Friday, July 20, 2012

To Lighten the Mood

So, it's been getting pretty deep over here on the blog and I think it's time to infuse a little fun for a change.  I love summertime.  It is one of my all-time favorites.  Not just my favorite season, but one of my favorite things ever. 

In honor of this, I will now post my playlist for this summer.  These are the songs that have been on repeat on my iPod for the past month.  I make no apologies for any lack of musical taste this may seem to show on my part.  Just find these songs and listen to them and think of all the best things about summer.

Here they are, in no particular order.  You're welcome.

Nova Baby by The Black Keys
Where I Want To Be by The Danderous Summer
Fly Over States by Jason Aldean
You and Me by Dave Matthews Band
Wild Ones (Feat. Sia) By Flo Rida (I'm not apologizing for this, but it is not kid-appropriate)
Everything You Do by He is We
Mountain and the Sea by Ingrid Michaelson
Springsteen by Eric Church
Do You Remember by Jack Johnson
Friday Night by Lady Antebellum
Melody by Kate Earl
Stay by Lisa Loeb
Last Request by Paolo Nutini
Days Like These by Jason Aldean
Saturday Morning by Rachael Yamagata
White Lies by Stacy Clark
Tim McGraw by Taylor Swift
Somebody Must be Prayin for Me by Tim McGraw
Go On by Jack Johnson
Next Girl by the Black Keys
Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen (I realize I will hate this song in another month or so, but I'm still okay with it right now)

Obviously I realize that taste in music is highly personal, but what is your all-time-favorite summertime song?  I'll check it out and see if I should add it to my list...

Sunday, July 15, 2012

A Synonym for Deliberate

I've been thinking about the title of my blog.  I've been thinking of how funny it is that when I named it I was trying to convey the total randomness of my thoughts and life and writing.  I didn't (and still don't) have a theme or a focus for this blog, other than just getting thoughts out of my head.  However, I did feel the word "random" was overused, so I chose some words that meant random.

When I started this blog, I did feel as though so much in my life was haphazard.  I had an almost-two-year-old and a not-quite-four-year-old and when you have kids that age, everything seems like chaos.  Just when you think you've figured out a routine or something that works, that stage has passed and you're trying to figure out life (or even dinnertime) all over again.

My kids are five and seven now.  Sure, there is still plenty of chaos and unpredictability, but the moment-by-moment insanity is not nearly as bad.  Despite outbursts of crazy boy-energy, we have settled into more of a.... I won't say "routine," but maybe a "mutual understanding."  I no longer feel like everything is a spiral of randomness.

I've realized that being deliberate is not only important, but necessary.  With the way I respond to the boys' questions and behavior, I can't just wing it.  I have to put thought into it and purposely choose the way I react and the  motivations for my reactions.  I want to make sure that I'm teaching them to think for themselves and to use discernment and make wise choices, but also to enjoy the hell out of life.  Most kids don't learn that by accident.  Some do, but don't I want my kids to remember that they learned at least some of that from me?

With my thoughts and my writing, I've also realized I've become more intentional.  Not that I've lost any of my craziness, not that I have everything figured out, and not that I know what I want to be when I finally grow up; I do feel that I am a little more focused about what I think and what I (try to) write about.  Where before, the thought of being deliberate seemed unattainable and therefore overwhelming, now being deliberate seems like a welcome necessity.

I obviously don't know what the future holds.  I don't know what life has in store, nor do I know how long this stage will last with the boys.  I could wake up tomorrow to an almost five-and-a-half-year old and a several-months-past-seven year old who have changed everything and feel like I'm starting all over again.  I could lose all sense of focus and go through another phase where I don't know what I think about most things.  Because of all this (and also because I'm ridiculously sentimental), I'm not going to change the name of my blog.  I'm going to leave it and see where life takes me. 

I do, however, realize that there is no reason to cling to randomness when a little bit of intention is appropriate and necessary.  I'm learning to live with both the antonym and the synonym of deliberate.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Opposite of Empathy

em·pa·thy   [em-puh-thee]  
Definition:  The intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.
Antonyms: apathy, misunderstanding, unfeelingness

I read an article a few years ago that cited a study that sought to find the most basic and universal human emotion.  I can't remember what they were trying to prove that it was, but what they determined was that empathy is the universal emotion that all humans are born with.  (Side note: I tried, but could not find that article again.  However, if you Google 'empathy in babies,' you can find references to this type of study.)

Obviously, not every person is empathetic.  Babies can outgrow empathy for a variety of reasons.  Lately, though, I've been wondering if some people are purposely taught to not show empathy.  I mean, I can understand that people in some circumstances would lose empathy pretty easily.  Children who are abused or neglected are not shown empathy and those scars can wreak havoc on psychological wellness.  I'm not talking about those people.  I'm talking about people who seem to be okay, to whom nothing terrible or abusive has happened, who live an "average" life, yet seem completely incapable of feeling even a tiny twinge of empathy.

I get that with different life experiences people have different points of view, different thoughts, different opinions, and different ideas.  What I do not get is making the leap from, "Well, we disagree." to "Well, you are a terrible person because you disagree with me."  We've all seen it or heard it or even experienced it over the past couple years.  Disagreements quickly turn into stereo-typing, name-calling, demonizing, and worse.

This concerns me for many reasons, but mostly because it seems many of us have lost our ability to empathize with others.  To me it seems that some have even been taught that empathy is wrong or bad or should be avoided at all cost.  It seems some think there is no way we should try to put ourselves in the proverbial shoes of someone else or try to see a situation from their perspective.  Why should we?  We know everything, understand everything, and have it all right.  If someone thinks differently from us or their life is different from ours, they are bad and it is all their fault. There are people I encounter or see in the news who seem to have been taught all of the above.

What baffles me about this is that, with as many choices as we have in life and as much as I believe in personal responsibility, there are so many things out of our control.  For example, I did not choose my parents, and yet I have amazing parents.  I did not choose where I was born, and yet I was born in a location that is comparatively safe and offers a decent amount of opportunity.  Conversely, there are many born to parents who do not want to be parents and in places that are dangerous and where opportunity is scarce.  Some are born privileged and some are born relatively privileged  and some are born with nothing.

Thinking about all this reminded me of a blog post I read recently over here at this link.  As soon as I read the following sentence, I knew I would remember it forever:  "At its heart, recognizing privilege is simply recognizing that your life experience is NOT universal." - Dianna Anderson  This is exactly what I'm getting at.  Other people have not lived the same life I have lived.  If they disagree with me on something, they have that right.  Yes, it is difficult sometimes when I do not understand why someone could think about something so radically different from the way I think about it.  Yes, it can feel like criticism or even rejection when someone expresses a difference of opinion.  However, if I don't at least try to see where another person is coming from, if I can't empathize despite disagreement, where does that leave me?

Perhaps you're someone who was told (and then believed) that you were going straight to hell if you accepted a certain type of person... that the only way for you to be true to your beliefs was to hate certain other people. I get that, as I have sometimes been guilty of believing what I was told instead of what I knew to be true.  I understand how fear can cloud our judgement.  But what if, for just a second, you set that aside?  What if you pretended/imagined/visualized that things were not the way you've always been told and tried to think about something from the perspective of someone with a totally different life experience?  What if you could really try to feel what it must be like to live and function in that experience?  Would it be so easy to hate/condemn/reject them?

I feel like I am kind of rambling now, but I have been thinking about this so much lately that I had to write about it, even if it is a long, ramble-y, post.  I just wish that we could all take a step back from our own experience and practice empathy.  To  me, living in apathy, misunderstanding,and unfeelingness seems like a pretty unpleasant alternative to taking the time at least try to identify with the feeling, thoughts, attitudes, and  experience of others.  Think of how different things could be if we would stop embracing the opposite of empathy.