Posted in differences, know better do better, mindset, thoughtfulness, vulnerability

It’s not just about the weather

We have a serious game of one-up-manship going on. It’s everywhere and completely lacks empathy.

An easy example, one that likely isn’t triggering to most people, is weather.

Right now, Texas is just starting to thaw a bit. People went for days without electricity and/or running water. It’s killing people. Homes are flooding. Drinking water is scarce. Many foods are in short supply. 

People from other parts of the country where snow is common are smack talking.

This isn’t to say that the overwhelming response is “So? We got way more snow than that this weekend,” but that the response is big enough to be noticeable is troubling.

It’s not the same. Can we agree it’s not the same?

If we can’t show empathy about things that truly are not about us at all (except maybe to say that we’re tougher because we regularly live through what we believe you’re complaining about?), how can we have compassion for people in situations that actually push our buttons?

We need to do better. Not just about the weather.

Posted in about me, motivation, vulnerability

Ideal Heat vs. Real Heat

There are two Heats. (I suspect there are two of you, too.)

There’s Ideal Heat, the one that does All The Things. The one that followed through on learning to crochet, or had the patience and attention span to sew. She makes some of her own clothes and when it’s cold and she needs an ear warmer, she just whips one up. She’s diligent about learning Spanish (I’d be fluent by now…), has regularly used the calligraphy kit she got for Christmas a couple of years ago. A project started is a project finished.

There’s Real Heat, the one who doesn’t have the attention span to get through the rough beginnings of fabric arts and who doesn’t do them often enough to remember much from one session to the next, making the learning curve even rougher. She has a lot of interests and not enough time to pursue them all, but also wants to have some skills without earning them. 

Real Heat does do plenty. This is not disparaging her at all. But she can’t do it all. And some of the things she thinks she wants to do, she doesn’t really want to do—she wants to want to.

The reason this distinction is important is because it allows me to unload physical and metaphorical baggage. 

All the fabric and patterns from projects I wanted to do but in real life was not actually going to complete? I gave them away to a friend who sews like crazy. Maybe she used them and maybe she paid them forward—don’t know and doesn’t matter. They’re not taking up space in my house any more.

And they’re not taking up space in the back of my mind any more. I am free from the Weight of Unfinished Projects. At least those unfinished projects.

Yarn and crochet hook? Crafting stuff? Art supplies? Gone gone gone.

Not everything needs to be used daily or even regularly. I go in fits and spurts playing my ukulele. It’s not an unfinished project. It’s something I like to do from time to time. The ukulele makes the cut.

Getting rid of the stuff that belongs to Ideal Heat lets Real Heat have less clutter in the house and in the brain, so there’s more room for what she’s actually going to dig into.

Posted in about me, connections, gratitude, mental health, mindset, vulnerability

Inspiration, hope, and being on display

For a few years now, I’ve received “Notes from the Universe” in my email.

Sometimes I read them and hit delete and that’s that.

Sometimes I read them and smile and hit delete and that’s that.

Sometimes I read them and they hit me just the right way. Or the wrong way. Or both.

Here’s an example:

Do you know what you’ve created, Heat?
No, besides an intergalactically known saunter named after you.
Inspiration, in the eyes that have watched you. Hope, in the minds that have admired you. And love, in the hearts that have known you.
Not bad, kiddo, not bad at all –
The Universe

There are days when reading this makes me happy. Inspiration and hope are the best I have to offer, and when people have been changed for the better because of their interactions with me, it feels fantastic. This has happened in teaching, in health coaching, in blogging, in “overdisclosing” about personal struggles.

There are other days when I’d rather just have a few people close by than admirers from afar and that paragraph cultivates loneliness, or feeling like a zoo animal to be watched (with a variety of reactions) but not interacted with.

An intergalactically-known saunter is kind of fun, though.

Posted in about me, differences, ebb & flow, mindset, socializing, vulnerability

Is awkward defined by the subject or the observer?

As an introverted child, I did a lot of people-watching. I noticed people who were boorish and didn’t notice others’ fake smiles and “oh look at the time!” exits. I saw people who droned on about disinteresting things and didn’t notice others’ eyes glazing over.

I was so scared about being one of those people, of not seeing and reading body language during a conversation, that I didn’t really talk much to people at all.

The adults in my family, and their friends who spent time at our house, cast judgment for sport. I heard what was wrong with any action or statement offered by anyone in their orbit, including the people who had been there last weekend.

That was my “normal,” and as such, I assumed for a long time that everyone was like that—friendly to your face, butcher you when you’re not in earshot.

This didn’t help my fear of interacting with people.

As I started to learn to interact with people—a distressing multi-decade task—I felt … awkward.

In my late 30s, I realized I was just an introvert (“just”) and that it was OK that making conversation with unfamiliar people didn’t come easy. This is me, I have many strengths, and that’s not one.

Throughout my 30s, I became more transparent about my experience, and through doing so learned that most of the time, I didn’t come across as awkward. I had a pair of colleagues who would give each other looks—thinking I didn’t see them—in response to things I’d say. Other than that, I haven’t had direct experience with people known to have my parents’ approach to interpersonal relationships.

Then I started to see people proclaiming their awkwardness everywhere.

They’re all people I have never perceived as awkward, even a little bit. I see them as genuine, true to themselves, and often engrossed by an interest: dancing, teaching, movies, reading, music, baseball, history. 

It’s not awkward—it’s animated and excited and uninhibited and wonderful, and we need more of it.

Posted in connections, differences, mental health, mindset, parenting, socializing, thoughtfulness, vulnerability

Distance, leverage, growth

Tempe Town Lake is a man-made lake not far from here where you can use a paddleboat or a kayak or go fishing. It’s also a popular location for triathlons. 

The water is not crystalline.

When I swam in Tempe Town Lake, I couldn’t see my hand at the end of my completely outstretched arm.

The water you swim in affects how you see things, both literally and metaphorically.

What did you think was typical across households until some startling point in time when you realized that your family was the only one who did that thing? There are threads of these anecdotes across social media.

We project our surroundings and circumstances onto everyone. We assume everyone is the same “base model” and that others just make different choices. 

Who we were raised by, who we spend/spent time with at school, at work, during free time, online and off affects both who we are and what we see as “normal.”  

(I recognize these upcoming statements are easier said than done, particularly if you’re following shelter-in-place guidelines and the concept of spending time with people is anacronistic.)

If you want to eat better, spend more time with people who eat well and less with people who don’t, because eating well in that context is “normal.” 

If you want to save money, spend more time with people who save and less with people who spend, because saving money in that context is “normal.” 

If you want to feel happier, spend time with generally happy people.

And so on.

This is true of habits not as easily measured, too. Spend time with generous people, with thoughtful people, with empathetic people, with kind people, if those are the people you want to be like, if those are the skills you want to develop.

In this light, it’s possible to have affection for people and also not want to spend a lot of time with them.

Part of the difficulty many recovering substance addicts have is their social circle. If I spend my time with my friends who spend their time getting drunk, I either need to be able to be with them and not get drunk or I need to spend time with other people.

It’s hard.

It’s applicable to anything that could be considered addiction: drugs, alcohol, junk food, shopping, gambling, working, gaming, etc. Maybe also to frames of mind: generosity, complaining, benefit of the doubt, victimhood, thoughtfulness.

Beginning in August, I took part in The Creative’s Workshop, where I spent at least an hour every day virtually interacting with other people engaging in creative work and being vulnerable in a space where showing your work and giving and receiving feedback was normal.

It changed me, for the better.

“People like us do things like this.” Find the people doing the things you want to do, and join them. Be open to who they are and who you might become, and over time, you will shift.