Patriotism vs. Cult of Personality

patriotism:  love for or devotion to one’s country

(Merriam-Webster)

A cult of personality arises when an individual uses mass media, propaganda, or other methods to create an idealized, heroic, and at times worshipful image, often through unquestioning flattery and praise.

(Wikipedia)

Some of the comments I’ve heard since the President took office:

“Get over it. Your side lost.”

“You have nothing to complain about.”

“Quit whining.”

“I’m tired of politics. Shut up.”

“Give him a chance. He’s a great businessman.”

These words – as if this is a football game and not the fate of our country. If you think I’m over-blowing this, you aren’t reading the news. Those making these remarks are either in denial, willfully ignorant, lazy, OR they know exactly what is happening and are blissfully reveling in it.

“When someone shows you who they are believe them; the first time.”

-Maya Angelou

He’s committed so many outrages that we can’t keep up. He’s the carpet bomber of outrages. His deplorable behavior is becoming normal. This is how abusive relationships start. He married us for our money and connections. He’s going to take us for everything we have and kick the shit out of us in the process. Yeah, this is gonna turn out well.

I marched in the Women’s March, and I will attend my first meeting this weekend. I never thought I’d be in this position. An accidental patriot. I don’t like politics – but this isn’t politics. It’s something else. Apparently, I love my country and don’t like narcissistic dictator-wannabes fucking with it. When your Republican husband marches with you in the Women’s March, guess what? There’s a problem.

This won’t end well for our country unless we stand up for her. We must consider choosing patriotism – love of country – over cult of personality or burying our heads in the sand.

 

The Dark Triad

Narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy make up the dark triad.

All three dark triad traits are conceptually distinct although empirical evidence shows them to be overlapping. They are associated with a callous-manipulative interpersonal style.

  • Narcissism is characterized by grandiosity, pride, egotism, and a lack of empathy.
  • Machiavellianism is characterized by manipulation and exploitation of others, a cynical disregard for morality, and a focus on self-interest and deception.
  • Psychopathy is characterized by enduring antisocial behavior, impulsivity, selfishness, callousness, and remorselessness.

(credit: Wikipedia)

In friendships, people with these traits will pit their friends against one another, exploit their friendships for their own personal gain, and sit back and enjoy the destruction.

In families it shows up as those who turn family members against one another in order to keep power, affection, and attention for themselves.

In the workplace, an employee or supervisor with these traits will manipulate others and covertly pit co-workers against one another and secretly revel in creating a hostile workplace.

In a government, leaders with these personality traits will turn citizens against one another, manipulate the media, disregard morality and ethics, behave in their own self-interest, and tear a country apart from the inside in order to keep power and disguise their own misdeeds.

Our best defense is to not buy in to it. To stand up and speak the truth, to call out bad behavior, to have courage, and most importantly to love and listen to those with whom we disagree.

Whether it’s a family, a workplace or our own country, we’re all in this together. Let’s not let anyone trick us into hating one another.

Hijacking Labels and the Politics of Kindness

I truly believe that when we fail to acknowledge our own hypocrisy, we end up doing the evil we criticize. That’s why I write about it, and why I TRY to acknowledge my own. Work in progress. Hypocrisy knows no bounds. It falls on all of us.

I’ve never been “political.” But now, when I speak out against those who would try to demean and control others, I’m labeled, “political.” Okay. That’s not what it is, but if you must. Go ahead and play the “political” card. It works. Hijacking words and applying them to those who disagree with you is easy because it prevents others from digging a little deeper. Which was your intent – to stop the conversation. Kudos. Speaking out is actually about kindness and doing what is right. I’ve voted for Republicans, Democrats, and Independents. I consider myself independent. I vote for the human who is best qualified and most decent. I do research on candidates to see what “news” stories are biased. I, like many, want the truth.

It’s now become more important for me to speak up against meanness than it is to be scared of being labeled. Kindness is important, especially when it is compromised by those who have power. “Speaking up” is not how I intended to spend my older years. I had hoped for a life of meaningful work, along with painting, quilting, reading, and gardening – the lovely things in life. Had you ever asked if activism might be in my future, I’d have laughed at you. “No, thank you. I’ll be over here with my Mod Podge minding my own business. Leave me the fuck alone.” But when powerful political forces decide to target the weakest members of society while bolstering the already powerful, I cannot morally nor ethically stay silent.

According to my facebook feed, people like me who speak up are labeled “libtards” and “c*nts.” I really don’t like that second word, so I shan’t give it its full glory here. Which is funny, because cussing is not a problem for me. In fact, I support it in measured doses. It adds color and spice and emphasis to sentences. But name-calling is another thing all together.

patriot: a person who loves and strongly supports or fights for his or her country

Christian: a person who believes in the teachings of Jesus Christ

(Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

Anyway, I’m “taking back” (it’s all the rage) a few labels I eschewed long ago. I quit identifying with these because many of the people who most loudly claimed them were doing the very opposite of what the words mean. No more. In this era of “making things great again,” I plan to make patriotism great again by standing up for the ideals of my country. I plan to make Christianity great again by standing up for what Jesus taught, not what a few loud, misguided individuals twist in order to satisfy their own egos, greed, and need for power and control.

Have a blessed day.

(Yes, that last sentence was sarcasm. Sort of. I DO want your day to be blessed with all good things, but I don’t like that sentence. It has always sounded sarcastic to me, much in the same way Southern women say, “Bless your heart,” when what they really mean is, “You’re an idiot.” And I DO hope that your heart is blessed, but I can’t say that sentence. It’s been hijacked by passive-aggressive intent.)

Anyway. All of this to say, words, phrases, and labels are often hijacked. Understanding that fact is key.

Peace and love to all. That, I mean.

 

 

Scapegoat

 

“A scapegoat is a person or animal which takes on the sins of others, or is unfairly blamed for problems. The concept originally comes from Leviticus, in which a goat is designated to be cast into the desert with the sins of the community.” (credit Wikipedia)

When lawmakers spend more energy on the bathroom a little girl uses – a little girl born with body parts that don’t match her (a transgender child)– while turning a blind eye to ACTUAL abuse by the clergy, by people in power, assaults that occur in our prisons, and so forth, hypocrisy is only one term that comes to mind. Ignorance is another. How about scapegoating? Yes, let’s blame those who are different and let the criminals off the hook. They’re defenseless. Easier to blame. Let’s do it in the name of religion. Jesus would be so proud. He loves this shit.

This isn’t a religious argument. It’s politics as usual.

It’s no longer just garden-variety hypocrisy. Now we’re approaching evil. Intended or not.

Hypocrisy in the Marketplace

Hypocrisy: Demanding that you get a fair wage and be paid what your worth while at the same time taking advantage of others by refusing to pay them what they’re worth.

We’re all part of the same system. We cannot have it both ways. We cannot be “paid well” and continue to only buy other people’s goods and services at discount. It simply doesn’t work.

As an artist, I’ve quit working with people who do this – who highly value their own services and time, but do not value mine. Working with them feels icky.

On occasion, I’ve  also paid people more than their price because the good or service was clearly worth more than they were asking. This keeps me in my integrity.

I’ve not yet done enough research to know which retail outlets pay their makers fairly, but I need to do that. So I’m still swimming in it, but trying to do better.

 

Rigged.

Hypocrisy:

Declaring all the way up to election day that the contest is rigged and unfair – in fact it was part of the platform – but then after winning the contest, deciding it was perfectly fair.

Here’s where hypocrisy and psychological projection intersect.

Psychological projection is a theory in psychology in which humans defend themselves against their own unconscious impulses or qualities (both positive and negative) by denying their existence in themselves while attributing them to others. For example, a person who is habitually rude may constantly accuse other people of being rude. It incorporates blame shifting. (credit Wikipedia)

Troubling. It appears that someone was projecting. Accusing others of what he was indeed guilty of. The evidence is mounting. Rigged, indeed.

Sheeple

Hypocrisy:

Calling people who disagree with you “sheeple” whilst you and yours behave like “sheeple”.

It’s more important than ever that we resist blindly accepting authority when it is corrupt. Instead of choosing sides, why don’t we choose truth? Truth doesn’t take sides. It just is. Research, fact-find, think for ourselves, and speak the truth. The truth. There is no time for finger-pointing. We have work to do, people to protect, justice to uphold, and courage to practice.

“In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” -George Orwell

From Wickipedia:

Sheeple (a portmanteau of “sheep” and “people”) is a derogatory term that highlights the passive herd behavior of people easily controlled by a governing power which likens them to sheep, a herd animal that is easily led about. The term is used to describe those who voluntarily acquiesce to a suggestion without critical analysis or research in large part because the majority of others possess a similar mindset.

Hate the Vote, Not the Voter

I remember growing up and hearing people say, “Hate the sin, not the sinner.” It made me roll my eyes for several reasons. First, the person sing-songing that phrase seemed to believe he was speaking from on high, above the rest of us. It always struck me as arrogant. Still does. Secondly, it seems to come from a place of judgment whilst denying it. A place which none of us have earned. If you are a human on this earth, you have your own problems to clean up. It will take you a lifetime, and you still won’t succeed. Seriously, we have no TIME to finger-point.

In walks my own hypocrisy. This morning, I woke up angry. I’ve been doing that for a few weeks now. I was super-smug. I thought, “Oh, how the tables have turned! All of you sinners voting for Trump while declaring your Christianity! Hypocrites all!! What has the world come to? Up is down and wrong is right!” I was really smug and very angry. I was smangry. I was up on my high horse, and it felt good!! Righteous anger is a high, and I was stoned. (I do not drink nor use drugs, but righteous anger – yes, please.) For me, it’s always a brief high, followed by apologies to God. Sorry. Then, a sigh of resignation and, “Oh well. Hate the sin, not the sinner!” There it is. Sweet in the shittiest way. So really, more of a sorry, not sorry, bless-your-heart kind of a deal. Sorry, God.

Anyway, in my smugness, I decided that these voters were in one of three camps: 1) Good, religious people influenced by Roger Ailes who know not what they do (God save them, and good job, Roger), Or 2) Good people in COMPLETE and utter denial, akin to those who denied that priests were raping children, and that Sandusky was a great guy even after the evidence was presented (Denial is a real thing…Truth can be difficult to handle. This I know.) Or 3) part of that small side order of deplorables (neo-nazis, klan members and hate group aficionados). And yes, hate groups are deplorable. (deplorable – adj. – deserving censure or contempt, lamentable) Yeah, I’m good with that.

Anyway, all of this to say, I don’t know why people do what they do, and who am I to judge? I do not know the hearts of my friends who are voting for Trump. I do not understand. It’s not a party thing to me. It’s a human thing. It is not about politics, religion or any of the other things that elections usually turn on. It is simply about this one individual. The evidence against him is UGE, and his actual misdeeds go largely unreported by the mainstream media (See what I did there?) while they focus on his deplorable utterances. I do not understand how he even became a legitimate candidate. Money and power? Maybe. As my friends invoke their Christianity in their support of this man, I invoke my relationship with my creator. With God, with Jesus as I understand Him. This is a WWJD moment if there ever was one. Please don’t tell me that He would support Trump. He might support someone or NO one (probably no one. He was an outlier like that), but he would not support this man. So I will hate the vote, not the voter. That’s the best I can do right now. I like to think I’m more spiritually evolved. But apparently, I’m not. I am both a free-thinker and a product of the Bible-belt. But no matter what, I love my friends even when I don’t understand their votes. What I’m trying to say is that I’m scared. I’m scared of him becoming our president. I wonder if the people voting for him are scared, too? Maybe we’re all scared. Just of different things.

Competing Values

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Tribal loyalty is a value. So are honesty, achievement, wealth, beauty, independence and so forth. There are hundreds of values.

So much hypocrisy can be linked to competing values.

For instance, if you value your tribal loyalty (to a family, political party, race, religion, profession, gender, etc.) above your value of truth and integrity, then your tribal loyalty wins in a struggle between values.

That’s fine. They’re just competing values. The problem arises when we don’t ADMIT which value won – when we lie to ourselves about what is true.

That’s where the conversation is.

For today

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I’m speaking to anyone, to no one, and to myself.

If you want to be understood, try to understand the positions of those you oppose.

Acknowledge your own hypocrisy. It’s in there. We all have it. When you do this, you’re forced off of your high horse, humbled, and your heart opens to others.

Are you as hard on your own transgressions as you are on the transgressions of others?

Are you driven more by hate and fear or by love? If the answer is hate and fear, please sit the f#ck down and get a hold of yourself. You’re messing up the dialogue.

Quit looking for reasons to be offended by those you oppose. Try to understand what made a person believe what they do, because people aren’t born with hatred. Something happened that made them that way. Find out and work from there. Quit arguing at the level of hate and fear, and go underneath to the beliefs. And then beneath that to the causes of those beliefs. Beliefs aren’t fixed. Education changes them all the time.

We are all individual humans first. Just because someone commits a crime, doesn’t mean a whole religion or profession should be blamed. This used to be an elementary belief – a simple understanding of prejudice. When did we lose it? (And, no, I’m NOT referring to hate groups like the Klan, Isis, and the New Black Panthers. Blame them, please. Currently, there are 892 hate groups operating in the United States, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Here’s the link, if you’d like to see the map: SPLC hate map.) The indiscriminate blaming that is going on in our country right now includes black, white and brown people and those of all hues. It includes Muslims, Christians, Jewish people, Hindus, Buddhists and others. Also police officers and Catholic Priests and everyone else. When there is a systemic problem that keeps repeating itself, such as the killing of black men or the abuse of children by priests, for instance, you’re damned right it needs to be acknowledged, addressed and solved, and the individuals and those in charge should be held accountable. Furthermore, the systemic racism, hypocritical blind eye-ed-ness, or miseducation that caused the problem needs to be addressed and dealt with through open dialogue and real education, HONESTY and openness. Media coverage and our own hypocrisies have led us to believe that entire groups are the cause of the problems. Nope. It’s misguided or criminal individuals within EACH of these religions and professions. We’re all in this together. Finger pointing and name-calling have not worked so far. Let’s try education, positive action, and love. May we please give those a shot?

 

Phrases that “Matter”

People process grief and injustice differently and have different points of view based on all manner of things, seen and unseen. Telling others that they can’t use certain phrases and slogans they believe in (and I’m referring to “Black Lives Matter,” “All Lives Matter,” and “Blue Lives Matter”) is not helpful. They are not mutually exclusive. If you don’t like a particular slogan, then don’t use it. But consider that you might not want to forbid others to use a phrase nor presume to know someone else’s intentions when they use a slogan. None of us is an expert in someone else’s life, experiences, or thoughts. We are ALL allowed to speak what we believe and work toward solutions. It is possible to support people of different groups and not turn every issue into one of “taking sides.”

There is plenty of love to go around, and whether we realize it or not, we are each individual humans before we are group members. So, for the record, I will happily use all three of those slogans because I see the importance and love in each one. With much love and compassion to those who mean well, I will not be verbally policed. I know where my heart is.

 

It’s National Poetry Month!

Hey, it’s National Poetry month! So sayeth the guy on the radio this morning. He mentioned writing a poem about one’s zip code, so I wrote something that relates to my town. Unfortunately, I’m a fan of the limerick – that neglected and much maligned step-cousin to “poetry.”

Apologies in advance. Here goes:

The Railroad Commission takes pains

to deny man-made earthquakes. They feign.

Although we are tough,

we’re not wealthy enough.

To be heard, you must fund their campaigns.

Yay! Said with love and a wink!   Wink, wink. Love, love. Seriously, just admit that waste water injection wells cause earthquakes. It will only take a second, and we’ll all feel better. Everyone’s guilt-induced tummy aches will feel better. They will probably go away all together. Tummy aches are one of God’s ways of sayin’, “Hey, quit lying.”

This I know, because I’ve had them. Now I just look up, and say, “Okay! I’m not the spiritually enlightened person I pretend to be! I flipped that guy off, but in my defense, I kept it below the dashboard so he couldn’t see my middle finger. Ugh. Sorry. I’m a poseur. A poseur of enlightenment. (yes, that’s how we spell poser. It’s fancy!) And I write snarky limericks. And I just lectured my dog on how she should have more gratitude.”  Anyway, my tummy feels better.

We digress!

What inspired this poetry writing in the first place was listening to The Take Away on NPR with John Hockenberry this morning. I did not follow directions very well. Come to find out, they had guidelines. That did not involve limericks. Click here to submit your own 5 line Zip Ode (The number of words in each line corresponds to the numbers in your zip code. I have two zero’s in mine, so those two lines are left blank. See below.)

An Ode to my Zip Code: 76020

trees, heron on the lake, peaceful beauty –

and a bit redneck – but still,

my home

I’m not quite a poet. I’m more of a limericist. And I use the term “redneck” with guarded affection and recognition, having once had a pick-up transmission briefly stationed in my bathtub. Many years ago, and only for a week.

Happy National Poetry Month!

a Yellow-crowned Night Heron in our neighborhood

a Yellow-crowned Night Heron in our neighborhood

said with love

Someone says you’ve “put on a little weight.”

Someone gossiped about you. And it was somewhat inaccurate.

Someone doesn’t find you attractive. At all.

Someone thinks you spend money the wrong way.

Someone doesn’t “like” your posts on facebook. Heaven forbid.

Someone disagrees with your politics. And your hairstyle.

Someone thinks your marriage is in trouble.

Someone thinks you are too religious. Or not religious enough.

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Flip it.

There are those you don’t find attractive.

You disagree with someone’s politics.

And their choice of mom-style jeans. And/or low-rise jeans. Or that they own both and wear whichever one fits their mood and/or belly that day. Like they owe anyone an explanation!!

for instance.

So what?

Whatever you need, give it to yourself, and then hang out with people who dig you. They’re out there! It’s true. They’re friends, and they’re life changing. Life changing, I tell ya! Just know that some people aren’t your type, and a few may be intentionally mean. With those, shake hands, nod and part company (not sure why you need to nod – just do it). Either way, when you try to win love or approval from those who aren’t into you OR from those who are mean-spirited, love-stingy or small of heart, your world starts to look limited and sad, but only because you’re focusing on the wrong folks. (yes, “love-stingy” is a thing – some subscribe to the pizza-pie analogy of love, but I prefer the rabbits and more rabbits theory of love. I shan’t explain it.)

Okaaaay, I’ll explain it. There are only so many slices of pizza – meaning only so much love to go around. On the other hand, rabbits tend to multiply. They just keep increasing – like love. The more you give away, the more there is. I subscribe to the latter. (If you forgot the difference between former and latter, look that sh#t up. I don’t have time to go on and on and on here about stuff. You know? Just look it up. Like I do. Every single time I write. I get them mixed up. Are you still here?)

Sometimes we overlook those who are kind and generous, while hoping for the attention of people who are simply unable to give it. Stop. Life is beautiful and full of love, and so are you. Focus on the good, and take care of yourself while you’re at it. Open your eyes. You’ll find love all around you. Go there.

On a side note, perhaps the phrase “pizza-pie” bothers you. Or that I just called it a phrase when it’s clearly a hyphenated compound.

Maybe you don’t like the word, “shan’t.”

And, hey, you may not like this post or my artwork.

So what?  (said with love)

a supple heart

“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” –Frederick Buechner

I thought that hypocrisy was my subject, and that writing a book was my goal. It turns out that my actual goal is to both understand and to facilitate understanding between people, because it seems that we are becoming increasingly divided. That, and I feel called – and cannot explain that in any logical manner. apologies. I was also called to Sonic for a brownie fudge sundae this afternoon. Do with that what you will. It was a meeting of my deep hunger and gladness. It went well.

Embracing our own hypocrisy is a step to understanding, which clears the path toward more kindness, compassion and love.

I’ve found it helpful to ask myself: Where in my mind or in my heart might I be harboring resentment or blaming another person or group for my struggles? Because regardless of what has happened in life, I must own my choices, my attitude and my life. And honestly, each one of us has caused pain to someone. So it seems silly to withhold understanding and forgiveness, when, at one time or another, we will all need it. Resentment causes the most pain to the ones who hold onto it. It makes our hearts brittle.

If you have time today, just notice if you have any resentment (even a tiny bit, hidden in a corner) toward someone or some group. If you do, please know that it will cause your heart and spirit more harm than the other. This doesn’t mean that you should suffer foolishness or allow abuse to occur. Speak up, get out, do what you need to do! But most of our daily resentments are garden-variety. What if you turned it around and looked at it from the other’s perspective? Just for fun. Just for a minute. No expectations! I know it’s all their fault!! Those peeeeeople! They suck. But just try it. The worst that can happen is a more supple heart.

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I’ll take mine rare.

When a person admits to having faults, it doesn’t mean he dislikes himself or that he’s weak. Quite the contrary. It means he’s trying to be a better human being. He also has lots of great qualities and can own both – and still not fall apart.

When any organization (business, religious or other) touts only its good deeds while hiding its mistakes, it becomes weaker and terribly hypocritical – the antithesis of its purpose. Conversely, when it admits to mistakes and addresses problems, it becomes stronger and more trustworthy building a more solid foundation from which to operate.

A country admitting to it’s own faults and wrong-doing doesn’t make it weak or anti-patriotic. It makes it reasonable, fair and just. Just like a human being, no country is perfect. Countries, cities, etc. should own their greatness and their faults and work on fixing the latter. It’s doable!

Self-examination by a person, an organization or a country strengthens and better equips it to deal with challenges. Denying faults and mistakes, while appearing to be strong at surface level, is actually quite weak and leaves us prone to attack by those who see the unaddressed hypocrisy.

Saying, “I f#cked up. I’m sorry. Let me fix that,” is not weak. It’s leadership. It’s integrity. It’s strong, decent and kind. And, it seems, increasingly rare.

today

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The news, locally, nationally and internationally, is overwhelmingly negative. After just watching for a few minutes, I start finger-pointing and articulating what is wrong with this world and how to fix it.

Then I remind myself of my own culpability and hypocrisy, and sigh. Then think of this oft quoted (and probably misattributed variant of the original) idea:

“We cannot solve our problems from the same level of thinking that created them.”

-Albert Einstein or –Ram Dass or -who knows for sure?

Agreed. And there is so much good in this world.

What we can do today:

When in doubt, choose love.

Expect nothing.

Tell the truth.

Have the courage to speak up and offer solutions.

Be present.

Remember that all we control is ourselves (on a good day).

Breathe.

Be thankful.

climbing down from the superiority throne: a plea

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Occasionally we humans walk around feeling superior without realizing it. No one likes to think of himself this way. We sit on a comfy throne of superiority unaware of where we’ve planted ourselves. It doesn’t look like a throne. It’s more like a cushy couch of smugness (hard-earned, I might add!) from which we can comfortably point fingers. I like mine with toss pillows from Anthropologie. Actually, they’re from Target, but a girl can dream, can’t she? You know what? They’re from Wal-Mart. I’ve come to realize that I’m on it when I feel justified in my criticisms of others. It’s my red flag. Sometimes we make statements judging others while casting ourselves in a more positive light. “I would never do that!” “I earned everything I have.” “Those people!! Jeez.”

First of all, regardless of our stations in life, no one has earned everything they have. When we claim that we are solely responsible for our good fortune while others have been given theirs, we might want to pause and reflect and stop presuming things we don’t know about other people’s lives. We compare our struggles to their visible “gimmes”. Not really fair. Kind of the opposite of facebookers who compare their struggles to the seeming perfection of other people’s shiny posts. Not an accurate comparison. If we take a look-see at other people’s actual struggles (the ones hidden from view) before judging them, we might pause. And then maybe even try to find a way to help.

Perhaps you were born with a certain intellect, beauty or outgoing personality that gives you a leg up in certain situations. You didn’t earn that. Or maybe you had the privilege of being born to loving parents who read to you, or maybe not. You may have been raped or abused. Or not. Did you inherit money or an unseen disease? Or both? All of these – not earned! You may have been born to a race or gender who was given more than others races or genders. So many factors to consider, and they each affect different people differently. I’ll stop listing every conceivable possibility now. (You’re welcome.)

No matter what, we’ve all been given some kind of unearned help in one way or another, and we’ve all had struggles. None of us is in a position to cast judgment, and yet we do it often.

We’ve all come from different circumstances, and to judge someone else’s life is beyond absurd. If “absurd’ is on the next block over, pass it and the Dairy Queen. (Yes, you may collect one Dilly Bar.)

mmmm. dilly bars.

Why do we continue to judge each other? It’s not done consciously most of the time. (I hope.) It seems to be reflexive. It could be that we feel bad that we aren’t giving enough, so we justify our inaction by finger-pointing at others. Possibly. Maybe we just feel disrespected or less-than, and the easiest way to feel better is to knock others down. Judging others lifts me up, y’all, and being lifted up gets me closer to Gawd. Am I right, Jesus? No? …oh.

Almost anything we criticize in someone else can be found in ourselves (if not specifically, then conceptually – although often, specifically), if we take time to honestly examine our lives. “You spot it, you got it!” as we cheerfully chirp in the coaching world. Yes, there seems to be an abundance of cheerful chirping up in here. (I almost said, “up in that bitch,” but my husband said I cuss too much. So, I left it out.)

Life, God, and/or the universe (insert your belief system here) has a way of knocking us off our thrones of superiority when we get a little too big for our britches. It’s true! Just ask me.

We each have far too much to contribute to be criticizing our fellow people. There’s simply no time for it. We may want to consider – just consider – slowly stepping off and backing away from the throne of superiority, head bowed and counting our blessings as we do so.  Alternatively, we could just jump off the throne, middle fingers a-blazin’ in a burst of not-so-humble defeat. Whatever. However we do it, it’s sooo much easier to climb down voluntarily.

being earnest, the importance of

The Prancercise Lady is back with a new video. Yes, it makes me laugh. But not at her. I laugh at her audacity – that she has the lady balls to put out a video doin’ her thing and with apparent lack of concern (or is it awareness?) for what anyone thinks. She either has amazing courage or a naïve sense of how her work will be received. Maybe some combination. Don’t care. Either way, I’m on board.

In this world of snark and arrogance, she is a f#cking breath of fresh air. She has what many do not have – She is EARNEST. She is doing what brings her joy, regardless of her appearance, her voice and her oddball horse prance. She is not sitting on the sidelines pointing and criticizing. She’s on the field (or is that a pasture?) doing her work. So many of us want to be accepted for who we are, but lacking our own courage, we then criticize and put the kibosh on others who try to do the same.

She rocks. She is my hero (at least for today). There, I said it.

Check it out here.

prancersize-600

tastes like summer

I was not chosen for the project to which I applied this summer (from now on referred to as the Channing Debacle); however, the experience became fodder for a blog post which I rewrote and included in my book manuscript, Embracing Hypocrisy: Finger Pointing My Way to Peace (it’s a book of essays). It was selected as a finalist in the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference. Yay! That’s enough of a win for me. The manuscript itself will not win – and I’m not being self-deprecating – it simply won’t. I’ve just finished reading nine of the other manuscripts, and they are amazing. Anyway, this is a wonderful learning opportunity.

This Friday, the finalists will participate in workshops where we deliver our critiques of each others’ entries. (deep breaths.) The manuscripts of the other writers are awesome and  amazing works (mostly investigative reporting and some essays), and some of the authors have “PhD” or “-ologist” in their titles and are previously published (some published many times and have already done book tours and interviews on CNN, NPR, etc). To say that I am out of my comfort zone (and, perhaps, my league) is to put it mildly. This is my first book manuscript. I definitely feel uncomfortable – mostly in a digestive tract kind of way. (sorry)

We are not allowed to defend or justify our work – just to listen, absorb the feedback, and express back what we heard. This should be both enlightening and horribly humiliating, as I now see the glaring deficiencies in my (not yet professionally edited) manuscript. I’m hoping that I don’t EITHER: lay my head down in defeat and wave a white flag, OR *accidentally* stand up, and flip the bird with both hands while rotating in a complete 360, do an old-lady high-kick, yell “Bam!” and sit back down, arms crossed defensively. Both of these scenarios are possible. (I know – it’s strangely specific. Like an athlete, I like to visualize my way to success.)

Anyway, any positive energy, mojo, prayers, etc. that you have lying around and that may help me comport myself like a decent human being would be appreciated. 🙂 My goal is to be (reasonably) confident in my work, while accepting criticism gracefully and giving helpful feedback to the other participants.

Have you stepped out of your comfort zone lately? If not, why not? Is it because you hate the taste of Imodium AD? If so, try coconut shavings. They do the same thing, but they taste like summer.

the importance of minutiae

I am in the process of radically de-cluttering and simplifying, scared straight by the TV show, Hoarders. For some reason, much like the people on that show, I’m unable to just toss things out; I must, instead, sit on the floor and pour through the minutiae of my history – one crumpled post-it note at a time – which, by the way, ridiculously extends this process – why in the hell would I save post-its? Random words and quotes scrawled illegibly on yellow, curled squares? I can’t even read half of them. Clearly, I need help.

While sorting through my old papers and journals this morning, I found a list of questions I had written in 2001 – shortly after September 11 – in pencil on a sheet of computer paper. I also found at least seven blank journals – blank because I’d hate to mess them up. Better to just scribble on random sheets of scrap paper and shove them into a box. Am I right, fellow-hoarders? (WTF?)

Like many people, my outlook changed in the days following 9-11. It seemed to make us suddenly focus intently on what was important. I was 35, and it was to be my list of questions I asked myself at the end of each day. The list, which was buried in a box of assorted papers and miniature oven-baked polymer clay sculptures of purses (what the?), still holds up after these thirteen years. But have I?

Here it is:

Did I live with integrity today?

Did I let my son, family and friends know that I love and care for them?

Was I compassionate?

Did I move closer to my dreams and goals?

Did I “be myself”? (oddly put, but okay.)

Was I kind?

Did I laugh and smile?

Did I look fear in the face, and walk through it?

Did I live in a way that reflects my deepest beliefs?

Was I honest? Did I speak the truth even if I knew others might not approve?

Did I do my best to right my wrongs?

Did I handle problems as they came up or did I put them off?

Did I love well?

That was my list, and squeezed in at the bottom of the page in tiny printed letters, I had written this quote:

“If we live in a compassionate way using our suffering to give ourselves greater insight into the suffering of others, we will come to what the religions call “God,” which will give ultimate meaning, purpose and value to our lives.” –Karen Armstrong

I like that quote – regardless of everyone’s differing beliefs – it’s essence rings true.

Finding my old list is a silver lining to my arduous simplifying process. There are a few areas on that list I could brush-up on. I will place it on my desk to remind me of what was, and still is, important (once I clear off my desk).

I’ve procrastinated long enough. Seriously, I could edit this post for hours and days. Oh well. Back to sorting old post-its. Anyone need a blank journal? Sorry, I’m saving the teeny-tiny clay handbags in case I need them some day.

abundance

Why do we sometimes withhold our best? Hold back the good stuff? Are we afraid that we only have so much excellence in us, and that if we use it all today, there will be nothing left for next Tuesday? I mean creative work, attitude, love – anything we have to offer. Maybe you’ve never done this, but I have. It’s a lack mentality.

Sometimes, when I complete a painting, it exceeds my expectations. This is rare. Not medium-rare, but rare – like, still mooing. (I’m sorry. I like steak, and I feel bad about that because I also like cows. So far, my intense like of sweet, cud-chewing cows has not overtaken my love of a good steak. I’m sorry again. I feel distressed and hypocritical. And frankly, a little hungry.) This exceeding of expectations is unusual, as my artwork is usually not up to my own snuff (whatever the hell that means). But every now and again, the stars align and a piece works well. These are the pieces I would hold onto (for dear life!) because I couldn’t believe I’d done them and needed to keep proof on hand – just in case. I wasn’t sure I had it in me to do it again. Made perfect sense at the time.

Until I saw other artists do it. While running a small art gallery, every now and then an artist would wow(!) me with her brilliant work, but the next day would bring in only mediocre work to sell. (bait & switch, people!) When asked about her best work, she’d say, “Oh, I’m keeping those pieces.” They were simply too excellent to part with. Now that’s not to say that artists shouldn’t keep their work – that’s not what I’m saying at all. It’s just revealing (and not in a good, “Move that bus!” way) to show someone what you can do – your best – and then deliver only seconds and left-overs. From an observer’s viewpoint, it showed a lack of confidence in their own abilities and a stinginess that was not fetching. Not fetching at all. This is based in fear. Once I saw it from that perspective, I quit doing it.

As much. (sigh) dammit.

Two things: First, what makes us think that others want our less-thans? If we’re not excited about what we have to offer, why would anyone else be? And nextly (I made that up, and will use it in the future), of course we have more good stuff in us – we did it once, and we will do it again. We don’t need to save our goodies, parsing them out periodically on special occasions. We need to face our fears and have faith in our abilities.

generosity

Camus has a point. If we hoard our genius today (yes, we all have a bit of genius inside; at least that’s what I tell myself) – and deprive others of our work, gifts or generosity, our tomorrows will be smaller, fearful and lacking. That’s no good, and it assumes that we will always have another tomorrow. (spoiler alert!) Our futures will be larger and more abundant when we leave it all on the table today.

slightly shaken

 

There is a period of time

that the unduly (and untruly) humble,

the meek, door-mattish girl-woman

must spend in offensive boldness

on her way

to a more level and genuine

self-confidence and worth.

But it’s just a season –

a short time

of devil-may-care

words and deeds.

The adolescence of her journey

to self worth –

A time to experiment with radical boldness,

to dish back what has been thusly served.

Some won’t understand.

They’ll be offended,

and their relationships with her will be slightly shaken,

maybe stirred.

They’ll criticize her boldness

and say they liked her better when

my addiction

I’m on Day 2 of a 10 day sugar detox. It seems I’m addicted to the stuff. I’ve had a horrible (!) withdrawal headache since yesterday afternoon. (okay, not really horrible – just a constant, annoying and low-grade headache pressing on my temples, but I figured I’d get more sympathy if I said horrible (!)) I’m told it will dissipate in a few days. (By whom? The interwebs, of course.) Oh! And I hate everyone. Okay, not everyone. You’re okay. BUT DON’T CROSS ME! Please. I’m approximately 36 hours sugar sober! Minus one really old peanut M&M which I thought might cure my headache… better a year-old M&M from my little red gumball machine than some drug… (right?)

I typically start the day out with two eggs and hot chocolate. I often follow up with an additional hot chocolate later in the afternoon. This doesn’t count whatever other sweets and sugar I’m consuming throughout the day. I actually find great joy in holding a warm cup with both hands up to my chest and breathing deeply. Ahhhh. My cup of love and comfort. (just to be clear, that is not sarcasm.)

I recently saw the documentary film Fed Up and was disturbed to find out what we’re doing to ourselves. I recommend it. It may change the way you think about food consumption. At least it did for me. I learned that the average adult should consume no more than 6 – 9 teaspoons of sugar per day. And that 1 teaspoon equals 4 grams. The sugar industry was successful in not allowing the RDA % to be placed on the labels, so you have no idea that some items have 150% or more of your recommended daily allowance. Also, sugar consumption lights up the same areas of the brain as heroin and morphine.

That film coupled with the public television show I watched this weekend got me started on the sugar (and gluten and dairy minus butter – I will defend to the death my right to butter!) detox. For the next ten days, I will consume only whole foods – fruits, veggies, eggs, nuts, berries, meat and fish (plus a little pat of butter to make it all better and an occasional expired peanut M&M which must be gotten out of the machine with spare change). Why does this seem so radical to me? Many people do this every day, but to me it seems nearly unattainable. (and painful!)

My hot chocolate has 44 grams of sugar in it. That’s eleven teaspoons, and that’s just my first one for the day, and doesn’t include the desserts, treats and all of the hidden sugar in many of the processed foods I consume. Fed Up is filled with compelling information that will give you pause. Or paws. Look, I don’t know what will happen to you after you see it.

I could get mad at the food industry for allowing lobbyists too much power – lobbyists who place their companies’ bottom lines ahead of public health. But I know better. I’ve always known I should eat vegetables and fruits. It’s just that I really like cake. A lot.

In America, money speaks louder than health experts. So we must educate and take care of ourselves. It’s silly (and/or addictive) of me to knowingly damage my body when it’s the only one I have. I’m going to deal with this one day at a time. Actually, make that one hour at a time… need coins…

options

“I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find out that I have just lived the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well.” – Diane Ackerman

I cannot count the number of times I’ve said (incredulously!) to friends and clients, “Who cares what people think?! Are they payin’ your bills?!” I get worked up about it, because I love these people and want them to – in the words of Emile Zola – LIVE OUT LOUD!  To live the length, the depth, the width and the breadth of their beautiful lives. (that rhymed, y’all) Saying, “Who cares what people think?!” rolls out of my mouth with enthusiasm and ease.

It turns out, what I say and what I do don’t always line up.

Yesterday, I veered out of my comfort zone. I momentarily dropped the imaginary bars which keep me from doing what I want because of my long-held fear that someone might think me odd. How do I keep forgetting that that ship sailed years ago? (and who cares?)

Anyway, I’d been wanting to see the documentary, Particle Fever, about the Hadron Collider and the discovery of the Higg’s Boson (in 2012 – it’s about damn time!), but could find no one interested in seeing it, so I shrugged and thought I’d just have to wait until it came out on DVD. Then a wild thought occurred to me – Hey! I could go by myself! (Oh hell, no!)

Yes, I know this seems obvious and mundane. Like, whoop-de-do. Actually, it’s a little embarrassing that I’d never considered it, but I’ve never seen a woman at a movie theater by herself, and I see a lot of movies, and for whatever reason, in my mind, going to a movie alone was simply not an option. Frightening! Like wearing white after Labor Day. It’s just not done. (Ridiculous! I shall add “Wear white after Labor day” to my bucket list.) I, like many people, have a motorcycle license and love to ride, have been a victim of a violent crime, have operated a bulldozer with little instruction, and taken the green subway line from the Bronx to China town at night whilst being taunted by local young men. But going to a movie alone? I’m sorry. One must draw the line. Boundaries, y’all.

It became a mission. First, I scarfed down my lunch – a little too quickly, if I’m being honest (and I am). Then, I changed clothes. Why? I wanted to make sure I looked “put together” – so that no one would think I was sad – or mad. Then I thought – Hey, I look too put together. (starting to sound a little mad, isn’t it?) Oh! I know! I’ll wear my Texas A & M t-shirt (my alma mater) because this indicates my inclusion in a group – Hey y’all, I’m part of a larger whole! I may be alone at the movies, but lookie here at my shirt – I belong to a school with many long-held traditions and from which Johnny Football emerged. (I know. Scoff, if you must. In fact, let’s pause for some eye-rolling. Hey, is that middle finger for me or Manziel?…   Are you done?!)

Finally, I came to my senses, reminded myself that, indeed, no one gives a shit, and just dressed comfortably.

I drove an hour and a half to the Angelika in Dallas – because there is only one theater in north Texas that shows decent independent films – bought my single ticket, and entered the theater.

IMG_0299

I glanced around, and everyone was in pairs, threes or fours. No sole viewers. That was okay. I sat down and enjoyed the film. That is all. Sorry to disappoint. There was no public shunning, popcorn hurling, or me curling into a ball and weeping. (I sit up straight when I weep!) I didn’t even trip walking up the stairs, which is a first.

As silly and small as this whole thing seems, it illustrates how some of us keep our lives smaller than necessary. How we live by imaginary “rules,” not even considering all of our options.

And how we sometimes give advice that we don’t live by. Funny. And Ridiculous.

(Great movie, by the way. But only if you’re interested in the ORIGINS OF THE UNIVERSE! no big deal. carry on.)

walkin’ the talk

Or is that talkin’ the walk? or walkin’ the dog? Who knows for sure.

Today I’m going to do something I’ve never done before because I really want to do it. It’s not earth-shattering (or is it? Nope. It’s not.), so I won’t compare it to anything that requires deep courage. Although it’s out of my comfort zone – and so will require a wee bit of courage. Very wee. Like, tiny wee.

Our zones are all different. No zone judging! This would be nothing to some and something to others. What? It’s a riddle wrapped in a tortilla and sprinkled with cinnamon. Ha! You thought I’d say cheese. But no. Goin’ with the sweet, not the savory.

Anyway, today I am stepping out of my comfort zone because what I want to do is more important to me than the discomfort of doing it.

It’s so small that it’s hardly worth writing about.

So I won’t. At least not right now.

It’s the concept that matters.

channeling Channing (no, not that one)

If you’ve never seen a video of yourself speaking – you should try it. I’m so sorry for ANY criticism I’ve lobbed at anyone speaking about anything. Ever.

Ev-er. I thought speaking into a camera was easy. Evidently, it’s a skill. One at which I am not adept. I’m sorry I criticized. You may pepper your sentences with “irregardless,” but I am both uncompelling (I see your irregardless, and raise you an uncompelling) and I apparently mutter “um” after every third word. So we’re even.

In the past, we would complete job applications with a black pen, and I could win an employer over with my neat print and handwriting. Or at least make it into the narrowed-down stack of applications. I would press down firmly on the paper and form each letter in the type of print that architects favored. It was a joy to behold. For me, anyway. These days, everything is online. I applied for a project and had to submit both an online application and a short three minute video. How hard could that be? (subtle foreshadowing, y’all!) Again I was confronted with my own shortcomings – this time as a speaker. In my mind I am enthusiastic, articulate (and I’m not even black!) and knowledgeable. I could be a great orator if I put in my 10,000 hours… but I forgot that the quality I most possess is delusion.

After recording my three-minute video, the program let me choose one of four stills – all of which appear to show me in some state of seizure (nothing wrong with seizures, everyone – I just wasn’t having one at the time, so… yeah) – to attach to the video. Okay, fine. I’m reminded of every driver’s license photo I’ve ever taken – in particular, the one in which the sweet cashier lowered his voice and sadly whispered, “Oh… Lisa,” as if he were expressing condolences for my recent terminal diagnosis. But no, just condolences for my bad photo. Really, dude? And by “bad,” I mean “accurate.”

Anyway, the program then lets you watch your video before you hit the submit button. Big mistake. I could have left the encounter believing that I had knocked it out beautifully. Just walk away! But instead, I chose to review it – just in case. At which time I slowly became slack-jawed with shock (my signature look – or brand, if you will) and proceeded to re-record four or five more times – like a desperate gambler throwing good money after bad – each recording worse than the last.

I aspired to be Diane Sawyer and instead morphed into a drunk Carol Channing (in my dreams!) – except older and less wise. I seemed to have picked up some slight speech impediment that no one told me about – which is always adorable in others, but not so much in oneself. By the way, I love Carol Channing – she’s brilliant – but not what I was going for in this particular instance.  So no hate mail please, Carol Channing fans! With my readership of three or four thousand people, I’m bound to get some mail. And yes, I know I need to get more current. I will do that directly. After I finish my glass of Tang and this heated game of Pong.

Anyway, all this to say, why didn’t someone tell me I was channeling Channing? I would have taken this success train in a totally different direction.

Carol Channing in 1973

Carol Channing in 1973 (courtesy of wikipedia)

By the way, after researching Carol, a talent and a treasure – I found this interesting write-up of her biopic by Rex Reed: Hello Carol!

hypocrisy’s address (the “where”)

Where does hypocrisy reside? (I’ll bet it has a pool!)

In magazines that tell you to accept your body, while filling the pages with air-brushed people – flaws removed – and ads for plastic surgery.

In churches preaching WWJD while members guard their pews, point fingers at other “sinners” and gossip about neighbors.

In schools where we claim to want to educate every child, but instead focus on test scores, neglecting certain children (collateral damage) and tutoring the subgroups that “matter” so our school will look good in the ratings.

In commerce when I want the cheapest possible price on things I buy from others, while expecting to be paid “what I’m worth – because I work hard!

In politics when we’re elected to serve the people, and instead serve those with the largest dollar contributions, allowing terrible things to be done to the people, land and resources, because, in truth, getting re-elected is more important than serving.

I’m tellin’ you right now, hypocrites really piss me off! Seriously, I’m sick of ‘em!

Hypocrisy’s address:

Politics, business, education, health care, religion, Hollywood and the judicial system…

The senate, colleges, hospitals, churches, the courts, and the house next door… (not mine! I recycle!)

(Complete fabrication. Actually, we don’t have a recycling program here, so we don’t recycle, and I feel bad about that. But not bad enough to have taken action. Haven’t had time. I have had time to make brownies, though. Repeatedly.)

America, Chile, Africa, China and Russia…

Forget it! Those places and institutions are too big for me to deal with. Let’s narrow it down.

It resides in the PEOPLE in government, schools, businesses, institutions, and places of worship.

Ah! The people! But telling other people how to BE is none of my business – free will and all that jazz. Who’s left?

Me.

Well, shit.

When I see how far I need to go, my piss-off-ed-ness for everyone else diminishes. It doesn’t mean that I don’t recognize hypocrisy. Oh, hell no. I still see it everywhere – just don’t feel as blamey about it (on a good day). I look at the reasons I do what I do, and understand a little more why others do what they do. We’re all just doing the best we can, and as Maya Angelou says, “When you know better, you do better.” I’m working at knowing better.

what the what?

What is hypocrisy?

First of all, it’s deeply human.

It seems that about half of the people I speak to believe that they don’t engage in it. I know because it is a frequent topic of discussion with people I meet. Because conversationally, I go straight for the weird stuff. (You want me at your dinner party, don’t you? Well, get in line!)

Anyway, when I gently assert that most everyone has it except for possibly a few highly enlightened, ego-less people or people with Down syndrome or other differences that lessen their ego, I’m met with either nods of understanding (whee!) or looks of borderline disgust and indignation. (oh, snap.) Well, I never! (Really? Nevah-evah?)

This fascinates me, and I get it. Truly. But, in my experience, the more one denies it, the more one has. There’s something about bringing hypocrisy into the light that helps to diminish it. When left in the dark, unacknowledged, it grows. It took me a long time of labeling others as hypocrites before I recognized it in myself, and I’m still not finished. I will probably engage in some hearty finger-pointing later this afternoon. It makes me feel taller.

hypocrisy (hi-pok’-ri-se) n. 1. The practice of professing beliefs, feelings, or virtues that one does not hold or possess; insincerity. 2. An instance or act of hypocrisy.

Looking at that definition on the surface level, we may proclaim that we don’t engage in it; however, if we dig a little deeper…

The trick lies in the word “professing.” Not only our words, but our deeds profess. My language may be cleaned up – I may know what not to say. But what about my actions? What do I do?

If I vilify another person for speaking negatively about my friend, when I have spoken negatively about another human (someone’s friend – just like my friend), I’m displaying my hypocrisy. I’ve just done the exact thing I judged.

When I demonize a political candidate for the things that politicians do, while giving a pass to my favorite candidate who does the things that politicians do –

When I get pissed when someone won’t let me merge on the highway, and then I don’t let someone merge on the highway –

When I judge someone as prejudiced, racist, sexist, homophobic or some other catch-all term when I have either made comments or held beliefs about ANY group of people…

And so forth.

Virtually everyone has engaged in hypocrisy – it’s almost inescapable. It’s human! Yay! If we acknowledge it, we can work with it. Let’s own it! Come on – this is gonna be fun.