Saturday, October 21, 2017

Foreboding Joy

"We try to beat vulnerability to the punch by imagining the worst or by feeling nothing in hopes that "the other shoe" won't drop."

In these 31 Days of October I am unpacking my learning from the book, Braving The Wilderness, by Brené Brown. She has been a favorite author for years. In this new publication she manages to build a sidewalk and curb in the wilderness where we can bravely tread.


The concept of foreboding joy was first introduced to me in The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown. Yes, another great book by the author I'm currently reviewing. 
She described how we dampen down joy to prepare for the worst to come next.


Just last night I was rehearsing tragedy at the same time I was excited to get my car back from the repair shop. What if he couldn't really fix that loud tapping sound from the engine? What if he has to work for more than five hours and we can't get it back today? What if he finds more problems than expected? These worries, possible.but not real, take the potency away from the joy of having wheels back after two weeks.

   Brené gives an antidote to foreboding joy. It is gratitude practice. Every time I remember this I am struck by a momentary confusion. How does gratitude change things? Then I remember that gratitude is a mindset in "now". Thinking about what we are grateful for sets us on course to see the good in our lives at the present moment. Even if you are grateful for what happened in the past, the feeling of gratefulness is in your body today. It works. 
     

"Both joy and pain are vulnerable experiences to feel on our own and even more with strangers"
    
     So, let's hold hands when we go into the wilderness, and perhaps go in twos, even if it is just you and your own sense of belonging.


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Friday, October 20, 2017

Can You Discover Connection On Social Media?

"Social media are helpful in cultivating connection only to the extent that they are used to create real community where there is structure, purpose, and meaning, and some face to face contact."

In these 31 Days of October I am unpacking my learning from the book, Braving The Wilderness, by Brené Brown. She has been a favorite author for years. In this new publication she manages to build a sidewalk and curb in the wilderness where we can bravely tread.

Social media has blessed my life. I use it to reconnect with family, friends, and to visit with a community of artists spread around the country. Last year I contacted an Instagram friend and asked her if I could meet her at her art show an hour away. She was gracious and kind and everything her posts displayed. One to one, an in person meeting was really encouraging to my own work as an artist.




Ironically, social media can also disconnect. Many times after looking at Facebook and Instagram I feel frustrated. If my own confidence is weak, seeing others succeed can pull me down. Or, reading the rants and frustrations of others can make me feel anxious when there is nothing amiss around me at the present time.

As Brené states at the end of chapter 5, "The point I want to make is that the joy didn't come from reconnecting on Facebook. It came and still comes from our long walks, family Ping-Pong and four square tournaments, and watching movies together. Facebook was the catalyst. Face to face was the connection."








Click here to go back to my table of contents to see the other posts from earlier dates.


Thursday, October 19, 2017

Creating False Intimacy

"When we come together to share authentic hope joy, hope, and pain, we melt the pervasive cynicism that often cloaks our better human nature. When we come together under the false flag of common enemy intimacy, we amplify cynicism and diminish our collective worth." 



In these 31 Days of October I am unpacking my learning from the book, Braving The Wilderness, by Brené Brown. She has been a favorite author for years. In this new publication she manages to build a sidewalk and curb in the wilderness where we can bravely tread.


What is common enemy intimacy? First of all, the picture below is my friend stting with me and sharing joy and hope. I use our picture to remind me that I have relationships where talking about others is not the norm. My friend is not a gossip. 

There are times when I have come together with others to rail on a common protagonist. Ar first it feels juicy and affirming but it leaves me feeling like a betrayer. Since we have trashed someone together would she do the same to me with someone else? Would I do the same to her? 





If building belonging is a goal then creating false intimacy is not going to get me there. If talking about others in a negative degrading way is on the table, then maybe feeling "out of place" is a better feeling, even if it means being a kill-joy.



"Common enemy intimacy is counterfeit connection and the opposite of true-belonging. " 









Click here to go back to my table of contents to see the other posts from earlier dates.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A Sensation Of Sacredness

"Collective effervescence is an experience of connection, communal emotion, and a "sensation of sacredness" that happens when we are part of something bigger than us."



In these 31 Days of October I am unpacking my learning from the book, Braving The Wilderness, by Brené Brown. She has been a favorite author for years. In this new publication she manages to build a sidewalk and curb in the wilderness where we can bravely tread.


Walking in the wilderness becomes so much more satisfying when we have experiences with strangers in collective joy and even collective sorrow.

              

Yesterday we celebrated two years since our little island started a Music Mends Minds band and sing-a-long at the Community Care Home. We gathered in a our concert hall and invited the whole town to join in. I played the piano and this was the first time back after knee surgery. When we all sang together I remembered the collective joy of singing silly lyrics and heartbreaking ballads. The singing connected old to young and rich and poor. There was no sorting there. You didn't have to be healthy, talented, or even in your right mind to enjoy singing songs from the 40's, 50's, 60's an so on.

"But the more we're willing to seek out moments of collective joy and show up for experiences of collective pain- for real, in person, not online,- the more difficult it becomes to deny our human connection, even with people we may disagree with."






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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Hold Hands With Strangers

"The key to building a true belonging practice is maintaining our belief in inextricable human connection."


In these 31 Days of October I am unpacking my learning from the book, Braving The Wilderness, by Brené Brown. She has been a favorite author for years. In this new publication she manages to build a sidewalk and curb in the wilderness where we can bravely tread.

Do you like being in a crowd of strangers? What if you are sharing an event that brings people together? What about a concert, wedding, or even a funeral. Do the strangers there have a temporary connection with you? 

Some time ago I attended a funeral for a young father who was killed in a car accident wih his infant daughter. I was his teacher as a teenager. It broke my heart. I don't do well at funerals but I went with a prayer that I would find a good reason for my being there. Strangers from his new life, friends and family from the wife, left tragically behind, we all greeted each other, clinging to each others hands to both give and receive comfort. I learned that a group can hold grief, that they can hold it for the family so that it is bearable for a time. It was an important lesson for me.



"When our belief that there's something greater than us, something rooted in love and compassion breaks then we are more likely to retreat to our bunkers, to hate from afar, to tolerate, to bullshit, to dehumanize others, and ironically, to stay out of the wilderness."

The wilderness is filled with unease, but we must go, and it is better  with others.





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Monday, October 16, 2017

Staying Connected

"Our connection, the spirit that flows between us and every other human being in the world, is not something that can be broken, however, our belief in the connection is constantly tested and repeatedly severed."


In these 31 Days of October I am unpacking my learning from the book, Braving The Wilderness, by Brené Brown. She has been a favorite author for years. In this new publication she manages to build a sidewalk and curb in the wilderness where we can bravely tread.

Halfway through the month of writing it would be good to do a recap of what I've learned. My goal in writing about this book has been to nurture the quest for true belonging. We all want to belong but in the words of Maya Angelou,


You are only free when you realize you belong no place---
you belong every place-----------no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great.



When we find we stand alone in the wilderness of interpersonal and societal conflict there are tools to navigate the wild. Most of it entails being true to your values and commitments. We aren't always our best selves in conflict but moving closer to people instead of turning away can show us underlying intentions and help us understand each other. Being civil in social media and respecting others beliefs will provide better information. 
These are the practices I am summarized and commented on so far:
  • People are Hard To Hate Up Close. Move In.
  • Speak Truth To BS. Be Civil
Still to come are:
  • Hold Hands, With Stranger
  • Strong Back, Soft Front, Wild Heart

If you want to go back to other posts, link below:





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Sunday, October 15, 2017

Being Civil

Shaming Closes All Lines To Communication


In these 31 Days of October I am unpacking my learning from the book, Braving The Wilderness, by Brené Brown. She has been a favorite author for years. In this new publication she manages to build a sidewalk and curb in the wilderness where we can bravely tread.

In this current climate civility is often abandoned. Strangers attack each other on the internet, acquaintances pressure each other to reveal their opinions under threat of shame and many of us just refuse to contribute. It feels like a wild wilderness. How do we stay involved when the gifts of shame are shared so frequently?


Is it possible to stay civil while communicating our deepest fears and concerns to those who disagree with us? Here is a definition of civility.


  • Civility is claiming and caring for one's identity, needs, and beliefs without degrading someone else's in the process
  • Civility is about disagreeing without disrespect, seeking common ground as a starting place for a dialogue about differences
  • Listening past one's preconceptions, and teaching others to do the same
  • Civility is the hard work of staying present even with those with whom we have deep-rooted and fierce disagreement
              Institute for Civility in Government


I'm remembering a story from the Book of Mormon about a man named Ammon who cared very deeply about the false information harbored by his enemies for generations. He braved the wilderness by going to live among the Lamanites and first become their servant. As he came to understand them he grew to respect them and finally gained their trust in order to teach them about the false notions they had about the Nephites. He was a man of deep courage. 




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Saturday, October 14, 2017

You Are Either With Me Or You Are My Enemy

The "you are either with us or against us" argument may be BS ninety five percent of the time.


In these 31 Days of October I am unpacking my learning from the book, Braving The Wilderness, by Brené Brown. She has been a favorite author for years. In this new publication she manages to build a sidewalk and curb in the wilderness where we can bravely tread.


There is a fog between us. When you announce that you cannot be my friend unless I feel the same way, my options narrow. I can pretend and stay silent, seeming to agree or I can jeopardize our friendship and walk away. 
   Or is there a third way? Might I ask you questions to make sure you are not setting me up for a false dilemma? Are there any alternatives where we can work this schism through?





" The only true option is to refuse to accept the terms of the argument by challenging the framing of the debate. This is an option that forces us into the wilderness. Why? Because the argument is set up to silence dissent and draw lines in the sand that squelch debate, discussion, and questions- the very processes that we know lead to effective problem solving."

This stance is very dangerous and better suited to life and death circumstances. Normally we don't take this stand intentionally but it arises out of fear, acute emotion, and lack of knowledge. These also are the very circumstances that lead to uncivil behavior. Evidence is visible on social media. It happens in families, communities, and in national debate.

A small example of this comes from my own home and parenting. 


The Parable of the Dishes
A mother of five lived each day with many chores, too many to manage. She, rightfully, enlisted the help of her children to do the dreaded chore of washing the dishes. Personally, this job was her least favorite and so she made a job chart and hounded her children to get their turn finished by bedtime. Weeks turned into months and often the dishes were still stacked on the sink as she started breakfast, which made for a depressing beginning to her day. The reminders changed from charts to words to all out shame attacks. The highlight was the morning she walked into her son's high school first period and told the teacher she was taking her son home to do his dishes. Obviously her children did not love her since they could not do this simple chore once a week. (This was the "you are either with me or against me" argument)
What this mother, name withheld, did not mind, was the gap. She thought she was teaching the value of cleanliness, cooperation, and work. Instead she modeled her own dislike for the very chore she hoped they would embrace. Why did she dislike it so much? It was one of the few jobs her own mother asked her to do. When she didn't come to do the dishes her mother frequently accused her of being lazy. There was a wash of shame to this mundane work. It was loaded with baggage. She had successfully passed on the shame to her own family and had failed to mind the gap.
The story ended well. The mother saw her own weakness and started washing the dishes as a mindful experience. She rebuilt the connection with her own desire for a clean space every morning and her willingness to do the work. Her children noticed and improved. They still to this day talk of the Parable of the Dishes.

Whenever I wanted to throw out the either/or gauntlet as a parent, I knew I was on shaky ground and needed to stop that BS.



Click here to go back to my table of contents to see the other posts. 

Friday, October 13, 2017

An Invitation To Search For Truth

"We don't even bother being curious anymore because somewhere, someone on "our" side has a position." 


In these 31 Days of October I am unpacking my learning from the book, Braving The Wilderness, by Brené Brown. She has been a favorite author for years. In this new publication she manages to build a sidewalk and curb in the wilderness where we can bravely tread.

Chapter 5 of Braving The Wilderness is called, "Speak Truth To Bullshit, Be Civil".  It is not my choice of words but I couldn't find another word to accurately describe "BS", the  wholesale dismissal of truth that often is pedaled as facts.
I am not just speaking of politics. Let me review three trends that are personal to my search for truth. 


    When I was in high school I took debate classes. Our teacher pushed us more in acquiring good information than in rhetoric. "Check your sources", was something I heard everyday. A good quote had to come from, not just a leading magazine or book, but from a reliable author or journalist. Being convincing was only half the battle.

   I took that same attitude into my genealogy research. Having three primary sources was my standard which I learned from a genealogist who felt that there was too much "BS" in public records due to a disregard for research. 

   Studying scriptures also gave me a challenge to dive deeper for understanding. A commentary by a writer who is referring to the Bible is not the same thing as reading the scriptures ourselves. Insight into spiritual things comes from wanting to know truth and the truth can be demanding.

   These examples are just a few. There are countless others. With so much information at our finger tips why is it harder to find the truth? 

    "When we give up on believing that there are actual truths that can be known, we give up on the notion of objective inquiry. It's like we jus collectively shrug our shoulders and say, "Whatever. It's too hard to get to the truth, so if I say it's true, that's good enough."








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Thursday, October 12, 2017

Listening To Understand

                            Tell Me More

In these 31 Days of October I am unpacking my learning from the book, Braving The Wilderness, by Brené Brown. She has been a favorite author for years. In this new publication she manages to build a sidewalk and curb in the wilderness where we can bravely tread.

One of the most courageous things to say in a "hot" conversation is "tell me more." Conflict transformation comes through putting down our ego and listening.

He was not supposed to talk to her, she was a Samaritan, and she was not supposed to talk to him, he was a Jew. He was willing to transform the stereotype rules and she listened because she felt his sincerity.




     We all know that we need to listen more, but sometimes we listen to be heard, waiting for the right time to interject our version of the truth. Our minds are reeling with the clever statement or more powerful insight. Listening to understand is vulnerable. While we are open to hear we could be also be open to criticism and verbal abuse. 

   "Exactly when we want to turn away and change the topic, or just end the conversation, we have the opportunity for understanding."

There are boundaries in the wilderness. We shouldn't compromise our physical safety and there is a boundary where our emotional safety is at risk. But, away from those drop-offs there is space to listen, to learn and understand.







Click here to go back to my table of contents to see the other posts. 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

There's No Going Back

Transformation infers that we are creating something new, we are not going back to dredge up the past, we will not be choosing who is right by engaging in conversation.


In these 31 Days of October I am unpacking my learning from the book, Braving The Wilderness, by Brené Brown. She has been a favorite author for years. In this new publication she manages to build a sidewalk and curb in the wilderness where we can bravely tread.

The wilderness seems to have these sticky relationships which easily resort to conflict. Is there a way to get to a place of tolerance without the fear of attack? Yesterday I wrote about:
  • Explicitly addressing the underlying tensions and their motives.
  • Today, I write about trying to bring the focus to now.


Why do we feel the need to point out the past mistakes in order to continue forward? 

"You said that we would renovate the house as soon as our debts were paid off. Now you are dragging your feet again. "

"We really can't afford that now. Your over spending last year  put us right back in the hole."

"That wasn't over spending. That was paying our doctor's bills."

"Not! It was your regular trips to the coffee shop. Buying the sales at the mall. You always overspend."

I don't have to go on. You can see by the dialog that these two people are in a wilderness of past disappointments. They can't go forward because they are blackmailing each other with the past.
"The critical first step is to shift the focus "Where are we now?" and the most important turning point comes when we focus on the future.
What are we trying to accomplish? What do we want our relationship to be going forward, and what do we need to do, even if we disagree, to create that future?

Tomorrow a reminder to listen.








Click here to go back to my table of contents to see the other posts. 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Conflict Transformation

"In addition to the courage to be vulnerable, and the willingness to use BRAVING skills, moving closer means we need tools for navigating conflict."


In these 31 Days of October I am unpacking my learning from the book, Braving The Wilderness, by Brené Brown. She has been a favorite author for years. In this new publication she manages to build a sidewalk and curb in the wilderness where we can bravely tread.

I am really bad at enduring conflict. I hate it. Quickly agreeing to disagree and stopping the discomfort is often my  way. However, the outcome of that strategy is that I am not fully honest and we don't understand each other better. 



Dr. Michelle Buck has some better skills. She is quoted in Braving The Wilderness with these ideas.

1. Explicitly address the underlying intentions

What is the conflict about? Why is the topic so important to us? Why is this topic so important to the person with whom we are arguing? 

A mother is helping her daughter at the birth of a child. There are two other siblings. When the daughter comes home from the hospital she is weak but also irritable. An argument begins over what the mother is making for dinner. 
"Why can't you make what I told you?"
"I am making something for which I purchased the ingredients. What does is matter?'
It matters! If you want to help just do what I ask."

What is this conflict about? Dinner? Is it about feeling loss of control? What are the mother's intentions? Does she want to irritate her recovering daughter? Does the daughter resent having her mother making decisions in her home? 

"Speaking our intentions does not mean that we will suddenly have the same preferences or opinions, but it often helps to navigate difficult conversations and maintain or build connection by actually understanding each other's motives and interests more closely."  

More on Conflict Transformation tomorrow.









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Monday, October 9, 2017

Nurturing Monday- Beware of Dehumanizing Language and Images

"The point is that we are all vulnerable to the slow and insidious practice of dehumanizing, therefore we are all responsible for recognizing and stopping it. "


In these 31 Days of October I am unpacking my learning from the book, Braving The Wilderness, by Brené Brown. She has been a favorite author for years. In this new publication she manages to build a sidewalk and curb in the wilderness where we can bravely tread.

This is a more difficult post to write simply because I am out of my element in this wilderness of mistrust and disconnection. Mankind has a deeply rooted past in prejudice and hate. Once a culture has been exposed to hate language towards a race or group of people it takes generations to shift the behavior. 


I am by birth a German. My parents and brothers survived WWII before I was born. We emigrated when I was two. I inherited a national shame about the holocaust and the dehumanization of Jews. My parents didn't talk about it to me. I did feel that they were not as outraged about this historical disaster as the Americans around me. It was confusing. I did see signs that my parents and aunts were racist. As immigrants we lived in a very diverse neighborhood. My friends were black and asian. To me that was normal. But, my father wanted to move away to a more affluent area. It didn't occur to me that he was uncomfortable with our neighbors.
With some discomfort I am really looking at my feelings and actions. Do I ever feel "better than"? Do I tolerate people making any group seem less than human in conversations I hear? 

"In order for slavery to work, in order for us to buy, sell, beat, and trade people like animals, Americans had to completely dehumanize slaves. (Or Native Americans.) And whether we directly participated in that or were simply a member of a culture that at one time normalized that behavior, it shaped us."






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Sunday, October 8, 2017

People Are Hard To Hate Close Up. Move In.

"I can hate large groups of strangers, because the members of those groups who I happen to know are the rare exceptions."


In these 31 Days of October I am unpacking my learning from the book, Braving The Wilderness, by Brené Brown. She has been a favorite author for years. In this new publication she manages to build a sidewalk and curb in the wilderness where we can bravely tread.

Have you ever mistrusted, resented, or maligned a group of people portrayed on television or the internet? Well I must admit I have. From afar I can lump them all into a generalization and carry my skewed view. But moving closer I am forced to see a three-dimensional person with more similarities than differences.



               



      Meet my husband of 43 years. He is eccentric to be sure. If you meet him you will hardly notice him because he always wears camouflage. NOT! You will notice him because you will wonder why he is dressed in camo and what does it represent? Is he a military man? Does he have a weird fascination for combat? Or, and here is the truth, did he find a very inexpensive source for men's wear that has swatches of green in interesting shapes. Ha! Ha!
      We all make generalizations about each other and we even decide whether we could like them based on their appearance, their political leanings or their religious leanings. In the social climate today we feel we can criticize and shame each other because of what we represent. 
    But, have you ever moved in closer to someone you thought strange to find a warm, generous human being? My friend Jessica is such a person. She is very different from me and has many different beliefs but as I learned to trust her I found her to be comforting and stimulating. 
   In earlier posts I wrote about belonging and sorting into like minded groups to avoid vulnerability. In the research of Brené Brown a truth surfaced.
   "As the world engages in what feels like a complete collapse of moral judgement and productive communication, the men and women I interviewed who had the strongest sense of true belonging stayed zoomed in. They didn't ignore what was happening in the world, nor did they stop advocating for their beliefs. They did however, commit to assessing their lives and forming their opinions of people based on their actual, in-person experiences."
   The wilderness of human communication seems safer when we stay zoomed in and less quick to judge.







Click here to go back to my table of contents to see the other posts.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Loneliness

Huddled behind the bunkers, we don't have to  worry about being vulnerable or brave or trusting. We just have to toe the party line. 
Except, that is not working.


 In these 31 Days of October I am unpacking my learning from the book, Braving The Wilderness, by Brené Brown. She has been a favorite author for years. In this new publication she manages to build a sidewalk and curb in the wilderness where we can bravely tread.

There is a beginning piano piece called the Lonely Pine.
"I'm so lonely, come build your nest in me, I'm so lonely."
The tune is in a minor key. Some soft hearted students feel uncomfortable with this piece. It pulls on their heart strings.
Does the world we live in today have more loneliness? Are we avoiding the wilderness to keep from feeling out of place and in the end just feeling more disconnected?



    When Jesus spoke words of truth the message was often divisive. His Jewish leaders wanted him to follow custom and tradition. Yet, he went through Samaria, ate with publicans, healed sinners, and brought his living water to all mankind.

    He braved the wilderness and turned to beckon us to follow him. He suffered intense loneliness but also had the deepest well of belonging as he did what His Father asked of him. 
"Breach the gap between myself and my children. Show the path back to me and carry them home."



  There was a high lonesomeness to his ministry but at the same time a divine connectedness. As, I write this post I am aware that I am not a good example of braving the wild. I read Brené Brown's books because they challenge me. I do see that sorting myself with like minded people is not the answer. There is often more loneliness there than safety. Tomorrow I will write about chapter four which is entitled, "People Are Hard To Hate Close Up. Move In."


True belonging has no  bunkers. We have to step out from behind the barricades of self-preservation and brave the wild. 




Click here to go back to my table of contents to see the other posts.