jon stewart should be canned and you should leave your spouse…not

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The cultural zeitgeist (particularly the USA) is now commonly about leaving. You enjoy something, love someone, are comfortable where you live, have a satisfying job, then it’s about time to abandon it and pioneer! Should you decide to remain in that city, that relationship or don that favored, shabby sweater, well, then you’re just not hip, cool, styling or groovy. Novelty has been elevated to the celestial.

A twisted view of this phenom was written by Lauren Martin here. She believes that if you don’t live in five different places in your life then you’re “settling.” For what? Unclear. Appears Martin has the attention span of an ADHA toddler except she also feels that favorite foods lose their edge!?!? No toddler would ever agree. Tell my Tuscan family—or any ethic group—who commonly ingest their exquisite cookery that it’s “stale.” Just because the USA doesn’t have a genuine cuisine that stands the winds of trendiness, doesn’t mean others should ditch their delicious dishes.

I shouldn’t be surprised—but I am—as most United States-ians live “all or nothing” lives. Whenever science proclaims a new health diet, food, exercise, disease or disorder “it” becomes Trendy. See wheat, wheat eat your wheat: foods, fads, allergies for my (March 2013) take on our modern faux-food-fad: wicked gluten. The New Yorker recently wrote a piece interpreting this mania.

Authentic living resides in the middle, not the extremes, cliché or not. Excessive change creates chaos; trivial challenge equals boredom. You don’t have to “spice up” your sex life, swap cities, eschew favorite foods or jilt your beloved to find inspiration. Exciting “puzzles” don’t have to emerge from the outside, nor should they. I’ve experienced chills of fear, hits of bliss both reading and writing. I can be high for days while “solving” something I’m working on, and I often excessively think about my art “dilemma,” similarly to being captivated by a new love.

Being a writer and an artist, I can tell you that when I’m “in the zone,” that’s the bona fide challenge I need and desire. I’m traversing the unknown, experiencing adventure, discovering! It’s flirty & fun, inspiration & bliss, terror & toil. No need to scale mountains, extreme trek or seduce a new paramour to unearth that endorphin hit. I divine it within, at home. Shocking, I know!

This doesn’t mean I haven’t lived in (more than) five places, odyssey-ed (a lot) or made other external changes. I have, but they weren’t forced from the head. Another writer once described his marriage as a “safe harbor” that afforded him the security to journey.

Jon Stewart has been heading The Daily Show since 1999. Recently Terry Gross asked him how he’d feel about undertaking something else, as Stephen Colbert is doing. The anguished ambiguity of Stewart’s answer revealed (to me) how much pressure the “collective unconscious” our culture is dispensing. Johnny Carson never had to deal with this crap in his three decades on The Tonight Show. The Daily Show is absolutely necessary to our country’s sanity, still poignant, and winning awards; why should it stop?? Because it’s not NEW??

If something/someone no longer has fine, inspiring energy, you’ll know it. You never have to decide it. Trust your guts, not your head. Breathe deep, encircle yourself with honest emotions, not random “media wisdom” and just live.

p.s. Encourage Jon Stewart to continue as USA’s court jester. He seems indispensable to revealing the “truth.”

chin-up my ass

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I live in a country (U.S.A.) of mostly muted emotions. Or the opposite: Jerry Springer. We’re a bi-polar nation addicted to the cerebral flip-flop between indulge/restrict, wanton/celibate, carnal/piety, sloth/extreme actions…  Not much middle ground, not much consistency, not much reality. It’s head living.

We’re often expected to be positive, smiling (especially if female) and eschew “politics or religion” in talk. In other words, stash any potential discussion that could evoke turbulent emotions. See pollyanna is passive aggressive.

Worse, keep “negative” feelings private or be done with them pronto. Lose your dog-familiar of 10 years? Get a new puppy! Break from an unhappy relationship? Hop back in that saddle! Your book of stories is rejected for the 17th time? Recirculate it! Make it happen! Serious inner work? Use affirmations! You have breast cancer and go through medical torture? Keep your chin up!

I loathe chin-upping!

As do kids, animals, plants, trees, stars, stones, rivers…  Okay, I don’t know for sure that all those things feel as I do but I do know that we ridicule and control children, teenagers and dogs when they display “brawny” passions, especially ones that make us feel something we’ve spent our lifetime stuffing down. They poke ours by innocently remaining with theirs and we hate on them for waking our sleeping giant.

The chin-up is a disguised critical voice and no matter how serene and sweet it sounds it still doesn’t permit “unfavorable” emotions to exist. Chin-upping is always in a hurry with its “sensitivity.” The sole way to dispel sad, angry, hateful, anxious feelings is to be with them in deliberate compassion…However. Long. It. Takes. Chin-upping doesn’t allow for that. People who insist you smile and make nice, people who label whatever emotion that scares them as “negative” don’t allow for that either.

Let’s take anger, a most despised emotion. Not rage—which is born when anger is unresolved—but anger which is a rational response to injustice; something’s wrong. It’s a motivating force. The issue isn’t anger itself, it’s finding relevant ways to rectify it. I suspect that only by appropriately expressing it can we truly let it go.

Maybe the “story” your anger attached to has inaccuracies but the emotion is unconditionally valid. Don’t throw out the feeling with that flawed narrative. It’s your job to use nuts & bolts thinking to view the anger with sincere interest—like a kindhearted parent—and hear why it exists instead of wishing it away. If you’re trying to extinguish it, you’re not listening.

Be with, without trying to fix. Encourage Self by accepting all emotions without good or bad labels. Embrace them instead of evicting them. Enable them to choose to get up and go organically instead of “chin-upping” them, which never works long-term.

Augusten Burroughs accurately observed that even with eager determination and a handful of maps you won’t get to California unless you know where you’re starting from. Ground yourself in your emotions, in your body. Your “truth” lives there.

p.s. Here I am, hanging with my “negative” emotion!

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One of many problems with living within the patriarchal paradigm—be you female, male, flora or fauna—is that our emotional worlds are demoted to a second class, non-logical, weak place never to be visited. The ridiculousness of that stance can be illustrated by suggesting that eyes are superior to mouth or that fingers are better than toes. They’re all interdependent and anyone proposing that logic, without emotion, is the intelligent way to live isn’t participating in a functional relationship with themselves.

Simply put, the amygdala—part of the Limbic system—deals with fear responses, hormones, pleasure, aggression and emotional memories. The frontal lobe is equated with expressive language, motor skills, socialization, reasoning and higher level cognition like planning and impulse control. Pure intellect is unintelligible. How can the rational brain think or pursue a logical line of thought if it were not extensively in touch with our desires, fears, values, intentions?

Long-term stress predisposes changes in the amygdala and the frontal cortex which lead to anxiety and poor decision-making. This explains why decisions we make when we’re stressed out appear brilliant, but usually promise regret.

So what does this have to do with pseudo emotions? Well, if it’s unsafe to have real emotions, you’ve two basic choices: hide them or subconsciously fabricate look-alikes to appear to have them. Like Republicans who sport punk dress or the iconic wolf wearing a sheepskin or Chast’s “smileys” above, what passes for feelings in this narcissistically twisted “rational” world are head-based emotions.

All true feelings are experienced in the body.* Hence, when one is in genuine fear (not anxiety) the gut is often the physical base of fear. Love is often experienced as warmth in the stomach, not the over-sweet mind drivel that fashions fantasies of white knight heroes and male-sexualized women.

Here’s a list of ’emotions’ I believe originate in the mind and are commonly pawned off as authentic feeling:

  • sentimentality vs. love
  • doubt vs. questioning (quest)
  • guilt vs. responsibility (ability to respond)
  • duty vs. compassion
  • judgmental separation vs. personal boundaries
  • manipulation/withdrawing vs. connection
  • dread vs. fear
  • remembering vs. sensing
  • regret vs. understanding/lesson absorbed
  • victim-hood vs. hurting

Experiencing yourself as a victim is not being in your feelings. Just because you hurt doesn’t mean another has actually produced that ‘injury.’ Fear of pain is not the same thing as actual pain. An authentic threat will generate adrenaline but fear of fear is not authentic feeling, just a head-thought masquerading as emotion.

A paradigm that dismisses a cogent connection between heart and head is SO irrational that it logically could only have lead to this trashed planet forming the messy, indulgent, addicted, violent, cruel culture most of us are forced to interact with.

You’ll have to spend time rationally ruminating over the difference between real and perceived feelings since most of us are conditioned early on to ignore our physical signals in favor of head thought. We’ll need to harmonize the brain and the heart if we want accurate cognition and not ego/mind-driven lives. The body will be our guide.

*This doesn’t mean head-emotions don’t confuse or overburden the body and cause disease.

why women don’t date nice (entitled) guys

Years ago, a male friend bemoaned that women liked the ‘bad boys’ but only wanted to be friends with ‘nice guys,’ like him. “I clean up the snot and tears those guys leave,” he said. “I do the work, he got the benefits. Then she falls in love with one of those guys all over again.”

Yes. That’s how it looked to him. Except, this ‘nice guy’ was a ‘nice’ player; he fell in love with being in love, not women. He’d write breathtaking love letters, buy thoughtful presents, speak intelligentsia, woo and delight until one day that ‘she’ seemed tarnished. No actual woman could live up to his entitled dreams of perfectionism.

When he fell out of love he always thought she was flawed, not his unrealistic ideals. His usual time span was two years before he’d hurt his woman with an affair, throwing over the artist for the professor, the torch singer for the judge, the writer for the dancer.

Yes, a nice guy.

Too often the myth that women like assholes or in their submissive heart of hearts want a master continues to be written and is frequently used to justify men’s bad behavior by telling women what they like and don’t like. But analysis doesn’t bear this falsity out. In various studies, being kind, sensitive and trustworthy are often at the top of women’s list. Noooo! Really!?

Entitled people often think they know what others want, need or even think. They’ll insist you like things you don’t, or tell you you’ve thought things that you haven’t. Arrogantly projecting their needs, fears or judgments about you onto you is common. If you protest, you’re wrong, too sensitive, too dramatic.

Privileged people can’t know what they don’t know and they don’t know what’s ‘below’ them. The wealthy, many conservatives, whites, males, adults to children, middle age-ers to seniors, being born in the U.S. vs. Haiti, etc. often breed a class of people who only know what they would do, what they need and they don’t have much compassion for what they haven’t experienced or don’t understand. Demanding others pull themselves up by their bootstraps, the entitled don’t realize those ‘others’ may not even have boots.

Some of these entitled ‘nice guys’ delude themselves that they are nice because—comparatively–maybe they are, but heartfelt kindness consists of more than one action, is deeper than one aspect of personality. The comic character above sees only his personal slant while being blind to his blanket judgment of “all women.”

Regardless of gender or age, we’re all looking for a bit more kindness, understanding. We want to be seen as we are, not as we’re told we are. [see Women Aren’t Food]

If you’re not getting the attention you need from women maybe instead of deciding what they’re doing or not doing, you might turn your gaze to yourself.