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Posts Tagged ‘perspective’

grocery store sages

In April, I wrote about coming to understand people as processes, not fixed states. My reflections were inspired, in part, by former NYU professor Neil Postman, my favorite teacher yet on the art of perspectiving.

His lessons have been especially helpful at the grocery store the last few months. At the heavier end of my weight scale, I’ve gotten a lot of commentary about what’s in my basket. “Oh, that’s a lot of chips!” someone will exclaim. “Do you know where the greens are?” another will ask.

The first couple of times I got comments like these, I laughed aloud. I didn’t really get where these comments were coming from, but thought it was so funny that strangers thought I’d value their ill informed assessments.

The third or fourth time, I still chuckled quietly, but I was curious. What was going on, that 150-pound me got no grocery cart comments, ever, but that 200-pound me averages one a week?

Thanks to Neil Postman, the answer became clear virtually as soon as I began asking the question. These grocery store commenters were making snap judgments based on limited data. They were looking at me and seeing not a process but a fixed state; instead of seeing this moment as one frame of a very lengthy movie, they saw the moment and confused it for the movie.

After I figured this out, I kept laughing. How absurd, for these folks to think they know a person based on a frame’s data, and then to stage a mini-intervention!

Things that can be seen in a single grocery store visit: the shopper’s current weight; top layer of contents of cart

Things that cannot be seen in a single grocery store visit (non-comprehensive list): the shopper’s weight for the rest of their lifetime; the eighteen pounds of greens below the chips; grief; stress; childhood trauma that has enduring impacts into adulthood; the 30-60 minutes someone walks/does yoga/bounces on a trampoline daily; the 2-3 cups of greens eaten with virtually every meal, most of which are Paleo; the non-Paleo beer consumed for months to take the edge off pain; the 2.5 hours spent in traffic daily moving to and away from a desk job; etc.

Apart from offering me a chance to laugh, these grocery store sages have given me another gift. They’ve reminded me to remain aware of my own human propensity to confuse a frame for the entire film.

Neil Postman wrote, “You cannot avoid making judgments, but you can become more conscious of the way you make them.” I’m definitely not catching all my judgments, but I’m getting better by the day.

This was especially clear about two weeks ago, when I sat reading in a coffee shop. One particular sentence in the book I was reading, Kelly Brogan’s A Mind of Your Own, practically jumped off the page at me.

For a few months now, I’ve been looking at someone I love and assuming–with some bemusement–certain inspirations for certain behaviors. Brogan’s sentence revealed a whole different set of possible explanations, whapping me on the head with a reminder how little of that personal film I can see. From 1,000 frames, I’ve been filling in the millions I cannot see. I have not been doing so with nuance, instead using broad strokes.

As the pounds slide off me now, having set aside the beer and added meditation+, I’m sure I still have weeks to months of grocery store sage commentary ahead. I’ll keep laughing, naturally; that comes easily.

I’ll also aim to use their words as a reminder. I’m making judgments, too, and the grocery store sages’ words can be my ongoing call to not confuse my own limited perception with reality.

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a little more love

A couple of years ago, I wrote in my postThe Church of Sunshine through Trees“:

If I feel compelled to visit a church, I will. I will go with that flow.

Until then, my church will be the sunlight through the trees, the wind through my hair, the prayer of thanks at 3 a.m., the sweetness of fruit bursting in my mouth, the sound of my little boys’ laughter. It will be in the “for,” not the “against,” and most of all in the love I hear resounding around me when I only

remember

to listen.

Drew Downs, an Episcopal priest who’s guest posted here twice (“Loving Joy” and “Don’t Be A Priest“), commented on my post. He wrote:

I love the sensitivity you use in describing your experience – it is so honest and generous. So many of us within the institutional boundaries need to hear you, that we can share in your experience honestly and generously. Thank you, Deborah!

As always, his words eased my heart.

A couple weeks ago, I texted my sister and husband a link to one of Drew’s posts. “I’d go to church every week if Drew lived in Long Beach!”

Soon after, I read his post on Satan (“You and I are the real devils“). I texted that link, too, and affirmed my prior statement.

I wanted to post a link here and say “I am a Christian now,” but I refrained. I was concerned people would look at all my rage-y posts of the last year and think things like: Read more…

perspectiving

Earlier today, I glanced down and saw an awful, judgment-filled word scrawled in my older son’s handwriting.

Hold on now, I thought. When would he have even heard that word, and how would I have missed it in two years of having this same piece of paper behind my desk?!

Having written so recently about perspective(s), I smiled when I uncovered the rest of the paper to find the answer a split-second later. 

I’d seen the marks as they were, sure, but … I’d interpreted them upside-down, leading (briefly) to a very different, very wrong reading.

What a difference perspective–and context!–can make.

perspective(s)

I’ve wanted to write a post about perspective, but I wasn’t sure how to begin it.

Then, yesterday, my husband turned my three-year-old’s carseat around. Instead of facing backward, looking through my car’s rear window, Littler faced forward and shared my view through the front window.

“Woooooooooo!” he yelled after we pulled out of our driveway and began down the road. “Whoa, whoa, whoa!” He might as well have been riding a roller coaster.

“You like the view, huh?” asked Littler’s older brother, Li’l D.

“Yeah!” cheered Littler, who’d had more than his car seat reoriented.

His whole perspective had changed.

Last week, a familiar horror crept over me while I read. None of this can be changed, I thought. It’s far too late to choose a different track.

The fact I’d thought such a thing was my signal: It was time to set aside the book I was reading. Though it was both illuminating and engagingly written, its content was grim.

I’ve learned over the last couple of months that I must read such things in small doses. Doing otherwise can catapult me into depression. (For example, I shouldn’t have read Matt Taibbi’s Griftopia and The Divide back to back. Spending a couple of days immersed in what exactly a handful of corrupt financiers have gotten away with while millions of others languish in prison for less … left me thinking, for some weeks, there is no way to overcome this scale of injustice.)

What can I read right now that will walk me back toward something like hope? I wondered. I landed on The Guardian’s George Monbiot, whose words reveal wisdom and perspective that reorient my heart.

One article’s title especially piqued my curiosity: “Finally, a breakthrough alternative to growth economics – the doughnut.” Read more…

Even Amazons weep

Last week I wrote that I feel I’m living one straw away from a broken back.

My littlest one had to go home sick that day, one week after having spent two days home sick. I told his daycare I was 99% certain his spontaneous illness was food related; since he’d just eaten French toast with them, I bet it was wheat, milk or egg.

It didn’t matter. He still had to go home, and stay home the next day.

Since I recently accepted a contractor position to lessen a horrifying commute, each of those unpaid hours distressed me. With all hours put in, one-quarter of my gross income goes to my youngest son’s daycare. One-quarter goes to rent. One-quarter goes to health insurance. With the last one-quarter, I buy groceries, gasoline and pay my other bills. Read more…

10 Ways I’m an Awesome Mom

“10 Ways I’m an Awesome Mom,” a blog title boldly proclaimed this morning.

I had to read it. It’s not often I see the words “I,” “awesome” and “mom” in the same sentence. From experience, I’d only expect to see them in the (way) negative:

  • I fail at being an awesome mom.
  • I suck at being an awesome mom.
  • I will never be an awesome mom.

Life is full of imperfect moments and good intentions translated into hurtful actions. It’s important to share those moments and, seeing others’, understand we have so much in common. We face many of the same trials. There’s no shame in them.

Still, I sometimes feel heavy-hearted at how imbalanced sharing. Many bloggers I love share their faults far more often than their successes. I want to read about both. I wonder if they even see their successes.

Catherine, Peeper, Littler J and me last summer

Catherine, Peeper, Littler J and me last summer

Catherine’s list of ways she rocks motherhood lifted my heart. Like Catherine, I enjoy improvising songs for my little ones. Like her, I don’t fear dirt. It just so happens I spent a chunk of childhood running barefoot around my neighborhood.

I thought, “Maybe I should write my own 10 ways I’m an awesome mom!”

But you know what I just said about difficulty seeing our own successes?

It applies to me, too.

I started drafting my list in my brain. For the first couple of hours, it looked like this: Read more…

Today, in Malibu

malibu1Most Sundays
my first year of law school
I’d walk down to Sunset Boulevard
for a bus to Malibu

The ride was long,
but the sense of hope
well worth it

Anything could happen
in Malibu

Maybe someone
would glimpse my writing
over my shoulder and know
I needed to write their next
blockbuster
screenplay

Read more…

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