Frozen: a Look at the Reluctant Leader (and How She Grows!)

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So since I started a discussion on Leadership for Introverts, I wanted to do another entry on the complexities of leadership for those who aren’t naturally drawn to the idea of being in charge of others, but end up in said positions. Now, some of you might have just read that last sentence and said to yourselves, “Well, if you don’t like being in a leadership position, why pursue it?” The answer isn’t so simple; some of us take on management positions because the career fields we ended up in required us to do so. Some of us thought we would like management and found out that it wasn’t exactly what we imagined it would be. Some of us were put there because of extenuating circumstances (someone got sick, someone wasn’t performing up to par and suddenly, tag-you’re-it, etc). Whatever the reason, not everyone in a leadership position just slides right in without feeling a little bit uncomfortable at times.

Which brings me to today’s topic: Now, I don’t care if Frozen is totally overplayed and everyone is super sick of All. The. Frozen. EVERYWHERE. Everyone is going to just have to deal because KP is a Frozen fan (haters, give it up and bow down to the mighty Idina Menzel, or, if you’re John Travolta at the 2014 Oscars, Adele Dazim!)

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Okay, okay, but in all seriousness, there is something to be said about an anti-hero that makes she or he all the more identifiable with; we see that they are fallible and hence have more realistic human traits. It is a shame that the character of Elsa did not receive more screen-time and was not further developed for the audience, because she is quite complex. Not only does her character have to learn about being who you are when the world is telling you to hide it (Pray the Gay Away, anyone?), but also what happens when you are forced into a leadership position and not ready to take on the challenges and responsibilities. Elsa runs away from her duties as leader of Arendelle partly because she is afraid of what people will think of her when they know what she really is, and partly because she has extremely introverted tendencies and is scared of what it will take. Leadership isn’t easy for everyone; not everyone is courageous at the outset. Sometimes it takes trial-by-fire to learn how to be a leader, as Elsa learns when her younger sister ends up having to bear much of the brunt of the chaos that engulfs the kingdom. She is basically shocked into stepping up to the plate. In the end, Elsa is able to accept who she is and sees that she can bring unique abilities to the table as Queen.

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The lesson we can learn is that we should embrace who we are as leaders; we all have something to offer and we can draw strength from what makes us unique. Having introverted tendencies doesn’t have to be a leadership handicap; but we must know how to effectively employ the tools we have.

-KP

And just because I couldn’t resist:

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Balancing Aesthetic Goals and Well-Being

Happy Sunday!  I hope this weekend has been able to provide some rest for those reading; I know mine has for today, at least.  Being that today is an off day, I wanted to start on my series of body image entries.

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Growing up, I was always on the heavier side.  I, like many others, began experiencing insecurities about my body very early on, probably even younger than 10 years old.  I don’t have children of my own, but after growing up and observing not only how I felt, but how others felt at a young age as well, I think it is important to start dialogues with kids about body image early on.  Topics such as body acceptance, how the media affects us, healthy eating habits, how to manage anxiety and insecurities, etc, are good to discuss with children.  I think at the very least, it helps kids know that they aren’t alone in how they are feeling.

When I was 13, I lost about 20 pounds.  I remember my teachers asking me if I was ok, and I constantly ensured them that, yes, I was ok.  I was just getting rid of some excess weight caused by eating too many sweets.  I felt that I was much heavier than the other girls my age, and after losing the weight, I felt much more “normal.”  The problem was, I was too young to understand the concept of “healthy lifestyle,” and therefore, viewed intense caloric restriction for a period of time as perfectly normal.  The perfect recipe for an eating disorder, right?  I don’t think it’s a problem for children to diet if they are overweight, but it must be supervised by parents very closely because kids don’t understand the numerous implications of drastically changing their lifestyle; to change habits just to see “numbers on a scale” decrease can be disastrous.

Weight management is such a complicated topic.  Because we are modern-day humans living mostly sedentary lifestyles, our genetic tendencies to hold fat do us much worse than our ancestors who were constantly on the move and never sure of where their next supply of calories and nutrients was going to come from.  Therefore, many of us must be cognizant of how much we are eating and what we are eating.  However, we must also be able to balance this with our own mental well-being.  Last May, I began a 12 week program to lose body-fat and build muscle to change my body composition.  It was designed for those potentially interested in entering bodybuilding competitions (at the time, I was interested in entering the bikini category).  I lost about 7 pounds of body-fat, but because of the intense restriction, I began to associate certain foods as “good” and certain foods as “bad,” and it started wreaking havoc on my mental state.  I would feel immense pangs of guilt if I ate something not explicitly outlined on my food plan.  I had to cut the program short, and I gained back the weight quickly.  I told a few friends and some family members that I was struggling, and they came to my aid.  Not everyone who suffers from disordered eating needs to be thrown in rehab or told to sit down and not get up from the table until they eat a plateful of super-sized enchiladas and down three margaritas, but they may very well need the support of friends and to talk with someone with a background in nutrition.

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I won’t say that my program was entirely a failure; actually, it taught me the importance of adding strength training and high intensity interval training to improve cardiovascular endurance and muscle density.  It also allowed me to begin my own research on food and how different macronutrients affect us (protein, fats, carbohydrates).  Genetics have the biggest say in how these are going to be processed by our bodies, but arming ourselves with knowledge about how can help us maintain healthy body compositions and choose exercise programs that will benefit us the most.  We don’t have to look like professional athletes to be healthy (it’s hard when Pinterest bombards us with pictures of bikini/figure competitors doing professional photoshoots and the captions read something like, “This is what health looks like.”), but if we want to bring our fitness to higher level, we must be aware of the overall implications.  I sometimes still consider doing a competition, but I now know that I would go into it with a totally different mindset.  While I was doing my program, I was going through some major life changes (moving, recovering from a painful breakup, and a few other things), and that did not help.  I think if you are going to compete you MUST be at a stable place in your life.  It’s also good to talk it over with friends and family so they understand what you are doing and don’t jump to the wrong conclusions (you lose a lot of body fat for a competition, and to most people, it looks unnatural).

Right now, I’d like to lose a little of the body fat that I gained back, but I’m doing it at a pace much more comfortable for me.  I have also accepted that just because I gained a few pounds, I’m still at a perfectly healthy body composition, and it hasn’t made me any less of a person.  We are ultimately in charge of how we look, but we must be aware of just how interconnected our actual physical bodies and mental state are.

Healthy mind=Healthy body.

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Current body composition.  Verdict=healthy.  Also, please forgive the fact that I am on travel for work at the moment.

-KP

Leadership Challenges for Introverts

The other night I was going to the gym with a friend of mine and she said, “A piece of constructive criticism: talk to your people like they are people.”  I felt somewhat slighted and confused; I always make it a point to be respectful and considerate of others, whether superior, peer, or subordinate.  Worried I had been discourteous or rude, I voiced these concerns and her response was, “No, you’ve never been rude, but it has been noticed that you can be aloof.  Your subordinates are concerned that you think they’re not performing up to your standard and you think they’re continuously f**king up.”

Needless to say, this came as a pretty big shock to me, and it brings me to the topic for today’s entry: Leadership Challenges for Introverts.

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A little background info: In the early 1960s the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment was first introduced as a means of finding out good “fits” for individuals entering the workforce.  It was based on four principal psychological functions proposed by Carl Jung in his 1921 book, Psychological Types.  Once the assessment is finished, the test-taker will be provided with a result of “extraversion” or “introversion.”  Now, just to be clear–I don’t take any concept/assessment/judgement put forth by another person as the gospel truth because they are basing their findings off THEIR OWN view of reality, but I think that everyone provides a piece of the pie to deeper understanding of the human condition.  The MBTI has 16 possible outcomes, and although 16 is far too few to showcase EVERYTHING in the human spectrum of behavior, it is a step in the right direction for showcasing the variety of differences among people.  We shouldn’t look at human behavior in a binary fashion; people are not 1s and 0s.  No one is just an introvert, and no one is just an extravert.  It’s different for everyone.  This post is for anyone who experiences more introverted tendencies in the workplace, especially anyone in a leadership position.

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I have continuously managed anywhere from 20-30 people in my career so far, and sometimes it can be difficult due to my tendency to turn inward.  When my friend mentioned that my new employees thought I might be displeased with their performance, I realized there were misunderstandings on both my part and theirs; they thought I was being aloof due to something negative they had done, and I was harboring an insecurity due to feeling uncomfortable in a completely new job.  If anything, I thought I was not of the same caliber of their former managers due to how new the job was for me.  My insecurities caused me to draw in and not engage with them as much as I should have been.  Now, these concerns were voiced in the beginning of my time managing this particular office, and as I have become more comfortable with the job and the employees, I have since come out of my shell.  Things have been getting better, but this experience really drove home a few concepts.

1. Not letting our insecurities rule our behavior.  Although certain aspects of this new job are very different from my last, certain parts are very similar.  Managers all perform certain basic administrative functions that translate in a fairly consistent manner from job to job.  We can’t let our insecurities in the new position derail our ability to pull from what we know and have been trained in.

2. Being proactive in engaging our employees.  Because of our tendency to turn inward, it gives the appearance of “being aloof.”  I have never wanted anyone to think that I have ever thought they were “beneath me,” or weren’t living up to some ridiculous standard (although if someone is f**king up repeatedly, like common sense should dictate, they should know they aren’t meeting the baseline standard).  We can get lost in our own thoughts and heads so easily, it can cause us to forget to talk to our employees about what’s going on in THEIR lives.  I think people who have introverted tendencies have a fairly large amount of data constantly moving around in their heads, so sometimes we just get stuck in there.  Make it a point to get out of the whirlpool of your own thoughts.  Other people really might think you don’t give a sh*t and therefore may start developing negative attitudes toward working for you.

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-image from Hyperbole and a Half

Just replace “house” with office.  Sorry, it’s not that I don’t want to talk to you, but I have to think about if wormholes are possible with quantum mechanics, what amazingly healthy quinoa recipe on Pinterest I’m going to try and convince myself I’m going to make tonight except then just end up making mac-and-cheese instead, solving every major world problem, and if I have an adequate pair of shoes from the transition from fall to winter.  

3. Being cognizant of the link between trust and motivation.  Building off #2, in being proactive with our employees, we can start to build trust over time, and this will ultimately pave the way for motivation in the workplace.  People want to work for people who give a sh*t about them.  Plain and simple.

4. Being approachable.  I have RBF (Resting Bitch Face) like none other.  Especially in the mornings.

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Therefore, I know I have to make the effort to smile, even if it ends up looking like this most of the time:

Uhh…hey guys…

Smiling and saying something as simple as “Good morning, how are you?” while basic, can open up the potential for a conversation, as opposed to simply nodding and quickly dodging into your office.

I’ll discuss this topic more as time goes on, but wanted to touch on it a little tonight.  We should always be focused on progress and flexibility in the workplace, but it needs to begin with us as leaders.

Any thoughts?

-KP

The Rose That Grew From Concrete

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For the past few years, I have written a New Year’s Reflections post because I think it is important to look back on how we have changed and grown in that time period (the 365 days itself is arbitrary, but it serves its purpose as a unit to measure ourselves).  This year, however, I was seriously considering not doing one because of how difficult the year had been, and how many failures I seemed to continuously come by.  However, after thinking it over, I realized, as a writer, it would be wrong to do so, because writing isn’t necessarily about sharing happy endings (if it was, Hemingway would’ve been out of a job).   It’s about trying to express some sort of truth we have come to know through personal experience, and about connecting with others.  Sadness, loss, change, and death are all parts of our human condition.  I had many ideas about how I wanted to do this entry, spanning from comedy to discussion about major world events.  I’ve decided, however, to just share some simple thoughts and reflections.

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Late January last year I ended a painful relationship, and in a sense most of my major growth this year stemmed from that ending.  I learned that I was not the exception to the rule, and that I was not going to be exempt in life from the lessons that we are forced to learn when relationships don’t work out.  I was pulled into a very bad place due to the vacuum that sprung from its collapse, and I had some very dark days.  Thankfully, my family and my friends came to my aid, and honestly, most of that was just them being there to listen.  The friends who let us cry as much as we need to, who watch us pity ourselves, the ones who see us continually make mistakes and fall, but do not walk away from us: those are the friends who will never waiver in their devotion to us. We do not see the strength of the bonds of friendship and love in the everyday mundane; rather, we see them in the dark times, when we are at our weakest and most pathetic.

I learned that nothing in this life lasts forever, not even the excruciating pain of infidelity and shattered ideals, although for a long time I never thought it would end, and I blamed myself for everything that had transpired.  I lost weight, I exercised furiously, trying to “make myself better.”  I had to be prettier, I had to be thinner, I had to be better.  A voice inside repeated to me: I wasn’t good enough.  I deserved to be treated the way I did because I wasn’t good enough.  I was too demanding, I came with stipulations.  It was all. my. fault.

Those are some of the thoughts that plagued me for months on end.  Jealousy, anger, fear, and sadness made homes for themselves in the broken places of my heart.  It was the complete loss of self in despair.  I went to a very, very dark place.  I wish I could say that I had a magic “ah-ha,” moment (well, in a sense, my run-in with Crazy Internet Mike DID help a few lightbulbs go off, oh Hey Mike!), but really, it was just the passage of time that allowed me to get to the point where I am now.  I also wish that I could now say, on this first day of the New Year, everything in my life is all better, magically fixed by some cosmic super glue.  I can say, however, that I am not in the place that I was five months ago, and that only through this hurt did I experience the true depths of love from others and the true meaning of compassion.

I can also say that I am finally at a place where I recognize the truth that relationships are hard, and oftentimes people will hurt us along the path.  People are complex, and like I discussed in a previous post, In Dreams Begin Responsibilities, not everyone views reality in the same manner, and just as they are under no obligation to treat us with dignity and respect, we are under no obligation to keep them in our lives.  I think many of us become hung up on the idea that those who hurt us deserve to experience the “karma” of their actions.  We need to let go of this flawed idea.  In his book Hogfather, author Terry Pratchett writes:

…take the universe and grind it down to the finest powder and sieve it through the finest sieve and then show me one atom of justice, one molecule of mercy.  And yet you act, like there was some sort of rightness in the universe by which it may be judged.

We have no business “waiting on karma” for the other person.  What occurs in our lives, versus what happens in our former significant others’ lives are two completely separate and unrelated things.  We must cut ties so as not to constantly compare our journey with theirs.  You aren’t weak for cutting ties; you are strong in that you recognize the path to self-recovery.  

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I want to say, THANK YOU, to Natalie Lue over at Baggage Reclaim; without her words of wisdom I would have not come to peace with myself.  We must always remain true to ourselves and to our morals and boundaries.  If people challenge those, it’s time to say, “So long!”  Remember, how people treat you is a reflection of who THEY are; not who YOU are.

I chose the Rose that Grew from Concrete by Tupac (one of his poems) as the theme for the entry because the idea of something beautiful coming from an impossible place is how I want to enter 2015.  The idea that life can still flourish in difficult situations is one that I want to hold dear for the next 365 days.

I hope 2015 brings peace to us all.  Weirdmaste, my friends

-KP

Why Into the Woods Matters

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Last night I went to the movies to see Into the Woods, which is based off Stephen Sondheim’s play of the same name.  For those who are unfamiliar with the title, it is a Broadway musical combining the stories of Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunzel, and a few other fairytale favorites with a serious twist.  Unlike the fairytales we all know through the Brothers Grimm or Disney, Sondheim’s characters experience major challenges and are forced to face the consequences of their actions and choices.  Essentially, it is a fairytale about the reality of human nature and the ambiguity of life.  Fast forwarding to the end: there is no “happily ever after.”  Much like in real life, there is just, “After.”

My first exposure to Into the Woods was my sophomore year in college when I was cast as “The Witch,” the seeimingly stereotypical ugly, old spinster of fairytales who seems to enjoy making life difficult for all around her so everyone else can experience her misery.  In the fairytales of my youth, the witch, much like other stock characters, is not explained or humanized.  She is flat and two-dimensional.  The stories of our youth never asked: what made her the way she is?  What more is there to this character?  Into the Woods changes that, and as the play progresses we begin to see the character take shape as a three-dimensional woman: someone who was wrongly robbed of her youth and who desperately wanted to love someone and be loved fully in return.

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She keeps her daughter, Rapunzel, locked in a tower with no doors or stairs, but when a Prince happens upon Rapunzel by chance, things begin to change.  Rapunzel is drawn to the Prince and wants to leave her mother’s safety.  When the witch finds out, she scolds Rapunzel angrily, saying, “Children should listen!”  And we really begin to see the character become human as she sings:

Don’t you know what’s out there in the world?
Someone has to shield you from the world.
Stay with me.

Princes wait there in the world, it’s true.
Princes, yes, but wolves and humans, too.
Stay at home.
I am home.

Stay with me,
The world is dark and wild.
Stay a child while you can be a child.

Although all of the songs in the show are of importance, a few really stand out as carriers of the central message: the world is dark and wild and full of humans and princes and wolves and wolves dressed in princes’ clothing. 

Often, Cinderella’a Prince (Prince Charming) is played by the same actor who plays the Big Bad Wolf, which really hammers the theme of the multiple ways evil masquerades as good; and even more than that, the ambiguity behind it.  Unfortunately, this was lost in the movie version.  Chris Pine played Cinderella’s Prince and Johnny Depp played the Wolf, and while I enjoyed Depp in the role, it watered down the true meaning of why the actor is supposed to be double-cast.  Cinderella’s Prince is charming and handsome, but he is also a lothario, unsatisfied by one woman and continuously searching for the next thrill.  However, as mentioned above, when Cinderella confronts him about his unfaithfulness, he does not lie to her–he tells her he thought he could be happy with her alone.  With this admission the character proves his own complexity because he willingly admits his wrong, and both part on their separate ways.  While the Prince is definitely not a character who displays positive traits like courage or integrity, he isn’t exactly a villain either, as he has no outright malicious designs.  He is simply a human motivated by his own selfish desires.

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Happily ever after?

The story of Cinderella and the Prince is important to Into the Woods because it takes the story and asks the real questions: exactly what WAS that fabled, “Happily Ever After”?  What did Cinderella and the Prince actually have in common?  What were their common interests?  Assuming Cinderella only received an education up to thirteen or so, what was her actual level of knowledge/cultural awareness?  Was she, as a simpleton, able to adapt to the Royal Family?  How did she and the Prince keep ‘the spark’ after those butterflies began to wear off?  Were they always faithful to one another?  What kind of a person was Cinderella and what kind of a person was the Prince?  What would have happened if one of them got sick or they had a child with a serious illness?  Would their marriage make it?  Although I, like many other little girls, enjoyed watching the Disney cartoon full of pretty gowns and singing mice, as an adult I recognize the poor message behind the story.  It basically tells children that someone will someday come along to rescue them (as long as they are pretty) and everything in life will then just magically go swimmingly.  They will be rescued from poverty, or from an abusive family, or from the boring hum-drum of their life.  This is a poor message to send to children; because the reality is that we are the only ones who can rescue ourselves, and more often than not, there is no “Happily ever after,” there is just  “After,” and it contains both happiness and sadness, good and bad times.

There is no prince; there are just humans.

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The First Act ends with what we would normally call a “Happy Ending,” but even so it is left with some outstanding ambiguities.  The Second Act IS the play.  In the First Act, there is a narrator, who leaves clues to help guide the characters along, but he is killed at its end.  In the Second Act, the characters are left to fend for themselves, with no one to guide them.  People die, a major conflict arises, and we realize that there is neither a true protagonist nor a true antagonist.  Each character has experienced a shortfall in their moral foundation at some point: a little white lie, a lack of good judgement, deception, theft, unfaithfulness, selfishness.  The characters play the blame game for awhile until they realize in order to save themselves, they must forego the issue of “blame” and recognize they must do what is necessary to survive, and even that in itself will have consequences. Red Riding Hood tells Cinderella she is ashamed of her actions because she is about to kill a giant–who is a person, too–and Cinderella begins to sing another song central to the meaning of the play, “No One is Alone.”

The characters sing:

Witches can be right, giants can be good,

you decide what’s right, you decide what’s good.

Just remember someone is on your side,

Someone else is not.

Into the Woods is a poignant portrayal of human nature.  It takes the fairytales of our youth and transforms them into cautionary tales about the complexities of life.  It takes the two-dimensional characters of traditional stories and turns them into people.  Witches, wolves, and princes all become the same thing: HUMAN.  Although I enjoyed Into the Woods when I was younger, as I have gotten older and experienced more in my own life, the messages and emotions behind everything in the play become much more clear and apparent.  It is a dark story, but it is not one completely without hope.  All characters go through major transformations and grow from the hardships they endure.  Most importantly, they learn compassion toward others from their own personal challenges, and indeed they do learn that in life, no one is alone.

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Wishes come true, not free.

***

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KP circa 2010 (in the center)

-KP out

The Irony of Intolerant Tolerance

 

 

 

 

 

So I just ate a bag of chocolate–ok, not the whole bag, but I definitely just ate a whole bunch of chocolate, and it was delicious.  And it kind of went like this, minus the throwing-up-on-the-carpet-part:

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I really just wanted to share that picture with you all.

Anyhow!  Good evening and Weirdmaste to all!  A friend posted a “weirdmaste” image on Facebook recently and I thought that it was pretty spectacular, because I am all about honoring the weird here at KP.  I mean, one of my childhood heroes was Weird Al Yankovic.  Let’s be honest—UHF should have won an Academy Award for awesome (and if you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it).

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It’s time to spin the Wheel of Fiiiiissshhhhh!!!!

But I digress.  Actually, I wanted to touch on a more serious topic tonight; Facebook is an interesting animal.  Most of us use it to showcase the positive aspects of our lives: travel, engagements, weddings, children, pets, how we didn’t get fat after high school, how awesome and perfect our lives are–spoiler: they’re usually not as exciting and perfect as we try to make them out to be…and maybe we only take carefully angled pictures and use Instagram to filter out the wrinkles (and adult acne, for some of us).

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But we can also use Facebook to spread information.  This can be a good or a bad thing, depending on the information itself.  In certain areas of the world where information is limited to the general public by government, the advent of social media has proved to be a highly effective way for connecting and furthering causes, such as the push for civil rights in Middle Eastern countries.

Facebook also allows us to see many different opinions, and this is where the topic for tonight’s entry comes into play; the irony of intolerant tolerance.  I claim to be a highly tolerant person; I think all humans deserve to be treated with equal respect, regardless of gender identity, race, age, nationality, body type, etc.  However, I still find myself critical of others at times, and I know part of learning to be tolerant is allowing others to be who they are, even if I don’t agree (although some people…just, no):

 

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Give me back my rainbow, damnit!!

I’ll never forget, I knew two people who had a very tumultuous relationship because one was Catholic and the other was Protestant.  As someone who doesn’t follow any set religion, I didn’t understand why the two had such a difficult time, because I thought it was silly to be so divided on what I considered “trivial” issues.  One day, while on my soap-box of “How-I-am-right-and-you-are-silly-and-your -problems-are-silly-because-I-don’t-understand-you,” the girl looked at me and said, “You know what I really dislike?  Non-religious people telling religious people how they should think or feel.”  And she had every right to say that.  I had no right to lecture her on my beliefs.  People are entitled to believe what they want, and as long as we are not harming others or supporting causes that harm others, etc, we should be free to our own beliefs.

100% absolute tolerance might not be a completely achievable goal, but as long as we are actively working toward a greater understanding of others, we will progress as a human society.  We can practice tolerance by stepping outside ourselves and trying to see things from another’s point of view.

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Thoughts?

Reflections from a Failure

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I started this blog in 2011 because I had experienced something which, at the time, was traumatic.  I was also experiencing high levels of stress at work and had forgotten how to use creative outlets to reconnect with the world.  It’s very interesting to look back on the last three years and see how I have grown, what lessons I have learned, and recognizing that life is very cyclical.

Writing has always been an important part of my life, and it is only recently that I have begun to share that with the world.  I don’t think anything I write is exceptionally special or earth-shattering, but I realized that the reason I was reading books wasn’t only for the sake of reading a book; it was because I was trying to connect with what the author was really trying to say.  I don’t think writing is necessarily a choice; it’s more of a compulsion.  Anyway, what I’m really trying to say here is that I write because I hope that someone stumbling upon this diary can find some solace in the words of a stranger, and to know that as humans we are really very interconnected.  It’s scary and intimidating to lay your inner thoughts on the line, but this isn’t about showcasing emotions like cakes in a bakery display; it’s for those that need the connection.  Somewhere, someone has felt like you.  Maybe I have felt like you–maybe you have felt like me.

I was inspired by author Jo Coudert’s book, Advice from a Failure, when I wrote this journal entry.  I offer up my reflections to anyone else who has felt something similar at some point.

***

11/10/14

I have searched and cried and prayed, and whatever god exists, exists without bias, and without human mind.  At least without a human mind that my simple one can comprehend.  Instead, there is a god–maybe like the ‘god of small things’–who exists somewhere deep inside.  “Here am I,” it says, small and far away.

And here am I, small, and tiny, and afraid.  My tiny life is no greater, and no less than any other tiny life in this world.  And maybe I have failed, maybe I have failed countless times.  I have failed to be so many things, and to have met so many expectations, and I have failed to have continued to see the Way.

Maybe I failed because I wasn’t small and neatly packaged enough.  Maybe I failed because I came with too many stipulations and too much necessity for compromise.  Maybe I failed because I was not strong enough or maybe because I was too strong at times.  Maybe I failed because when I was rejected and turned away I could not leave well enough alone with dignity.  Maybe I failed because I wasn’t something else entirely.

But I am this thing; I have always been this, and to deny it is to deny myself.  And if all else changed in the blink of an eye, I would be left with just this.

It is not love to deny the self, or to feel quashed and trapped because of the desire to quell the self for another.  It is not love to deny what we are.  So, to stop pursuing love is to find it.  To find it in those who have always loved us, despite our faults.  To find it in the small acts of kindness we ourselves can attempt to offer, the compassion we can attempt to give.  In the ability to look at our fellow man and not judge his or her shortcomings, but to feel only compassion and empathy for all who suffer from this human condition.

And, finally, to hear the voice that says, “Here am I,” far away in the depths within, and to answer, “Here I am, I will never leave.”

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In Dreams Begin Responsibilities

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Recently, I started reading Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore, and, as always, he doesn’t disappoint.  What I like best about Murakami’s writing is that it is filled with philosophic, historic, artistic, and musical references.  Somehow he is able to take things that have struck a chord with him in his own life and apply them to his writing.  His works are also usually laden with psychology woven into them, and subsequently open to interpretation.  Sometimes his concepts are strange, but he is able to showcase the human experience very well, and in my opinion it is by the open-ended aspects and the non-definitive.

I’ve been doing quite a bit of thinking recently, reflecting on my experiences the past year up till now, and a certain part of the book really resonated with me.  One of the main characters, a boy who calls himself “Kafka,” is staying at his friend’s isolated cabin, which is filled only with survival necessities and books.  Kafka begins to read a book about a Nazi war criminal, Adolf Eichmann, who was tasked to find the “final solution” for the Jews.  Eichmann was very systematic about it, considering financial costs, the cheapest methods for the transportation and disposal of human bodies.  He was given a situation and mapped out the best possible, practical way to complete the task.  The shocking part is that Eichmann never questioned the morality of any of it, and when he was tried as a war criminal he was lost and confused.  He was just following orders; he was just being a good officer.  The boy, Kafka, finds a note his friend has penciled in the book.  It reads:

“It’s all a question of imagination.  Our responsibility begins with the power to imagine.  It’s just like Yeats said: In dreams begin responsibilities.  Flip this around and you could say where there’s no power to imagine, no responsibility can arise.  Just like we see with Eichmann.”

I thought about this and I realized this concept is a major part of understanding the human condition.  Not everyone shares the same reality.  Our reality is shaped by our own consciousness; this may very well explain the source of all human suffering.  With regard to relationships this can be expressed as: Not everyone views love the same way.  We can beat ourselves up time and time again, we can cling to the past and think of the should’ve-would’ve-could’ves, or we can cut ties with those who have hurt us and accept that the way to heal is to just leave and move on.  Because people experience reality in different ways, we can not expect them to suddenly see and understand our reality.  There are people who will never see things from our point of view.  There are people who will never know how cruel they have been to us.  And it’s not our responsibility to tell them time and time how they hurt us and expect them to magically turn into someone else.

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In Kafka on the Shore, the concepts of God and Karma are very present.  They tie into everything; our relationships included.  Two quotes that have struck me are:

“If you think God’s there, He is. If you don’t, He isn’t. And if that’s what God’s like, I wouldn’t worry about it.” 

“Even chance meetings are the result of karma… Things in life are fated by our previous lives. That even in the smallest events there’s no such thing as coincidence.” 

I don’t know if I believe that everything is fated, or even what really exists within the universe, but I know that if we shape our realities from our own consciousness, while I have the faculty to see what would be poor choices for my physical and mental well-being, I am going to try and make the wisest decisions I can.  I am not going to worry about the choices of others.  Maybe my suffering in this life is caused from some karmic debt, maybe not.  Regardless, when it comes to people who treat me poorly, I will do what I know to be the wisest decision in this life I live now:  I will let them go completely.  

If a person treats us poorly, it is their karma, not ours.

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Sorry, I’ve Just Been Busy Getting Abducted by Aliens.

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So KP is finally writing again after the usual drop-off-the-face-of-the-earth hiatus.  This time around, I wanted to share an important life lesson that has kicked me a few times.  Unfortunately, I suffer from the curse of she-who-shall-be-a-people-pleaser-until-the-end.  This is THE WORST stance to take with ANYONE, so I hope this can be a lesson to others who may stumble across this blog.

I want to talk about the concept of being “busy.”  You know, that bullshit excuse we all use for why we didn’t call, why we didn’t accomplish some set task, why we didn’t do x,y, or z.  I HATE this excuse.  I’m not saying I’m not guilty of it myself (I have definitely fallen back on this before), but I think we might want to consider telling people the truth instead of keeping them on a hook.  I also think most of us have been on the other side of that, too, where we are the ones being blown off.  So, in an effort to clear up what constitutes legitimate “busy-ness” and what constitutes “bullshit,” I have put together the following:

LEGITIMATE BUSY SITUATIONS

1. Alien Abductions.

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Because those extraterrestrials have a whole bunch of dissecting to accomplish and gene-altering tests to administer, the alien abductee may have good reason to not return calls and/or texts.  Busy level: 7

2. Being chased by tigers

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Few things top good old basic survival.  Getting chased and/or mauled by tigers and figuring out how to somehow escape and survive might cause someone to be unable to reach their cell phone for an extended period of time, so don’t worry, they will probably call you as soon as they figure out how to get out of the situation alive.  Busy level: 8

3. Getting attacked by sea monsters

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The sea is a place that harbors many-a-mystery, and sometimes some of those mysteries want to eat your ship and everyone onboard.  If you are lucky enough to be onboard a vessel with weapons, expect it to be an all-hands evolution to fight off the beast from the deep.  If your sailor isn’t e-mailing you back in a timely manner, don’t worry, he or she is probably just fighting off gigantic sea monsters.  Busy level: 8

4. Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin fighting off a grizzly bear in “The Edge.”

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Alec Baldwin is usually busy leaving his daughter angry voicemails about not having her phone turned on, and then Anthony Hopkins is busy just trying to figure out who to eat for dinner next.  Coupled together and lost in the Alaskan wilderness, trying to ward off a grizzly bear who has been stalking them for days, these two experience some pretty epic levels of busy-ness.   Throw in the fact that they don’t have a working phone between them let alone drinkable water or shelter, these two present a pretty unbeatable standard of preoccupied.  Busy level: 9

5. Being Joe Biden

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If you are dating Joe Biden, don’t worry, the man doesn’t even have enough time to drink and clap separately.  Busy level: 10++

NON-LEGITIMATE BUSY SITUATIONS

Everything else.

 

EVERYONE HAS TIME IF THEY CHOOSE TO HAVE TIME.  If they’re using the busy excuse it’s because they’re basically telling you: you/your issue is NOT a priority to them.

Specifically with regard to relationships, I have fallen for the “busy” trap before.  BUSY IS NOT AN EXCUSE, I REPEAT, BUSY IS NOT AN EXCUSE!  It’s a polite way to say “You are not important to me.”  I think we all want to do our best and make people like us/want to be around us/realize how awesome we are by giving them as much as we can, but when someone starts using the four letters B-U-S-Y on a regular basis, it is time to run in the opposite direction.

They’re not busy, they’re just full of shit.  And hell, even Joe Biden has time to take selfies.

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-KP out!