Thursday, February 23, 2012

bright and wild ideas: part one

Late last year, I came up with an idea for a two-part post that I really wanted to share with you guys. I'd examine the ten most life-changing concepts I've come across in my long (cough cough) life, going into detail about how that idea has affected me. While it's fun to post about my day-to-day activities, I'm also trying to focus more on ideas that encourage dialogue, growth, and development in myself and (hopefully) in others. So in the spirit of that, today's post will be about five ideas I've encountered in my life that have absolutely, irrevocably, changed me for the better. Next week's post will be the remaining five (and then some.)

Here we go!

1. Travel

I know travel isn't really a concept or idea - it's more of a verb - but bear with me on this. When I was twelve years old, my family took me to Japan. We stayed in Kyoto and Tokyo for ten days, and we visited Buddhist temples, rode the bullet train, and ate unfamiliar foods (raw tuna, green tea everything, sticky rice, and sushi, to name a few). When I was sixteen years old my mother, my aunt, my cousin, and I went on a two week tour of Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Lichtenstein. And when I was eighteen, my high school graduation gift to myself was a 20 day trip to England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales with my best friend, using money I'd saved up for three years.

The point is - traveling does you wonders. You become more street smart, more confident, more aware of your surroundings; and when you become aware that your country is not the center of the world, you are willing to try new foods, stumble around using an unfamiliar language, ask strangers for help and directions, and your entire perspective of life is revealed to be a tiny sliver of what reality really is. Because I started traveling at a young age, I am more willing to try different food, attempt to talk to other people in different languages, visit new places, have adventures, and rely on my own intuition in unfamiliar situations. To date, I've been to more than fifteen foreign countries. And each time I travel, I understand that I'm a citizen of the world, not just the United States, a little bit more.

2. Yes And

Yes And is actually an improv game for actors. It starts with a ridiculous premise - someone marches on stage and declares to the other actor, "When did you turn into a duck?!" and the actor has to literally say, "Yes, I turned into a duck last Tuesday, and...." and think up something fairly clever, fairly quickly, to reply back so that their partner can now build upon the next idea with Yes And. It's the art of listening to others, accepting what people give you as gifts and only gifts, and embracing those gifts to the point where you expand on them to further engage both your partner and the audience. There is no rejection of ideas in Yes And. Period.

It's also a wonderful way to live life. Now, for those who are stressed, tired, and overwhelmed, there is a great amount of satisfaction in saying NO to those who want your time and energy. (I'll cover this later.) This idea is not so you can get suckered into doing more for other people - this idea is a way to, when you feel up to it, engage with the rest of the planet in a delightful, fun way. Someone passing by tells you they like your scarf. The barista at Starbucks tells you her day is going great. Your kid tells you a funny story. All of these are gifts. Each one is a person reaching out to you, however small, however ritualistic, and instead of shutting them down and going about your day, you can not only reach back out to them but also proverbially high five them while doing so. Try it. It might have messy results; who cares? That's life. But it helps to realize that the other 7 billion people on this planet are not, as you originally suspected, here to annoy you, but to engage and play with. We're all still kids underneath, I guarantee you that.

3. I Hope This is Funny Five Minutes From Now

These are the actual words that came out of my mother's mouth once when, in a lame attempt to get our stubborn cat Fluffy (yes, real name, sadly) to come inside one night, I dangled her arch-nemesis, Spooky (also the cat's real name. Also sad), in front of the door where Fluffy waited outside, just beyond the porch. Fluffy was not amused, nor was Spooky, but there was no blood shed that fateful night and most importantly, I'd learned that my mother had a sense of humor like a razor - sharp and quick. I learned that some awful things are gonna happen - and they have - but if it's funny five minutes from then, well, then everything is gonna be okay. And sooner or later, even if it takes years, those five minutes come up, even in the worst, most tragic of events. Because you can either laugh or cry, and laughing is a lot more fun. So when things hit the fan, when they don't go as expected, or maybe there's been a little bloodshed, ask yourself: is there ever a moment when this will be funny? If so, can it be in five minutes? And if it's in five minutes... why not now? Every bit of the dark and wicked sense of humor I have is due to my mother, I guarantee you that. And I couldn't be happier about that.

4. The Dialectical Method

Wikipedia defines The Dialectical Method as: "a method of argument for resolving disagreement... [through] dialogue between two or more people holding different points of view about a subject, who wish to establish the truth of the matter by dialogue, with reasoned arguments."

What this basically means is: dialectics do not argue to prove themselves correct. They argue for the sake of dialogue, for the sake of learning from each other, and for the sake of establishing a clearer sense of the truth of a situation by taking all viewpoints into consideration. They emphasize reason, logic, and rationality above all else, and never make personal attacks. And if you've looked around this country lately- we used to be able to debate heatedly and then buy each other the first round of drinks afterward, and now our words against each others' religious and political views are hyperbolic, inflammatory, or violent in nature - we could use some more dialectics.

I have very, very strong personal opinions, on a myriad of subjects. Before I was introduced to the concept of being a dialectic, my feelings would get hurt, I'd argue with a complete stranger on the internet for hours just to prove I was correct, and everything felt really, really personal.

Fast forward to when I learned this particular concept, about a year ago. I dropped my ego from my arguments. If I felt like I was proved wrong, I didn't feel like I "lost." I wasn't hurt if someone disagreed with me. Nothing felt personal anymore, either. If my idea was rejected, it was my idea, not me. I didn't lose anything personal from being disagreed with. And I didn't need to "attack" anyone, or "defend" myself. Emotionally charged terms of warfare were dropped from my discussions with other people, and I found myself nodding and saying, "I don't always agree, but I certainly see where you're coming from." And it has made my life profoundly more peaceful, and I'm able to get along with others more, and I'm more open-minded. Which I have to admit, feels a lot more amazing than getting a five second ego boost from proving a complete stranger wrong on the internet.

5. Energy Conservation

Way back in May 2010 (whoa), I wrote a post about emotional energy, and how I'd had to learn the hard way how to conserve it (I'd had a rough month. cough cough). I'd realized there was only so much emotional energy I could carry around with me on a daily basis, and once it was used up, it was gone. Now, some people are worth that energy and that time. They are our loved ones (our family and friends) and the people that exist in the communities we want the most out of (church, Home Owners Associations, school PTA, whatever.) The people that we need to conserve energy around can also be our loved ones ( a family member or close friend that drains us emotionally and mentally, for example), and if so, I'd advocate boundaries, emotional space, and a lot of self-care around that person. Because feeling walked all over, emotionally yanked around like a puppet, and sucked dry really, truly blows. So the concept of energy conservation is walking away - from a person, from a fight, from investing emotional energy that you know isn't going to be returned - and instead putting it back into yourself. It's shaking your head no, very gently, and backing off from that conversation or situation. And you have the right to say no to every single thing that insults your soul or tries to drain you of life. That's your right as a living, breathing, human being.

I'll be back next week with the remaining five. Have a wonderful week until then.



rosaria said...

Very impressive! You have a whole lot of wisdom in these five ideas, anchoring your philosophy and world view.

Indigo said...

Love these, they're a deeper glimpse inside the woman herself.

The Dialectical Method makes sense on so many levels. I've learned to Agree to Disagree. The world is made up of so many diverse opinions. I may not always agree, but it leaves me open to respect someone else's opinions. Taking that view on life helps respect your own as well.

And humor, there isn't enough of it in life. I'm lucky to be with someone who I can laugh with over the stupidest things. Life is hard enough without being hard on yourself. Some days all you can do is laugh.

I love the thought of someone sharing part of themselves, being little gifts. Such a gorgeous outlook on life. (Hugs)Indigo

Snowbrush said...

What a great idea for a post. I'm looking forward to part two.

Anthony Duce said...

A lot of wisdom here for so few years. From what I’ve read, you appear to be getting a lot of life’s lessons right. I wish I’d read this when younger. It’s never too late.

Wine and Words said...

These are all so great and positive. I love your mother. I like the arguing for the sake of learning about someone else, not because you need to win someone over to your point of view. Arguments were always loud and scary growing up. They needn't be. I am relearning.

Dave said...

Loved it. I could definately use some work on the Dialectical Method...and energy conservation is a constant task!

Bathwater said...

I believe some people recharge their emotional energy by socializing with others while some people need to be alone to recharge.

I agree with the Dialectical Method because I usually see more than one side to an argument. Few things we run into day to day are black and white.

Anonymous said...

wow, reading these made me have a second thought of some of my most recent problems in life...surely, these are life-savers, in some situations :)

Lira said...

Some amazing life lessons, and I'm so thankful you shared. I can't wait to read the next five!

Eric W. Trant said...

Awesome list!

I tell my fellow engineers that argument is good and necessary. I encourage them to challenge my points, and welcome the opportunity to challenge theirs.

I got in trouble last year, though, because I got too wound up by a guy who refused to use logic.

I presented my point. He said, No, without counter-argument, and when I challenged, he replied, Because I said so.

I told him he was a Bigfoot believer, and if he wanted to believe in something you cannot prove, go right ahead.

I got in trouble because I made the guy look stupid. That's what they told me. You can't make people look stupid like that, Eric.

I said, I didn't make him look stupid. He did that all by himself. I just pointed it out.


I also embrace the energy conservation methodology you outlined.

I call it Emotional Capital, and I spend it where I think it should be spent. I tell people, sometimes, when they hit me with something, I don't have the emotional bandwidth to deal with that. I'm all tapped out.

I don't travel much, though, and I can't say there's a great many wise sayings I garnered from my parents.

One good saying is this, from my dad: Learn to hammer with both hands.

Because you never know when an arm will fall off.

- Eric

drollgirl said...

excellent thoughts! i think i agree with them all, although i argue with a FIRE INSIDE OF ME if i feel strongly about something!

and regarding the last paragraph, i tend to say/think about SELF-PRESERVATION a lot. sometimes some people/situations aren't worth the energy and turmoil. sometimes i look out for me, and i think that is ok. :)

drollgirl said...

that's what she said. LOL!

Jo Schaffer said...

Great post. I particularly agree with the travel one and the funny in fiver minutes one. (= Gotta keep a sense of humor...
I enjoy having "dialogs" with people who have different views. And it isn't about winning or persuading-- just understanding. I like that. (=

Lydia Kang said...

I leave improv and acting to the professionals. I'm really good at being in the audience!

Maggie May said...

You are a force of nature!!

Ed Pilolla said...

you have a lot to share about life. i wish i had more of an inclination toward a dialectical method. i get very emotional about certain issues. and it's the exact quality that annoys me others: why can't they just talk and not get all indignant. well, i have work to do on that myself.

energy conservation is a constant challenge. travel has been big in my life. i look at my friends who have never traveled outside of the neighborhood we grew up in and it shows in their world views. i am blessed. so be you. as you know:)

Barbara said...

I can't quite get my old mind around 2 and 4 but am saying yes! to 1, 3 and 5. Especially 3....

Gwen said...

Okay. #3 is totally something I can relate to. I find myself laughing at the most inappropriate things because if I don't laugh I'll crack. :D BTW...have I told you lately how much I love your posts? They are my favorites out of all I read. XOXO

Red Shoes said...

You are SO right about Travel!! I may get to go to Germany and the Netherlands in May/June as part of a professor exchange program... I can't tell you enough how excited I am about this!! It is really going to stretch my comfort zone!

I would think that a wicked sense of humor would most definitely be an asset!!!


Elisabeth said...

Fascinating post, Tracy. I came here to check out your thoughts on the word dialectic. It makes sense as a method but I was thinking about it more as a word that suggest two opposing sides of a binary are interconnected and dependent on one another, which I suppose is linked to your idea that conversations need not be oppositional, they can be dialectical.

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