The Problem with Echo Chambers

echo chamberAre you living in an echo chamber? Would you even know if you were?

Sadly, my observations would indicate, no. You wouldn’t know. You might believe you’re “informed,” but you might not be.

Wait a minute. How can I say that?! Oh, the hubris of it!

Actually, no–not really. Hear me out.

I teach critical thinking (among other things). I have observed, both at the high school and college levels (I teach both), a trend of picking a “side” and becoming entrenched. There is no struggle. There is no debate. There is no true belief. There is a parroting of what they are told by the “authorities” of their chosen side.

But this is not isolated to Gen Z. A quick perusal of any social media site will show you it’s rampant in all generations.

These individuals often think they are informed, but I would disagree–doesn’t matter the belief or they “side” they chose. Doesn’t matter if they believe what I believe or not. I would still say they are uniformed.

Why?

Because they live in an echo chamber, and an echo chamber opposes critical thinking.

Most people don’t know what an echo chamber is.

An echo chamber by definition is: “an environment in which a person encounters only beliefs or opinions that coincide with their own, so that their existing views are reinforced and alternative ideas are not considered.”

Most Americans today are very well “informed” on their point of view. They haven’t however, evaluated the opposing view critically. They can parrot back the views of their “side,” but I question that many can honestly tell you what they believe.

How can I say that?

Belief takes critical thinking. It takes personal work.

Let’s look at that word “critically.” What does it mean to think critically.

Study.com puts it this way: “Critical thinking means making reasoned judgments that are logical and well-thought out. It is a way of thinking in which you don’t simply accept all arguments and conclusions you are exposed to but rather have an attitude involving questioning such arguments and conclusions.”

In order to know what you believe you need to think about it. And that requires the questioning of the status quo and varying view points.

You cannot come to an informed decision if you are only hearing one view point. It is the opposite of critical thinking.

True belief requires toil. It requires looking at all sides of an issue.

Wait–that’s not quite right. Not just looking at it–analyzing it. And to analyze requires that we look at it with an open mind.

duel_3208005Too often I see people who wander to the other side of the tracks with guns blazing, ready to insult and sling mud and shoot down the opposition. We call them trolls. They’re not looking to understand, they’re look to stir up trouble, or, at best, to tell them why they’re wrong instead of listening honestly to what they might have right.

This too is a lack of critical thinking. It is a lack of objectivity.

One of the biggest criticisms I’ve heard in the arena of politics (and I have firsthand experienced) is the deterioration of debate. Debate requires an open mind. Something all too often lacking in modern politics. Don’t tell me why I’m wrong–convince me why you’re right. This is the basis for intelligent thinking.

tumblingIf we’re honest, it’s rampant on social media. It is an epidemic far more terrifying than any I have observed because it takes thinking human beings and turns them in to sheep.

And we all know that analogy. Sheep will follow their leader (aka authority) right off a cliff.

Don’t be a sheep. Do the work. Seek dissenting opinions and consider what they have to say honestly. Analyze the data, search your soul, and then draw your own conclusion.

I don’t care if you agree with my opinion or not. If you have done the work, I welcome the conversation. Maybe you have something to teach me. Maybe I have something to teach you.

And THAT I can respect.

What if Weakness is the Greatest Strength of All?

People keep telling me how strong I am.

Which is kind of funny, because I feel the opposite of strong most of the time.

I feel weak. Completely and utterly weak. Like a limp, used up dish rag.smelly

And I feel just as disgusting. Hold it out from your body with your fingertips while covering your nose with the other hand kind of disgusting.

Because that kind of weakness is…embarrassing. Humiliating. Horrifying.

haha

It stinks of failure.

And yet they tell me I’m strong.

Strong…

Oh, the irony!

 

I feel worn out. Hollow. So exhausted that moving forward takes an effort of the will, and sometimes, it takes every ounce of that will to not run to my bedroom, pull the covers over my head, and do my best effort at a disappeardisappearing act.

Poof!

No one would really notice I was gone anyway, right?

 

Of course they would, but in that moment I don’t feel that. In that moment, I don’t know it. I certainly don’t believe it.

In these moments I want to quit. Give up. Sayonara suckers! It was nice knowing you!

This is what I feel. But people see strength.

How does that work? How is that possible?

I’ve been reflecting on this a lot. Praying about it. Even reading what other people have to say about it. And I think I finally have an answer.

We have what we think strength is, and we have what we actually recognize strength to be.

supergirlWe think strength is having it all together. We think it’s facing adversity without flinching. We think it’s the opposite of weakness.

It’s the Superman pose. Head high, face uplifted and sure, hands on hips ready to face anything.

That’s what we think strength is. What it should be. What it should feel like. And when we don’t feel that, we think we are weak.

And weakness, after all, is the opposite of strength. Right?

Or is it?

I certainly don’t face the world with a Superman pose. I don’t face adversity unflinchingly. More like with a whimper and a plea. “Not again, God. Please? Not again?”

I don’t face the world with hands on my hips ready for anything.

weeping 3I do the opposite. I face my weakness. I embrace it. I face the loss, the betrayal, the grief, the unfairness. With tears flowing down my cheeks and a heart full of agony, I face it.

I don’t run. I don’t hide.

I walk into it. I look it in the eyes of my pain, and through a veil of tears, I acknowledge it. And then I keep walking. One step at a time, until I get to the other side.

I’m broken. I’m vulnerable. But I keep walking.

And that is what people recognize as strength.

I face the demons that live within me. The doubts. The insecurities. Not with an upraised fist, but with a quivering chin and eyes that won’t stop leaking. I face the lies and call them what they are. Lies.

Even though they don’t feel like lies. Not then.

They feel like truth.

Unloved.

Lie.

Alone.

Lie.

Failure.

Lie.

And on and on it goes.

Again and again.

Over and over.

Until, finally, the lies start to look like what they really are: Ugly, nasty, foul bits of garbage. The rankest poison. Something to be fought and disposed of, not accepted and embraced.

courageAnd my mouth stops trembling. And my tears dry up. Finally I can meet the lies in the eye and know that they are lies.

Lies. Not truth. LIES.

And it is this we recognize as strength. It is this that, in our deepest places, we know strength to be.

Not having it all together. Not the absence of fear.

Not a fake smile and a photoshopped life.

Strength is embracing the mess. Not hiding from the brokenness. Not running away from the pain.

Strength is being brave enough to face our demons and being brave enough to share that battle with others.

Wait…back up…what? You didn’t mention that earlier. Share it? Can I skip that part? What if I face the lies and face the pain, but I keep it quiet, locked away inside of me so no one else has to know? You know, my own private battle. No one needs to see my weakness. It doesn’t have to be shared to be won.

Nope. Sorry, but that’s not how it works.

Strength requires vulnerability. It requires honesty. It demands that we admit our weakness.

Why?

Because the truth is, we all feel empty and hollowed out sometimes. We all feel broken and unloved. Betrayed and used. And when we see someone who has faced it, our soul recognizes that as strength.

That is the final step of the strong. To brave the judgement of small minded people. To share our humanity. To admit the loneliness. The devastation. The insecurity and the fear. To lay it bare and let the world know that they are not alone.

So am I strong? You can’t hear it, but I can’t help but snort, a dry, humorless laugh at even the thought of that. My gut reaction is still a resounding no to that one. I do not feel strong.

But maybe it isn’t about what I feel. Maybe truth has little to do with feelings. Maybe, sometimes, truth is even the enemy of emotion.

Maybe what I feel and what is are two different things entirely.

The Bible says something about His strength being manifest in our weakness…when I am weak, He is strong.

In the face of my weakness, I have his strength.

His truth.

His promise.

And that makes me brave.

And maybe bravery is the same thing as strength. So maybe I am strong after all…

Be brave enough to face the pain. To acknowledge the lies. To stop running. Stop hiding. Stop pretending.

Turn your face toward truth.

That is strength undefeatable.

The Surprising Truth about Rejection

I started a journey a few months ago–the journey to publication.

I’ve been published before, but poetry and articles are vastly different than a book.

Being the person I am, I did my homework going into it, and man, was there a lot to learn! I knew the journey would be arduous and fraught with rejection. I was prepared for it. Armed with my optimism and resilience, which I have an abundance of, I thought I’d be able to weather the difficulty with grace.

At first I did. I got the inevitable rejections, but I also got many full requests that acted as a buoy. I would plunge down, but my optimism would pull me back up.

But then something changed.

dealing-with-rejectionI found myself in a funk I couldn’t seem to climb out of.

Being a psychology professor, I pulled out my usual bag of tricks. I got outside. I focused on what I was grateful for. I exercised. I spent time with my family. I requested extra hugs and snuggle time. I escaped into books, played the piano, and sang my heart out.

Usually any combination of these would do the trick, but this time, none of it was working–and it was driving me crazy.

When I looked at my life logically, I was filled with gratitude. I like who I am. I like where I’m headed. And I like the people who are along for the ride. I had no reason to feel what I was feeling.

I knew the culprit had to be the rejection. Though I had expected it, though I am usually very resilient, something was different this time.

I got curious.

This led to a journey of discovery.

The-Human-Brain-Processes-Rejection-Like-Physical-Pain-According-to-ScienceRejection, from a biological standpoint, is one of the absolute worst things we can experience. Worse than physical pain. In fact, according to Psychology Today:

fMRI studies show that the same areas of the brain become activated when we experience rejection as when we experience physical pain. This is why rejection hurts so much (neurologically speaking).

In fact, our biological response is so similar to the experience of pain that Tylenol actually reduces the emotional pain of rejection.

Last night, I was feeling the malaise I’ve come to associate with my recent experience with rejection. I also had significant muscle pain. I decided this gave me the excuse to test out the research.

And it worked. Within ten to fifteen minutes I felt like myself again.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not recommending reaching for the Tylenol every time you’ve experienced rejection. What I am suggesting is that we need to recognize the very real effects rejection has on our Psyche and how we experience that pain in a very real, biological way.

In fact, our biological response could be defined as worse than physical pain in that it reaches into our future. Psychology Today puts it this way:

We can relive and re-experience social pain more vividly than we can physical pain. Try recalling an experience in which you felt significant physical pain and your brain pathways will respond, “Meh.” In other words, that memory alone won’t elicit physical pain. But try reliving a painful rejection (actually, don’t—just take my word for it), and you will be flooded with many of the same feelings you had at the time (and your brain will respond much as it did at the time, too). Our brain prioritizes rejection experiences because we are social animals who live in “tribes.” 

As if this wasn’t enough to deal with, rejection also causes a surge in anger and aggression, it causes us to attack our self esteem, and it temporarily lowers our IQ.

And it doesn’t respond to reason.

Yikes. That is a nasty list of symptoms.

And as a Twitter friend reminded me the other day, rejection does not end when my books get published. Reviewers can be cruel. I have chosen a road of continued rejection.

So, what do we do when we have chosen a road filled with inevitable rejection? Do we just accept that this is part and parcel and a part of the price we pay?

I say no. Being aware is the first step in dealing with rejection in a healthy way. Being kind to ourselves, acknowledging the very real wounds, and seeking out relief in healthy ways can make a difference.

Ignoring it is not the right answer. We would not ignore a cut on our arm, would we? We would care for it. In the same way, we need to acknowledge the very real wounds caused by rejection and care for it accordingly.

The wounds are real so treat yourself to the same compassion you would extend to a friend in pain. You deserve it. And you need it.

self-care-for-writers-1080x618

The devil in my head…is it you?

A few weeks ago, my daughter told me that I’m the voice in her head.

She said that when she wants to give up, my voice tells her to keep going.

When she thinks she can’t, my voice tells her she can.

When she wants to take the easy road, my voice tells her it’s unhealthy–that the best is always hard.

Talk about humbling.

devil onshoulderAt the time I took it as a parenting win. I reminded myself I needed to be careful to live up to this responsibility, but it was mostly a fleeting thought. A cursory nod.

And then, I moved on.

But today I find myself circling back to this idea.

I am the voice in her head…who’s the voice in mine?

We all have voices in our heads. Some of the voices are uplifting. Some of the voices tear us down.

Some of the voices should be kept and encouraged.

Others we should send packing.

Adios. Sayonara. See you never. Goodbye.

This all ties back around to self-talk which I’ve talked about here.

But this time I found myself thinking of this from a different angle. We all have voices in our heads.

My voice is in Arabelle’s head…who else hears my voice in their head and what is my voice saying?

That’s a crap ton of responsibility. That voice has power. That voice is the bringer of life or death. That voice speaks and I didn’t even know it was speaking and I don’t have a clue what it’s saying.

I want my voice to be a voice of life. Of hope. Of perseverance.

But if I’m honest, I haven’t walked mindfully enough, carefully enough, to know that my voice is always going to be a positive one. It is for Belle, but what if for someone else, my voice doesn’t build up–what if it tears down?

wordsAll of us, each and every one of us, are the voice in someone’s head–most likely several someones. Our voice can build them up.

But it can also tear them down.

I believe  we need to be mindful of the power we hold over others even when we don’t know we hold it. What we’ve said. How we’ve acted. Our abundance or lack of empathy. Our generosity or our stinginess in encouragement. When we listen or choose to be more interested in our phone or our computer. When we walk away in a time of need. Close our eyes to their struggle.

All of these, and so many more, contribute to the voice they hear.

I am convicted. I need to do better. I want my voice to always be a voice of life.

I want my voice to to be a voice of truth.

the helpYou are beautifully and wonderfully made.

You matter.

You are loved.

There is nothing you do that makes you unworthy of that love.

You are enough. Today. Just as you are.

I challenge you to think of who it is that hears your voice, because someone does.

What do you think they hear? Are you okay with it?

Or, like me, do you fear that carelessness may have allowed criticism or negativity to sneak in in places you hadn’t considered?

We need to begin acknowledging the power we hold. And we need to wield that power conscientiously.

Not in anger. Not in carelessness. Not thoughtlessly.

We need to wield it with purpose.

good

Gaslighting

Gaslighting

The ticking clock echoes in my head…

The silence deafening–

Anxiety growing.

Tossing…turning…flipping…flopping…

Reaching in the darkness for the glowing screen

Which does not speak and does not calm.

 

Sighing…worrying…plumping pillows.

Counting an endless stream of sheep.

One, two…twenty-four, twenty-five…sixty-seven, sixty-eight…

On and on, but sleep evades.

 

Mind racing, chasing, caught in an endless cycle of doubt–a game of torment.

Sleep flees–A girl on the playground eluding, dodging…

Refusing to be caught…

 

Because you’re not here.

The bed cold, an ocean that won’t be crossed.

An empty space of isolation–

Of fear.

A slow death at the hand of doubt.

 

Water I can’t drink.

Words that dry and parch,

That leech the life from my trust,

A slow draining, a hollowing out of love.

 

Presence–an empty promise.

Thirsting for answers that won’t come.

Absence unexplained.

Answers filled with breath and air.

No substance–no sustenance.

Limp, fragile, hollow excuses

That leave a bitter taste in my mouth

And nausea in my stomach.

 

Doubt creeping, a whispering shadow,

Suppressing light and instilling dread.

Analyzing every glance–Questioning every word…

The ding of a text–Heart pounding…

A hushed and silenced conversation–dread pulsing…

 

I know…I know–but I don’t.

I believe…I believe–but I won’t.

 

I run from the knowing–

And flee from the believing–

Embracing poorly masked lies.

 

I cling to the disparity– questioning my mind–looking for doubt.

A reason to not believe.

 

It’s me. It’s me–the problem is me.

My fault the decay, my fault the poison that spreads.

The doubts my weakness–the chasm that widens.

It’s me. Not you–It’s me.

 

And you…

     Continue to leave–Continue to text–Continue to talk–

     Continue to cheat.

 

And I blame me.

 

Alone in a Sea of People

I have not dipped my toe in the poetry waters for a very long time. I’ve been consumed with finishing my two novels, and even though poetry was the medium that led me to writing in the first place, I just haven’t ventured back in literally years.

A couple of weeks ago, a request from my university for submissions for their publication led me back to poetry.

I’d just finished reading “Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine” (I highly recommend it–see my review here) and I’d found myself reflecting on the epidemic of loneliness in the modern world.

It’s not a new topic for me, I teach loneliness in my College classes, including the correlation between loneliness and technology. Technology, which connects us more than ever, has the opposite effect–it leaves us utterly disconnected. I can tell you all the reasons you should put your phones down, make eye contact, and get back to talking to actual in the flesh people.

But this time I didn’t find myself in teaching mode–I found myself in the skin of Eleanor.

What would it be like to feel that alone?

It is that thought that inspired the following poem.

If you are lonely, I encourage you to make connections. Go to a church or synagogue. Join a meetup group. Find a hobby and join a class. Do something.

If, like me, you are lucky enough to be surrounded by people you love and who love you back, open your eyes to the people around you who don’t have what you have been blessed with–and be a hand extended. Be a voice of kindness. Offer an invitation. Extend a little piece of yourself across the void.

Because no one, absolutely no one, should feel like this.

lonely

Loneliness

Minutes that feel like hours–

Hours that feel like days–

Days so silent the silence speaks.

 

It speaks my fears,

My doubts,

My isolation and my otherness.

 

Alone. Alone…so unbearably alone.

 

Longing for a voice–

A whisper…

A sound.

 

A reason to hope–

To believe

That tomorrow

Will be less alone than today.

 

To believe that someone–

Somewhere–

Will see.

 

Someone, anyone, to bridge this silence. This otherness.

 

A voice spoken in digits if not words.

A tagline.

An avatar.

A virtual friend.

Some connection.

Any connection–

To end this isolation.

 

A cry in the void–echoing.

A cry in the dark–swallowed.

A cry in the emptiness of my room.

 

Unheard. 

Unknown.

Unseen.

 

A cry in the night to fracture the silence–

If only with my own voice.

 

It echoes into nothingness.

Into space.

Into a virtual world–

 

That cannot see–

Cannot touch…

And does not hear.

 

A world that cannot breach the silence.

 

And I am still alone.

Still alone with my minutes that feel like hours,

And my hours that feel like days.

 

Still alone. Alone…unbearably alone.

 

Left counting down the moments

Until I have the illusion of connection–

A room filled with strangers

Talking to one another.

 

Surrounded by sound.

In the midst of the noise–

I can pretend.

 

I can pretend that I am not so unbearably alone.

loneliness

What monsters are lurking in your basement?

When I was a kid, I had trouble making friends.

I was awkward, insecure, and an introvert. Talk about three huge obstacles to childhood success!

Most of my early report cards had comments like: “Heather has difficulty getting along with the other children” and “Heather doesn’t play well with others.”

Ouch.

bullying-and-teasing-no-laughing-matter-4-3

I didn’t know what made me different, all I knew was I didn’t fit. And, as kids will, they sensed this otherness and my insecurity and they often exploited it. I was picked on, mocked, and yes, in today’s lingo, I suppose I was bullied.

People who know me now, probably have trouble matching up the picture of the early me to the me I am today.

Today I am great with people. I’m an excellent speaker. A great listener. I can be funny and witty. I’m confident.

But that took years of work.

Years of watching. Years of trial and error. Years of learning.

And I did learn. But that learning didn’t erase all the years of error. Of failure. Of rejection.

Those years left their mark.

The new successes don’t really replace the old failures. They might cover them up, but they’re not just gone.

As I learned how to interact better with people, as I slowly gained confidence, I made plenty of friends. By the time I hit High School, I had lots of friends, many of whom I am still friends with today. These days, despite my introversion, I can strike up a conversation with anyone. I can leave any social group with more friends than I had when I came. People tend to just like me.

So don’t my more recent successes make up for the rejections of my childhood?

Yes and no.

When things are going well, the answer is yes. I can go into a meeting where I know no one and walk away with friends. I can go to a party confident that I will be liked.

But when things aren’t going well, I find that perhaps I’m not quite as far past that rejection as I thought.

My early years influenced my structure, the base that I build my life upon. And my early years were filled with rejection. So my “house” was built on a foundation of rejection.

In her book Uninvited, Lysa TerKeurst uses an analogy to describe exactly what I experience.

structureal damage

She describes her kitchen. They had torn it down to the studs preparing for a remodel, and when they did, they found that one of the supporting beams stopped short. They’d had no clue, because the structure on top of it looked great, and the house hadn’t yet experienced any trauma. But when a carpenter friend took her upstairs he showed her how “the second floor dipped and sagged. One good jump or one heavy thing dropped in that area, and the supporting board would likely come apart” (TerKeurst 12).

This describes us so well. We have trauma. Difficulties. Rejections. Pain. And we move on. We build on top of them without fixing the damage.

We are building on a broken structure. “Broken boards can’t provide stability” (TerKeurst 12).

My early rejection left me with a core belief that there was something wrong with me. All the friends I gained didn’t fix this belief. They hid it. And most of the time I wasn’t even aware I believed it at all.

Except with guys. I’ve always been much more aware of the structural damage in this area when it comes to guys.

My Dad and I didn’t have a great relationship when I was growing up and we tended to miscommunicate. The end result was that I felt very insecure in my relationship with him, which left me very insecure with males in general (My Dad and I are fine now btw–miscommunication can do a lot of damage when it’s not addressed. We addressed it and now we have a good relationship.)

My core belief was that there was something wrong with me that made me unlovable by men. Guys might like me on the surface, but when it came down to it, when they got to know me, I would be rejected.

In high school, guys liked how I looked–it wasn’t uncommon for them to stare at me…but they never asked me out. I went to Prom with my best friend in lieu of a date.

This reinforced this core belief.

In college things got a little better. I did get asked out. But usually not by the guys I wanted to ask me out. Still, I gained a little confidence, but I still had a core expectation of rejection. They liked what was on the surface, but they didn’t like me–because me is not how I look, it’s who I am.

But finally, I found a guy who liked me not just for the way I looked, but also for who I was. He proved that this core belief was incorrect. I wasn’t unlovable!

No surprise, I married the guy.

And for years, the rejection monster slept.

dragon sleepingHe slept–but he wasn’t dead.

Eventually he opened an eye. And then he lifted his head.  Then he stretched, prowled around my heart, and let out a mighty roar.

My husband, the more he got to know me, the less he liked me–or at least that’s the lie I told myself.

Whatever the case was, in the end, he rejected me and shacked up with someone else. (Most likely the result of his own broken foundation)

The rejection monster was alive and well and wreaking havoc in my life.

Mostly, I’m a secure, independent, and confident woman, but underneath, deep down, I’ve been building on a broken structure.

Add to this the perils of online dating…

Plenty who like how I look, but once again…not interested in who I am.

But in a way I’m glad.

I’m glad, because it’s forced me to acknowledge this broken part of myself, this part that needs attention. I need to know that there is nothing wrong with me, that I am worthy, that I am lovable, not because anyone else out there says it, but because God Himself says it.

I need to go back to the broken boards in my structure. I need to stop pretending they’re not there, and I need to let God heal them, and heal me.

Until I do, I will always be one trauma away from a cave in.

I think, when we’re honest, we all have these broken parts of ourselves. Parts we ignore or parts we’ve forgotten about. Sometimes we bury them, because they’re too painful. Sometimes we ignore them, because it’s easier. And sometimes we simply forget about them, because we think we are past them.

But if we never dealt we them, they are still there, broken, unable to support this life, this person, we have built–and eventually something or someone will put stress on exactly that area to remind us that we never got around to fixing it.

Where has the past left you damaged? Are you one trauma away from a cave-in?

Maybe it’s time to take a closer look at the core beliefs that are lurking beneath the surface.

 

What we think BECOMES

I’ve been pondering how the choices we make can impact our lives in very big, and very real, ways.

Most choices are so small, so innocuous, so seemingly innocent, that we often make them without really thinking at all.

We dismiss the voice of caution. We disregard the impulse to wait, to think it through. We get swept up in the moment, and it seems harmless enough, so we just go with it.

What really got me started on this journey was my second book. Many years ago, I became intrigued by a question. I had heard of a young mom who had cheated on her husband. To all casual observers, they seemed like a happy couple. They were in love. They had a beautiful family. She was a good person.

What does it take to get a person, a good person who loves his/her spouse, to take that step?

I wasn’t curious about the casual cheaters; that’s a whole different animal, but the ones who aren’t wired that way, who aren’t narcissistic, who do try to do the right thing–how do they choose such a devastating path?

As I contemplated, I attempted to put myself in the head of a person like this. It very quickly became obvious to me that it isn’t a single decision; it’s a slow slide into a choice. It’s not one choice made in a vacuum. No one wakes up and decides to take that step unless they have already been riding the landslide of dissatisfaction.

It starts with the little choices. The seemingly innocuous ones. It starts in the mind.

Depending on the person and the situation, that journey can look, and be, very different, but I believe, it all starts with careless thinking.

the mind1As a Psychology professor, I have long had a fascination with the mind. The mind is powerful. What we think can literally change who we are and how we live.

I’ve explored this topic multiple times in terms of self-talk, the lies we tell ourselves, and the false narratives that we adopt as truth, but I think there is another angle that gets less attention. It’s even more subtle, and it is a breeding ground for dissatisfaction.

Our daydreams. Our wishes. And our comparisons.

Alicia Britt Chole puts it this way in her book Anonymous.

Consider a new parent drowning in diapers who daydreams about the freedom and time he would have if he were still single or childless…who wakes up with less patience and more resentment toward his spouse and children. Or a woman lost in daydreams of being swept away by an attentive Prince Charming…who wakes up, rolls over, and wonders why her husband is looking more and more like a frog. Or a young professional smiling, lost in a daydream about high-profile companies fighting over him with ever-increasing pay scales…who wakes up somehow less satisfied and motivated in his current job (Chole 122).

Thoughts like these start the landslide. They fester. They breed dissatisfaction.

Not everyone has the affair, chooses a divorce, or makes a huge devastating choice of one kind or another, but MANY live in a haze of discontentment. Dissatisfaction that steals their joy and kills the love.

And it starts with such small choices.

Reading too many romance novels.

Chatting with someone who isn’t your significant other through social media (hey, it’s just talking–no harm no foul).

Daydreaming about the what if’s (what if I hadn’t married her? What if I’d stayed with so-and-so? What if I’d taken that job instead?).

Comparing your spouse to your friend’s spouse, or your job to the job someone else has–social media is terrible in this regard. The photoshopped version of our “friends” lives always make the grass seem greener somewhere else…anywhere else.

And before you know it, dissatisfaction has begun to grow.

Chole puts it this way:

Vain imaginations make us discontent…we often dismiss our daydreams as harmless, as though our minds were some sort of locked vault (Chole 122).

The thing is, we know better. Psychology has shown us again and again that our mind is a HUGE influencer. What we think is what becomes. What we think infiltrates our emotions, our lives, our decisions, our families.

Our minds are not contained environments; they are controlling environments (Chole 122).

We need to pay attention to the stray thoughts we think, to our daydreams, to the comparisons we make–because they influence everything.

Terrible life destroying decisions start here.

Perpetual dissatisfaction and discontent start here.

Our tomorrow starts here.

We need to pay more attention to these stray wishes and dreams. And sometimes, we need to make a choice to stop wishing, stop dreaming, and to remember why we chose to be exactly where we are–because there was a reason, and very possibly that reason still exists if we only take the time to remember it.

the mind

 

Start now. Not tomorrow. Not later. Not someday. Start NOW.

A couple of years ago, after my son turned 13, I realized that I only had five years left with him.

It felt like a sucker punch. Five years.

Five years to make him into a somewhat responsible human being.

Five years to instill all the values and habits for a healthy foundation.

Five years to somehow fit in all the things that I’d been putting off…that we’d do “someday.” “Later.” “When we have more time.”

Only five years.

laterThis was a complete paradigm shift for me. All of a sudden, I realized just how limited our supply of time is. Just how important it is to START NOW.

Not tomorrow.

Not someday.

NOW.

For me, one of the big somedays that I had continually put off was family vacations.

I had always wanted to go on family adventures. To make memories. To bond.

It was something that we really hadn’t done when I was growing up. Something I had always wished we had done. Something I had promised myself I would do with my own children.

But there was never the time.

Or money.

Or…the excuses went on.

But two years ago I realized that if I kept allowing those excuses to get in the way, it would NEVER HAPPEN.

I wasn’t okay with that.

The truth is, as a single mom, I had less money than I had when I first started making the excuses. That excuse was very real. And very valid.

But I was very determined.

I started thinking outside the box.

Flying was out. Too expensive. So wherever I went, I’d have to drive. With three kids. And I would be the only driver…

That was crazy! I couldn’t do that! …Could I?

Why not? It would be tough, sure…but, I could do it. How hard could it be?

Pretty hard, but yeah, I could do it.

us1I did do it–On a shoestring budget, mainly staying with various friends across the country. We went to Nashville, drove the Dragon’s Tail through the Appalachian mountains from TN to NC. We went to the ocean in NC and saw the Civil War sites in VA. We went to Washington D.C. and then on to Gettysburg.

And it was awesome.

And it was hard.

But it was totally worth it.

Which is why, this year, two years later, we took to the road again. This time out west. From Carlsbad

us2

Canyons to the Gila Cliff Dwellings, to Devil’s Bridge in Sedona, AZ. We, of course, had to swing further west to take in the Grand Canyon before heading to Mesa Verde, Durango, and the Maroon Bells, CO. And, if we were already that far, how could we not take in the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone,  and heck, half of Yellowstone was in MT anyway and I’d always wanted to see Glacier National Park…

I’m still a single mom and still the only driver.

I still had my excuses.

startBut I’ve come to realize that we will always have our excuses. The timing will never be perfect. There are ALWAYS reasons to put it off until tomorrow.

But is it important to you? Will you regret not having done it? Is it worth finding a way, MAKING a way?

Then start. Start now. Start with fear and start with doubt. Start with imperfections and start with failures….

But START.

 

I Can’t–the two little words that will get you precisely no where

I just got back from an amazing vacation.

In the middle of June, I hopped in my pathfinder with my three kids and we headed west. We went everywhere: New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. We hiked, and rafted, canoed, and hiked some more. We camped in bear infested territory. Cooked over the open fire.

usAnd did I mention that it was just me and my three kids?

Just me. And three kids. None of whom could drive…

Going from Texas, to Montana, to Wisconsin, back to Texas…

And I was the only driver.

And it was awesome.

Okay…Why am I bringing this up? Am I trying to pat myself on the back? Show how tough and cool I am?

No…but I do have something I want to prove, and it’s wrapped up in two simple, but incredibly powerful words: I can’t.

As I’ve talked with people about my trip, so many people have said, “Wow! That’s amazing! I could never do that.”

My answer is, “Uh, yeah you can.”

I’m no better than the next person. I’m not stronger or braver or smarter or whatever it is that people seem to think allows me to do what they “can’t.” There is no tangible reason I can and they can’t.

The only difference is I refused to accept those self imposed limitations. And that is exactly what they are–self imposed.

Lately, I’ve heard those words, “I can’t,” from so many different people.

I can'tI can’t say that…

I can’t do that…

I can’t be that…

I’ve started paying attention. Watching. Noting.

Those words tend to be a self fulfilling prophecy. What we think we can’t do, we never try, and therefore, we don’t do it–whatever “it” is.

It’s not that we can’t. It’s that we don’t.

We never try. We give up before we even know our limits. We accept less when we might have so much more. Because we have made an arbitrary decision that we can’t.

I find myself pondering which ways I have accepted the self imposed “I can’t.” Where have I, in anticipation of failure, simply thrown in the towel before I’ve ever even tried? Where have I allowed those pesky words to limit who I am, and who I can become?

self-imposed-limitations-215x300Pay attention. What areas of your life are you giving up on because you “can’t?”

What if it’s not that you can’t, but that you don’t think you can? Have you actually tried? Or have you just imposed limitations on what you are even willing to attempt?

Yeah, it might not be easy. But very little worth having in life is easy. It might be downright difficult. It might stretch you to your limits…it might surpass your expected limitations completely…and you might just find out, like I did, that you are capable of doing and being so much more than you imagined.

I dare you to turn the “I can’t” into “I can.”

I can’t wait to find out just what you can become!