Assume At Your Own Risk


Chevrolet Camaro IROC-Z

Assumptions are everywhere. Like flies over roadkill. And they are sneaky. You don’t realize one is staring you in the face until something doesn’t work the way you expected. Something is out-of-place. But it’s not really. Your assumption, your assumed script, is wrong.
I think of the little old couple you see walking hand in hand in the park. We are quick to assume. He hands her an ice cream cone and we melt. Isn’t that sweet.  Until you learn the truth, that possibly they just met in person after online dating, you will see what you want to see. It’s like those pictures that shift. At first glance you see the face of the crone but take another look and you see a senorita dancing.

The first magazine article I ever sold was about something I had seen and had to do a double take. An older man walking his dog. A little black dog. I was driving to the library in the small town that I lived in and there on Main street, suddenly the dog ran up a tree. The man was still holding the handle of the leash and my mouth dropped open. I slowed down. Not a dog at all. It was a black cat. The man was walking his cat. Please remember, this is small town america, 15+ years ago. I had to tell someone. I was so flabbergasted when I went into the library, I hurried in to speak with the librarian who told me quite a story.

They say when you are piloting a ship, you must stick to your coordinates. If you are off just a pinch, you’ll miss your destination completely. Won’t even come close. Pilots of large aircraft don’t fly by whim. Charts, gauges, coordinates and lots of practice. They don’t assume.

First Ice Cream Cone

We know how easy it is to be influenced in our perceptions, although we’d like to believe that ours are not so easily swayed as the common person’s. Detectives say you can ask different people who saw the same crime or accident and get completely different stories. I can see how that would be possible. According to a podcast on Radiolab, our perceptions are malleable in the beginning. After retelling your version of the story a few times, then it becomes a more solid memory. So if you were at the scene of an accident and suddenly someone runs up to you and asks if you saw the red Camaro that drove off, the image of the red Camaro would be formed into your memory. So cleverly insinuated into the memory that you think it was something you saw with your own eyes. But you didn’t.  There never was a red Camaro.

Expectations and perceptions develop throughout our lives. Our family and teachers help form our view of life, along with events that happen in our childhood. What we expect, what we believe can happen, becomes ingrained. Somewhere back in my history I developed a fear of stop lights and crossroads. I’m not sure when, how, or why it developed, but I did see it in action one morning. While stopped at an intersection, on a busy street, I was waiting for the light to turn green. The lane to my right was a turning lane and it was empty. There were no cars behind me. I keep watch (training) while I’m sitting still. What am i watching for? Collisions. Impending doom. I feel it and I’m glancing in all my mirrors and watching to my left and my right. I’m not sure what I’d do because I’m stuck at that spot until the light turns. I glanced one more time in my rear view mirror and noticed a delivery truck coming up behind me, but he seemed to be slowing. I’m still watching all around me, so my eyes left him to check to the left. Then I heard the sound of a rushing vehicle. At that moment, I there was a collision of false perception and paranoid expectations. The sound of a rushing vehicle coupled with the truck behind me slammed my panic button and took my breath away. I just knew I was going to be rear ended and smashed into the car in front of me. But nothing happened. The panic turned into a question. What just happened? I looked behind me and there was the truck with plenty of space between us. The reality struck me. my aha moment. A car had sped into the right lane. A non-event that took my breath away. What am I? A trembly old woman? Seriously, I felt 10 degrees of silly.

Rear View Mirror

If you look at a situation, a freeze framed moment, without putting it in perspective you will most likely read it wrong. For example, if you have a person who owns a  broken down old house, what are your assumptions? It could be a person who is down on his luck. Job loss, medical bills, termites, basically can’t afford to pay for repairs. Or it could be someone who purchased the house to fix it up. Are they waiting for a loan to come through and then they will repair the roof and replace the broken windows? A snatch of a photo gives you such a brief glimpse. How would you know? Then again, you are still predicting the future with either one of those scenarios. The man who lost his job may find one again. It’s possible that even tomorrow he could receive a big bonus or help from a friend. The one waiting for the loan may get hit by litigation or they could have a string of bad luck. Ever see the movie Money Pit?

Assumptions and future forecasting is a precarious slope. You may end up being right and glow in the glory of your own wisdom. But then, you could be completely wrong. I still say God has a sense of humor. Sometimes it borders on the ridiculous.

Which is why I hate stereotyping and racial profiling. Also I’m blonde…and I’ve met just as many ditsy brunettes and redheads with IQ’s lower than mine. So assume at your own risk.

What Am I Afraid Of?

Scared child

What am i afraid of? What scares me the most?  What do I not want to admit to anyone?

I’m afraid of the embarrassing walk of shame. Of stating something big and living in the shadow of it.

I’m uncomfortable with being large, bold, and loud. I’m afraid of being noticed. Of standing out of the crowd, but yet it is one thing I want. I do want noticed and so does everyone. We want at least one or two others to notice our uniqueness or our special beauty. That dreamy eyed guy or the hot one across the room. Yeah I want that. If someone introduced me to Enrique Iglesias, I would be afraid to say hello. It scares me. If someone promoted my book and people were lining up for me to sign it, that scares me.

I’m afraid of the performance.  If I am called on to state exactly what I believe and why, I get mushy and wishy-washy, because it scares me to boldly state my case.

Intense focus, “this is what I believe and why” scares me. Not having scientific proof or someone else’s studies to back me up is scary. Obscurity and generality are easy. I kinda sorta feel this way. In my opinion it looks like this. Nailing it down, that’s difficult.

The thought of limiting myself to one endeavor the rest of my life terrifies me. The thought of being trapped is the same.English: Words associated with Fear

There are those who are focused and do one thing well. Then we, the scattered, enjoy a variety of events happening at one time. I often have 3 or more books with different genres started all at once. I finish them, because I like the variety. When I am asked to pick only one activity that I would want to devote myself to, I come up blank.

Malcolm Gladwell speaks of being taught to “Do many things and none of them well.”

Journalist Malcolm Gladwell has thought about stereotypes. Growing up in Ontario to an English father and Jamaican mother, he became one of the top sprinters in his age-group and he noticed that a surprising number of the most successful runners in Canada were from Jamaica. It got him wondering about the relationship between race and athletic success, and he’s pretty sure his initial ideas were wrong.

http://www.radiolab.org/2008/dec/15/race-and-medicine/

It is quite a surprise when you hear what truth is regarding the better athletes according to Malcolm Gladwell. It wasn’t what I would have thought.

Which reminds me of  “IRRATIONAL FEARS AND FADED MEMORIES”.

(warning: video below has 4 letter words)

Like a New Pair of Glasses

I recently got new glasses. I’ve worn contacts for years, but my eyes itched from allergies, so I decided to update my glasses. As I was driving down a familiar ramp, onto a familiar street, it occurred to me to pay closer attention. Even though the road is familiar and the narrow ramp hasn’t changed, my eyesight had. The ramp sidewall looked closer and if I wasn’t paying attention, I could easily scrape my car on the side. 

If your life has changed

Imagine what it would be like if you made a major change in your lifestyle. I’m not referring to the color of your hair or even in the car you drive. Something more along the lines of a sex change or becoming suddenly rich or suddenly poor. How long would it take to adjust? It seems that becoming suddenly rich would be easy. Take off the brakes and let it rip! Right? It’s not always that easy, even though we’d like to try it. Take something as simple as a new car or borrowing a car of a friends. You’ve never driven this vehicle before. It’s hood is a lot longer. The car is a bit wider. It will make parking it in the normal spot at work or the grocery store more difficult. Maybe you’ll park it farther out in the parking lot. Which will mean walking more to get inside. You should probably leave for work 5 or 10 minutes earlier or else you might be late. If you have to park far away, your feet will hurt.

Dramatic changes, even good ones, can upset your balance. Imagine wearing tight shoes. It hurts to walk and we want to stop. So if your walk and your stamina changes by such a little thing as tight shoes, imagine what it would be like to dramatically change your life, such as a sex change. I realize that there’s probably no one reading this blog that’s thinking of changing their life that much, but if something that big happened to you, how long could you handle it before you would want to revert to your comfortable self?

Maybe the change is something you wanted. Or you had no choice at all as in losing a spouse to cancer. There’s no going back. The shoes that are too tight and that change your walk can come off at the end of the day. Being a widow or widower can’t.

So why am I mentioning this? Because changing your life even for your own health, is difficult. Like too tight shoes, you can easily toss most things to the wind. Why bother? It’s not worth this much effort. The meals the doctor want me to eat cost too much, or they take a long time to prepare. It’s easier to stop at a fast food place for a dollar burger. Am I right?

If we want to upgrade our life, we need to learn how to adapt. If we’re forced by fate to accept a new life, give ourselves some time to adapt. No new thing is comfortable. Discomfort is okay. Learn this new person. Because just like with a new pair of glasses or driving a different car, we have to become familiar with all the newness.

Be kind and forgiving. Sit down. Rest. Then get back up and start again. If you splurged on an extra cookie or two, don’t punish yourself. For the next meal carry on as usual. No punishing by making yourself skip the next dessert.

Most often we sabotage ourselves. People that divorce will remarry quickly and end up with the same situation as before. They didn’t allow themselves to readjust. Discomfort overwhelmed them and they wanted to fix their pain. If they could have given themselves more time to heal and process their emotions, instead of slapping on a quick bandage fix, they could have become a much stronger person. We cheat ourselves and sell ourselves short. We don’t think we are strong enough to make it through the emptiness. The dark cave scares all of us. It’s what we do when we are the most afraid that matters. Can we keep on walking through or do we panic and start slashing our imaginary demons?

Growth can only happen if we let ourselves be uncomfortable. Let ourselves feel the anxiety of a new situation. We avoid anxiety. I do at least, but I also know that if I let myself go through an unfamiliar situation I can transform it into a familiar situation. This new thing becomes an old familiar road once again and I have expanded my territory. Most people, as they get older, cling more and more to the familiar. We retire to a smaller home. Maybe sell all but one car. You have fewer friends since you’re not working. The ever-expanding life you once had is now shrinking. It just happens. Taking on challenges is what the young ones do. There’s not anything forcing us to dare or to try anymore, so we don’t.

I don’t want to become rigid as I grow older. I want to continue taking challenges. Since there’s no one around to force me to try new things, I must continually expose myself to new ideas. I want to keep growing. To not become stale. This will need self-discipline and steadiness on my part to stay with the unfamiliar until it becomes familiar to me.

Aha! Another level beaten! Where’s my prize?

She Let Go

10 of 365 - Let Go

I was once afraid to let go. I was afraid of drifting away on the wind, like Winnie the Pooh.

With no direction, I didn’t know if I’d drift to the closest tree with honey or blow up into the sky and be lost forever. But I let go. When it hurts too much to hold on, you let go.

She let go

On the last day of school when I was five, I came out the school door to find my mom. My hands and arms were full with a big poster, sacks with crayons and paper, and stuff. A big gust of wind came and I was afraid I’d be picked up. I was tiny. The wind felt strong, but mom was in front of me and I ran towards her. I knew she would grab me. She was my anchor and probably still is in many ways.

Once, when I was an adult, I was helping my in-laws. They had huge nursery greenhouses full of plants they sold wholesale to florist. The greenhouses had coverings of heavy plastic that they replaced when torn. We were in the middle of prairie land Oklahoma, where the wind really does go sweeping ‘cross the plains. I had an end piece of a 100 foot long piece of plastic sheeting and the wind was showing her might. All of the others were struggling on their hold so I didn’t feel alone. But one thought was there. What if the wind picks me up? Yes that nagging fear has followed me all my life. Well? What if?

What would happen if the waves of the ocean would have lifted me and carried me away. What if the balloons had too much helium and I drifted into the sky? What would it mean? Would I never see land again? All I’ve ever noticed was the fear. The first taste of panic. I’ve never thought of it in practical, light of day terms.

Dandelion wind

I could lose my footing in the ocean, but I would just as quickly be pushed forwards. The wind may have temporarily lifted me but I would be slammed back down again. It might be painful but I’d probably survive. Truly, I lacked control over life and it was terrifying to me. Still learning this. There is no control. We grab and cling and grasp with all our might, but we can’t hold on forever. Let go. I promise, the wind won’t take you completely away. You will not fly away into the clouds, just moved. When you let go, you learn. You learn what’s important and what is habit. You learn how strong you really are. Life is full of surprises. Some good and some bad. We may not want a change, but they tend to happen anyway. I like this moment. I want it to stay. I even believe I can keep it a little longer sometimes. If I hold my mouth just right and say the right words and think the right thoughts. You know what I mean?

The truth is, the right words are pretty. And being positive is healthier like jogging and eating your vegetables, but not going to keep the bad guys out. We all have a set point. The base of who we are. It’s our foundation, our steady. When I went through my “dark night,” the words came to me, Go back to what you know for sure. I didn’t know exactly what that meant, but I felt inside of me an understanding. I to go to the basis of my beliefs. That took me all the way down past religions and holy days and all the frills of rituals. What do I believe? What do I know for sure? I AM LOVED and I LOVE. At that time I wasn’t sure about marriage, or family, or even God. But I did know love. If I am able to move mountains, but if I have not love, I am nothing.

Love is my anchor. Love is my guide. It helps me decide which way I want to go. If only I stop and check my motives, I can see clearly because of love. The one thing I was so blessed to have in my childhood was love. And it kept me. 

Moods and Cravings

Earlier I was feeling a bit morose. I was feeling a bit sorry for myself. Actually, it has been for the last several days. Janet had private a pity party. I didn’t stay in that state because I know that it doesn’t help. I prefer to find the reason for my mood and do something about it. Most of the time, my moods come and go without lingering. This time my emotions and I seemed to be playing peek-a-boo. That’s why I realized that this could be important.

Not hiding

I stopped swiping them to the side and just looked. Yes, I missed seeing my children since they’ve grown up. I missed reading their cute little books to them and watching the cartoons they enjoyed. Their squirmy bodies would curl up next to me on the couch while we watched The Lion King or 101 Dalmatians for the thousandth time. Memories and grief are normal and usually don’t last. This time I realized it wasn’t just those instances that were absent. I needed to wake up and notice what was lacking in my life.

Cravings that linger

It reminds me of food cravings. Most foods that I crave are an impulse. I read about brownies and suddenly I’m overwhelmed with a craving for brownies. The same happens with coffee or popcorn or any other food. But other times a food craving lingers and I realize I’m craving something my body needs at that moment.

Using the same logic for my emotions, I must need something that I was getting during the time I was spending time with my kiddos. I’m sure that you’ve analyzed this and you are shouting at your screen how obvious it is. Sometimes I am a little slow when it comes to my emotional needs.

It happens most often when I am trying to fill an idealized version of myself. Much like looking at a picture in a magazine of a living room. It’s decorated so perfectly. All of the books stacked and the table is free of clutter. Shoes are out of sight and obviously, no one has a throw pillow on the floor or a blanket nailed over a window to block the sunlight. My living space is real and as much as I want it impressively decorated and ingeniously designed, it isn’t.  My house fits me with its galley kitchen and old refrigerator. The place is close to the highways I use and the cost of maintaining my place is minimal. No fuss and that’s how I like it.

This is where I live

This body of mine is a real body. It is my living space. I have to treat it in the way that helps it work the best. If I over stress it with high expectations or overwhelm it with too many activities, it will start throwing alarm switches until I listen. This last week my body has started with reminding me that frugality is admirable but stinginess is cruel. My washing machine quit working a few weeks back so I had been “making do” until I could save enough to buy a new washer. While that sounds wonderful, I realize I was not being frugal for a purely financial reason. There was a huge chunk of ego that wanted to boast how worthy I am! Quite a laughable thing once I realize what a tricky thing our psyche is. After taking a step back and looking at the situation I went to a local home improvement store and financed a washing machine. True, I could have waited, but it was stressing me unnecessarily.

Herd of trolleys
Herd of trolleys (Photo credit: Joe Dunckley)

Have you ever tried to push a shopping cart with a twisted wheel? That’s how it felt. I kept going, kept trying, because that’s what I do. I keep pushing because I know I can. I’m strong and capable, right? When I took care of my needs I realized how tiring my enduring had made me. When I stopped trying to push the broken cart down the aisle I could release the burden I was carrying.

What was I talking about? Pity party?

So, back to my pity party. What is your estimation of my mood? Was it because I really missed my children? Or maybe I missed the moments that seemed carefree? To me there were no better moments in my life than those when I could just sit and be there with my boys. Them and their little boy TV shows filled with whimsical characters and superhero outfits. I feel better now. Revived and refreshed. Somehow just taking the time for myself to remember that part of my life, the joy of it, has brought a smile to my face. I am no longer sad that I can’t have those little guys as a part of my life anymore. They are a little big for Power Rangers. I can now come back to my present moment and I can spread a bit of the whimsy to today. I realize I had unrealistic expectations of myself and I wasn’t allowing myself to live in the moment.

  • I choose not to kill my soul with harsh criticism and unrealistic expectations.
  • I choose to let joy and life flow through me, so that when the time comes I can also bring joy to others.
  • I choose to be a part of life in the now and not above it. The future is sometimes frightening and I don’t want to face it but there is always a way. There is always a simple step. It’s not always the boastful, shiny, impressive way, but there is a solution.
  • I choose to glean the joys of yesterday and like seeds in the garden, I will sprinkle them with honor and watch them blossom.
  • I choose to honor myself, as I am, even all the jiggly parts.

Jiggly Juicy Parts- That Vital Spark

Limitations, Boundaries, and those cute Picket Fences

mskittyshoulderSometimes when I’m in the bathroom my cat will sit on the floor and stare at me. It’s annoying. You may ask why I don’t lock her out. I feel guilty. She is home alone all day so I feel I shouldn’t limit my time with her. So I resent her stare.

Games we play

This is the game we play and you may recognize it. She stares and I feel guilty. I pet her and allow her to rub around my legs, until. There’s only so much I can take with all that attention. We both mean well.

The funny thing about it is, when I am with her overextended vacations, she still meows when she doesn’t see me in the room with her. If I step outside to take out the trash or go run an errand, it’s no different. She still wants the same amount of attention as she did when I’m only home for a few hours. So in my great reasoning, I don’t think it’s because she misses me.
I read somewhere that a cat’s memory is only a few minutes. She doesn’t know how long I’ve been gone.

This guilt I feel is just empty guilt. I am projecting how I would feel in her shoes (paws).  So why am I feeling so miserable? What do I really want? I like it when we snuggle up on the couch together. I like it when she greets me in the morning. Even when I come home. The time when I’m in the bathroom and she’s staring at me is my fault. I let it happen. If I really want to be alone at that time I need to close the door. A simple thing really.

picket fence
picket fence (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How often do we do this? We yell at people unnecessarily instead of metaphorically and physically closing the door. Have you ever told someone “Yes, I’ll do that for you,” when really you feel like vomiting at the thought of doing it? We go along with things when we have other plans. We say yes to their idea even when we disagree. It’s not necessary. We think we’re being kind. All we’re really doing is building up a reason to hate someone who we would normally love. That’s what resentment does. It builds a wall of hate. Get enough resentment built up and what happens? We yell. We scream. We blame. We walk away in anger. Is this what we want? Is it inevitable?

Kids need boundaries

http://www.examiner.com/article/why-children-need-boundaries
In the study with a group of children on a playground, the children without a fence around them did not play close to the edge but clustered towards the center. The children that were in a fenced area used the entire playground to play. So it would seem that if you place boundaries in your life and those around you, you are actually giving yourself freedom. Ironic isn’t it? I know in my life, I feel freer creatively, if no one is around to disturb me and there are no other pending appointments. When I know my creative time is short I feel pressure, which goes against every creative bone in my body.

Right here and now

I have the right to close my bathroom door so that I’m not stared at by my cat. I have the right to not answer my phone if I’m needing to work. I feel so much freer knowing that I can put a fence around my time and declare that this is my time. I can put up a fence and stick my flag in the ground. This is my time! Right here and now. Kings do it, presidents do it, astronauts do it in the name of their country, and so can you. If it helps, you can make yourself a flag and put it in the middle of your room or outside your closed door. Name your kingdom. Just remember, you are the enforcer. Even if your best friend calls or your mother, you have to let them know that you will have to call them later.

If this has not been a part of your life before, people may not honor your boundary. But if you continually tell them, eventually they will learn to respect your fence. With cats, children, spouses, or parents, it’s no different. They learn what we teach them. If we teach them that it’s okay to call us names and hurt our feelings (by allowing it), then that is what we will get. Some people in your life will need retraining. But that’s okay. Think of it as an experiment. Who is the easiest to teach? How long did it take? How did they react in comparison to a different person? Be firm, but not rude. repeat the same line 30 or 40 times if necessary. “I can’t talk now. I’ll call you at 5:00.”  Don’t explain. Don’t vary. I’ve used this technique several times and it’s like magic, but you have to state it firmly and without emotion.

What works for you? Leave a comment.

How To Live Your Life as a Novelist

David Oscarson - Valhalla
David Oscarson – Valhalla (Photo credit: s.yume)

One of the first things you learn in the craft of writing fiction is how to develop your characters. You place your characters in a setting as a child would place his toys. They are ready for their lives. Each one with his or her own agenda, wants, and desires. Let them glimpse their future. <insert evil laugh here>

 

Their winning is there for the taking. You can see the lust for the finish line twinkle in their eyes. When they are almost there, thwart their efforts. Weather, family, or disease. the evil novelist rules the world.

Sometimes it seems our lives are like that, like some malicious author is blocking our moves just to develop our character.

 

This is character development by chaos 101.

 

Welcome to class. In front of you are your notebooks and pens. grab the funky pen or the bright-colored one, I don’t care. Begin.

 

What’s your dream goal? Happiness? Hmm, I can’t work with that. A job? Simple enough. A spouse? That’s possible. But we all know that just any ol’ job won’t do. We want a powerful or high dollar job, right? Or a glamorous job, with flashing camera lights maybe. High dollar shoes and high dollar cars. And the paparazzi following your every move. Am I right? Well at least until you get those things. What do you really want? Write it down.

 

Truly we all want something different. You might want the bright lights and the paparazzi. Some want the money so they can afford more fuzzy slippers. And pajamas. Who doesn’t want to live in their pajamas.

Me? I want to feel I’ve helped someone. That I will always be brightening other’s lives all through my existence. How about you? fame? money? health? children? Whatever it is, what is in your way? Time? Are there not enough hours? Maybe it’s just a clear idea of how to get there.

 

Change, It’s What’s a Happening!

We outgrow things.
Shoes and clothes. Styles and winter coats. Our hair gets long and we cut it short. We file our nails and then have to file them again.

Sometimes it seems endlessly tiring, all of this change. Wearing the clothes, washing the clothes, mending the clothes. Folding them and then unfolding them. But this is the cycle of our lives.

We outgrow teachers. We outgrow friends. We leave our parents and then we meet them as adults. We don’t normally see the exact start of change, but change flows through our being just as the seasons flow through the trees and the earth.

There’s no sense trying to stop it, as if we could. Greet it as a friend because we are no match facing it as an enemy. No gun will make it scare away. No stalling will hide you. The growth, the change, the leaving, these are the only things that are consistent.

We are all agents of change as well as the ones being changed. Below, I have a video for you to enjoy. It’s called the Fibonacci in Lateralus.

The Fibonacci in Lateralus