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Posts Tagged ‘responsibility’

“The greatest weakness of all is the great fear of appearing weak”
Jacques Benigne Bossuel

For several months now, my life has been different from what it used to be. My husband and I are expecting our first child in early April. Of course I knew pregnancy throws curve balls at you and changes your life. I just never realized all the changes that were coming.

Oh, the weakness

Despite the fact the pregnancy  has gone well, I’ve been surprised that my physical stamina has decreased so much. On the one hand, the physical changes are the easiest ones to understand. After all, there’s a whole new person in there to carry around and feed and nurture. Weight distribution as well as hormonal changes in ligaments and muscles play a part, of course.

It’s still amusing, though. Anything I drop on the floor I have to struggle to get up, because there’s a baby bump in the way. My walking speed has decreased to a third of what it used to be. I can’t really lift anything or climb anywhere.  Not that I was an olympic gymnast or a triathlete before – still, the distinction is obvious.

The funny thing is, though, that physical weakness is not the only effect I’ve noticed.

Not getting things done

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been efficient at everything. Studying full-time while working part-time and having several hobbies and activities has been the norm. Sure, there have been times when I’ve felt exhausted in the process, but I’ve always enjoyed having a stack of plates spinning in the air.

I tried that this past fall and winter, too. Result? I was about five minutes away from burning out completely, when I finally realized I had to cut back on the stress and activities. I was constantly exhausted, procrastinating and missing deadlines, simply because I did not have the energy to do everything. Missing deadlines led to guilt, which kept eating at what little resources I had left. Even though I kept to eight hours of sleep each night and tried my best to unwind during weekends, I was beat.

I finally realized I had to slow down. If not for my own sake then for the sake of my baby. Giving up interesting projects and rescheduling my studies was incredibly difficult – mentally, that is. People were very understanding when I told them I had to take it easy because of the pregnancy. In my head, though, I struggled for quite a while before I dared to pull out the pregnancy card. Everyone says pregnancy is not an illness or a disease. I didn’t want to be the “ooh, I’m pregnant, I can’t do that” girl. The thing was, though, that I couldn’t do all of it.

Pregnancy brain

Being inefficient and tired is, of course, pretty unpleasant. The one thing that has really annoyed me about the pregnancy symptoms, though, is pregnancy brain. I don’t know if it’s caused by the tiredness and stress or if there’s some other reason for it, but I notice I’ve lost some of my mental mojo during the past few months.

The thing is, I’m used to being the sharp one. I know I’m intelligent, and with the added bonus of Shiva Nata, there have been times when I’ve probably been exceptionally smart. This pregnancy, though, has not been one of those times.

True, my Shiva Nata practice has been on the back burner, partly due to the fatigue. Still, it’s incredibly annoying to forget things, to not think of something perfectly logical, or to have to ask others to explain things to me. It’s somewhat scary, too – does this mean my wit and smarts are gone for good? Am I regressing to the level where I’m fit to communicate with an infant and nobody else? Geesh.

Um, embrace it?

For the past month, I’ve been trying to wrap my pregnancy brain around all this. It seems I have two choices: either I accept what’s going on and admit I’m this mentally, physically and intellectually weak person, or I don’t. If I choose not to accept it, I’ll have to draw up a plan of action to energise and invigorate myself.

Either way, I still have to start with the realisation that yes, this is where I am now. At the moment, my body-mind is going crazy with hormonal and other changes, and the only thing that will stop that from happening is having the baby. And since I’m hoping not to do that in the next month, I’ll have to live with the weaknesses.

For what it’s worth, for the next two months I still have the pregnancy card I can whip out whenever anyone asks. 🙂

Because of my pregnancy brain, I can’t think of a good way to end the post except saying thank you again for stopping by and reading these thoughts. And, as always, keep catching your own insightings!

Love,

Sari

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To live is to choose. But to choose well, you must know who you are and what you stand for, where you want to go and why you want to get there.
Kofi Annan

This little insighting was heavily inspired by Barry Schwartz’ TED talk on The Paradox of Choice. I watched it a few months back, and although it did strike a chord, I didn’t really think I’d be coming back to it.

And then our bassist left the band. Which meant that the rest of us had to face the task of finding another bassist.

The Courtship

In a way, finding a new member for a band is like going back on the dating scene after a long-term relationship. You have to get yourself noticed, first of all. Then you have to weed out the promising candidates from all the ones whose phone numbers you’ve received. And then you have to go on a date.

When a new band member is concerned, there are a few subtle differences to the whole dating scene. First, it’s not just my opinion about the person that matters, it’s the consensus.

Second, the date  (or as you might call them in a non-relationship terminology, audition) will have to include songs that are typical to the style of music we play. In a sense it’s similar to a date in that we’re trying to portray ourselves the way we really are. However, there is a definite imbalance in terms of power in the sense that the existing band members already know the songs, and the newcomer does need to prove him- or herself by being able to play those songs. Granted, there was an element of proving ourselves to the newcomer as well, which slightly balances the scales.

Third, we’re mainly looking for someone we can really get creative with. Being an all-round nice guy or gal just doesn’t cut it, unless they’re skilled enough as well. And then there’s the whole group dynamics jungle that I won’t even start to analyse. Suffice to say it’s important to take into account the type of people we are and the type of person the bassist is.

Finding out all this takes time in any relationship. The tricky thing is that you can’t really keep dating several bassists at the same time, not even casually. So after the first dates, it was time for a decision.

The Darn Choice Thing

The problem was – and as I write this, still is – that we ended up with two very different but very promising candidates. The basics are in check: they’re both skilled and nice to hang out with, judging by the brief time we spent with each. They are different, though.

Different strengths, different styles, different musical aspirations. We could go with either and probably get a good thing going, both musically and socially.

This is where the paradox of choice comes up.

No matter which one we choose, we’ll end up regretting losing the other possibility. You’d think having a choice here would make us happier, but it only makes us a bit more miserable in the end.

Had we only had one of them over for an audition, we would’ve been beside ourselves with joy and couldn’t have believed our luck. Now, though…

Also, the fact that we have two amazing choices makes us wonder if there’s still someone else out there that’s even better. It’s difficult to commit to one choice when the options are seemingly endless.

I’m currently having this same dilemma with my wedding gown. I have one already – a simple, white, trainless, beautiful gown. It matches my Mom’s veil from the 1970s (that I’ve been planning to wear down the aisle since I was twelve). Now, though, I’m itching to go and try on other dresses – just to see if they’re better. That darn choice thing again.

I’m pretty sure I won’t be any happier after I’ve tried on a dozen other dresses, even if I find one that’s perfect. Because then I’d have to give up this one, and with it the wonderful story that it was The First And Only Dress I Tried On.

I’m sure this enormous freedom of choice has something to do with the way people impose restrictions on themselves. About food, about the people they date. You have to have some limitations to the choices, otherwise you get paralyzed. I know I do.

If I have the whole day for myself to do whatever I want, I get nothing done. If I have a choice between two things – doing the laundry or reading for an exam – it’s easier. If the exam is tomorrow and I haven’t read a single page, the choice is easy, and there’s no room (or time) for me to get anxious about what to do.

Or, you know, “I don’t date men/women who are shorter/taller/smarter/dumber than me, blondes/brunettes/redheads/baldies/musicians/jocks/nerds/party girls, who have glasses/a speech impediment/weird hobbies/no siblings/too many siblings/no social life/too much social life…” Pick your favorites or add your own. 🙂

I once dated a guy who was awesome, except for the fact that we had completely different communication styles. Had we lived in a smaller town, we’d probably have gotten married, made a dozen kids and lived semi-happily ever after. There was too much choice in that single respect for the both of us, though, and we went our separate ways.

Or food. Ever since my fiancé and I started buying organic, local, or Fair Trade whenever we could, our shopping trips have become shorter and shorter. If the tomatoes have traveled more miles by plane than I have this year, we’re not getting them, even if they are the only tomatoes in the store. Far from being a sacrifice, these kinds of restrictions actually free up some of our brain capacity – instead of spending energy on making tiny decisions like these, we’re free to think about something else while grocery shopping.

On the big decisions, though, there’s still the whole choose one, lose the other -conundrum. I’m sure, though, that we’ll find the “right” solution for our bassist dilemma eventually. I’ll keep you posted.

Thanks for choosing to stop by – keep catching your own insightings!

Love,

Sari

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Letter writing is the only device for combining solitude with good company.
Lord Byron

I assure you, Havi is not the only person in the world to inspire me. But she does it so well, and so often, that the traces of that inspiration sometimes find their way back here. This time, her post about writing a personal letter budged me. All that mixture of intentions, communicating with yourself and – when writing it out in public – communicating with the entire world really struck a chord.

Seeing as I’m studying to be a teacher, I’ve obviously got a hunch of the things I’d like to do when I grow up. However, I feel I have more to give than just (and by just I don’t mean I don’t respect the awesome professional skill of teachers) my teaching side. So let’s see if we can get something rolling here.

Dear Dream Job,

I know you’re out there, and we’re looking for each other. You give me a chance to be creative in several ways – writing, singing, acting, communicating in both of “my” languages – and yet you provide a reliable framework for me to build my life on.

You lavish me with loving individuals and a supportive work community, while allowing me all the independence I need. You give me responsibility in suitable doses, and I get to share that responsibility with my colleagues. You are fun.

When I go home, you stay at work and don’t follow me. You allow me to have plenty of free time.

You give me a feeling of security, emotional as well as financial, and allow me to flourish to my fullest potential. You appreciate my talent and intelligence. You resonate with my values: love, respect, learning, honesty. You make me happy to wake up in the morning and energized after the day is done. You inspire me to develop my skills further without pressuring me to change who I am.

Is this you? Is this a job you know? Pop me a comment or a Twitter message, and we’ll see if we’re meant for each other.

Eagerly waiting to fall in love with you,

Sari

Writing this has suddenly spurred up an “isn’t it preposterous to think I could have all that?” reaction. I’m sure that’s only natural, and I will keep gently reminding myself that yes, honey, you can have all that. It’s all out there, waiting for you to find it. Or better yet, making its way to you as we speak.

(…that’s still preposterous…)

Yes, you deserve to have a wonderful job that makes you happy.

Yes, you do.

… I guess this might take some time for some parts of me to believe. [Deep breath.] And that’s okay. This job will be there for me once I believe it. 🙂

Thank you so much for popping by. If this inspired you to write your own personal letter, I’d love to hear about it in the comments, and until we meet again –  keep catching your own insightings!

Love,

Sari

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If it’s the Psychic Network why do they need a phone number?
Robin Williams

Interpreting what a speaker means from what they say – not always an easy task. Pragmatical interpretation has sometimes been dubbed a relative of mind reading in the sense that we use hints and clues from the other person’s behavior – verbal or otherwise – to collect information on what the person is saying.

As a disclaimer, I have no opinion whatsoever of people who seem to possess actual psychic abilities, and whether or not they use the same senses all of us do or something more.

A lot of indirect communication takes place through flouting conversational maxims – those of Quantity, Quality, Relevance and Manner.

Combined with indirect speech acts, you can end up with seemingly incoherent conversations where everyone is on the same page. Alternatively, you can have a very frustrated listener and a very annoyed speaker who are in different books altogether.

If you really loved me…

Stereotypically, women are the ones often accused of expecting that everyone else knows what they think. Depending on the culture and the person, I’d guess there are a number of men with this tendency as well.

That may very well be a politeness issue: if a person thinks it is rude to flat out ask for what they want, they might drop careful hints and then be disappointed when their hints are ignored.

The other classic example is the “if you don’t know why I’m mad at you, I’m not going to tell you!” -phenomenon. You know, claiming that everything is “fine!” and then sulking around, very clearly demonstrating that this is not the case.

In both of these phenomena, the indirect communicator puts the responsibility of the communication on the other person. If they don’t pay enough attention to infer the right meanings, the message will not come across.

I know I’ve been guilty of repeatedly saying that everything is fine and nothing is wrong, and then getting upset when the other person walks away, frustrated by the lack of feedback. Similarly, I’ve been disappointed I didn’t get what I clearly hinted about for my birthday.

Maybe the illusion of “great minds think alike” is too strong. Of course, it’s scary to admit your true feelings – I want this, I’m upset about that. Maybe it’s easier to reveal just a tiny bit of skin and hope that someone catches the hint instead of flashing your entire emotional arsenal and hope no-one shoots you down.

Trust

So now we get to why I’m sometimes very annoyed by indirectness in close relationships. Politeness reflects distance. Indirectness reflects boundaries. Boundaries and distance are all well and good, but there’s something to be said for closeness, trust and honesty as well.

Some time ago, a friend of mine said she needed to talk with me about X, a matter that was troubling her about our situation. We agreed to talk, and I spent a lot of energy processing X, my feelings about X, all the guilts and the what ifs and the other stuff.

We got together, and started talking about X. As we reached an agreement, I saw she was still not all right. As it turned out, X was not the actual problem at all, it was Z all along. Furthermore, Z was something I had never even considered, and was really surprised that Z would even be relevant to her.

We finally reached a consensus about Z as well, but the incident troubled me.

I felt offended that she didn’t tell me Z was the problem to begin with.

I felt hurt that she would think I was a Z kind of person.

I felt annoyed that I had spent all that time processing X, was really proud of myself for figuring it out, and was slapped in the face with Z out of the blue.

And I felt frustrated because I had to fish out the real reason after a reasonable amount of conversation, when she was the one with the need to clear the situation.

A big huge trust issue about a relatively small indirectness thing.

Blech.

What I learned from this, though – getting the grief and the messy out of the way the first time is well worth it. Politeness and indirectness in big relationship matters might mean that you have to go through all that nasty stuff twice.

Thank you for stopping by, and until we meet again – keep catching your own insightings!

Love,

Sari

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The secret of your future is hidden in your daily routine.
Mike Murdock

After a week of complete and utter relaxation and no obligations whatsoever, you’d suspect I’d be jumping at the chance to get going with all the interesting stuff I have to finish for my January deadlines. Fun, right?

Not so much.

Instead, I’m having real difficulty with dragging myself out of the sugar coma induced by all those boxes of chocolate we got for Christmas. And the luxury of staying up late and sleeping till noon.

Nothing like a change of scenery to break a routine

Not surprisingly, this is all due to the fact that during this past week, most of my daily routines got obliterated. Not that I had many to begin with, but I was quite happy I’d established a morning Shiva Nata-yoga-meditation practice and an evening journaling practice. Not to mention the mind-your-eating-rhythm practice and the other normal-life sustaining habits.  Funny how it only takes a week to flush all that down the drain.

One reason for this is that I spent a few days at my parents’ house, so I didn’t have the same prompts for my routines as I would have had at home. After I came back home, though, I didn’t have that excuse anymore.

Instead of routines, then, what have I been up to? Glad you asked. I spent the past week in Project Wonderland. You know, forgetting everything else because This Thing Here is so interesting and fascinating. I have, for example, four knitting and crocheting projects that I worked on this past week, out of which I finished one and started two. Other projects included The Boxing Day Visits, playing board games with the family for 3 hours, and watching Batman Begins DVD-extras until 2 a.m.

To me, one of the appeals of the holidays is the fact that holidays break the normal routine and allows people to spend time on these kinds of projects. I’m wondering, though, if there’s a way to incorporate the fun projects into my daily routine somehow, or if that spoils the magic. Then again, if my routine includes fun things, it might well improve my everyday life?

Project vs. Routine: Journaling

Take journaling. I used to approach that with a project mindset, grabbing my journal whenever something emotional or interesting happened. I’d spend hours writing, first detailing the he-said-she-said background story before I got to reflecting on what I thought and how I felt about the whole mess. The good thing was that I really got to see the big picture when writing. The downside was that I’d get guilty if I hadn’t written in a long time. I also had to wait for a “sufficiently big” topic to write about.

This fall, I started journaling every evening. My goal was to write at least one sentence every evening before I went to bed. For the entire fall, I managed to keep up the rhythm, and if I forgot to write one evening, I’d take it back the next. In hindsight, it’s a good thing I kept writing, since I probably wouldn’t remember much of the past fall otherwise.

Learning, Projects and Routines

I started to think about this whole project and routine distinction with respect to learning, since I’ve always been a project learner as well. The more I immerse myself in something new, the better I get the hang of it. Spending three weeks in Poland will definitely get you a better grasp of Polish than spending the same number of hours studying Polish.

Routines come up in the maintenance stage, though. When you come back from the three-week trip to Poland, it’s worthwhile to create some kind of a routine around using Polish. If you don’t, the skill will deteriorate fast.

A project start will also give you better momentum with maintaining the routine for the three-four weeks it takes for a habit to form. Starting out with a routine might get you started, too, but chances are you need more external motivation when trying to maintain a routine as a beginner. It often takes a while before you actually start to enjoy an activity in itself – exercise, studying a foreign language, writing…

The word “routine” might have nasty connotations to some people. What I mean by “routine” is “something that you do regularly and that feels like a natural part of your day”. Nothing about mindless, robotic, passive or involuntary. In a way, routine (to me) is a placeholder in your day – you can fill it with any number of items from the broader topic.

For instance, when I had my journaling routine (and I hope to revive it soon), I might describe my day on Monday, reflect on my feelings on Tuesday, anticipate tomorrow on Wednesday, sketch a blog post based on a true event on Thursday, and so on. I could write for three minutes or for thirty. The key was to get going with the activity, nevermind the actual tasks I performed.

Hoping this will inspire all of us (read: me) to get going on a wonderful set of routines for the following year!

Thanks for stopping by, see you around – keep catching those insightings!

Love,

Sari

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Are you threatening me?!
The Great Cornholio

In yesterday’s post, I looked at some basic principles of status transactions. If you want to check out the specifics, feel free to read that post as well. Basically status transactions are about who has more power in a conversation or a social situation. High and low status can be expressed both verbally and nonverbally, and status is always relative to the situation and always fluctuating, depending on what is said and how.

When you elevate your own status, either nonverbally (sitting up straight and leaning forward, maintaining eye contact, or speaking slower, for example) or verbally (disagreeing with the other guy, challenging their knowledge, one-upping their story or belittling their experiences), you pose a status threat.

The other guy can either accept his lower status and adjust to it, verbally and nonverbally, or answer your threat with another threat. If he chooses to pose another threat, you then need to respond. Rinse and repeat a few times, and you’re set for a struggle.

I have some friends that I love dearly who always seem to activate this status competition mode in me. No matter how mindful I try to be about just reacting to their stories with “Wow, that’s interesting, so how did that make you feel?”, I’m tempted to jump in with “Wow, that’s kinda like when I…”. In some strange way, the situations pose a threat to – what? My ego? Some aspect of my identity?

Recognising the Threat

In a way, it’s interesting to suddenly notice you’re in a status competition with a friend or a family member. The first thought that occurs to me is “What am I trying to win here?”

Where there’s a competition, there’s a prize. Getting to the top of the “smartest”, “funniest”, “most broke”, “least addicted to TV” ladder must, then, be really important for me, if it’s worth that much effort. What does this tell me about my values? Do I even want those things to be important to me?

The other question is “Why do I need to compete?”

Does my fellow competitor really think I don’t know about music, can’t crack a joke, or don’t have enough experience in this particular area? Do I really need to prove myself to them? Do they even care?

If I know I’m relatively good at something, I don’t need to enter in a competitive debate about the topic. I know what I know and what I don’t know, and I’m willing to be proven wrong. If I’m unsure about my footing, though, I might well try and increase my status artificially.

Besides, proving someone else wrong seldom makes them think you’re right. Especially if they were challenging you to begin with. They’ll just be thinking you’re an insufferable know-it-all, because you’ve seriously crushed their status.

Back to the real-world level of my status competition with a friend. When I get to this part of the thought process, I’m usually willing to let the other guy climb in status, especially if they know more about the topic than I do. If I need to correct them in some fact or other – i.e. perform a status threat – I’ll try to do it from a lower status.

The Martyr Syndrome

It can, of course, work the other way around. Some people are very skilled at adopting and keeping a low status. You might know at least one person like this.

Whine whine whine, I’m so miserable, everything’s lousy, I can’t do this, I don’t know how this thing works, I don’t have the time to learn, you’re so good at this, could you help me, I’m so lousy, you’re doing so well…

By lowering their own status and elevating yours, this person might be craving recognition, hoping to be heard and noticed, trying to avoid work and responsibility by getting you to do their job, or something else to that effect.

Either way, it sounds like a strategy a small child would use to get Mom’s attention. Chances are the person has used the strategy since they were a kid and noticed it works with specific kinds of people. When you adopt a low status, someone who enjoys a high status will show up and take care of you. At least that’s the hypothesis.

Personally, I feel fine in most status positions, but I don’t feel comfortable when I’m forced to adopt one or the other. Low-status players don’t really give the other guy a choice, since it’s very difficult to undercut a martyr’s status. For a long time I couldn’t figure out why I got really irritated by some people even if they didn’t do anything specific to insult or irritate me. Then I learned about status transactions. *ding!* Insighting.

Nowadays, when I’m talking to an undercutter (feel free to use the term), I try to avoid adopting the high status. If I can, I’ll mirror the person’s body language and voice as closely as possible, and focus on listening to the person. I might ask a few clarifying questions, but I try not to provide direct advice, as that might be seen as a status elevation.

As with every communications strategy, status transactions are not the ultimate answer to everything. Also, depending on the culture, the high status and low status markers may differ greatly. Still, if you have a friend or a family member whom you adore and who still drives you nuts, it may be worthwhile to consider your relationship and communication patterns from the status point of view.

And if nothing else, you can get yourself into delicious new situations by outdoing or undercutting people in random conversations. Especially if you tend to adopt a status from a specific end of the spectrum, it might be eye-opening to try out the other end.

If playing around with status transactions yields any insightings, I’d love to hear them in the comments. As well as anything else you want to tell us.

And until we meet again – keep catching those insightings!

Love,

Sari

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“If you hold a cat by the tail you learn things you cannot learn any other way.”
Mark Twain

If I had a time machine, I would go back in time to the exact moment Mark Twain came up with that quote. Then to the situation in which the idea occurred to him. I mean, doesn’t that just paint a picture? Whatever happened, I’m pretty sure he had what I call an insighting – seeing or experiencing something that makes your brain go *ding!*.

Ever since I was twelve I wanted to be a teacher. Of what, I had no idea, but the idea of being a teacher appealed to me. Fast forward thirteen years (although at the time it really seemed like sloo-oo-oow forwards), and I’m studying to be an EFL (English as a Foreign Language) and drama teacher. In other words, learning how to help students learn communication in its different forms.

In some way this whole blogging thing stems from the same source as my desire to be a teacher.

I’m fascinated by how things connect and interact, and I love it when someone goes, “Whoah! I never thought of it that way!” I’m hoping to make sense of my insightings so that You, Dear Reader, might have one of those *Whoah!* moments as well.

Some of my insightings are teeny tiny *dings*, like the one about applying a pragmatic theory to writing blog posts. Others are huge *gongs*, like things about coping with mistakes (e.g. crashing Dad’s car) or losing a loved one – the kind of stuff that I’ll still be learning about when I’m ninety.

Today’s insighting has to do with responsibility and setting the standard.

I’m so thankful for every single person who visits and comments, and even before today – the first actual posting day – I’ve had some people over, telling me they are looking forward to hear what I’ve got to say.

As I read my very first comments, two things happened. First, I became superexcited that someone found me and took the time to see what I had to say! Yay!

Then, I suddenly felt serious and responsible. I’m promising to give my reader(s) something, and now I really have to commit to bringing her/him/them something valuable. I know I can do it, it’s not that.

It’s the fact that this is the first time I’m writing from my heart and there is someone out there receiving it. Not a diary entry for my eyes only, not some multidimensional mind map only I can decipher, or an academic essay. Real stuff.

My brain suddenly feels like a mother with children to feed after surviving on a diet of pop corn, beef jerky and peanut butter for the past fifteen years. A whole new layer of responsibility right there.

*Whoah.*

Feel free to comment, give feedback, pose questions or requests in the comments, and keep your eyes peeled for your very own insightings!

Love,

Sari

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