On Sameness + Perfection.

On Sameness + Perfection.

Body Love Motivation + Inspiration

WHEN I WAS 12, I read the book The Giver by Lois Lowry. A sort of Brave New World for the tween set, it’s about a confined society in which everything is Just So all the time. It’s a society that’s been converted to “sameness” – a plan that has eradicated pain and strife. Everyone is identical. No one feels. No one judges. No one’s flawed. No experience, no emotion, no hunger for life. Just…predictability.

I think that most of my classmates empathized with the times the main character, Jonas, felt weird for being different (how much more tweeny can you get?). I, however, empathized with how angry Jonah felt when he started to see – really see – how phoney Sameness really was.

~

Perfection is a hoax. The allure of being perfect is the greatest con, the greatest scheme ever devised. Forget about the Photoshop, the glossy pages, the television even. Perfection is a stagnant ideal and a consummation of all we find unsatisfactory. It’s an artifice to fool ourselves into believing that there’s an excuse or that we’re failing. That is perfect, They are perfect is internalized and morphs into This is not perfect. I am not perfect.
Perfection is conditional love. It’s an invisible benchmark and a thick glass ceiling. It’s the expectation and the idealization of the absolutely monotonous. It’s a lonely, one-dimensional load of crap we think we need in order to feel special.

Perfection is a pile of you-know-what from both ends of the spectrum; doesn’t matter how you look at it. We live in a world where the sweetest apples are discarded for a touch of brown, where we inject plastic into the lines we’ve earned from reading novels late into the night, where we over-sterilize and under-appreciate.

And then there are the people who seem to be constantly extolled for their beauty, their wisdom, or their achievements. Their existence is idolized, their lives an exercise in perfection maintenance. And that…that is a huge burden to carry, too. It’s immense, unreasonable pressure to stay at a certain age, look, job and caliber indefinitely. Because what if – no, when – we don’t? What happens when we falter – or maybe just aren’t astonishingly mind-blowing every single second?


Will we still be loved?

 

The word “perfect” has haunted me my entire life. When I was in middle school, I would be called perfect as a taunt. I didn’t have braces. I liked to color-coordinate. I got good grades. My awkward stage was mild. Sounds great, huh? Yeah. Not really. I felt detached and alone. I felt I could not be myself; God forbid I spoke out of turn or mismatched a sock. Just like Jonas in The Giver, I saw how fabricated the idea of perfection was, but didn’t know how to convince people otherwise. There was an immense discomfort in knowing I was looked at as someone who had everything together, and that that was both desired AND detested. Trying to convince people I wasn’t always backfired, since perfection was so ingrained in my identity to others. It was weird for me to be perfect but wrong for me to be flawed.

But the most uncomfortable thing for me was that my biggest taunts were also my highest praise. I was told I was pretty, I was told I was smart, I was told I was sweet, and I was told I was talented. I wasn’t ever forced to be those things – no stage parents in my household – but it was obvious the value they had. Plus, the alternative was scary. When you grow up in a culture that puts people down for fun and thrives off of casual negativity to get through the day, how does anything but perfect seem like a viable option? There was currency in perfection…as well as immunity. I felt that.

Balance was virtually impossible.

 

How was it that the very thing I equated with love and worth from my family and mentors was the thing I equated with loneliness and weirdness when it came to my friends and peers?

 

Some would have rebelled. But no – I didn’t want to rebel. I just wanted to relate. So I downplayed my assets and kept them locked away. At the root of it, I feared loss. I wanted to guarantee love, but at the same time wanted to be the full range of myself – which included the dark and messy parts. Please let me be normal, I’d silently beg. Do not love me for my light, because it sometimes gets dark in here and I can’t bear the loss when you realize that.

What was the most interesting is when I started to focus on feeling special instead of focusing on the whether or not others THOUGHT I was special. I let my guard down in front of people. I took myself very seriously but took the world a whole lot less so. I cried over boys and told people who hurt me the way that I felt. I opened up about being melancholy for what seemed like no reason and realized there were way more people like me than there were not. My dark and messy wasn’t all so dark and messy after all. I was just, as Glennon Doyle says, “a feely person in a messy world.” I began to realize that only I could determine my value, and only I could know what was my rightest right. I stopped using the word “perfect” to describe people and things and started to call them “perfect-for-me.” I stopped feeding off “perfect” and living on purpose.

You are not a mess. You are a feely person in a messy world. - @glennondoyle Click To Tweet

I am wary of perfection. The ones who make it their life’s mission to be perfect, I’m onto them. There is something deeper there, there is something hiding and some voice inside that once told them that the only way to be is to be flawless. Because big voices and unique souls and feely people are risky to a messy world that likes to put things in cramped little boxes that are easy to define and file away. Nothing is intriguing when you fit into Sameness.

Whenever I see these people, I want to take them aside and hug them and tell them just to Be. Just BE. Be on purpose. Be a contradiction. Be extreme! Whatever you are and whoever you are, be extremely YOU. At the end of the day, what else is there left? The people who know how to live are absolutely flawless in their quirks and extremes. They’re certainly not afraid to mismatch their socks or disagree with the world.

The idea that perfection gets you a prize is a big fat lie, and the thing is that we ALL KNOW IT deep down. Because those beautiful on-purpose souls, who are extremely and unquestionably themselves, those are the people we’re all ultimately drawn to in the long run. Not the ones who homogenize their lives to be Just So. Because this is not sameness. This is life. In all its extremities and nuances.

What makes you special isn’t someone else’s declaration that you’re special. What makes you special are the exact things that end up making you feel as if you’re living with the entirety of yourself. Find those tiny details and idiosyncrasies that make you you, and use them to support and enhance the extreme You-ness of the way you Be. It isn’t about “perfection” or “flawed” or whatever’s the opposite. It’s about being unquestionably yourself.

Forget about the Sameness, forget about utopia. There is no better person to be, no better place to live, than Oh-So-On-Purpose.


 

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Party Of One: Why You Should Embrace The Single State Of Mind

Party Of One: Why You Should Embrace The Single State Of Mind

Community Love

For most of my partnered-up adult life, Valentine’s Day was a bit like prom: lots of hype, tons of expectation, and kind of a let down once it happened. They felt extravagant or forced, like some sort of obligation I was supposed to be totally into but was only kind-of-sort-of invested in. Basically, the exact opposite of what all those cards and Sex & The City episodes told me February 14th should be like.

In contrast, my single-gal Valentine’s Days were a blast and a half. In high school I spent my freshman and sophomore years with red on my lips and hearts drawn on my fingernails (in black polish, but I digress), passing out glittery stickers and love notes to my friends between classes. My freshman year of college, my mom sent a basket of cookies and mini-muffins to my dorm, and later that evening we all went out to dinner at a janky strip-mall sushi place where the lighting was harsh and the laughter was plenty. As relationships came and went, a small part of me felt a little bit bummed that my Valentine’s Days had fallen prey to romantic involvement instead of a fun time with my single friends and family.

But wait…that’s backwards, right?

Shouldn’t the expression of love be about the fun, about the feeling and, most certainly, about doing things your own way?

This lesson, of course, is one I hadn’t learned yet.

~

We give a big heap of power to romantic relationships in our culture. So much power, in fact, that many times it can seem like our romantic relationships shouldn’t just dictate our overall happiness, but dictate our sense of self-worth. “Are you seeing anyone?” has become an oft-used tentpole in the basecamp of banal conversation, and way too often a single gal (or guy, because the urge to matchmake transcends gender) is viewed as ripe to be paired off. Even when we’re in relationships, the question isn’t so much about the whos and whys but the whats and whens. We’re told by pop songs, movies, TV shows, and magazines that being coupled is a means to an end, and there’s always a new end to strive toward.

Being single isn’t about not having a partner – it’s about being your own best teammate. Click To Tweet

We’ve all heard the cliché that “you need to love yourself before you can love others.” But it’s also true that loving yourself should never, ever, ever be about laying the groundwork for someone else to come and swoop in. Being single isn’t about not having a partner – it’s about being your own best teammate. It’s about reclaiming the word “single” and redefining it not as something negative or lacking, but as a state-of-mind you carry with you, whether you’re in a relationship or not. Just like being “taken” doesn’t mean you’re someone else’s property, being single doesn’t mean you’re up for grabs. The difference involves another person, but the common commitment should always involve the one you have to yourself.

Little disclaimer: I know couples who have been together since they were 16. My grandparents, aka living breathing heart-eye emojis, were high school sweethearts (granted, they each got married, then divorced, then found each other again later in life – so technically, they had a big old break in the middle of their romance, but still). There are a good number of couples out there who found their “person” early on in life and have created loving, open, equal partnership that’s lasted them a lifetime. And that’s beautiful.

But for most of us, that’s not the case. We experience a multitude of romantic relationships in our lives – both brief and prolonged – and therefore have a plethora of opportunities to check in and evaluate who we are when we’re going solo. Not all of us take these opportunities, but they are always there.

Without prolonged periods of time to ourselves – whether that be months or years – how can we ever develop that deep sense of self-knowledge that fuels our dreams? How can we hone the craft of fine-tuning our intuition and gut feelings so that no matter who or what comes along, we’re able to stay true to who we are at our core? By casting aside those moments, we’re sending ourselves the subconscious message that who we are alone is not enough.

Being single isn’t a relationship status, it’s a mindset. We each get to choose what that mindset means to us.

Think about it: What kind of stuff does the word “single” bring up for you? Is it along the lines of unlovable, incomplete, alone? Or rather, is it a sense of freedom, bravery, and fearless independence? The way we view our single self is ultimately how we will view our coupled self – in both our highest highs and our lowest lows. What a blessing it is to be able to experience both of these emotional extremes on our own, so that when another person comes along (if we should be open to them coming along, of course), we know for a fact that our love comes from a place of want, not need. We know that we want their love in order to enhance our life… not that we need their love in order to define it.

So, spoiler alert… I’m not single any more. And I haven’t been for a few years now. Bigger spoiler, I’m engaged. I know, I know… what kind of business do I have writing about singledom, then? Well – a lot. Because even though my fiancé most certainly has helped me open more windows and doors and sunroofs to my truest self than I can even express, he is NOT my crutch. Because I had a long (long) time before he came along to solidify my relationship with myself, so everything he has to offer is the best-ever cherry on top. Because honestly, the way I feel right now as my best self (in both my high and my lows) is almost exactly the same as when I was single. It was in that period of time that I committed over and over again to the most important relationship in my life – my relationship with myself.

These last few years have been the first time I’ve actually enjoyed Valentines Days in a long while – and it’s not because I’ve found “my person.” It’s because my Valentine’s Days have morphed back into what they were in the past: a day to celebrate love of all kinds. I wear red lipstick because I want to, I spend time with my friends because I love to, I call my mom and pass out stickers because it makes me happy. Sometimes I go out to a fancy dinner with my fiancé, sometimes we watch Friends reruns in our pajamas at 5 p.m. But no matter what, I make sure to reflect on how wonderful it feels to live my life on my own terms, and how grateful I am for that time I had sans partnership to figure out what those terms actually meant to me without the influence of someone else.

The times we have to ourselves are precious. We have our entire lives to be surrounded by other people in whatever capacity we choose, whether a lasting romance or a fleeting fling. If you’re single or recovering from a broken heart this Valentine’s Day, use this weekend to shower the people you love with love. Use this time to hone your single-gal mindset for the better. Friends and lovers will come and go. It’s a liberating feeling when you realize that the one constant in your life – yourself – is someone you’ve grown to love more than you though was possible. And that that person is not going away no matter what.

being single

On Loneliness.

On Loneliness.

Community Love Motivation + Inspiration

Lonely hits at the most unexpected times – in line at the bank, driving your car out of your garage into the sunshine of a Sunday morning. Propped up on your elbow on a half-made bed, listening to new music at 2 a.m. It comes when it’s quiet and you are not, or maybe when everything around you is vibrant and you tiptoe in, or when you look in your refrigerator and realize you need to buy something other than condiments and wine. Lonely is a disconnect, a conscious choice or a unexpected wave.

Lonely hits you when you look in the mirror and don’t recognize yourself like you used to. You’re a real live adult – when did that happen? Your hair does this wavy thing it never did before. There is something different in your eyes; what is it? Oh that’s it – it’s clarity, it’s vision, they are the eyes strained from holding themselves so wide open. It’s the look of time passed and dreams in flux and the realization that everything you want is not necessarily everything you need. It’s the body that’s changed shape by the day, week, year, decade, and the idea that even our own selves are not a constant.

Lonely is not a relationship status; lonely isn’t crowded or alone. Lonely is the aching for wide-open exchange, and no matter how many friends you have or how great your love life is or how perfect your job is, lonely is the confusion that sets in when you wonder, when you hold back, or when the external becomes a guise or overcompensation.

We can feel more lonely surrounded by others than when we’re in a room alone. The blocked energy and the questions, they suffocate and they hurt. Usually when we’re feeling lonely, we’re asking questions or holding back. Or holding out, really, because so much of our loneliness is based in the responses we’re hoping to get outside of ourselves.

And the tricky part is that lonely cannot be solved by being social, by going out, or by striking up a conversation. Lonely is vague. Lonely is living hazily, living in parentheticals and footnotes and swift asides and question marks lined up like window decorations. Lonely is what happens when you question the way you give. Lonely is love with nowhere to go.

Lonely is what happens when you ache to uplift; lonely is the first guest to arrive and the lingering last guest to leave. Lonely is the self-aware, the uncharacteristically quiet, the first two layers unpeeled instead of the whole dissected onion. Lonely is the song you try to sing; it’s wishing to sing and not getting the chance. It’s all of the trying and wishing, really. It’s missing your friend because you both evolved in different ways and just don’t relate any more, or it’s getting a solution instead of a shoulder. Lonely is that necklace that you wore so well, that’s now neglected because you just can’t get the tangles out – it’s the change that comes with time and the transience of life in general.

Healing from loneliness is…well, it’s tough. It requires immense courage, unabashed honesty, and a strong cocktail of selflessness and trust.

The opposite of loneliness isn’t just togetherness. It’s connection.

It’s care.

It’s love.

The opposite of loneliness isn’t just togetherness. It’s connection. Click To Tweet

We’re fighting loneliness when we ask the teller at the bank, with genuine interest, “How is your day going?” We’re fighting loneliness when we are feeling disconnected from our family or friends or significant other but tell them we love them anyway, without caring about the response or aching for reciprocity. We’re fighting loneliness when we take a lunch break and bring our coworker coffee just the way she likes it. We fight loneliness with little acts throughout the day of thoughtfulness and intimate authenticity.

When I start to feel lonely, different, sequestered in my own personal black hole, I have trained myself to become just a tad bit more expressive. Because that is the answer to a much bigger question than how to fight the temporary feeling of lonely: the question of what my soul really, truly wants and desires.

The one common thread between all of us is that we want to feel loved. So to battle my own loneliness, I shift gears and do what I can to make someone else feel loved. It makes me feel like my heart is in use; because lonely is my heart feeling stagnant. This is my way of courageously and effectively going about my quest for fulfillment, wholeness and connection on a soul level.

So go ahead, give your love somewhere to go. No alternate agenda or quest for reciprocity. Just a simple moment of care and connection; a fleeting one, even. Delete your footnotes and erase your parentheses. Show your care, own the person who is so uniquely you. Let it fill your heart as you fill the hearts of others. Trust it will. Heal your loneliness by reminding someone “You’re not alone. We’re connected. Let’s do this together.”




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a version of this was originally published in 2015 and has been edited throughout

I Love You And I Like You: The Ebbs And Flows Of Body Image

I Love You And I Like You: The Ebbs And Flows Of Body Image

Body Love Motivation + Inspiration

Quick poll: who has ever been frustrated with someone they love?

::raises hand::

Think about your lasting, enduring relationships. They can be with friends, family members, or significant others. There are definitely times you don’t like them, like what they have to say, or like what they’re doing. That’s life. 

With vulnerability and intimacy comes the universal truth that we don’t always like what we see. Because that’s what a real relationship does: it creates a safe space to explore what we like and don’t like so we can learn more about ourselves and move forward on our own journey.

So why should it be ANY different with our bodies?

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Yeah, the ideal is to love it and like it. But as with the nature of any relationship, that’s not always the case.

 

What holds us back from true body love – and, therefore, self-love – is this idea that we are supposed to LIKE our body 100% of the time.


But chances are, if you’re a living, breathing human being, that’s just not going to be the case. Like, ever.

What ends up happening is that we confuse LIKING our body with LOVING our body, insinuating that what we don’t LIKE in the moment must be an indication that we don’t LOVE ourselves fully and completely.

Since the word “love,” like the h-word and the f-word, is an emotionally heavy word, it’s what both the media and everyday people use the most often. It’s easy to cling onto. It’s easy to empathize with. There’s a lot more tied to the word love, so it’s become our natural default – making us all believe that we can only love or loathe ourselves. The “love” language we use toward our bodies basically assumes the role of “like” language as well. 

In reality, it’s so much more complex than that. To say we like or don’t “like” something usually begs for more justification, especially if you’re a solution-oriented person (like you probably are if you’re reading this). It requires us to actually think and hone in instead of rest on a general feeling/emotion. “Like” has more nuance to it. What do you like or not like? Why “like” and not “love?” If you don’t like something, then what do you like?

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Real talk: I don’t like my body all day, every day. Let me tell you, when I’m in the first 24 hours of my period and it feels like my whole lower half has started its own Fight Club, I do not like the way my body feels. When I’ve had a few too many drinks or a little too much processed food and my organs are responding with superpowered inflammation, I do not like the way my body looks. When I haven’t exercised or done yoga in a while and it would basically take an act of god to get me to even touch my toes, I definitely don’t like the way my body moves around in space.

But none of that – NONE of that – speaks to how I really feel about my body. I love my body despite those things, and I love my body for those things. I love my body for telling me what’s up, for waking me up to parts of myself that need some TLC. Sure we fight sometimes, but my body and I know how to fight fair. We know how to keep respect at the core, use “I feel” instead of “You are” turns of phrase, and we are always, always solution-oriented.

It’s highly unrealistic for us to think we can mantra our way to 24/7 body “like.” Love, maybe. But the idea that disliking our body every now and again is a sin is utter bs. It’s shoving issues under the rug. It’s igorning things that need to be discussed. And if you’ve ever been in a relationship where issues are pushed aside and things are ignored…you KNOW that leads to nowhere good.

When you’re trying to express how you feel on a bad body day, put “like” and “right now” back into your vocabulary. Instead of using the h-word, confront your body on what’s coming up for you in the moment. Play fair, play respectfully, and play to find solutions. Play by reminding your body you love it unconditionally, but right now it’s a little hard to like it.

Seems like such a small, inconsequential shift, but it really makes the world of a difference. Because what “I don’t like when/how you [fill in blank] right now” does is separate WHO your body inherently is from HOW your body is choosing to respond to a given situation in the moment. The love is there. The love will always be there. But right now, it’s a little rough to get on the same page with that one glorious body you love.

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There’s a lot of buzz around the body-positive movement right now, which is phenomenal and something I am so proud to (hopefully) be contributing to. Yet if we only focus on the black-and-whites of love and loathing, we’re missing a whole gray scale in the middle that is desperately seeking attention. Because no matter how deep you have to dig and how without basis it seems on the surface, we never dislike something “just because.” Politics, people, parts of ourselves. Maybe it’s because of deep-seated beliefs or temporary sensations. Maybe it’s because it triggers something unrelated. Or maybe, it’s just because we know we can do better. We never dislike without good reason, whether we want to admit it or not.

Fight for what you ultimately love, not against what you temporarily loathe. Click To Tweet

Recognizing what you love and what you’re fighting for is the first step toward any real, lasting change. And part of that means pinpointing those small-but-sometimes-huge things that can be better. It’s all in the language you use: Hate breeds hate, fear breeds fear. The sometimes becomes the always, and the reactions become deafening battle cries. But working on those things you don’t like in the midst of unconditional love is the essence of being proactive, not reactive. You’re fighting for what you ultimately love, not against what you temporarily loathe.

It’s okay to not like everything all the time. I’d even go so far as to say it’s healthy to not like everything all the time. Because even though things sometimes get rough and we don’t agree all the time, our body always wants to kiss and make up. It always wants you to listen. We just can’t be too stubborn to shut it out.

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WANT YOURSELF:
Do you relate? Do you find yourself saying the dreaded h-word when what you really mean is you don’t “like X right now?” Tell me below. What’s something you can “fight fair” with your body on next time you’re feeling less-than-stellar? Or on the flipside, what do you love AND like about your body today, in this very second?

photo credit: Vulture

Hope Was The Chant.

Hope Was The Chant.

Community Motivation + Inspiration WANT Women

I am not a political person.

I don’t talk politics, I don’t converse about foreign policy. I don’t follow as much as I probably should, and I don’t state opinions because I don’t like pretending I know what I’m talking about.

But this election is making me surprisingly emotional, and it’s getting harder and harder to stay silent.

____

You can tell a lot about someone’s impact by the way their followers respond. We’re part of an energetic call-and-response with each person that affects us, and the response isn’t always an echo of the call.

I’m just going to say it from the get-go: I am a Hillary supporter. I have been since she was our First Lady (okay, I was ten, but still), I have been since my grandmother worked on her campaign the first go-’round in her home state of Oregon. I’m not-now-not-ever anti-Bernie. I agree with a lot of his ideals (and so does Hillz, btw). 

This isn’t about them. Hell, this isn’t even about her. This is about us.

It’s the anger that gets me.

We live in a world in which extremes are indulgent. Extreme diets, extreme workouts, extreme poses and extreme viewpoints. We watch people argue on reality tv shows for entertainment and read US Weekly for the latest judgement calls. We say we “hate” our bodies, we say we “hate” our neighbors. We say clothes that are not like ours are “weird” and that food that doesn’t fit our taste is “gross.” Extremes are easy to define and easy to get behind. There’s no gray area. It’s why some people rush into marriage before they’re ready and why comments sections so often get nasty. Extremes are addicting. They give us clear, unmuddled definitions in a world where we are searching to be defined by something.

The anger game is a smart one to play, politically speaking. We’re human. We love extremes. We love to be angry, especially for a cause. 

As a woman, Hillary cannot play that game. I mean, she can – but for many, many reasons (whether they be personal or political or a mash-up of both) – but to be considered a viable option as leader of our country, there is no way in hell she can. She’s got to play the other game. She’s got to keep her hair perfectly coiffed. She’s got to wear the pantsuit (thank goodness we finally stopped with the fcking pantsuit). She’s a woman. As good of a strategy it is, anger is not a hand she can play. Others can. Including us.

____

But we can do better. When it comes to change, I think we can do way more than be angry together. The world – and country – I want to live in is one that is proactive, not reactive. One whose emotion is not fighting against the problem, but fighting for the solution. The difference between the two? The former fixates on the problem. The latter FINDS A WAY FORWARD.

Like I said earlier, many of my ideals are pretty closely aligned with other Democratic nominees (and like I said earlier, so are many of Hillary’s btw). Yet I cannot help but pause at anyone who inspires anger out of their followers…instead of cool, calm, collected determination.

We can feel strongly without anger. We can push for change without violent emotions. No matter how you side politically and whether you agree with it or not, it’s fact that we’ve been there. We did it eight years ago. We can do it again.

Hope was the chant. Hope has a lightness. Hope has an energy to it that burns steady and strong, not incinerates and obliterates.

Hope has an energy to it that burns steady and strong, not incinerates and obliterates. Click To Tweet
____

I am not a political person. But what I am is an emotional person. An emotional pro, dare I say it. And no matter what anyone says, I firmly believe that for anything to resonate in this world, it must have an intentional emotional undertone. It’s not what it looks like – it’s what it feels like that counts. Just like with food and exercise and job-hunting and relationship-getting and self talk, negativity breeds stress in the body which puts up barriers to change. It’s why doing exercise that you loathe isn’t going to get you the body you love or going out with the wrong type of person over and over isn’t going to magically manifest Mr./Ms. Right. We need to do the work to find the type of exercise we enjoy in order to see changes in our body; we need to do the work within ourselves and step out of our comfort zones in order to meet our match.

And in politics, I have a feeling that when we do the positive emotional work, the positive political change takes place. That is the force I want representing the United States. That is the world I am fighting for. That is the country I am ready to live in.

 

hillary-clinton

*For people who know a lot more about politics than I do (and make them easier to understand for people like me), visit NPR, tune into your local NPR station, or listen to the NPR Politics Podcast, which is basically a jam sesh between political reporters. We all don’t have to be experts, but we do all need to be civil and respectful of each other’s viewpoints. NPR helps me do this. So thanks, Steve Inskeep, Morning Edition, and all the other segments that help me know more things about the country (and world) we live in.

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The Collective Heart: When Tragedy Hits The High Notes.

The Collective Heart: When Tragedy Hits The High Notes.

Community Motivation + Inspiration Shift Of Power

No sweet without sour, no peace without war, no joy without sorrow.

We’re all well-versed in the laws of opposition and the truths of our world: in order to have the good we must know the bad.

Still, is this any consolation when tragedy strikes? It’s unjust, unexpected, and grossly unfair.

Whether it is a personal tragedy experienced within our own familiar circle or an international tragedy experienced on a global level – we feel. Empathy is instinctual. It could have been me. It could have been my sister, my brother, my best friend. I could have been there.

tragedy

As I’ve discussed before, I honestly believe we are all equipped with the exact same tools to learn the exact same lessons, just at different times (or even different lifetimes). So if this is true, then it also must stand true that our minds and hearts each possess equal capacities for thought and feeling.

And if this is true, then the reality of our world is that we are all interconnected. Life is an energy exchange; we are all responsible for the education and growth of everyone around us. We are all gifted with the exact same capabilities, we simply learn to access and use them in different ways.

So when tragedy hits one of us, it hits all of us. It awakens that primal feeling of grief and loss, of where-do-I-go-now?

We're all gifted the same capabilities, we simply learn to access and use them in different ways. Click To Tweet

To me, “The News” has always been akin to watching a horror film, but in real time and real life. I set up Google alerts about topics that matter most to me, I follow my favorite news outlets on Facebook and Instagram, but for the most part, I trust my highly intelligent friends, podcast hosts, and NPR reporters to give me the information I need. The anger, violence, and hatred are too much to soak in (and I always soak it in). Constantly diving into such information, as a highly sensitive person, spirals me into a kind of sadness that’s crippling

It’s somewhat unfortunate that we haven’t even needed a regular TheNews-watching practice in our lifetimes to have had to cope with large-scale tragedy on a very consistent basis. The earliest I can remember being shaken by a tragedy was the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. I was in fourth grade. Since then, I’ve bore witness to the planet we call Home being torn to shreds, built back up, then beat up all over again. I remember the first Clinton election and talk of prosperity and change even though I had zero clue as a five-year-old what it even meant. Two wars in my lifetime, watching the response to terrorism change everything from the way I boarded a plane to the way, to my horror, I heard adults speak of others. I grew up in Los Angeles, in quite the inclusive environment. Never before had I realized that even the most seemingly inclusive weren’t all exempt from racism.

We’ve learned a lot about each other in these times of darkness. Some bad.

And, some good.

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Sometimes, my first impulse is to feel furious that we exist in such a cruel, awful time. I’ll find myself nodding when I hear “We live in a sick world” and using a word I rarely speak: “Hate.” In the last few days, it was hard not to.

But then…without even thinking of it…into my head popped my favorite passage from a favorite poem. Max Ehrmann’s Desiderata: A Poem for a Way of Life. “In the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul,” it begins…

In the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. -Desiderata Click To Tweet

I see the images of strangers comforting strangers. My Facebook page is filled with not just memorial posts and photos, but articles about how to help and where to donate. (ps – here, here, here, and here)

And I remember that all of life is an energy exchange, and my anger is doing no one any good. It is not helping families and friends heal. It is not saving the injured, repairing the city, and it is certainly not tipping the peace:destruction ratio in favor of the former.

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In times of tragedy, we feel in unison. That equal capacity for thought and emotion we spoke of is rarely as apparent as in charged times. The same door unlocks in each of us, and our reactions become a harmony.

We have a choice in the song we sing – so choose wisely amidst the hurt and pain. Choose to put aside the maliciousness and bitter notes, and instead sing a beautifully dissonant song of mourning and reverence and compassion and hope. One that lights up from the inside like a pulsing candle flame – not a forest fire of destruction.

The best thing we can do is keep loving the world, even with its shattered pieces. Click To Tweet

We will never not know tragedy or sadness. But how we react will inform the collective heart of our planet. We must never lose sight of the fact that, yes, we CAN conquer hate with love. Yes, we have the power to heal. Yes, only light can drive out the darkness.

Our hearts are crying, but the best thing I think we can do is keep loving the world and seeing the best in it, even with its nicks and cuts and shattered pieces. In the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.”

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[p.s. I posted an update on Facebook that read “I wish there was a world flag, so we could all raise that together.” A friend sent me this link. A proposed flag for Planet Earth, united as one. Can we make this happen please, NASA or UN or whoever? I’ll even change my profile pic.]
world-flag-fb


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