Saturday, February 28, 2015

Look Me In The Eye

 This week I’ve been reading my friend Nina Gaby’s book “Dumped: Stories of Women Unfriending Women.” I was not surprised to read that many of these breakups of friendships had taken place through emails and texts. Over the years, I’ve had a couple friends “dump” me this way, and am pretty sure that had we talked face to face, the friendship would have survived. But that was their choice, not mine.

Recently, someone lashed out at me on facebook over a certain politicized issue, criticizing my lifestyle and career choices. This was over an extreme misinterpretation of something I had posted. The greatest shock was that it was from a sweet, mild-mannered person I’ve known for years who has never before posted anything on my facebook page. I can say with 99% certainty that this person would have never looked me in the eye and said these things to me.

This is what bothers me about our new technological way of connecting with others. It isn’t real. It isn’t human. Texting, social media and email are all great ways to transmit information about work, events, politics, etc…but they are terrible ways to handle emotion.

When we are texting, emailing, posting comment, we “transmit” what we want to say without “receiving” - seeing or hearing the other person’s reaction. It’s a convenient way of unloading on someone else without having to see the hurt in their eyes, the shock on their face. This is why cyber-bullying has become rampant, and it’s not just teens who are doing it.

A few years ago someone ended a friendship with me through email with a 3500-word manifesto. I can guarantee she would never have stood in front of me and uttered those 3500 words (the majority of which had absolutely nothing to do with me) and if she had, she would have looked pretty crazy. After the shock wore off, I eventually realized this was about the toxic anger that had been building in her heart, and email made it easy for her to use me as target practice. True friendship requires the courage to sit down face to face and talk things through with respect and patience. Friends don’t fire off hurtful missives at one another and walk away.

In the years following the fire, when Troy and I were suffering with depression, we fought a lot. Our therapist taught us something invaluable that really turned everything around. “Look each other in the eyes,” he said, “because then you see who you’re really talking to, not the monster you’ve created in your head.” Another tool was to touch hands, to feel the energy of the person, to remember that you love that person. It is very powerful.

So this is my rule with technology: if I can’t look someone square in the eye and say what’s running through my mind, I’m not texting it, emailing it, commenting on it, tweeting it. Period.

As for the facebook friend, there was an apology, and an admitted misinterpretation of what I’d posted. But still, the words were said, the proverbial bullet can’t be put back in the gun. Trust has been broken and I’ll always have those words in the back of my mind.

How different would our world be if we all had the courage to look each other in the eyes?

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Random Acts of Kindness Week

Last week, my friend Sue sent me a message filled with kind and loving words completely out of the blue. She said she had been thinking and feeling these things, and her mother had always told her, "If you're thinking something nice about someone, tell them!"

It just so happens this has been on my mind a lot lately the last year. I often will be thinking something in my head about another person, something really lovely, but then the moment passes and I'm on to other thoughts. But I'm learning that it's really worth it to stop and express those thoughts when they come.

About a month ago, Troy and I were eating lunch in a very busy restaurant in the Seattle airport. Our waitress was clearly harried, rushing about. I was staring at her because she looked so pretty to me. She was Asian, pale skin and bright red lipstick, and her black hair was pinned up with a cluster of bright red roses. As she rushed past me, I said, "Excuse me..."
"Yes?" She looked stressed.
"I just wanted to tell you that you look so lovely with your flowers in your hair."
She looked surprised and embarrassed, and mumbled, "Oh...thank you." She managed a little smile and went on with her work.
About ten minutes later, she came back to our table and said, "You know, I was really having a bad morning, but when you said that, my whole day turned around."
And then I felt great, so the idea of expressing your positive thoughts? Sue's mom was on to something. HUGE win/win.

This week is Random Acts of Kindness Week. (Why just one week? Why not Random Acts of Kindness LIFE?) I decided to be a kindness ninja. I am secretly posting these on people's car windshields. It took me 5 minutes to make them, and will take me 5 seconds to put them on a windshield as I'm out and about each day. I'm going to get my son Evan involved, too. I think it will be great fun and a good lesson for him. And I'm going to make extras to carry in my purse all year long.

I remember once, years ago, I was returning a shopping cart to the front of a store, and a woman who was standing there said, "Thank you for doing that. You are a good person." It was such a small, silly thing but my eyes welled up. It was just really nice to hear someone say "You are a good person"- even though she was a complete stranger. It meant a lot to me and I never forgot it.

It is so easy to participate in Random Acts of Kindness week (or life). It can be as simple as saying a kind word, holding a door open for someone, making a phone call, sending a card. As the great Maya Angelou once said, "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." 

I'm posting my RAK each day on twitter ( Follow me and post your own acts of kindness with the hashtag #RAKweek2015. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Power of Intent

After I was fired last June from Moms Demand Action, I began to pray and envision every day that I would one day work in gun violence prevention for a great organization, and that I would actually be appreciated for the work I do. And that is exactly what happened. Look what is written every month on my paycheck:

Do I believe that prayer has power? You bet I do. You can call it intent, or affirmation …but whatever you call it, it works.

Here’s another example. Back in 2003, I wrote on a post-it note, “I am now open to the possibility of all my wildest dreams coming true.” You might think, well, yeah…who wouldn’t be? But I think that subconsciously, most of us aren’t. We are afraid of change, or maybe we feel we don’t deserve it. For me, I was so familiar with struggle, subconsciously I didn’t really believe it was my destiny to be happy. So when I wrote this post-it, I remember feeling giddy – because I really meant it – and I knew I was throwing a door wide open. I put the note up on my bathroom mirror where I could see it every morning. That year, I found my biological father. I had thought he was dead. I also found out I had three brothers. This was beyond my wildest dreams…beyond my wildest imaginings.

It was the author Mary Karr (The Liar’s Club) that got me back on my knees. While I was reading her memoir Lit, her story about getting sober and finding her faith again, I was going through a really hard time in my own life. I was broke, struggling, fighting a terrible court battle and my family was in shambles. Karr wrote about how prayer turned her whole life around. I figured I had nothing to lose. I started praying daily, and sure enough, all the jagged pieces began to sift back into place. Unlike Karr, who is Catholic, I don’t pray to a patriarchal version of God. I don’t believe God is separate from me - out there somewhere judging my every move. My prayer begins by acknowledging the Creative loving spirit that made me and that I am part of. I attempt to feel my connectedness to everyone and everything, and I set my intent for that day. I ask for help, while believing that help is already provided, also believing that everything that happens in my life is for the betterment of my soul.

I can’t define what I believe about God. My father is a Baptist preacher, my daughter is half-Jewish, and I think I believe most in the tenets of Buddhism…but what I do feel sure of is that putting my faith in love and goodness has never steered me wrong. So I will continue to pray in the name of love, goodness and a great creative spirit, and I will put a new post-it on my mirror today: