Doubt Tempers Truth

I am always surprised when someone gets upset when people ask questions. Doubt seems to make people very uncomfortable. They greatly prefer people who act purely on blind faith. Those people hear the rhetoric and swallow it whole, without an ounce of critical thinking. While that may make life easier for some, it’s why disinformation is on the rise.

Personally, I like it when people employ a bit of scrutiny. I enjoy those who fact check. If you take information seriously enough to determine that it’s accurate, that information increases in value.

As with steel, truth is tempered when it’s pounded on, and plunged into fire and water and then hammered yet again. Doubt tempers truth. That applies to religion, politics, current events, and everything else under the sun. We are all made stronger by this tempering process.

Never hesitate to do your homework. Question. Investigate. Learn. Then share what you’ve learned. We have brains for a reason. Let’s use them.

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What to Take with You

I can’t speak for you, but sometimes I feel so completely freakin’ misunderstood that I even begin to question myself. It’s astounding how many people there are out there who are willing to tell you that you shouldn’t feel the way you feel or that you shouldn’t do what you do. The world is so full of noise that it’s hard for people to listen. And everybody’s a critic.

After enough time in that emotional meat grinder, I feel completely drained of my life force, and I start to wonder if they’re right and I’m wrong. Maybe if I just twist myself into a particular kind of knot, maybe then I’ll be viewed as saner, stronger, braver, more confident, less irrational, more well balanced, and more appealing. I, too, can be functional, if only…

“Stop being so sensitive.” “Stick up for yourself.” “It’s not that big of a deal.” “Here’s how you should have handled it.” “Why do you think that way?” “You’re making too much of it.” “This is how everyone else sees it.” “Grow up.”

It’s enough to make me want to crawl into a hole and pull a rock over the entrance. Just long enough to lick my wounds. Long enough to heal and remember who I am. Long enough to keep my wounded butt from lashing out and verbally tearing my attacker limb from limb. Because despite how much it may be merited, it never helps.

What do I take with me into that healing place? Truth. The things that I know are true about myself. The things that no one can take away from me no matter how hard they try. Everyone has a different set of things. Here are some of mine, in no particular order.

  • I am intelligent.

  • I love my dog and my dog loves me.

  • I’m a good writer.

  • I am a fantastic bridgetender.

  • People can count on me.

  • If I say I’ll do something, it gets done.

  • I’m not afraid of being alone.

  • I love a hot bath.

  • I have a great sense of humor.

  • I’m good with my money.

  • I love to learn.

  • I have a creative mind.

  • I’m curious.

  • I draw strength from nature.

  • I can be trusted.

  • I live to travel.

  • I set goals, and I work toward them.

  • I am a good friend.

  • People confide in me.

I’m proud of these things. I hold them close. They are my passions, my values, and my strengths. They are what hold me together even when I feel like I’m being torn apart.

Never forget that you have your very own set of things. Take them with you wherever you go. They are what’s best about you, even in your darkest hour.

So, hold on to your truth. Tell your detractors to get stuffed. And don’t ever, ever give up.

learn to fly

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Why are Haters Targeting Tilapia?

I’ve been seeing this meme floating around social media quite a bit in the last few weeks. I could tell it was false within seconds. I can’t believe people can be so gullible.

Tilapia False Meme

First red flag: Boneless and Skinless? The picture itself shows the skin and scales. And have you ever filleted a tilapia? It has bones, trust me.

Then there’s the grammatical errors in the meme. That’s ALWAYS a reason to do some further digging. If the creator can’t even be bothered to properly articulate his or her message, then why do we not question the intelligence thereof?

And come on, don’t you wonder about the source of the information? They sure aren’t sharing it with us. So I went to Snopes.com, and sure enough, the meme is totally bogus. There’s also a lot of stuff going around about bacon being better for you than tilapia, or claiming tilapia causes Alzheimer’s disease or cancer . Also Bulls**t, as this article from Factcheck.org proves.

The reason this fake meme irritates me more than the average fake meme is that it is directing people to avoid healthier food. If you’re not a vegetarian, you should at least reduce the amount of red meat you consume, not just for yourself, but for the planet. Fish is a much healthier protein, and tilapia is one of the more affordable choices out there.

If a meme seems sketchy to you, check the facts. Also, ask yourself who benefits from such a claim, should it turn out to be false. (In this case, the meat industry and probably half the fast food restaurants you drive past, hopefully without stopping, on a daily basis.)

Here’s a great article that cites 6 reliable websites that will help you get to the truth of most matters. Please, please use them. There are enough lies being spread these days without our unwitting help.

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Assumptions

“My coworker is a slob. She says she cleans up after herself, but she doesn’t. I can tell. She has no respect for me, or for the job. She has a bad attitude. She can’t be trusted.”

Wow. I’d hate to work with someone like that! It must be so frustrating. That can’t be doing good things for your morale.

Here’s the problem with that assessment, though. It includes no fewer than 6 assumptions. The speaker is viewing those assumptions as fact. Let’s pull back the veil and look at the actual situation.

Your coworker isn’t more or less sloppy than the average person. You, in fact, are obsessive compulsive and hypervigilant. She does clean up after herself. It’s just that by the time you come along, several other people have been in the work area, and your coworker has no control over that. The state of the office is not a reflection of her respect or lack thereof. She actually loves the job and takes it very seriously. Her attitude is quite good, but she admittedly is on the defensive in your presence because her experience with you is that you are judgmental. She’s extremely trustworthy. (You might want to ask yourself if you find it possible to completely trust anyone.)

That kind of sheds a different light on the subject, doesn’t it? We all see the world through different lenses. We are the sum total of our past experiences. We all have our weaknesses and strengths.

Viewing assumptions as truths is life’s shorthand. It sure makes things go faster… but often in the wrong direction. As a coping mechanism, it does not serve us well. But it takes practice, being self-critical.

When is the last time you asked yourself what proof you had for a particular conclusion? How do you know people are thinking what you think they’re thinking? Have you asked? Mind reading is a heady power, but it’s the worst assumption of all.

Another assumption would be that I’m an expert at identifying my assumptions simply because I’m writing a post on the topic. On the contrary, I struggle with this concept on a daily basis. I’d like to think that I’m getting better at separating fact from fiction, but I suspect this will be a lifelong exercise in self-improvement, and one that’s entirely too important to pass over.

Assume

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The Dark Shadow Cast by the Golden Rule

Most societies seem to have some version of the Golden Rule. That only makes sense. It would be hard to live amongst one’s fellow humans without one. I really do try to do unto others as I would have them do unto me. I can’t imagine functioning any other way.

The thing I struggle with is my huge disappointment/bitterness/frustration when others do not do likewise. “Oy! I’m playin’ by the rules here! Why aren’t you?”

Just the other day I got royally screwed over by 5 people. Without going into detail, we’ve all had long conversations and they agreed with my interpretation of events. But when this brought on an investigation, rather than tell the truth and have my back, these people chose to pull their pinheads into their tiny, soft, little shells and leave me out there all alone to be crushed by the bus.  I feel so betrayed. I could never do that to someone. Not in a million years.

Be that as it may, the situation isn’t going to right itself, so now the only thing I can do is cope with my feelings of disappointment/bitterness/frustration. On close examination, I realize that I wouldn’t even have those feelings if I didn’t think that these people were not holding themselves to a standard that I swear by.

So maybe I should blame the Golden Rule for all of this. Maybe I should stop expecting others to follow it. Heck, maybe I should stop following it myself, since it does not seem to have done me any favors.

But the day I can’t even count on my own integrity is the day I give up entirely.

crushed turtle

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Honne and Tatemae

Recently a dear friend introduced me to the Japanese concepts of honne and tatemae. I had never heard these words before. Without her, I would  probably just have assumed they were the names for a Japanese pop culture couple or something. (They do say that opposites attract.)

After reading several articles on the subject and watching this interesting little video, I think I have a grasp of it now. Honne is basically your true feelings and/or thoughts in any situation. (I will have no trouble remembering that word, because it kind of looks like “honest”.) I’m quite good at honne most of the time. If you ask my opinion on something, I’m always happy to give it to you, often to the point where it gets me into trouble. (Because, sorry, those shorts actually do make you look fat.)

Tatemae is what I struggle with. It’s kind of the public face you show the world in order to avoid conflict, spare feelings, and/or further your goal. It can be as innocuous as saying, “I’ll call you!” after a particularly bad date, or as insidious as, “Corruption? No corruption in this organization!”

Tatemae definitely has its uses. Unfortunately, it will often get you further in the work environment. “Yes, boss, you are doing a pathetic great job!” (This is probably why I’m a bridgetender instead of a CEO. I just can’t do it.)

And if you are trapped on an island with 127 million other people, avoiding conflict is all the more crucial. Not that tatemae is exclusive to Japan. In fact, I seem to be over my head in a sea of it here in Seattle, and I’m not sure if I’ll ever adjust to it.

But perhaps I’m better at it than I think. As I blogged the other day, friends tell me that the things I write here are not like the person that they know. That has a lot to do with editing, and my desire not to be perceived as a nut job. So, hey, there’s hope for me yet, if one considers tatemae to be a hopeful thing.

Corruption? No corruption here…

Tatemae

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Justifying Grief

I’ve written a lot of posts about my late boyfriend, Chuck, about how much I miss him, about coping with my grief, about how I think about him all the time, and also about how complicated our relationship was, due to his Traumatic Brain Injury. Well, the other day, I was contacted by one of his former schoolmates, who said, “I have read your articles about Chuck. I also read his posts about living in his pick-up truck in the Wal-Mart parking lot. Which is true?”

I immediately responded, “Both. With his brain injury he’d lose his temper, storm out of the house and stay in his truck for a few days. Then come back. His brain injury had a kind of Jekyll and Hyde effect on him.”

It’s true. He knew when he wasn’t acting right in the head, and he wanted to protect me from that. He was never physically abusive toward me, not once. But he certainly could shout. So his solution was to leave. Quite often while he was gone, we’d be texting back and forth.

He once told me that I was the only person he could rely on to tell him when he wasn’t acting rational. It wasn’t the easiest relationship in the world to have, but when it was good, it was phenomenal. Chuck was the most generous, decent, intelligent, passionate and funny man I have ever known in my life. I therefore have no regrets.

But here’s what’s interesting. When his friend asked me that question, I didn’t hesitate to respond. Basically, I was being asked to justify my grief and prove I wasn’t lying. My first response should have been to be offended. I could have simply said eff you and been done with it. That would have been a reasonable reaction to have. But that didn’t even cross my mind. And I find that kind of sad. I’m glad I didn’t do it, but I think it should have crossed my mind, at the very least. What does that say about me?

The fact is, I’ve been expected to justify my grief for Chuck from the very start. After 4 years together, some of his family members still view me as less legitimate than his ex-wife. Those who had the pleasure of only seeing his good side are uncomfortable hearing about the bad. Those who witnessed the bad cannot understand why I grieve for him at all.

Our relationship wasn’t cut and dried. It was complicated. But it was still priceless to me. No one should have to justify their grief. You don’t have to agree with it. It does not require your seal of approval. In fact, I think under the circumstances you might want to cut me a tiny bit of slack.

But as it turns out, I was glad I responded to his friend. I genuinely think she meant well. It turns out that she had been nursing a lot of guilt, because she lived near that Wal-Mart parking lot, and was unable to help him. So I learned how much she cared. I learned that I wasn’t the only one who worried about him. And she learned that Chuck was never completely alone. So we both, I think, got some comfort from the conversation. It all turned out for the best.

Life certainly can be complex. But what I took away from this experience is that it’s better to talk things out than to go on the defensive. You might learn something.

clouds and sun
It’s possible to have clouds and sunshine in the very same sky.

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Honesty Takes Less Energy

Here’s a bit of honesty: I’m an inherently lazy person. I avoid wearing clothes that need ironing. I take great pains to dirty as few dishes as I can. I am an expert at consolidating all my errands into one trip. My energy is limited, so I try to use it wisely. It’s just how I roll.

The same goes for my mental energy. I don’t know where people find the strength to be disingenuous or manipulative. I’d find it entirely too stressful, and I’d have to spend a great deal of time trying to remember which lies I had told to whom.

Fake people really amaze me. It’s been my experience that one’s chickens always come home to roost sooner or later. At the end of the day, I want my chickens to be nice to me. There’s nothing worse than a pissed off chicken.

Reality shows fascinate me as well. Even with a camera present and thousands of people watching, some people just can’t seem to resist taking their moral compass and jumping up and down on it while wearing cleats. That seems a bit self-destructive to me. Just sayin’.

The sad thing about people like that is they assume that everyone else in the world is the same way. If you know someone who believes that everyone lies all the time, I’ll bet you my next paycheck that that person lies all the time. It must be exhausting to live in a world where you think everyone around you is as horrible as you are.

I can’t imagine that the average parent teaches his or her child to go to the dark side like that. Where does it come from? What’s the long term payoff? I don’t get it.

Pinocchio

Self-Evident Truths?

I think “obviously” is one of the most dangerous words in the English language, as is its more formal and old-fashioned counterpart, “self-evident”. When the US Declaration of Independence was written, with its famous, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…” slavery was still legal on this continent, and women could not vote. To this very day, equality seems to elude us. Clearly that truth isn’t self-evident to everyone.

Truth is truth. Facts are facts. You have a right to your opinion. But that doesn’t mean these things are obvious or even generally accepted.

When I hear myself or someone else say obviously, I take it as a cue to evaluate the statement. Here are some things that some find obvious, but others do not, sometimes with good reason.

“Obviously…”

  • A healthy environment is more important than a healthy bank account.
  • If you deprive a mentally ill person of the right to own an assault weapon, you are part of the problem.
  • Everything tastes better when you wrap it in bacon.
  • There’s someone out there for you.
  • It’s impossible to function without an iPhone.
  • My children are a delight to be around and can do no wrong.
  • Gay marriage is the end of civilization as we know it.
  • Growing old is a bad thing.
  • Everyone would prefer to work in an office rather than outside.
  • When Donald Trump says he’d bring back waterboarding, we should all cheer.
  • My religion is the only true one.
  • Everyone should read my blog.
  • This land is your land.
  • If you’re not a size 3, you should be ashamed of your body.
  • Education is dangerous.
  • Knowledge is power.
  • ‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

It’s important to remember that not everyone sees the world in the same way. Obviously.

CB and snoopy_zpsoucuhwsf

Another Drawbridge Story

Recently I wrote a blog entry called How Soon We Forget, about a unique encounter I had with a fisherman on the job, and how I reacted when he passed away. That was a story that has weighed heavily on my mind for years, and it was good to get it out.

There have been further developments since that posting. I had mentioned that StoryCorps wanted to include the story in their upcoming anthology, but their fact checkers couldn’t seem to corroborate it.

Well, just the other day one of the fact checkers contacted me with a link to a brief article in the Jacksonville paper. Yay! Vindication!

Well, sort of. The Florida Times-Union isn’t exactly known for getting their facts straight, but still, it’s unsettling see how different their version of events was.

First of all, my old fisherman was only 51, a year older than I am now. Either the man didn’t age well or it was a different guy. But I never saw my old fisherman again, so that would be a strange coincidence.

Also, he wasn’t found in the boat. They found the boat on the shore, the engine still running, and they found his body a mile further down, about 12 hours later. That must have been horrible for his family.

In addition, he did have a job, so he wasn’t the content retiree I imagined him to be. I had this whole story about him in my head that was based on nothing. And that got me thinking about truth and my version thereof, and reality, and the way we perceive one another, and the way we fill in the blanks without even acknowledging that there are blanks.

But most importantly, they claimed that he went out at 3 pm on this particular fishing trip, so maybe, just maybe, I wasn’t the last person to see him alive after all. So I think it’s time for me to lay this burden down. Maybe now we can both rest in peace.

I decided it would be good for me to lay it to rest by telling the whole story at Fresh Ground Stories, a fantastic storytelling group that I sporadically attend here in Seattle. You can hear a recording of it here. At the end of the story it automatically starts playing two other stories I’ve told, so just stop it if you don’t want to hear them all. But let me know what you think!

The Ortega River as it heads out to the St. Johns River at dawn. Most likely the last thing my fisherman friend ever saw.
The Ortega River as it heads out to the St. Johns River at dawn. Most likely the last thing my fisherman friend ever saw.