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My Favorite Thoughts of 2013

"There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle." - Albert Einstein

My Favorite Thoughts of 2013

When I set out on this project, I was as clear as I could be about what this is. What it’s become, however, is one of my favorite parts of my day, every day for the past 62. While there is no goal to this project beyond to write more — nothing I’m trying to accomplish with the articles — there have been a few thoughts that have stuck out. Here are my favorite posts of 2013:

10. Let Your Teacher Grade Your Test

9. At What Point Do We Stop Thinking of Celebrities as People?

8. I’d be okay with a revolution.

7. Why I’m Glad Chivalry is Dead, From The Perspective of A Man Who Actually Likes Women

6. Being Alone Isn’t the Same as Being Lonely

5. The Abusive Relationship We’re All In That Most of Us Never Think About

4. Working to End Oppression Makes More Sense as a Republican Value than a Democratic One

3. Making a Bigger “Us” and a Smaller “Them”

2. We Fabricate the Obstacles that Stand Between Us and Happiness

1. The 3 Ingredients to a Happy Existence

Happy 2013, Friends! I’m looking forward to what 2014 has in store for us.

 

Better Humaning

14 Simple Ways to Treat Every Day More Like Christmas

"First we'll make snow angels for two hours, then we'll go ice skating, then we'll eat a whole roll of Tollhouse Cookiedough as fast as we can, and then we'll snuggle." - Buddy the Elf

14 Simple Ways to Treat Every Day More Like Christmas

Christmas Time is a few days (or weeks, or months, at this point), when a lot of us change the ways we approach our life and the people in it.

There are a lot of positive changes that are part of that shift, things that would likely make the rest of us our year a bit more merry if we were intentional about them all twelve months.

The first dictate in the Code of Elves, after all, is “Treat every day like Christmas.” What would that look like if us humans raised by humans gave it a shot?

Here are some ways to treat every day like Christmas:

  1. Focus on what you can give to others to make them happier. And focus less on taking or giving to ourselves. Giving and making others happy will make you happy.
  2. Be extremely grateful when a restaurant or store is open. Be grateful they are allowing you to give them money for things you want. Don’t take it for granted. It’s a pretty sweet deal.
  3. Sleep in a bit. Snowflake pajamas or jazzy socks optional.
  4. Cook more, and put your heart into it. Microwave and order out less.
  5. Spend time with people you care about. Even if it takes a bit of work, or it’s cold, or you kinda-sometimes hate them, or they smell, or they’re a cotton-headed ninny muggins.
  6. Drink wine. You know, for your heart health.
  7. Play. With a kid. With yourself. Whichever. Just not both at the same time.
  8. Open a present every morning with the enthusiasm of a four-year-old kid unwrapping a present. Which present? How about the present? The gift of a new day! (Too corny? Really? C’mon. I thought that was pretttty clever — no? Okay, whatever, Grinch)
  9. Find ways to laugh. Even if you think a joke is corny. Stop being so damned bitter all the time. Yeah, I’m talking to you. Jerk.
  10. Give more hugs. Hugging makes the world better. Or, if it’s more your style, do it on your twin bed. Regardless, touch [with consent] more people.
  11. Touch more people (in the figurative sense). Give nice cards, say nice things, express your thanks, peace on earth, good will toward man — the whole kit and caboodle.
  12. Eat chocolate. You know, for your heart.
  13. Watch feel-good movies. Or feel-good videos on the internet, or have feel-good conversations. More feel-good = feel more good. You are what your mind eats.
  14. Be conscious of the memories you’re making. And take some photos [with consent].

Have more ideas on how we can live more positively by treating every day like Christmas? Share them with me on Twitter!

Updates

100+ Tips for Minimalism

"Why, she would hang on him, as if increase of appetite had grown by what it fed on." - William Shakespeare

100+ Tips for Minimalism

Kidding. 100 would be a bit excessive, and likely more than a bit counterintuitive, wouldn’t it? It’s easy for us to be seduced by a lot, and to think that more is better, but we rarely need more than a little. More leads to wanting more; wanting more is insatiable. Like that Hamlet quote above — one of my all-time favs. More begets more.

Minimalism is happiness. Here’re all the tips you need for living minimally:

  • want less, focus on what you need more
  • have less, appreciate what you have more
  • do less, invest in what you do more
  • know less, wonder more
Better Humaning

20+ Simple Tips for Living Mindfully

“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.” - Henry David Thoreau

20+ Simple Tips for Living Mindfully

Mindfulness is happiness. But you already know that. But what is mindfulness, beyond the abstract definition of “attentive, aware, or careful” that I gave in that other article? Being more mindful means tapping into all of your senses. If you’re more of a concrete person, here are a bunch of examples of how you can live a more mindful life.

These are things I try to be mindful of every day. I’m hoping that by writing them down, in addition to helping clarify things for you, they will make them more second nature to me. I bolded the ones I’m working on the most right now.

  • Do one thing at a time. If you’re on your phone, be on your phone. If you’re watching TV, watch TV. If you’re eating, eat. If you’re spending time with your friend, spend time with you’re friend. But try not to be on your phone while watching TV, eating, and calling it friend time, or you’re robbing yourself of all four experiences.
  • Turn everything off, at least once a day, for at least a few minutes.
  • Hear.
  • Eat slowly. Chew slowly. Smell your food. Enjoy the texture. Bite by bite.
  • Check in to your body parts. Where are your hands, how tense are your shoulders, knees, and toes. Flex all of your muscles in your entire body, then relax them.
  • Feel your feet in your shoes and the ground beneath them when you walk.
  • Walk slowly.
  • When you wake up, spend 15 – 30 minutes planning your day. Spend the rest of your day living it.
  • Breathe deeply. Exhale slowly.
  • Check in to your mind. What are you thinking about and why? Let those feelings go.
  • Take note of what makes you want to feel happiness, anger, surprise, disgust, contempt, and fear. Write these things down throughout your day if you have a hard time remembering.
  • Focus on what you have in this instant — in experiences, relationships, and possessions.
  • Smell more things, but not in a creepy way.
  • Stretch.
  • Stand up straight (okay, Mom).
  • If you’re walking or riding (car, bus, train, plane), take in the sights. Even if you’re in a place you’ve been a thousand times. Take in the sights.
  • If you’re driving, focus on the sights in front of you. You know, to not die.
  • Touch things (consenting things, or inanimate things, please).
  • Notice light. Notice color. Notice shape.
  • Live right now. In this moment. This oneNot that last one — it’s over. Don’t worry about the next ones that might be coming — they’ll get here. Live in this one.

Have any tips for living mindfully? Please please please let me know. I’d like to hear them for myself, but also to add the to this list for others.

Updates

Three Days Computerless

"Actual happiness always looks pretty squalid in comparison with the overcompensations for misery. And, of course, stability isn't nearly so spectacular as instability. And being contented has none of the glamour of a good fight against misfortune, none of the picturesqueness of a struggle with temptation, or a fatal overthrow by passion or doubt. Happiness is never grand." - Mustapha Mond, Brave New World

Three Days Computerless

I should have my computer back tomorrow. Living without it these past few days has been odd, in some ways more expected than others.

  • I’ve realized how generally worthless I am to the world without a computer to mash myself through, like how you mash flour and water through a pasta press then voila! We’re family!
  • I got sick. I don’t think that’s because I didn’t have a computer. But I also don’t get sick very often, so…
  • I’ve read a lot. Way more than usual. Two books made of paper and tons of other smaller things. That was nice.
  • Though it’s terribly cumbersome, I’m able to fashion an entire post on this site with nothing more than my phone, from drafting to image making to publishing.
  • That last one freaks me out a bit, but mostly excites me.
  • It’s always the times when you don’t think you can take a moment to sharpen your saw that your saw needs sharpening most.

I’m looking forward to getting my replacement computer / work station / cuddle friend in the mail tomorrow. I have a LOT of flour and water stirring around that I’m stoked to smush into it.

sK

Better Humaning

These 6 Videos will Change the Way You Look at Unregulated Capitalism

"One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back." - Carl Sagan

These 6 Videos will Change the Way You Look at Unregulated Capitalism

RSA Animate: The Crises of Capitalism

Wealth Inequality in America

Naomi Klein: Addicted to Risk

Alain de Botton: A Kinder, Gentler Philosophy of Success

The Overview Effect

Nic Marks: The Happy Planet Index

Better Humaning

Reasons I Know My Heart is in Austin, Texas

“I let it go. It's like swimming against the current. It exhausts you. After a while, whoever you are, you just have to let go, and the river brings you home.” - Joanne Harris

Reasons I Know My Heart is in Austin, Texas

I travel a lot for work. As anyone who travels for work will know, people always say, “You get to travel a lot? That must be nice!” And it is nice. It’s fun to see all the different nooks and crannies of the United States, and I love meeting people from all the different walks of life I do. It’s a privilege.

But it’s not all get to. Over time, it’s become a lot more have to, and that is largely thanks to the diamond in the rough that is my home: Austin, Texas.

Growing up, I didn’t have much of a sense of home. The only house we spent a good amount of time in we were abruptly evicted from, and there weren’t many other places we lived for more than a year. I bounced around a lot in Indiana and Michigan, the midwest, the west west and a little out east, and by the time I finished grad school I had lived in more “homes” than I was years old. “Military family?” people would ask. Nope, just poor.

When I started doing what I do now, it was when I first moved to Austin, a few short years ago. I was traveling a lot, and I really loved it. But now whenever I’m on the road I find myself missing Austin in a way that I’ve never missed a place. All the signs point to me finally having a home, and Austin, TX having my heart:

When I’m on the road, Austin-y things are the last things on my mind when I go to sleep, and the first things on my mind when I wake up.

There is no other city that has a higher number of “people I care most about in the world.”

I constantly find myself explaining what breakfast tacos are, with the same intensity and evangelism as a person who knocks on your door and asks if you have a moment for Jesus.

I use “we” as a substitute for “Texans” in sentences, and it’s stopped giving me the willies.

I graduated from the phase of being Austin’s biggest recruiter whenever I’m on the road into the phase of trying to prevent more people from moving to our town and ruining it.

HEB has become synonymous with grocery store.

I ask people in other towns what their bike trails are like, how often they go to free shows, what their favorite mediterranean restaurants are, and other questions that are based on the assumption that everyone has access to those things, and enough access to rank them (because they should).

I assume restaurants will have a vegan menu, or, at least, veggie options.

I assume if I smile and say “Hi!” to someone they will smile and say “Hi!” back.

I need gloves and a coat and a scarf to survive below 60°F.

As I learned the last time I was in Chicago, and my hometown, there is no longer any other town in the country where I am able to comfortably give street-by-street directions.

I have a hard time wrapping my mind around living in a place where I would need more than a bike to get around.

I find myself harboring an inexplicable prejudice against the state of Oklahoma.

Looking at that photo at the top of this page fills my heart with inexplicable warm gooeyness.

Technolophizing

Trying to Overcome the Numbers that Rule My Life

The numbers in my life have far too much control over me. I want for a time when it's the other way around.

Trying to Overcome the Numbers that Rule My Life

I never considered myself a “numbers” person. I don’t mean I wasn’t good at math (Mathlete, y’all!), but I care more about stories than stats. On the Myers-Briggs Typology Instrument, for example, my F to T (Feeling to Thinking) ratio is the most unbalanced, and I’m a strong F.

What I do — every thing I do — while seemingly disparate, is all connected by that trait. Every little project or endeavor I undertake is driven by my goal of making the world a safer place for all people.

So it’s as surprising to me as it might be to you how numbers-driven my day-to-day life is, and how much I find myself trying to turn that part of my brain off so I can focus on the present. The numbers eat at me, often glaring at me from within little red circles, screaming “Click me! Make me go away!” Others are tucked away within more complex websites or spreadsheets, whispering more gently, but still persuasively.

Following is a small taste of the numbers that are almost always whizzing around my brain, attempting to distract me from the task at hand. Every one of these things pops into my head at once when I wake up every morning, then attempts to suckle my brainjuice every minute of every hour I’m awake. Continue reading → “Trying to Overcome the Numbers that Rule My Life”

Better Humaning

I Don’t Believe in God, but I Do Believe in A Lot

“To believe in something, and not to live it, is dishonest.” - Mahatma Gandhi

I Don’t Believe in God, but I Do Believe in A Lot

I don’t believe in God. Saying this is easier now than it was when I was a kid, because I was struggling equal parts internally with my lack of faith and externally with the reactions of people in my life when they found out. Coming out as an atheist leads people to make so many incredibly definitive snap judgments about who you are as a person, many of which are less than warm and fuzzy. It’s usually easier just to let them assume otherwise.

Doing the work that I do, people often ask me if I’m Christian, and are surprised when they find that I’m not. Atheist + Humanitarian = Confusion, which I find odd. As a non-Christian, I don’t see the disconnect at all. Not believing in God doesn’t mean you don’t believe in people. In fact, it doesn’t necessarily mean anything more than I don’t believe in God.

For me, and I suspect for many others, not believing in a god isn’t a choice. I didn’t wake up one day, raise my middle finger to the heavens above, and say, “Big ol’ pile of nope, Bro!” then start sinnin’. For me, it’s quite the opposite. I spent many a night as a kid lying in bed, tears in my eyes, feeling rejected because I wasn’t able to believe. Believing sounds great, ultimately. I can only imagine how comforting it would be to believe that there is a sense of intentionality, or just someone looking out for you, in the universe. But, for me, believing would be faking, and I’m no faker.

I also find myself explaining with some regularity that not believing in a god doesn’t mean I lack faith, or that I don’t believe in anything. Where your faith might be bound by dogma and tradition, and your belief is in a definitive higher power, I find faith in other things, and have deeply held beliefs that keep move moving through my life.

Above all, I believe in people.

I believe that people, at their core, unsocialized and unmarred by negative influences, are good. And that with the right nudge they will tumble toward positivity. I have faith in the work that I do nudging, and have seen many a person tumble toward a life where they provide light and safety for others in their life. I love people, and am bound in my service to them — to you, I suppose.

I believe that if you can do nothing else, commit yourself to helping the people you love be unashamed of who they are.

I believe that the last spoonful in a tub of ice cream is where all the crack is located and that’s why it’s impossible not to start eating another tub.

I believe that the Golden Rule and many other things we were taught and internalized as kids are ruining our lives.

I wrote about the Golden Rule a lot in my book, and on my other site, but the short version is that the Golden Rule is based on the assumption that other people want to be treated how you want to be treated, which assumes everyone wants to be treated the same way. The Platinum Rule, “Treat others how they want to be treated,” is way better. But there are a ton of other aphorisms that are ruining us, too, like “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” and “The grass is always greener on the other side,” and “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” and “Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters!”

I believe that the right song coming on at the right moment is the closest thing to Nirvana I’ve ever experienced.

I believe that pants are the work of The Devil.

Okay, I guess I don’t technically believe in “The Devil,” but whatever. You get it. I can have my lack of cake and eat it, too. Anyway, pants. Seriously. Beyond the simple discomfort of pants, pants are so often required for doing things that I don’t want to do, and don’t think we as a people have evolved to do. Like jury duty. We suck at jury duty. And time spent not wearing pants is generally time well spent.

I believe that nothing human-made will ever match the beauty of the naturally occurring art that surrounds us.

I believe that the internet is simultaneously the most unifying and divisive invention in human history.

And I have faith that someday (hopefully soon) we’ll find a way to amplify the unity experienced via the internet and marginalize the divisiveness.

I believe in focusing on the grey amidst the black and white.

I believe that humans can be connected to one another without ever having met, and when we allow ourselves to fall into this connectedness we are experiencing the best of what it means to be human.

I believe that intentionality is the soul of happiness, and effort the soul of contentedness.

I believe in ghosts.

Because I have real-life reasons, folks. Spooky reasons. Stories for another time. But spooky. Trust me.

I believe that you don’t have to ask for permission to smile.

And, finally, I believe that love is the answer to most of life’s great questions.

How can we end wars? What’s the point to being alive? How can I best be a good sibling, child, parent, coworker, friend, boss, civil servant, etc.? Why does the world seem to lose its color whenever I go three days without eating hummus?

Updates

Halloween, As Viewed Through Many Eyes

"I am the clown with the tear-away face Here in a flash and gone without a trace I am the 'who' when you call, 'Who's there?' I am the wind blowing through your hair I am the shadow on the moon at night Filling your dreams to the brim with fright"

Halloween, As Viewed Through Many Eyes

Halloween has always been my favorite holiday. It is the one time of the year when it is acceptable — even encouraged — to be whoever, or whatever, you want to be — to pretend, to take chances, to wear gaudy lipstick.

Growing up, crafting costumes and living as someone else for a night was something I looked forward to the entire year — far more than the punch-you-in-your-pancreas sugar overdose, though who doesn’t prefer their apples covered in a gravy of melted sugar and butter, the way God intended. As an adult (or at least as “adult” as I ever plan on getting), so much of my time and work is focused on helping people understand identity.

The irony is not lost on me. Continue reading → “Halloween, As Viewed Through Many Eyes”