Love. Life. Practice.

Personal Development with Gray Miller

Archive for the tag “Life”

a life of dignity

A Dignified About-Face

When I was a kid, we had a cat named Dignity. We named him that, Mom said, “…because he had none.” That was certainly the case as a kitten, but as he grew older, like all cats, he managed to develop a certain feline dignity. Even when falling off a perch, he was a master of “I meant to do that…”

dignity-always-dignityThe other association I have with the word is from one of my favorite movies, Singin’ in the Rain:

Well, Dora, l’ve had one motto which l’ve always lived by: ”Dignity. Always, dignity!” – Don Lockwood (played by Gene Kelly)

But what, really, does that mean? What is dignity? And don’t go all dictionary.com on me; you use the word, you must have some idea of what it means to you. So think about it for a moment: is dignity important to you? Do you have it? How do you know? What does it look like?

While I’m hoping to see your thoughts in the comments, right now I’ll tell you what I think: I think that dignity is something that you can only really feel for yourself. That is, I might look at a person and think they are dignified, but they feel ridiculous. At the same time, I might feel completely dignified myself and have other people thinking I’m ridiculous. In fact, I’m certain that latter phenomenon has occurred more than once.

So it’s a feeling – but a feeling of what, exactly? “It feels undignified…” is a common phrase – but what exactly does that mean?

When Purpose Unites with Principle

Working without dignity is to divorce our values from how we spend the majority of our waking hours. – Sam Spurlin, 99U

The Workologist (quoted above) lays out a pretty convincing argument that the essence of dignity is a combination of curiosity, craftsmanship, and humility. While I enjoyed his article (and site) immensely, I’m not sure that I think it needs to be that complicated. I believe dignity is acquired through one simple thing: uniting your principles and your actions together. Sometimes that’s unpleasant, such as when I deactivated my Facebook profile today.

Why did I deactivate it? Aside from the myriad privacy and identity issues that continue to plague the site, quite simply I have problems with an environment that bans images of nipples but finds videos of burning kittens alive acceptable. Or, to put it another way: the naked human body is verboten, but harming innocent life is ok. If that doesn’t make sense to you, that’s fine; I’m not doing it to set an example, I’m doing it simply because my purpose on the internet – to communicate, to interact online – needs to align with my principles. Facebook doesn’t. Thankfully it’s not the only game in town.

Why am I sad? Have you ever tried to deactivate your account? They really do an amazing job of guilt-tripping you. They show your top friends (and family) and talk about how much they’ll miss you. They warn of all the email notifications and invites and birthdays you’ll miss. They let you go, finally, but they’re right: I will miss the easy access to seeing my daughters, my grandsons, my parents and cousins (especially you, Nate).

But at the same time: If my family and friends all hung out at a restaurant that was playing videos of kittens burning alive while kicking out nursing mothers, I would not frequent that restaurant. Even if I could look away and not see it, the mere fact of knowing it would be enough.

That, to me, is what dignity is. It’s a cold comfort, but it’s the knowledge, as Sam Spurlin would put it, that the place where we spend our waking hours is not divorced from our values. Rather, we create lives that reflect, reinforce, and improve our values and our relationships with each other.

Sorry, Facebook. It’s been fun, but until you grow up, I’m afraid I’m going to have to do without.

She is clothed in strength and dignity and she laughs without fear of the future.

Proverbs 31:25

don’t just survive; flourish!

With Flourish & Panache…

Flourishing means getting on with the things that are important for you to do, exercising your capacities, actively trying to ‘realize’ what you care about and bring it into life…
– John Armstrong, How to Worry Less About Money

There’s a big reason my new book – the first Love Life Practice book – is all about figuring out what you want out of life. It’s based on a class that was born out of necessity.

Nearly a decade ago, as I began to travel around North America and Europe teaching, over and over I found that people wanted less of the technical skills of movement and performance and more of the psychological skills. They were interested more in conversations about motivation, presence, character development, collaborative creation. Over and over the questions kept boiling down to the same question that people asked themselves and others: Why am I doing this?

The unfortunate response they were discovering, over and over, was “…because I thought I was supposed to.” That’s not a terribly satisfying motivation. The process of the Defining Moment, while coming out of a performance framework, moved beyond scenes and plays and into people’s lives, trying to change “…supposed to…” into “…had to because it was right for me!
Nourish and Flourish courtesy ScribbleTaylor via Flickr CC
Now that’s a motivation! That’s something you don’t have to get behind, because it’s already behind you, pushing you towards your destiny.

Yes, that’s right. I used the D word, because it is what proceeds inexorably from the other things we talk about here:

Watch your thoughts; they become words.
Watch your words; they become actions.
Watch your actions; they become habit.
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.”
– Lao Tse

Every once in a while it’s worth it to take a look at your life and ask: Am I flourishing? Or am I merely surviving? There are certainly times when just doing the latter is quite an achievement – but it’s also an opportunity. If all you’re managing is survival, then you have the chance to really look at what you might add to your life that would take it a step closer to flourishing.

It could be something big, like a different living arrangement, a new job. It might be the cultivation of a habit, like journaling or eating more fresh fruit. It might be as simple as trying to find things to be thankful for each and every day.

Really, it could be anything. But it almost certainly is something. If you don’t start figuring it out today, that’s one more day of flourishing that you’ve denied yourself.

Quick: ask yourself “What flourish can I add to my day?

See? That’s not so hard!

“Flourishing captures what we actually aspire to: the best use of our capacities and abilities; involvement in things we take to be worthwhile; the formation and expression of one’s best self.” – John Armstrong

How about cultivating a habit
of supporting your favorite
Love Life Practice blog?
Become a Patron
for as low as $1/month!

enjoy the mystery

“Spoilers!” – Riversong

  • Rosebud is his sled.
  • Bruce Willis is a ghost.
  • The Titanic hits an iceberg and sinks.

For those who haven’t seen the movies that the first two spoilers refer to, I apologize. If you don’t know the third, you’ve only yourself to blame. One of the biggest reasons we love stories is because to some extent we want to be surprised. I read somewhere that the formula for a good book was to give the reader 75% of what they expect and 25% of what they never saw coming.

Do you read the last page of a mystery whodunit? Do you fast forward to the end of some Joss Whedon series to see which character he decides to kill off? Do you just want to hear the score before you get a chance to watch the game you recorded? Or are you the person who posts “No spoilers! on their status update the day after the latest Sons of Anarchy episode?

I suspect most people don’t want to know the ending of the stories they enjoy beforehand. There are certainly joys to revisiting tales even after you know the ending – how many times have you read your favorite book, watched your favorite movie? But when you find someone who hasn’t experienced it, don’t you feel a twinge of envy? They get to see what happens for the first time, and that can be such a joy.

The Narrative Life

“What suprise? ‘Vader’ means ‘father’ in German. His name is literally ‘Darth Father’” – Pitch Perfect

This being the case, why do we stress so much about not knowing what happens next in our own lives? Do we really want to know? Sure, we can have plans, just like we plan on reading a thriller or a mystery or a self-help book. We can root for the protagonist and hope that the villain gets their due. But why on earth would we want to know where we’re going to end up?

Not only that, why would we stress about it? Instead, I think there’s a responsibility for the author to make sure that it’s a good book. One of the more frustrating things about some movies are when you get to the “big reveal” and you say to yourself Wait a minute. That doesn’t make any sense. The teller of a tale has a responsibility to lay out the pieces of the story in a way that when you get to the end, you did see it coming – or at least can find it plausible.

The nice thing about reality is that it’s not deterministic. There are many different endings possible from each set of circumstances (watch the movie “Clue” for a brilliant illustration of this fact) and that means that there’s always room for a “twist” ending, for the story to be whatever the director decides.

courtesy BS Wise, flickr CC

Don’t forget: the lens you look through matters, too.

Surprise! The Director is You

Ok, not much of a surprise. You probably saw that coming a mile away. Or maybe it is a surprise, as it is to me, since I started this little commentary with the idea that we are the writers of our own tales.

Upon reflection, though, it’s far more like being a director. You are given a script, and various influences – locations, costume designers, lighting, actors – to make the movie look and feel the way you envision it. The more complex the movie, however, the more rewrites and revisions and edits and new scenes you need…but that’s how masterpieces happen.

Sure, there are directors whose vision goes directly from first draft to screen almost unchanged. Just as there are some people whose lives seem to simply be planned out from birth, with few surprises or twists. But if you listen to the director’s commentaries or read books about the process of making movies, you hear about the changes, the surprises, the serenditous coincidences and world-ending obstacles that had to be overcome.

Not all movies are good. Not all directors are open to the input of others. And some movies just don’t work out due to things like budgets or actors dropping out. You can take the metaphor as far as you like, but what it comes down to is this: you are in the process, right now, of directing the story of your life.

It’s fine to have an idea of the story you want to tell – in fact, that’s probably a good idea. But don’t stress about the ending. It will inevitably reveal itself. Do what you can to make this chapter, this scene, more beautiful and moving, and trust to the process.

Leave the spoilers to the ones who come after.

Speaking of knowing the ending,
you can get a sneak peek at the “Defining Moment”
rough draft by signing up
to be a Patron of LoveLifePractice
for as low as a $1!

living the life you want to remember

Instant Dilemma; Just Add Text

Every once in a while you get faced with an issue that seems completely unsolvable, until something changes to make it eminently solvable.

Here’s how the timeline went:

4:50 am: Wake up to take partner to her work at the coffee shop; I plan to write and do other work there until 10am, when I have a volunteer shift at the VA Hospital.

5:00 am: Find text that Middle Daughter sent previous night asking for some study time together. We’d tried to find that time yesterday, but scheduled meetings, transportation, etc. hadn’t allowed for it. “I’m totally serious about it this moring,” she wrote. “Let’s make it happen!

Antinomy

That’s a fun word – it means “when two equally urgent but opposing needs express at the same time.” My whole moving back to Madison, WI has been one gigantic lifehack, an experiment in happiness. Since research shows that (statistically) people are happier when they volunteer and when they focus on family and friends, I’ve been doing that. And you know what? It’s working. I’m happier these days than I’ve ever been.

But the volunteer work is just that: volunteer. Nobody forces me to go, I’m not (like many other volunteers) filling in hours for Med School or somesuch. Really, it’s an excuse to wear sexy scrubs and bring smiles to vets who don’t get a lot of positive attention or respect in their day. The staff of the hospital treats them amazingly well, mind you – when I’m being treated there, it’s amazing how many times I get “sir’d” or thanked for my service.

In the rest of their worlds, though, a lot of these men and women are struggling with persistent problems with little help. I can’t solve their problems – in fact, I’m not allowed to even try – but I can be a pleasant and respectful person who pushes their wheelchair down to radiology or brings them a warmed blanket. And at the end of my three-hour shift I do, in fact, feel happier. Since there’s nothing urgent about my time there – at best, I’m a dose of “nice” in their day – I need to prioritize it myself. I need to push it ahead of the write more – make clients happy – do more stuff priorities to make it happen.

But Think of the Children!

On the other hand, my daughter is working her way through the difficult second year of medical school. She and her sisters and my grandsons are the primary reason I came back here, to get to both spend time with them and, when possible, be a help. They already have a great support system here, but I manage to fill in the gaps here and there with rides to appointments or Emergency Grandpa Childcare. I made a promise to myself a while back that I would make them a priority in my day-to-day planning – so I cancel most plans if possible to help them out, and given a choice between “spend time with them” or not, I always opt for “spend time” even if I don’t really feel like it. Time with them is the one thing I can’t make more of, after all, so it’s best to make it happen when I can.

The ultimate goal is to get good enough at this kind of family priority to extend it to my sisters, parents, nephews and nieces. I’m not quite that good yet, but I have seen them more in the past year than in the several before that. Kaizen: getting better, little by little.

Two priorities. Two responsibilities I’ve given myself, and I can’t do both. Sure, kids would normally be much more important than volunteer work – but Middle Daughter is an adult, she doesn’t need me to study with her. But the VA doesn’t need me either. Wouldn’t I be modeling good behavior by keeping my shift? Or would M.D. (heh, just realized, that’s funny) feel that she wasn’t important enough for me to reschedule volunteer work?

This was what went through my head as:

5:15am I settle into my chair, open my journal, and start writing.

barriquesJournalProtocols to the Rescue

My pen hesitated over the page. What was I going to write about? Was it going to be rationalizing my decision either way? Was it going to be “Today I get to spend time with my middle daughter…” or “Today I made a Vietnam Vet guffaw and smile as I shook his hand…“? As I paused, trying to decide, a question popped into my head:

What do you want people to read here?

At that, the dilemma disappeared in a puff of smoke. Because while I don’t know who, if anyone, will read my journals down the line, in my imagination it is someone like my grandson Harvey or Victor, and I know I would want them to read about how I had spent more time with their Tita (that’s Tagalog for “Aunt”). I would want them to know how much their grandfather loved his daughters. In fact, I’d want them to think I loved them far more than I do, because, after all, the real me is imperfect. The journaled me…well, as Heinlein said, autobiographies are often true but rarely honest.

Which is why I get to write this post while my daughter sits next to me, drinking the coffee I bought her and her roommate, studying the Krebs cycle. Is it a perfect morning? No. But it’s a happier one. And all it took was asking myself not What story do you want to write? but What story do you want to have written?

“I didn’t find my story; it found me, as autobiography always does: finds you out in your deepest most private places.”
Kelly Cherry, The Exiled Heart: A Meditative Autobiography

Defining Moment: the Defined Life

138390945_937ac7cdaa_b

“One more thing…” – Steve Jobs

It may be obvious, but it bears saying: unlike the Highlander, when it comes to the Defining Moment there can be more than one. If you’ve tried this process on one of your dreams, close your eyes, take a breath, and ask yourself: What would I really like?

Poof! Another Defining Moment is born, and you can start the whole process over again. It is something that gets easier with practice. You get better at understanding just how many resources you have available to you. You get better at identifying risks and implications. The whole process can move faster, and notebooks filled with the processes are really fun to go back and look over. It’s like a scrapbook for the inside of your brain.

Reverse Engineering

There’s another neat thing about Defining Moments: when you’ve gone to that much trouble to create one, you also acquire more skill at identifying them when they happen. There may be some moment – seeing your child smile as you play with them on the floor, letting a well-turned sentence flow out of your keyboard, that burst of endorphins as you get most of the way through your workout – when you suddenly realize that you feel happy. A little voice inside may take note of that moment and say “*Ah ha!*” and file it away.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could start to shape your life so that moments like that happen more often. What is life, after all, but a series of moments one after the other. I’m not saying it has to be a constant effervescent experience of liminal consciousness, now – remember, this is a blog about how to make hard times happier, not how to be happy – but you can learn how your relaxing and quiet times are Defining Moments as well as the exhilarating experience of meeting a challenge and overcoming it.

Pay attention. Defining Moments are all around you, and there’s only one person who has the responsibility to both find and create them. You know who that is already; the question is when will you get around to doing something about it?

“What. Are you. Prepared. To DO?” – Sean Connery, The Untouchables

The Defining Moment: Courage Overcomes Expectations

Not Much Left

There’s really only a few last things to say now that you’ve figured out your Defining Moment, found a way to make it happen, and analyzed the results. You know now one of two things: what it’s like to do it, or what it’s like to not bother with the whole process.

That’s fine. It’s impossible to do all the things you read about, or all the things that you want to do. This might be one of them, kind of like running a marathon is for me. Not only that, I can give you two reasons why your life becomes harder once you actually go through this process and figure out what your Defining Moment is.

Courage is for the Fearful

“Life rewards those who move in the direction of greatest courage.” – Franklin Veaux

You have to remember that it’s impossible to be brave without being scared. Bravery, courage, those are what happen when you’re scared but you do the necessary thing anyway.

The hardest part of the Defining Moment is having the courage to admit what your dream actually is. It almost certainly is not what you are doing now, or what other people expect you to do; if it were, why would you be reading this? As the previous chapters have shown, it’s not hard to actually make it happen – it’s simply a matter of taking the time to do the work.

The hard part is when that dream runs against your external expectations. When you tell people (or just show them) that you’re going to be sailing on the lake even though everyone knows you can’t swim; when you say you’re going to write a book when everyone knows you’re actually good a math. The world is full of stories of people who have had to counter the expectations of their environment and the people around them in order to make their Moment happen.

It’s hard, but it’s doable. In some ways it becomes easier because you’ve got an external opponent to work against. I know that there was a moment in boot camp when I would have given up except for one thing: I was not going to let my future father-in-law be right in his expectation of my failure.

So I succeeded, instead, just to spite him. Ooh-Rah!

The Harder Part

Sure, it sucks to be the only one who believes in your dream. But what if you don’t even have that ally? What if you go through all the analysis of the first few chapters and you’re left looking at a piece of paper that has something on it that contradicts your own expectations of yourself? Opera? But I’m in my second year of business school! or Stay home with my daughter while I build my niche website? But I’m supposed to be the breadwinner! or even just I can’t do that for a living, because I enjoy that, and I’m not supposed to like my job.

If that’s what you’re facing, it’s a much harder path to navigate. In fact, I will be blunt: it’s beyond the scope of this website. That’s the kind of thing where you might need to look for the help of a therapist and do a whole lot of internal work to get to the point where you and your expectations of yourself are on the same side.

It’s not an easy road to follow. It is quite possibly impossible for many people, which is why blogs like this keep coming around. Because you might be one of the lucky few for whom it’s not impossible – for whom the path is simply hard.

And hard is easy to get past. Just put one foot in front of the other, one word after the other, one thing after another.

What are you waiting for?

“Change happens when the pain of holding on becomes greater than the fear of letting go.” ― Spencer Johnson

BONUS POST: Review of Chris Guillebeau’s “The Happiness of Pursuit”

A Dangerous Book About Extraordinary Lives, Including Yours.

As a fellow writer on topics of personal development, I opened “The Happiness of Pursuit” with a healthy dose of skepticism. I was expecting a sort of “cure for the bored and privileged” story of hipsters and such.

Man, was I ever wrong. And very happily so.

Sure, there are people he profiles in the book who had the advantages of wealth or societal position. But there were many who didn’t. Some were solo quests, some were group endeavors. There were stories of tragedy and love and a lot of humor and most of all story after story of human kindness. This is a book that helps restore your faith in the human capacity for both incredible achievement and astonishing generosity.

At the same time it is more than simply a series of anecdotes (including many from Chris’ own quest to visit every country in the world). He examines the motivations behind quests, the processes by which people attempt, fail, or accomplish them. It’s a methodical, scientific approach, pulling out common factors and then presenting them in a way that the reader can use for themselves.

It is a dangerous book in that way. Early in the book he focused on the premise that everyone needs a quest, something to strive towards. My guard was up instantly, since I’m rather happy with my life the way it is: “The last thing I need is a quest! I have to make sure I do NOT let this book derail me into some fool odyssey that will disrupt my life!” Sure enough, about halfway through I’m thinking things like “Huh, maybe I should take up that 100 pushups challenge after all…” or “I’ve always wanted to visit Antarctica” (even though I haven’t). Chris’ engaging and persuasive writing style – talking enough about his own experience to establish credibility without crossing the line into braggodocio – nudges the reader closer and closer over that boundary between “Oh, I couldn’t…” and “Why not?”

Most impressive of all, though, is that unlike many other inspiring books, Chris doesn’t leave you hanging after the inspiration strikes. He spends a good portion of the book talking realistically about the troubles and barriers that occur during quests, including very specific criteria for identifying when it’s best to just quit. He also goes into what to do when you’re done – describing that strange feeling of emptiness that occurs when you’ve done the thing you wanted to do, and are wondering “what next?”

That is possibly the biggest thing that sets this book apart from others in the genre – he covers it all, not just the initial parts, and justifies his initial assertion that everyone does need to find their quest. I thought it was best summed up in one sentence: “Regret is what you should fear the most.”

It’s a quick and easy read, very entertaining, but I’d recommend taking it slowly and letting each chapter marinate in your thoughts for a while. This is a book, like most of his, that has the potential to change your life if you let it.

Defining Moment, Part 13: Final Evaluations

The Consequence Hero

Everybody, sooner or later, sits down to a banquet of consequences.
– Robert Louis Stevenson

It’s one of the key principles of personal development, set down everyone from Aristotle to Covey: you are free to take action, but you are not free of consequences of those actions. Many a parent has shaken their head as they watch their children figure this out (sometimes repeatedly). Then again, many a rebellious child has looked up from their banquet of consequences with a defiant gleam in their eye and said “Yeah? Well it was worth it!” as they take up another bitter mouthful.

That’s what we’re hoping for with the Defining Moment. We’re hoping, when it’s said and done, that you’ll look at the results of your experience and see a whole banquet of consequences. We’re coming up, next week, to a Very Important Question, and so it’s worthwhile to pull out all the notes we made before we did the Defining Moment and checked out just how good our predictions were.

Equality of Expectations

A wise friend of mine believes that the key to successful relationships is equality of expectations. That is, if both parties know what to expect from each other and that’s what they actually get in reality, it will go well. The same relationship applies to your Defining Moment. Was it what you expected?

Don’t feel bad if it wasn’t. We (humans) are really bad at predicting what makes us happy. Dan Gilbert, in his book Stumbling on Happiness, blah blah, blahblah.

OK, look, the reality is: everyone I know who’s done this – myself included – has actually ended up enjoying their Defining Moment more than they expected. I always say that bit about “we’re bad predictors” just in case it doesn’t go that way sometime. But honestly? Way back in the beginning we made sure that the Defining Moment was rooted in passion. That’s in our gut, and your gut usually knows what you like, even if it can’t quite make your brain express it.

It’s likely that when you went through your Defining Moment you totally effed that ineffable something. It’s likely that you’ll actually discover that no, you didn’t expect to like it that much – nor did you expect the ways that you liked it.

But please, if you try this out and your Defining Moment turns out to be less than you expected, let me know. I’m interested in someday finding out what that might be like.

Implications

The implications fall into two categories: Expected and Surprises. We’ve already had a list of possible implications, and you can go down the list saying “Hmm…yep, that one, that one…no, that didn’t happen, but that did…” That process won’t take long, because you’ve already got the notes.

Back in my Big Hair days...

Back in my Big Hair days…

But then there’s the Surprises. Those are the implications that you didn’t predict. For example:  I agreed, almost twenty years ago, to perform with some other medieval musicians for a University play. Medieval music was my hobby, nothing more; I was busy being a single Dad and working in childcare. It will be fun, I thought, just a lark.

What I didn’t expect was that the minute I walked backstage the entire ambience of The Theatre would fill my senses, and lead me to eventually change my major (twice!) and end up with a degree in Dance.

That’s what I mean: an implication that isn’t expected, that means that something in your life is going to change because of what you’ve done in your Defining Moment. It’s actually a pretty scary moment; it’s like that time a certain someone walked into a room and your eyes met and something deep inside said My life just got a bit more complicated. That’s what happened to me when I walked backstage; I knew, deep down, that this was something I needed to have in my life. I spent months fighting it, telling myself it wasn’t reasonable or practical or realistic.

All of those things were true. But it was also necessary. That’s something about the Defining Moment – it’s a great way to learn more about what is necessary for you to be fulfilled in your life.

Unfortunately, what is necessary is often unrealistic, impractical, and unreasonable. That’s why blogs like this one exist. I promise, we’ll come back to this later.

Work It

The final part of this evaluation is a simple checklist. It should have two headings:

What worked?                 What didn’t?

Then just let your brain flow. “The performance came off well. Getting a babysitter was hard. My tenor recorder doesn’t want to stay in tune. Our rehearsals were fun!” Just go through your brain, adding things to the list, and for each one, it either worked, or it didn’t.

If you find yourself writing things that you’ve already put in Expectations or Implications, then you’re getting a little off the beaten path. Expectations were about how you felt about things. Implications were the results of things. The Effectiveness Evaluation is simply taking it action-by-action and asking yourself: did this work?

All of this is leading up to what we’re going to talk about next week: the Big Question. And when I say big, I mean it. It’s a doozy!

Huge thanks to my newest Patron, Tara!
Want to be as cool as she is? Sign up on my Patreon Page!

 

how to make sense of a chaotic world

Framing Ferguson

IMG_0835.PNG

It’s a troubling time in America. More than usual.

The events in Ferguson Missouri have affected not just the national dialogue on racism, on police, on the use of force, the right to protest, and what the term “civil rights” really means.

Yet I am hesitant to comment on it directly, for a variety of reasons. The biggest being *I am not there*. Instead I try to listen to the news sources, to the live feeds of protestors, to my friends who are affected to varying degrees. I certainly have my own opinions, but I’m aware that they are at best half-formed, affected by the ways news outlets portray the events as well as the ways people on the ground report what is happening to them.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but not every opinion is equally valuable. Similarly, everyone frames the story in their own way – but some frames are more useful than others.

Rough Edges

For example, one of the biggest head-shaking moments was when the police released a video that they alleged was Michael Brown aggressively robbing a store moments before he was shot. At the same time they acknowledged that the officer who did the shooting had not been aware of the robbery. The obvious question to follow was: then why bring it up? It was not only an attempt at a distraction, it was a clumsily obvious one.

Later investigative reporting revealed that even the irrelevant tape was an edited version. The portion that was cut out showed Michael Brown paying for the cigars he had allegedly stolen. Not only an attempt at a cover-up, a clumsy attempt at one.

And that’s just one tiny facet of the whole situation. It’s easy to want to just turn it off and tune it out. I know that following the #Ferguson hashtag on twitter is like trying to drive past a gruesome accident scene – you don’t want to look, but you can’t help it, whether it’s reading the atrocities happening at night or reading the atrocities uttered by hateful people during the day.

IMG_0836.JPG

A Bigger Container

About the only useful thing I can think of at a time like this is the cultivation of perspective. Understanding that this is not just about a scared cop and a young man. It is not just about law enforcement, it is not just about race, it is not just about anything. It is not new, it is simply current, and if we have any hope of reducing things from happening like this again it is through finding a place of understanding.

The most harmful thing I can think of would be to ignore it. To refuse to engage in dialogue, to pretend that it doesn’t affect you, wherever you are in the world. If the citizens of the West Bank and Gaza can pay attention, then you can, too. And the people involved – all of whom are human beings, scared, trying their best to make sense of chaos – deserve to be witnessed.

It’s also important to recognize that the world is full of dangers that we haven’t even thought of and also full of joy. It’s hard, but we can find room in our heart for both.

It’s good exercise. Try it out.

Part 9: The Defining Moment Arrives

Do it.

That’s all there is to this step. Oh, there’s more stuff to do, but that comes after. In the meantime, you really have run out of excuses. You’ve marshaled your resources, you’ve come up with a plan of action, you’ve not only calculated the risks of failure you’ve also considered the risks of success.

There’s nothing left. There’s nothing else keeping you from it. So it’s time: let your Defining Moment happen.

Don’t Miss Your Moment

One thing you do need to work on, probably, is the ability to be present in the Moment.

  • Don’t tweet about it.
  • Don’t instagram it.
  • Don’t take any pics at all of it.
  • Don’t start blogging/journaling about it in your head as it’s happening (you know who you are)

Just pay attention. Pay attention to everything – the feeling of your body, your emotions, your reactions. Don’t try to predict what’s going to happen – just experience it happening.

Some Defining Moments are easier to do that with than others. If you’re skydiving, for example, then you pretty much don’t have a choice. Gravity works, and this is happening!

On the other hand, using the example of the person picking up my book in a bookstore without even knowing me that is my Defining Moment, well, I have a ways to go, right? And how can I manage to have it happen “spontaneously”? There’s only one way for that to work, and it’s exactly the same as fishing.

The First Step to Catch a Fish

…is to find a lake.

In the “author” Defining Moment scenario, I have to do a lot of things, including writing a book. But even when the book is out I still need to remember to spend the time at the bookstore. Not watching my book! That would be creepy. And a little sad, I think.

No, the point is that I need to hang out in the places that make my Defining Moment more likely to happen. If that’s wanting to see people pick up my book, then that’s the bookstore, right?

No. Not at all. The place I need to hang out is my desk. My computer. The places where I write. I’m going to end up at bookstores anyway – but in order for the Defining Moment to happen, I need to create an environment where it can happen.

That environment is not a bookstore. It’s a bookstore that has books by me. And while technology is a wonderful thing, the books still do not write themselves.

Is your Defining Moment going to happen on it’s own? And if not…then what are you doing to make it happen?

14611706262_8c61d9079d_z

 

Post Navigation