Category Archives: connection

The ‘One Size Fits All’ Myth

Life is not “one size fits all.” It never has been, and never will be… thankfully. Our health, our bodies, our faith (to name a few) – they’re all beautifully individual and unique, as they were meant to be, despite Madison Avenue’s best efforts to convince us otherwise.

Where we have found overlap and commonality, we have created fellowship or community. But those communities survive (and thrive) not because of our similarities, but because of our differences.

Unfortunately, so many industries are built up (and thrive) on this notion of convincing us that we are all meant to be the same, or “within normal limits.” [That’s actually a term used in medicine: WNL, and that’s what it stands for. But the internal joke among medical professionals is that it can also mean: “we never looked.” Sigh.]

We strive for “normal” because it’s what we’re told we should be. Normal height and weight, normal mental health, normal eating habits, normal exercise routine, normal grades (which, interestingly, translates to “above average”).

But what if you don’t fit into the “normal” categories you’re inundated with on a daily basis (and most of us don’t, in one way or another)? What if your genetics, DNA, pant size, skin type, or blood type don’t follow the guidelines for “normal?” What do you do then?

Well, if you buy into the paradigm of “normal” or “one size fits all” thinking, you begin to bend over backwards to become anything that fits the mold. Unfortunately.

Because humanity is anything but “one size.” It’s not meant to be. Just like no tigers have the exact same stripes, humans are meant to be as diverse as possible, with as many expressions and combinations we can have. We’re meant to flourish and grow, ever-expanding… exponentially. In fact, the only “normal” thing about being human is being unique.

Being uniquely you is what creates the diversity that allows communities to thrive. If everyone were a doctor, we’d fail. If everyone were a teacher, an artist, a banker – we’d fail. We need each person to be who they are… to be the cog in the wheel they are meant to be, and there’s nothing “normal” or “one-size-fits-all” about that. Being unique is healthy, striving for sameness is not.

More importantly, it’s the very nature of the Universe to be expansive, to continually be changing and growing. (Look at evolution!) So, to subscribe to a notion that promotes sameness is to go against the very nature of our being, and makes life so much harder. And who wants that? Yuk!

The connections we create in our overlap is what makes the journey more rewarding. When you find someone who loves the same things you do, you celebrate and form a bond. Hooray!But it’s the differences we get to experience in one another that actually makes us human.

Gossip, Connection and Feeling Valid

I was sitting in a coffee shop the other day waiting to meet someone, and I overheard the conversation going on next to me. It was two women talking about another woman, who had yet to join them. They weren’t saying anything particularly harsh, but not particularly nice either. When their missing friend showed up, and one of the first two women excused herself to the restroom, the conversation turned. Now the remaining two were discussing the new absentee. Again, not particularly cruelly, but not lovingly either.

I felt genuinely sorry for all three women. As I sat there waiting for my meeting, I found myself lamenting the fact that even the “safe” places we create are not as safe as we might think. And then I thought about gossiping in general and how it seems if someone is willing to talk to you about someone else, they’re probably willing to talk to someone else about you.

So, why do we do this?

Well, I think the answer is simple, yet twofold: 1) we want connection, and 2) we want to know that we, ourselves, matter.

We want connection. This is a simple human need. Brené Brown’s research has suggested that it’s a hardwired (biological) component of being human, much like dogs are hardwired to live in packs, or deer in herds. We’re wired that way. And, in lieu of making positive connection, we’ll take anything we can get – even if it involves disparaging another human in the tribe.

I think it’s that last sentence that gets me. We are willing to “disparage another human in the tribe” in favor of our own self connecting. This puts the individual ahead of the group. Which is somewhat antithetical to our tribal hardwired nature. Which brings me to point #2: We want to know that we matter.

i think we have gotten so disconnected from each other (for SO many reasons I can get into at another time), that we have begun to feel like we don’t matter. Like our lives are not valid. And the way to find validity in a situation like that is to create a hierarchy of worth. Hence, we put people down, in order to connect ourselves up – to belong “more” to the tribe than the other person.

Sadly, this is cyclical and feeds on itself.

So, how do we break the cycle?

  • We reach out.
  • We create deliberate and intentional connection in communities, fellowship, or tribes that share our common values.
  • We seek out connection without hierarchy or measurements of worth.
  • And, perhaps most importantly, we learn to value ourselves enough to not feel the need to put anyone else down and gain some sort of temporary balm from disparaging another.

This is not easy work, but it’s doable. I know, because I have done it. I’m not perfect. I have certainly joined in on my fair share of gossip over the years, but over the years it has decreased more and more as I have become more aware of how it made me actually feel inside (aka: awful).

Years ago, my tolerance for gossip increased like an addiction until I was living almost entirely outside of myself, relying on anecdotal stories from my external world… and I almost died. My spirit almost died, and, frankly, my body probably wasn’t far behind.

While the externalizing (gossiping) has pretty much ceased, my life is still a work in progress as I am still slowly cultivating my tribe, or my community, and that’s ok. I’ve learned to love my own company more than anything, so I rarely feel lonely – which means I rarely feel the need to gossip or disparage another in order to feel worth. It’s quite amazing, really. And the conversation I was unintentionally privy to last week was a beautiful reminder. It reminded me of how wonderful it can feel to love oneself, because it means many of my self-loathing-fueled externalized behaviors have been replaced. Thankfully.

#metoo … but “boys will be boys,” right?! Wrong.

I’m frustrated… as you can see by something I just shared on FB. Why would anyone think it’s ok to throw things at animals, let alone goad them into coming closer?!? I know if you ask *most* humans, they would find this behavior wrong and even alarming.

It’s this type of behavior, where many might say “boys will be boys” in response. But what if it’s EXACTLY this behavior that later leads to assault. I don’t see a difference in assaulting a defenseless animal at 8, and assaulting a woman years later. Maybe, in fact, they’re inextricably linked.

Maybe if we didn’t allow this behavior in our “boys” we wouldn’t have an epidemic of it in our men. Maybe if we held our kids accountable for their actions and instilled in them a sense of compassion, respect, and kindness, we could turn this thing around in a single generation. Maybe. I did my part today. I held them accountable. I hope it redirects their ship. It takes a village… together, we can change this.

#metoo #boyswillbeboys #nolonger #accountability #responsibility #respect #compassion #kindness #change #inspired #writerslife

What Matters Most in Life (When a Fire Alarm and a Typo Became a Messenger)

How do we identify what’s truly important in life? (And why does it matter?)

There are always the quick answers, such as: happiness, family, and health, but these are somewhat theoretically cliché and intangible, however true. It’s getting to the more tangible answers that eludes many of us until we are faced with crisis and/or tragedy.

Last week I went through two unexpected situations which resulted in my having a direct and very clear understanding of what’s important in life (for me, anyway), and I found that there was an underlying message I needed to hear.

When I sat down to write this week’s InspireBytes™ I took note of what the Universe was trying to tell me through these experiences, which turned out to be this:

  1. Know your Self and your core, let the rest fall away.
  2. Slow down, prioritize, and make time for what matters most.

Let these be your guide.

But first, let me tell you what happened.

Early in the week we had a fire alarm in the house. For those of you who have been following along in my life, you know that my father had a stroke almost 10 years ago and is disabled as a result. A fire alarm is no small thing when you are able-bodied, but when you’re disabled, it can create a sense of helplessness and panic. A few years ago I wrote about the fire alarm that went off in my apartment building, and how it clarified for me what mattered most in my life. This was the same, except that now, instead of one animal there were four, and instead of one person there were three, one of whom was incapacitated and wholly dependent on others.

Why the fire alarm went off we don’t know, because there was no fire. No smoke, no flames, no emergency. But in the few moments between the alarm and the assessment, everything became very clear. What you take with you in a crisis or emergency is a cheat sheet to what matters most in your life. For me, it was anything that was breathing (people, animals), followed by a means of escape and shelter (car keys), and communication (cell phone).

The second situation, however, was a bit different:

Later in the week I received my mammogram results. It’s an annual event that, no matter how much I rationalize it, always generates some level of concern during the waiting period. Sadly, I think we all know someone who was “perfectly healthy” who received a life-changing result after their annual exam. It’s this knowledge that creates the background soundtrack of concern or worry until the results are in.

A few years ago, I had a mini-scare that turned out to be just that (thankfully), and have a dear friend who went through that episode with me. I am aware, therefore, that the concern while waiting for results extends beyond the borders of my mind to people who care about me. Once I had the results in hand, which showed no sign of cancer, I felt relief and wanted to share that relief with my friend. In my haste to share the good news of my results, I typed too fast and had a typo.

My typo basically told my friend that the exam had detected cancer. Of course, having been emotionally blindsided, my friend called immediately. I didn’t understand why until the error was pointed out.

I felt truly awful, and though I chuckled for a moment (to relieve the strain of the heartache I had caused someone dear to me), it wasn’t funny. My friend was given an unnecessary blow, and it was all because I rushed.

In that moment, without hesitation, I realized what was most important to me: Life. Health. Friendship. Connection. And … slowing down.

The last year has been such a whirlwind with publishing my first book that I have developed a bit of a habit of either being overly rushed and pressured or somewhat detached and slow – probably to compensate for the stressful times. In fact, much of the last 10-15 years have been the same, for myriad reasons.

So, that was the message I was receiving loud and clear from the Universe: Slow down, focus on what matters, nurture that.

The week before, I had polled my friends about which blog they would prefer to read next, since I had two inside me competing to come out. The first was on Competitive Spirituality (which won), and the second was something I’m working on about Self-Promotion, which is still being finished because something felt off. I now realize what that was for me:

Trying to reconcile the rushed and detached states to arrive at balance; maintaining a sense of Self and presence while still engaging in marketing.

For me, Self-Promotion is about being who you are, not who you think you should be, and trusting in that. But in this noisy world of social media and 24/7 internet, cable and satellite channels, it becomes a gladiator-style arena of “fight to the death.” In this case, it’s the death of your voice, your brand, your presence – your Self. And it’s a shame, really, because there are amazing people out there, doing amazing things, whose voices are being drowned out by those who are louder, bolder, or have more money to put their faces everywhere.

And yet, it’s not. It’s not a shame, because it pushes and requires people like me to hold fast to who we are, the work we do, trusting that it is more than enough, that we are more than enough, and to nurture that. And if we do, if we hold true to our Self, and what matters most, I believe that at the end of our lives, we will reflect with gratitude and smile.

So, in the end, a fire alarm and a typo made me realize that what matters most to me is being true to myself, to who I am. It means being more deliberate and intentional in my relationships, my health, and my presence – especially with my Self. This connection is what drives me to keep working, creating, and helping others to re-connect to what matters most to them, to who they are. Too often we have lost touch with that knowing, but hopefully it doesn’t take a crisis to remind us.

Hopefully, we can get back to that by simply slowing down, making time, and re-focusing on that which makes us smile in gratitude and joy.