Tag Archives: purposeful perception

Owning My Uncool Is Not a Bad Thing

Recommended Listening Soundtrack: Cool Rock Boy by Juliana Hatfield

Who has found themselves laughing while watching the opening scene of one of the greatest satirical films ever made- (at least if you live in the US and have my mind) Office Space, while the dreaded commute to work is taking place and the ever so high-strung and very white character named “Michael Bolton” is ironically rapping away in his sedan? And then, as he sees a black man selling flowers on the street he actually shrinks into his seat, locks his car door, and turns down the music; only to turn it up again once he gains distance from the flower peddler. All you can do is LAUGH out loud at his absurdity. This is what I call a low point- a moment of strangely misplaced fear yielding the ultimate “uncool” goo, yet ever so funny for the audience.

officespace_motivation

Why is it so funny? Good question. I recently had my own experience of oozing “uncool” goo that might shed some light on the subject. As you might have noticed, it is summer in the Northern Hemisphere. Yes, sticky sweet summer is here, and with it comes sticky sweet pop songs made to lure us in with their simple jangles about new love and ultimate love disasters.

And then, there was me. Driving home myself one early evening doing my typical dance with the radio. Changing the stations over and over again with high hopes that maybe it would deliver something cool. Suddenly I found myself drawn into one of this summer’s truly sticky sweet pop songs by Justin Timberlake titled “Not a Bad Thing.” I actually had it turned up (and it was not freedom rock), singing along in a trance induced by subtle brainwashing when I realized I had to stop at a light. Of course, there were 2 younger people on the corner. I found myself turning the music down to a nice quiet mute.

Yes, I found myself too ashamed to allow these unsuspecting “youths” know my dirty little secret. That I sometimes like cheesy pop music and even listen to it at elevated volume levels as I drive. Now, I am going to own my uncool and face my shame with you! I can’t help but laugh out loud at my own antics with drive-by music that is ironically titled “Not a Bad Thing.” But really, this whole musical shame episode is not really about music- it is about my own judgments and insecurities, and how I project them onto others.

Time to own my uncool.

Now, let’s face the music. As I have been laughing at myself for what I did, I have been thinking about why I can’t just enjoy music of any kind and not feel embarrassed for enjoying a certain pop song. I have to admit, there is a part of me that does not respect a lot of what the pop industry generates, but yet there is an internal battle I have difficulty ignoring. So how can I turn this perception about the pop industry into something with meaningful purpose, empty of my attachment to judgments?

We can relate this pop song dilemma to all aspects of our life. That is the magic of a perception conundrum. Without the attachment of our emotional drama, a perception is just a perception- and it can be rooted in negativity or positivity. But either way, they exist because we are humans having an ego experience. By focusing on our intention behind a perception we can see if it is limiting or not so limiting. My perceptions around the pop music industry are limiting because I limit my joy in life by judging myself for simply having fun with a song, even if it is sticky sweet.

How can I challenge myself to confront my judgment? The next time that Justin Timberlake song is playing on the airwaves, I’m going to turn it up, with my windows down and be that singing-out-loud person without a care for judgments, including my own! Maybe it really is “not a bad thing” to just let it go and have a little fun every once in a while!

Flaming June by Frederic Leighton

Sweeping the Nation with Sentimental Hogwash

Recommended Reading Soundtrack:  Keep Breathing by Ingrid Michaelson

The past week. I have felt unsure of what to say. Between the UC Santa Barbara shootings, to the death of Maya Angelou and the release of an American POW after 5 years of imprisonment- it seems that the world seemingly continues its typical journey of inhaling and exhaling. A journey of ups and downs, where we are all collectively growing and contemplating big questions. In today’s world we are more connected through technology than ever before. We are vastly aware of our global challenges and their many potentials. Ironically it is prompting a contemplation about the nature of human love and the connection that exists outside of technology. The connection that comes from some place impossible to label, yet we feel compelled to search for it and understand it as it is felt on a grander scale due to the oxymoron that is technology.

williamshakespeare164317

As I was tidying up some dishes the other morning in contemplation, I picked up a coffee cup that was given to me 16 years ago as a gift during more transitions. The gift displayed one of my favorite paintings by Frederic Leighton, titled “Flaming June.” I received the gift after I had just witnessed the painting’s phenomenal power with my own eyes and heart in an exhibit at the National Gallery of Art.

I had just moved out of my parents’ home and into a group house in Northern Virginia. My best friend’s sister, Jane, gave me this mug for Christmas- and on it was a quote by William Shakespeare from Hamlet, “We know what we are, but know not what we may be.”

I love gifts like this. Some may label them as “sentimental hogwash” like the greedy Mr. Potter in the film “It’s a Wonderful Life,” but they tell a story whenever I look at them. Hundreds of moments flow through my mind, and I’m suddenly carried down a river through time and whisked into old places that seem new again because I am viewing them from the fresh (you could insert cynical in here, but let’s not go there today!) perspective of my older self.

Look at Maya Angelou. What a life! I mean, her voice was a shining example of how one can harness their power through choice and thrust it forward only to create joy like she probably couldn’t have imagined when she was young, sexually abused and mute for 5 years. Our life’s story is a part of us, but it doesn’t have to solely exist as “what we may be.” Our past and our potential exist in tandem, dancing with nothing but a fine line between them.

Our life story is the driver for choosing something that goes beyond what we think we are, it is the backup plan- the place we can revert to if we feel like we don’t know who we are anymore. There is a great Sex in the City episode where the main character Carrie loses years of work on her laptop when her hard drive crashes and burns, leaving her angry and speechless. Then she is asked the ultimate crap question, “When was the last time you backed up?” The problem? She had never backed up, and that was the end of that story- but not the end of what she “may be.”

“But ‘baby fish mouth’ is sweeping the nation?

babyfishmouth

Sometimes I feel like Harry and Jess in “When Harry Met Sally” during their Pictionary game. I’m struggling to understand what is being communicated, from “Mick Jagger is a baby?” to “baby fish mouth,” when all Sally is trying to say is “Baby Talk.” Maybe “baby fish mouth” really is sweeping the nation. But then, clarity arrives. While I was driving on the evening of Maya Angelou’s death, NPR played her recitation of her poem, “Still I Rise.” I cried as I listened to her striking words. They struck my heart like a masterful musician commanding their audience. She commanded me to remember, that amidst all the chaos that appears in the world around us, hope really does win every time, no matter how much my ego wants to shout “sentimental hogwash!” There are always going to be Potters in this world, but the most powerful ones exist in our own demons.

As Ms. Angelou spoke, so did my heart-

“Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.”

Tourists in The Great Unknown, Unite!

Recommended Reading Soundtrack:  Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall by Coldplay

And if you feel just like a tourist in the city you were born
Then it’s time to go
And define your destination

Death Cab for Cutie, You are a Tourist

Making choices in our lives about the BIG things- our jobs, relationships, who am I going to be when I wake up in the morning (ha!)- making these choices is not a simple task. As a human, there is always fear to contend with when it comes to those “big” things. It permeates everything around us, like a perfume that has lost its luster and just stinks up the joint by making something that already doesn’t smell so good, something worse.

As I was driving through the vast expanse of New Mexico recently and getting lost in my own heart’s great expanse, I was listening to Death Cab for Cutie singing their rock’n song, “You are a Tourist.” I sang along with their metaphorical lyrics,

“And if you feel just like a tourist in the city you were born,
Then it’s time to go.”

I thought to myself, “Sure, it’s easy to say that, but to implement big change like that in our lives takes courage and faith in what our heart is telling us.” Following through with those feelings and making changes in our lives does not come without risks and what I would call “mental torture.”

door

But the thing is, compromising who we are for the sake of not wanting to deal with the “big unknown” just perpetuates our limiting belief systems about ourselves and life’s possibilities. It all comes back to the “great unknown” but there is nothing we can do about the unknown. It is what it is. And, it is easy to get caught in a vicious cycle of judging ourselves for taking that risk because we are programmed to not take the risks that usually increase our personal growth potential exponentially.

I can say this, I’ve never met a person who regretted making the decision to believe in their life’s potential as something greater. When I was driving across the great unknown from Washington DC with my Dad, I was a little scared. I had just quit my job for something “unknown.” I was moving in with 2 new roommates that I really didn’t know. And, I was moving to a state thousands of miles away from my family and friends where I also “didn’t know” anyone. A state that many American citizens still think is a foreign country (I am not kidding!).

My Dad said to me on our cross country journey (the same Dad that doesn’t even like to leave his house and hadn’t been on an airplane since I was born- 30 years prior), “How do you know everything is going to be okay?”  All I could say was, “I just know.” Sometimes, it pays to simply open that suitcase of fears we carry around with us every day, and contemplate the origin of our limiting belief systems. Because in all of our ends, our integrity and truth will never lead us astray.

Garden-State-Screencap-indie-films-1931521-1024-436A “Garden State” Moment

Tomorrow is not going to wait for us to make up our mind. No, I’m not going to quote a cheesy pop song by Roxette (still, Listen to Your Heart!). But, if you ever feel a new world burgeoning within you, just think about that moment when Andrew in the film Garden State was handed some music by Albuquerque’s The Shins. And his new friend Sam said, “You’ve got to hear this one song, it will change your life, I swear.” Although a moment like this appears to be outside of us, it is occurring within ourselves.  And it is a profound, and motivating experience to behold. This moment, if you run with it, will definitely change your perception not only about yourself and what you are capable of, but will also change your perception about the world around you. Prepare to be launched into the great unknown, only to find what you’ve known all along but were afraid to admit. You are a rock star!

One. Two. Three- GO!

Loneliness Kicked My Achy Breaky Heart

Recommended Reading Soundtrack:  Transcendental Blues by Steve Earl

When I was young, I remember being in the car with my Mom when the Hall and Oates song “Maneater” was playing on the radio. I was singing along, “Whoa, here she comes. Watch out boy, she’ll ‘chew your BUTT.” Laughter ensued by my mom, of course. If you don’t know that song (and I definitely wouldn’t hold it against you if you haven’t!), there is a reason as to why that was so funny.

Yes, my ears and brain had a few wires crossed and I actually confused the word “butt” with “up.” Oh, the sound of melancholy 80s pop love songs- the turmoil of Madonna in her song “Crazy for You.” Picture me in the back seat of our white Dodge Minivan, afraid at the humble age of 12 of the prospect of being alone for the rest of my life. Alone, alone, ALONE. Really!?

When I started thinking about what my greatest teacher in life has been, my heart met my mind in front of the great Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz. All kind of directions were popping up, but I was led to an unexpected place within myself. The thoughts opened the door to the root of my life’s greatest fear, and greatest teacher- the fear of being alone, abandoned, all by my lonesome with my own “Achy Breaky Heart.” The fact that I can’t stand country music makes the fear that much more substantiated.

ive-finally-stopped-running-away-from-golden-hawn

Loneliness, once my mind’s arch enemy, has become my best friend. Without it I could never have seen the truth of who I am- like a mirror on display simultaneously within me and outside of me. It has taught me time and again the opposite- that I am never alone as I exist in everything I feel, perceive around me.

Once, when I was confronting all the reasons I believed no one would want me and I would die as Bridget Jones’ version of a lonely old “spinster,” and eventually be eaten by wild dogs, I was bluntly asked, “Are you crazy?” He continued, this stranger that was deeply involved in one of the most difficult confession sessions I had ever completed, “Why would you ever believe those things about yourself?”

That question turned out to be one that I am grateful for every day. This fear of being alone has led me on a journey of inner knowing, a “wild goose chase” if you will, that I never thought was possible. Through all the “crazy,” the tears, the crippling mental self flagellation, I have come out to the world with the understanding that it was only me, myself and I that could attempt to isolate myself from my truth and the people that operate within it.

reflectionoflightWhat is my truth? That in every laugh, impulsive reaction of every person I find annoying, adore, or look up to- there I am. No, I don’t have multiple personality disorder, but what I do have is a case of being human. The most difficult and awesome part of the experience is that all I see in others is a simple reflection of me.

In the end of the film, While You Were Sleeping, when Bullock’s character Lucy confesses she really is not the fiancé of the man she is about to marry, she explains to mother, father, grandmother, godfather, and sister, that she simply fell in love with not just her fiancé, but ALL of them. And just like that, she was never alone again. Through the fear of my greatest teacher (and many Cure songs of course) I have found a path to loving and appreciating all parts of myself within everyone I encounter. And I am ever abundantly more in love with all aspects of being human, every day.

I AM Napoleon Dynamite

Okay, maybe I am really not Napoleon Dynamite in form- but in a lot of ways inside, I am.  Time and again, I am humbled through the recognition that I AM everything I see in others…even an odd dude who draws magical animals like “ligers” and some how musters the courage to do an awesome dance to “Canned Heat” by Jamiroquai on stage in front of a crowd of some of the most potentially judgmental people around, high school students!    Like Will states to Marcus in the film About a Boy before he steps on stage with a tambourine and sings “Killing Me Softly” by Roberta Flack, “It’s social suicide!”

Mis-perception Blues

This past week, I’ve had a case of the “mis-perception blues,” so to speak.  So I’ve been looking outside myself for some inspiration to reflect back to my skewed inner world.  As I was running I just thought about the legendary Napoleon Dynamite who embraced nerdiness and the desire to help a friend win the school election no matter the potential consequences.  And so, this is my monthly outing of myself as a total nerd that sometimes rocks out to Billy Idol’s “Dancing with Myself” in my bedroom- alone.

Every once in awhile we are pushed to do some soul searching on our own negative qualities as we feel overwhelmed by others that assert themselves into our lives.  The ego part of me wanted to just bow out, curl up in my pajamas and eat cheese puffs while talking to the psychic network.  Fortunately, I chose to confront the inner demon head on and readjust my camera lens in an effort to make some changes in my life.

Winona Ryder's character in film Reality Bites, couching it.
Winona Ryder’s character in film Reality Bites, couching it.

Instead of hiding, I’m recognizing that I’ve had a problem with thinking that what I am able to give to others will determine how they will perceive me and give me approval.  For me moving forward, relationships, whether they are friendships, business partners, or family,  are based on good boundaries and simply liking and respecting one another.  And like Napoleon Dynamite, I can get up on that stage with my puffy black high tops (well, more like platform sandals) and my “Vote for Pedro” t-shirt and ROCK OUT!  Thank you audience in advance for applauding and not throwing bottles at my head.

 

Through the Foggy Looking Glass

Recommended listening soundtrack:  “Fidelity” by Regina Spektor  on Begin to Hope

Upon awakening the other morning, I looked underneath the blinds framing my bedroom window and found myself face to face with a thick fog obscuring my view.

Or so I thought.

As I started to walk away, all these fear based thoughts started going through my head.  How will I get to work in fog as thick as “pea soup”- or “peanut butter” as Yukon Cornelius argued in the ever so famous claymation Rudolph Christmas special with our favorite misfit elf, Hermey.

“You eat what you like, and I’ll eat what I like.”

I then proceeded to walk through my living room only to find the mountain view as clear as I had ever seen it with an added spark from the morning sunlight.  All I could ask myself in my own sleepy fog was, “how on earth could there be peanut butter thick fog (I prefer Yukon’s choice) on one side of my home and no fog on the other?”

Chaco_Canyon_Pueblo_Bonito_doorways_NPSOh, wait!  I realized then that the humidifier in my bedroom fogged up my window glass on the inside, and the foggy world I thought existed on the other side of the glass, only existed from my side.  In that moment, all I could do was laugh at how much my foggy window was emulating my life.  All you have to do is mix in your experiences and how they have molded an inner landscape unlike no other, and you find yourself observing through your own foggy glass.  I create my own obscurations and sometimes I just cannot see clearly through them.

Filtered or Unfiltered?

There are certain foods that are processed and you can enjoy them either filtered, or unfiltered.  Wine is one of them!  Whether filtered or unfiltered, each has a different taste and/or a different appearance.  In the same light, our experiences can act like those particles in unfiltered wine that can make or break our relationships with others.  I ask myself, can I trust what I am perceiving and hearing from another person?  Or do I need to take the time to reflect regularly on where inside myself I am creating a perception of the person in front of me?  Is it a filtered or unfiltered perspective?

This week has been overwhelming with some tough decisions and experiences that forced me to look within myself deeply about human accountability and how our choices can really mold the life we experience.  I have found myself agonizing over the fate of another, and releasing that agony in a newly discovered, greater wisdom within my heart.  If I could take anything from my foggy experience, it is that each of us is gifted with a journey in life that is tailor made to our purpose, and what we want to learn on a deeper level.  The only thing I can do is trust that their view through the looking glass, this human experience, will continue to be clarified in their connection to others.

red-heart-tree“But the eyes are blind.  One must look with the heart.” ANTOINE DE SAINT-EXUPERY

For myself, I hope that the fog I create in this life becomes thinner and thinner as I continue to strive to remain  more filtered in perceptions.  If I can continuously see others and their experiences as something I can explore and gain a deeper understanding of their reality, I can in essence live a more helpful, peaceful life.

The other morning the fog initially seemed so powerful, but with one change in direction I realized it was not even real!  Little did I know when I was a young child that the words of a cartoon gold prospector in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer would come back to remind me that it is true- we all see the world in our own way but it is how we meet in the middle that will help us solve our dilemmas and remain dear, dear friends.