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believing in you

My three-year-old awakened me with howls for water. He’s got a flu, and told me after he’d sipped water that his “room is tipping over.” I explained that the room isn’t actually moving; he’s something we call “dizzy.”

He’s asleep again, but it’s hard for me to fall asleep again after being startled awake by howling. I ended up reading my last post, about Paul Farmer’s Pathologies of Power. And, oh, boy, did I get its tone wrong! Read more…

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those who can

A few evenings ago, I sat with hometown friends and reflected aloud upon my all-time least favorite saying:

Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.

“Spoken like someone who’s never had to effectively communicate anything complex. Ever,” I said.

I was about to expand on this when I noticed tears in a teacher friend’s eyes.

“I love you, Debbie,” she replied.

As my boys and I drive back toward our SoCal home, I think how hard it is to communicate effectively even without layers of regulations constraining you. And I think:

Those who are skilled at communicating complexity to kids often teach. Those who are aggrieved about being unskilled, bitch about those with skill.

Here’s, then, to those who not only can reach kids, but do.

seeking wisdom

I have academic crushes on two scholars: Neil Postman (deceased, but “conversing” with me well after his death) and Nassim Nicholas Taleb. From my readings so far, these two men are unparalleled in the crystal clarity with which they understand human faults as seen through a lens of love. Even when cranky, they’re insightful, articulate, and compassionate in their embrace of all of what it means to be human.

Also, they make me laugh.

So: academic crush.

I love it when someone says or writes something that gives me a chance to contemplate either Postman or Taleb. This morning, that unexpected prompt came from one of my earliest blogging friends, Victoria. In “I’m going to stop,” Victoria explains that (and why) she’s done with news.  Read more…

The imperial mindset

I endured and witnessed much abuse as a child.

I learned a lot from it.

One of the most important lessons I learned was that there are, roughly, two sorts of people: one who will hear you, whether or not it benefits them, and another who will only hear you when it suits them. The former are great friend material; the latter, who hold what I call “the imperial mindset,” are best kept at a distance.

If I ask you not to do something that hurts me, especially with little to no benefit to you from doing it, and you do it anyway, you’ve indicated with your action the probability you hold an imperial mindset.

If I ask you again, and explain why, and you do it again, you have confirmed my initial impression. Unless you later adopt a cooperative mindset, we will not be friends.  Not ever.

If I ask you again and provide another explanation for my request, and then another, and still another, and you just keep doing it, I will cut you out of my life completely, if possible.

If I can’t cut you out, for whatever reason, I will acknowledge your imperial mindset, understand you will not change, and stop asking. Instead, I will do my best to remain cordial face to face while utterly shutting you out of my heart.

We won’t talk feelings, or go out on adventures, or do anything but exchange perfunctory greetings.

It’ll look to you like a choice I made, but really?

It was a choice you made: to not hear, because it didn’t suit you.

There are many people in this world who will hear and respect your wishes, whether or not they understand. They implicitly understand that their opinion, or total understanding, is unimportant to your requests to withhold hurtful-to-you acts.

I am so grateful to call many of these people friends. Because of them and childhood abuse, I know the difference between imperial and cooperative mindsets, and know that life is sweeter the less empire one lets in.

Categories: Communication, Health, Safety Tags: ,

eat first, then reply

A work friend IM’d me with a question.

Frantically at work on something else, I asked that she please email me such questions in the future.

The moment I sent the message, I saw some of my many errors. First and foremost, the fact I felt like she was entering my cube and hollering at me for an immediate answer said more about my current state than hers.

This triggered some reflection: Why had I taken an IM as if it were a physical assault? Wait, come to think of it, when was the last time I ate? 

I immediately got up and ate lunch, a couple of hours late. Calm returned within moments.

My takeaway from this is: Next time I get the feeling ALL THE THINGS are wrong because someone sent me a question (how dare they?), I should check my hangry levels before replying. 

Better to eat first, then reply, than vice versa.

Categories: Communication, Work Tags: , ,

full and messy life

This morning, I’m thinking about a recent conversation with a friend.

In our current world, where companies and governments alike designate “citizens”  mere “consumers,” meaningfully different only in what and how they consume, people are told they are “brands” and to behave in ways that build their brands.

What kind of life is that?

I don’t want to be perfect. I refuse to limit my life to pursuit of brand-building, instead of being fully immersed in something raw, real, messy, and wonder-full. Life.

Why? The way I see it, trying to live someone else’s (whose?!) idea of a perfect, perfectly branded life is a recipe for late-life sorrow at halfway connections with people, little life-changing learning from important mistakes, countless adventures missed.

While I’d usually rather leave aphorisms than take them, I’d boil this pursuit of a full and messy life down thusly:

If you’re always careful,
you’re barely living.

hidden people

“Wait, what?” I asked myself, rereading three words I’d just read. I confirmed they were exactly as I read them: “The West agrees.”

I was flabbergasted. Was this phrase really printed in a newspaper? Even for an editorial, this reflected an astonishing lack of nuance.

Who exactly is “the West”?

The western region of a country? If so, then which country? Which regions? Which neighborhoods? Which associations from those neighborhoods? Which portions of “the West” disagree with this position? Why aren’t they permitted to be enveloped in the blanket term “the West”?

If a collection of countries, which countries, exactly? Which portions of those countries’ populations? Day laborers or politicians, caretakers or corporate executives? If there’s no way of determining democratic consensus, why do some opinion-holders get to be “the West” while others get to be, what? Those not well enough informed? If someone’s determined there’s “the West” and “those not well enough informed to be ‘the West,'” who is that? Why do they get to make that decision? Who agrees with them? Who disagrees?

English nouns like “[the] West” aggregate things in ways that narrow listeners’ field of focus. The aggregation conceals important information: Specific people and the specific actions they take. Read more…

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