Friday, December 27, 2013

Sage Advice


A while ago, I was didn't know how to handle an employee leave issue and sought the advice of another manager.  I wanted to keep this advice as a reference, because it's absolutely stellar:

I appreciate that this needs to be handled carefully. The implications can last a while and can affect other members of the team.

I would tell the employee that I was having trouble finding the appropriate clause in the collective agreement for the situation (day-care).

If the person gives you a reasonable match, and YOU think you could defend it to the rest of the team and to an auditor, then accept it.

If the person cannot give you a good match, then take the position of "As your supervisor, I'm here to help you get through this problem. :) What are our alternatives?". (Annual leave, flexible work arrangement like telework or irregular hours, etc).

Try not to let yourself get painted into a corner of being the police, or having to approve "inappropriate" use of the collective agreement.

In other words, try to stay out of a win-lose situation. Maybe there is more information available from the employee that would make things easier. (Does the child have a bad cold or something? Hint, hint)

The potential for get into a lose-lose situation is pretty high, and it's only a couple of days. To me it's an opportunity to purchase some good will for when that call comes from the Minister's office at 4 PM on a Friday.

This is a good reminder -- stay out of a win-lose situation.  So much to learn here.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Taking the rewards out of education

Another enlightening talk with Alfie Cohn on CBC Radio's Ontario Today.  This time the discussion was about taking awards (sports trophies, honour roll) out of schools.  I couldn't agree more.  He presented several compelling reasons why these hurt our children's education.  When we offer rewards:
  • we are saying that in order to excel, you have to do so at the detriment of your peers; why can't more than one person learn?
  • we see each other as adversaries: it becomes very difficult to cooperate, learn from each other, develop empathy and form a connection
  • we begin to see the task as a means to an end instead of getting the most out of the experience
  • children try to secure a win by choosing an easier task rather than push themselves to learn more.
  • we create children who become addicted to praise.
  • we don't see the task as 'fun' if we loose
I also really like this point that Alfie Cohn made:  praise and awards are not feedback, they are judgements.  Children need an engaged curriculum in a learning-centered environment.  Instead of passively listening to lectures, and filling out worksheets, they need to be given context and purpose as well as an opportunity to explore and lead.

A lot of people are angered by his viewpoint.  They claim that the world is competitive -- in the workplace and even in nature.  Competition motivates people to achieve.  The speaker's rebuttal was that in fact nature is a lot more cooperative than we think because unfortunately our view of nature is biased -- it's based on what's fed to us through the media.  Animals cooperate so that there is enough for everyone.  However this does not make for good TV.  Alfie Cohn also said that competitiveness is not the same as excellence, which is a very good point because many believe they are synonymous.

I don't feel good about delving out praise and commenting on my children's achievements.  I feel that it takes away from their moment and how they might feel about it.  I want them to be intrinsically motivated as well because I won't always be there to offer up an external prize.  The world does not owe them anything. Yet there a lot of people who are accustomed to praise and expect their partners and bosses to continue what their parents and teachers started.  I defintely don't want my kids to end up being attention-seekers or praise-junkies. It's a terrible feeling, to have your self-worth defined by someone else's opinion of you.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Mental Strength

Some good reminders in this self-improvement article on mental toughness -- got me thinking how I fare.  I think that I've come a long way and I'm quite aware of where I need to improve.

1. Don't waste time feeling sorry for yourself: I admittedly do this a little bit, but it's short-lived because I know that it is a waste of time.  Luckily I can easily catch myself doing it and quickly remember that I SO MUCH to be grateful for.

2. Don't give away your power: it's easy to blame a situation or person for my bad mood, but again I can usually work myself out of this by realizing that I am choosing my behaviour.

3. Don't shy away from change: got it -- change 101: if I can see the benefit of the change to me and my family, then I'm usually comfortable with change

4. Don't waste energy on things you can't change: Hmmm.  K, I suck at this.  BUT I realize when I'm doing it and try hard to ACCEPT

5. Don't fear taking calculated risks: k, I'm pretty risk averse as of late .. but I think that's more a product of my age and lifestyle.

6. Don't dwell on the past:  alright, I like to take trips down memory lane to re-live those glory days, especially when my babies were young.  But I time-box it.  The past is in the past.  Inner-peace is in the present, which is where I want to spend most of my energy.  It's a gift!

7. Don't make the same mistakes over and over:  FAIL.  I can't even type more on this.  Emotional situations make me lose my sensibility! Luckily the business student in me sees opportunities for improvement all the time.

8. Don't resent other people's success:  I'm pretty good about seeing other people's success as being something that's separate from my own success.  However, the green-eyed monster does rear it's ugly head from time to time, especially when people younger people leap frog me.  I'm learning to get used to it, because it will only get worse in my career.  I already have a manager who is younger than me.

9. Don't give up after your first failure: I'm not sure that I agree with this one.  Aterall,  "play to your strengths" and "know when to fold 'em" has served me well.  Although, I do believe in learning through trying and staying focused on your goals.  You just have to be realistic.

10. Don't fear alone time:  I don't do this!  In fact I love the time I have alone with my thoughts and ideas.  I have big ideas afterall :-)

11. Don't expect immediate results:  K, I don't do this ... especially with weight loss.  I am inherently impatient.  But I'm wise enough to know that baby steps should be celebrated.  The journey is as important as the reward.

12. Don't worry about pleasing everyone:  this one is tough because intellectually I know that you'll waste your time trying to please everyone in life.  As a mother, it's hard not to want to please everyone, especially when I see that my actions affect more people than just me.  This is very much related to #4 -- I can't change other people's perceptions.  Their disappointment is theirs.

13. Don't feel the world owes you anything:  yep!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Russell Brand

One of the most remarkable speakers of our time.  So much of what he says about humanity, culture, spirituality rings true for me.  Plus he is super *hot*.

Here are a few notes from a vid montage that I just watched:
  • I don't want that feeling in my stomach that I get when I know that people are being exploited.
  • We live in the realm of the senses.  But reality is beyond what we feel, hear, smell, touch, see (e.g. we can only hear within a certain decibel range, see within a certain spectrum of light); what if there are only energies out there that we are oblivious to?
  • we are just a blob of atoms within infinite space and eternal time; the physical body is not who we are
  • when we fill our head with superficial information (e.g. celebrity gossip) we forget about what's important
  • look within for the divine -- there is limitless potential for bliss through connection to other things
  • we overemphasize the individual: our culture promotes and rewards primal desires (greed, selfishness, lust)  which cause us to exist in opposition to each other and leave us exploitable by corporations
  • the self is a temporal illusion; by focusing on our individualism (which is transitory) we are losing the empathetic connection we have to the earth and to all living things
  • what's important are the things we all share -- love, unity, togetherness
  • I'm happy when I'm being nice to other people
  • the centre of your being is love, compassion, tolerance
So inspiring.  We all have the capacity for good and evil.  When I'm behaving selfishly (as I have been recently), I'm not only hurting other people, I'm hurting myself.  What I want most in life is inner peace which comes from compassion and love.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

My kind of XMas

I'm trying to keep XMas stress at bay but can feel it slowly creeping into my psyche.  I think the problem is that my behaviour is in conflict with my desires.  I'd love to finally simplify by NOT:
  • entertaining so much
  • buying too many presents
  • over-planning
  • baking/eating so much crap

I' also not living in the present right now, which is something I've decided I must practice in order to find inner-peace.  Building up one measly day of the year will surely result in disappointment. And I'm passing this on to my kids as well.

As I unpacked the tree this afternoon, I couldn't help but feel that it was only yesterday when I tore it down.  And it's always the same every year.  The same gluttony, debt, and more gluttony.

But then there's the kids ... and the happy XMas morning I want to create for them.  But what about the consumerism and buyers remorse?  And the extra pounds?  And all the crap toys that invade what precious empty space I have left in my house? I used to get on my parents case for not putting up their tree after my sister and I moved out.  I finally get it!  I am there.  How nice it would be to just ignore XMas altogether.  Or at least tone it WAY down.  We don't talk about or do anything to plan for XMas until one week before.  Each person gets only ONE gift.  We eat a nice meal together and eat ONE decadent dessert and we do ONE outdoor activity as a family.  And everything goes back to normal the next day.  Now, that's my kind of XMas.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Self Worth

Just read this in a blog post (have already lost the link) -- is definitely worth jotting down:

"Self worth comes from who you are internally and not from how other people treat you externally."

A great example of this is doing what you think is right because it will please others.  I'm not talking about servicing others, but instead trying to win their approval.  I still do this.  My manager is not going to give me a gold star, my kids are not going to tell me I've done a 'good job!' and my partner is not going to buy me flowers for every thing I'm supposed to do as a mother and partner.

Decide your own worth for yourself, don't let other people tell you how much you’re worth. It’s called self worth after all,  not others worth.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Parenting, the Panacea

Today, I heard myself say that my parenting is the root cause for my children's behaviour -- both now and in the future.  And my friend kind of just looked like me like I was nuts.  And he's right.  Whoa.  I've taken my parenting role WAY too seriously all these years.  I have a job to do, yes.  And how I treat my kids will definitely influence how they treat themselves and others.  But there are many more factors beyond my parenting that will guide their behaviour -- peers, spouses, opportunities, personality, education, genes, etc. 

I have gotten way too big for my britches.  In fact I am setting myself up for failure here.  Because I feel responsible for their behaviour (rather than realizing that as independent people they are the ones who are responsible for their own behaviour),  I will be devastated and feel like I have failed as a parent, when they fall.  And yes, they will fall from time to time. Jesus, how did this happen?

For starters, I blame and judge too much.  When another kid misbehaves, I blame it on bad parenting.  When my own kid can't control her anger, I try to think of ways I can fix that.  When I feel my own neurosis creeping up, I blame my own parents instead of taking responsibility.  Ugh, this is ugly!

My friend helped me realize that most of how we act as parents comes from emotion, not parenting text books.  And my best parenting is simply setting a good example and loving my children unconditionally.  "I get you and I love you for who you are, not what you do". And guess what?  Most parents do JUST that, regardless of what techniques they use to parent.

How humbling this was to realize that I had inadvertently created a mega-identity for myself.  Time to downplay Diane, the Mom and start being just me, for everyone's sake.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Married men who lust after other women

It's by no ways a revelation that men lust after women.  However I'm starting to see it more with men I know who have been married for 10+ years.  I was at a party recently where the alcohol was flowing freely and people were having a great time.  Guys I knew, who were at the party with their wives in fact, started to hit on me.  Granted, booze makes you lose inhibitions and I was probably giving off some crazy alcohol-induced 'come f-me vibes' .  But the whole experience was bizarre for me because it was clear that these guys were not planning on taking me home.  I'm sure there was a lot of crazy forbidden stuff going on in their minds.  But I know these men -- they were not looking to have an affair.  So why flirt when you know it can't go anywhere?  I started to think that perhaps the reason behind their behaviour was that they were starved for attention. Even though their wives were incredible women (and some of them were super hot themselves), and their marriages very strong, these men still wanted to be noticed and appreciated by other women.
In the past I would misinterpret this kind of interest by assuming it was 'me' they were interested in.  Sadly, it has very little to do with the other person.  It's about feeling good again.  The charge you get when someone different laughs at your jokes, recognizes your insight or notices your biceps.  This is what most men enjoy.  Their marriages are still sacred and their loyalty unbreakable.  Flirting does not in anyway change how much they love their wives. 

So now when a married man flirts with me I understand that it doesn't mean that they are at all interested in me or more importantly, interested in messing up their life.  They are interested in me giving them some attention.  Sad and pathetic, yes.  Women are likely doing the same thing but for different reasons.  At least now I know.  And knowing is what keeps me grounded.

Is the Internet making us smarter or stupider (yes, it is a word)

A great debate on Q today - how I love to listen to experts speak!  Great points on both sides of the debate some of which are worth noting:

  1. we have a much shorter attention span now
  2. we've lost the ability to recall facts because all known thought is just one click away
  3. we don't get exposed to opposing viewpoints because we tend to read content (and follow others) who have similar views (confirmation bias)
  4. we don't take the time required for reflective thought (which is the basis for wisdom) because we are too busy amassing tid bits of information
  5. we don't realize how much misinformation there is online
  6. we gravitate to the trivial because its lure is very powerful
  1. we have access to the world's collective knowledge
  2. we are actively sharing knowlege rather than being passive -- that is we can now participate in the dialog
  3. we can form deeper connections with others because we know more about them over time -- their thoughts, interests, views, etc.
I still have more of the debate to listen to.  In the meantime it's got me thinking of my own growth.  Ten years ago I rarely read.  And today I am constantly reading.  Granted, most of it is online content, but I find that because of that, my interests have expanded and it's truly enriched my life. I feel like my conversations are more meaningful and my ability to relate to other ppl's interests has greatly improved, thanks to the Internet.  And it turns out that meaningful conversations are a great source of happiness for most people, including myself!

Some insight to add from two of my friends who are deep thinkers.  Regarding the above points:

3. confirmation bias is easier, but we've always done it. Think of how we read newspapers -- rarely start to finish -- we naturally gravitate to what interests us.  Plus most of it doesn't even stick.  In the same way that we're not likely to make friends with people who have opposing political interests in person, we probably won't friend them on FB either.  This hasn't really changed because of the Internet.  Of course you can create a much bigger echo chamber for yourself on social media.  And that's certainly something you need to be conscious of because you are limiting your view of the world and opportunity for growth
4. the Internet did not cause the decline in wisdom:  Most people just don't make time for reflective thought, probably because their minds are too pre-occupied with activities and noise and this has been going on well before the Internet.  I agree that very few people are big revolutionary thinkers.  But how many more thinkers could there be, were their minds not filled with meaningless dribble?
5. there's always been misinformation; every study is in some way flawed, be it the sample size or composition, the research methodology, the conclusions ... research can prove anything.  The Internet has not changed that.

Some other points from my friends:
1. Were it not for the Internet, how would we be spending our time?  Is the lure of the Internet so powerful that it's taken time away from activities that make us smarter, such as reading?  I guess it depends on what you are doing online.  Looking at cat vids, spreading celebrity gossip, filling your head with factoids, surfing porn?
2. Most people's online behaviour is moderate.  The majority of my FB friends don't share their emotions. I know that I feel uncomfortable about sharing my moments of happiness, lest it be perceived as Bragbook.  Nor do I like to see myself complaining or venting too much -- I'm just polluting other people's space with my negativity.  So what's left?  Sharing a bit of humour, insight and interest -- the best parts of myself and of my friends.

Ahhhh, I loved this discussion today.  Didn't really reach any conclusions, but the discussion helped me see things differently.

Thursday, November 7, 2013


I was reminded today of a time long ago when I first met D.  We had gone out for drinks as a gang after volleyball one night.  I was the only girl at the table and didn't really know anyone except the guy who had invited me out to play, Ryan.  Ryan was kind of cute and somewhat quirky.  I could tell that he was into me, but I wasn't sure how I felt about him yet.  Another guy, D, sat across the table and started asking me questions about myself.  I thought it very polite of him to try and strike up a conversation with me, but felt more comfortable talking to Ryan as well since we had already gone out on a couple of dates.  As we were deciding what to drink, our waitress showed up at our table wearing a very skimpy outfit, with tassels and a cowboy hat.  She was super cute and friendly.  She immediately commanded the attention of all the guys at our table, including Ryan who completely forgot about me and started shamelessly flirting with her.  She told us that her name was Rihanna -- her parents were big Fleetwood Mac fans -- you know, hippies (that's how young she was).  I remember feeling a twinge of jealousy as I sat there in my volleyball sweats wishing Rihanna would just get lost.  But then I looked up and D was still looking at me, asking me more questions about myself.  I had his COMPLETE attention.  It was as if Rihanna did not exist.  He was genuinely interested in talking to me.  Anyways, it was at that moment that D started to impress me.  I hadn't really noticed him before.  Now HE had my full attention.  And the rest was history ...
It was nice to be reminded of that today.  Thirteen years later and he's still super loyal.  I'm very lucky to have his love. xx

Monday, November 4, 2013

Contemplating Death

Last post on the Untethered Soul before I return it.  The book talks about the Dao -- which is the middle way, that sweet spot where you are balanced -- no extremes, just bliss.  We waste a lot of energy at the extremes.  The example of the smoker explains it well:  at one extreme the smoker is busy smoking, finding a place to smoke, buying smokes, etc.  When he tries to quit he spends the whole year trying various methods (patch, cold turkey, e-cigarettes, etc.).  Because of one extreme, the pendulum has to sway far to the other side.  Much energy and effort is wasted at both ends of the spectrum.  The key is to centre and not participate in either extreme.  That is the Dao.

The book also talked about contemplating death.  We all know the expression 'live each day like it is your last', but I've never stopped to think about what this would actually be like.  What if God told me that I had one week to settle my affairs before dying?  I would instinctively beg for more time.  But what about the lifetime I've already been given FFS?  Why am I not spending that time being the best person I can be for my loved ones. Why am I not appreciating life's beauty?  Why am I not letting go of all my resentment and complaints?

Staring death in the face is a good way to live because it keeps you grounded.  We will all die, we just don't know when.  So if you live life fully (like today was your last day), then you won't have any last wishes.  Great insight!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Do you want to be happy?

It's a simple enough question, but one we often tie to our circumstances.  Of course I want to be happy, but my partner is an asshole.  WRONG ANSWER.  The thing I keep forgetting is that happiness is something we can actually have control over, regardless of life's circumstances.  To state the obvious, stuff happen -- billions of events from now until eternity.  Do I want to be happy regardless of what happens?  YES, I DO.  Once I accept that events will not determine my happiness, I can more easily find happiness.

My commitment to happiness starts with letting go of the part of me that wants to create melodrama.  I gain nothing by being bothered by the world's events -- I can't even really influence them. I simply suffer.  Being bothered seems to be my specialty lately, because I always find something to be bothered by.

The book I'm reading recommends being aware of when you start to become unhappy and simply LET IT GO (yes, the Disney song my 7 yr old sings ad nauseam). When life gets me down, and I say to myself "that ruined my day -- what good came of that?"  The answer is always nothing.  Absolutely nothing came of that.  I simply let it interfere with my happiness, which is the ONE thing that I truly want.

Monday, October 28, 2013

The End of Growth

Another great Jeff Rubin book that builds on the ideas from his first revealing book.
Rather than summarize all of it, I´m going to note a few personal learning points:

The caution siren is sounding, but nobody is listening:  I am confounded by the inability of governments to do anything that will lessen our dependence on fossil fuel.  The book mentions that the US continues to grant permits for deepwater exploration in the Gulf of Mexico for example.  After the Moacondo fiasco?  WTF.

Growth is the tenet of Economics: nobody quesitons it; it's the panecea of all economic ills

Potential growth is calculated from productivity and labour (are your factories at capacity, is your workforce growing).  The price of oil does not enter into the equation.

The good times of steady growth are over. An economy can't grow if can't afford to burn the fuel it runs on. Stimulus money and printing money not only creates a huge debt burden, but also causes inflation.

QE:  Fed buying up longer-term government bonds to bring down long-term interest rates. The lower rate of return on long-term gov't bonds, makes other investments more attractive by comparison.  Investors typically park huge sums of cash in long-term US bonds in an attempt to ride our a finacial storm. The Fed is trying to steer money to other parts of the financial system where it can do more good. Buying mortgage-backed securities also lowers mortgage rates which reduces borrowing costs for potential homeowners and hopefully stimulates the housing market.

China:  Every month, China's central bank shows up to buy US bonds (t-bills, t-notes and t-bonds) at the US treasuries auction. China buys US treasury bonds to help keep its currency from rising against the US dollar.  Their demand for treasuries is tantamont to a demand for US currency.  In foreign exchange markets, such demand is what allows a currency to hold its value. Rapacious American consumers have dined on cheap labour from China for decades.  China cycles the savings of these same workers into US treasuires so that Americans can keep buying cheap Chinese goods.    With energy scarcity, distance costs money.  Also higher Chinese wages boosts domestic economic activity which means less reliance on the US.  China is facing high inflation right now.  They can combat this by letting the value of their currency rise.  Letting the yuan rise in relation to the USD would mean that China pays less for imports (e.g. oil, corn) and gives Chinese consumers more purchasing power. China can simply turn inward to its 1.3B consumers.  Their auto market is already 50% larger than the US auto market. China could also start selling their US Treasuries -- this would flood the market, which would shrink the appetitie for buying US bonds at future Treasury auctions and sink the USD further.  In order to entice investors, the US would have to raise interest rates on their bonds.  This would affect US citizens (mortgage holders) as their interest rates would also rise.    

Admittedly, a lot of this basic info was beyond me.  What the hell did I learn at university exactly?  At any rate, the future is bleak.  And no one is doing anything about it.

More on the psyche

So much wisdom in such a short book.  Here are some more notes:

We build up a self-concept based on experiences, beliefs, opinions, sets of thoughts and emotions.  And we cling to this concept because it creates what we think is a safe rational place.  But unfortunately when something happens to shake the foundation of who we think we are (e.g. losing a loved one) our entire view of who we are (including our relationship to everyone around us) falls apart.  So we panic and fight to keep it together.  Instead of trying to make everything fit in our comfort zone, we should instead be questioning the model we've built in the first place.

A very good friend of mine follows this philosophy -- believe in nothing, because dogma is dangerous.  You will never by happy if your identity is tied to form or beliefs because beliefs should evolve with new information.  This is wise.  This book says that you should be free to experience life without mental boundaries.  This 'going beyond' is enlightenment.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

F'ed up psyche

Some more notes from the Untethered Soul.  Our constant anxious self talk is suffering.  It's because our psyche is so messed up that we think about it so much (e.g. worry if he won't like you, or replay what we said earlier).  Interesting that we rarely think about our physical bodies; only when there's something wrong (e.g. injury, illness).  Yet with our minds constantly 'on',  our psyches must be f'ed up.  Yep.  This book says that the dysfunction comes from fear.  We've given our psyches the impossible responsibility to make the world right. 

From the book: "You said to your mind:  I want everyone to like me.  I don't want anyone to speak badly of me.  I want everything I say and do to be acceptable and pleasing to everyone.  I don't want anyone to hurt me.  I don't want anything to happen that I don't like.  And I want everything to happen that I do like."

Whoa!  talk about a tall order.  No wonder my mind won't shut up!  And so my mind gives me lots of advice on how to change external things, so that my problems can be fixed.  But the thing is, it never works.  But I keep listening.  For example, if you feel loneliness, your mind tells you that the solution is to find a relationship.  However, that does not address the root of the problem which is that you don't feel whole and complete within yourself.  And so it goes.  The way to be free of my psyche making all these demands of me is to tell it that it's job is not to try and fix all my personal problems.  It's that easy.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Seat of Consciouness

More from the same book, the Untethered Soul.

Transcendence is the goal here.  Don't get sucked in.  Let things pass, which is not the same as resisting.  For example, I see someone looking super fit in their workout clothes and my inner voice starts up -- I wish I looked like that, WTF, why don't I look like that. I could look like that if I wasn't such a lazy, undisciplined git, oh fuck I'm pathetic for making so many excuses, etc., etc.  I work myself up into this mad frenzy over something completely stupid.  I've been sucked into my own melodrama.  Just as the super fit person passes by, so too should my pangs of jealousy pass by.  Let yourself feel the bad emotions, but let them quickly pass over you.  Don't get sucked in.

This book talks about the 'seat of consciousness'.  It's the place up high where you observe your life.  I imagine it to look like at umpire's seat at a tennis match.  As the observer you see life before you and you let yourself feel, but you stay separate from your feelings because YOU ARE NOT YOUR FEELINGS.  Feelings, like experiences are just part of being human.  I personally tend to make feelings more important than they are.  I forget that they quickly pass.  This books says that when you stay in your seat, you will feel energy come from behind you and flow through you.  I must admit I'm finding this a bit hard to grasp.  But it sounds wonderful -- the freedom of not being thought-obsessed or overcome by emotion.  Inner peace!

Last point to note is the idea of inner disturbances.  The book says that when we have something that bothers us, rather than remove it, we tend to work around it -- adjust our behaviour and circumstances to accommodate it rather than just remove it.  For example, if we have a fear of rejection we might choose to always please others before ourselves, or we might stay closed or avoid relationships altogether.  These inner disturbances are basically blocked energy from our past. They can and should be removed.  If we don't release them, we will continue to focus on them because our consciousness tends to get drawn to the most distracting object.  It's similar to bumping your toe or hearing a loud noise, it has your attention.  And this is what happens when we get sucked in and fall from our seat.  We're overcome with emotion and can't see the forest from the trees. Even worse, we start to act out (e.g. yell at someone else, take revenge, etc.) thereby affecting someone else's inner peace ... all because we haven't dealt with our issues.  Sigh. 

I think I might have to re-read some of these ideas or at least let them simmer more.  Good stuff all around!

Saturday, October 19, 2013


I'm reading an interesting book on consciousness and it's starting to draw some simple relationships in my mind.  This is helping me understand the concepts I've heard again and again, yet haven't quite grasped.  The idea that reality is based on perception starts to make sense until I think of feedback.  When I touch a table, it feels hard, so I know that it is there.  But is it really there?  Is it just what I've come to expect.  If I didn't experience the table would it be there?  OK, NOW YOU'VE LOST ME.

So this book breaks it down nicely like I am 6 years old, starting with the voice in your head.  I personally know this voice, because it talks to me constantly.  It reminds me of stuff I need to do (e.g. don't forget to call your mom), it chastises me for things I have done (e.g. why did you jump down his throat like that before giving him a chance to speak, you are so selfish), it likes to tell me why things are the way they are (e.g. he doesn't give a shit about you, he's disrespecting you again).  This books says that the voice is not you and just because it speaks does not mean we need to listen.  The voice is there to interpret reality for us so that we can feel safer in the world.  We often pay attention because we believe that it comes from some kind of inner wisdom.  But, really it does no more than fill the air.  For one thing the voice flip flips all over the place (e.g. you should work out, but then again your knees are sore and you need to rest, but you also ate like crap today and need to burn some caolories, etc.).  Secondly,  most of what the voice is doing is complaining -- looking for problems, looking for something to be bothered by.  In fact in my case, the voice never gives anyone the benefit of the doubt (e.g. why did he not say anything?  he's ignoring me again?  he's trying to distance himself from he -- he's trying to send a fucking message, etc.).  My voice dreams up all kinds of negative explanations when most of the time there's a reasonable explanation (e.g. he was on another computer and did not see my BBM, he was on the phone, he was deep into work).
Anyways, I've just scratched the surface but I look forward to learning more about this, including how to turn the voice off!  I have a feeling that it won't be possible though.  But awareness is usually an important step for me.  It's a nice way to spend a Saturday night.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Such a life changing book and as I re-read some of the notes I wrote 15 years ago I realize that I was too young to appreciate the significance of its teachings.  I also see how far I have to go to becoming truly authentic.  Aside from 'putting first things first' or 'seeking first to understand before wanting to be understood' -- the biggest challenge is choosing integrity.  Because with every choice I make in life, I should be asking myself "is this is where I want to get?" More often than not, the answer is no.  I do not live by the values I uphold.  And it's killing me.

Some notes on my Personal Mission Statement that I wrote in 1998:
I will honour all commitments.
I will keep promises to myself.
I will be trustworthy.
I will accept those moments of angst and cherish those opportunities to see myself honestly.
I will faithfully learn from my mistakes.
I will see the good in others and understand what motivates their behaviour.
I will be empathetic.
I will help others see the potential in themselves.
I will cease being the victim and realize that others have endured far worse.
I will believe that tomorrow will be a brighter day.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Making Work, Work

More summary notes on a book that's about to go back to the library -- Making work, work.

Although written for Highly Sensitive People in particular, I feel this book has a lot of good advice to offer anyone who has a job.  The author categorizes work into Drudgery, Craft and Calling and basically says that if you are stuck in Drudgery, you will never be happy -- so get out fast.
Drudgery is when you hate your job.  You feel like a slave.  Common elements:
1. environment:  noisy, odors, bad lighting, tight or cluttered space, long communte
2. task:  no control (e.g. restrictions on how and when work is carried out), repetitive, boring, not challenging, no sense of accomplishment
3. people:  negative attitude toward you (from boss, co-workers, clients), bullying

Prolonged work in Drudgery will ruin your health and destroy your self-confidence.  You can't be self-actualized if you are here.  Get out asap.

Calling is meca.  It's that place where work doesn't even feel like work.  You can lose yourself in it.  It's enjoyable.  It's a part of your identify.  Just typing this brings a smile to my face.  Here are some other attributes worth mentioning:

  • sense of purpose
  • feeling nourished by the work
  • self-confidence:  an ability to relate to everyone as an equal
  • able to adapt to change
  • nonthreatened
  • waking up with lots of ideas
  • sense of rightness and harmony
  • desire to do your best and eager for challenges

While I can't say that my current job is my Calling, I certainly feel strong elements of it.  Which brings me to Craft. Craft is that in-between state, not quite bliss, but not hell either -- kind of like purgatory.  Most people are probably here.

Labelling work like this helps me look at my career more objectively.  I can see where a promising job turned into Drudgery all because of a hellish boss.  I can also see where my strong commitment and tendency to please others kept me stuck rather than getting out for the sake of my health.  This is my nature though.  It's not uncommon for people in Drudgery to have a difficult time saying no.  This is essential in order to preserve your sanity.  Too often we take on more than we can handle or accept being treated without respect because we'd loathe to hurt someone else, or we avoid conflict, don't trust our own feelings or ruminate worst-case scenarios. The author provides some great advice on setting personal boundaries such as these:
  • I value myself enough to trust my feelings
  • I am capable of solving my problems
  • I have the right to have hope
  • I respect my body, feelings and thoughts
  • I have the right to say that something bothers me, right away

The best advice was simply "listen to your intuition".  I know when something is not right -- when something goes against my values.  Learning to respectfully speak up can be difficult, but it's a must.

Some other advice for bosses is worth noting for myself:
  • don't try to manipulate people with kindness (yikes)
  • listen to other's ideas -- don't dismiss them right away
  • give people the freedom to be as creative as they possibly can in doing their jobs

Learning how to recognize when your current job is Drudgery and forcing yourself to get out is critical to your happiness.  There's really no way to turn it around if all elements (environment, task, people (people is the biggest influencer) are bad.  I'm grateful to have this new perspective and also grateful that I have such a great job.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Back Talk

I'm really frustrated with my kids whining and back talk lately.  I end up sparring with them, when I should remain calm and demand respect.

"Be sure to emphasize the message that you will not listen to what they have to say until they are able to speak to you in a calm and respectful manner."

Whatev. This is hard.  Time to draw a parallel --in the same way we taught them as toddlers that it's unacceptable to hit, we should be teaching them that it's unacceptable to be disrespectful. Period.

Remain calm.  "Remind yourself that the calmer you are and the less you let yourself be affected by sassy back talk, the more your child will learn to use positive ways to express his opinions."

I'm *trying* to apply this right now and I can see it working, a bit.  The kids are reasonable.  My BFF is very good at giving people the benefit of the doubt.  What's behind the behaviour?  I don't instinctively do this, but with practice I know I will get there.  "Keep it together"  great advice from Eddie Murphy.

Saturday, July 6, 2013


I don´t think much about attachment parenting these days because it´s just something we learned to do ten years ago, because it made a lot of sense to D and I.  We consciously formed a close bond with our babies by nursing, carrying them and co-sleeping so that we could easily respond to their needs.  This hopefully made them feel secure that we loved them and would not abandon them.

But recently I stumbled onto an article on how attachment affects adulthood. It´s a good reminder of why this is so important.

  • Secures have a greater sense of general well-being -- they are more self-confident and more balanced and realistic in their expectations of themselves
  • Under stress, secures stick to the task better -- they don´t become either highly emotional or deny the problem
  • Secures are less likely to use alcohol for coping
  • Secures are happier in relationships and are less distant, defensive or distressed by feeling vulnerable
  • Secures are less frustrated with their partners, less ambivalent about their relationships and less jealous, clinging or fearful of abandonment
  • Secures become angry less often, but they see anger as more constructive, feel better during arguments, see less hostility in their partners´ intentions and expect more positive outcomes
  • Secure are more likely to see their partners as trustworthy friends and can accept their faults
  • Secures are less likely to show physiological arousal when separated from their partners
  • Secures are less likely to engage in sex without feeling love for their sexual partners
Well, there you have it.  I am not a Secure.
This is good information though.  I´ve done right by my kids.  I really hope this is true and that they will have great relationships because they are secure.

Rethinking Anger

I do not react well to outbursts of anger.  My heart starts beating fast, I tense up, I am afraid.  So rather than deal with issues, I often try to avoid the angry outburst that I might cause my partner to have.  But as I read ´The Highly Sensitive Person in Love´, it talks about ´moral anger´ which is reflective anger that is expressed when your partner has crossed the line.  For example, if you have a clear boundary (e.g. he must call when he expects to be late and he doesn't call) the anger is justified to underscore the importance of the boundary.  Otherwise you will get walked over.  I find that perspective interesting.  This is different from anger that is meant to hurt (attack, obtain victory, annihilate).
For me, I have to learn that I will give and receive anger at higher levels then I would like.  But that is okay.  I should ask my partner to express his needs and complaints without anger -- or to at least take a time out so that we can calm down.  Another tip is to try and see what´s behind the anger.  Have I crossed a boundary that I shouldn´t have?  Have I stirred a sense of shame somehow?  What does he fear right now?  Why does he need to be angry? None of this is my forte.  Good to know though.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

the Highly Sensitive Child

Another great parenting book to help me navigate my way.  This one on parenting the Highly Sensitive Child (HSC) was particularly helpful for learning how to deal with my eldest.  I find we are not as close and I have less patience for what I realize now are behaviours that come from being a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP).  Rather than summarize the book, I made note of a few points that I need to keep in mind.  Luckily, most of the suggested parenting tips are ones I already strive for -- empathy, natural consequences, spending time with your child, respect, love.

Tendencies and Advice:
1. he notices subtleties: I'm both amazed and frustrated with this inate ability.  How wonderful it must be to be atune to and be able to appreciate SO much.  But at the same time it can lead to OCD-type behaviour, such as a need to be obsessively clean, or a fussiness for itchy fabrics.  With three kids in a busy household, I can't accomodate his desire for everything to be 'just so'.  The book suggests:

  • awknowledging his discomfort (empathy) and then telling him how and when it will end.  Show respect for his response (something I don't do well), sympathy for his desired need, and my own valid reason to delay (or do nothing) (e.g. we have to use up this brand because we cannot afford to waste it).  He will grow in the ability to understand.  
  • put him in charge of solving his own problems (e.g. if he's fussy with his socks then put him in charge of finding his own socks). 
  • put limits on what you can be expected to do (e.g. I will tie your shoes for you up to three times, trying to follow your instructions, but after that it will have to suffice because by then I will frustrated too and won't have the time to continue).

2. he becomes easily overstimulated: Advice here is to don't let him go into a test unprepared -- talk about what could go wrong and how to handle it. Help him enjoy activities in a non-competitive environment.

3. he has stronger reactions: Advice to parents is to remain non-defensive; let him fully express his emotions (perhaps even in a private place) and be patient with him.  Admittedly, this is the hardest for me to do because I don't like strong reactions.
4. he will be cautious to proceed with new situations:  See the new situation from his perspective; point out what is familiar or what he has mastered; suggest small steps (e.g. tell him 'you don't have to talk, if you don't want to')

As a non-HSP I am likely to feel impatient because he pauses before acting. Expect that decisions in particular will be slow .... have patience!

Some other advice:
  • don't make him your confidant (HSPs are great listeners)
  • avoid teasing (he likely hears an undercurrent of hostility or superiority that comes with)
  • ask for affection (e.g. ask "would you like a hug?") instead of demanding it; keep affection light and brief
  • avoid invoking shame: feeling guilty assumes you did something wrong but that it's something you can make right; shame assumes you are bad and helpless to fix things (typical signs are hangs head, averts eyes, etc.). HSCs feel shame easily (it's self-inflicted), but they use the experience to learn -- they enjoy feeling virtuous and secure that they will never learn that kind of shame again from a similar experience
  • practice gentle discipline (no punishment):  an explanation of why the behaviour is wrong should suffice; HSCs are hard enough on themselves, harsh punishment is too much to bear for most
Great advice here.  Not always easy to remember when I am in the moment.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Be good for goodness sake

I was raised to be good so that I wouldn't burn in hell.  If I stepped out of line, I knew there'd be consequences (spanking, grounding, withdraw of privliges) so I toed the line, for the most part.  But now as a parent I'm trying to raise my kids to do the right thing because it's the right thing to do.

It's not easy because I stay away from typical tricks -- bribes, rewards, threats and punishments because they don't teach kids self discipline. These methods teach kids to conform for fear of reprisal or because they expect some material gain from doing what's expected of them.  I won't always be there to hang something over them, nor will society.  Plus I want to learn that being a decent person is it's own reward.  So when I come across examples of using reason and logic to teach kids morals, I was blown away.  Take this example:
  • To explain why cheating in school is wrong, in addition to saying that it's damaging to your character and that you can no longer look at yourself as an honest person, you could say that in the long run it's bad for everyone because grades mean less and teachers won't be able to assess who needs help and who should advance.  Ahhhhhhh.  This explanation makes perfect sense, but it's not second nature for me to think this way, especially on the spot. 
Sadly, phrases like 'Because I said so' are still in my repertoire.  Here's hoping I can start to apply this kind of reasoning to my parenting dialog!

Friday, April 12, 2013

The peace that passes all understanding...

is living in the present moment.
I finally did something fulfilling today -- I watched a webcast of Eckhart Tolle and Oprah discussing 'A New Earth'.  I've been watching these off and on for a while now and it was definitely time for a review.

Eventhough I have the knowledge, I am still ruled by my ego.  I focus way too much on the future, hoping that it will bring me some kind of fulfillment.  When all I really have is the now.  The future as I know it is just what I want it to be.  And when it's not, I am disappointed.  So many good take-aways in this webcast worth noting.

Here's another -- I've noticed that acceptance feels really good.  There's a certain peace that comes with letting go and just accepting what is, rather than clinging to what you want it to be.  It can be difficult to not resist, but when you finally do it's liberating.  The ego always wants to compare itself to others.  When I'm feeling superior or inferior to someone else, I am being ruled by my ego.  These are great reminders because I do find myself doing this.  Another sign is feeling threatened when someone challenges my opinion.  It's just an opinion, it's not who I am.

Same things goes with being tied to things.  When I lose or break things, I sometimes get upset.  They are just things, they are not who I am.  Instead of accumulating things, try appreciating them for what they are and walking away, such as window shopping.  Wanting more is another sign of the ego because the ego is never satisfied.  I lived that one just today when I realized that something I so desperately wanted had lost its novelty already and made not one ioda of difference in my life.  Again, it's striving for some future state instead of just being happy with what you have and what you are in the present moment.

How about being tied to our identity, such as youth and beauty.  External beauty fades for all life forms.  It is our destiny.  Accepting that is powerful.  The irony is thick, because I am living that now.  But a good reminder is to not put that on my daughter.  I don't want her growing up thinking that who she is is 'pretty'.  She most certainly is, but pretty fades.  She's way more than that.  Last one is labelling things instead of experiencing their aliveness.  This is easy to do -- we treat others according to their role, or according to our own perceptions of who they are instead of just experiencing who they are in that moment.  I'm feeling really good about all this.  I hope it sticks.  I'll keep blogging about it and re-reading it until it does!

Reverse Discrimination

I've always felt that when I'm discussing an important social issue and someone brings up reverse discrimination, it completely takes the wind out of my sails.  Rather than get to the heart of an issue and try to make sense of an injustice, I feel like the conversation has been taken off the rails and I'm being forced to give credence to an irrelevant view point.  I used to think I was the only one who felt this way, until I read this excellent article today:
The article pokes holes at the notion of 'reverse sexism' and bigotry against men stating that since bigotry is defined as perpetuating a stereotype that reinforces the imbalance of power and the balance of power is not with women, there is no such thing as reverse sexism.  I couldn't agree more. 
For me it's these kinds of claims that take away from the important issues that need to change.
I'd like to highlight some of the key points for my own sake -- helps the message sink in:

  • talking out loud about stigmatized issues, expressing anger and frustration is a good thing -- it's where change beings
  • getting mad at the root causes such as male patriarchy and male privledge does not mean getting mad at you (men) personally
  • sometimes there's a lot of fear and hurt and anger that are brought to these conversations and it's not particularly welcoming for men
  • it's not bigotry, it's a reaction against years of being diminished
  • if I'm on the power side of the equation and want to engage in a conversation to effect change by being an ally, I have to own up to the structural inequalities that exist.  We need to be able to hear the ways in which those inequalities have hurt other people, even if the stories are ugly and make us uncomfortable and we want reassurance that the ugliness isn’t our fault.  It's not the job of the oppressed to make us feel better.
  • recognizing and challenging those generalities in our own actions is the way to change and to eventually make the generalities disappear

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Love in the time of cholera

Finally finished this book and even though I didn't really enjoy reading it, it touched on some of the things I spend endless hours wondering and worrying about.

Sole mates -- is there such a thing?
Here we have a young man who falls desperately in love with a girl he hardly knows.  She marries someone else and he spends the rest of his life obsessed with her, waiting for the day he can pledge his undying love to her.  Here's the thing -- at 20 yrs old, how do you really know what love is?  How can you love someone you don't have a relationship with?  How can you love someone that doesn't love you back?  Maybe his love came from her rejection of him.  He loved her because he couldn't have her.  Or maybe he was in love with the idea of a perfect relationship. What if she had in fact loved him back?  Would their love had lasted?  Or would he have eventually become another disappointment, just like her husband.

The insufferable penance of married life
One of my fav quotes in the book: "The problem in public life is learning to overcome terror; the problem in married life is learning to overcome boredom."  The female protagonists is trapped in a passionless marriage, spends her life in a state of sadness and guilt -- for being unfulfilled and for not being more grateful for the husband who tries desperately to win her affections and make her happy. He gracefully accepts her disappointment in him and even says at one point "Always remember that the most important thing in a good marriage is not happiness, but stability".  The book is obviously popular because married ppl can relate.  This is the problem I continue to have with marriage.  The institution turns good relationships bad.  I see it all around me -- the bitterness and contempt my friends have for their spouses.  Where is the love?  You are clearly miserable.  You no longer bring out the best in each other -- you are practically enemies.  I see it this way.  We choose our partners too young -- we don't even know who we are, let alone who is right for us.  And then we spend the rest of our lives chained to this person, trying to make it work because we're not quitters and we have to do what's right by putting our offspring's needs ahead of our own. 'Making it work' builds character.  We resolve ourselves to a boring and miserable married life because "that's just what marriage is".  You are considered disillusioned to expect that your spouse should make your stomach flip flop after 20 yrs of marriage.  Or are you?  Maybe you've just married the wrong person.  And if you meet people with whom you are more compatible later in life it doesn't matter because you've made your choice and you have to live with the consequences and you have to call that commitment 'love'.

Unhealthy obsessive love
The male protagonist was sick with love.  Here's another quote:  "self-absorbed love was revealed to him for what it was: a pitfall of happiness that he despised and desired at the same time, but from which it was impossible to escape."  Self-absorbed is a good way to describe this behaviour.  It's the ego, completely out of control -- obsessed with wanting something to make itself whole.  You can't be at peace when you covet anything.  I felt sorry for the protagonist.  He wasted his life wanting. 

Anyways, it was good to read about emotion -- passion, turmoil, content.  Lots to think about and that's always something I enjoy doing.