Archive for April, 2014

Conflicting Desires: A Tale of Two Cities

April 29, 2014

A particularly tricky element of re-booting occurs when one is pulled in different, seemingly conflicting directions. For me, no disparity is greater than my parallel wanting to be in Santa Barbara and Washington at the same time. These two lovely cities are radically different and worlds apart. Not only do they differ in size and scale, they differ in pace, in focus, in beauty, opportunity, and philosophy. Life in Washington is the converse of life in SB. While each place, in its own way, offers a highly seductive image and lifestyle, the end result is diametrically opposite. And yet, I want them both…very much.

 

If I didn’t have Washington in my life, I’d feel constrained by the small town and highly limited offerings that Santa Barbara presents. If I didn’t have Santa Barbara, I’d feel overwhelmed by the tight, crowded spaces and smug aggression that accompanies so much of life in DC. Together, these two places balance out and feed my dual needs of city girl and country mouse.

 

But, what if the conflict isn’t about locations but about choice of lovers or lifestyles? Do you crave independence or security? Do you long for the seeming rush of business travel or the serenity of working solo? How about longings for a sparkling social schedule or the cultivation of a few and only occasionally available close friends? What if your creative activities simply don’t satisfy other wants and needs?

 

We each wrestle with conflicting desires in our lives, and this clash exists as a thorn in our foot—not hobbling us entirely, but reminding us, with each step, that it is there. Of course, we are all familiar with the wistful longings related to the path not taken, but the point of this post is slightly different. Where re-booting enters this dilemma is finding that middle path of reconciliation within ourself between our conflicting desires.

 

In so many cases, these issues cannot be resolved by merely hopping on a plane and jetting from one coast to another. We may not have such options. We can’t switch lifestyles, occupations, or relationships quite so easily. So, the question then becomes an internal one: how do we inculcate those parts of the people, activities, or attitudes to which we are so strongly attached when a literal embracing of the same is out of our reach? This is the essence of re-booting.

 

Using myself as an example, it does me no good to sit in Washington, fretting about missing out on the weather and time zone of Santa Barbara any more than it does for me to wander about SB and regret the exciting pace and opportunities which swirl along the streets of DC. Rather, my challenge is to see how I might cultivate enough of what I love about each place inside of me—a weird thing to say, I know, but how else might I resolve this dilemma? How do I otherwise curb this incessant longing for the other?

 

What about you? What is an ongoing internal conflict that you wish to resolve or at least to live with in a more tranquil manner? How do you soften or remove that thorn from your life? Remember, this is not about regrets! This is about finding a way to integrate the most important, conflicting elements of what you want most. And, if not now, when? When will you ever do this? Trust me, I find these words as scary as you do.

 

Of course, as literature and history has taught us, there will always be competing needs over the course of our lives. None of us will get everything we want, exactly the way we want it, but we can get at least a part—especially if we’re willing to take a few risks, to reach out to that person we’ve missed for too long, to commit to that journey even though the time isn’t ideal, and to push ourselves to try, knowing it won’t be everything we fantasize, but will at least grant us that fleeting, precious day where both soft ocean breezes and glittering night lit monuments can be within reach.

 

Homework assignment: take a few moments to consider one of your pressing conflicts. What is it that you love so much about each side? How can you bring a little bit of both into your day? Surely, there’s something you can try…

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Grinding Down Our Routine Beliefs

April 24, 2014

I get so tired of cooking, cleaning, and carting,” confessed the mother of young tweens. “Week after week of nothing else.” My friend isn’t the first parent to feel this way, but reading her words made me grateful I don’t have to carry that particular burden, although I certainly have my own assortment of activities I’d rather forego. Still, none of us passes through life without knowing the mind-numbing sorts of routine that our lives often assume. As someone who loves structure in her day, I actually consider a schedule to be freeing because once I complete my daily tasks, I feel at liberty to go in whichever direction the wind blows me. Alas, accomplishing mundane goals doesn’t mean I’ve escaped the boredom and irritation that comes with meeting responsibilities which have no end date—like cleaning the bathroom or listening sympathetically to the same stories over and over. While the quality of burden varies depending on what stage of life one is in, the reality remains that we all have things we need to do that we wish we were freed of–attending to needy relatives, stretching after exercise, or sitting through meetings that have no purpose or outcome.

 

What are these responsibilities for you?

 

As I understand it, routines play an important coping mechanism for individuals on the autism spectrum. For them, regular travel routes, meal times, and patterns of interaction help make sense of an otherwise bewildering and seemingly chaotic world. But rigid expectations of behavior extend far beyond those with autism to a much wider swath of humanity. I think it’s fair to say that all of us have a few “strongly preferred approaches” that we (knowingly or unknowingly) impose on those around us. This can be anything from a strict definition of what actions constitute “good manners” to a conviction that there is only One True Faith to a single definition of what “success” really means (at least for people in our family). The common thread throughout each of these examples is the fact that such belief is fixed.

 

As I see it, the reason so many people cling to routine beliefs is that they make them feel safe; protocol removes the need for private assessment, critical thought, and that most dreaded sense of ambiguity. Examples of fixed ideas include: breakfast must include eggs; people who care about me must respond within X timeframe; a successful family life mirrors my parents’ version. People rely on routine because they’ve decided life looks a certain way and moves to precise, designated rhythms. They believe this and arrange their lives accordingly—end of story. Our personal (diverging) preferences would only complicate matters and make us have to think about our choices. Ugh.

 

But what happens when these sacred precepts begin to erode? What if we no longer find fulfillment in our years long, accolade-filled career? What if we don’t like our kids? How do we handle a crisis of conscience or loss of faith? What happens when we look around at our social circle and see no one we can talk to? Do we even like these people? What about when we reach a point where we simply don’t care if they get mad?

 

I’ll tell you what happens.

 

We either break free of our routine or the burden of our pantomime becomes increasingly more heavy. Our smiles grow more forced. Our blood pressure spikes. We start to drink more. Something is wrong, but what holds us back from addressing it is the free fall induced by the specter of throwing away our Standard Operating Manual for Life.

 

Ok, so how does any re-booter worth his or her salt handle this intimidating life challenge? You know what I’m gonna tell you: my advice is to find a middle way. Step One: recognize what your fixed belief is—is there really no other way to get the family fed without you orchestrating the meal? Is it true that no decent human being who really cared about you would ever be slow to respond? Step Two: in the privacy of your head, play out how you’d feel if you stopped acting on the basis of that fixed belief. Would the world really come to an end? Step Three: float a trial balloon of an alternative strategy and see how those around you accept it. You’ve got stick with it long enough for them to get used to the idea. Step Four: remind yourself that little changes can result in a lot more freedom, so no need to pack up your bags and move across the country. Step Five: see if you haven’t just eased yourself out of the mind numbing routine that’s weighing you down.

 

Try it out and get back to me. I’d love to hear what your experience with this is!

A Re-booter’s Responsibility: Expressing Goodwill

April 22, 2014

No matter where we are on the re-booting spectrum, whether it’s early on in the process or we find ourselves comfortably ensconced in our efforts at implementing change, there’s one thing that applies wherever we may be: acknowledging the goodwill shown to us and paying it forward. As troubled or frustrated as we may feel about certain aspects of life, there are always people around us whose concern and support helps ease our struggles. Whether it’s listening to us moan and complain, providing food and shelter when funds run low, driving us to the doctor, reading a friend’s manuscript, agreeing to meet for an informational interview, or just checking in to let us know we’re not forgotten, these gestures should not be minimized by us.

 

We all know what it’s like to wrestle with life and feel hurt; at times such as these, it’s easy to fall victim to the belief that we’re alone, powerless, and afraid. What we forget is how often watching another person suffer this way can frighten those around them into silence—not because others don’t care, but because they don’t know what to do. Can you think of a time when you didn’t know how to help someone who was hurting? It’s distressing, isn’t it?

 

Which is why it’s that much more important for us to receive and be grateful for those small acts of amity others do bestow upon us, because not everyone has the courage to extend themselves this way. Is what I’m saying making sense? These gestures don’t have to change our life to be worthwhile. I know that for me, as I’ve struggled along my re-booting path, I’ve been deeply grateful for the goodwill others have provided—whether it’s comforting me when I cry, brainstorming strategies about finding work, treating me to dinners out, or simply letting me know they value this blog. I still have to solve this problem on my own, but hearing how others care for me, knowing that I haven’t been abandoned when it feels as if everything in my life is going wrong or stalling out, reminds me that even the struggling version of who I am, the one with frizzy hair and three dollars in her wallet—remains cherished by and important to some. And this knowledge gives me that extra dose of courage to believe in myself.

 

By the same token, my ability to express goodwill towards others is equally important. Giving to others reminds me that even when so much of my life is in tatters, I can be helpful, as well. I, too, can listen and advise about work or family issues. I can distract with funny stories as we take a walk. I can help clear overstuffed closets or figure out how to navigate the airline’s bonus miles website. Being there, for those I care about, giving the parts of myself I have to give, not only helps them when they need it, it reminds me that I bring my own set of talents and skills to the table. That’s a win-win, right? In our own humble way, we are each like the Little Drummer Boy.

 

The reason I bring this up is that it is easy for us to forget how much meaning and comfort small gestures can bring. It’s valuable to express goodwill—whether it’s opening the door for another person, offering our seat on the Metro to a pregnant woman, taking a buddy out for a beer, or fixing a jammed dvd player. These modest acts of humanity are beneficial for the giver and the receiver. Too often, we hesitate, afraid to sit by the overly talkative (and lonely) committee member, not wanting to suffer the inconvenience of their babble. Or we stop ourselves, concerned that by inquiring about a sensitive situation we may re-injure the person who’s suffering. And, yes, we will make missteps on occasion, but they won’t be serious. Certainly not so serious that we should opt for saying nothing, allowing the opportunity to reach out to our brethren pass unacknowledged.

 

My homework assignment for you, my fellow re-booters, is to reflect upon the last time someone did something for you that you really appreciated. Remember how grateful you felt? Have you told them how much their efforts meant to you? How might you pay such goodwill forward today—whether acknowledged or not? A re-booter’s responsibility is to help lift the tide.

A Re-booter’s Personalized Easter Experience

April 17, 2014

Easter is this Sunday, and although the plethora of marshmallow eggs and fuzzy bunnies might indicate otherwise, the actual meaning of this holy day is to focus on sacrifice for a greater good and the regeneration which springs forth from such actions. You don’t need to be a practicing Christian to benefit from such observations; sacrifice and renewal are equal opportunity concepts for all of us.

 

To take these concepts and demonstrate how they apply to each of us on a more human level, I’ll use myself as an example. As regular DR readers know, over the course of the past few years, I have experienced loss, upended my life by moving away from Santa Barbara, and continue on a frustrating quest to reestablish myself and my life three thousand miles away in Washington, DC. Taking these steps required me to sacrifice my feelings of pride and anger about the past in order to move forward. I could’ve chosen to remain in Santa Barbara, to nurse my sadness about what happened, to blame myself and others. And, although I am not 100% free of such struggles, whatever dismay I occasionally feel is minor compared to the opportunity for freedom and self-determination that accompanies my decision to change my life and begin anew. Freed from such toxic ties, I see my future potential as greater than my previous experience, even though I have to endure a certain amount of uncomfortable redefinition and change to get there. What I want you to see is that, all too often, people cling to their past as the most important thing about themselves–whether that’s their youthful athletic endeavors, their identity as parents or spouses, their job titles and salary levels, their scholarly or artistic achievements, that sort of thing—and refuse to believe they can be anything meaningful without such defining markers.

 

What about you? Is there some aspect of your life without which you believe your life would mean little? What would happen to you if you sacrificed that distinguishing part of yourself?

 

Throughout the course of history, we have seen examples of people who have lost everything that they valued, whether it was their livelihood, their physical vitality, their financial independence, their families, their belief in God, or any number of core beliefs and assets. For most of them, this loss was imposed, not voluntarily given. But it’s what they did next that makes for such divergent results. Those who remain mired in grief and tabulations of loss cannot move forward. Refusing to sacrifice memories of what was out of a misplaced belief that doing so would somehow “lessen” the significance of the past seems to make all the difference. “If I give up my anger or my sorrow,” they reason, “I am diminishing them or pretending the bad things that happened are ok.” Respectfully, I disagree. What this means is that they choose to hold on instead of letting go. No significant renewal or resurrection of the self can occur if we insist on remaining bound and gagged by old identities.

 

I contend that in order to renew ourselves and soar beyond our past, we must first commit to sacrificing whatever it is that stands in our way. For instance, a veteran who makes peace with his missing limbs and formerly mobile past, sacrifices that description of himself, but seeks out a new life where what he achieves isn’t premised on how many working appendages he has. Is it possible for him to have a happy, fulfilling life even though he can no longer catch a football or swing a club? What is the difference between him and a fellow vet who loses himself in grief and addiction? Where did their paths diverge? What distinct choices did each make? And how did those choices impact the outcome?

 

This line of thinking is directly applicable to each of you, my fellow re-booters. Each of us has elements of experience and identity that are important to us, but what if we let them go? If you had to identify the most significant aspect of your life–being married or divorced, fired for incompetence or heavily recruited as a breakthrough genius, addict or community leader, being fiercely independent or markedly vulnerable–what is that aspect of yourself that a part of you clings to? “It’s important to who I am,” you whisper to yourself. How might you be freed to fly even higher if no longer tied to this characteristic? What if it turns out this experience or quality isn’t, actually, so critical to who you are? Can you relinquish this? Are you brave enough to close your eyes and see what comes up?

 

Sacrifice requires courage, yes, but it does not necessitate loss. With sacrifice can come the promise of an even greater life. You just have to remind yourself of the bigger picture and be brave enough to try. That’s what Easter means to me.

April 15th: The Tax Man Cometh

April 15, 2014

Ok, so there’s no getting around it: today is the day when the piper must be paid. It’s one of those realities where obeisance is due if we choose to partake of a civilized society. The great maw of public spending demands to be fed 24/7; have you thrown your paltry coins into the dark pit? And when you do so, how does that make you feel? Relieved? Resigned? Proud? Upset? All of the above? (Maybe I’m the only Grumpy Gus about this.)

 

As with any social contract, you give and you get. Things get tricky when your assessment of the contract demonstrates that the scales of exchange are seriously imbalanced. But, participating in such a relationship rarely comprises a simple one-to-one reciprocation; in fact, I believe that if things devolve to a point of tit-for-tat, the affiliation is in serious trouble. Of course, there’s no “market evaluation” for the value of personal relationships; appraisals are made of a case-by-case basis over the lifetime of the exchange. But what if the appeal or payout of a particular social contract shifts downward to the point where you’re no longer sure you want in, what, then, do you do?

 

This is where re-booting comes into play.

 

Like our life-long relationship to the Government, not all of our associations are severable. If we wish to remain within the community of civilized men—where people don’t boo and throw things at us as we walk down the street–we gotta pay to play. Not all of our associations or choices will render what we consider a satisfactory rate of return. Think of difficult marriages where the partners remain conjoined; siblings who are inextricably involved in each another’s lives; business partners who drive one other crazy. Everyday, people choose to recommit to difficult associations that tax them, but the key word here is choose. They choose to do so. They choose the status quo. To them, the price associated with de-coupling is even more onerous than the price for staying put. And that’s ok, because they’re making a conscious choice; but they need to be honest with themselves about it. They need to assess the pros and cons with a clear head and a calm heart, because the piper will be paid and the payments only get larger over time.

 

Of course, we all know that social relationships are not a one-to-one exchange. They often impact multiple players who get dragged along as collateral. Re-booters may not be able to eradicate the inefficiencies or occasional dishonesty that intrudes into important relationships, but what they can do is change the way they think about the exchange. Instead of getting upset each time the other person ignores you or says something thoughtless, perhaps you recalibrate how much you value what they say or do. Someone who once held a lot of sway now has less. The result is you have made the choice to stay together, but you have also modified how much impact the offending party’s behavior has. You’ve essentially recalibrated the relationship scale. Does that make sense? What I am suggesting is a coping method designed for those who have chosen to remain in a social contract which no longer pays out the way it once did. Pay offs come in many forms, of course and it’s up to each of us to determine what that is for us because any choice we make (whether to be with someone or to be alone, to remain employed or quit, to cling to memories or let go and begin anew) involves a tax. It’s part of the bargain we make when we are born.

 

So, to circle round and finish off this post, the Tax Man is here and he is hungry. I hope you’ve planned ahead and have your set asides ready to go because he’s collecting whether you are ready or not. However my guess is that as a champion re-booter, you’re prepared. You’ve made peace with this exchange and devised a way to get something satisfying for your trouble. At least that’s the goal. So get out there, pay the piper, and get your money’s worth…

Crew Admittance Only

April 10, 2014

Hopping on a plane to Santa Barbara earlier this week, I noted the plethora of signs delineating where various categories of people could go. World Pass members may trod upon the gold fiber carpet here, Economy Class dregs pile their chicken crates there, Airport Staff Lounge, Arrivals, Departures, you name it, there’s an authorized area in which identified sub-groups may inhabit. The area that called out most alluringly to me was labeled Crew Admittance Only.

 

We all know what that means. Behind this door resides the group of people in whose hands we put our lives as the jumbo jet lifts into the air and roars across the skies. Wearing pressed uniforms, polished shoes, and no nonsense expressions, their calm eyes reassure us that our trust in them is well founded; we are safe. This is a Crew we can rely on to do their best for us while we’re together. All is well. As a slightly nervous flier myself, that means a great deal to me. Which got me thinking…

 

If I were the Captain, who’d be on my Crew?

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Who are the five or so people that you would select for your Crew Admittance Only designation? What I mean by this is of all the people you have known throughout your life, whether alive or dead, who would you want to serve in your cockpit? This may or may not include your parents, your children, your siblings or spouses. But, for purposes of this exercise, they have to be someone you know—no Superman or Wonder Woman fantasy business. When you think about it, it might come as a shock that our crew might not include those the world would define as “closest” to us. I think there are a lot of us out there who would find that some on our “close friends and family” list wouldn’t make it into our metaphorical cockpit. Does that mean they are bad, weak people or that we don’t love them? No, it does not. It simply clarifies who we believe we can turn to and rely on when the situation requires. What is it about each of your cockpit crew that you value you much? Why have they made your list? Fortunately, because most of life is not a crisis, we can enjoy and cherish all sorts of people who we wouldn’t invite to step behind the Crew door—and that’s ok. There’s only so much space back there.

 

The purpose of this exercise is to elucidate in our minds who we most value in times of crisis or great need. For those of you who feel somewhat anxious about this exercise or who worry that our answers may somehow betray certain people we love, take succor from the fact that most of life is lived and enjoyed beyond the door. Remember, the plane’s only purpose is to transport us; having arrived, we don’t just sit in that confined space with our crew. Of course not! We want to de-board, to feel the sunshine on our face, to run around and get busy in this new location. What makes it interesting is all the other people, the non-crew members, we get to see.

 

Now, remember when I asked you to define the qualities each of your crew members has that made you pick them? What I want you to think about is how you can cultivate in yourself those very same attributes. If you admire their decisiveness, build up the confidence that precedes being decisive. If you admire their calm, channel that. You love their ability to make things funny, search out the ridiculous, yourself. Whatever it is about your Crew, see if you might nurture those qualities internally. With a team like yours, the sky’s the limit.

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Flights of Fantasy

April 8, 2014

The National Air and Space Museum situated on the Washington Mall is the most popular of the Smithsonian Institution’s offerings. A gift to the nation for the bicentennial, the museum opened in 1976. I remember first walking into the building, dazzled by the Milestones of Flight giant entrance foyer which featured everything from The Spirit of St Louis to Apollo 11’s Lunar Module and other iconic markers of America’s space exploration. I excitedly waited in line to walk through the display where a moon rock was available for touching and hoped I could convince my parents to buy me some freeze dried ice cream. Learning about everything from the Wright Brothers first flight in Kittyhawk to listening to the transmissions as Neil Armstrong took that giant leap, the brimming potential of American scientific achievement inspired me to wonder what other future discoveries and achievements might someday be displayed.

 

Fast forward thirty-eight years, after millions of visitors have marched through the museum, amazed by what they see, the Milestones of Flight entrance hall requires a little sprucing up. The museum recently announced that Boeing is making a $30 million dollar donation for the hall to be renovated in time for the 40th anniversary of the museum’s opening. At the press conference announcing this donation, museum officials explained that entire generations might no longer be familiar with some of these iconic achievements, so the interpretative materials needed to be upgraded and room added for new items. I was thrilled to read about all of this, until I came to the part that announced that in addition to real airplanes and space craft, a model of the USS Enterprise would be included in the entrance hall.

 

This decision distresses me for a number of reasons, the most important of which is that, in my opinion, displaying a fictional spacecraft alongside authentic technology that resulted from years of hard work, investment, and innovation, where pilots and crew had to risk their lives in order to see if these machines would work, both diminishes the value of true discovery and confuses an uninformed audience by presenting a sci-fi fantasy vehicle as equivalent to what is actual innovation. While I recognize that many people might consider me a wet blanket for objecting to the Enterprise, arguing that everyone knows it’s “just” a tv show and it’s a way to engage visitors who might not otherwise be drawn towards an interest in space exploration, I continue to shake my head. It’s not that fiction can’t presage reality, but presenting fictional representations as corresponding to fact goes in the wrong direction. I believe there is far too much about our culture that celebrates fantasy over reality, and it does no favor to present the two as equivalent—especially when there are so many unthinking people out there who want to be convinced their lives can be magic. Just add water. At the end of the day, aside from the few celebrities who have nestled themselves into an obscenely well compensated fog of delusion, we must live our lives subject to the laws of gravity and other real world conditions.

 

It would be fine with me to have a side exhibit dedicated to space shows inspired by genuine exploration, but to accord the USS Enterprise key real estate in the Milestones of Flight sends the wrong message. It just does. People are confused enough about life as it is—do you believe that all politicians are just like those on House of Cards (ok, bad example because ours aren’t that slick). What did President Obama actually do to deserve the Nobel Peace Prize? How would you feel if you saw a photo of the Kardashians hanging side by side portraits of Bill Gates, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Charles Schwab, and Henry Ford as equivalent titans of industry? Are fake breasts the same as real? How about face lifts? It’s not that any of these things are objectionable in their own right, but they are not the same—the authenticity is missing. Have you heard anything about the controversy surrounding Japanese school texts that gloss over Japan’s role in the Rape of Nanking? When you immerse people in places of authority such as schools, halls of government, or museums and tell them that fiction is just as valid as fact, we all suffer. Propaganda comes in many flavors.

 

Ok, so my fellow re-booters, where in your life have you seen fiction presented as equivalent (or superior) to fact? When have you been confused believing something was real—whether that was a relationship, achievements, or a promise that life would work out a certain way—when, in truth, it was no more than a shimmering wisp of someone’s imagination?

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Frequency Variations: What Is It That We’re Hearing?

April 3, 2014

As I understand it, “Doppler Shift” is a term used to explain minor alterations in frequency due to change in position, as evidenced in how we hear varying sounds from an ambulance or an airplane as it changes location relative to us. The sound being generated doesn’t change, but how we hear it changes because our relationship to the vehicle varies. This concept is far more complicated than a simple question of volume—the pitch and intensity of certain elements of the sound rise to the top of our awareness as the ambulance makes its journey towards and then past us. Since I live near a hospital, I get a lot of practice listening to emergency vehicles swoosh past with their sirens blaring.

 

So, too, can our perception and understanding of what another person is communicating shift as our relationship with that person changes. It’s not that they’re saying anything different, but we hear (and understand) it differently because of the shifting dynamics between the two of us. When one or the other (or both) of us varies our “position,” the Doppler Shift between us alters, too. Make sense?

 

I am using Doppler Shift as a way to examine elusive alterations in relationships. When it comes to long term associations, we often operate on the assumption that because we know the other person so well, how we understand them remains static. Because we are lazy, we settle in on a particular frequency and proceed as if all communications are sent out and received on this one setting. But the truth is, they’re not. It changes all the time—our position in the relationship continually shifts, whether we are cognizant of this or not.

 

Let me give an example to make my point more clear: say you’re at the gym on one of the cardio machines and there’s a person on the machine right next to you. You both have the tvs tuned to the same channel, only the timing of the signal and tint of the picture on your screen doesn’t exactly match that being shown on the other. Perhaps on your screen, the interviewer looks slightly orange and on the other person’s screen the tinge is more yellow. For most practical purposes, this is irrelevant. But, what if you both were trying to assess how healthy the person was? You’d come to different conclusions based on how your particular tv received the signal. Only one image is broadcast, but how you receive it differs. Does this make sense? Now, let’s say that you can’t see the other tv, but the two of you are both watching the same broadcast at the same time. When you go to discuss the health of the interviewer, the two of you believe you are assessing the same image, but you aren’t. Each of you is in a different relationship with the broadcast signal—which is where the Doppler Shift comes into play—and thus, takes in slightly different information.

 

God, this is getting painful. Why is this important?

 

It’s important because problems often arise when two people use the same vocabulary about a situation, but the vocabulary means slightly different things to each person. How we use it and how we hear it differs, but because it’s the same general word, we think we understand what they’re saying, when we don’t. And because we think we know, it doesn’t occur to us to check for clarification. For instance, let’s say two people tell each other, “I don’t want to get married.” Yet, one person means, I don’t want to get married to you, while the other means marriage isn’t right for me. Big, big difference! And yet, they’ve made identical statements, so the understandable tendency is to believe they’re in agreement. This could lead to a lot of unhappiness and misunderstanding down the line. The same holds true for other types of communication. For instance, when I say the word “ok,” it signals (to me) that I’m ready to negotiate, but someone else heard it as a patronizing putdown. It took me a long time to figure out why we were running into trouble about an issue—our positions relative to the word “ok” were different. Back then, I didn’t know about the Doppler Shift.

 

So, as re-booters, we need to be keenly aware of the possibility that others are receiving signals we don’t intend because they’re operating from a different angle of repose. And vice versa. The signals come in differently and so, the frequency on which they’re received varies, too. A relationship is never static, but we often pretend that it is. A successful re-booter remembers that there are no fixed targets.

Editorial Content: What’s Your Angle?

April 1, 2014

Strongly held opinions splashed across newspapers’ editorial pages lecture us about what we should think. This being the nation’s capital, it is the global epicenter of strongly held opinions. But, just because these philosophies are strongly held and aggressively promoted does not mean that they’re good or useful. We’ve seen example after example of agenda driven policy supported by those who brook no claim that they may be overlooking (or dare I suggest conveniently ignoring?) outcomes, impacts, or just plain old reality which might contravene the proponents’ agendas. As with so many things in life, it’s much easier to gain perspective when you’re not directly embroiled in an issue, way harder when you are the one pushing the point.

 

Part of what drives re-booters forward is an ongoing quest to increase our understanding, to see things more clearly, to appreciate the big picture of what’s going on around us. Asking questions and probing deeper into the nuances of our existence and relationships hinges on our willingness to revise our understanding and accept that, at times, we are just as likely to be wrong in our assessments as to be correct. It is this relentless curiosity and humility that enables us to make progress. But not everyone feels this way. To some, any form of backtracking or acknowledgement of error is far more threatening to their concept of self, and so, they dig in their heels and refuse to admit or even consider the possibility that they got it wrong.

 

Over the course of my life, I have been privileged to know more than my fair share of truly brilliant people. They far outrank me in terms of ability, curiosity, insight, energy, and wisdom and I like being around them because they make me stretch. What took me awhile to realize, however, is that just because they are blessed with these talents, does not mean that all such persons are intellectually honest. In fact, what I have witnessed is that certain individuals act (and think) as if they are interested in learning and pursuing wisdom when, in actuality, all they are doing is seeking out additional arguments or proof that they’re “right.” Genuine interest in having a fair and accurate understanding of a person or situation is not their goal.

 

This is what I mean by editorial content.

 

Of course, we each proceed through life with our own biases, sensitivities, and hang ups, but there’s an enormous gulf between those who grow to be aware of their particular weaknesses and work to overcome them versus those who refuse to be honest (with themselves, let alone anyone else) about their agendas. I consider narcissists to be the most egregious of this group, but it’s an equal opportunity field out there. When I first realized that not everyone is willing to reconsider their opinions or attitudes because doing so might risk their being shown in a poor light, I was shocked. Isn’t truth more important than appearance? Call me naïve, I know. In fact, over the years, I’ve come to conclude that there are far more people in the world who prefer not to examine their behavior, their responsibility for a poor outcome, or their wrong or unfair decisions than those folks who have the courage to do so. Case in point: Congress and the White House. As demonstrated repeatedly, each of these branches of government refuses to “stand down” from their intransigent positions. Even worse, to placate the voters, they employ the public relations’ guise of conducting investigations or interviewing relevant experts in order “to learn more.” What a joke. The way I see it, in nearly every case, what happens here in Washington is another round of Kabuki theater with foregone conclusions propped up by scraps of favorable testimonial evidence they can find or invent. Our elected leaders pick and choose and distort useful bits as additional ammunition with which to bolster their argument.

 

Ok, so back to re-booting. Where have you ignored inconvenient facts or patterns of behavior in order to continue on a particular path? Is it possible that, perhaps, you have glossed over one or two contrary indications because they interfered with your goal? And, if not you, surely you can think of people you know who do this. How’d that work out? Not too well, would be my bet because the truth always catches up with us, no matter how hard we try pretending it doesn’t exist. What happens with re-booters is that, often, we have ignored so much evidence that our lives implode. Despite our best efforts at shutting out editorial content we dislike, reality is rude enough to intrude. It certainly was the case for me; my carefully crafted glass palace shattered around my ears because I refused to examine or address the cracks that appeared in the foundation of my lovely creation. It was unstable from the start but I didn’t want to see it, so I looked the other way and kept my eyes focused on what bolstered my hopes, never mind those nagging suspicions.

 

The reason I am going on about this is to sound the alarm about how often people we respect and admire choose to cling fiercely to their editorial stance rather than experience the discomfort of acknowledging they may not have been honest about the situation at hand. The really devious ones run around and act as if they are interested in learning the truth, but they aren’t. All they seek is a way to prop up their old beliefs.

 

So, then, how editorialized is your content? Are you being honest with yourself?


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