Headwinds and Tailwinds

Photo by Joshua Abner on Pexels.com

In my previous post, I was hoping to discuss something I heard about on NPR this past weekend. I was listening to an interview with Maria Konnikova, psychologist and poker player, and as she discussed learning the game of poker, the idea of headwind/tailwind asymmetry was introduced.

Headwinds/tailwinds asymmetry is the work of Thomas Gilovich, psychology chair at Cornell University. The premise of the argument is that in our daily lives we struggle against headwinds and are boosted by tailwinds. Our outlook, motivation, and tendency toward resentment are all affected by these forces. Gilovich makes the point that, like runners and cyclists, we are very aware of the headwinds that are relentlessly buffeting us. He says that when we get a good tailwind, we are initially grateful, but quickly stop paying attention to the boost it’s giving us.

He links this to the ideas of gratitude and resentment. We all understand the headwinds. We’ve all felt them. It’s the lack of acknowledgement of the tailwinds that tends to cause problems. Maybe that’s a human brain problem. The brain is a lazy organ. It likes to go on autopilot. If it’s not dealing with a situation that’s impacting “survival,” the operating system puts the process in the background. Resentment comes from thinking you have it harder than the other guy. The way I understand it applying to the headwinds/tailwinds asymmetry is that we stop paying attention to our own tailwinds and notice only the headwinds, we experience life as being hard. But that’s not all. We notice others’ tailwinds, but not headwinds. They must have it easier. This leads to resentment and a lack of gratitude.

What would happen if we chose to focus in on our own tailwinds instead of those of others? We experience gratitude. With gratitude comes happiness.

Going back to the interview with Maria Konnikova, she relates this all to the idea of internal vs external locus of control. Who is responsible for what happens to you? When something bad happens, is it your fault or the fault of someone or something apart from you? This gets to the idea of responsibility and accountability. It’s uncomfortable to acknowledge our role in our failings. It’s easier to push them off onto an external factor. Most people do this. But if you could get over the ego hurdle, there is growth to be found in self-reflection. Unfortunately, some of us make self-reflection an art form, putting an undue burden on ourselves for our failings. Our inner critic is strong.

Conversely, when something good happens to you, is it due to your actions, or is it due to luck or good fortune? The tendency for many is to have an internal locus of control for the good things and an external locus for the bad. For some of us, there is a reluctance to attribute our successes to our own hard work and perseverance. We may instead give all of the credit to something outside ourselves, such as luck. Most of the time, however, the path toward success has been built piece by piece, reflecting hard work and planning.

We have a lot to say about where we go in life and the attitude we exhibit along the way. Resentment leads to self-handicapping and excuse making. In contrast, gratitude leads to happiness and a feeling of self-efficacy.

How do you usually reflect on the successes and failures in your own life? Would a change in perspective set you on a better path? Do you practice daily gratitude? Feel free to comment below.

Fear of Failure, Success, and Perseverance

What is the key to success?

Photo by Gerd Altmann on Pexels.com

I’ve spent a lot my life honing my skill at flying under the radar, of going unnoticed, blending in. I was the teenage girl with the long bangs hanging in front of my face, hiding. I was the girl on the bus with my nose in a book while the social dramas raged on around me. I’ve been the wallflower by choice, afraid to join in the game. Until lately.

The name of my blog reflects my challenge. Views from around the corner is where I began this journey and was meant to highlight this apartness. It’s a safe space, but it’s an empty one. Nothing is required of you when you are the onlooker from a distance. Nobody notices you. And that’s always been okay with me.

But I’ve gained a little courage. I’ve put myself out there. It was so hard at first. People who operate in the normal realm have no idea what it is for someone who suffers from intense anxiety and fear of failure to take this step. I’ve written before about the nerves that came with publishing that first blog post. I’m talking stomach in knots anxiety. Hot flushed face, trembling hands anxiety. I had to walk away numerous times. Did I really want to do this? Finger hovering over the enter key for what seemed like eons. Walk away again. Ask myself again. Then finally, just taking the plunge and walking away with a feeling of horror at what I’d just done. Oh, the mental anguish! And this all from the comfort of my own home!

But do you know what? It got easier. Each time I did it I felt the same fear, but the amount was diminished. And I liked what I was doing. I was writing, something I’d always felt a passion for, but never shared with anyone. I got feedback, mostly good, but some of it with a critical eye. This was hard, but when I removed my ego from the equation, I could see that it was necessary for growth.

Trying became fun. I wrote about the world. I tried fiction. I honed my poetry skills. I interacted with other writers, reading and engaging with their own thoughts and reveling in their wordcraft.

I put my photography out there. (It’s my other passion.) I inquired at the local gallery, and they accepted my art. It’s been hanging in there for 2 years now, and I’ve become an integral part of a great group of local artists, managing the social media accounts and website presence. It’s a co-op, so I work there. I still feel a knot in my stomach when people wander over to look at my photos. Will they like my art? Feedback has been important in feeling grounded. Imposter syndrome is real. I went from feeling embarrassed when talking to people about my photos to being excited when telling them how that one picture ended up important enough to me to be mounted on the wall. This usually related to the quality of the light or the ambiance of the moment/location. It’s become a shared experience more than an offering on a pedestal of judgement. I do still feel humbled when people walk to the register with something of mine. I probably always will.

There are always chances to try new things. Sometimes we try and find we want to give up. Is that okay? Maybe. Depends on if you’re giving up out of fear or disinterest. I’ve found that perseverance comes with caring about what I’m doing. If it’s important to me, I keep going. Some things are going to fall flat. It happens to everyone. Thankfully, I’m at the point I can mostly just shrug and move on. Every failure is a step toward success, and every success beats back the fear of failure. How will we know if we don’t try?

Are you struggling with putting yourself out there like I did? I encourage you to take that first step. What are the things you’re passionate about? You’ll never know success if you’re not in the game.

What are you waiting for?

Where Do You Get Your News?

These past 4 years have been excruciating. It’s no secret that I don’t believe Trump is president material. Never have, never wiil, and he’s completely met (or exceeded) my expectations in this. Before he descended that elevator I’ve known. From the moment he took to the podium with his doomsday speech about American carnage I’ve known. Most of the people I know have known. Which begs the question, how can so many not see?

I had a brief messaging conversation with someone I love dearly. I tried to bring up some things Trump has been widely known to have done. He wouldn’t even read my message. He read a couple of lines, pictured CNN (which I don’t even watch), and stopped reading. Good job FOX. Good job right wing radio jocks. Your job is complete. If I ever wanted to brainwash a population, the first thing I would do would be to convince them that everyone but me was misinformed. That everyone but me was spouting false information. I can’t even get this person to listen to NPR.

I have to admit to a penchant for steering toward the liberal side of things. I follow certain anchors on MSNBC, but I know I have this bias, so early on I found Republicans that I trusted who also don’t think Trump is presidential material, who also know that he’s leading this country down a dark path. I followed them. I read what they have to say. They are conservatives. They believe in limited government and strict adherence to the Constitution. They provide balance to my leanings. I can accept and respect their position because I know where it comes from. Many things I disagree with. Some I agree with. I’ve always believed we were a better country when we strike a balance between the disagreeing factions.

FOX News watchers rightly believe that the other news channels have an agenda. What they fail to see is that their chosen news source has one as well. They have been convinced over the years that their chosen news source is the holy font when it comes to information. I’m sure the Murdochs are thrilled.

It’s always a good idea to consume news with a critical eye. Question what you are being told, and if you only watch one source, be it conservative or liberal, break out of your bubble and ground yourself with a different take.

I found this article on the subject interesting. It’s notable that Republicans see everything outside of their bubble as being biased, while Democrats are more flexible on this issue. Scroll down to the bottom to see the graphs. My takeaway is that you can’t really go wrong with checking in with NPR News.

I don’t know how we come back from this great divide. With so much technology and access to information, confirmation bias is a very real thing. It’s cementing ideas in people’s heads. Somehow we have to find common ground. We have to be able to discuss differences with an ear to understanding. I hope it’s not too late.

So… where do you get your news?

P.S. If you want a humorous take on the right wing side of confirmation bias, I recommend Jordan Klepper Fingers the Pulse from the Daily Show.

Looking Forward

I know I am not alone in my eagerness to bid farewell to 2020. I go into the new year a bit reluctantly, however. I was really looking forward to 2020. It seemed so symmetrical, such a nice number. It was an election year, which brought hope for a better future. Then the shit hit the fan. Once bitten, twice shy, as they say.

But 2020 hasn’t been without its merits. I’ve thrown myself into my art. I’ve spent a lot of time at the co-op gallery that I belong to. I’ve watched our small town rally around local businesses. I have invested myself in its social media presence and tried to learn all I could about driving business our way. While I haven’t been out taking pictures far and wide, I’ve made forays to day trip locations and have focused on improving my craft. I’ve also taken on Illustrator and tried my hand at digital design. That all came from my stress-relieving mandala drawing obsession. One thing leads to another. You know how it goes.

My newest venture is creating a website for my photography to highlight the images I have both at the gallery and on print on demand sites like Fine Art America. I’ve actually purchased greeting cards and notebooks with my images on them from a couple of the sites and thought they turned out really nice. My hope is that the pandemic has created a new breed of consumer who is more willing to support independent artists and local businesses. At the gallery when people purchase greeting cards it helps the artists pay for their space. Not everyone is looking to fill a spot on the wall, but anyone can share art in the mail for a small investment. Win-win. If you have the time and inclination, check out my FAA (Pixels) site. You can buy my photography on all sorts of items. Even if you don’t buy, it helps me if you look. (One of my favorites photos is the ocean wave. If I didn’t already have way too many mugs, I’d have one of those.)

I wish you all continued health into the new year and a budding, welcome happiness with the freedom to roam and interact that comes with the vaccine. Until then, may we all continue to practice patience. This too shall pass.

Slogging Through Mud

Do you ever feel like you’re working hard and getting nowhere? Two steps forward, two steps back, with maybe a trip along the way and a hard fall on your backside?

Throughout my life I’ve tried to maintain a positive, can-do attitude while battling anxiety and low self-confidence. I try and fail and try and fail and try again, and it seems I barely move forward. It’s like slogging through mud.

When I was young, I was never really good at school… or piano… or track… or BASKETBALL. (Last 30 seconds of the game. I was that girl. Granny shots if I had to make a free throw.) I never had that sweet taste of success. I’ll admit that for most of those things I didn’t really try very hard. The bar was so high. My inner critic was fierce. I mastered the internal shrug and contented myself with drawing, playing the piano when nobody was around, and communing with my German Shepherd. If my dad saw me giving up, he would just shake his head and look disappointed. My mom cushioned me with excuses.

The truth is, failing sucks. Playing the wrong note at a piano recital is like being smacked. Knowing people are laughing at you for not being able to shoot a basketball is humiliating. Giving up meant hanging on to whatever shred of dignity I felt I had left.

Then my little sister came racing up behind. What I couldn’t or wouldn’t do, she would do, and would do it better. Where did the drive come from? Why didn’t she feel the same tether holding her back that I did? And who could compete with that? I gave up trying.

My husband is like her. I watch him excel at what he does and feel his vexation at watching my two-step dance. I see my kids moving forward with an internal fortitude that gets them over the humps of wavering confidence. I see them work hard and succeed. Where does that tenacity come from?

What drives success?

Me? I’m just trying to get by and not get pulled under.

One of my all-time favorite quotes is the one Brene Brown uses as the basis for her book Daring Greatly.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” ~Theodore Roosevelt

I clung to that quote when I was a teen. I believe in it. I’ve thought of it throughout my life when I’m trying to summon courage. But it appears that the critic of which he speaks lives within my own head. She’s a tyrant, the passenger in the driver’s ed car with the extra brake pedal. Just when I think I’m cruising along just fine, I get pulled up with a jolt. “What do you think you’re doing? You’re not any good at that? Nobody will want that? If you say those things, people will shake their heads. They will laugh behind your back, or worse yet, in your face.”

I shake it off and go back to trying, but it has an effect. It’s the lingering background track of everything I do. It’s like trying to run with an extra 50 pounds. It doesn’t stop me, but it sure slows me down.

Sometimes my inner critic is reflected in the eyes of others.

Once I was running the Race for the Cure with my sister, her kids, and my kids. Running is something that brings me joy. I’m not the fastest, nor am I the slowest. Running a race with my family filled my heart. We all took off, everyone at their own pace. (No running together in this group.) I reached my young niece, who had started strong, but was now walking and crying. “It’s okay,” I consoled her as she trotted next to me. “You can walk. Just finish!”

Her reply? “They said don’t let Aunt Cathy beat you.” More tears. My heart sunk. I felt like the clown. Like the laughing stock of my family. I shrugged it off and tried to remain upbeat. I urged her to run along with me. She did, crying the whole time. And then, at the end, she took off and left me in the dust.

Those words have lingered for over 10 years now. My inner critic likes them. She reminds me of them frequently.

There was a magical period of time when my inner critic was drowned out by the cacophony of life with four kids. Those kids imbued each day with purpose and meaning and filled my life with a waterfall of love. Their I love you, Mommys in stereo pushed my inner critic aside. Their belief in me, their mom, to do great things, was all I could see and hear. As they grew into their teen years, she appeared again on the sidelines, occasionally offering commentary that I didn’t have the time to listen to.

But as life got quieter, her voice once again became clear.

Now she sits there, filing her long nails, legs crossed, the top one swaying. She flips her long, straight hair, gives me the side-eye, and with a wicked smile says, “Looks like it’s you and me.”

I’ll do my best to ignore her and keep moving forward, one sloggy step at a time

Photo by Amine M’Siouri from Pexels

Tell me about you. Do you have trouble finding success? What’s holding you back?

Have you personified your inner critic like I have? What attributes does he or she have?

What Would You Do If You Were Not Afraid?

This is my mantra.

I’ve not always been a particularly fearful person. I climbed trees as a kid. I hike alone. I frequently travel by myself. I don’t avoid airplanes. I talk to strangers and approach dogs.

Yet when it comes to opening myself up, I’m a coward. I’ve been that way most of my life. One of my ten defining moments (thank you, Dr. Phil) was in a middle school class called “Creativity” when my teacher Mrs. Marshall wanted to hang my poem on the gallery wall. I was proud of that poem. It came from my heart. But because it came from my heart, my heart would be pinned up on that wall, exposed to all.

I said no.

I’ve always wondered if the trajectory of my life would have been different had I said yes. It’s an easy thing to say no. It’s safe. Nobody can hurt what they don’t know is there. But what if I had said yes? What if my poem being on display would have resulted in support and true praise. Would I have been inspired to keep creating for others, instead of just for myself?

I’ve written before about my first blog post, how my finger hovered over that enter key for what seemed like hours. My stomach did flip-flops. I knew I would feel exposed, all my tender parts wide open to the predators. But that’s not what happened. People were supportive and encouraging. I became a part of communities. And gradually I built confidence.

My battle with fear began after a battle with cancer. There’s nothing like facing your own mortality to help you reevaluate your life and choices. That’s when I took on the mantra, “what would you do if you were not afraid?” And I started doing those things. I went back to school and became a teacher. I took on my first class. I spoke up at meetings. I created a blog. And life became deeper and richer. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy my life of being a mom to my kids. I’d just been doing it from a blind, a bunker, looking out and staying hidden.

To this day, my kids know me best. It took a lot for me to open up to my adult friends. It took a long time for me to participate in book club conversation. (I wear anxiety like I’m holding a squirmy toddler.) But every time I did it, every time I let myself feel the flip-flopping of my stomach and the hot flush of embarrassment, it got a little better. Brick by painful brick, I built my confidence.

I still battle fears. I don’t like opening myself up to being judged. That’s my kryptonite. But I find joy in my journey and where I am now on my life’s path. I have a blog. I have my art in a gallery. I have art online. I still hope to write a book.

Good things are out there.

What would you do if you were not afraid?


If you are interested in checking out any of my photography or art designs, you can find me on Fine Art America, Redbubble, and Zazzle. Thanks for stopping by!

PTSD

So, who watched the debate?

My son told me they talked about it at a work meeting this morning, where it was described, aptly, as a sh*#show. I told him I felt that by watching I had volunteered to be flogged. He didn’t watch. He’s better about self-care than I am.

I’m curious how anyone can support Donald Trump. Each time a scandal comes to light, each time he gets up on stage and spews his hateful, divisive rhetoric, I think that will be the end of his support. I wake up to hearing the same excuses, rationalizations, and justifications for his abhorrent behavior. My neighbors on three sides have Trump flags flying. At this point if you are still a Trump-supporter, I’m questioning your humanity.

“Nice people made the best Nazis. My mom grew up next to them. They got along, refused to make waves, looked the other way when things got ugly and focused on happier things than “politics.” They were lovely people who turned their heads as their neighbors were dragged away. You know who weren’t nice people? Resisters.”

― Naomi Shulman

It was torture watching our bully president rage over both moderator Chris Wallace and former VP Biden. His whole demeanor was aggressive and mean. He repeatedly name-called and dehumanized democrats by calling us crazy, left-wing liberals. This democrat (me) is a human, with a view that you should help others and be a good steward of both money and natural resources. Come over for coffee sometime. I’ll show you my garden, such as it is. You can meet my dogs. They are sweet. I’ll tell you about the peaceful protests I’ve attended, what they’re really like and what prompted me to go. What name-calling and depersonalization do is to make someone the other, to make him/her less than you. It’s the first step toward being able to commit atrocities. Don’t think I haven’t wondered who’s coming for me.

During the debate, Trump got personal. It was awful hearing him steamroll Joe Biden and dismiss his son Beau in order to smear Hunter. I thought Biden had a classy parent comeback. He acknowledged that Hunter had dealt with his drug issue and that he was proud of him. What a great dad! Those boys had to be dealing with a lifetime of trauma after losing their mom and sister. Their dad did everything he could to alleviate their suffering, but nothing can make up for that. Some of us are more resilient than others.

If you want to see the fruit of the tree, turn the spotlight on the Trump kids, none of whom were wearing masks during the debate, in direct violation of the rules set by the venue, showing at the very least a contemptuous lack of respect.

Joe Biden is not a perfect candidate, but he has what it takes to lead this country. He’s not going to be a cult figure. We don’t need any more of those. He does have experience. He knows people, and knows people who know people. He has experience on the world stage. He knows how to form coalitions, and he understands that shows of force and belligerent attitudes don’t push our country forward. He will hire experts and defer and delegate. This, my friends, is leadership. Getting on stage and yelling the loudest is not.

Please vote blue. We desperately need a reset.

Side note: In looking something up, I found that there’s a whole Wikipedia page devoted to Trump nicknames. This grieves me. This man should not be leading our great country.

What Will You Do, Democrats?

I’m exhausted. I know I’m not alone. There’s been a constant barrage of norm-breaking, lies, and corruption from this administration. It’s easy to feel outraged. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Every day it seems there’s a new story. More chaos. It’s so easy to feel powerless. But we’re only powerless when we give up our power.

So do something small.

Wajahat Ali posed the question on Twitter, what will you do, Democrats? The responses ran the gamut. Hold them to account. Take to the streets. March on Washington. I agree with all of those things, but realistically, I won’t be doing most of them. I will count on my own elected officials to hold them to account. I won’t be flying to Washington. I may hit the streets, masked up and with my sanitizer in my pocket. But one thing I can do is help my local democratic group. Starting Friday, I will be filling out cards and mailing them. Old school, as my kids like to say.

Ponder the inspiring words of Kamala Harris in her VP acceptance speech at the DNC.

So, let’s fight with conviction. Let’s fight with hope. Let’s fight with confidence in ourselves, and a commitment to each other. To the America we know is possible. The America we love.

Years from now, this moment will have passed. And our children and our grandchildren will look in our eyes and ask us: Where were you when the stakes were so high?

They will ask us, what was it like?

And we will tell them. We will tell them, not just how we felt.

We will tell them what we did.

Kamala Harris

What will you do?


P.S. In 28 hours after Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away, Democrats raised over $90 million. This was thrilling news.

Speak with your feet in the street and shout with your credit card out.

2020, Are You Done Yet?

“Fight for the things that you care about. But do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”

― Ruth Bader Ginsburg

So, how’s everybody’s year going?

It’s been so hard to write anything coherent lately. (And by lately, I mean the past few years.) I have issues with anxiety, and these past 4 years have had me quite stressed out. I know I’m not alone.

It’s not just having Trump in the White House. It’s also knowing that people I care about are supportive of him despite his despicable character, his atrocious policies, and what seems to be his determination to be our Dear Leader for life.

I know I don’t do myself any favors by constantly updating myself on the latest scandal or misdeed of this administration. It’s all consuming because it’s so important. If mental energy were votes, Biden would have a clear path to the White House.

As it is, I cling to every Republican Voters Against Trump video and every whistleblower, thinking that this is the one that’s going to tip the balance. I thought it would be child separation. I was wrong. I thought it would be his abysmal response to COVID 19. I was wrong. I thought it would be his real view of our veterans. This seemed to push a few more people away from him. But this is a cult, and as with any successful cult, people are stuck in it by fear and righteous indignation and can’t be simply peeled away with logic and good sense.

And as if things couldn’t get worse, our fighter on the Supreme Court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg has passed away. It has been about 24 hours since I heard the news. This seems to be my breaking point. I had hoped against hope that she would fight it out to the election, to the inauguration of a sane president Biden, and to a little retirement before cancer got the best of her.

But cancer is a bitch. Cancer doesn’t care about the state of the world. It doesn’t care if there is a mobster in the White House. And it certainly doesn’t care about the plans a diminutive powerhouse of a woman.

RBG fought the good fight – for us. Now we need to pick up the banner and continue the fight – for her.

Upon the news breaking, there was a swirl of seemingly immediate political talk of replacing her with a conservative justice. I had to turn it off. I can’t take it any more. Can’t we even have 24 hours of political radio silence? Can’t we give her that respect?

I found it interesting that she passed away during Rosh Hashanah and what that symbolizes.

Think about her sitting on the court these past 3 1/2 years. Despite her age. Despite cancer. What will we do to carry the fight forward? For starters, it wouldn’t hurt to give to the cause. I’m donating a dollar for each year RGB sat on the Supreme Court. That’s only $27, but if we were to all give $27, we just might make a statement. Won’t you join me?

https://secure.actblue.com/donate/bidenharris2020

Let’s light a candle for RBG. Let’s have a moment of reflection and remembrance. Let us all to take stock of what’s at stake right now.

Then vote like your life depends on it.

I’ll leave you with this.

““When I’m sometimes asked when will there be enough [women on the Supreme Court] and I say, ‘When there are nine,’ people are shocked. But there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that.”

― Ruth Bader Ginsburg