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Positive news: “I will be your friend”

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Dear friends,

A little boy from Georgia chose to wear a shirt on the first day of elementary school proclaiming “I will be your friend.”  The story has since gone viral, and other kids are wearing similar shirts in an effort to combat bullying.

Click on the picture of this sweet kid in order to read the story:

friend shirt

Blessings,

Annette

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Focus on the negative

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Dear friends,

If I gave you ninety-nine compliments, and one criticism, would you focus on the criticism?  Many of us would (I know I would).

I always hold off on reading my teaching evaluations each semester, because I know those negative comments will crush me, no matter how many positive comments I get.  You’d think they’d offset each other, but no.

So the next question is, why do we make the negative stuff bigger than it is?

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I think it boils down to two main reasons:

One:  As humans, we’re hard-wired this way.  We live in community with others, and the approval of the community is essential to our survival – at some base, animal level, we fear being abandoned by our tribe.  Negativity feels like attack, and triggers a mental and physical reaction.  We won’t overcome it unless we learn to recognize it and realize this is what’s happening.

And two:  Criticism can make us hearken back to childhood insecurities, and the child inside us reacts with hurt.  If we were told we weren’t good enough, or would never amount to anything, critics can take us back there and make us wonder if those things were really true after all.  Again, I think the key to breaking this cycle is to recognize when this is happening to us.

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Our tendency to notice the negative is part of the self-protective instinct, but many of us allow it to overtake us.  Let’s strive to notice it without feeling defeated, to realize we’re not going to succeed 100% of the time – and that’s okay.  Let’s remember there are 7.5 billion people on planet earth, and they’re not all going to like or appreciate us.

Let’s value ourselves enough to take criticism for what it’s worth, and not a penny more.

Blessings,

Annette

 

(Don’t) top this!

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Dear friends,

Earlier today, I was listening to a young woman reflect on the feeling of turning 30 years old.  She spoke about the shock of reaching such a “milestone” birthday, and how it made her more aware of her limitations – how she wasn’t a young kid anymore, how her metabolism was slowing down, how she was starting to find wrinkles on her face.

I’ve heard 20 year olds say the same kinds of things.  And 50 year olds.  And those in their 90s.

When you hear these things, and you’re older than the person saying them, it’s so easy to think/say, “But you’re still just a kid!  You’re young!  You think it’s bad now, wait till you’re my age!”  I had those very thoughts this morning … but then I realized, that kind of response is not helpful at all.

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We all know people who try to “top” us when we complain.  Your toe hurts?  Their whole foot hurts.  You had surgery?  Theirs was bigger, and better, and worse.  You’re overtired?  They haven’t had a full night’s sleep since 1972 … etc.

We miss the point entirely.

The person who says “I’m turning 30, and feeling old” is reflecting on her mortality, and recognizing the ways in which her life is changing with time.  Surely that’s something we all can relate to.  Rather than saying “You just wait till you’re 50!” I can say, “These milestone birthdays can be hard, huh?  They really prompt us to reflect on the ways we are changing.”  We can find a place to relate, to come together.

When I’m in pain, you can tell me that your pain is “worse,” but that doesn’t accomplish anything.  These things aren’t a matter of degree, but of the common human experience.  Let’s recognize the humanity in one another, and acknowledge that life can be tough sometimes, for all of us.

May the rest of your life be the best of your life.

Blessings,

Annette

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Positive news: Turtle crossing!

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Dear friends,

In my search for positive news, I came across this story about a second-grader in Indiana who wrote a letter to his mayor to express his concern about … turtles!  Jack was concerned about helping turtles cross the road safely, so he took action.

It’s so easy to forget that we can make a difference, or to despair of making a positive change.  Let’s take a lesson from this kid, and from the mayor of his town.

Click on the picture to read the article.

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Blessings,

Annette

Be soft

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Dear friends,

These are words I try to live by.  Sometimes I hear people say, “What if there’s no afterlife? No God? No reason for love, or optimism, or kindness?”  My answer would be, even if none of those things exist, I want to live my life as if they do.  To me, that’s the best and highest use of this one precious day.

Blessings,

Annette

 

“Be soft.
Do not let the world make you hard.
Do not let pain make you hate.
Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness.
Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.”

Ian Thomas

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You don’t get to keep it

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“We are like children building a sand castle. We embellish it with beautiful shells, bits of driftwood, and pieces of colored glass. The castle is ours, off limits to others. We’re willing to attack if others threaten to hurt it. Yet despite all our attachment, we know that the tide will inevitably come in and sweep the sand castle away. The trick is to enjoy it fully but without clinging, and when the time comes, let it dissolve back into the sea.”

Pema Chodron

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I love this as a metaphor for life, and for attachment.  Many of us get attached to “things” (me included).  I try to remind myself that we don’t *really* “own” anything in this world, we merely get to *use* things for a time.  We come into the world without possessions, and we leave the same way.  While we’re here, we get to use some material objects, but they aren’t a part of us in any real sense.  Or at least they shouldn’t be.  They’re just tools.

I try to remember this when I experience the loss of something (some thing) I’ve deemed important.  I try to remember that material objects have no inherent meaning, other than the meaning I’ve given them.  And I try to examine my attachments, and whether they truly serve my peace of mind.

We get to use things while we’re here.  Let’s use them for our good, and the good of others.

Blessings,

Annette

Self-love, self-care, self-nurture

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Dear friends,

I’ve been thinking about the host of cultural tropes surrounding “self-love.”  We’re told to “love yourself first” and to “love your neighbor as yourself.”  We are urged to “be our own best friend” and to “fall in love with the person in the mirror.”  All good advice, but there’s a problem: self-love doesn’t feel authentic, at least most of the time.

We are all too familiar with our own shortcomings.

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Much of our self-criticism is based in fear, and that fear is organic.  As animals, we’re wired up that way.  We can’t survive without the support and approval of the community around us, and so we fear the rejection that could result from exposing our flaws to the world.  We try to step outside ourselves and see ourselves as others do, and many times we don’t like what we/they see.

We judge ourselves so harshly sometimes.

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I try to remember that our culture has framed “love” as a romantic feeling, where we bubble over with warm affection.  But love isn’t always romantic, and self-love is seldom like that.  We must take romance out of the equation, and ask ourselves, how would I act lovingly toward another person?  Well … I would probably comfort them when they are feeling down, reassure them when they’ve made a mistake, fix them a meal when they’re hungry, put a blanket over them when they’re cold.

In other words, I would care for them.  I would nurture their well-being.

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That person in the mirror?  That’s who you’ve been given, to take care of for a lifetime.  And the better care you take, the more potential she will have to live a happy, wholesome, and giving life.

You don’t have to feel hearts-and-flowers love toward the person in the mirror to nurture her with adequate sleep, healthy eating, and moments of enjoyment.  Just as you’re not madly in love with your car when you fill it with gas or get an oil change, you won’t always be feeling a great sense of self-love when you schedule a dental appointment or take a shower.

I’ve heard it said that “you can’t love another till you love yourself,” but that’s such a loaded statement.  Self-care is the key.  You can’t give care to another unless you give care to yourself.  If you don’t fuel yourself, you’re no use to anyone, including the person in the mirror.

Be good to yourself today.

Blessings,

Annette

The curated life

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Good morning friends,

I’ve become a bit weary of the word “curated.”  I’ve always thought of this word in terms of the “curated collection” of a museum – a set of carefully selected objects with some kind of a common theme – but lately, I’ve heard it used in a variety of contexts.  With the recent popularity of Marie Kondo and the decluttering movement, many bloggers are writing about “curating” their homes … their closets … their makeup … their books.

I’m all for decluttering, but “curating” sounds a bit highbrow here.

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So I looked up the word, to make sure I was understanding it correctly.  Lo and behold, it can be used in a variety of ways, referring to a collection of things that has been carefully selected and brought together, usually for the purpose of display.

Around this time, I also heard a talk on selective memory; how we filter our memories, keep and discard them, reimagine them so they fit our life narratives the way we want them to.  Then I thought about blogs.

This is the third blog I’ve owned.  Each had its own purpose.  The first was about my experiences in graduate school, and the second was about my early career.  This one is a thinking place.

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Bloggers are curators of life.  We select, and bring together for display, stories and memories and thoughts that represent who we are.  We leave stuff out, too.  We are building an online persona, an idealized version of ourselves (even when we write in anger or post about the crappy stuff).  Whatever it is, we chose it.

Here’s a curated memory:  I was five or six, it was Christmas Eve, and snowing lightly.  Our house was on a corner, and there was a street lamp outside.  We looked out the window and saw Santa Claus himself, standing under the street lamp, at nearly midnight on Christmas Eve.  I was told I needed to get to bed quickly, so he could bring my presents inside and place them around the tree.

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As I grew up, I realized there would be a “practical explanation” for our street-corner Santa.  A person dressed up, going to a party, perhaps?  Waiting for a cab?  Posing for a picture?  Getting ready to walk in on a houseful of kids to surprise them?  It doesn’t matter.  When I recall this memory, I still feel the magic that filled my chest and took my breath away.  Santa was real, and he was here.

That’s a curated memory.

When I share bits and pieces of my life, it’s never the whole picture.  It’s a moment, a nugget, that I’ve selected and processed and stored for recall, and each time I recall it, it may be shaped a little differently.  That’s how life works.  Each time we revisit a story, we meet it as a different person than we were the last time, and we will see it anew.

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You, in turn, will put these revealed “nuggets” together and form a picture of me that is accurate, insofar as it goes, but never complete.  That’s another way that life works.  It’s a constant and ongoing discovery that expands and contracts and changes with every moment.  And that’s the wonder of it all.

Wishing you a day filled with wonder, and the stuff of memories,

Annette