Monday, December 9, 2013

Mind Your Own Facial Expression

I was in Walmart yesterday walking towards the computers and a sales associate said to me, “Smile!” I turned around and gave him a long, astonished look. He proceeded to help a customer out as I fumed, and waited. When he was finished, I approached him, maintaining eye contact. He smiled and said, “Can I help you with something?”
“No,” I respectfully said. “I just wanted to give you some advice.” I paused. “Don’t ever tell someone how to feel or look.” “You looked sad,” he said. “I was trying to cheer you up.” “It’s very annoying,” I said. I lingered a while maintaining eye contact to allow the information to settle in, then left.

Arbitrary strangers my whole life have been telling me to smile. And this is the first time I have ever said anything. I guess because this is the first time in my life where I truly support my emotions. The shame involved with housing the “wrong emotion” has disappeared, because I’ve realized there is no such thing as a correct or an incorrect emotion.

As children we’re often told to change our behavior, or our emotions. “Suck it up, stop crying, lower your voice,” and so forth. The result can be that we allow others, later in life, to continue to tell us how we should feel and appear.

I could have added in my schpeel to the sales associate: What if my mother had just died in a car accident? What if my brother had just been murdered? What if the love of my life had just been sentenced to prison for twenty years? You, an unasked for do-gooder, come around and casually tell me to smile, as if any circumstance that would warrant sadness is absolutely inconceivable or as if I should be able to suck my sadness up and stuff my present reality down so creeps like you will approve of my facial expression as I’m browsing laptops.

The world doesn’t need ignorant fucks trying to cheer it up. It needs empathy, respect, and sensitivity.

The next person who tells me to smile is going to get a similar, or more intense, schpeel.

Have you ever been told to smile? How has it made you feel? What would you like to tell that person? Let’s launch a campaign! The “Mind Your Own Facial Expression” war?

Oh, and by the way, sales associate, I wasn’t sad.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Benefit of Being Ignored

Reframing #2

You can reframe anything. If you want to know what reframing is, read the previous blog, Reframing #1.

Psychologists agree that children who are ignored develop some quirky tendencies. They can be antisocial, highly anxious with seemingly ordinary activities. Because of this constant strain they can be moodier, harder to understand. It can be harder for these people to communicate. They are less likely to have friends, likely to have lower self esteem, develop addictions, and in some ways be a little immature.

But I believe everything is as it should be. The universe does not make mistakes. When it makes a person and puts that person in a certain environment, there are good reasons. There will be obstacles to overcome no matter what they are.

As a child who was largely ignored, I can tell you, there are definitely benefits. I learned to think my own way. I didn't have anyone telling me the way things were, teaching me my opinions and identity. When I travel, I don't miss anyone. I can easily adapt to my environment because I never identified myself with my environment. With all the space and silence, I was able to identify myself with myself. I listened for what the voice of God sounds like in the chest. I feel sorry for kids who are dependent on their family, who when we go on class trips are clutching their pillows, bleeding into the phone, and crying. They lose the bliss of adventure.

Psychology also says that these antisocial types are more driven to perform. Perhaps it's because they associate their worth in their actions. We all know it's good to love yourself regardless. But if you want something done and done right, these performance-driven people are where to look. They are not distracted. They are focused. They keep that space around them that they grew up in. I'd much rather be writing amazing work that others can benefit from than nursing still.

Be grateful for the way that you are. There is a very specific purpose for it. I am not discouraging healing by any means. But some things cannot be changed. Your conditioning is very hard to change, though you can change your habits. Most of the way that you are was formed by the time you were three. So try to take advantage of it. What unique perspective do you have to offer? How may you  be of service?


Monday, November 12, 2012


I’m going to launch into a series of blogs on reframing. Reframing is a very valuable tool for keeping one’s self at ease and maintaining an open mind.

Reframing is finding a different perspective for any situation. When one has a negative perspective, it restores hope and motivation. When one has a positive perspective, it allows for greater empathy to consider that others may have a negative perspective about the same thing. So either way, reframing gives one the ability to have an elevated vantage point, which is comforting and humbling. 

It is hardly ever events in themselves which produce a reaction in humans. It is humans’ conclusions based on those events which produce the reaction. The act of someone yelling at you lasts for about ten seconds. That’s objective reality. The anger you feel afterward is because of the subjective conclusion drawn by you such as: “he yelled at me because I am stupid”, or, “he’s mean”, or, “I’m not safe.” Wonder if you could simply say to yourself, “that person raised his voice at me”? Period. It’s natural for humans to search for meaning because it helps us to decide how to handle situations and alerts us to areas we may need to change. However, extracting the meaning from a situation is a coping mechanism. This is non-judgmental awareness, something similar to meditation. This gets you through difficult moments that otherwise could rip your ability to persevere and love yourself to shreds.

With reframing, if someone cuts in front of you in traffic, instead of him being an insensitive incompetent jerk, he is possibly late to work, upset, distracted, old, going to the hospital, who knows. It doesn’t so much matter whether you’re right or wrong about your subjective conclusion. It matters more that you remain calm so that your health is optimal, your participation in your life more effective. Later, if you wish to deal with the emotions you feel, certainly do so. That’s very healthy. But don’t linger in them. Deal with them, consider another perspective, and try to move on.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Accepting Anxiety

Anxiety in itself is often crippling. I have found in dealing with my own that the goal is not to reduce the anxiety but to accept it. Acceptance ultimately leads to reduction, and I'll discuss why in a moment, but it is important to not be thinking about it going away. Welcoming it is the only way it can be soothed.

Anxiety about your own anxiety can make it worse. Often one judges his reasons for being anxious, as though the anxiety were not necessary, were not justified. Every phenomenon is always justified, it just may not lead to the highest good. If someone murders someone, he has his reasons. If you're anxious, you have yours. It is useful to analyze the cause of your anxiety without attaching subjective meaning to the cause. For example, say I'm anxious because I'm getting bad grades in college. I worry about my parents scolding me, teachers not liking me, fear my social and economical status will be jeopardized. These are of course  average concerns. No one wants to be ostracized for being human and making a "mistake." Here the goal is to not dwell on those fears though. Accept them as having the right to exist. Simply see them. If you need to label them in your mind so as to not get wrapped up in their implications, say something like "I have fear that I will be rejected by people I admire because I am getting bad grades." This is objective and helps you to move along, whereas a conclusion based on the objective facts such as "I'm no good. I don't deserve to exist" is merely your own opinion and will only prolong your suffering.

It's about reframing. It's not necessarily about getting better grades and so making your anxiety go away. There will always be something not quite right about your life and it's good training to learn how to accept this and function reasonably. And it's not necessarily about meditating your anxiety away because despite raves of meditation calming you (which it ultimately can do) meditation will first bring issues to the surface. The silence allows the hidden screams to be heard. If you meditate while anxious, most likely, the things you're anxious about will not diminish at first but actually come to the forefront of your brain. This is painful but good because then you can deal with them and move them on out.

Reframing: it's about changing your perspective on what's happening. It's about welcoming the process of life. Without your anxiety, you would either be unmotivated to change and would therefore drop out of school, or you wouldn't have the opportunity provided by its prompting to relinquish concerns for how other people view you, an asset that will assist you the rest of your life. Without the anxiety, you might never learn to forgive yourself, be gentler with yourself, defend yourself, consider yourself. What would motivate you to think deeper about cause and effect, our relationships to each other, our expectations of one another, your humanity?

If you think anxiety is bad and should not be in you, then it will not go away. You'll be anxious about your anxiety and your anxiety will be pissed that you're not accepting it and seeing its good intentions. It will be disappointed you haven't used its services offered. It will not go away until you learn to be comfortable being uncomfortable. 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Why People are Assholes

And how you can safely interact with them!

The certain type of asshole gets respect. He's not snipping doggie's tales at the end of his day, not on a rampant violent streak, but he's mumbling negative comments constantly, giving people disapproving looks; you feel that to smile in his presence would be like asking Russia to bomb the U.S. You question your joy in his presence, ponder its validity in the face of what appears to be his knowing better. You ask yourself, If he asked me why I am smiling, what would I say? If you can't come up with a good answer, you figure you better not.

The thing not to do is hate these people. They have good reasons for being the way they are.  

Also, the thing not to do is pity them. They don't need pity. They are perfectly in control of their behavior. It's not up to you to show them any sort of light. They know it's there. If they want it they'll get it.

What you can do:

1. Be yourself. Don't hide your smiles. Don't smile when you're not happy just to annoy them. If an asshole asks you what you're so happy about, just say, "I just am." Joy, like any emotion,  does not need justification.

2. Consider the cause. An asshole is in short someone who is disappointed. In order to be disappointed you have to have standards and have had hope at one point. Therefore assholes are actually quite sensitive insightful people who have simply observed some harsh things and have accepted these harsh things as an almost constant influx. He has realized that life is disruptive and painful, realized that he probably won't get what he wants, and for sanity's purposes has therefore resigned to accepting the negative but commenting fiercely on it as his only way of still having an identity. His criticisms of others are objectively correct. He's honest. He's both respected and disliked for that because we all know white lies keep the love. Not saying things that are truthful but painful keeps the love. An asshole is someone who sacrifices guises for reality. Respecting the honesty of the asshole will help you to not take the asshole's disappointment behind the honesty as personally. Remember--in order to be disappointed you have to have standards. Standards are good.

3. As they are cutting everything down, assholes are looking for rays of light. Do your best. Be integral, but don't blow your own whistle, and the asshole will most likely leave you alone. 


Saturday, November 3, 2012

What is a Mistake?

I have been reflecting a lot on "mistakes" and I am wondering what is classified as a mistake? There's a book I want to read: Adventures in the Margin of Error. I have a feeling it celebrates, or at least tolerates, failure. It's like I just need someone to say everything will be okay.

I usually do not regret anything I do, but something I did this past year negatively affected someone very close to me and it stings deeply. I had never really affected another person directly with my behavior. This is new for me and much more painful.

We all affect each other. It's hard to know sometimes if what we are doing is straying from the truth or if it is revealing it in unexpected ways. Sometimes "mistakes" produce an irreplaceable outcome for the better. And other times, of course, they merely create suffering. Even suffering, though, can be questioned for its usefulness. With this knowledge, I find myself questioning almost everything I do, yet trying to find the peaceful place of not second-guessing too much. How much monitoring is helpful? When does it become hurtful? I am aware of my face, my body, the tone of my voice, my words, my breath. I guess there is a price to pay for enlightenment even. Is this price the feeling of being isolated? I know we are all connected, but I also know there is a complete universe inside of me and I am responsible for its government.

Any thoughts to share? Mistakes you might think were helpful? Tips for letting things go?

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Karma and The Marriage of Good and Evil

Okay. I was in the bathroom stall and someone dropped a 20 in the stall next to me. Once she opened the door I slid it into my stall and, of course, tucked it in my wallet. Now, many people might be thinking, Shame on you! But this comes back to my renewed perspective on "morality." I once gave a man 25 bucks plus a dream catcher worth about 20 just because he was drunk, a veteran, and I felt sorry for him. I knew he was going to blow the money on booze even though he professed to being hungry and homeless. I was in no position to judge. Suppose I "did the right thing" and told the stranger that she had dropped a 20. Her pleasure with me and God's pleasure with me would have heaped Heaven down on my head, right? Well, first of all, God never instructed me on what to do with found money and what do I owe this person? Who's to say this person didn't get the 20 the same way I did? Or who's to say I'm not helping fulfill her karmic debt for some other no-no she did and perhaps has not yet paid for? Who's to say this 20 wasn't my karmic reward for holding a door open for a person in a wheelchair for 20 minutes while she fumbled around with gizmos and gears last week at this same bathroom? I felt absolutely no guilt for taking the money and I do not expect what I spend it on to be cursed because my sense of right and wrong is personalized and intact. 

Furthermore, what's with this God is good thing? What is "good?" Flowers and harps? God is true, that's what He is. He is right, that's what he is. He is creator AND destroyer. The typical Christian view is that when we "destroy" our lives we are "sinning." Well, you need to die to be reborn, don't you? And you need to do this many times because life is a constant divorce and then marriage of the flesh and the spirit. You cannot deny either. You must let them work together. If they begin to fight, one must win, or both must truce. A one-sided coin is no good. God is dark and light. Murderer and giver of life. Seek the truth, not good or evil and "good" and "evil" will be at peace with one another.