of the word’s enactment.

So, released from a definition, the perspective is left without the influence of “control vs no control.”  The perspective is no longer in the same language, color scheme, style, landscape, etc since the normal definition of “control” wasn’t even in the foundation. That’s kind of refreshing.  The perspective does not need to go through the “control/no control” rigid filter to arrive at the initial understanding or direction.

Getting back to the sentence with this definition release –  “The sad thing is, there is nothing you can do” – the statement then becomes a simple awareness of the situation and a reflection of one’s choice within it. An act; a movement; another step on the path.

© M.R.Collier, A Way of Your Own, 2013

Relationships in the Present Moment

The most current of events that continues to impact my daily life and train of thought is my recent move from Belgium to the U.S. Pacific Northwest.  Even though time has raced by and already I have been in my new surroundings for almost two weeks, my feet still feel slightly swept so that I don’t quite have the full balance or steady methods to anchor myself.  However, piercing through all of the uproar and chaos during this change, the impact of “relationships” has cried out with the fullest gusto and has demanded some attention.  Imagine that, relationships needing attention…  I have noticed that beyond people, even how I relate or connect to things, actions or to situations has snagged my curiosity and has overwhelmed me at the same time.

When I think about the word “relationship,” my automatic word-association is to “romance” or “friendship.”  My second filter of word-definition jumps to what I learned in high school/college literature classes – “relationships defined by capacity of conflict.” These are the “Person vs Self, Person vs Person, Person vs Society, Person vs Universe, Person vs Nature” descriptions.  But, since relationships are hopefully not just about conflict, and not just about other people, how else can I be conscious of how I am connecting to everything?

I think that understanding how one relates to everything around or within oneself on all levels is possible, as well as important.  At the moment, of course, I am addressing some of the levels from my standard understanding because “what you know” seems to be a great place (as well as the default place) to start.  But, I would like to move on from the automatic and flow beyond my learned method of thinking or organization of thought to find a perspective that can handle the overwhelming that I am experiencing.

So….Relationships to everything, on all levels and sub levels. I suppose this train of thought could race to the umbrella concepts that span across my thought and that are ultimately affected by my associations, definitions and experiences to everything. I suppose one could say that the human experience and subsequent human expression could be defined through relationships on all levels.  But, exactly how can someone be aware of all relationships at all levels to the extent of continuous comprehension and to consciously live within them?

Maybe the relationship that pushes and stretches the boundaries of imagination and thought should be explored to find the different perspective.  Person and Infinity.

And how can I describe my relationship with infinity?  Well, it’s like a sling shot effect, or like the quick zoom-out on Google Maps.  The map is bursting at the seams, trying to hold infinity and in a snap, there is a zoom out and now, infinity looks like the tiniest dot within the landscape of additional infinity.  And what is that tiny “infinity” dot in relation to my life?  A focal point in my day, a mere moment, perhaps the present moment.

Can you ever be outside of the present moment?  Well, I think you can definitely be unaware of the present moment.  But, if the awareness is there, would it be possible to develop only my relationship with the present moment and thereby develop all relationships at once?

© M.R.Collier, A Way of Your Own, 2013

Bullies and Blame

I’ve been struggling with composing a post about human expression and fragility, but it’s as though my brain synapses are clogged with chunky cement soup, hardening slowly, threatening to mold into a frozen stillness forever.  Maybe that is a little melodramatic…  Actually, the thoughts and connections just aren’t quite firing as expected and the concepts have not come fully together.  Amazing how fragile even communication methods seem to be.

While that “fragility post” conflict has not been conquered as of yet, during the thought process, a related topic snagged my attention – bullies and bully behaviors blamed so often that “bully”  appears to have become the news headline of the season.  Coincidence or not, the multiple events that recently flooded the front pages were reported by media to have been motivated by bullying, or carried out by those who may have been bullied.  There were the violent tragedies involving teenagers committing suicide, and involving a kid bringing a gun to school to kill others.  And there was the parent accusing a winning high school football team of bullying with their high score. And most recently, a NFL player’s behavior towards a teammate was described as bullying.

Whether “bully” is appropriate or not in each instance, through the media presentation, “bully” has become the scapegoat, the focus, the blame.  Perhaps it is the victim mentality perpetuated by mainstream media.  Perhaps it is the same old broken record of needing to find something or someone to blame in order to identify a problem to fix.  Maybe the concept of blame is getting some plastic surgery, a new face. The face of a bully – and no one likes a bully.

I remember a particular bully at my junior high school who for some reason simply hated my best friend.  No particular reason for the hate, and the bully intimidated my friend with biting words and dagger stares in the hallway, which were reinforced and enhanced when the bully walked by with several of her friends.  The bully sessions never progressed to punches or physical contact, but most of the time that is not needed to fully get the bully intention across.   Of course, today, add technology and social media and bullying becomes much easier to accomplish and more widespread.  From personal experience and just living through the public school system (okay, just living within our society), bullying behavior exists and can have severe consequences. But, does it deserve all the blame? Or is this only a method of thinking and does “blame” even need to be established?

Of course, this line of questioning leads to additional questions.   But maybe it’s worth wading through the question marks.

If not bullies, what should the focus be?  I definitely do not have a definitive answer, but do bullies cause suicide?  I don’t ask that out of insensitivity, but I’m just trying to see another perspective, another “how” of thinking.  Because the one that is offered to me through media just isn’t working out.  What about focusing on elements within an individual and an environment that directly impact methods of thought such as self esteem, self confidence, peer pressure vs thinking for yourself, communication, creative expression, stress/anger management, self defense tactics (physical and emotional) and creating personal boundaries?  – a discussion applicable and relevant on a society level, for everyone, not just the “bully” and the “receiver.”

Changing the focus, not to change the “blame”, but to change how one even thinks about the issue.  At this point, I have an engrained expectation to hear about violent bully tragedies on a daily basis. I expect news stories about the next school shooting to be caused by bully behavior.  How am I thinking? Do I want to continue with a reaction-based frame of mind, or does that strengthen victim behavior? Instead of reactive and waiting for the next incident, what if I change the perspective to pro active, aware of the behaviors, motivations and intentions surfacing to the extent that the actions are not simply thrown to the scapegoat of “bully?” Perhaps the whole concept of “blame” should disintegrate from our vocabulary and method of thinking.

© M.R.Collier, A Way of Your Own, 2013

Sexism: Loop Spin Twist

I have been thinking about sexism and the part I play in reinforcing the fences created by others (and possibly myself) that ultimately bound me tighter. Talk about frustration loop.  At times, this one feels insurmountable, even though I know that just a small twist of the perception could release a tunnel of light revealing an entire scene that I never knew existed. I just haven’t fully developed that twist, but I’m working on it.  Here’s the progression…..

The Loop:

Boundaries can remain invisible until they are crossed, or at least attempted. Then, they can come to life maybe as a block, or a shock, or simply dead weight trapping the contained in place. Sexism is one of the many actual expressions of boundaries reinforced by society standards, expectations and rules. Sexism has polluted my existence since I ran into my first boundary and didn’t like it.

When do I experience sexism?  Every time I walk out the front door.  What about inside the home?  When I read the news?  When I watch a TV show?  When I talk with my parents? When I have a conversation with my significant other?  When I write in my journal?  Wow, yes, even when I write in my journal. What re-occurring voices have lodged themselves so tightly in my brain that I think they have been there since I was born and are hissing slow leaks of sexist BS, playing on fears, enhancing doubts?  When am I sexist towards a man, or to another woman?  Here is the scary thing – am I even aware of it?  A behavior and mindset so engrained in my setting that it is difficult to identify that the process is even going on.

Spinning:

Recently, I saw an article regarding an ad created for the organization, UN Women. (http://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2013/10/women-should-ads). They had used the initial words for searches including “women cannot…”; women shouldn’t…..”; “women need to…”; “women should…” and allowed the google ‘auto complete’ feature to suggest the search most likely to be used.  Those search suggestions declared discriminatory and sexist sentiments.  At first, I could hardly believe it and yes, I tried out the searches myself.  They came up with slightly altered sayings but none of them positive, all judgmental and highlighting the limits of women’s stature in this society.  I was pissed off.

I suppose the ad had done it’s job.

I really don’t need this ad to remind me that sexism and discrimination are still prevalent in my world.  I experience it, view it and read about it daily.  Most behavior is so socially acceptable, I probably only consciously register half of the BS flying around.  And since the normalized behavior is the real danger of being forgotten, ads such as this one serves as a reminder.  At the same time, the endeavor is still manipulating.  The chosen searches were addressing women as subservient, submissive children in the first place, choosing commanding and authoritative words (should and shouldn’t; need to and cannot).  Of course, this could be part of the point; I can get that.  The searches are judgmental and authoritative to begin with.  The thing is, I would never need to ask for guidance from google (or any other portal to the internet) what women need to, should or shouldn’t, or cannot.

I think that the genuine message in this ad was unfortunately the text that was the hardest to see.

“Women cannot accept the way things are”;

“Women shouldn’t suffer from discrimination anymore”;

“Women should have the right to make their own decisions”;

“Women need to be seen as equal”.

It’s okay to bold that – right up front, not hidden behind shock value. Those are commands that everyone should be able to demand with clear authority.

 

The Twist:

Over the summer, I read Frank Bruni’s New York Times Op-Ed article titled “Sexism’s Puzzling Stamina.”  Inspiration for the piece came from a photo taken during a Congressional Hearing regarding sexual assault and harassment in the military.  In the photo, only a couple of women could be seen.  Women were in the minority, when the hearing was specifically about the sexual assault of women.  In the article, Bruni, as well as most who commented on the piece were baffled, puzzled, and frustrated that sexism continues in our society.  And their frustration was contagious.  For instance, I tried to imagine that the opinion article had been written by a woman. I had to ask if it would have been published, or if it would have had the same responses.  And then, I stopped myself from going down that “what if” road paved in jaded confusion and blame.  That’s the cycle and there has got to be another way to approach the topic.  Perhaps that is why all the “isms” are lingering; good people who want brilliant change and goodwill get stuck in patterns that ultimately feed the internal anger, but never lead to fruitful solutions.

Mr. Bruni’s article points out that there hasn’t been much development on getting rid of sexism.  I think all the “ism”s are continuing full force in our society.  Still going strong, and maybe now we are adding a few.  I think age-ism is definitely one that doesn’t get enough press.  So, why is sexism continuing in a rampant march down the middle of our culture?  I know that we live in a patriarchy; we define winners and success primarily through power struggles; and many things in our culture tend to be judged against a white-male standard. Perhaps it’s a domination culture.  How often is that ole “survival of the fittest” argument given with a shrug and helpless hands gesture?  Like we can’t seem to help it because we’ve given our power over to a saying that’s been around for a while and pounded into our brains. It’s a rampage of isms, defining ourselves by them, defining ourselves by our differences from others, deciding that certain traits are more valuable than others.

So, if I am worried that I may be continuing sexist behavior, reinforcing the normality and perpetuating the boundaries, to my friends, colleagues and even myself, what tangible things can I do?  Monitoring every behavior seems an ominous undertaking. But what about an umbrella effect. Intention. Intention encompasses all of my behavior, action, and communication.  What’s my intention?  Let’s take “positive empowerment.”  Intention transcends emotion and perhaps even compassion, empathy, sympathy, unless maybe that is my intention.  Focus on the intention of positive empowerment.  Anytime I engage with myself, my significant other, a bus driver, a customer service rep, hold the intention.  It applies not just to me, but to the interaction.

Is this an alternate perspective that is possible?  Well, I just thought of it while submerged in this chaotic culture.  Intention and awareness of how one interacts is not beyond mainstream capacity, I think.  I suppose we have learned how to normalize certain intentions already.  For example, the intention of social self preservation and the use of guilt, persuasion, or compromise to achieve it.  Perhaps recognizing intention is not beyond this world’s capability and could perhaps be a new direction that is within reach.

it is what it is

Is it?  The more I thought about the phrase and its ramifications (empowerment/disempowerment), the more tangents, layers and possibilities I found.  I’ve tried to verbalize my thoughts here without excessive babble, which was definitely a challenge.  But, I think the discussion about this phrase is important.  Here’s what I’ve got.

For the past week or so, I have been hearing “it is what it is” thrown around the office where I work.  I guess I may have heard this phrase in the past, but never picked up on it as much as I did last week.  I started noticing the words after I actually said them myself.  As the words were leaving my mouth, time slowed.  I almost felt a slight possession, as if I left my body and thought to myself “what are you about to say?/what are you saying?”  I felt, then heard the words leave my lips; an exact repetition of what I had heard someone else saying earlier that morning.

This snagged my attention immediately.  Why did I say that? What does the phrase even mean to me and why did I just spread that to somebody else?  It was like I was trying this phrase on for size and something just felt completely wrong about the fit.  I listened for those words the rest of the week, heard them an uncanny number of times and was starkly aware of how often I wanted but stopped myself from saying the contagious phrase.

So, what is behind this handful of words and why are they so easy to say?  Some possibilities:

“It is what it is.”  Said with a dismissive wave of the hand. No time or care to realize how the “it” will inevitably impact the day; just continue on without thought regarding what may be compromised.

“It is what it is.”  Said with a shrug of the shoulder, a defeatist frown resigned to the lack of control and submissive to the new boundaries set into place.

“It is what it is.”  Said with a nod of the head, accepting the situation as it has been laid out and acknowledging the new challenges, while attempting to work within the new confines of the reality.

The phrase.  Almost like a magical spell.  The words are simple, repetitive, and when I had said them, the transference of power was so evident to me that time even slowed down for me to witness the energetic exchange.  Perhaps the sentiment held when saying the phrase empowers the conditions and the boundaries of whatever “it” is, by acknowledging them and allowing them to have an impact on perspective and choice.  In addition, at least from my experience at the office, the phrase, those five small words, became an infectious unit – alive, powerful and readily used again.  The repetition perpetuated the message and increased its strength.

This phenomena happened, coincidentally or not, during a week of government shutdown and the phrase was heard several times in a government office. A reflection of morale?  A method of trying to find a solid ground, or personal control?  Maybe.

So, I started thinking outside of this specific situation, trying to grasp another perspective.  Phrases charged from the power given to them by users in turn perpetuate the normal status, making the phrases every day and used more often, thereby gaining more power and a stronger hold in the fabric of everyday normalcy.  Okay, so the impact and lasting impression of certain words, of sayings is ultimately a learned normal.  And changing the words, the sayings, changes the frame of normalcy.

However, regardless of the frame or even the picture, the choice to hold onto or give away your power remains with you.  The cycle, the transfer stems from the individual decision, mine and yours.

the frustration loop

the government shutdown.  posturing seems to be the new term and the favorite pastime.  the political figures have their agendas, whether they verbalize them or not.   frustration surfaces in the mainstream as does the realization that a large part of our lives is so greatly impacted and controlled by the decisions of a few.

And this is where the loop begins.  Frustration felt from the lack of control.  We, the people, cannot fire the politicians for not doing their job. We do not have the authority.  We, the people, cannot demand immediate re-election of our representatives in order to voice our opinion.  We do not have the unified confidence or means.  So we wait and watch to see what the few decide.  And we stew in our boiling pot, searching for the answer, the resolution, not to the political debate necessarily, but ultimately how to relate to this lack of life control.  Nothing immediately comes to mind; so the frustration continues.  We bite our nails and shake our head, there has got to be something to do about this, to make things better.  We rack our brains amidst the waves of betrayal, unbelievability and anxiety; how to create change. Nothing again, except another bout of frustration.  And this is the loop.

I’ve had a few conversations with friends that have started out with “there has got to be another way to think about this.”  The ‘this’ has usually resolved itself into a full blown frustration loop, like frustrations with the government shutdown, or encounters with sexism, or crazy people expressing themselves with guns.  For myself, when I become stuck in a loop, I feel the energy bubbling over, with no productive direction for this building energy to be funneled; at least productive in the sense that the direction would alleviate the pressure from the cause of the frustration.   So, how to avoid the loop to begin with and put energy towards a more productive path?

I have noticed that my immediate response is usually to reach out and change or solve whatever is causing me the frustration.  I look outside of myself to effect change.  But when I encounter an issue, a concept, a culture, an event beyond my control, then the frustration loop begins.   What if the first step was something else altogether? Another method of thinking, or a different way to process information and come to solutions, resolutions or even just an understanding.  I wonder if our society is buried so deep in normal processes of thinking (stereotypes, belief in opposites, understanding through differences, one reality, blame, ‘one man to save the world’ storyline) and our culture perpetuates this current ‘how’ in thinking, that it would be extremely challenging to impact or be aware of how we develop our perspectives.

So, how do I think about the government shutdown without entering the loop?  I honestly don’t know.  But I feel like it is all about the first step.  Instead of reaching outward for the answer, maybe the first step is to reach in.

a ratio of one to one

Sometimes I simply spin in circles, trying to find the best way that I can to help, to assist, to fix problems, or find solutions to problems where I may not be in the position to help directly.  But the problems arrive one after another, and the reality becomes frustrating and my response slows, dizzy and finally falls jaded and exhausted. Starving children, slaughtered animals, rampant child abuse, elderly neglect, and violence against others based on religion, on power hungry egos, on unrelenting fears, on the need for profit.   They spin and I spin to chase them.  Where is the answer? What can I do to directly impact all of the issues, all at the same time and make the cruelty, pain and power struggle stop?

I remember what my grandma had told my dad when he was younger and he relayed the same words to me – ‘Realize what you can control. You can control you.’  So, I thought about this for a while.  Okay.  Control me. Concentrate on myself to have the most rippling impact on others. Lead myself.  Take responsibility for myself, my attitude, my actions/reactions, my words, my awareness, my positive/negative mood, my intentions, my energy.  Motivate and inspire myself to be the best me possible.  Live as though I were a role model for myself and for anyone who may resonate with me.  Makes sense, but is that enough?  Well, more enough than spinning in circles.

For example, if I monitor my intentions in a situation and decide to smile with positive possibility and to act with a warrior voice of confidence and these actions resonate with even one person out of how ever many witness the situation, this would be a one to one ratio, a 100 percent impact.

In mid-September 2013, another person decided to kill others in a mass shooting.  During some of the news coverage, there was a live press conference with the chief medical officer at the hospital trauma center that cared for the wounded and casualties from the shooting.  Dr. Janis Orlowski gave the status of the patients, relayed how many  had died and then, unexpectedly voiced her opinion on the violence that continues to spill out of the seams in this country.  Her words received some news coverage attention and when asked, she assured the media that her words were spontaneous and from the heart regarding how she felt about the situation in our country.

I resonated with what she was saying and how she presented her opinion.  This, to me, is an example of the one to one ratio.  When the doctor gave her opinion, maybe it was not only what she was saying, but how she was saying it.  From the heart, with positive intention, with no agenda other than a frustration with the violence against innocents.  Was she making a political statement about gun control?  She said that she was not, but even if she was, the political is all about the personal.  Through her honest delivery and intention of her point of view, there rings a truth.  And even if she reached one person and only one, she has affected essentially 100 percent.  She is one person, the recipient is one person – one to one – complete.