Tag Archives: psychology

The Misinformation Effect:Why our memories can’t be trusted

Uncle Ron

We all have the uncle (or aunt, or grandparent, or wacky fifth cousin twice removed) who likes to reminisce about how “When I was a kid…” he used to walk uphill both ways to school, or she helped her mama with all the chores before she was asked, or he never disrespected his parents.

We fully recognize that their memory has taken on a tinge of unreality and, in response, we are ready with the prerequisite eye roll or groan, recognizing that “Uncle Rob’s memory is a few bricks shy of a full load.”

We fully accept that their memories are somewhat lacking.

But what if I told you that it isn’t just Uncle Rob and Aunt Cheryl? What if I were to point my finger at you, and tell you that your memory is just as false as crazy cousin Wally’s?

a1We like to think that our memories are ironclad. Often, in disagreements and arguments, we site our recollection of events as solid, irrefutable back up of our version of reality. We don’t pause to consider when our [spouse, parent, friend] refutes our version of the experience with their own version of events that we might be the one who is wrong. We tell ourselves he/she is simply wrong. They are remembering incorrectly. It happened the way we replay it in our heads.

But, if their memory can be incorrect, why do we assume that our own isn’t inaccurate as well? Why do we somehow believe that we simply are better at remembering?

False memories have gotten a lot of attention lately with the documentary series “Making a Murderer.” Anyone who’s on Facebook couldn’t escape the indignation that permeated half the posts several months ago. Many watching the series felt a sense of moral outrage that an innocent man could have had his life taken from him in such a way. How could such a mistake be made! It’s unacceptable! How does this happen?!

The truth is, it happens very easily. Rather than being the anomaly, a little digging shows that it is not an uncommon tale. Psychologist Elizabeth Loftus has been pointing out this flaw in our memories and by extension our legal system for years. Check out her TedTalk on the subject here

Eye witness testimonies are frequently wrong. They are wrong, not because of some vindictive purpose of the witness, but due to the inherent flaws in memory.

Through a series of experiments, Loftus found that simple semantics changed the testimony of a witness.

a2If an individual was asked how fast a car was going when it “smashed” into another vehicle versus how fast a car was going when it “hit” another vehicle, the witness would raise the mph of the car because the word “smash” implies more force. Same accident, different wording equaled different memory of the events.

Loftus decided to take the susceptibility of our memory to alteration one step further. She decided to see if a completely false memory was planted, it could cause a person to believe something that they did not see or experience at all.

Through a series of experiments, she found that, absolutely, we can come to believe that things happened that did not happen. She calls this the misinformation effect.

For instance, if an individual is told that when they were very young he became separated from his parents in a mall and that he wandered terrified and lost, the individual is likely to begin “remembering” details of the event–even though it never actually happened.

a3Our memories are susceptible to suggestion. They can be altered.

As a Psych professor, I decided that my skeptical students could benefit from a little experiment of their own. They recorded a memory of their own in as much detail as they could remember and they were then told to rate the accuracy of the memory on a scale of one to ten. The memory had to be one in which another individual was involved. They were then to interview that individual and record their version of the memory in as much detail as the individual remembered it. They were then told to compare the two sets of memories.

The next part of the assignment was even more interesting. They were told to try to sew misinformation. The goal was to plant false memories and to see if they were believed. To aid the success of the experiment, they were told that they had to come up with plausible additions, things that easily could have happened.

The result of their experiment was that most of the students realized that their memory wasn’t nearly as reliable as they originally believed it to be. When they compared it to the other individual’s memory, they found things they had forgotten and many discrepancies between the two sets of memories.

Secondly, about fifty percent of the students were successfully able to plant false memories. It was far easier than any of us had believed to warp and change an individual’s memory of an event. In fact, it was a little disturbing to see how easy it was to alter a person’s memories and it left most of us with the uncomfortable reality that rather than looking at our memories as a movie played back in our minds, they should be regarded with suspicion and doubt.

So, what does this mean to you? The next time you are entrenched in your belief that your version of events is the accurate one, you might want to take a step back and reconsider–memory is malleable and downright faulty–and it is certainly not a hill for relationships to die on.

 

 

I Choose Happiness; What are you Going to Choose?

I’ve been doing a lot of research on happiness lately.

As many of you know, I started a new position as a professor of Psychology this January. It’s been a good ten years since I’ve delved into all things Psych, and I’ve enjoyed diving back in. What I’ve been finding excites me. Some of this I had known, but haven’t thought much of in the intervening years. But much of it is new. The research keeps revealing new information, and the more we understand about happiness, the more I find myself in awe at the intricacy of our biology, our emotions, and ultimately, our spirituality. We are not an accident. Our design is not an accident. We are amazingly and wonderfully made.

happiness-flowchartThe more that is learned about our biology, the more we realize it is wrapped up in our spiritual/emotional self. We are also beginning to realize that we have more control over who we are, what we feel, and even sometimes, the health of our own bodies than we previously understood.

This excites me. We are not at the whim of fate. We are not a pawn in the hand of chance. Our happiness is not contingent on what we have/don’t have or even what happens/doesn’t happen to us. Our happiness is not determined by outward forces, but rather by inward resilience, and everything is indicating that this can be learned. Happiness is quite literally a state of mind.

I’m a bit of a control freak, so I can’t help but love this. I can control my own happiness. I’ve always believed that, but now all the research is backing up that belief. I might not be able to control the random hand of chance as it forces itself into my life, but I certainly can control how I respond to it.

I have often wondered why two individuals can experience the exact same conflict and yet have a completely different response to it. Is this merely the result of personality differences? Is it simple genetics? Are some predestined to be more capable of handling conflict than others? Are they simply, genetically speaking, more resilient? Is there an X factor–some unknown factor that creates resilience? What exactly is resilience anyway?

I’ve always struggled with the idea that it is purely genetic. That simply isn’t fair. Why should some be given the ability to deal with life’s difficulties and others not? It simply feels a bit too Calvinistic to me, stinking too much of predestiny. Would God really stack the deck against us like that?

My husband and I have both experienced a lot of grief and loss in our lives, an exceptional amount, at least by American standards.

(Nolana aplocaryoides) Pan de Azucar National Park

I tend to bounce. That doesn’t mean that I never feel depressed; I most certainly do at times. It doesn’t mean that I never get angry or feel twinges of bitterness; I’m no stranger to either of these feelings. What it does mean is that, no matter how horrible the circumstances, the sun peeps through the clouds. I see a solitary flower growing in the desert. It might be scraggly and undernourished, but I still find that flower. The weak ray of sunshine somehow manages to find its way past the cloud cover.

In other words, I always find hope. Hope in today. Hope in a better tomorrow. Hope that if I keep fighting, there will be something good at the end. Hope that there is a purpose to all the pain.

lostgirl05-300x168Sometimes I feel like a prize fighter. I scrape myself off the mats, still sore and bruised and bleeding. I’m barely able to stand, but by golly, I’m going to stay in the ring and give it another shot. I’m going to keep fighting, and when I feel like I can’t fight anymore, I’m going to dredge up some more chutzpah and somehow keep going even if it’s on will alone.

Sometimes I question my sanity. I know I’m going to get knocked down again. I know that by putting myself in the ring, the blows are inevitable, but I do it anyway. One would think that after being beaten to a pulp, I’d have a better sense of self preservation than that.

Or maybe, at an elemental level, I understand something hugely life altering…that life doesn’t exist outside of the ring. That life, with it’s blood, bruises, and broken limbs, is still vastly superior to a life lived in the bleachers–observing, but never participating.

Bobo-Doll-experimentAll I know is that, no matter how many times I get knocked down, something inside of me makes me bounce back up again. I just keep getting up like one of those bobo dolls, no matter how hard you hit them, no matter how hard you try to keep them down, they somehow keeping getting up.

Sometimes I’ve compared myself to a buoy. Buoys can be submerged, but they always rise. I know that no matter what life throws my way, I will rise. Life will be good again. And the hope of that sustains me in the periods of drought and famine.

Aaron, on the other hand, doesn’t bounce. He reminds me of a rock thrown out on the water. He tends to sink. When things get dark, they tend to be black. He can’t find the sun. He begins to wall himself off, protecting himself. He is like a turtle that crawls into his shell and no amount of coaxing will get him to come out.

We are polar opposites in this. I am an optimist and he is a pessimist. I bounce whereas he sinks.

optimism-pessimismSo, does he just throw in the towel and say that, “Well, since I’m genetically pre-disposed to sink, I guess I’ll go ahead and lay down and die. What’s the point anyway?”

Obviously not. Giving into hopelessness and depression is never an answer.

What the research shows us is that though it might be much more difficult for the self-professed pessimist to rise back to hope and happiness after a huge blow, it is still in the realm of possibility.

Blog-Entry-1-AmeyGod made us all capable of great resilience. It just comes easier to some of us than to others.

Over the next few weeks I’m going to share the tools I have, along with some of the new research out there. I haven’t figured all this out yet–no one has. I am not claiming to be an expert, but more a pilgrim. I am pooling my knowledge of psychology, my understanding of God and the human spirit, and my own hard-won experience in an effort to share the the wisdom I’ve learned and the tools that have proven to work.

If you’re an optimist, you probably do some of this instinctively, but we can always get better at how we manage stress and crisis.

If you’re a pessimist, don’t throw in the towel and consign yourself to a glass half full mentality. It’s a lot of hard work, and it takes some dedicated cognitive therapy, but you too can begin to experience the buoy experience of resilience.choose-happiness

 

 

Spoiler alert . . . The Easter bunny isn’t real!

easter-bunny-2This was a momentous Easter for us.

We outed the Easter bunny.

The Tooth Fairy participated in his downfall.

But not Santa. We drew the line at Santa.

“Mama, does that mean that Santa isn’t real too,” my daughter asked with her wide blue eyes starting to glisten.

I hesitated a split second. Darn it! I just couldn’t do it! “No, honey! Not Santa! Of course, Santa is real!”

I threw a stern glance at my almost eleven year-old son–he would not ruin this for his little sister. He rolled his eyes, but kept his mouth shut. (A rarity these days!)

But my middle daughter piped up. “Zoe’s mom told her that Santa isn’t real.”

Didn’t expect difficulty coming from that quarter! I thought quickly and punted. “That’s just because Zoe’s mom lacks imagination. Does she know he’s not real? Has she walked around the North Pole and actually looked for him?” (Sorry Zoe’s mom! I hate to throw you under the bus, but . . . well, desperate times and all.)

shockYes, I lie to my children. (Insert gasp. Followed by looks of horror and outrage.)

I have also told my girls that we can’t know for sure that mermaids (or water dinosaurs for that matter) don’t exist, as, to date, we have explored less than five percent of the ocean. I admit to them that I don’t think they are real, but that we can’t entirely rule out the possibility. My husband always rolls his eyes at me when I say this–and I think my daughter’s teacher thinks I’m nuts–but, seriously! We have no clue what is at the bottom of the ocean!

At least I don’t do what a friend of mine does (though I did consider it).

While her little loves are sound asleep, the “fairies” come and play with their toys. Her children wake to the visible proof of fairies existence. Perhaps that is crossing a line, but I thought it was rather fun and clever.

santa lieThere is a lot of disagreement on this particular issue among parents and even psychologists. Is this kind of lying harmful to your children? Is it even really lying?

I have been on the receiving end of scorn and judgement from parents. “We do not lie to our children!”

Said parents say that it “erodes the foundation of trust.”

I tend to think that is ridiculous.

tooth fairyMy daughters do not trust me less now that they know the Easter Bunny is really just Mommy and Daddy. In fact, they had a fun little time of it proving the lack of a Tooth Fairy. They looked for clues. The Tooth Fairy happened to use the same kinds of markers that their mother owned. Hmmm . . . They then put their hypothesis to the test when Arabelle put a tooth under her pillow without mentioning it to me. Sadly, the Tooth Fairy did not know she needed to visit that night and so the tooth, and not money, was found under her pillow that morning. A fine little piece of detective work on their parts!

I read an article by a psychologist who, like me, believed that the promoting of these myths was just fine, and yet one of her children felt extremely betrayed upon realizing that Santa was not real. To that, I would say, you know your own children best. If you have a very literal minded child, or a child who is easily wounded, perhaps these myths are not for them.

But, on the other hand, I think that we, as a society, tend to get too focused on what can be proven, on what is concrete. It is a flaw of our western world. I want my children to imagine, and I want them to have the capacity to believe on faith, not on sight.

string_theoryWe know mathematically, according to string theory, that there are ten dimensions. Ten! Though we can only understand and measure four of them. Still, though we cannot see them or touch them, they exist. Just like, though a dog cannot perceive, or even conceive of, the existence of color, color does, in fact, permeate our world.

Or what about the Multiverse Theory? Many physicists fully believe that there are parallel universes to our own. “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Sir Issac Newton

Or how about dark matter? We know virtually nothing about it except that it does (at least we think) exist.

But how do we know? Can we see it or touch it?

I am not saying that I really think the Easter Bunny or Santa exists. What I am saying is that I want my children to have the capacity to believe in things they do not see. I want them to have imagination. And I want them to have faith. Faith in the existence of God and goodness, even when neither is readily evident.

I want them to open up their minds to the possibilities of this world. Both science and religion attest to the reality that there is so much more to this world than we can see and touch. I want them to embrace what they do not know and believe in its possibility.

So, do I lie to my children? Yes, I am not ashamed to say that I do in these ways. But in the ways that count–doing what I say I will do, being honest about life and its difficulties, being open about the hiccups that permeate a relationship (aka fights between mom and dad)–in these ways I will always be truthful. Because those things will erode the trust my children have in me, not the belief in Santa.

And this way, they will still have wonder in their eyes and the imagination to believe in all this world can be as they start their journeys into this big, wide, mysterious world we live in.

Gosh, darn it! Once again, I’m a schmuck. Queen of the Schmucks, sitting right here!

open mouthSo, I did it again. Open mouth, insert foot.

I didn’t mean it that way, but I’m sure I came off tacky.

Petty.

Selfish.

Down-right bitchy.

Gosh, I hate it when I do that!

And, as if screwing up isn’t bad enough, I must then think about it.

Over and over.

Replaying the scene, the dialogue, the moment–on endless loop.

Gosh. I really was a schmuck.

Ouch, there it is again, playing in my head, here it comes, here it comes . . . and that’s where I say it, “No! Don’t say it this time . . . !”

Damn. Said it. Again.

Well, not really, but in my head. Re-living it, in all its cringeworthiness.

hiding under the blanketIt’s like a movie that’s stuck replaying that one scene, the “pull the blanket over your head” moment. You know the moment I’m talking about. You know it’s going to happen–the girl is going to run up the stairs and get hacked to pieces by whatever ghoul is lying in wait–but there is not one thing you can do to stop it. You see it coming, but you sit there helpless to change. one. single. thing.

Yep, that’s my brain. And I get to see it over and over again. Lovely.

Oh, the endless ways I can be a fool, on repeat . . . until a new idiot moment replaces this one, and I get to watch that one on endless loop instead. :S

If only I could not think about it, no, let’s be honest, obsess about it!

stupid meI was stupid here, an idiot there. I made this mistake and that mistake. I wonder what he thinks of me . . . what she thinks of me . . . what they think of me . . . (what’s really crazy about this is the self absorption that is evident in the very stream of these thoughts! After all, why would they be spending their time thinking about me at all?!)

I know I’m not alone in this. Come on, admit it. You do it too. We all do, though maybe not all to the pathological extremes of my overly analytic mind.

Don’t get me wrong, reflection is good. Normal. Healthy even. It’s a life skill our young people are sadly lacking in, which is a soap box for another day.

Obsessing is not.

Similarly, when bad things happen, we tend to obsess about the whys.

negative-self-talk1We spend our mental energy asking ourselves over and over again. “Why did it happen? Why me? Could I have prevented this? Is it my fault? Do I deserve it? What is wrong with me?!”

The questions repeat on endless loop.

So often, as with so many of the difficulties of life, the events are random, inexplicable, unavoidable. So, no matter how many times we ask ourselves the questions, we will never get any answers.

So, what do we gain for our mental efforts? We obsess to our own destruction.

Even when there is something that could have been done differently, we can’t go back and change what actually happened. Reflecting on it, to avoid the same error in the future is healthy.

Beating ourselves up for what happened, that serves no purpose except to flagellate ourselves, to punish ourselves for being, well–for being,in fact, human.

There is a psychologist named Tim Wilson from the University of Virginia who talks about this human tendency, to replay what went wrong–our failures, our fears, tragic life events–over and over again. When the cycle becomes obsessive, self-defeating, he encourages individuals to use a technique called “story-editing.” What this basically means is that, as your story begins to replay once again in your mind, you change it. You re-write the ending. Instead of saying the wrong thing, when it starts to play again, this time, you say the right thing. Instead of re-living how you failed, create the scenario in which you succeed, and play that in your head instead. Instead of the tragedy happening, you avert the tragedy. You get the idea. Through this process, your brain gains a sense of closure. It lets go of the endless loop. You learn from the experience and, hopefully, go on to do better next time.

I love this idea. I practice this idea. And I combine it with an idea that is probably as old as time itself. I replace the negative obsession by consciously putting a positive one in its place.

“Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are admirable–if there be any virtue, if there be any praise–think on these things.” Philippians 4:8

In modern times, the psychological community calls it “self-talk” or “inner dialogue.” They like to look at this as a new idea, one that is newly discovered, but it’s not. People have understood this concept for thousands of years, but, as is so common in the western world, until we have the data, the science to back it up, it doesn’t really count. Now that we have the data to support the concept–even if we don’t understand why it’s so, we recognize that it is so–so we can fully embrace what it means (Why is it we can never admit that our forbears knew a whole lot, even if they didn’t know much about science??).

The Mayo clinic, one of the most respected medical communities in the world acknowledges these ideas on their website. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/stress-management/in-depth/positive-thinking/art-20043950 The following is an excerpt from this site:

The health benefits of positive thinking

Researchers continue to explore the effects of positive thinking and optimism on health. Health benefits that positive thinking may provide include:

  • Increased life span
  • Lower rates of depression
  • Lower levels of distress
  • Greater resistance to the common cold
  • Better psychological and physical well-being
  • Reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease
  • Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress

It’s unclear why people who engage in positive thinking experience these health benefits. One theory is that having a positive outlook enables you to cope better with stressful situations, which reduces the harmful health effects of stress on your body. It’s also thought that positive and optimistic people tend to live healthier lifestyles — they get more physical activity, follow a healthier diet, and don’t smoke or drink alcohol in excess.

postiveOur thoughts have a huge impact on our physical and mental bodies. What we think about matters. When we beat ourselves up mentally, we are beating ourselves up physically also.

I might not be able to go back and unsay the truly stupid thing I said. I can’t go back and fix what I screwed up. What I can do is reflect on the mistakes I made, reflect on how I might do better next time, ask forgiveness from anyone I might have offended, and forgive myself for my humanity.

I can let it go.

I can think of the way I wish I had handled the situation.

And I can let it go.

I can think of all the times I said the right thing, and not torture myself for that one time I said the wrong thing.

And I can let it go.

I can dwell on the things I do right.

And not beat myself up for being nothing more than human.

I can let it go.

We live in a Photoshopped Perfect, Plastic World

emotional vomitI have a cousin who is prone to emotional vomit.

Yes, she spews her emotions (typically rapidly changing from one extreme to the next) all over social media. I know every problem she has. I know when she’s not feeling well, when she’s angry at her boyfriend, when she decides that she HATES somebody–everybody (And boy! She holds no punches, dropping f-bombs and oozing hatred with every syllable), when she’s depressed, when she’s filled with self-loathing, and when she’s ready to give up on it all.

It’s all right there–in black and white–for the whole world to see.

Many times I have thought about saying something, but I know too well how she would respond, so I keep my peace. It’s simply not worth it. She will not hear. She’ll just point her anger and hatred in my direction, and frankly, who needs that?!

Apparently I’m not the only one who feels this way, because last week, when she posted something especially venomous, people started weighing-in. They told her (and there were many of them) in gentle, and not so gentle terms, that facebook was not the place to air all of her problems.

As I expected, she pointed her canon at them and started unloading. Most of what she said, does not bear repeating. But one thing was telling. “You guys don’t know the half of my f&^%$#@* life, So, until you walk a day in my d*$# shoes. . . Yeah sorry I don’t have 3beautiful kids an awesome husband and a family who supports me.”

Why was this telling?

photoshoppedBecause her assumption is based on a fundamental misconception: that who we are on facebook is an honest reflection of our lives. She honestly thought that the view she was getting of peoples’ lives on facebook was their reality, and when she compared that to her own life, she became angry and bitter.

I’ve blogged about this before (check out The Grass is Always Greener . . . ). Most of us do not do what my cousin does. We do not spew our worst days, our failings, and our heartbreaks all over facebook. We post our special moments, our successes and our good times. We post our best selves. We want the world to believe that we are doing it, that we are living the dream–that we’ve arrived.

This is a cultural failing that we have–this impossible grasping for perfection. Even our models, the most beautiful among us, are photoshopped, because even they are not perfect in their beauty. We, especially the women, live under a continual pall of insecurity because we cannot attain the unattainable–we cannot look like the     photoshopped images we see on a daily basis.

I absolutely love Meghan Trainor’s song “All About that Base,” because it addresses this head on. We are making generations of women feel as if they are inferior because they cannot be, what no one can be.

Facebook can have the same affect. We post only the pictures that make us feel beautiful, the moments that show that we are special, the events that paint us as successful. Our facebook selves are photshopped selves. They are the selves we wish we were, not the selves that we really are.

We are a disingenuous culture. We are rarely honest with anyone, even ourselves.

perfect familyTo the casual observer on my facebook page, I might look like I have it all together (with the exception of the loss of Serena which I am fairly open about). I have a handsome, intelligent husband, three beautiful children, a great house, and a great job. I get to have vacations every now again and do fun things. I look happy.

And sometimes I am.

But there is another picture. Another side.

Facebook knows nothing of my struggle with insecurity. It shows nothing of the days when I hate my body and feel too keenly my fading beauty.

Facebook knows nothing of the years of struggle with depression after losing Serena.

Facebook knows nothing of the shame I walked when Aaron lost his job and for six months we struggled to even pay rent–when, despite the humiliation, we found ourselves walking into the human services office to see about our options with public assistance. It knows nothing of the shame I felt every single time I had to scan that EBT card.

Facebook knows nothing of the resurgence of my temper in the wake of grief and stress. It does not see the ugliness I show when I am pushed beyond what I feel as if I can bare. The times I yell, the times I snap at my husband and children, the times when I end up sobbing from the weight of it all.

Fmom-chaosacebook does not see when my house is a wreck, and the dishes pile up in my sink, and the laundry starts to pile to the rafters. It does not see the relentless and endless drudgery of cooking and cleaning for a family of five. It does not see the times when I feel reduced to a cook and maid, a faceless, powerless drudge.

Facebook does not see the ways Aaron and I have wounded each other by both word and deed.

Facebook does not see the many times he and I have wanted to give up, to walk away, to say, “We’re done! We can’t do this anymore!”

Facebook does not know, cannot know, because I refuse to show it.

Facebook does not see–so you do not see.

barbieYou see the window dressing. You see the outer shell I choose to show.

Every once in a while, we give a window in, but it is only a window. It is a snapshot. Not the reality.

Do not compare yourself to these Facebook Selves, these shadow selves. They are allusions, projections, phantasms. They are not substantial, attainable or replicable.

Do not compare yourself to me or to anyone else.

Do not compare your life to someone else’s life.

Because, I promise you, you will be comparing yourself to something that does not exist.

How can I know this? How can I promise such a thing?

perfect lifeBecause no one is perfect, no matter what you think. And no one has a perfect life, though to an outward eye it might appear as if they do.

No life is without pain.

We all hurt. We all bleed. We all have moments when we feel as if we can’t possibly keep breathing, keep walking, keep standing.

Not one of us is untouched.

For some, the pain starts when we’re children, and we never know life without pain. For others, childhood leaves us untouched, and we enter adulthood with shining eyes and expectations of a perfect world, but at some point, somewhere on our journey, pain will find its way in.

People die. They get sick. They leave.

Sometimes, the ones we trust the most betray us. Sometimes the ones who should have our back, are the ones who slide the knife in. Sometimes our heart bleeds, it breaks, it shatters.

And everyone, every single person on this planet, will have these moments–because these moments are life.

The amazing thing, the wonderful thing, is our capacity to endure.

I've learned that you can keep going long after you think you can'tWhen we feel like we can’t keep going, we can and we do. When we feel like we can’t possibly take one more thing–when it comes–which it inevitably seems to–we find ourselves somehow battening down the hatches and fighting our way through. Sometimes we cannot run, or even walk. Sometimes all we can do is put one foot in front of the other, and that’s all we have. That all we’ve got to give. But we do it. One. Foot. At. A. Time.

How do I know we can do this, when life pummels us, and people fail us, when we fail ourselves, how do I know we can push through?

Because we exist. The human race is still here.

We live in the height of human existence. We live a life of plenty: plenty of food, plenty of the basic necessities (clothing, house, healthcare) and plenty of leisure/extravagances (entertainment, hobbies, options, etc.).

Historically, people lived in want. They went to bed hungry. They had limited, or no, healthcare. Death was a frequent visitor.

If anyone had a reason to give up, they did–but they didn’t. They kept living. They kept loving. They kept walking. They kept fighting. They gave us a future.

I am an anomaly having lost a child. Most people, at least in the developed world, do not have to bury their children.

In the past, they didn’t just bury one, but instead, usually several.

Men very commonly lost their wives in childbirth. Women lost their husbands, and, when they did, what options did they have to provide for their families? They either married again or were forced to walk paths that they never would have chosen.

keep goingLife was hard. It was ugly. It was survival–but they did just that–they survived. And because they did, we are still here today.

We need to end this delusion that perfection is possible. We need to stop hurting ourselves and each other with this endless striving for what does not exist–the perfect life and the perfect person. We need to stop pretending that it does exist.

We need to give others grace to be imperfect.

We need to give ourselves grace to be imperfect too.

My husband cannot be the prefect man that some writer has created in a book, or that some actor plays on tv. Those men don’t exist outside of words that were created by a clever person and put on a page. My husband can’t be that man. Neither can your husband.

Neither can I live the photoshopped lives that I catch on the pages of social media, the images I see in magazines, or the brief glimpses into others’ lives that I am allowed, when they choose to show me, what they choose to show me.

I can’t live those lives, and neither can you.

They don’t exist. They’re not real.

perfectPeople are not perfect. Our lives are not perfect. . .

And that’s okay.

Let it be okay.

Give yourself a break.

And give the people around you a break too.

 

 

 

Thank You Geeky Half Price Books Guy!

            All of us have coping methods we use to handle stress. For some, it is eating (often specifically chocolate or other very bad for you things). Others work out (I really wish that was mine! With all the stress in my life, I bet I’d look great!). My coping method of choice is shopping. Not just any shopping, it’s typically thrift shopping. I love finding a good deal. This coping method only works when you have money, which is definitely a major drawback and so I haven’t really been able to use this one lately. Instead I fallback to my second choice, escapism.

            Around this time last year, I found myself in the doldrums (gotta love that word! Doldroms . . . ) probably having something to do with the fact that I am an event junkie (See my previous blog) and it’s that stagnant time of year. My escapism of choice last year was Charlene Harris, writer of the Sookie Stackhouse vampire series, a very entertaining (and far better than the offshoot HBO series Trueblood imop) read. This year I kind of scratched my head and wasn’t real sure what to try, so I went to Half Price books and kind of meandered.

            I was browsing the fantasy section wishing that George R.R. Martin had a new book (I know, kind of laughable since it took eight years to get his last new book!). I pulled out this book, glanced at it, put it back. Then I grabbed that book ,glanced at it, only to put it back. You see, though I love fantasy, it has to be GOOD fantasy. I am extremely picky. I really didn’t want to try anything without a recommendation from someone willing to say that it was worth the read.

            Well, one of those annoying workers (obviously a complete geek btw!) who feel obligated to come by and ask you if you needed anything came over. I told him I was just browsing, like I usually do. Luckily this guy was persistent. So we started up a conversation about the kind of fantasy I liked.

           I of course mentioned Martin because he is just so awesome. Then I brought up Robert Jordan (yes, despite all the critics dissing him, I still love the Wheel of Time! He may be weak on characterization but he is a master at plot!) I dissed Terry Brooks and the Shanara series (great in junior high, but far too juvenile for me these days).

            I guess that must have given him enough of an idea of my taster, because he pulled a book off the shelf and told me he thought I would like it. Some guy named Jim Butcher who I had never heard of was the author. The series was called the Codex of Alera. It looked like a book that some geeky high school boy would like, but I was desperate. It was only a couple of bucks so I shrugged and said, “Why not” and bought it, honestly, with very low expectations.

            At first, the book was about what I expected. The first sixty pages or so were laborious. But then, it took off and hasn’t stopped. He has the characterization of Martin without ever slowing the plot. No plodding for Butcher! Maybe he goes a little more into the military/battle stuff than I would like, but let’s be honest, I’m not exactly his target audience! How many stay at home moms are into fantasy? Not many I would think! 🙂

I am now on book four and have been more than happy with my New Year escapism! I am looking forward to escaping into his world for us long as I can, and I hope he continues to write more of the same!

            Thank you geeky Half Price Books guy for convincing me to give Butcher a try! I’m hooked! 😀