In the Beginning was the Thing…

…And one thing led to another…

Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Blues

How many of us have longed for a better life and yet have felt so stuck, so exhausted, so afraid to even hope that we simply don’t try? Maybe we tried once upon a time but fell flat. Maybe we couldn’t find the energy to try again.  Maybe we couldn’t even stand up again. Maybe we don’t even feel like we’re standing right now. We may find ourselves trapped, too tired to try again, too weary to even think about trying again. 

We’re officially in a rut.

Seth Godin, in his episode “Hitsville” from his Akimbo podcast, calls human beings “story telling machines.”

He’s not wrong. For every interaction we have, we have a story behind it. If the woman we pass by every day doesn’t say “Good morning,” after we say it to her,  we can create a narrative why she didn’t say it back.  She’s angry with us; she is psychic and knows that we don’t like her.  Bob in accounting told her about our party that we forgot to invite her to. In reality, it may have nothing to do with us. Maybe she’s running late, stressed about a meeting with her boss, trying to practice a speech, or worried about her marriage. 

We just don’t know why. But we make up stories anyway. 

We may look at our lives, wonder how we got here, and create a narrative which consists of all these little stories we tell ourselves, stories that we’re underpaid, overworked, sucky at relationships, don’t have enough money, or time or energy, have been hurt too much, weigh too much or too little. The list of stories is practically endless. 

They may feel true; they may even appear true to an outsider. But they don’t have to be true.

The thing’s that’s so great about being a story-teller is that we can change the narrative at any time. We can change the direction the protagonist (that’s us!) takes.

I love Wikipedia. I can start the morning with a cup of coffee in hand, through the endless links only to find the day gone, my half-cat sitting next to my empty mug, licking her lips in satisfaction.

That’s my cat, Tiger Lily. If she’s brave enough to bop my dog on the nose, she’s damned well brave enough to steal my coffee. Cause Italian Sweet Creme coffee creamer. 

But I digress. I’ve found that, for me, digging into the “where” or the “why” of a belief can be a lot like reading through Wikipedia. It’s interesting, sure, but it’s nothing more than trivia, like the fact that George Washington didn’t really have wooden teeth.  In my experience, knowing the “where” or the “why” of a belief doesn’t undo that belief; it merely provides a distraction when we really don’t want to face it.

Staying focused and shunning those rabbit holes of distractions are difficult; examining the story perhaps moreso.  But changing our beliefs that limit us is a worthwhile challenge, and doing so requires our taking a long, hard look at the stories we tell ourselves and how we act based on those stories.

Like an iceberg, the belief is what lies beneath the waterline. The more visible part–the most obvious  part if we’re aware of it–is the action or actions that result from the belief. Unlike an iceberg, however (or maybe actually JUST like one, and I just don’t know enough about icebergs), the action–the result of that belief–further reinforces that belief.

Here’s an example: 

Simple enough, and I think many people might feel that way. Maybe our iceberg looks a little like that.  Maybe it looks a lot  like that.  Because we feel that we don’t have enough money, we can be so afraid of letting go of it that we never actually do anything with it.  Because we grasp tightly–both to our money and the story of how we don’t have any–the actions just reinforce the belief that we don’t have enough. 

It’s a cycle and can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

We can take a look at another example, the idea that we aren’t creative.  Again, each part informs the other and creates a cycle:   

Whatever that narrative is, we may not even realize that we believe it. It may only be when we start looking at our actions that we’re made aware that those actions stem from chapters of that narrative. Maybe we do realize it but have resigned ourselves to it.

Here’s the upside: Until the moment we die, there is always possibility. But even then, even at the moment of death,  the possibility for possibility still exists. .

Nothing is ever certain. 

How do we let go of these beliefs?  How do we discover the possibility that maybe things don’t have to be the way they are?  

We start by starting.

There are two angles from which we can approach this: by examining the habit side or the belief side. I’ve found that starting by looking through the lends of a habit is far less difficult than looking at a belief and determining the habit. 

After all, we can see the habit. 

We can look at our not doing anything creative or holding onto money, or any of a thousand other habits. Why do we do this?  If it’s not something we can figure out easily, we can write. 

I’m a HUGE fan of journaling. I think it’s one of the most therapeutic things we can do. We can take a blank page, sit down with our favorite beverage (although, I strongly recommend something non-alcoholic) and just write. Whatever comes to mind.  It’s prompted free writing, and I’ll be sharing more about this in an upcoming post. 

If we can’t figure it out on the first try, we can try again. After all, life is a practice.

Everything can be a practice. We can try again and again and again until we find the belief that hides under the water line, the foundation of the habit. 

That’s the first step. 

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

Lao Tzu, The Tao Te Ching

 Congratulations, we’ve officially begun our journey. 

Possible Interruption

Because I’m a total newbie (or n00b as we used to say in EverQuest),  I’m not quite sure what to expect.

The short version is that I am changing hosting companies. I’m not sure how long it takes, when I can begin posting again, or any of the other details. The long version is something I could start talking about today and will still be describing two weeks from now.

So, let’s  just stick with the short version, shall we? 

If I’m not back by Thursday, August 9, 2018, I should be back to my regularly scheduled hi-jinks by next week.

In the meantime, enjoy this clip of Mr. Rogers accepting a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Daytime Emmy Awards. It’s fantastic.

Jeffery Erlanger, who had previously appeared on Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, told Fred Rogers, “On behalf of millions of children and grownups, it is you that I like. Fred Rogers represented the best of what humanity can be. He possessed kindness, gentleness, self-assurance without ego, and generosity. He also possessed a grand vision, an inclusive vision of cooperation and equality. He was one of the better angels of our nature. 

In accepting his award, he said:

“Fame is a four-letter word. And like tape, or zoom or face or pain, or life or love, what ultimately matters is what we do with it. I feel that those of us in television are chosen to be servants. It doesn’t matter what our particular job, we are chosen to help meet the deeper need of those who watch and listen…”

Or you may want to see Queen at Live Aid in 1985. This event exemplified Queen’s “stunning rebirth, redrawing their legacy in a 20-minute eruption of passion and bravado before an enraptured London audience.”

Mr. Rogers’ grace or what might be the best rock-n-roll performance of all time.

I don’t think you would be disappointed either way.

In any case, I’ll be back in two shakes, give or take.

Art, Artists, and Life 2.0

Can you imagine a world without art? I simply cannot. I cannot fathom a world that dreary. As dark as the world may appear at times, imagine it for a moment without art.

Can you do it?

Art is a much a part of our collective unconscious as it is our every day lives.

From the clothes we wear to the television programs we watch, from the food we consume to the books we read, from the the music we listen to on our way to work  and the sculptures or even graffiti we pass by every day, art is always present. Even the marketing logos we are constantly bombarded by are made possible by artists, and art seemingly pervades every element of our lives.

And yet art degrees and programs are constantly being devalued. Art program funding is being cut in school after school. (2)

A popular opinion in my neck of the woods is that everyone should get a “normal” degree or study trade skills. A degree or program in English, literature, music, or art appreciation are impractical and akin to basket-weaving.  A “normal” degree, is one that fits the ideals of the critics, one that can be used to make money, especially for other people. MBAs are the practical; art degrees are not. In fact, according to Discover Business, the five main reasons for getting a degree in business are that:

  1.    It’s practical (Writer’s Note: There’s that word again!)
  2.    You want to go into management (W.N.: There are far too many people in management who have no                 people skills, let’s not encourage more)
  3.    It’s versatile enough for everyone (W.N.: Really?)
  4.    It looks good on paper and (W.N.: Again, Really?)
  5.    Networking (W.N.: Because it takes a business degree to learn how to meet people?)

You know what looks good on paper? Words. Water colors and oil paint. Sketches. Calligraphy.  

…and that’s not to say that “practical” degrees do not have their place in society, or even that they’re unimportant. 

They’re just not the right thing for everyone, and this disparagement of artists by those more “practical” seems to be little more than a cry for more conformity. 

If everyone obtained a “practical” degree or chose their life’s path in a “practical field,” we would have few if any artists.  Without without artists and their art, the world would be lacking the Sistine Chapel, Macbeth, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, The Thinker.  We would have never known Starry Night, Blue Moon, or “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud,” although more than a few high school English students might breathe a sigh of relief for not having to memorize the last one. 

Except, come to think of it, they wouldn’t not know to breathe a sigh of relief, so that’s moot. No Queen or Calvin and Hobbes. 

There would be no story tellers, no clowns, no comics. No blues guitarists, no ballet. No Broadway. No crafts or quilts. No sculpture. 

Imagine for a moment the United States without her Statue of Liberty.

An interesting tidbit: it is highly likely that the Statue of Liberty was the first crowd-funded project. The French paid for the statue itself on the condition that the United States provide a location and a pedestal for her. When previous attempts at fund-raising fell short, Joseph Pulitzer ran a fund raising campaign and collected over $100,000 in contributions mostly consisting of less than $1 each.  This amount was raised in about six months. Oh, and it was accomplished in 1884. (1)

Artists of all stripes all serve a valuable role in our society, regardless of the “impractical” nature of their fields, regardless of the seeming madness of the world and the obsession with all things “practical.”

Artists are our history keepers, our voice, and our conscience. They are our prophets, showing us how things could be.  They warn of the dystopia, cry out for heedfulness, showcase beauty, and share with us the vision–if we are brave enough–that beckons us to walk into a better tomorrow. 

I’ve heard that work makes a living, but art makes a life. 

Artists are critical–both to and of our culture–and I believe that they should be celebrated, amplified, and supported. If we are to make efforts to create a better life, live Life 2.0, we cannot ignore the importance of art and those who create it, and we cannot value the art without also valuing the artist. 

Within the next few weeks, I’ll be implementing my Starfish Project in order to celebrate, amplify, and support those artists whose presence makes the world a better place. 

I hope you’ll join me.

Random Weird Shit:

While looking for a picture of the Statue of Liberty, I discovered what appears to be an attempted upskirt photo of her. I’m not sure if I am more amused or appalled.

I’ll have to get back to you on that one. 

Credits: 

Sources:

Art Examples: 

 

 

What IS Life 2.0?

What EXACTLY is Life 2.0, anyway?   It is the life we begin when we realize that it’s fucking work to create the life we want.  It is the process of creating that life–one of our own design, one that matters, one that is not chained to other people’s rules. 

Although some rules are okay, like not murdering anyone. That’s a good one to follow.

I do try my best. Most of the time. 

But it is not just the life we want to live; it’s the journey to getting there, too. 

It’s both a journey and a goal. 

But I’m really talking about the rules of expectation, the ones that push us toward a rut that, once we’re in it,  is so very difficult to get out of. Those rules are that cyclical current that drags us along, whether we want to follow or not. In some cases, that current may look like going to college (if we can afford it or are willing to be buried in debt for the next 30 years), getting married (if we can find someone we can stand for more than 15 minutes), buying a house (again with the debt), maybe even having children.  Because we’re so modern, we may just find ourselves doing it all over again: new degree, new spouse, new house, new children.

 

In other cases, maybe we started out by being born into poverty, and our rut looks like this: go hungry, try to survive, find a way to make money that may not be exactly legal, maybe get married or have children, get busted, and start all over again.

But maybe we’re just not living to the edge of our potential. Maybe we’ve accepted and settled for the mediocre, the well-worn path, the kind of life that will leave us regretful on our deathbeds.

There are many different ruts, but they all boil

down to the same thing: feeling trapped and unable to escape. If we believe that we cannot escape, we won’t.

What if we know we’re in a rut and kinda-sorta think that we may be able to escape and live that life that doesn’t fit into any pre-planned formula? but we don’t quite feel it in our bones yet?

This is where Life 2.0 comes in.

As I said in my welcome post, life is a product of our beliefs that have been cemented by a series of habits and practices. Wayne Dyer once said, “What to know what you believe in? Look at your life as it is now.

Our habits have brought us to where we are now.

Wherever and however we are, it is only where we are now. It’s just a starting place. The rut may be deep, the cycle seem unbreakable, but those two beliefs are only true if we wish them to be. Now, I don’t wholly believe that our beliefs determine our circumstances; After all, I don’t think that denying that we have cancer will magically make the cancer go away. But our beliefs can change the way we react to such things, and changing those reactions is the core of change. In fact, it can be the most powerful change of all.

And so, Life 2.0 consists of our vision for our lives, the habits we cultivate to shape that vision, and the realization of that vision.

“In truth, the only difference between those who have failed and those who have succeeded lies in the difference in their habits. Good habits are the key to all success. Bad habits are the unlocked door to failure.”

Og Mandino(1)

I personally feel that there is no failure; we all succeed at something, even if that something is a negative consequence. To mindfully cultivate habits is to step in the direction of our goals, whatever those may be. To allow unexamined habits to drive us is to give up our power in deciding our fate. 

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

“I don’t much care where…” said Alice.

“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

“…so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice added as an explanation.

“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”

Lewis Carrol (2)

Walking aimlessly long enough will always get us SOMEWHERE, but do we really want to leave our destination to chance? 

I’ve done that for long enough, thankyouverymuch. 

Determining our own direction, is work, of course, and there are few if any easy wins. But if it were easy, if we had been making positive decisions and habits all the time, we’d be rocking Life 1.0. We wouldn’t be looking for a reboot.  And yet here we are. The first scroll of Mandino’s The Greatest Salesman in the World reveals this:

“As a child, I was slave to my impulses; now I am slave to my habits, as are all grown men. I have surrendered my free will to the years of accumulated habits and past deeds of my life have already marked out a path which threaten to imprison my future. My actions are ruled by appetite, passion, prejudice, greed, love, fear, environment, habit, and the worst of these tyrants is habit…My bad habits must be destroyed and new furrows prepared for good seed.” (3)

Life 2.0 is about acceptance of where we are and what we’ve done to get here. It’s about acknowledging and releasing the need to continue the “old ways,” and accepting the challenge of discovering “new ways” and marking both how they move us and the direction in which we move.

Congratulations, we have arrived here. 

Now it’s time to get to work.

Credits:

Star Wars family Photo by Daniel Cheung on Unsplash

Pug in Blanket Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

1,3 Mandino, Og.  “The Greatest Salesman in the World” as part of Og Mandino’s Great Trilogy, New York, New York: MJF Books, 1975.

2 Carroll, Lewis, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Peterborough, Ont.: Broadview Press, 2000. 

It Has to Start Somewhere…

It has to start some time

What better place than here

What better time than now?*

I may or may not be the world’s best procrastinator. I’ll admit, I’ve done some of my best writing right before midnight when a paper or three were due at midnight. The thing about writing–and one of the many reasons I have procrastinated in the past–is because writing requires the writer to be in her own head. Watching Doctor Who, for example, or playing Candy Crush, on the other hand, does not.

When you have a billion thoughts bouncing off the inside of your noggin’ (that’s Southern for “head,” y’all) at a billion miles per hour, the last thing you want is to be in your own head.

 

Its like a tornado.

As I sit here writing this, I’ve checked out my arm muscles (strength training is paying off!), looked at the grass, wondered if the unidentified object at the edge of the porch is a stick or a dog turd, made a list of things I need from the grocery store, and wondered if my morning glory is still alive.

 And that’s just what I can remember.

When preparing to reboot, I had all of these tasks I wanted done before hand, a bunch of the blah-blah-blahs: the site designed, redesigned, redesigned again, several posts done, graphics laid out, a planned system of writing, and more.

Years ago I had paid someone to build me one and I didn’t have any idea how to use it, and I quickly broke it. By breaking it, I mean, I had lost access to my log in screen.  I had nothing backed up (how do you manage that?). I sat on the broken site until I finally deleted it because a) I didn’t know how to fix it and b) I was too timid to ask the developer for help and c) I was going bald from pulling my hair out in frustration.

So when I got ready to do it all over again, I prepared myself first. I started watching YouTube videos for WordPress development and started taking a class through Udemy. I mean, it was logical, right? But I learned how to back up; I learned how to fix things (some things, anyway), purchased a theme, and then played and played and played. And planned and planned and planned.  Apparently, I can plan a thing to death.

And then I realized that I was still procrastinating.

Maybe it was the head thing. Maybe it was fear.

But then I listened to Seth Godin in “The Grand Opening” from his Akimbo podcast (available on Spotify). In it, he talks about the history of hype marketing and the lack of need for it in today’s world–despite most things being advertised to us as hype.  He told an anecdote about meeting a man named Sergey 20 years ago who said, “I have a little search engine called Google.” Sergey then said that Google didn’t do any outbound marketing because a) he knew that one day, everyone would use it and b) Google was better every day.  Because Google was better every day, he wasn’t in a hurry for thousands or millions of people to use it right away. The longer they waited, the better their first impression would be.

Now, I certainly have no grand vision to become the Google of writers, but I do know that I get a little better every day. Maybe it’s by learning a new writing technique; maybe it’s learning another thing about WordPress or my theme. Hype marketing really has no place in my vision or purpose.

At any rate, I pushed that unidentified source of procrastination aside and set a deadline: July 23, 2018, a date a little over a week from the date I set it.  As soon as I set a deadline, shit went crazy. Suddenly, everything that I was afraid of paraded through my brain, but instead of throwing Moon Pies and paper flowers, they threw gallon jugs of Hawaiian Punch and beer bottles.

I couldn’t do this. It will look weird look right. I don’t even really know what I’m doing. What am I going to write about? What if no one reads it? What if everyone reads it?

I began dissecting my fears, one by one:

1.   I could do this, but if I couldn’t, who would              care? Just me. And I’d start again. 

Starting again is kind of my superpower. 

 

2.     It might look weird. In the end, I’m okay with weird.  Maybe being kind of weird is also my                              superpower. Maybe  like Jessica Jones, I have more than  one superpower. She can fly (or jump with               “controlled falling”) and has super strength. Considering her powers are tempered by excessive drinking,         starting over again and being weird as superpowers don’t seem so bad after all.

3.    I don’t even know what I’m doing! But then again, when have I ever known what I’m doing?  Rarely!               I  tend to learn as I go, make it up as I go along, fly, not by the seat of my pants, but  rather by the wind          velocity of my unplucked eyebrows. That works better for me in terms of  actually getting stuff done.              Otherwise, I plan and plan and plan and do nothing but plan. (Thanks to one of my dearest friends for              pointing that out to me)  Apparently, I can plan a thing to death. I’m sure there’s a Prince song about              that. 

4.   What am I going to write about? I’ve known what I wanted to write about for-ev-ah.  Everything.

 

Yes, definitely everything.

 

As part of that everything, I wanted to write about the good side of life: the things and people that  make the world a better place, stories that would otherwise go untold, the little moments and  miracles that fall in the space between memories, the struggles and foibles as well as the progress  and success of life, of self-development, of, well, everything. Also, weird random shit.

 Because I like weird, random shit. 

I’ve found that dissecting fears and seeing what I’m really afraid of is a great first step in getting through them. Normally, I would say “conquering them,” but I think that fear can be an exceptional teacher if we allow it to be, and learning from fear is more about making friends with that teacher than it is conquering it. 

At any rate, it’s bound to be a grand adventure.

Weird Random Shit:

(1) Lyric Source: The post title and subsequent lyrics are from “Guerrilla Radio” by Rage Against the Machine from their Battle for Los Angeles album, released in 1999. RATM is one of my *all-time* favorite bands, both for their hard-edged, politically charged lyrics and their brutal beat. Paul Ryan, the current Republican Speaker of the House has said that RATM is one of his favorite bands. In response to this, guitarist Tom Morello wrote an editorial for Rolling Stone, blasting Ryan as “the embodiment of the machine our music rages against.”

Welcome to Life 2.0

Welcome to Life 2.0

It’s so important that I figured it bore saying a second time.

Life 2.0 represents a complete reboot, both of my habits and of my website so that I may refocus on what I had been trying to accomplish, once upon a time: documenting the path to a better life and cheering things and people and experiences I find worth celebrating.

I had become a complaint-monster, both consuming and spitting out negativity and bitchiness. All the time.

Which isn’t what I wanted to do. At all. That was who I had been and was but was not who I want to be.

I had become a member of the Walking Dead: rags of some previous life hanging from me, struggling to hoist myself up again and again with no success. I wasn’t in search of flesh, however, or even brains. I was in search of heart.

I just didn’t know it at the time.

So I’m rebooting, focusing on the bonds, compounds, and energy levels of change and bearing witness to solution and dissolution, to growth, decay, and transformation.

A life is built by habits, and habits are made by practice. Life 2.0 is about creating new habits, allowing those which no longer serve us to fall by the wayside, and creating the life we really want to have.

While life, as they say, has no dress rehearsal, it does allow for many practices. It’s just that sometimes we practice in front of other people.

And sometimes we fall flat on our faces.

But, if we’re lucky, we get the chance to practice again. Maybe we even get the chance to pull it off, like in one of those sports movies where the hero strikes out, practices hard and meets the right mentor, and scores the winning home run at the end of the movie.

 

If we’re really, really lucky. 

 Life 2.0 IS a practice.

It is the practice of creating meaningful habits that can, little by little, transform our lives.

And the practice of transformation, the process itself, is both the path and the goal.

My dream is simple: to build habits and document the process of change so that I may focus on what I really, really want to do, which is finding things worth celebrating, amplify them, and in the process, forge a creative life that is worth living.

And maybe even save the world a little along the way.

Simple, perhaps, but not easy.

 

You may be thinking, “So many people have done the same thing,

why should I follow *you*?

 

  • I have grand vision but I screw up a lot. Sometimes, it’s really, really funny. Plus, you may learn about things you may not have known about or remembered (like the flux capacitor needed 1.21 gigawatts pronounced jigawatts in Back to the Future and you can learn how to build a replica here.)
  • I have a no-bullshit rule. I won’t make promises of miracle cures or have to testify in front of Congress for my dubious business practices. (I’m looking at you, Dr. Oz!)
  • I wear my heart on my sleeve and f-bombs on my tongue. They coordinate very well.
  • I like giving stuff away.
  • And then there’s this:   I can *almost* guarantee that those other people don’t giggle until they’re breathless–and had to leave a senior college Shakespeare class–because they said “two bras” instead of “two brawls” while reading aloud. 

There is so much more to life than working, sleeping, wash, rinse, repeat.

So much more, but searching for it and actively pursuing it requires courage. “Not battle courage, perhaps, but, I don’t know… a woman’s kind of courage, as Brienne of Tarth  so clumsily put it.

It’s not just a woman’s courage, but the courage of an adventurer committed to letting her boat leave the dock.   

“A ship in a harbor harbor is safe,  but that is not what ships are built for.”  The quotation has been attributed to several people as shown by quote investigator.

To a certain degree, safety is overrated. It’s what puts us in cubicles during our most valuable time of the day, day after day after day. It’s what keeps us from reaching just a little bit out of our comfort zone. 

It’s what encourages resignation and stagnation, and those are the antitheses of change and growth.

So I do hope you’ll join us as we walk the path of most resistance. It might not be a party, but it’s guaranteed to be…well, something.

Maybe even interesting.

But it’ll be something.