Okay, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “What the what?” Or maybe you’ve put some expletives in there. I’ve been posting about being brave week after week after week as I push against my social anxiety and post paintings.
Here is the thing: I grew up in a family full of fear. My older sister was allegedly afraid of grass when she was little. Grass! My mother was afraid of a litany of things: birds, closed-in spaces, wide-open spaces, high spaces, water over her head, bridges in a storm. My brother inherited the bird fear, or maybe he learned it. So did my sister.
And I grew up thinking that I didn’t want to be anything like that. No offense to my mom because she was wonderful, but she changed the channel if Donald Duck was on and he’s a cartoon. She wouldn’t go to parks with seagulls. She wouldn’t go near a feather pillow.
I grew up chanting “You have to face your fears” when my television turned on at night all by itself or when I had to take an algebra test or when I convinced twelve girls at a fourth grade birthday party to all hold hands and confront whatever the heck was making that groaning noise in the kitchen. Spoiler: it was the fridge and a snoring dog.
I faced my fears one after another. My voice? Check, make a podcast. Not scary enough. Make a live podcast. Art? Check, do some art. Post it online. People constantly telling me I made a mistake? Check, make a news blog without an editor.
A Friend’s Words
One night last month, a friend took me aside at a gathering and whispered, “You know, you don’t always have to be brave.”
She had a beer in her hand and a determined glow in her eye.
I gawped at her.
She nodded and twirled away back to the gathering. And I was left with her words.
You don’t always have to be brave.
It was shocking. It was the opposite of my mantra. I think our society (or a lot of us in it) believe that you always have to be brave. But life isn’t about always facing your fear, is it? If you’re afraid of sky diving, do you really have to sky dive? If you’re afraid of going bankrupt, do you really have to lose all your money? If you’re afraid of having a concussion, do you have to give yourself a concussion?
Facing all my fears has definitely expanded my world, but it’s okay for me to enjoy the world I’m in just as I’m in it, too. There can be balance.
You Don’t Always Have To Be Brave.
That’s the thing. There is sometimes a power to not pushing yourself into doing things that are really scary for you — like downhill skiing when you have no depth perception. Cough. Yes, cough. That is me.
It’s okay to sometimes hunker down, build up your reserves, and just be. That’s right. Just be. It’s okay to be who you are right in that moment. And that might not be the same who you are that you are in the very next moment. Humans get to change, to discover, to grow, to decide when and if they should be brave or not.
If you want to, you can come hang out with me at Living Happy. I’m much better about posting there. 🙂 No pressure though!
Share this if you want and also because it would be super nice of you!
So, this podcast episode is probably going to be Shaun’s favorite because he grew up in a family that was not uptight about sex.
I, however, grew up in a family where a couple of the branches pretended we were all born out of the immaculate conception or just maybe sperm drops on a toilet or something.
We have some friends—good friends—who are currently exploring all things sexual in a consensual, relationship way.
They aren’t uptight.
Shaun’s not uptight.
And one of these things are not like the others.
Spoiler: Me. I’m the thing that’s not like the others.
But, it turns out that a lot of people are like me. Join us as we talk about five ways people are uptight and our bonus random thought about people who received a letter about secret spaces in their new home.
DOG TIP FOR LIFE
Sometimes you just got to grab on and go for it (consensually, of course)
Sometimes I think one of the toughest choices you can make publicly is to call out false binaries.
That’s what comedian Trevor Noah recently did on his show where he was specifically talking about abortion saying that just going down to catchphrases like pro choice or pro life was reductive and took away conversation and nuance to views. And people got enraged on Twitter (both Republicans and Democrats).
To be fair, people get enraged about a lot on Twitter and off Twitter now.
But rage by itself? It’s just rage. If you want change, you have to go after action. Carrie had a post about this on her own Facebook where apparently her call to action over a political issue wasn’t what one of her local acquaintances wanted from me.
So he turned his rage about politics into rage at me for not being rage-y enough.
Yes, Carrie is still processing this, while Shaun just called him a f-stick and got over with it.
We have not read the book and honestly, the fact that he’s a celebrity therapist who counsels people like Bruce Springsteen, makes me want to not want to read it. Springsteen wrote the introduction.
But all the book reviewers at all the big papers are.
He has two big terms in the book THAT WE WANTED TO MENTION:
He defines them both in an interview with the New York Times’s Maggie Jones (no relation) as:
“Wise adults are present-based. They’re not flooded with the past and can see things clearly. They have the capacity to see the whole of the relationship. They have the capacity to stop and reflect and choose.
“When we move out of our prefrontal cortex, out of our wise adult self, we are in our adaptive child self. We get trauma-triggered, and the adaptive child — the things you learned to do as a kid because of emotional neglect or violence — part of us comes in and takes over. One of the bitter pills here is that the adaptive child part of us doesn’t want to be intimate. It wants to preserve itself. It’s about me, me, me. You-and-me consciousness is an adversarial world in which one loses and the other wins. It’s a big power struggle.
“By repeating the same adaptive child move over and over again, you get in a dysfunctional relational stance. I’ll give you an example. Angry pursuit is a dysfunctional stance. Angry pursuit is an oxymoron. You will never get someone closer to you by complaining about how distant they are. Controlling your partner, retaliating or withdrawing will never solve your problem. These are the hallmarks of the adaptive child part of you. And the first skill is shifting out of that part of you into the wise adult.”
Whew. That’s a lot of quote right? But to me what he’s saying is that if we want to be good, wise adults with happy freaking healthy marraiges we have to let go of the adaptive child.
We need to think with nuance and empathy, which brings me back to Trevor Noah, right? Because Trevor is also talking about this.
What our culture in the U.S. (at least) needs more of is that movement toward the wise adult, the ability to converse, to think with nuance, to go beyond false binaries, catch phrases and performative social media posts and work towards changing ourselves and our relationships and our country.
Real talks about the mysticism of marriage in that interview and says,
“There may be super placid couples who aren’t terribly intimate, and they don’t bug each other. But usually there are three phases of love: harmony, disharmony and repair. Those phases can occur 20 times during one dinner conversation or span over decades of your marriage or long-term relationship. The harmony phase is love without knowledge. You may have a soul recognition that this is your guy. But you don’t know what he does with his socks in the morning.
“The disillusionment phase is critical. It’s the stuff of intimacy. It’s the collision of your imperfections and how we handle it. Our culture doesn’t equip people to deal with that disillusionment. It’s rough. It’s dark. I’ve run around the country for 20 years, talking about what I call “normal marital hatred” and not one person has ever come backstage to ask what I meant by that.”
And it’s a bit like we aren’t just doing that to ours spouses, we’re doing that to everyone. When we repair our country, we want to look to that repair the way Real advocates repairing marraiges—as a relationship, a group effort, a look to the higher good. Real thinks a lot of this also stems from patriarchy and our separation from nature and desire to dominate it.
He says we have to move away from trying to control everything, but collaborate and to do it humbly, saying in that same interview how all of the world is interconnected. “You’re not above the system, you’re in it. You breath it.”
Every once in awhile, a dog climbs on the roof of a house and chills out, but if you’re Huck the dog, you do this all the time. How often? So often that your owner has to put a sign on the door.
Join us as we talk about Huck and also about defining happiness, doggy style.
Have you ever come home and been like, “Dang, why is my dog so happy?”
In general dogs are really pretty cool happy animals. And they are amazing because unlike some of us (cough) they don’t hide how they feel. It’s all just out there.
According to Global Dog Breeds, the reasons dogs are so happy are these:
They live in the present
They are happy with what they have right there, right now.
They embrace life.
They know how to get cozy and comfy.
They trust their owners.
Carrie’s taking a pretty cool course for free on EdX (sadly, this is not an ad) all about happiness and it’s taught by Arthur Brooks, a professor at Harvard. And all these things about why dogs are happy made her think about that class and some of the teachings from it.
“It turns out that the way we think about happiness is informed by where we live. For example, in some cultures, happiness is defined by social harmony. In others, it’s defined by personal achievement. So the way we answer the question are you happy depends, to an extent, on where we’re from.”
Brooks interviewed the Dalai Lama and his Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso shared the following (the quote is taken directly),
“I think very purpose of our daily life. For happy life, firstly, we need some sense of oneness of 7 billion human being on this planet. We have to live together. An individual’s future depends on them, one individual, one of the 7 billion human beings in the group know that.”
Brooks summarizes his points as follows,
“The first is he taught us tonight that happiness comes from being useful and having a life’s purpose, and that purpose, the purpose that we have, our highest purpose is caring for each other, lifting each other up, remembering that each of us is one of 7 billion human beings.
The second way that he made this point is when he talked about unhappiness, which is our own creation.
Unhappiness comes in our own mind because of self-centeredness.
We become unhappy because we’re unnatural, and we are unnatural whom we are thinking only of ourselves. We can only be truly happy when we get out of this creation that is unhappiness by focusing on other people.
The third point that he made was about our intellectual lives, about research and investigation, about our brains, and the importance of sanctifying our intellectual work by putting it in service of our hearts, putting it in service of our love for other people, that in fact, our hearts can be most effective when our brains are fully engaged in the purpose, sanctifying that purpose and loving each other.
And finally, the fourth way that His Holiness made this point that happiness comes from love for others is that we need education, that we need an education system that teaches each of us unity and oneness and sisterhood and brotherhood. And that is our leadership challenge.”
In an opinion piece for the Washington Post, Brooks and the Dalai Lama wrote,
“The objective is not to vanquish a person I considered my enemy; it is to destroy the illusion that he or she was my enemy in the first place. And the way to do this is by overcoming my own negative emotions.
Perhaps taking that approach seems unrealistic to you, like a kind of discipline only a monk could achieve through years of concentrated meditation. But that isn’t true. You can do it, too, regardless of your belief system. The secret is to express warmheartedness, kindness and generosity, even in disagreement — and especially when others show you contempt or hatred.”
How do you do that when it feels like other people are taking away yours or others essential human rights? Or putting lives at stake? Or creating or revoking or refusing to revoke polices (be it about guns, abortions, clean water, property rights) that you feel are essential?
There is an article over on Medium that annoyed Carrie, which to be fair, Medium articles by self-professed self-help gurus often do.
It’s not because the guy has 250,000 followers, she swears. It’s just because he’s a bro-looking white guy regurgitating other people’s stuff.
And here’s the thing. To make impact, you don’t want to vomit up other people’s books or thoughts. You want to be your own person.
In New Hampshire literary circles of the 1970s and 1980s there was a dynamic poetry husband and wife duo of Donald Hall and Jane Kenyon. They were nothing alike in their poetry and Donald usually received a lot more kudos, but Jane? She made her moments.
I’ll always remember my Aunt Maxine introducing me to Jane when I was eight or something and saying, “She is a spectacular poet.” She pretty much gasped it all out because she was so enthralled.
I always wanted to be gasp worthy, honestly–in a good way, right?
So, there’s a piece in the National Book Review by Mike Pride that talks a bit about Jane (who died at just 47) where it talks about how her husband dealt with people being stupid about the difference between their poems and styles.
“Hall reacted when anyone suggested that he was a poet of big ideas while his wife wrote sweet and simple poems. “Yeah,” he’d say, “her style is a glass of water – a 100-proof glass of water.”
There is a tendency for us all to look away from the moments, the truths of our lives and existence and instead go for those superlative, larger than life moments, stories, celebrities, all that b.s.
But here’s the thing– even Captain America has to go poo. Even bigger-than-life people whose stories are cultivated for our consumption also have those smaller moments.
It’s not about the 250,000 followers. It’s about you making each moment, each interaction count.
And sometimes to do that you have to look and see how those moments have happened to you before.
Have you ever had a moment where your understanding of the world changed? An epiphany?
When was the last time you felt at the top of your game?
When was the last time you tried something new?
When was the last time you risked your reputation for your beliefs?
A lot of those moments have big emotions with them, right? And sometimes we get scared of those big emotions and when that happens? We can’t take risks because we’re afraid of the emotions and change that might come with those risks. Even when that change is positive, it’s something different, something new and that can be super scary for a lot of us.
But you’ve got to keep trying and dreaming and learning and being brave in order for cool things to happen.
How do you do this?
Think about what you really really want to happen in your life?
Make sure that this is something that you morally feel cool about. Don’t want to be an assassin if you’re against killing.
Make sure what you want feels like it gives you purpose.
Put in the time. Decisions don’t mean crap if you don’t actually put the action steps and time into that choice. Authors make our characters all the time. It isn’t enough for Captain America to go save the world. He has to take a super serum, learn how to fight and throw a shield, locate the bad guy. That goes for us, too.
Jane Kenyon wrote in “Afternoon at MacDowell,” when Donald Hall had cancer (she was the actual one to die of it first),
After music and poetry we walk to the car.
I believe in the miracles of art, but what
prodigy will keep you safe beside me,
fumbling with the radio while you drive
to find late innings of a Red Sox game?
A poet becomes a poet by investing the time to see the things in life, the moments and twists and epiphanies and connections, that the rest of us not always see, but more than that. They take the moment and let it resonate.
That’s what we all need to do. We need to become the poets of our lives, making our moments by choice and action.
Lately, a lot of Carrie’s writers have been talking about how they want to write with intention and that always makes Carrie’s brain hitch a bit, which is why we’re doing this podcast, a slightly deep dive into intention.
According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, intention means
the thing that you plan to do or achieve : an aim or purpose
And over at a site all about spiritual wellbeing appropriately called Blissful Light,
Intention is probably one of the most essential parts of healing, abundance, manifestation, personal and spiritual development.
Whoa, right? That’s a lot to put on one word or one state of being. Healing. Abundance. Manifestation. Personal AND spiritual development. It almost makes you tired to just think about it.
And it’s also a lot of . . . words. Abstract words. And over here on Dogs are Smarter Than People, we’re not really big on abstractions. So, we’re going to break it down a bit for you in real world terms.
You want a hot dog. You find money. You go to a store. You buy a hot dog.
You make a decision: buy a hot dog.
You do the actions: find money, go to store, buy dog.
Intention works the same way. You have to decide what you want and then you have to take the steps to get what you want.
Sometimes the deciding is the hardest part. It’s like when you go to the grocery store in the U.S. before COVID and there is an entire aisle full of cereal choices. Your brain balks. So much cereal! Too much choice. Wheatabix or Captain Crunch? Co-co-puffs or corn flakes? You can get stuck.
Back in 2004 Barry Schwartz wrote a book about people being overwhelmed by too many choices. A lot of other scientists and researchers dispute his theory. But, we know Carrie has a hard time with it. 🙂 You might too.
Here’s the thing:
We make choices every day. Stay in bed. Get up. Go to the bathroom now, try to hold it. Answer the phone? Don’t answer it.
We constantly live with intention, but we want to be able to visualize and make the big steps toward those loftier and more exciting outcomes. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle didn’t just leave their royal life for America; they imagined a different life and took all the complicated steps to get there. The Rock didn’t just become a superstar and get to dance with Gal Gadot. He took all the complicated steps to go toward bigger and bigger goals.
According to Blissful Light, there are key steps to doing this.
Focus your thoughts-
Visualize what it is you really want. Be specific. See it clearly.
That’s their term and it works. You want to really experience the emotion with that thought/want/dream. It’s that beautiful connection that happens with aspiration. It’s pretty magical.
Try not to wish to be a unicorn and don’t let setback/negativity get you down.
You want to go toward goals that are currently possible in this world. And in that same way, any goal in this world, any life is going to have highs and lows. Know you might have setbacks, keep going anyway.
Nike Ad It, Baby. Just Do It
Remember that big second step of intention? It’s action. You can’t just wish for a hot dog to appear in your hand. You’ve got to make your luck and opportunities by taking the appropriate steps toward your goal/desire/hot dog/life as The Rock. You’ve got this.
DOG TIP FOR LIFE
Dream big. Work toward those goals. Make choices that move you toward that vision. That’s a huge part of living with intention.