Sometimes a robot breaks your finger-Live Happy Anyway

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Sometimes a robot breaks your finger-Live Happy Anyway

In “Behind Our Anxiety, the Fear of Being Unneeded,” a 2016 New York Times op-ed, the Dalai Lama and Harvard professor and president of the American Enterprise Institute Arthur C. Brooks join together to write:

“How strange, then, to see such anger and great discontent in some of the world’s richest nations. In the United States, Britain and across the European Continent, people are convulsed with political frustration and anxiety about the future. Refugees and migrants clamor for the chance to live in these safe, prosperous countries, but those who already live in those promised lands report great uneasiness about their own futures that seems to border on hopelessness.Why?”

This was an interesting op-ed for me to read a day after I talked with twelve students in my Write! Submit! Support! class out of the Writing Barn in Austin. The students are spread out all over the country and so many of them had difficult Julys when it came to getting words on the page and one eloquently asked, “How do you write when you’re so worried about the world?”

To my sort of brain that’s the perfect time to write because I’m one of those “write your way through it” kind of people, but obviously not all brains are wired like my brain. Thank God, right?

It also made me think about our marriage. Shaun is a wicked caretaker and I’m not used to that. He’s also severely independent and so when I try to take care of him? It doesn’t always happen because he’s also super alpha, right? And that makes me feel like . . . Well, like I don’t have as much of a purpose, that I’m not needed in that fundamental way that he’s needed to unscrew the tops off jars, to get the pressure washer to work, to lift all the heavy things like our dog, Sparty.

And I felt the same way when my daughter left for college.

Brooks and the Dalai Lama actually address this a bit in that op-ed saying,

“Virtually all the world’s major religions teach that diligent work in the service of others is our highest nature and thus lies at the center of a happy life. Scientific surveys and studies confirm shared tenets of our faiths. Americans who prioritize doing good for others are almost twice as likely to say they are very happy about their lives. In Germany, people who seek to serve society are five times likelier to say they are very happy than those who do not view service as important. Selflessness and joy are intertwined. The more we are one with the rest of humanity, the better we feel.

“This helps explain why pain and indignation are sweeping through prosperous countries. The problem is not a lack of material riches. It is the growing number of people who feel they are no longer useful, no longer needed, no longer one with their societies.”

And that’s why I often feel unhappy personally. I feel superfluous and I don’t want to. How about you?

Brooks and the Dalai Lama write:

“Feeling superfluous is a blow to the human spirit. It leads to social isolation and emotional pain, and creates the conditions for negative emotions to take root.”

So what can you do?

On an individual level, they say, do this.

“Start each day by consciously asking ourselves, “What can I do today to appreciate the gifts that others offer me?” We need to make sure that global brotherhood and oneness with others are not just abstract ideas that we profess, but personal commitments that we mindfully put into practice.”

And from there, they say, we build into a society that is compassionate and happier, where children are educated with practical and ethical skills to move them towards peace and “economic security.”

They write,

“Many are confused and frightened to see anger and frustration sweeping like wildfire across societies that enjoy historic safety and prosperity. But their refusal to be content with physical and material security actually reveals something beautiful: a universal human hunger to be needed. Let us work together to build a society that feeds this hunger.”

But it’s more than that. Our society is full of polarities and hate, devisiveness, trolls on internet posts, and it’s hard sometimes to not constantly feel personally attacked. And to not attack back.

In another op-ed, this time for the Washington Post, the Dalai Lama and Brooks team up again and address this by writing:

“Each of us can break the cycle of hatred, starting today. Do you feel that you’ve been attacked on social media? Respond with warmheartedness, disarming your attacker with forbearance. Overhear someone make a snide remark about people who think as you do? Respond with kindness. Want to say something insulting about people who disagree with you? Take a breath and show generosity, instead.”

That sounds impossible, doesn’t it? Anger can be a motivating force. Don’t we have a right to be angry?

Yes, we do. We have the ability to feel a plethora of emotions. The difference is what we do with those feelings–how we act on them–how long they fester.

We totally failed at this when the Supreme Court overturned Roe V. Wade and someone was a butt on my Facebook post and Shaun called them a f-stick. I should have used that opportunity to educate and work towards betterment, but instead I was just angry—a person-oriented anger that I used to strike back rather than strike forward. I didn’t harness my anger toward social change, toward the system that made this guy think he could say that stuff to me. I just lashed back at him.

Brooks and the Dalai Lama write that how we respond can

“ . . . help counter the widespread crisis of contempt? Warmheartedness is contagious. Just as people mimic bad behavior, they mimic good behavior. We all want to be happier and better people. The best way for each of us to improve society is to model behavior that offers a way forward. Others will follow. It may take a long time to change society, but it won’t come sooner than our own individual actions.”

Random Thoughts

A robot broke a little boy’s finger during a chess match in Russia.

There’s a video here.


Their article at the Washington Post.

Their article at the New York Times.

XIV, Dalai Lama, and Cutler, Howard C. The Art of Happiness, 10th Anniversary Edition: A Handbook for Living. Penguin Publishing Group, 2009, 294.

Dalai Lama, by Christopher Michel, October 14, 2012. Flickr, License:


The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. 

Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Summer Spliff” by Broke For Free.


AND we have a writing tips podcast called WRITE BETTER NOW! It’s taking a bit of a hiatus, but there are a ton of tips over there.

We have a podcast, LOVING THE STRANGE, which we stream biweekly live on Carrie’s Facebook and Twitter and YouTube on Fridays. Her Facebook and Twitter handles are all carriejonesbooks or carriejonesbook. But she also has extra cool content focused on writing tips here.

Carrie is reading one of her raw poems every once in awhile on CARRIE DOES POEMS. And there you go! Whew! That’s a lot!

No More Hiding Who We Are

Having a kid who isn’t doing well

Shaun and the kiddo a couple of years ago

This week the psychologist for the school system looked at my spouse (Shaun) and me across the island in our kitchen and said, “You two are really very grounded.”

            He is lovely and kind.

            But as we’ve dealt with crisis after crisis with our kiddo, I’ve noticed how other people are surprised when they come into our house to talk to our thirteen-year-old. They say things like, “Oh, it’s so peaceful here.”

            “Your house is so clean.”

            “You have such a lovely, quirky decorating style.”

            “You both are so . . . responsive.”

            “ . . . intelligent.”

            “ . . . kind.”

            “ . . . receptive.”

            “ . . . caring.”

            “ . . . well-balanced.”

            “ . . . supportive . . . together.”

            The kindness is wonderful, obviously. But it’s really got me thinking about the surprise in people’s voices when they give these compliments. All these people have been lovely, but what they’ve taught me these past few weeks is that when you have a child who is having a significantly hard time either mentally or developmentally, people seem to expect you to be that way as well.

            One of the reasons I’m writing about this is that I don’t talk a lot about our kiddo. There are a lot of reasons for that.

Reason 1

            When their adopted mother (I am just the bonus mom married to the adopted dad, complicated, I know) was still parenting all the time, she really didn’t like it when I even posted a photo of our kiddo with a friend’s child. It made her sad. But we’ve had this kiddo for two years now and I’m done with worrying about what someone who rarely sees their child thinks.

            So that isn’t what is holding me back any longer.

Reason 2

            I was thinking that I wanted to protect the kiddo’s privacy, but I never did that with my older biological daughter as she was growing up.

So why would I be protecting this kiddo’s privacy.

I think it’s not because of internet bad guys.

I think that it would be because of stigma. And you know what? I’m done with stigma.


It’s okay to have a kid who breaks your heart and that you worry for, and who you want to magically be able to control their temper and make the right decisions and be able to socialize in a way that they themselves want to.

            We have a kid like this.

            We don’t hide it in real life. We don’t need to hide it online either. Our kid knows that they are getting special programs (or were) and a different educational experience.

The Other Side Of Not Hiding

But it’s preconceived notions of us as parents, even by professionals, that is the real reason we’re going to be super open about this part of our journey and other parts, too.

            Having a child in crisis doesn’t make us any less who we were as people before. It doesn’t make us unclean, ungrounded, unintelligent, uncaring, or unbalanced. It gives us stress as we navigate the systems trying to find the best help and options for that child, but it doesn’t change who we inherently are or how we inherently love.

As Yin Paradies, João Luiz Bastos and Naomi Priest write in “Prejudice, Stigma, Bias, Discrimination, and Health from Part III – Prejudice Reduction and Analysis in Applied Contexts,”

Prejudice, stigma, bias, and discrimination are all expressions of oppression, “a concept that describes a relationship between groups or categories of people in which a dominant group benefits from the systematic abuse, exploitation, and injustice directed toward a subordinate group” (Johnson, 2000, p. 293). 

            It’s stigma that makes all the people who have come into our home this last month be surprised. It’s stigma that makes us think we have to protect or hide things about our selves or our lives when they don’t mesh with society’s typical standards.

            Stigma leads to bias. It leads to preconceived notions. It leads to not understanding each other.

            People have always asked me why I am so open about things, why I always want town and nonprofit boards, town councils, other people to feel open too when they’re ready. It’s because this. I don’t think there is anything to hide.

            Hiding makes you feel shame. 

            Hiding also makes you lie. Sometimes. Sometimes a lot. I’ve watched that destroy people.

            Lying often makes you anxious. Anxiety holds you back.

            All of that sucks.

            I’ve never hidden tons of things about myself, which doesn’t mean that I talk about them constantly or even often, and that’s because I don’t want to have those things become all that I am. Because I’m a lot more than being a person who has survived a lot of things, a person with sloshy s’s, with epilepsy, with history, with a bonus kid who needs so much help. And so are you. So are all of us.

            When our kid was upset the other day because of a terrible thing they’d said to their principal about their teachers—a thing that will have huge repercussions—they slumped on their bed and tears formed. For our kid? Tears are a big deal and rare.

            We’d already talked about choice and responsibility. We’d already talked about how once you say or do things, you can’t always take them back, especially if that talk or act is violent. We talked about what happens when you say or do violent things. We talk about this all the time. All. The. Time.

            But this day, it was almost like they’d got it and they said, “I hate who I am. There is nothing good in me.”

            And I listed all the things that were good. How they loved and were so protective of their internet friends. How they could create entire AUs and make people laugh with their droll humor. How they took good care of their cats. How they were amazing at digital art and making animations, and getting better at it all the time.

            It might not be enough that practical list, and it might not be enough for you or me or any of us sometimes, but it’s what you have to hang on to when you’re facing stigma and crisis and self-doubt. You have to remember to try to live the truth of who you are.


            It only brings us down.

            Shaun and I are starting this Substack called LIVING HAPPY and we’re going to be open and say to hell with stigma. This is who we are. This is what we’re dealing with. This is how we’re still happy.

We’ll have another one for writing tips pretty soon.

And there will be free and $5 a month options. It is basically a newsletter that is helpful and honest and true. It’ll be pretty damn personal and pretty damn real.

There will be posts once or twice a week. Some free. Some only for subscribers.

I hope you’ll come hang out with us there. I hope you’ll be on our living happy journey with us, too, despite everything.


Because of everything.

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