Repurposed Life

White Males

White males are receiving a lot of flack these days. Well, I happen to like white males. I think a lot them are cute, and funny, and smart, and kind. But you know what? A lot of them are shitty, too. There are a lot of shithead white males in the world. There are also a lot of shithead black males in the world too. But you know what else, there are a lot of shitty females out there as well. Not to mention, I’ve met a lot of shitty Christians and there’s plenty of shitty Muslims, too. Shitty homosexuals, and asshole heterosexuals.

We can’t continue to evaluate the quality of people’s hearts by the group with which they are labeled. People are born into certain conditions or are raised with certain beliefs beyond what they are able to rationalize. Fundamentally, though, it is what’s within our souls that reveals our worth. Are we genuine, are we kind-hearted, trustworthy and dependable? These are the qualities on which all people should be judged.

It really makes no difference what you are or with whom you identify yourself, every single one of us has the ability to be open, accepting, compassionate, successful and responsible. And every one if us has the ability to be a raging, closed minded, arrogant, hypocritical asshole. I have seen evidence of people from every race, creed, sex, orientation and culture demonstrate behaviors on both ends of the spectrum. We are all the same people, vulnerable to the same weaknesses and prejudices. However we all share the same ability to move the needle and continue to make progress on the wheel of time to drive our species towards a better, more sustainable life for us all.

Repurposed Life · Self Discovery

We are social creatures… except when we aren’t.

There is a social nature in all of us, but the spectrum of the desired quantity of social interaction is broad.

As an introvert, I rarely crave social interaction. The amount of social interaction that I get organically with work, kids, school functions and family are more than exhausting on the social scale. What time I have left in my life, I nearly always desire to spend alone.

I constantly wrestle myself about this. I can never reconcile why I have such an aversion to interacting with people. I like these people. It’s not that I’m a recluse. I just don’t ever seem to have the mental energy to engage with them.

SOCIAL INTERACTION TOLERANCE RATIO

What I’ve recently realized is that it’s not the act of being social that puts me off, it’s the amount of social interaction that is too much. I am maybe a 50%er….meaning that I need to have at least 50% of my time when I can be alone, recharge and be quiet with my thoughts. If I can get that, then I’ll crave and seek out others for social time the other 50% of my day.

What I’m getting, in reality, is about 10% alone time, and for many days not even that. My days at work are often booked with meetings and other forced social interactions that definitely count toward my tolerance levels, but provide little value in the satisfaction scale of social content.

Then home with kids and family where smiles and joy levels go up! But also frustration and impatience as we interplay about dinner, homework, bedtime, chores, practices and all manner of things not on my list of glorious, self recharging activities.

When I think back to times in my life when I was much more social, it was always times when my amount of alone time was high. When I was young, fresh out of school, no forced social school interactions on a daily basis and I’d wake up and have to find people to talk to. Or just after my divorce, when the kids were gone every other week, and I had the house alone to myself during the evenings, and I had to find ways to fill social needs on my weekends.

TAKING ACTION

So what am I going to do with this information? We’ll, armed with this new knowledge, I need to work to achieve that 50/50 balance. Not just in a single day, but also over time, on the weekends, over a month, the year.

If I have two weekends booked up this month, I need to work to keep the other two clear. If I have a week booked solid with meetings and practices and games, I need to understand that my weekend time will be precious and not over commit. If this entire month is crazy busy, I can look ahead to several quiet weekends in the coming months. I need to be selfish with my alone time, understanding that having it will make me a nicer, more tolerant, social individual when I have those interactions.

So find your social tolerance ratio. Are you an 80/20? 70/30? 50/50? Or even 10/90? Don’t beat yourself up for who you are. You have to find a balance that fits your brain and is nourishing to your spirit.

Think about your balance here, and take action. While social obligations are often in no short supply, it is only you who can look out for and prioritize your personal alone time.

Mindfulness and Meditation · Repurposed Life

Utopian distopia

Why are we homosapiens so unhappy with life?

I read through blogs and posts and comments and find so many people dissatisfied with this or that aspect of their lives, their countries, their families, their selves, and I wonder how we got caught up in this vicious circle.

We don’t see other animals exhibiting this massive form of anxiety. Not many dogs walking around at 2 years old depressed with teenage angst. No giraffe riots against a rival pack of zebras. Everything else just sort of lives on balanced harmony, understanding some basic principles of life to guild them. Food. Shelter. Babies.

You can argue that our bigger capacity brains are capable of weaving much more complex stories, but why would an intelectually superior being invite increasing amounts of discontent and anxiety into their daily lives?

Well, I think we are a victim of our own success….

Telling Stories

Early man (and woman) hunter and gatherers, just beginning to create social structures and form herds, had to find ways of creating order within the group. This is the structure upon which we built the sustainable communities we have all over the world today.

People work together for the common good. They make sacrifices so that all may benefit. So, these early groups started to tell stories to one another to teach, to pass down information, and to create order within the community. People were assigned jobs and accordingly we’re awarded benefits in the tribe for performing those jobs well.

No longer was every person able to focus just on providing for themselves and their family alone. Over time, the tribe became the most important focus of your life. Your needs we’re not met unless the hunters did their job today. Your house had no roof unless the gatherers brought back leaves and sticks.

Here is where the expectations of others begins to develop. We begin to judge others, as well as judge ourselves. Are we meeting the expectations of the tribe? Should we have a higher status in the tribe? Should form an alliance with that family to split from those families that we don’t agree with?

Fast forward 100,000 years

Over time, these little expectations expand and grow and multiply into a million little stories about everything we see, do, touch and feel. About remembering how everything in the universe works and the right way to hold your fork. About which days of the week are for fun and which are for work. About who you’re supposed to like and how to keep your hair looking nice. About how life should be full of adventure and money and love and peace and meaning.

…when all we were really promised when we plopped out into this world was that we would breath and eat and have instinctual impulses and feelings that drive us to do the things that make us feel good.

Dopamine and serotonin

Feeling good is really what it’s all about. We humans and every other animals on the planet are driven by the motivation to release these chemicals in our brains. We feel hungry, we eat, dopamine and serotonin. We need money, we work, we get paid, dopamine and serotonin.

All these other stories, objectives and expectations conflict with and get in the way of figuring out how to satisfy the overwhelming desire to feel good.

This complicates and confuses us beyond measure. We compare, contrast, judge and evaluate our level of feeling good to everyone and everything around us to see if we could be feeling better than we are.

Finding Utopia

Utopia is a place of contentment. It does not have anything to do with our surroundings or circumstances.

We need to stop looking for joy in the things we have or the things we do or the status of the world. Understand that your brain is just searching for a hit of dopamine and serotonin and find those things that give it to you.

It could be cuddling with your kids or making a craft or helping your grandma. Be content with one hit at a time. Work toward big goals by setting yourself up for a million little accomplishments of dopamine releases along the way.

We won’t solve the puzzle of life, and we were never meant to. Our only purpose here is self-fulfillment. Even if you’re the most humanitarian person in the world, your motivation is because it makes you feel good.

Find what makes you feel good, and do it. That’s the only way to find true Utopia for you.

P.S. My disclaimer about doing bad things that make you feel good: if there are consequences that will not make you feel good later, then you need to think those through and stop right there. Even animals learn this. That’s what all the other neuro-pathways are for. Don’t be stupid.

Repurpose and DIY

Extend the life of kids pajamas

The best kid’s pajamas, in my opinion, are the cotton knit fitted pajamas by Carter’s (Old Navy and Gap sells some like these too). They are stretchy, comfortable, and pretty forgiving when it comes to buying a size too big. They are also on the pricey side and worth finding ways to extend their life. For years, however, I would sadly put away the winter long sleeve, long pant pajamas when spring came, only to find that once the cold came around again, the sleeves and legs were too short for the kids to wear the following year.

Until, with my youngest child, I had donated one too many pairs of barely worn pajamas, I decided to try cutting the sleeves and pants to make short sleeve and short pants and discovered the perfect way to extend the life of these high quality clothes!

No sewing required! These high density knits do not fray or unravel once they are cut, no matter how many times you wash them.

Cutting the pajamas

Simply lay the shirt or pants flat and make sure all of the seams line up. This will help you get a straight cut. Also, use fabric sheers if you have some designated. It makes cutting easier and cleaner.

Cut 1st sleeves about 3-4 inches down from the shoulder seam or 1 inch from the pits. (If you want a muscle shirt, you can cut just past the seam.) Cut across in the same direction of the cuff, this is how the shirt is designed to lay best.

Then fold the shirt in half and line up shoulder seams. Use cut sleeve as a guide so you cut the other sleeve the same length (learned this step after the first couple times of uneven sleeves).

For pants, if you want to be specific, you can measure the inseam of your child’s leg down to the length you want the shorts. Since they are jammies, I just eyeball it, about 3 inches from the crotch. Cut these straight across.

Voila! Instant summer pajamas! I literally do this in 1 minute at bedtime when it warms up and I can’t find short sleeve jammies. Usually I start with the shirt in the spring and keep the pants long until it’s hotter. With short sleeves and short pants, I’ve even been able to extend some of these pajamas for 2 summers! I still get weepy eyed giving them away after that because they hold up so well!

I have wanted to take the leftover sleeves and legs, sew them together and stitch the ends closed to make rice bag heating wraps, but I haven’t had time to pull the trigger on that one. I hope you guys can find other uses for these leftover strips, too.

So hopefully this will help you extend the life of your kid’s pajamas and save yourself some money in the process! Happy repurposing!

Repurposed Life

What if you were good enough?

What if, for once in your life, you were good enough?

At everything you do and everything you are.

You were making just the right amount of money.

You had just the right group of friends.

Your house was big enough, and clean enough, and stylish enough.

You were just the right kind of parent.

You were just at the right point in your career.

You had just the right work life balance.

And you spent just the right amount of time with everyone you were supposed to.

What if you could finally take a break from all that judgment and self-criticism? How many countless hours of doubt, misgiving and uncertainty would be reclaimed if you were ok with yourself and the decisions you make? In every area and every way, would you be free to pursue your passions and indulge in your dreams?

What if you were free to just be you? Right now. Without changing a thing.

Mindfulness and Meditation

Guilt Free Day

With my extreme tendency to feel guilty about everything, all of the time, I have started to try implementing “Guilt Free” days periodically, when things get just too overwhelming.

This means that I basically let myself off the hook for all the little things that I beat myself up for endlessly. Things being late to my daughter’s game, forgetting to get milk when I was at the store, not sending a birthday card, missing a deadline at work, forgetting to email someone back, not having the laundry folded, not having the dishes done, not having dinner planned, not working enough on my blog, not getting up at 5 am to do yoga, not playing with my kids enough, not paying a bill on time….this list goes on and on, baby.

It means I don’t tell myself how stupid I am, or how disorganized I am, or what a terrible mom I am or whatever other self-deprocating insults I can throw at myself. I just recognize what happened and move on. Yes, move on and don’t over think it.

This doesn’t mean I don’t care or don’t try, it just let’s me give my brain a break from the psychobabble broken record that keeps us from being able to enjoy the present without the weight of obligation heavy on our shoulders.

We are flooded with a million demands on our time and attention everyday. I find that these demands stack up like a disorganized pile of garbage all around me and I can’t enjoy a single moment of life unless I get this stack in order, handled and cleared up. The problem is that the stack never goes away and never stops growing.

If I intentionally take small breaks from the madness by stopping the guilt cycle, I hope to find some relief from the pressure I put on myself and find a way to poke a hole in the garbage to enjoy the sunshine all around me.

Try it one day and give yourself a little relief. Give yourself a Guilt Free Day, and tomorrow you can go right back to feeling guilty about so you don’t let yourself get too cozy in the idea that you might be doing alright…(just another thing I usually feel guilty about).

Repurposed Life

A Re-lesson of The Road Not Taken

We have all heard this poem by Robert Frost. “I took the road less traveled, and it has made all the difference.” A triumphant call to action to go against the flow, to be an individual, to get off the beaten path, and follow your dreams!

I’m here to tell you (or remind you), that this is bullshit.

That is not what this poem is about. It is about choices and indecision and unknown consequences and never getting a do-over on the choices we make. Once we choose a path, it’s the road not taken that is a mystery, sometimes even a regret, yet we spend our lives convincing ourselves and others that we made our arbitrary choices with deliberate intention, and the outcome was clear from the beginning based on the condition of the path.

Let’s re-read this poem with a new perspective. We’ll also see that this change does not diminish the value of the story, but instead puts a human perspective on a task we must endure daily. While the answers are not always clear in the moment, it’s in hindsight that we find the true meaning and purpose of our decisions.

The Road Not Taken

BY ROBERT FROST
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Here we come to our choice. The writer stands paralyzed trying to peer into the future and down the path.
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
Even though we always thought one of these paths was less traveled, the writer here can’t really make up his mind. He ultimately tells us here that both are about equally worn.
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
No one was there to guide the writer or give him any clarity about his choice.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
Finally, a decision, but with instant regret for once the choice is made, you can never go back to that fork again.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
We own our choices and they become part of our story. Whether we made them on a whim or with painstaking care, we convince ourselves that it was always the right choice, for we can never go back to the road not taken….

Special thanks to Katherine Robinson, at the Poetry Foundation who provided an outstanding interpretation of this poem after my flawed historical recollection of the poem was not lining up with what I was reading.

Repurposed Life

Hamilton – why we love this musical.

On the evening before our exciting trip to see Hamilton in Chicago, I sat and listened to my family debate the merits of the man, Alexander Hamilton and whether or not he should be admired.

Hamilton was certainly not the model portrait of a historical figure we should admire. He was an arrogant, hot-head who let his pride, his mouth and his actions lead to not only to the demise of his career, but also to his and his own son’s untimely death (who died defending his name in a dual – ironic foreshadowing to his own demise). Hamilton, in short, is no great role model to present to our kids.

While he contributed greatly to the establishment of our government and the economic foundations of our nation, there is a reason he has stood in the shadows of Washington and Jefferson in our history books and memories until now. He simply was not the most influential player and he didn’t do much for his reputation either.

However, despite all of this, for some reason we have become obsessed with this musical, and subsequently this man. Why?

I’ll freely admit that I have not read the Hamilton book by Ron Chernow on which Lin-Manuel Miranda based his script (it’s on my list, but you know… life). But whether conveyed in the book or just in Lin-Manuel’s imagination, what is presented in this musical is not just the story of a founding father, but also the story at the heart of us all. It is a story of self doubt and of pride. A story of longing to belong, and to make a name for ourselves and to leave a legacy. It is the story of mistakes, of missed opportunities, and of disappointing the people we love.

Why I think this story is so compelling is that it truly presents the humanity of these figures that seemed only to be stoic marble statues of indifference taught to us in our history books. It is what I have always loved about history, which is understanding that these figures are all people just like you and me. Flawed, yearning for meaning and for acceptance, trying to find their way in this crazy, confusing, messed up world.

Hamilton, our “hero” spent his eàrly life longing to be a somebody. In his military career, he wanted nothing but infamy as a commanding general, but alas, he was held back from reaching his goal by his mentor and leader, Washington. You see and hear, in the music just how many times Hamilton asks to be given a command only to be disappointed over and over by Washington. How many of us have also aspired to one position or another at work, only to be told we are “not ready” or our “skills are needed elsewhere”?

Burr, our “villain”, is presented as a brilliant and successful man, in his own right; but he is constantly overshadowed by the workings, opinions and flamboyant declarations of Hamilton. He struggles with self doubt and jealousy his entire life. I challenge any one of us to not name the person at work or on social media who seems to be living the perfect life we want or gets the promotion, house or opportunity you thought should be yours.

Other characters, Jefferson, Madison, Angelica, Eliza, even King George are plagued with almost childish frustration when they don’t get what they want or can’t pursuade others to think the way they do. We may not throw temper tantrums, but so many of us can go to a dark place in our minds when the world is not turning in the way we expect.

Even the stoic George Washington is shown to be beaten down by the hardships of war, politics, and the heavy burden his role as a leader has had on him. I can think of few individuals who, by the time of their retirement, are not ready to lay down their banner, set aside the burden of responsibility and wander off into quieter pastures.

These are the struggles of us all, the story of our nation and the stories of our lives. Lin-Manuel has presented to us the humanity on which our nation was founded. He has presented the mistakes and the pain and the poison as the pillars on which we try to build better lives for our sons and daughters, to show them our follys to try to prevent history from repeating itself.

The meaning of this show, I contest, really has nothing to do with Alexander Hamilton. He just serves as the character through whom the message is transported. It could just as well have been about any number of historical figures or even some fictional character in Lin-Manuel’s imagination. But what it tells us and teaches us is that we are not alone in our ambition, our toil, our longing, our fatique. It tells us to rise up, to not throw away our shot, that the world is wide enough and that someday you’ll blow us all away.