Listening to people from all walks of life, I’ve noticed a common foe of resilience: self-blame. It’s sneaky, like a deadly undertow. The self-blaming person is all hope and forward intention above water, but underneath, their feet are being sucked backwards. There’s no omen more worthy of dread in that situation than the words “I should”, or their ugly cousin “I should have”. The shoulds have their own mysterious, immobilizing power. It’s hard to think of a way out.
Restrained and thwarted by our own thoughts, we become fixated on what we didn’t do in a way that presents zero solutions. “Why did I do that?” “What was I thinking?” “Why am I so hell-bent on self-sabotage?” Did you ever notice that there is no way of coming up with a good answer to such a question? Questions like these are worse than useless; they’re downright dangerous. And yet we insist on wading into the same dark water without our waterwings. Continue reading →
“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
The last week has left me reflecting a lot on virtue: what does it look like when it shows up? I’m trying not to sink down into pondering the ugly, murky crater that is virtue’s absence. Spending too much time staring at a trainwreck of bad behaviour has never done my soul any favours: whether I feel superiority or despair, it’s the opposite of edifying. “Well THAT person has made awful choices” doesn’t exactly make me jump up and sparkle with good energy. “The world is filled with horrible people doing horrible things, hope has left the building”, makes me want to lie down and not get up.
Possibly it’s a lot more worthwhile to spend energy reflecting on the good, on what’s beautiful and righteous and dignified. I don’t mean empty Pollyanna daydreams, either (they annoy me in a similarly lie-down-forever kind of way). I mean the kind of right-doing that makes me want to get up and fight for the same cause. Continue reading →
Florence Foster Jenkins has been called “The World’s Worst Opera Singer”. In the early 1900s, she was a patron of the arts in New York City who made vanity recordings and gave (self-sponsored) concerts in places like Carnegie Hall. (Ironically, her real first name was an homage to the original poster boy of vanity. It was Narcissa).
Unencumbered by either social constraint or artistic inhibition, Foster Jenkins barrelled onto the stage driven by what can only be regarded as pure joy. She embraced theatricality with gusto. She made her own glittery costumes, sported massive feathery wings, threw flowers, and favoured being lowered from theatre ceilings by rope and pulley. Going home seemed never to have been an option for Florence Foster Jenkins; she went big. Continue reading →
I’ve noticed that goal setting works a whole lot better when I’m gentle with myself. Let me name it right off the top: I think New Year’s resolutions are often just ways for people to disappoint themselves. Do we need more reasons to beat ourselves up? No. Then why do we make them?
Because the lure of self-improvement is real. Even in the darkest moments of life, when motivation and hope are scarce, there is often a faint voice in the depths saying “I wish it were otherwise”.
I propose a new approach. I call it “Intentionally Misinterpreting the Word ‘Resolution’”. Continue reading →