Intelligence, of a different kind

Author, Stephen King had tweeted that he had finished another episode of the Apple TV series, “Invasion” that had a ‘Lord of the Flies’ vibe to it. That was enough of a recommendation for me to begin watching this 2021 series myself.

IMDb describes Invasion by co-creators, Simon Kinberg and David Weil, as a Sci Fi drama this way: “Earth is visited by an alien species that threatens humanity’s existence. Events unfold real time through the eyes of five ordinary people across the globe as they struggle to make sense of the chaos unraveling around them.”

Sound familiar?

The first season of the series concluded last week. The series, Invasion is much more than just another Sci Fi drama about an alien invasion. It is a study of human relationships we are experiencing in our current chaotic world. Insert the word “coronavirus,” “MAGA,” “socialism,” or whatever has you staying awake at night, and you may already believe there is an invasion of alien lifeforms.

“The test of a first-rate intelligence,” said writer, F. Scott Fitzgerald, “is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”

Intelligence, of a different kind

In a more perfect world, we see beyond our own limited and biased perspectives. Even if we cannot imagine the reasons for another’s perspective, we remain civil to understand the conflict of choices and varying opinions.

But we do not live in a perfect world

Last week’s most recent school shooting at Oxford High School in my home state, Michigan is just another example of how imperfect of world we currently live in. Go into any coffee shop, diner, or participate in any online discussion, and people are sharing their beliefs on gun control. Discussions get heated and out of control quickly.

It would be nice if we could temporarily put a moratorium on these heated interactions or discussions by defusing our discomfort using our defense mechanisms such as denying evidence or rationalizing the current ‘invasive’ topic. We can if we choose to do so.

Developing our social intelligence

People have better innate social intelligence than others. They know how to work the room carrying on conversations with people known or unknown to them. Socially intelligent people are active listeners. How can the less active listener become better at listening and thereby becoming better communicators?

One person’s cloudy sky is another person’s blue sky.

They may both correct to the extent based upon their beliefs and values, and consequently how they choose to make decisions. The sky is indeed blue; and the sky may even have clouds at times that blot out the sun. This dissonance we often feel in these discussions result in a tendency to summarize the other person’s opinions into the simplest terms or even in silly, disturbing memes.

Our opinions are most often rooted in deeply personal and emotionally invested beliefs. We each may be a critical thinker, but one may believe in alien life and the other may not believe in them. One just needs more evidence to become persuaded on the existence of aliens. While others want to hang onto what we “know” about the world. It is human nature; and we will go to great lengths to convince others of what we know based upon our invested beliefs.

But wait!! The aliens are invading us!

We are, by our very own nature, selfish. I fully admit that I am. I feel ashamed when I fail my own mantra to “resist reaction reason rules” and reflexively fail to take the time to see or try to understand the perspective of other people. It takes patience and effort to take ourselves out of our own world.

I go back to Apple TV’s series, Invasion. How does it make me feel to see the other person through their eyes? Invasions of any kind, out of this world or within my own? I believe we can become socially, better active listeners and communicators when we reveal our humanity in the true spirit of service with the imperative of “we are in this together.” That level of sensitivity and compassion that this type of perspective breeds is enormous.  Do we have the free-will ability to make that choice? I believe we do. I am open to understanding your perspective.

Peace,

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Kindness, the default option

In computer science, the default option refers to a user-configurable setting assigned to an application. This default setting represents a button that is safest to use when the Enter key is pressed. It is a button I wish was an option on my keyboard when posting to my personal FaceBook page. In fact, I should have just removed my hands completely from the keyboard or better still pressed the off button on my laptop. I no longer have an active personal Facebook page.

When my FaceBook page was active, I envied my FaceBook connections that could easily scroll past their connections’ posts on political and damning memes to just privately drool on other’s dinner photos, snicker at baby goat or cat antic videos, or make “aww” faces when fawning over cute puppy and baby snapshots as I had imagined. On the other hand, why are these connections on FaceBook when they rarely communicate on their own timelines? I assume voyeurism was their default option.

I also learned from my FaceBook connections things that I did not need to know or should not know; but then again, I am positive my connections may well have been thinking the same thing about my over exposures. Could these same connections wish too that they could go back to retract, amend, or delete some of their posts or memes that I wish I would have when my FaceBook page was active?

My decision to deactivate my personal FaceBook page came at a time when I had too much on my plate. My screen time was out of control not to mention my anxiety. I allowed FaceBook to have too much of my precious headspace.

Since deactivating my personal Facebook on December 23, 2020, I did not necessarily set out to establish a practice of being more kind. Yet, kindness is what I needed to see in the world and not to confuse people with my kindness, I eventually learned that I needed to be kind to myself first. I forgave myself for my FaceBook faux pas and vowed that my need to communicate needed a  reckoning.

Kindness, the Default Option

Leading my interactions with kindness means being clear in all my communications even with my own internal communications. It starts with self-acceptance which means accepting myself just as I am. Being kinder to myself led me toward the goal of forgiving myself for mistakes, shortcomings and allowing myself to feel good about my strengths and talents.

That was step one.

Step two was re-conceptualizing what it meant to be kind.

Sonya Lyubomirsky, a University of California-Riverside psychologist, found that practicing acts of kindness, as well as, expressing thankfulness, gratitude, and forgiveness was common among happy people. Kindness has a rebounding loop. Kindness, empathy, and compassion present a greater opportunity to make a world a better place. When I was contemplating on The Blogging Owl FaceBook page about deactivating my blog Facebook pages after the recent Congressional hearings with regard to Facebook, one of my readers posted, “You make social media better.” At the time, I did not think I was being too hard on myself about my personal FaceBook page, but this comment on my blog FaceBook page made me feel better.

Positive Intent vs Assumption of Negative Intent

Most people assume negative intent from others when it appears their words or actions do not align with their own values. As in the case of my own FaceBook experience, I can attest that I have been shocked and dismayed at times with family, close friends and acquaintances at revelations made on their timelines or their posts on other timelines. I am sure as I reflect on my own posts that my FaceBook connections could say the same about me.

On the other hand, it is possible we extend too much benefit of the doubt to people we like, or who are on “our side” of the topic. The closer we are to someone we are more likely we are to overlook their comments as a rash reaction rather than a deep-seeded conviction. Our assumptions may be further than the truth. Yet social conditioning often traps us into jumping to wrong conclusions about people we are acquainted and people we do not know well or even like.

So, what are my expectations with this kindness conundrum?

The practice of kindness starts with an intention.

Kindness begins where I am. The gift of the practice of kindness is how it changes me, and in turn, the other person that I extend kindness to. When I practice being kind to myself, I learn how to be kind to others. It does not mean self-sacrifice. It means I care for myself as a person capable of warmth, of balance, of a peaceful response to life. I want others to feel that same way.

December ushers in the opportunities for kindness.

The holidays are upon us. Rituals, spiritual and community celebrations are gifts that can bring us together. Holiday madness can also lead positive intentions to the assumption of negative intent just from a simple greeting. Whether you are a person that celebrates a religious holiday this season or not, please do not make it a battle on what is appropriate between Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Season’s Greetings, Holiday Wishes, Happy Holiday, just greet others with holiday expressions of your choosing and I will do the same.

May kindness be your default option this holiday season and beyond.

Peace,

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2022 – Words to Live By

One year ago, I would not have imagined where I am at today. Two months into a leukemia diagnosis and chemotherapy treatment I was dwelling on what life was going to be like for me personally and professionally when I chose my words to live by for 2021 – mindfulness, creativity, and discernment. Even when I look back on my post announcing the words and the meaning I held for them then and now is quite remarkable.

The first 3 months of 2021 were not going well it seemed in all aspects of my life. My husband and I took a deep breath and discerned that we could build a better future in mind, body, and spirit by taking advantage of the hot real estate market. The next months would be nothing shoring of amazing. We downsized and sold a home where we had lived for 28 years and raised our 2 sons. We sold a second vacation home and purchased a bigger home near Lake Michigan. The creativity of decluttering, downsizing, donating and a designing the homes for sale took every ounce of mental and physical capacity from both of us. All the while, we were mindful of creating a future in a happier space and place where we will eventually retire in the future.

This new reality was the furthest thing from my mind one year ago.

Now as I did in the fall of 2020, I reflect on the words I have chosen to live by since beginning my list in 2017.

Words to Live by List

2018:      Minimalism, Grace, Truth
2019:      Wisdom, Honor, Joy
2020:      Silence, Commit, Fulfill
2021:      Mindfulness, Creativity, Discernment

2022: Words to Live By

Over the last 2 months I have written down dozens of words, crossing them out as the weeks went by, and each time thinking I had next words to live by in 2022. It was not a process of elimination but my past 12 words to live by finally called out the words to live by in 2022.

SONNET 144
Two loves I have of comfort and despair,
Which like two spirits do suggest me still;
The better angel is a man right fair,
The worser spirit a woman colour’d ill.
To win me soon to hell, my female evil
Tempteth my better angel from my side,
And would corrupt my saint to be a devil,
Wooing his purity with her foul pride.
And whether that my angel be turn’d fiend
Suspect I may, but not directly tell;
But being both from me, both to each friend,
I guess one angel in another’s hell:
Yet this shall I ne’er know, but live in doubt,
Till my bad angel fire my good one out.

~ William Shakespeare

Wholeness

If there is one lesson, I have learned this past year repeatedly is that one of the three – mind, body, spirit – will take over when one or the other two areas are wanting.

The word, wholeness, has different a meaning for each one of us such as another person or a spiritual presence that completes what is lacking within us. Let us look at one of the phrases that Dictionary.com defines as wholeness:

“Pertaining to all aspects of human nature, especially one’s physical, intellectual, and spiritual development.”

I selected the word, wholeness, for my first word to live by in 2022 because of personal chronic conditions like CML (chronic myeloid leukemia) and GAD (generalized anxiety disorder) that can keep me from feeling whole. It is during these times, my spiritual faith kicks in but even then, that is a work in progress even for the most devout.

In 2022, wholeness will mean gaining my equilibrium and bringing the harmony of mind, body, spirit into tune.

Habits

Why are good habits difficult to begin and bad habits difficult to break?

Most people think of habits as being physically based like a new year’s resolution to lose weight. It is easy to think in these terms as because it is logical that putting off or ignoring an increasing waistline may put us in a bind (no pun intended) or blind side us later in life.

Conversely, good habits, the ones that we believe are serving us well and, on the surface, considered as good attributes but, may not be serving our relationships personally or professionally.

Every habit has 3 components: 1) a trigger, 2) a routine, and 3) a reward. Even the tiniest of habits can serve us or enslave us from a future that keeps us locked in our place of hurt – that place in mind, body, spirit that keeps us from becoming whole.

Habits, conscious and subconscious, insignificant and compelling will be on topic in 2022.

Perspective

Personalities, preferences, problems involve perspective. Yet, it is often difficult to keep the chaos of the world in perspective when the world has turned into a social media frenzy of what is truth and what is a lie.

We have become a more anxious, fearful, and activist society. Therapy appointments are in high demand and can take months to schedule. Is it because mental illness has come out of the closet treating it like any other disease of the body? Have we just lost our perspective on the greater good? Or both?

How can human beings be so intelligent and effective in solving certain problems yet so dysfunctional and destructive at the same time?

How can we keep our balance in a world that seems to have a bad case of vertigo without losing control?

There are so many more questions to ask that I must continually remind myself of my mantra, “resist reaction reason rules.” But what is reasonable?

Perspective, seeing all relevant data in a meaningful way apart from the fire and frenzy is my third word to live by in 2022.

Life’s Battlefield

To my nature’s better angel, I add these three words: habits, wholeness, and perspective to my list of words to live by in 2022.

In closing,

You may have noticed changes here at The Blogging Owl such as the updated tag line, “Harmony of Mind, Body, Spirit.” The new tag line represents the site’s new perspective on wellness. I will be addressing current news and topics to help us thrive in mind, body, and spirit.

The Blogging Owl also has a new page at the top of the site, The Owl’s Hoot Reviews. Beginning January 2022, this page will house my book and other mini reviews of interest based on a 1 to 5 Hoot rating scale. Previous book reviews will be updated and added as well. Nothing has changed about my love of books!

Used books will also start appearing on the shelves of The Owl Bookshelf page and for purchase at my Etsy store in the Spring of 2022.

If you have been a loyal reader of The Blogging Owl, I sincerely thank you. I began blogging in 2007 and the site has evolved over the years. You will notice that I have cleaned house of previous series of posts that many of my readers have enjoyed, and quite frankly, may have been the reason they began following The Blogging Owl, however, cleaning and updating the site was long overdue. It is my genuine hope that you will continue to follow this blog for the wit and wisdom toward harmony in mind, body, and spirit.

Peace,

theowl

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2021 – Words To Live By

It is that time of year again where I reflect on this past year and I look forward to the year ahead. I used to share New Year resolutions. In 2018, I changed my resolutions to three words to live by in the coming year. In 2018, I chose minimalism, grace, and truth for 2019. Last year, I chose three verbs for 2020 – wisdom (seek), honor (speak), and joy (share). This year was a particularly thoughtful year because of the global pandemic due to the coronavirus coupled with my recent diagnosis of chronic myeloid leukemia.

A Watershed Year

When I reflect on the last six words chosen, I ask myself, “Have I grown as a person in living my message in mind, body, and spirit? Is my voice communicating my authentic self?”

The pandemic lockdown allowed several things to occur in my life. I was gratefully able to work remotely, which allowed me to spend a great deal of time at my second home in northwest Michigan near Lake Michigan. I spent much of my time when not working, in and near the lake, contemplating my life and looking toward the future. My thoughts surfed over waves of nostalgia as I am in the last year of a biological decade contemplating a new milestone birthday in 2021.

After recently reading my 2020 Words to Live By post and reading my earlier posts on COVID-19, the word cancer appeared in my writing long before I was surprised with my leukemia diagnosis this past September. I thought about my lockdown sabbatical at Lake Michigan. It was one of the best summers of my life. Now cancer would like me to negatively dwell on all these thoughts to conclusively ask, “Is this it? God granted me one last glorious summer, my favorite season. Will this be my last Christmas? Will I be here at the end of my next biological decade?”

I have a positive prognosis for living a normal lifetime even with CML providing I take my daily chemotherapy for whatever days God grants me. I have not reached remission; but my oncologist is pleased with my progress these two and half months. I remain positive in mind, body, and spirit.

COVID and cancer

2020 has helped me to define how I choose to live my life beginning now and not waiting for the ball to drop on 2021.

Mindfulness

In my post, Iron Sharpens Iron of September 7, 2020, I shared my intentions and afterthoughts of my August summer vacation.

August prepared me for what I would learn by the end of September.

Life can change in a moment. I take into 2021, the first lesson of 2020 with the word: mindfulness.

When I think about mindfulness, I think about the three principles of unities in drama from Aristotle’s Poetics – a play’s requirement to have a single action occurring in a single place and within a single day – unity of action, unity of place, and unity of time.

Now let me be clear, I am not stating that every day be dramatically filled with vivid emotion or conflict; but if it is, I will allow myself to live in that moment. I will give my full attention to only what is in the present, experiencing my thoughts, emotions, and sensations without judgment. In other words, I will not dwell on yesterday or worry about tomorrow. No more climbing ladders of any type. We only have today, right?

Creativity

When I reflect on what brings me the most joy outside of my family and friends, I think of being creative. Creativity to me is an exploration, being authentic, whether is it writing, crafting, designing, gardening, or simply nature.

One important lesson of the pandemic lockdown is eliminating negative connectivity.

Negativity in mind, body, and spirit eliminates creativity of any kind. Therefore, I am eliminating the negativity that seeps into my daily life. Negativity takes up too much space in the unities of life. For example, I am deactivating my personal Facebook timeline and eliminating negative relationships relating to any noun – person, place, or thing.

This day forward I am investing in my creative-self and wherever that creativity takes me without judgment or promises. Legacy is for others to decide so why dwell on it.

Discernment

While all words that I have chosen to live by are important, this next word, discernment is critical.

Am I living my message?

To live my message, establishing boundaries becomes especially important in mind, body, and spirit. Personality and character are often thought of as being the same. However, our personality is our inner spirit, and our character is our outer nature. My personal devotion to Jesus Christ brings the two together – my personality and my character. That transformation was brought about by love, the overflowing result of being in true fellowship with Christ. I cannot allow anyone or anything to invade that relationship.

People bound in love for one another without judgment, worthiness, or differences are people who make the difference in the world. I will do my best to respond in love. I will also respond to bigotry as if the people others demean are witnessing my response. My relationships will either survive or they won’t. These are the natural consequences.

Discernment, for me, is the ability to distinguish intellectually or recognize spiritually without the world dictating to me how to live my life in the moment. If I am living my message today, in this moment, then I am making a difference in the world. If making a difference in the world is not important, then why am I here?

Mindfulness, Creativity, and Discernment

The three words I add to my list to live by.

May everyone know the true peace and joy in 2021.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Good Health and Prosperity for all!


Peace and Joy,
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