Daily Efforts

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Relationships. Kids.

People. Jobs. Exercise. Life.

It’s all daily work.

Get used to it.

 

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Elusive Freedom

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It starts with being born. There isn’t a choice in the matter. I certainly played no part in being here. Did you?

Had I been asked, I may have said, “No, thank you.”

We come into the world under the control of whatever mechanism which put us here. Just by instinct and choice, we continue to want to experience life. Then we are bound by the rules of those who raise us. Even when we graduate from the family into adulthood, our subsequent years usher us into the next line of restrictions on our freedom.

“These are paths to be taken!” says our society! It tends to dispense authoritative advice to the youth as they are just emerging into their own legally. School, good job, marriage, children – continue the cycle. It’s as if because members of society did it, that is the automatic direction everyone should take. I hope I wasn’t too bossy with my children.

Should individuals choose a different path, their opinion to be unique still won’t shut down those opposing viewpoints. Assimilate! Don’t stand out! Don’t go against our way of how things have always been done! When did we as a society decide that people being or doing life differently meant it was a problem? Probably since forever.

In the work world, we see employers dictate exactly how to fit into the square box called the company. It’s called compliance, and understandably so, one does need to get paid to continue this experience called life. Food, water, and shelter are a requirement to sustain. But oh how it dulls the individual! I’ve heard it said that’s why it’s called work and not fun.

Raising our children (should we decide to have them) provides us with even more ways we must adhere to other’s expectations, whether they be our own family, friends or public opinion. It seems everyone has a view on that. “Do this, don’t do that!”

Of course, compliance with the law of the land to live civilly in our community, state, country, or the world seems a smart choice. It’s being able to live in harmony with the others who also had no say in being born. Does that define being free though – adherence to the expectations of others?

I don’t think so.

If we are to have the right and the power to be exactly who we want to be without any pushback, it will require a world absent of people who disagree with how individuals wish to act, declare, or display themselves to this world.

This world would be empty. And lonely.

No different than so many people feel right now where we have a society filled with people which do disagree with individuals all the time.

Neither world is a pleasant experience for those who yearn to feel unobstructed.

I don’t think we can ever feel 100% free.

Life is a continual series of compromises to achieve some level of comfort in a life which we did not choose.

Lyrical Yin-Yang

 

I love this song for so many reasons. But that one line in the chorus “Everything that kills me makes me feel alive…”, that knocked something over in me internally and got my attention. It hooked me hard, the rest of the lyrics just kept pulling me in deeper.

When you think of the Chinese philosophy, this video captures the two principles distinctly. Yin – negative, dark, and feminine and Yang – positive, bright, and masculine whose interaction influences the destinies of creatures and things.

Throughout the music video, you can see the contrast playing out. Hope, despair. Doing life your way, being led. Determination, defeat. Good, evil. Fighting the establishment, following it. Every bit of being engaged in either spectrum will lead you to the results you experience in your life. Fact.

That one line though is the point – we all need to get to our darkest depths to escape and break through to the other side where there’s light. Crumbling from defeat is where life begins again. We have to experience it all to have it be a whole life, to feel complete throughout the entirety of it.

Every time I listen to this, I imagine the tastiness of living fully engaged.

It feels good and bad.

Manicured Lawns

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Every day I challenge myself to walk two miles. It’s not my favorite part of the day, but moving is a requirement. Otherwise, I feel more like I’m one with the couch rather than this world. Usually, I do it in the gym. When the weather is refreshing, and weight training isn’t also on my plate, I walk in my neighborhood. What I do enjoy about being out and about close to home is seeing all the colors of nature and feeling either the heat light me up or the wind cool me down. I’ve always enjoyed that connection to all that surrounds me.

On my walks, in between all the thoughtful conversations I’m having or written pieces I’m trying to work out in my head, I notice a whole lot of people’s attempts at manipulating their front lawns. Most of them neatly done. I see every square inch of the green strands perfectly in order, complete with lawn ornamentation that on many, compliment either the house or the owner’s personality very nicely. The lawns go from deep luscious green to weather-whipped tan and everything in between. The human-made variations of lawns are as plentiful as nature’s vibrant and colorful display of foliage. But, some go to the extreme of saying a big Fuck You – I own you! to life with their manufactured look, rather than an inviting natural feel to their display.

I’m a big fan of orderliness in my regular day to day life so one would assume that I would be equally thrilled with those lawns that smack of having a paid lawn maintainer or an enthusiastic gardener as its caretaker, but I’m not. Even though the crisp look of those well-maintained lawns do add charm and a sense of ‘all is well in the world’ rightness to the neighborhood, there is something distinctly off about it too.

I believe that some Űber-manicured looking lawns are trying to present the perfect picture, but just like the clothes people wear meant to hide personal inadequacies or as the large houses chosen to impress are covering up massive debt and insecurities; these lawns are also hiding something. The facade of beautifully well-kept greenery could be concealing an ugliness on the interior of the homes that sit on those grassy pictures of perfection. I don’t know that for a fact, but it is indeed something I contemplate. Humans do try to hide their true natures sometimes. Our society, so often, demands obedience to facades otherwise judgments will be harsh. It hasn’t yet successfully come to terms with accepting people as much as they could and, in my opinion, should.

The cliche ‘You never get a second chance to make a first impression’ comes to mind when I think about the pristine lawn. The people go to any lengths to impress other people with their skills at lawn maintenance. It’s a facade implying they are equally as good as their lawns. 5-star quality people is the message. At least, the maintainers of those lawns hope it will lead other people to believe that. They understand what society dictates and they are playing that game of what’s truly important. The appeal may be to present this polished outward appearance to indicate a level of achievement that won’t warrant negative judgment. The fact is, their character, as individuals, should be the barometer of what qualifies for being upstanding, not their damn lawn. I will say that there are probably a few lawn aficionados who are perfectly well-rounded, well-adjusted human beings and their top priority is only to be creative masters in their lawn universes. I’m not speaking about those people.

My thoughts aren’t always accurate but with a lot of the different things this old lady has learned in her life, I’m betting I’m not entirely incorrect in my thought process today. Appearances and fear of judgment are huge in today’s world and something I don’t see changing any time soon.

Or maybe the only reason this even comes across my mind is that I don’t have a manicured lawn. This piece would help to explain it to the neighbors who don’t get why it’s not essential to me.

I hope they are reading it.

My neighbors would finally understand who they are dealing with; a person who frequently doesn’t adhere to the dictates of this society.

 

**Originally published on Susi’s Soap Box 7/25/2011 Re-posted here with revisions

Invested

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Life is not always a canorous version of what you want reality to be. It’s excruciatingly hard at times. Shit happens. And sometimes, when it inevitably does, it’s brutal.

Getting up and moving on to accept your next challenge and even pleasantness means effort. Existence and really living means hard work.

Taking gut punches from life and not vomiting or dying says you’ve got courage.

I applaud you! And I commend you for the endurance you show in the face of it.

May your decisions more often than not lead you to your happy place.

My mission is to be in the audience of lives who choose determination. I’m your cheerleader!

What an honor to be in the front row as a witness to your joy, passion, and rewards.

Carry on, friends.

Well-Intentioned

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Ending an email or a letter with Sincerely always seemed formal and stuffy to me. It never really felt genuine anyway. I choose to use Take care instead. The person’s welfare is important to me. I wonder if they ever really hear that?

Recently I’ve begun to say Be well instead. It still implies that a person’s well-being is important to me; it just shifts the message slightly. Take care says “please watch out for yourself because you never know what could come your way” while Be well says “farewell and feel well.” The tone is a positive directive to just do everything in your power to being or feeling good. I really like that.

It seems so minor, I know. But Take care feels hesitant and Be well is bold and forceful almost. It’s the intention behind the latter ending which makes me want to use it more now. We could all use a little more support, I think.

Coincidentally, I recently learned of the philosophy of eudaimonia. Aristotle states in his Nicomachean Ethics that it means to be doing and living well. What I understand about it is that one can achieve this state of well-being through the pursuit of knowledge, honesty, kindness, and courage. Using a rational approach to life such as gaining scientific knowledge was also considered valuable.

It’s true that when we apply rational and critical thinking to situations, they tend to go a lot smoother. The outcome, even if a disastrous one, will likely lead to an easier adjustment to that situation. Seems like a formula for success.

What I also find interesting is that it helps me to understand my desire to use Be well instead of Take care. The former implies taking charge, doing with intention, achieving goals – proactive (rational); whereas the other is waiting to see what happens to you and then respond – reactive (irrational).

I really prefer to offer words saying I’m interested in their well-being rather than one of only hoping they can make it through in life.

And for that, I think I’ll Be well.

Mysterious Life

 

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An unending, voluminous vastness gave us life.

The purpose is anyone’s guess.

Life knows how to adapt when its environment preys on it. Survival is the by-product of encoded genetic material forcing nature to continue but also to thrive and even rise above within their given circumstances.

For what reason does life have a built-in switch to influence continuation of a species though? Where does this desire to continue on and evolve come from?

The reason is a mystery; one that has long been pondered since the beginning of existence. We can consciously think of these things now more than ever. Not that we have any answers yet as to why we exist and for what purpose.

So many smart people can write book after book and provide research to explain all the things we have learned. It’s a never-ending mountain of information that details so much of what was unknown before. It’s beyond comprehension for some, inspiring to others to know even more.

And yet, no answer for what the purpose of existence even is.

But in the end, does it even matter? Animals and insects will be guided somewhat by instinct, vegetation continually seeking to fulfill what has driven them for millennia – to not wither and die. Humans will continue to exist the best way they know how. Influences in life will force them to decide what that life will look like; it’s their choice.

Nature consciously decided to be here, and we’ll probably never know the answer why.

 

Innocence

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When you look into those eyes, how can you not want the best for them?

How can a child ever be subjected to anything but love and support? How can a person ever think to harm a child?

Being intentionally and forcefully dominating, it’s just wrong.

Wouldn’t you agree?

Innocence needs to be educated and given the opportunity to flourish rather than dominated, directed and oppressed.

Please tell me you agree?

Humanoid

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Did you know that humans are genetically 99.9% identical? Well, it’s true! 7.6 billion people inhabit this world. Being one individual in this pool of many seems like we wouldn’t be that special. A human is pretty much just a human. Right?

Wrong! Look at the many layers of uniqueness that make up a human. We are defined by the various presentations or absence of such as…

hair color
political views
eyes
disposition
age
origin of birth
occupation
skin color
health
location
biological sex
gender identity
expressiveness
education
sexual preference
status
personality
style
religious belief

There are even more details to describe who we are as individuals. This short list only mentions the distinct feature we can see or might openly share with one another. Further identifying each characteristic makes each of us even more incredibly dissimilar.

Then add to that a lifetime of experiences which uniquely influence and potentially change our views and perspectives. It is unfathomable how many different human beings there have been, are currently and will be. Not one like any other, ever.

Don’t these facts alone make us supremely rare and our existence unprecedented?

I think so.

And for that, we should all walk a little taller and prouder.

Don’t you?

Impact

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“Just as ripples spread out when a single pebble is dropped into water, the actions of individuals can have far-reaching effects.”

Dalai Lama

I’ve frequently pondered things outside my own thought process because chronic thinking is what I do. To the point of exhaustion, at times. I don’t advise it, but this is how I’m built. Still learning to take the good with the bad.

Every moment I make a conscious contribution to this life, I’ll generally see an immediate outcome. But what’s next in the lives I have happened to touch? What steps do those people then take because of what I set in motion? Does it even matter or should I care, especially when quite possibly I don’t even know who I’ve affected?

We can’t predict the future but when we become aware how we affected others, would we stop to think the next time we attempted to take action? It seems quite logical that we could take a moment to seriously think through all possible outcomes or realistic assumptions before we make decisions affecting our future, and possibly those of others. All actions have consequences and ramifications. Honestly spoken though, I’m not so sure we would, at least not yet consistently. This explains some rather poor outcomes we see for people.

We all take steps in our lives that we deem necessary. Everyone one of us. Situations arise, and they require action. I don’t think any of us would disagree. A percentage of those people are likely to just react emotionally, not thinking at all. These would be the people who wouldn’t care one bit about what happens in the timelines of others. Frankly, they are more invested in their own hysteria and drama than others, or reality for that matter.

The group of people I’m talking about are those who genuinely and critically decide to make choices in their best interest. Do they generally take it one step further to see what the effect would be for others? Again, I’ll say, my opinion is no.

I think many of us are empathetic and also open-minded; I just don’t think we apply those traits very often when it comes to things involving us and our well-being. Our own best interest is at stake, that’s the point! When we are challenged to protect ourselves or make decisions affecting us, WE are the only ones we worry about! Rationally, biologically, emotionally – this makes sense. All you have to do is look around our world. Crises’ and wars that exist with no relief in sight are clues of our selfishness everywhere. But even in the face of what life looks like right now, I think it’s changing.

Looking at our history, seeing how life has progressed, there seem to be two steps forward, sometimes three steps back followed by six steps forward action. That is positive. So, I’m hopeful.

As we’ve evolved over time, it’s become evident that we are becoming more and more aware how we’re all connected to each other. We still have a long way to go before we become the kindest humans, but there is evidence that we are contemplating how we interact with each other in a less ego-driven way. I like that.

I just hope for my kid’s sake and all others who live beyond me that people in their lifetimes will help to improve all lives living on this blue ball.