Sunday, September 16, 2012

Brene Brown: Storyteller Researcher

"Connection is why we're here."

I know this is an older TED talk, but I climbed out from under the rock known as being a teacher this weekend, and watched a slew of educational videos. The two from Brene Brown spoke to me on some very personal levels that I have been digging into recently. Thank, universe, for sending a much more articulate and educated voice to clarify yet another concept that has been put in my path. Courage. "Which means to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart."

"Vulnerability is our most accurate measurement of courage."

"Those who have a strong sense of love and belonging have the courage to be imperfect."

"The willingness to do something where there are no guarantees."

I could go on and on about what I think, adding quote after quote. But, honestly, the video will say what I will fumble around about for a few sentences and then probably end up erasing anyway. Both videos are worth more than the measly 40 minutes of your life they will take.

"The Power of Vulnerability"

"That's what life is about. It's about daring greatly. It's about being in the arena."

"Shame is an epidemic in our culture."

"Empathy is the anecdote to shame. If you put shame in a petri dish it needs three things to grow: secrecy, silence, and judgement. If you put the same amount of shame in a petri dish and douse it with empathy it can't survive. The two most powerful words when we are in struggle: me too."

"Listening to Shame"

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Tina Fey’s Rules For Improv…And the Workplace

I am reading and digging on Tina Fey's book, Bossypants, right now. The rest of it is even funnier. Much, much, funnier. 

As Marcel would say... "Read on!" 

Rule #1 — Agree

The first rule of improvisation is AGREE. Always agree and SAY YES.

When you’re improvising, this means you are required to agree with whatever your partner has created. So if we’re improvising and I say, “Freeze, I have a gun,” and you say, “That’s not a gun. It’s your finger. You’re pointing your finger at me,” our improvised scene has ground to a halt.

But if I say, “Freeze, I have a gun!” and you say, “The gun I gave you for Christmas! You bastard!” then we have started a scene because we have AGREED that my finger is in fact a Christmas gun.

Now, obviously in real life you're not always going to gree with everything everyone says. But the Rule of Agreement reminds you to "respect what your partner has created" and to at least start from an open-minded place. Start with a YES and see where that takes you.

As an improvisor, I always find it jarring when I meet someone in real life whos first answer is no. "No, we can't do that." "No, that's not in the budget." "No, I will not hold your hand for a dollar." What kind of way is that to live?

Rule #2 — Not Only Say Yes… Say Yes And

The second rule of improvisation is not only to say yes, but YES, AND. You are supposed to agree and then add something of your own.

If I start a scene with “I can’t believe it’s so hot in here,” and you just say, “Yeah…” we’re kind of at a standstill.

But if I say, “I can’t believe it’s so hot in here,” and you say, “What did you expect? We’re in hell.” Or if I say, “I can’t believe it’s so hot in here,” and you say, “Yes, this can’t be good for the wax figures.” Or if I say, “I can’t believe it’s so hot in here,” and you say, “I told you we shouldn’t have crawled into this dog’s mouth,” now we’re getting somewhere.

To me YES, AND means don't be afraid to contribute. It's your responsibility to contribute. Always make sure you're adding something to the discussion. Your initiations are worthwhile.

Rule #3 — Make Statements

This is a positive way of saying “Don’t ask questions all the time.” If we’re in a scene and I say, “Who are you? Where are we? What are we doing here? What’s in that box?” I’m putting pressure on you to come up with all the answers.

In other words: Whatever the problem, be part of the solution. Don't just sit around raising questions and pointing out obstacles. We’ve all worked with that person. That person is a drag. It’s usually the same person around the office who says things like “There’s no calories in it if you eat it standing up!” and “I felt menaced when Terry raised her voice.

MAKE STATEMENTS also applie to us women: Speak in statements instead of apologetic questions. No one wants to go to a doctor who says, "I'm going to be your surgeon? I'm here to talk to you about your procedure? I was first in my class at Johns Hopkins, so?" Make statements, with your actions and your voice.

Instead of saying, "Where are we?" make a statement like "Here we are in Spain, Dracula." Okay, "Here we are in Spain, Dracula" may seem like a terrible start to a scene, but this leads us to the best rule:

Rule #4 — There Are No Mistakes… Only Opportunities

If I start a scene as what I think is very clearly a cop riding a bicycle, but you think I am a hamster in a hamster wheel, guess what?

Now I’m a hamster in a hamster wheel. I’m not going to stop everything to explain that it was really supposed to be a bike. Who knows? Maybe I’ll end up being a police hamster who’s been put on “hamster wheel” duty because I’m “too much of a loose cannon” in the field.

In improv there are no mistakes, only beautiful happy accidents. And many of the world’s greatest discoveries have been by accident. I mean, look at the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, or Botox.

Monday, September 10, 2012



  [koh-in-si-duhns]  Show IPA
a striking occurrence of two or more events at one timeapparently by mere chance: Our meeting in Venice was purecoincidence.
the condition or fact of coinciding.
an instance of this.

Last night I wrote a journal entry on courage in reflection of a recent article. 

This morning my Yogi Tea quote was: "It's not life that matters, it's the courage you bring to it." 

During the middle of the day I was asked to step in and sub for a 6th grade teacher who didn't have sub coverage due to a mixup. I walked in at 3pm, settled the class down, read the sub plan and realized the EQ on the board was: "What is courage?"

I think I found my 2013 resolution. Thanks, universe :)

Monday, September 3, 2012

NPR: Memories

Can We Learn To Forget Our Memories? is just the tip of the iceberg on a topic I have pondered for many years. Honestly, without any real hard numbers to back it up I would totally agree with the research. I used to practice forgetting and now have a difficult time recalling small things that happen. I have to make a conscious effort to store information. Having a somewhat photographic memory makes it easier to retrace my steps, but I might have to sit and focus on the memory for awhile.
The most interesting part of the research is that it says that you might not totally forget a memory, but you don't have the same feelings attached to it as when it happened. So, that embarrassing situation is still locked in there somewhere, but you don't blush when you retell the story. Hmmm...

My problem lies in the fact I don't store situations very well. I used to get so much flack in my relationships for not remembering a movie we saw, birthdays, or other 'significant' moments in time. I rely on patterns, feelings, music, and images, to remember a situation, conversation, or choreography. So, be careful. I have actively tried to learn how to forget, and now I have to work at remembering. Just found it interesting to find research on such an deeply personal and odd topic. 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Three fourths

When you start out on a journey there tends to be an end in mind. Sometimes you go on the journey just for the sake of getting out of the house, and sometimes you have another place or time you would like to experience. At the beginning of this year, I set out on a journey of sorts, a resolution that was intended to help sort out the mess of my thus far lived life.

However, there are always bumps along the way--challenges that make the journey worthwhile and force you to figure out if you *really* want to get to the end. Last month I faced heartache like I haven't felt in a very, very long time. Broken trust lead to realization that one must Love with abandon, yet Trust with caution. I found myself asking why was I even doing this in the first place? It is an idealistic endeavor to say the least, riddled with opportunities to be vulnerable to even the slightest interaction.

Two thoughts on that. One, a very good friend said that it is important that I feel the highs and lows of love, because they are what make it real. So true. I will expound in the next paragraph. Two, I am still working out the details about giving and receiving love, which I will discuss when I talk about the book I just finished. I think it is important to not just be a one-way love spout.

So I was waning in my decision to have this be the Year of Love. How silly? Who does this? There is no way of measuring my success. It's not like I can see numbers that show me I have gained love, or lost love, or have given a higher percentage each day. Pounds and blood pressure are easy to measure--matters of the tangible unseen are not. And then I picked up a book that was given to me two years ago, Blue Like Jazz. Apparently the universe wanted me to have a jumpstart, because this book of 'nonreligious thoughts on christian spirituality' was just what I needed. Read on...(thanks, Marcel)

So, when I was younger I always desired to have a middle ground emotional experience. Not crazy highs and lows like I tended towards. This has been found, slowly, through the process of learning acceptance and forming a habitual attitude of love. My yoga practice has reshaped me in so many more ways that just physically. New people or situations are not approached with fear or trepidation but eyes forward and a smile. If things don't work out quite the way I plan I simply accept the new time frame/path/direction and try to help those around me do the same. Needless to say I am much less stressed out. But, there is a downside to this as well. Too much lukewarm acceptance can turn oneself almost emotionally bland. Nothing is really upsetting or really marvelous anymore. So, at this point, the 3/4 mark, I am going to embrace the new-found contentment and add back the spice. After all, no one likes a pushover--and I am unfortunately finding myself being that more often than not. I think it's about time to rekindle some of the passion. Contentment and passion. Yin and yang.

"If you believe something, passionately, people wil follow you. People hardly care what you believe, as long as you believe something. If you are passionate about something, people will follow you because they think you know something they don't, some clue to the meaning of the universe. Passion is tricky, though, because it can point to nothing as easily as it points to something. If a rapper is passionately rapping about how great his rap is, his passion is pointing to nothing. He isn't helping anything. His beliefs are self-serving and shallow. If a rapper, however, is rapping about his community, about oppression and injustice, then he is passionate about a message, something outside himself. What people believe is important. What people believe is more important than how they look, what their skills are, or their degree of passion. Passion about nothing is like pouring gasoline in a car without wheels. It isn't going to lead anybody anywhere." (Miller, p. 109-110)

So, onto the second topic: giving and receiving love. This is, undoubtably, one of the most difficult aspects of this whole journey. It is so difficult to allow love in because of the unknowns it brings. "I can do it myself." has been a lifelong motto that I have been slowly breaking down. But, crazy as it sounds, if you let love in even just a little, and let it out without expectation, life becomes even fuller. Recently, with the experience of intense heartache I realized I still had some patterns of unhealthy love. Withholding and judging, along with trusting before foundations had been built. So, I walked away. I am not holding back,  I am simply not able to be so open and giving without depth of relationship. Taking control instead of reacting has given me so much peace and allowed me to continue to love and have a semblance of a friendship.

"And so I have come to understand that strength, inner strength, comes from receiving love as much as it comes from giving it."

Now, there is a lot of God in this book. It is all based around the author's walk in his christianity and faith. Do I agree with everything? Am I seeking how or why to be a christian again? No. Absolutely not. However, I enjoy reading books that challenge and support me. Uplift and raise questions. To stop learning about life is to basically accept existing.

Speaking of such things, I went out last night to a scene that I rarely spend time. A new friend works in Buckhead and invited me out to a block party. So, free beverages and my cowgirl boots gave me some courage to spend time with a new person and a few hundred strangers--all of who were simply existing. As I looked around the spectacle it struck me how dead so many people really are. Numbed by looking for eye-candy, drinking alcohol, and sort of dancing to loud music, it was almost like watching zombies. I mean, these people have stupid amounts of money and yet are not living like they give a damn about anyone around them. I had some moments of judgement that melted into sadness for a generation that I share, full of people I have no desire to ever really talk to. Luckily my acquaintance does not fall in that category and we had a few laughs, I met some of his friends, and then made my way home at the decent hour of 2am.

In summary, I feel as though the heartache, book, and expansion of social circle, in recent months have done a solid number on my resolution. Ups and downs are good; they build character. At three quarters of the way through the year I am recommitted. My short-term goal is to make it through the year continually developing the habit of love. My long term goal is to not have to think about it, but to simply be.