Brave

SF Flower

Anyone else heard about the thing where you choose one word to go with you through the new year?
For a couple of years I only heard about it when the year was about halfway through and I forgot about it afterwards. It sounded cool: choose a word that means something to you (or pick a word from their list of ideas) and use that word to inspire or motivate your life.

Last year I joined in and chose the word “brave”. It was choice I wasn’t entirely sure of at the time, because it seemed rather cliche and possibly bland. Then there was the disappointing movie that had recently come out.

But I decided to go with it anyway.

Then Sara Bareilles came out with her song.

And Neil Gaiman posted his New Year’s Wish:

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And all through the year, when I had a choice to do something easy or do something brave, it inspired me.

  • I applied for promotions at work, even ones high above my current ability level. I started building relationships with those managers, putting a framework in place for the future.
  • I dove headfirst into my romantic relationship when I didn’t know what I was doing, because growing and being in it with him is more important than staying in my comfort zone.
  • I volunteered for extra work trainings to grow my skills.
  • I said yes to acting in a Christmas show even though I hadn’t been in front of an audience in 15 years and didn’t know what I was doing.
  • I set boundaries with people.
  • I insisted on getting some medical assistance, changing doctors when the one I had wasn’t listening to me (and as the recently-returned tests show, I was right).

I really like how this year turned out. I like how “brave” became such a part of my life.

My new word for 2014 is another one I’m not totally sure of, so I’m going to go with it.

My word for 2014 is “energy”.

I think it’s partly about having more physical energy and focusing on things I can do to boost that. And partly it’s about rejecting negative energy and embracing positive energy. So it’s a word with more than one meaning to me.

Have you joined One Word in the past? Are you doing it this year? Share your word!

The Problem With a Perfect Punchline

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From PublicDomainPictures.net

Bumper stickers.

I have a love-hate relationship with them.

Driving down the road and seeing a sticker that pithily states my beliefs raises my spirits and makes me laugh.

But seeing a series of stickers making snarky comments misrepresenting something I agree with makes my blood pressure go up.

I kind of want people to put the kibosh on bumper stickers. What would our world look like if people stopped throwing out unanswerable one-liners as they barreled by at 70 miles an hour? Do you think we might have less road rage? Or do you think we’d be more able to separate assholes from the political positions they espouse if the car with the “Hope” sticker (or the “Sorry Yet?”) hadn’t just cut us off in traffic?

Maybe taking the time to debate our beliefs and politics with each other would be better for our nation than trying to piss each other off with passive-aggressive and often misleading words plastered on our cars.

I (Don’t Want To) Listen

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(From PublicDomainPictures.net)

I love the synchronicity of the internet.

Lately I’ve been following a lot of conversations, some about strong women characters, some about the “real” definition of Fangirl, some about gender roles in faith communities, and some about the voices of minorities in all communities.

It’s been the conversations about voice that have been the most important to me. They seem to transcend their own corner to apply to just about everything.

Lack of female superheroes in media? Let’s listen to what “fangirls” are saying before labeling it an unprofitable market.

Lack of women in faith conversations? Um, have you met the internet? Maybe get with some of the women leaders who exist (trust me, they’re totally there) and ask them how to broaden the conversation.

Lack of minority writers in SFF? Yeah, they’re there, they’re just not getting coverage. Seek them out and acknowledge their voices.

Lack of minority characters in SFF? It’s a problem, especially to get ones that aren’t stereotypes intended to fill a certain, pre-conceptualized role. Listen to the problem before trying to fix it and going about it all wrong.

So, voice. Listening. Affirming. Acknowledging that (almost) everyone has a valid viewpoint, and those who don’t still feel as if they do. Everyone’s emotional position feels legitimate, and sometimes what we need most is not to be right or wrong but to feel heard in that.

It’s been a very big thing with me lately, leading to passionate discussions about feminism and transgender issues.

But my own inability to listen was right under my nose.

One of the problems of being unashamedly open-minded is that when one has a bit of closed-mindedness it is hard to spot. Like a rusty mechanism, my radar didn’t turn on myself until I read this in a post this morning:

What if we responded like that more often? I think that would be beautiful, don’t you?

When someone tells us that we hurt them. I’m listening.

When someone is crying out. I’m listening.

When someone disagrees with us. I’m listening.

I’m in the middle of a disagreement with someone close to me, someone whose opinion on a situation seems totally unfounded. It feels like it’s unnecessary, that it’s inconvenient, that it’s a violent reaction to a small instigation. It’s right in front of me all the time, though, so I can’t just step past it and move on. I don’t want it to be there, and I’m impatient that it remains.

Part of me equates “listening” with “changing to make another person happier”. I need to find that middle ground between whole-hearted acceptance and whole-hearted resistance.

I’m trying to remind myself that it’s not about being right or being wrong. Other people do not need my permission to have “correct” emotions.

And maybe if I actually listened, with no other agenda or intent to convince, it would accomplish all it needed to.

Homeschooling: Two Sides

Friday Five: Bonus! It’s Two Sets!

What The Internet Taught Me That I Missed Out On Through Homeschooling

People Will Mock. This is okay. Sometimes good people make mistakes, and sometimes mean people are being mean. Mockers aren’t always evil, and they aren’t always wrong, either.

People Are Mean, and You Don’t Have to Listen. Almost all of what I heard growing up was “constructive criticism”, so I came out into the world believing that I needed to change based on the “feedback” I received. Not all this feedback is necessary. You can ignore it.

Sure, Everyone Will Fawn Over You…As Long As You’re Playing the Game. You can get all the validation you want, provided you spend all your effort to get it. You can have an unending chorus of people praising you and shooting down your detractors…if you make it your life’s work to cultivate that circle of friends. I assume high school cliques and college sororities were the old versions of this. Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook now make it easy to elicit continual doses of validation. But if you want to have a real and fulfilled life, you’ll need to detox from the ego drugs.

Growth is Not Threatening. Our family had done a lot of research into homeschooling and had determined that it was the Right Thing to Do. A lot of other things were also the Right Things To Do. It had all been figured out for me. Somehow I got the idea that, if I changed who I was or what I believed, I was either duplicitous or weak. When you’re raised believing that you have The Truth, and that there is little need to assess your philosophy, the natural push of adolescence can be perceived as a threat to the status quo. But when you look around, you’ll see a whole lot of people trying out other things in life. This is normal. It’s also good.

It Takes a Village. We were an island unto ourselves for most of my childhood. One of the benefits of having a big family is that there’s always someone to play with, right? But the truth is that people need more diversity than can be found in any one family, no matter how large it is. We need more perspectives on life. We need the voices from the wider world. (That “myth” that homeschoolers say about the need for socialization? Bull. Socialization is crucial. In many ways, on many levels. Far too much to get into here and now.)

What Homeschooling Taught Me That Many People Don’t Seem to Know

It’s Really Easy to Learn. The internet seems to have caught on to this sooner than the rest of the world. Want to learn to knit? YouTube. Need to know how to harvest black walnuts? eHow. Interested in going vegan? One Green Planet. Before the internet we used the library for everything from books on history to guides on making corn husk dolls.

Society May Have a Calendar Which is Different From Yours. Adjust it to Fit Your Needs. In our home, the school year was from January through October. We took off school somewhere in November to accommodate several birthdays, three holidays, and the invariably wet, miserable weather that made us want to curl up in blankets and read instead of do schoolwork. These days, depending on how enmeshed I am in society’s rhythms, adjusting my personal calendar can be tricky–but at least I give myself permission to recognize where I’m the square peg.

Fads Are Not Life. We never followed fads. Not current, mainstream ones, anyway. So when I left home and saw people going crazy over trends–without realizing why–it made no sense to me. (Now, a trend that one decides to get into voluntarily–those are fun! And something I missed growing up.) But knowing that there is more to life than what society (and companies) market to us is pretty invaluable.

Real Stuff is Best. Real food, not processed crap. Real fresh air, not air-freshener-scented. Nutritious food, not vitamin pills. Building a fort over playing a computer game. Avoid the chemicals. Choose the tangible and real over the artificial.

It Doesn’t Matter What the Odds Are. My parents never listened to logic in determining whether something was a good idea. They just went for it. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t, but the point was that they didn’t back down just because other people doubted. I’m a lot more cautious than they were, but I still appreciate that undaunted spirit.

What are some of the things that stuck with you from your childhood? What do you wish you’d learned earlier?

Dreamspace

Ever used your dreams as a writing prompt?

One of my in-progress novels came almost directly from a dream. A short story was pretty much directly transcribed with little added from me afterwards. But generally my dreams provide amazing springboards which bear little resemblance to the original inspiration.

I think that the creative space and the part of brain which produces dreams must overlap. I control images and storyline a lot more when I’m waking. But it gives me the same feeling to wake from a good dream as it does to create a satisfying story in my head.

What do you use from your life to inspire you for your creative pursuits? Do you use a Dream Dictionary? (Please share; I’m always looking for a reliable interpretive site.)

Dead Lovers

Such a random thing to ask. And yet, such a mystical thing to ponder.

I wonder, what would happen if we applied this question in a broader sense? If we asked how many people one had made love to who are now spiritually dead, or emotionally dead?

Or, to be more macabre, how many people had one made love to who were dead at the time?

Perceptions of Currency Make the World Go ‘Round

I had a conversation involving money this weekend with a member of another generation.

It made me think of the ways that currency and value can be perceived differently, and can present differently, in various generations and cultures.

We currently don’t use shell money or beads as currency. We don’t wear neck rings as a sign of wealth. In fact, we don’t wear our wealth at all, in the way that cultures used to string their money around their bodies as both adornment and a mobile bank.

(We now expect to wear lots of expensive status symbols AND leave the majority of our wealth behind a vault, something which is highly unrealistic.)

I checked in with a few friends about this, and my (very unscientific) sampling agrees that my generation (the Millennials) doesn’t perceive value in physical currency as much as we do in digital numbers.

It’s like this: old information about keeping to a budget would hype the “pay in cash” method: if you have the cash, you can buy. Once it runs out, you’ve got to stop. Simple, right? It runs on the present availability of physical currency and the idea that a tangible trade (dollar bills for goods or services) is more psychically painful than swiping plastic.

But what my friends and I agreed on is that, to us, physical money is a freebie. It’s untraceable and it leaves very little record, especially if you lose your receipt. Dollar bills are the ghosts in our field, flitting through and leaving no footprint behind.

Using a card, however, is permanent. To us, that card is directly connected with our mental image of our bank or credit accounts. We see those charges in columns, we know how much we’ve spent each day, and we know that our available balance is going down. Unlike physical currency, those black-and-white numbers are a reminder of what we spent, when we spent it, and how much we have left.

If a conceptual shift like this can take place between just a few generations, what might a financial exchange look like five hundred years into the future? Or on another planet? Or with another, perhaps alien, culture?

What is your perception of currency in the world and culture you live in?