On Trains and Funnels and Facebook

I deactivated my Facebook account for the month of February with every intention of returning March 1st. I figured I’d miss Facebook, but it would be worth the time away to accomplish a few things. I even named the month Focused February, convincing myself that alliteration and time away was all I needed to tackle a growing to-do list of home, family, and work tasks.

In some ways, I was right. I was more focused in February, and I did complete a large number of those tasks.

But I was also wrong. Because on March 1st, I didn’t log back into Facebook. And I don’t know when or if I will again. I don’t feel any pressure to make a permanent decision, so for now, I’m staying away.

I’ve written about my concerns about social media before, mostly on social media. I’ve written about how too many of us look like this most of the time. I’ve written about the ways social platforms are co-opted by people who wish to cause us harm. I’ve shared this video. And this one. I’ve shouted from the rooftops of my Facebook page over and over again and heard my voice bounce around the echo chamber.

And then there’s the file. The Facebook file.

Right before I deactivated, I requested a copy of my entire Facebook history. It’s super easy to do, and Facebook emails you a file of every post, every photo, every message you’ve ever posted to the site. I scrolled through ten years’ worth of time spent on the site, trying to measure its worth. It captured some great memories that might have been otherwise lost to time. I saw where I reconnected or newly connected with a few people whose impact on my life is beyond measure. There is good in this file. There is good in the time spent on the site. Undeniable good.

But the sheer size of the file is stunning, and it doesn’t even begin to account for any of the time spent scrolling or clicking on the comments sections (why oh why do I still click on the comments sections). It doesn’t count the time spent bearing witness to people treating others in such cruel, dehumanizing ways, slinging words like rocks. The file holds only a fraction of the time I spent on the site in ten years, and I think if I were offered that number by Facebook, the true number of minutes, I’d say no. I wouldn’t want to know.

I don’t need to know the exact number to know that it is too high. I don’t need to know the exact number to know I’d trade most (but not all) of those minutes back if I could, and spend them instead on:

More watching the snow fall out the window…

More making pie with my favorite guy…

More music…

More art…

More writing…

More walks in the woods…

And in all of these things, more presence.

Two dear friends recently dropped a couple of pieces of wisdom that are still swishing around my brain.

The first told me that when your first child enters high school, it’s like putting him on a bullet train. Time will speed up, and those years will be the fastest years you will spend with him under your roof. In my case, when my oldest graduates, my second child will already be on that same high-speed train. This means come August, it’s time to buckle up.

The second told me that time is like one of those funnels that you place a coin in and watch it spiral to the bottom. The early years feel long, as you watch that penny loop around and around the wide brim of the tunnel, but as you age, the years feel shorter and the penny seems to move faster and faster.

I’m turning 40 this year, and if I’m lucky, my penny is in the middle of that funnel.  And I happen to like trains a lot, especially when I take the time to look out the window. So if it’s going to move fast, I’d better pay closer attention to the ride.

And there’s no windows on Facebook.

xo- Jess

Positive Peace

I started my day today with a cup of coffee and a re-reading of MLK’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail. Every time I read this letter, something new stands out to me, and this morning, it was the term “negative peace” which King defines as the absence of tension (as opposed to positive peace which he defines as the presence of justice). Human history is long, and my lifetime is miniscule in comparison, but never in my short life have I witnessed a year more full of calls for negative peace than the one we just shared. And as I pondered that, some other words came to the front of my mind. “They have healed the brokenness of my people superficially, saying ‘peace, peace,’ but there is no peace.”

True peace does not exist in the face of injustice. The absence of tension is a band-aid that keeps falling off and exposing our wounds over and over until we decide to finally heal them. But the tricky part is this – negative peace is far easier to achieve than positive peace. It requires merely that we remain silent in the face of injustice. Negative peace is everywhere. It is the church that harbors sexual predators while silencing its victims in the name of peace. It is the family that tells its children not to share its secrets of abuse in the name of peace. It is the organization that pays settlements to those injured in return for their silence to keep the peace. It is every single one of us every time we try to silence someone for speaking truth by accusing them of sowing division or hatred when in fact they seek positive peace. They seek the presence of justice. It is not those seeking justice who are responsible for division. Where there is injustice, there is already division, and that division will never be overcome by silence. Those who are not ready to walk the road of positive peace could at least stop being a roadblock, crying out for negative peace, to those who are ready and willing to walk the harder path. That would a true gift of service to honor MLK.

There is much to learned from the leadership and scholarship of MLK, but it requires that we go beyond the single, out of context quotes and memes we share once a year on this day. They are beautiful and true, but we should treat them like the jacket copy for a book. We should let them invite us in to his more complete body of written and spoken words, and dig unflinchingly into the wisdom he offers within, wisdom we can contextualize and apply to our lives today. The Letter from a Birmingham Jail is a great place to start if you’ve never read it in its entirety.

Teaching Our Phones Some Manners

My last post seemed to resonate with some of you, and thank you to those who reached out to me as well. If looking up from the phone is a goal of yours this year and you want to talk, well, I’m here, even though I recognize the absurdity of the fact that you’ll have to contact me by said phone. Here’s how far gone/addicted I am – my first instinct was that maybe we need a Facebook group to talk about these things! Um, no. We do not need another Facebook group. Old habits die hard. But like I said in my last post, this is not about quitting my phone or social media, but rather about approaching it with a renewed sense of agency and intention. I’ll probably keep sharing on the subject for those who want to follow along. For the rest of you, please feel free to scroll on by!

Earlier this week we went over to our friend’s house to play board games and her four-year-old had all the requests. If you have young kids, or ever had them, you likely remember the toddler/preschool years well. As soon as you sit down to do anything, your toddler needs something urgently. And toddlers do not prioritize needs. Needing help in the bathroom or needing a cheese stick or needing you to brush their doll’s hair are of equal urgency – all code red. It was amusing in the way it can only be when your kids have outgrown that particular stage. But later that night, I started thinking about the way our phones are a lot like toddlers. They demand our attention, they don’t distinguish between the urgent and non-urgent, they are more than willing to interrupt us no matter what we are doing. But unlike our toddlers, who we love and are in the process of raising to become independent adults, our phones will remain in the toddler years forever if we don’t do something about it. The good news is that we can train our phones a lot faster than we can train our toddlers. We have all the tools we need, right there on the phone itself.

If you are ready for your phone to grow up a little, here are some quick ways to teach it some manners:

1. Turn off all notifications for anything non-urgent. This means different things to different people, but for me, it’s basically everything. My phone only makes noise when it rings, or there is an emergency alert. It does not alert me to text messages, I have no notifications turned on for any apps, it does not tell me that I have new email. If this sounds extreme to you, well, maybe it is. But once upon a time (ie- less than a decade ago) we all lived our lives this way and we somehow functioned and were possibly less anxious. The email is still there, but it waits until I am ready to answer it. That photo a friend posted to Instagram isn’t going anywhere. And even text messages can sit unread for a moment if I’m engaged in other work or having a one-on-one conversation. If you aren’t ready to turn off all notifications, try turning off just some of them for a week and remember what 2010 felt like when you were not constantly interrupted.

2. Teach your phone to prioritize. For me, this means assigning different ring tones to different people. My children’s schools have their own ring tones for example, so if I’m deeply involved in a project and my phone rings, I’ll know if it is the school calling with a possible sick kid. I’m fairly certain you can personalize text alert sounds too, so you know if it’s your boss texting or Jo-Ann’s Fabric for the 1,000th time that week.

3. Put your phone in time out if it’s misbehaving. What’s time out? The power button on the side of the phone. It is okay to turn off the phone. I realize sometimes it’s not okay, like when you are at work, but we should all be able to identify some chunk of time in a given week when it would be acceptable to just shut the thing off and walk away. It will be there when you get back, and unlike your toddler, it will not cry while it is in time out.

4. Download apps that help you use your phone as a tool for you, instead of being used by your phone. I mentioned Moment in my last post, which is a great app to try if you want to get a baseline look at how you are currently using your phone. I also love Freedom, which allows you to block certain apps for a certain period of time.

5. Ask yourself “why?” all day long. Okay, so this is actually making you behave like a toddler, but it works. Every time you pick up your phone, before you open a single app, ask yourself “Why am I opening my phone right now?” and then identify what you intend to do. Challenge yourself to only do the thing you intended to do, then put your phone back down. Asking “why” for even just a week can start to retrain your brain’s responses to how you engage with your phone.

I hope something on this list helps you out. And as far as your actual toddlers go, good luck! Unless you are looking for picture book recommendations, you’re on your own there. 😉

Look Up

Happy New Year friends!

I hope all of you had some good moments over the holidays, time with people you love, time to reflect on the past year, or even just time for a nap. Since I’m a sucker for arbitrary markings of time (birthdays, anniversaries, back to school, the days they change the dollar spot bins at Target for new holidays), I spent some time doing the whole New Year’s thing this past week. I took a trip down memory lane of photographs, reflecting on some goals and celebrating the ones I managed to achieve in a hard year, and I set some new intentions for 2018. Let’s just say it’s a lot of fun to live with me and there’s been sufficient eye-rolling from my teen/tween sons when I ask them about their goals for 2018.

And now I’m bringing that same fun to you! Here’s what I asked my family: If you could have 872 extra hours this year, would you take them? To save you from doing the math, it’s a little over two hours a day. How about even half of that? Just one extra hour a day to fill any way you want. Maybe getting after those goals you set yesterday. You don’t even have to know how you’d spend it. Just, would you take it? According to numerous studies, we are spending about 872 hours a year staring into our mobile devices. Maybe you are thinking that can’t be true, that you absolutely do not spend over two hours a day on your phone, the internet, social media, but it adds up. Every time we pick it up to “just check” and get sucked down the rabbit hole of Twitter. Every time we are doing two things at once, like checking our phones while cooking dinner, or scrolling Instagram while carrying on a conversation. Or maybe you’re thinking that sounds low. Maybe you know you spend more than two hours a day on your phone. Maybe, like me, you’ve downloaded one of those apps like Moment that tells the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about how much of your day, even fragmented, you are handing away to that tiny device in your hand. And maybe that truth was a little hard to swallow. It was for me. I spent a good amount of time in 2017 reflecting on this topic and observing the world around me. I took multiple, long breaks from all social media. I took informal polls at red lights (about a third of all drivers have a cell phone in their hands in my town on average) and restaurants (about a half of all diners are actively engaged with their phones while sitting across a table from another human). It is no exaggeration to say that with each passing year, less people are looking up.

We look a lot like this a lot of time.

I’m no luddite. I’m not trading in my MacBook for a typewriter or my smart phone for a landline anytime soon. But of all the hours I spent last year, I would, without hesitation, take back some of the ones I spent online. Not all of them, not even close. This isn’t a blanket judgement about time spent online, but rather an examination of how much of that time is intentional.

And I can only answer for myself.

The time I spent online learning, making meaningful connections with people I care about, watching a show I love, those aren’t the hours I would trade. But there are many hours I would take back if I could, and some of them were spent on things that could be considered good things. Sometimes it’s hardest to say no to a good thing. I also know exactly what I’d trade them for. Maybe that’s true for you too? You can do a lot with an extra hour a day. You can run 1,000 miles in a year like a friend of mine did last year. You can read several books. You can learn to cook. You can learn a new instrument. You can write a whole book. You can play outside with your kids, or go on a date, or talk on the phone with a distant friend. You can take a nap. You can do anything you want really. But wouldn’t it be nice if it were a thing you chose instead of a thing you did out of a habit that isn’t serving you, those you love, or the life you are trying to create?

I realize this very long post is not for all of you. I know that many of you have this figured out. I have a pretty exceptional role model for this that lives in my house. It’s probably only for a very small handful of you, but if it is for you, I wanted you to know you are not alone. If you have ever looked down at your phone and had a desire to just throw it into the nearest body of water, you are not alone. And if this is the year that you want to get a handle on it, you’re not alone there either. I’m with you. I won’t be on Facebook nearly as much in 2018. I intend to spend this year looking up. And I hope that when I do, I see your face looking back at mine.

Logging Off For 2017

I’ve been thinking about a lot of things lately that somehow all intertwine into one thing, but I haven’t knitted them fully together yet. I keep waiting for that to happen, for the threads to interlace into a pattern that is understandable and beautiful and easy to explain, but I think that just like I knit in real life, this metaphorical knitting will be trial and error and making it up as I go along.

While I’m not much for New Year’s resolutions, I’ll happily take advantage of the human constructions of time and the introspection that comes from turning the calendar, a birthday, an anniversary. Which means, as we come to the end of this year, I’m grabbing those threads and trying to make sense of them.

Time well spent. Kindness. Deep work. Agency. Creativity.

We live in a time where our attention is bought and sold by the minute to the highest bidder. Someone, somewhere recognized that our time is precious and commodified that in a way that has changed our economy and our lives. It has limited our conversations. Think about it. How often do you find yourself having a conversation about something that someone saw online? How often do our conversations offline end up circling around online hashtags? And I know this isn’t always a bad thing. Harnessing collective energy around an important issue is powerful. But it comes at a cost. It tricks us into imposing limits on ourselves that do not exist, and worse, convinces us we have no agency in the matter. And we very much do.

I heard this podcast earlier this year between Jen Hatmaker and Glennon Doyle Melton that stuck with me. Glennon’s words about social media cut me to the core during a time when I was already examining my own habits on all of these platforms and whether this was time well spent. I’m going to share some of the conversation here.

Jen: That’s right. It’s possible. It is possible. It matters who we are listening to; who we’re grabbing hands with, and where we spend our energy and our time. We can pick. We get to choose this. This is not happening to us. We are not victims of our own culture. I like what you’re saying right now; that’s the true story, the good story, it’s the right story–so pick it. Just choose it. It’s just that simple. We do have the capability to unhook ourselves from the rage machine, and hook into something more beautiful. That’s my choice.

Glennon: Jen, I mean my kids and I–nobody in my family has had social media on our phones. We don’t have the internet or social media on our phones for the last like two or three months. So anytime you see anything that I’m posting, it’s something that I have written on a word document, and sent to my team, and they post it.

Jen: That sounds amazing. Does that feel good?

Glennon: I cannot even tell you. We are people who believe that the world was spoken into existence, right? Words that we take in and that we say create the worlds that we then step into. We pick up these phones like we are cutters, cutting. We know they’re going to cause anxiety, we know it’s all information and no wisdom. We know. We know it’s divisive. We know. But we pick it up and that becomes our reality. Why is everybody so angry? Because everybody is staring into anger machines all day.

Jen: You are like slicing me open right now. I’m going to stop talking.

Glennon: We use the excuse of, “oh, we have to stay informed.” You’re not staying informed, you’re staying entertained.

Jen: That’s great.

Glennon: You pick up a frickin’ newspaper. Read a book. You can be informed each day in three minutes. You do not need 13 hours–you are not getting your work done. It becomes this impotent, temper tantrum rage that is not creative.

Jen: That’s good. You’re right.

Glennon: There’s work to be done. It’s like serious times and we need wise serious people. And the wise serious people are not staring at their phones all day.

Jen: That’s good. I am ingesting what you’re saying like a girl drinking water who’s never had a sip. It’s true. This year has been so contentious, and so enraged, and so bonkers, but if that’s the message that I’m taking in on the daily–and not just on the daily, all day on the daily—it makes us into angry, scared people.

Glennon: What people say, Jen, “oh, well that’s just burying your head in the sand if you don’t stare at it all day.” No, no, no, no. I am not saying I am a privileged person, so I don’t have to know what’s going on. I’m saying, I’m a privileged person and I’m a leader, so I need to be using my time wisely. I need to be actually creating projects and creating a plan for us to lead better. I need to use my privilege wisely. Staring–it’s an easy button. It’s giving me an excuse not to do my work. But what’s away from the phones is the stillness, and we don’t want to be there.

“We pick up these phones like we’re cutters, cutting. We know they’re going to cause anxiety, we know it’s all information and no wisdom. We know.”

WE KNOW.

There are so many things in this world that are outside our control. No one gets through this life entirely unscathed by tragedy, loss, hardship or suffering. So why are so many of us, on a daily basis, giving away the thing we can control? Why are we letting these precious commodities, our time, our headspace, our choices, slip through our fingers? I’ve got a few answers to those questions but I suspect they are different for all of us. So, this is a very long way of saying that if any of this resonates with you, in any way (not just around social media but around any place in your life where you are handing over your agency to someone or something else), it’s not too late to make a choice. And if that choice doesn’t work, make another one. Then another.

This is your life. As far as we know, there are no do-overs. We can do good work, serious work, creative work, without staring into anger machines all day long. In fact, my hunch is the work will be better for it. The solutions will come from outside false binary choices, and from our infinite creativity. On that note, I’m logging off for the rest of the year, to spend that time fully with family and friends. I’m wishing you all love in the coming days, and peace, wisdom and hope for the coming year.

xoxo- Jess

Knuffle Bunny, Worlds Expanding, and the Danger of the Single Story

If you have young children, know young children, or have ever been in the children’s section of a bookstore, it’s likely that you are familiar with the books of Mo Willems. Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus or Elephant and Piggie are basically household names. When my boys were young, they were obsessed with the Knuffle Bunny books. You might be familiar with them, but if you aren’t, they center on a character named Trixie (based on Mo’s daughter in real life) and her beloved green stuffed animal, Knuffle Bunny. The second book in this sweeping trilogy is called Knuffle Bunny Too, and it’s been on my mind this week.

In Knuffle Bunny Too, Trixie’s world is about to expand – she’s going to school for the first time. But when she brings her beloved Knuffle Bunny to school, she learns that he’s not the only Knuffle Bunny in the world. A fight ensues, a mix-up occurs, and a middle of the night rendezvous saves the day.

I pulled this book off the shelf as a mentor text for something I’m working on, but when I reread it, I saw this metaphor for something we are experiencing collectively on so many levels in this country. This week, our newsfeeds have been full of women (and some men) sharing their experiences with sexual assault, sexual harassment, and the smaller, insidious ways women walk through the world in de-escalation mode daily. In my small corner of the world, most of the conversation has been productive, but I’ve also seen a number of posts derailed by people chiming in to negate someone’s personal experience. These statements, in short, say “That’s not my experience, so therefore it’s not reality.” And this made me think of Trixie.

Trixie, like most young children, started off with a small world – her immediate family. Her world, like most children’s, grows as she gets older. It begins to encompass neighbors, friends, perhaps church, then school. As she grows older (spoiler alert!) it will even encompass foreign travel. This isn’t exactly revelatory stuff here – all our worlds expand as we age.

But what I’m seeing right now, what I’m struggling with, is how many of us seem stuck in a childlike mindset, unable to accept something as real because it hasn’t entered our personal world yet. Trixie assumed her Knuffle Bunny was the only one in the world because she hadn’t seen another one, but when her world expanded, she was able to accept that it did, in fact, exist. But so many of us don’t want to see the other Knuffle Bunny. When someone says, let me share my experience with you, if it doesn’t match what we have already experienced ourselves, we are rejecting it as fake. Instead of accepting that perhaps our own reality is limited, and being open to listening, we’d rather maintain our bubble.

From a psychological perspective, this is the height of narcissism. The insistence that the world’s objective reality matches our small existence couldn’t be more self-centered. And while it’s natural for young, growing children to have a self-centered view of the world until they go through the stages of development that expand their thinking, it’s not okay behavior for adults. It’s harmful, it’s shallow thinking, it displays a desire to remain ignorant, it lacks empathy and imagination.

I know we can do better. We can be better listeners. We can take baby steps in this direction by resisting the urge to insert ourselves into someone else’s narrative. If a friend tells a personal story online, and we can simply listen without responding. If the story doesn’t match our own experiences in the world, instead of writing it off as false, perhaps we can try expanding our worldview to include it as part of a bigger story.

I’m going to leave you with this TED Talk that I share at least once a year because I believe it is that important. I believe in the power of story to connect us, but we have to be willing to listen.

At the Same Time

Hopped on Facebook this morning to look for news from our family in Puerto Rico. It’s still mostly radio silence down there, but that’s to be expected as the entire island lost power and many cell towers are out of service. You know where it’s not silent? On Facebook.
Good. Lord.
A few reminders: You can care about people in the Mexican earthquake and AT THE SAME TIME care about people in the hurricanes. I know, it’s shocking. Your heart has enough room. Some of your wallets even have enough money to donate to both causes. And yes, Puerto Rico is part of the United States, but that shouldn’t even be a determining factor in your decision to care about Puerto Ricans because, news flash, they are also human beings. And while we are on the subject of caring, you can care about victims of natural disasters and homeless vets AT THE SAME TIME. Actually, you can care about any cause and homeless vets at the same time. Who even started this one? Judging by the memes I’ve seen, you’d think people are running around stealing money from homeless vets to pay for every other cause known to man. You’d also think there are no homeless vets left, what with all the care and support they must be getting from the people who are outraged that they are being ignored. You can support the police officers in your life who are trying to make a difference in their community and AT THE SAME TIME stand up against injustice, police brutality, and corruption. In fact, demanding an end to corrupt or unjust police practices makes life safer for everyone including the police. You can find fault with the ACA and AT THE SAME TIME recognize that the Cassidy-Graham bill is a crap replacement. If you think the ACA is broken, then Cassidy-Graham is throwing salt on an open wound. There’s even a whole group of senators from both political parties taking this approach in a committee right now, looking for bipartisan solutions to our messy healthcare system. But bipartisanship, that’s totally absurd, right? You can support someone’s right to free speech and AT THE SAME TIME speak out against what they are saying. That’s called … wait for it … exercising your free speech.
Silence on social media is not always complicity. You have no idea the reasons some people are silent on some issues on social media. I know some stories that would break your damn heart if heard them. Some silent people are just trying to survive. In their own homes.
And to those of you boycotting the NFL for either of the opposing reasons that a whole bunch of you are boycotting the NFL, welcome to fall without football. It’s lovely. The leaves change colors and there’s pumpkin patches and hay rides and beautiful places to hike. Hit me up if you want to grab a latte and romp through some woods.
If you are feeling angry at me for any of the things I just said, feel free to call me on the actual phone to talk. But my guess is that if you are having a hard time digesting any of the above statements, you are spending too much time on social media or listening to talking heads on some 24 hour news channel. Back away from the computer, go out into the real world, and have actual conversations with other people. You guys all have a lot of gifts to share with the world. Take 24 hours, log out, and go share them.
XO
Update – Thanks to everyone who reached out after my last post, either to inquire about our family or just to talk. Conversation matters and you guys demonstrate that again and again. A quick update, our family in Puerto Rico was able to get to a place with cell service and make contact, they are safe and well. The island, as many of you know, is without power and much of it is without running water. They headed back west to where they rode out the storm because there is water there. It means we lose contact again for awhile, but you’ve got to go where the water is! I’m waiting patiently on people much wiser than me that are looking into the best ways to help and I’ll be back to share more. One place I can recommend that has a fund set up for both the hurricane and the earthquake in Mexico City is the Hispanic Federation. But as I learn more, I will share.  The road to recovery is going to be long. It’s a major humanitarian crisis. Please keep this on your radar in this world of constantly changing news. 

Teenager

It happened just like they said it would. We had a baby boy. We rocked him to sleep in the middle of the night. We sang lullabies and changed diapers and marveled over the ordinary miracle that we named Ronan. We took a long nap and woke up and he was in preschool. We blinked and he was climbing on a school bus. We counted many long days that added up to lightening fast years and we woke this morning to a teenager. Happy 13th birthday Ronan! You are more than we ever hoped for. Your curiosity and wisdom and steadiness and humor add up to more than the sum of those parts. We can’t wait to see what the coming years bring, and lucky for you, your parents are a couple of fools who love teenagers.

And even if you manage to change our minds about that last sentence, you’ll never change our minds about how much we love you.

 

On Defensiveness

I want to talk for a moment about defensiveness. It’s part of the human condition and something we all struggle with, but it’s important to confront because it is a barrier to honest relationships and conflict resolution.

One reason humans get defensive is because we don’t want to feel yucky feelings about ourselves. It’s not fun to be faced with our own mistakes, or to come to terms with moments when we’ve hurt others or made the wrong choice. But it’s imperative, especially if we want to develop and maintain real and lasting relationships with other humans.

One way we talk about this in our home is recognizing and giving name to the physiological sensations that accompany or precede defensiveness. My boys sometimes call it a “surge” which resonates with me as well, but people do respond in different physiological ways to defensiveness. The boys are learning to pause when they feel that energy surge before responding. Counting to ten has been a powerful tool for them and me. During that pause, I challenge myself to take it a step further and lean into my defensiveness, asking myself questions like- “Why do I feel defensive in this moment?” “Is this really a personal attack, or am I only tangentially related to the topic at hand?” “Am I over-identifying with one of my many identities (woman, mom, writer, suburban dweller, the list goes on…) in a way that makes something feel personal that is not, in fact personal?” Or when defending someone else – “Why do I feel the need to defend this person’s actions right now? Why do I feel like their actions are linked to my own identity?” “Do I need to revisit my opinion on this subject in light of this new information?”

The next thing I do is spiritual, so it may not apply to you given your own faith/spiritual practices, but I pray that my eyes will be opened to the truth behind my defensiveness and that I will have the courage to face my own internal discomfort and be changed by it. I think this would work even if you are not someone who subscribes to the idea of a higher power, God or other consciousness by using a simple mantra that affirms your own openness to accepting internal discomfort and being changed by it.

Do these things work every time? Nope. I’m a human being so I mess this up a lot. Just ask my husband. 😉 But, it works some of the time, and the more I practice it, the easier it gets. I hope this is helpful to one of you today.

Peace and love.