Category Archives: free thinking

I Choose to LOL (Live Out Loud)

Standard

imagesAbout a month ago, I was in a real slump.  I was feeling inferior to other people (particularly women).  I was feeling insecure and questioning my worth as a human being.  I was feeling ugly and negatively judging my body.  I was feeling self conscious in my old mini-van and it’s lack of cool.   I was resenting my role as a mom.  The boys, they too, had stolen my cool factor.  I was doubting my ability to go back in to the work force and contribute quality work that others would value.  I began to become dissatisfied with the size of my home, the style of my clothes, the color of my hair, the small number in my bank account.  I was comparing, judging, and sitting in the ugliness of the stories my mind was creating and buying. The lies began their sneaky little job of creating this web of madness within me.

Once I realized that this funk was turning ugly and affecting the way I was viewing the world and treating the people around me, I decided I needed to take a hard look at what had changed to cause such unhappiness.  Adam had been out of town during this period of downward spiraling and I had engaged in a lot of, what I believed to be, harmless fun.  I watched Bachelor in Paradise from beginning to end.  I watched the Kardashians.  I lazily browsed on Pinterest and Etsy while watching music videos.  And I was on social media much more frequently…even adding the FB app to my phone.  Media was actually affecting my view of the world.  My view of self.

And there it was, the answer was that simple. I am sensitive to what I view and can easily fall victim to the solicitous agenda of media. I know that not everybody will be as sensitive as I am to overt sexuality and portrayals of what women should be.  Some of us are more sensitive to violence or consumerism or the top ten lists of how to be perfect in some fashion of life from parenting, religion, or home organization. We are all comparing ourselves to a standard sold to us. We are always “failing” at something according to someone. Even if that someone lives inside an electronic box selling a non-existent one-size-fits-all-perfection-solution.  I bought in to the lies, sold to me by the people inside that box, that my 36-year-old female self was all washed up. If I don’t look like the Kardashians, sell sex like JLo, have the same perky body of the women competing for “love” on Bachelor in Paradise, if I’m not as perfect as all my “friends” on FB, and if I’m not buying or wearing the latest/greatest…well then I’m not worth anything. I’m not attractive. My husband won’t want me for much longer. I need to make changes. Run faster. Workout harder. Get a six pack. Make more money. Eat less. Dress sexier. I’m clearly inadequate. I need to be better. Lie after lie quickly building a foundation of self hatred. I wanted to hide my insecurities from all of you. From my friends, my family, my husband. I wanted to appear stronger and more secure than I was. And so I hid. I had been hiding other areas of my life and just added my insecurities and self hatred to the dark corner of other secrets.  The longer I hid, the more insecure I felt. I was now living a false truth. Another mark against my clearly flawed self.

Lucky for me (and those around me), I was quick to recognize that my thoughts were turning into an ugly infestation and I was able to reflect quietly enough to identify the culprit. That damn media had its grasp again. I immediately turned off the media inputs, reached out to my girlfriends and was open about how I was feeling and I soon found myself worthy again. As I rid my life of the noise shouting at me who I was, who I wasn’t, and who I should be, I found who I really am.   In the silence, I found that I am me. Perfect me. And you are you. Perfect you.

 

One way that I have found my center time and time again is to be vulnerable in sharing. I find great healing in sharing in this blog. I become connected to those around me when I let down my guard and show vulnerability in sharing my struggles. I find that others open up and share too. We build a safe community where we can be real and genuine no matter where we are in our journeys. I recognized in this time of disliking myself that I had stepped away from my purpose of living out loud. I had started to hide for fear of being judged. I had gone inward and become alone. I had lost some of my integrity. I needed a good kick start to getting back to a life of vulnerability and authenticity. I was given that good kick-in-the- ass a few weeks ago when I had the pleasure of attending an event in which Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild, wa10174916_10152050667061493_5333993137919276168_ns speaking. In that forum, she spoke about Radical Honesty. Cheryl’s belief was the equivalent of my belief of living out loud. Here was a woman who was baring her life in a truly authentic way and I, along with so many others, connect with this type of vulnerability. I felt the pull and encouragement to come out of hiding and begin sharing again.

 

I’ve started by sharing my deep, dark, scary secrets with my best friend, my husband. He’s held such a safe space for me and encouraged me to share whatever my heart needs to share. With his encouragement, I am ready to restart the practice of Living Out Loud with Radical Honesty. I hope that you all will continue to hold a safe space for my sharing, for the sharing of others, and find your safe spaces for vulnerability too. Start by sharing one secret with someone you find trustworthy. Or even begin by writing down the scariest secret you can think of sharing and burn it or bury it. Just writing it down is one step toward healing and letting it go. Freedom from the lie that secret has sold you.  I think you’ll find the more you share the less scary it becomes. And you’ll start to love you a helluva a lot more. Others will gravitate toward you because your energy will be absolutely pure. And, before you know it, you’ll not only be your own safe place but a safe place for others to practice Radical Honesty.

 

So who’s with me? Who’s ready to LIVE OUT LOUD? Journey with me, Friends! Let’s change ourselves, our circles and our communities with a little bit of Radical Honesty!

 

 

 

 

Starting Overs

Standard

I read about this wonderful project in Oregon,promoted by Oregon Humanities,called “Dear Stranger.”  Participating had a pull on me and I immediately knew I wanted in.  The very thought of exchanging a letter with a stranger fluttered my heart.  I was excited to find my own truth in this project and I am equally excited to hear my stranger’s story or remembrance, his/her  interpretation of what ‘start’ means.

Below is the letter I wrote to my stranger:

We were told to write about starts.  First starts, second starts, good starts, bad starts.  Naturally I began to think about my starts.  It caused me to pause and examine the “starts” I remember.  What was significant about them?  What emotions were present?  How did I grow and what was gained?  Lost?  I’m not yet 40 and, yet, my short life has seen its fair share of starts.  An abundance of starting overs.  Some by choice.  Some be the choices of others.  Some in which I felt empowered.  A trailblazer.  An adventure seeker.  Others in which I felt powerless, helpless, and bound by fear.

As I write this, I’m recognizing that I was never powerless.  I was never without choice.  I have always had choices in how I responded to forces beyond my control.  Forces sometimes so mighty, so loud that the only choice was to start over.  But I got to choose how that starting over would look.  What path it would take and whether I would choose to hate it, resist it, allow the power to jade me.

I have certainly resisted at times.   I have suffered deeply for not accepting what is.  I have suffered for trying to protect and cocoon all I owned and what I believe I owned.  In these starting overs I have seen that ownership, control, safety…these are illusions.  We never truly own, control, or create safety.  We simply believe we do.  I don’t say this out of bitterness but quite the opposite.  I say this because I have seen freedom in the letting go of all I wanted to possess physically and emotionally.  I’m free to acknowledge life circumstances for what they are.  Mostly outside of my control. Oh!  The freedom in that knowledge.

I have found that ‘starting overs’ are gifts.  If we welcome them, move with them, invite the lessons that lie within.  Stop wrestling with them. Surrender.

Truly each and every day is a starting over.  Each day we can choose how to flow with new beginnings.  Right now, if I fully invite my starting overs into my life, I believe I’ll continue to grow in empathy, love, and kindness.  And, so, I do just that.  I invite starting over in my career.  In my husband’s career.  I accept the challenges with my children and choose to love them deeper tomorrow.  I accept the financial struggle and uncertainty that comes with two years of unemployment.  I acknowledge my feelings and emotions and I appreciate the opportunity to know them more intimately.  I cherish the starting over with my husband.

Daily starting overs.  Each day new opportunities.  New growth.  I guess I’m truly grateful for this life, for the ability to choose, for the endless days of beginning again.  This breath always new, therefore each breath is, in essence, starting over.

*Deep Sigh*

I Want in the Game

Standard

IMG_1984Last week the boys were out enjoying every moment of being snowed in and off of school.  I sat watching them through the window from the warmth and comfort of my couch.  I could hear and see their excitement each time they flew down our street on sleds.  But I was simply an observer.

I had this moment while I was watching them.  This moment when I recognized just how fully they live.  Every moment is for the taking. Every day is a new adventure.  They don’t allow fear to keep them from attempting some new trick.  Instead they fly forward with every ounce of gusto they can muster up.  If they fall, it’s not failure.  It’s an opportunity to adjust and try differently.  Snow, new people, trampolines, beaches, skateboards…all new opportunities to dive in and experience!  Without hesitation or expectation.

As I watched, I realized I want to be more like them.  More childlike.  Less afraid.  Fewer hesitations and expectations.  I don’t want to sit on the sidelines of life watching from behind a window.  No!  I want in the game! IMG_1986

The game was happening and it was not a time to be passively observing.  So I geared up to sled with the boys and raced down that hill screaming and laughing and experiencing the joy of being a participant.  I was living life beside them.

Later that evening I questioned whether I had consistently been avoiding moments or opportunities that required me to explore new ideas, push through fears, drop my preconceived barriers, leap without thought, or live with gusto.  I have sidelined myself often in the past.  This time my questioning brought me to an answer that I was really pleased with.  I was happy to learn that I have been making forward progress.  I am taking more risks.  I am opening myself up to ideas and experiences that had sat behind tightly closed doors.  For most of my life I have more often said ‘no’ than ‘yes’.  Now I am saying a lot more ‘maybe’ and ‘yes’.  And that feels amazing.

I started jotting down experiences I’ve had over the past few years that required me to drop my inhibitions and allow myself to be fully vested in life.  Some of these I’ll write about in more length.  Some are only significant to me.

  • I questioned my religion and became an atheist
  • I went to Haiti after the earthquake and volunteered at an orphanage
  • I tried on being a vegetarian and made it 8 months.  I’m ready to get back on the vegetarian wagon.
  • I started practicing yoga
  • I ran another marathon
  • I marked running HTC off my bucket list
  • I smoked weed
  • I moved and started a new life
  • I took a leap and started over with my husband
  • I floated in a deprivation tank (twice)
  • I tested not owning a microwave.  I will likely never own another microwave in my lifetime.
  • I signed up for an intensive journaling workshop
  • I went to a co-ed clothing optional spa and took my clothes off
  • I learned to SUP
  • I put purple in my hair
  • I started making all natural skin care products and selling them
  • I organized a girl’s weekend with brand new friends
  • I went off my anxiety meds and focused on more self-awareness
  • I submitted my paperwork to get my CVT license re-activated so I can get started on my career again
  • I said ‘maybe’ instead of ‘no’ to a friend who invited me to a progressive church.  I concluded with no but I gave it space first.
  • I accepted an invitation to write a children’s book and wrote it.  And I believe it’s good.

Fear is slowly losing its power over me and the more I accept fear, without fear having the control, the more I’m invested in this game of life.  Fear is in me but fear does not define me.  Nor does fear need to define my experiences.  I realize that we can coexist as long as I remember who’s in charge.  I am in charge.

I am in charge and I’m here to play!

I’d love to hear your stories in which you challenged yourself to push beyond fear.  Journey on, Readers.

 

He Said What?!? (Free Thinkers)

Standard

I’m trying to teach my boys to be free thinking.  To ask lots of questions.  Seek answers that make sense.  Here’s a few conversations from the week that absolutely make my heart full.

Out of nowhere:

G (age 6):  I’ve decided I want to be the government.

Us;  Why?  

G:  If I’m the government I get everyone’s taxes and I’ll be super rich.

Us:  (A quick lesson in responsibility of government and some of the things our taxes are used for)

G:  Nevermind.  Maybe I don’t want to be the government.  I just want to be rich.

Us:  It usually costs people a lot to be rich.  They often sacrifice time and relationships and health.  Just something to think about.  We can’t wait to hear your next big idea!

Taxes

Taxes (Photo credit: Tax Credits)

Yesterday, the boys and I sat down to watch this video.

http://screen.yahoo.com/operation-plumbbob-134423632.html

In brief the video is about the US government using soldiers to experiment with the Abomb.  It cost these soldiers exposure to high levels of radiation and many of them suffered at the hands of cancer.

J:  I can’t believe it, mom!  Can you believe it?  That’s just disgusting.

Me:  What can’t you believe, J?  What’s upsetting to you?

J:  The government.  The military.  The US government cared more about their bombs than they did their soldiers.  They didn’t care what happened to those soldiers.  They only cared about their bombs.  That makes me super angry and super sad.  They should care about people.

Me:  I agree with you, J.  Sadly, this kind of stuff happens all the time.  Sometimes on a lesser scale.  Sometimes it’s just a boss that cares more about money than his employees.  Sometimes it’s cigarette makers or advertisers in general who care more about selling their product than how that product will hurt people.  We have to think about everything that we are asked to do.  Even if the government is asking it of us.  Do you think those soldiers knew how badly their bodies were being hurt?

J:  I don’t know.  They did say they could see their bones and the bombs burned their skin.  But they probably had to make money by being a soldier so they could feed their kids.  And I don’t think the government gave them a choice.  Uhhhhhh, I’m so mad.  Care about people, seriously!

Me:  J, your empathy for people and your ability to think about ideas that others don’t makes you super beautiful.  I love your spirit.

J:  That bomb was really pretty cool until you know how many people it hurt.  

Me:  Yep.  Bombs are pretty spectacular.  Imagine how much damage an A-bomb would cause if it’s dropped on your city.  Pretty sad stuff.

J:  Yeah, I can’t wait to tell dad this.  He’s never gonna believe it.  Our government.  Our very own government.  Definitely not gonna believe it.

Atomic Bomb Test

Atomic Bomb Test (Photo credit: San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives)

On a lighter note S has been thinking about France from a perspective I’ve never though about.

S:  Is the Eiffel Tower surrounded by a force field?

Me:  No, why?

S:  Maybe not just the Eiffel Tower but France.  Is France protected by a force field?

Me:  I’m not following, S.  Why do you think the Eiffel Tower and France are surrounded by a force field?

S:  Because there’s always men who look like they can’t get past the force field there.  They’re always like this (mimics a mime).

Me:  (laughing)…those men are mimes.  They are pretending to be stuck behind something like a glass wall, an invisible wall, or a force field I guess.

S:  Oh, I just thought that’s how the Eiffel Tower was guarded so nobody could get past.

Me:  It’s really fun to think of it that way.  Thanks for the laugh this morning.

S/Me:  Laughing and miming our way out of my force field protected bedroom.

Trocadero

Trocadero (Photo credit: Gwenaël Piaser)

BSA Decision is BS

Standard

I feel really angry at the Boy Scouts of  America.  I’ve been aggravated with them in the past but today they had an opportunity to become a leader in change.  They were given the opportunity to teach the millions of scouts in their groups that not only are we to love and accept our gay brothers but their gay parents too.  Instead with a 60% vote they voted only to allow gay scouts membership but will continue their ban on gay scoutmasters.  A message that is a far cry from the one we need to be sending.

Credit: The Christian Post

Credit: The Christian Post

I have four boys.  Some of whom would love to be a scout.  We decided against scouts when we learned that not only have they been excluding homosexuals but they also exclude the non-religious.  Agnostics, secular humanists, and atheists are not permitted membership.  I can’t imagine one of my sons growing up with a group of peers that are taught to exclude what he may choose to believe or what sexual orientation he may discover he is.  That type of environment teaches boys who are different to feel shame and to hide.  Truth or disclosure would mean non-acceptance and judgement.  That is not an environment which I want to subject any of my boys to.  Straight or gay.  Religious or non.  And I had to explain that to my boys over the summer when all of their neighborhood friends (in the midwest) belonged to scout groups. I had to explain why I would not spend any of my money buying popcorn from their buddies to support an organization who would decline our admission.  Oh, but knocking door to door and showing off badges sure makes scouting look like so much innocent fun.

Which it is. Fun.  Not innocent.

Credit: AP (The Blaze)

Credit: AP (The Blaze)

What boy doesn’t want to camp, tie knots, adventure seek, earn badges and enjoy the camaraderie of other boys? What parent doesn’t want their child involved in activities that help them become whole people?  Kind, considerate, motivated, and able-bodied?  But BSA is not the place for such things.  When thousands (tens of thousands?) of people are threatening to end their ties with BSA because they are allowing openly gay boys to become members, it is clear that many of the people involved are wanting something exclusive.  Much like religion.  And based on the decision to continue the exclusion of gay men and women as leaders, it is clear that BSA also wants something that is not for every boy.  They haven’t even touched the topic of  including non-religious families.  If young gay boys are allowed to join why should they not be afforded the gift of having strong, loving, like-minded male mentors with whom they can relate?  Where does the fear (I’m not going to use the word hate.  I’m making the assumption that the actions of hate stem from fear) come from?  What are people afraid that these gay boys and/or gay leaders are going to teach their children?  Are they afraid that gay men are going to be sexually inappropriate with their boys?  What about gay women?  Well, how many “straight, celibate” priests have piddled with your boys inside church walls?  Did you ban priests from leading altar boys?  Did you fight the catholic church?  Why are churches dissociating themselves from BSA because of this decision?  What are they afraid of?  Seeming too progressive?

Credit: NYUlocal

Credit: NYUlocal

What message are we still sending if we choose to applaud BSA on this decision?  I think the message BSA is sending is a message of conformity but not conviction.  A message that says we are doing the bare minimum because we are pressured to do so but we are still keeping our doors closed for things as nonsensical as gay leaders.  Who is going to put their gay (or straight but may soon discover he is gay) child in an organization like this that shuns them once they are adults?  An organization that won’t allow him to grow up and be a scoutmaster for his own children?  An organization that won’t allow the gay parents of a straight child be active volunteers?  BSA is not an example of change.  It’s not an example of progress.  It’s not an example of conviction and doing what’s right.  It’s just BS.

So as I read the praises for BSA and the progress they are making I can’t celebrate.  It’s not enough.  It’s NOT enough!  The message is still pretty clear.  And until there is a complete overhaul of more inclusion than exclusion,  more acceptance than prejudice, we will choose to grow our moral values without the help of BSA.

If you are like our family and are looking for places where acceptance and inclusion are part of the mission statement please know that BSA has alternatives: Camp Fire or Navigators USA.  If you know of any other organizations please share in the comments.

*My feelings about BSA does not mean that I dislike or am angry with every boy or family involved with the organization.  I know plenty of great people who have graduated from scouts or who are currently members.  I just think we need to ask the questions and if we are comfortable with the answers, then so be it.  I am simply not comfortable with the answers and therefore cannot support the organization.