Reflection Cube

Three-dimensional thoughts

Month: March 2018

stream - poem about leaves on a stream - cognitive defusion exercise - thoughts, negativity, identity, observation

Stream

I hate these thoughts I'm having
They're just not me.
Gonna place them on some leaves
And let them flow down the stream.

I'm not the author of all of my thoughts
I'm more like an observer as they float by me.
I'm not responsible for everything that pops
Into my head, only if those things become my identity.

I'm not these thoughts
And they're not me.
I'm just watching patiently
As they travel down the stream
Inside my mind - that ever moving current
That brings me joy and pain.

Inspired by a meditation technique shared with me by a friend:

“Leaves on a Stream” – Cognitive Defusion Exercise


© 2018 Kate Richardson All Rights Reserved

music and arithmetic - music notes, treble clef, F major, B flat

Music

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz quote - music and arithmetic

Music is a hidden arithmetic exercise of the soul, which does not know that it is counting. – Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz

 

picture of rain, raindrops - thoughts, reverie

Raindrops

In reverie I dance, enraptured by a world of thoughts
And I wish that I could catch them all, but they fall much like raindrops.

I scurry about with my bucket, hoping to all the raindrops taste.
Then I realize that I'd capture more if I'd stand in just one place.

I cry over the drops uncaught, that teased me but moved on.
I raced to seal in every thought, but half of them are gone.

They're buried now within the dirt - land of subconsciousness.
But like the water soaking earth, they cannot be expressed.

Once they've mingled with the ground, their purity is gone.
My most transcendent thoughts, once found, swift to the earth withdraw.

© 2018 Kate Richardson All Rights Reserved

picture of memo

Memo

I wish my back would learn
That it's okay not to hurt.
It feels as though a little child
Stuffed my muscles tight with dirt.

I wish my legs would understand
It's a fine thing not to wobble.
My productivity and time
Vanish quickly as I hobble.

It's difficult to be a mind
Whose subjects miss the memo.
It's a journey, learning to resign
And live inside my soul.

Yet in these prison bars that bind - 
In my soul - at last I find
I've never felt more whole.

© 2018 Kate Richardson All Rights Reserved

picture of girl behind prison bars and wall of glass

Prison Bars and Walls of Glass

For most of my life, I’ve felt alone.

Separated.

Isolated.

I could see everything going on around me. Life. People. Progress. Accomplishment.

But I was stuck behind bars.

Bars of anxiety, fear, and apprehension.

Bars of depression.

The bars of rejection and failure.

And the bars of chronic illness, and the cognitive and physical struggles stemming from that.

Throughout my life, I’ve felt much like a lioness, walking back and forth in my cage. A creature with restless energy, but no idea where to put it or how to apply it within such limited scope.


Peering Into the Past

I am too malnourished to break through these bars, and the glass wall beyond them.

I silently watch as life – my friends, opportunities, my dreams – go by, wondering if I’ll ever be freed from this cage, yet slowly coming to accept my fate – that I may die here, forgotten, with no contribution or legacy or meaning to leave behind me.

I gradually lose my creativity, coming to instead see these walls as my limitations and boundaries.

Until, at some point or other, I stop looking at the walls.

When I stop focusing on my limitations, I find that there is more within the space that confines me than my eyes could previously see.

I’ve spent so long looking out. Out at a life, a world, relationships, ideas, events, materials, opportunities that I would never touch. Things that would never be available to me – at my disposal to work with or use in my creative process.

I’ve spent so long looking outside the boundaries of this prison and wishing to have or be something I could not – coveting what would always for me be a fantasy – that I’ve lost time I could have spent trying to be resourceful with the air available to me, the nitrogen, the oxygen, the sunlight within my domain.

When I at last stop looking at my boundaries, and instead look within them, I begin to see past them. I see a new dimension that was not evident to me before.

Not a dimension of height, or depth, or breadth. Another dimension, another energy. Something I’m still trying to describe and explain and understand. Perhaps it’s a form of music.

I begin to sing.

I start with a quiet song. One that is only audible to me, and the walls and waves of energy that blanket me.

But as I practice, my voice becomes stronger.

And eventually, it begins to carry.

It carries through the glass.

The vibrations of my voice begin to mildly, subtly disrupt the field of energy around me.

I soon sense the presence of another soul.

At last!

I am not alone.

But…why? Why would anyone in the free world come to visit a captive? A nobody, locked away in prison? How would they find my small offering even mildly relatable or interesting?

At last though, it starts to make sense. I begin to realize that they, too, are in a prison. But just as mine had formerly been invisible to them, so was theirs to me.

Perhaps their prison is one of societal pressures.

Financial instability.

Relationship pain or heartbreak.

A persona they wear, which conceals their true essence from everyone.

A career that they hate.

A different form of chronic illness.

Mental illness.

As they visit me in my prison cell, I begin to feel free, and no longer isolated.

I watch as they, too, begin to sing from the confines of their prison.

I watch as their formerly invisible chains begin to unravel.


© 2018 Kate Richardson All Rights Reserved

picture of peacock, something to prove

Something to Prove

Motivations Behind Our Decisions and Life Choices

I used to want to be a doctor.

And a soldier.

And a scientist.

To some degree or other, I wanted to pursue all of these paths because they would make me seem smart (intellectually strong) and/or physically strong and brave. And growing up, I often felt that I was perceived by others as weak and dumb.

I wanted to be cool and tough and courageous and respected.

On top of that, I wanted to become a scientist not only because I was in love with science, but also because I was deeply interested in an avid and gifted scientist at the time. Indeed, even my doctor goals were related to this (though perhaps not entirely motivated by this attraction). I wanted to be his equal. I wanted to have meaningful conversations with him. And the only way to do that, I thought, would be to become a scientific person too.

Other people, situations, and extrinsically-sourced desires were dictating my choices in what to study and pursue.

I even learned the violin (and played flute and cello for a while) because I had a crush on a musician.

So some good things came out of many of my goals, even if they were motivated by external sources:

I took a lot of science in high school (although you might not know it now, as I’ve lost a lot of the info I picked up then, since I’ve had little opportunity to consciously apply my knowledge).

I learned musical instruments. The motivation, however misguided (potentially), actually did land me on a path that meshed well with my interests and abilities.

If I’d enlisted in a branch of the military, I’d likely have encountered the crest of my health issues much sooner, at a time when I perhaps wouldn’t have understood how to deal with them or effectively search for the answers.

If I’d earned a PhD in chemistry or become a physician, I might be in significant debt right now, and would be stuck with a path that requires stamina I don’t even have.

In terms of the knowledge learned, I would likely have deeply enjoyed chemistry (especially biochemistry), molecular biology, or medicine. But the practice and lifestyle thereafter, perhaps not so much. I would have run out of energy way too soon in my career, and as a doctor, I would have wanted to steer my medical practice in the direction of more long-lasting, preventative, and holistic approaches (which may have been feasible, but likely wouldn’t come without some measure of a fight to which I was unmatched with my own low energy).


Where to Look for Honest Insights Into What You Were “Born to Do”

Your Childhood

When I was probably about six or so (IIRC from family videos), I said that someday, I was going to play violin and guitar.

I forgot all about those words in the years that followed.

And yet, lo and behold, I learned both. In my childhood, it appears I knew myself better than I’ve known myself in most or all of my life since.

Only in recent years did I watch that video in amazement.

Also in my childhood, I used to write books. They weren’t very long or sophisticated, but I created a ton of them. All sorts of non-bestselling fictional works, complete with colorful construction paper covers. 😉 I would also voraciously devour mystery books.

What were you like as a child?

Were you compassionate and tenderhearted?

Inquisitive?

Did you dissect dead bugs?

Did you gravitate toward math or logic games?

Often, our childhood personalities and interests can be keys to discovering our culturally/self-suppressed abilities or passions.

And yet at the same time, sometimes we can struggle with a topic as a child, only to discover in subsequent years that we love and excel at that very thing.

When I was about eight, I didn’t want to play the piano at all, and declared through my tears that I’d never learn.

Today, I enjoy playing the piano, and even teach a bit (which is not exactly my favorite thing to do, unless the student is motivated to learn and not simply being required to do so).

As a child, I struggled with math. Up through the sixth grade, I largely hated it.

However, in seventh grade, I switched to a different curriculum, and a switch flipped on in my head.

I loved math.

I almost couldn’t get enough of it.

So many problems to solve. So many puzzles.

In conclusion, then, we should each look to our childhood for clues as to what we might excel at or enjoy now, but we should not necessarily look at our childhood struggles or failures as signs of what not to pursue, because our brains change a lot from that point to adulthood, and we gain function and fluidity in our faculties that was not present in our more formative years.


People Pleasing

Many of us (myself included) have pursued fields to which we are ill-suited, in an effort to prove that we are fearless, brainy, capable, or respectable. Or in an effort to be like someone else or please someone else.

And in our efforts to cater to others – or their opinions of us – we often end up displaying an opposite image – as we are swimming in the wrong waters. We struggle to breathe. We flounder and flail our arms wildly in the ocean. Our souls are slowly and painfully crushed by the weight of foreign waters under which we sink in solitude, unsure how to swim or how to ask for help.

In these moments, we are rarely pictures which speak “fearless, intelligent, capable, or respectable”. We instead appear more pitiable.

Conversely, there are few things more beautiful than watching someone enjoy and excel at what they were made to do.

Do you see a man skilled in his work?
He will stand before kings;
He will not stand before obscure men.

– Proverbs

Sometimes, it takes time to discover what that thing is, and it’s okay to get scraped and beat up along the way. It’s okay to try things and find out that they’re just not for you. It’s okay to “fail”.

But it’s good to be aware of our motives for choosing a path.

Because often, we’re hoping to prove to others and ourselves that we’re something we’ve never been (or never thought ourselves to be). Perhaps something we think others want us to be.

For example, if we’re not naturally extroverts, and we choose a profession which requires us to be “on” all the time – with little opportunity for recharging – we’re going to get burned out.

Extroversion is not about being talkative, and introversion is not about being quiet. It’s about how you recharge your batteries.

Introverts can “act extroverted”, but only for so long. After a certain period of time, they begin to wear down.

This happened to me. I was working in retail for two and a half years, and customer service for a total of three. I became burned out and lost touch with my emotions, heart, soul, and almost my mind.

I lost myself, as I felt I had to work really hard at creating a false persona just in order to keep my job.

It’s good to stretch yourself, and I learned a lot from my experiences. But there’s a difference between stretching yourself and sacrificing who you are. And I did not only the former, but the latter.

I lost my passion for living. I lost my sanity. I lost my faith in humanity. I lost my sense of life purpose and meaning.

And all (or largely) because I was significantly out of my element, trying to breathe in an environment that, for me, was suffocating (though there were several reasons for that).


Other People’s Advice

A lot of people used to tell me that I would be a good nurse, or that that profession would be a smart choice for me.

I do care about helping people in their journey to healing – in every way. I feel deep concern and compassion for people.

And it’s not uncommon for people to associate these characteristics – especially in females – with the profession of nursing.

If you care about people, enjoy math and science, and are female, then obviously you should choose a high-paying profession such as nursing. 🙂

And I’m not in any way intending to disparage those who suggested I should consider pursuing this field.

But the reality is, I’d be poorly suited to nursing, because:

  1. I’m a germophobe.
  2. I can’t get immunizations.
  3. I’m somewhat wary of certain aspects of our modern healthcare practices and system, and would have a hard time (in terms of conscience) administering some types of medicine or supporting/ensuring the execution of certain medical practices.
  4. My body is extremely susceptible to infection and disease, not so much because I neglect to eat well or take vitamins, but because of certain genetic mutations and chronic conditions I have (things which are difficult to change).
  5. If I had to be interacting with lots of people nonstop and on my feet for twelve hours straight, I’d generally lose my mind and become both mentally and physically unwell.

Volunteering for one semester at a hospital, taking a CNA class for a day, and working for over six months at a medical imaging facility adjoined to a hospital was enough to convince me that nursing is definitely not for me.

But had I listened only to others’ opinions of what path I should pursue, I might have felt compelled to choose nursing, because it’s “practical” and what every compassionate female should consider doing. 😀

I’m still learning to separate what others want, expect, or hope I’ll do from what I actually think I should do. I guess I’m still learning what it is to have opinions about things, or personal desires (although that might be difficult to infer from reading my blog?), 🙂 and to recognize those opinions and desires as normal or okay or “valid” (in terms of my “right” to them).

Having interacted with many nurses throughout the years, I’m truly grateful for those men and women who are brave enough for – and well-suited to – the profession of nursing. It really does require a unique skill set. You’ve gotta have tough guts – both literally and figuratively.


Conclusion

Don’t pick something because you have to prove to someone else that you’re something or someone.

Don’t pick something just because it might make you look or sound cool.

Don’t pick something because others think you’d be great at it (although, if you want to pursue a certain path, it’s wise to ask others if they think you’re well-suited to that. Just realize that their answers may or may not be correct.).

Don’t pick something because others are pressuring you to.

Pick something because your childhood self always knew you should.

Pick something because you become energized, not enervated when you do it. (Passion, Ability)

Pick something because you know you’re good at it. (Skill, Talent, Ability)

Pick something that will benefit and brighten up the world around you. (Need)

Seriously, following that path is one of the coolest, bravest, strongest, smartest things you’ll do.


© 2018 Kate Richardson All Rights Reserved

black hole, void, perfection, busyness

Black Holes – Busyness and Perfection

Perfection

For most – if not all – of my life, I’ve been a perfectionist.

And there have been times when that’s come in handy.

Like in coding, learning (but not performing on) the piano, and working at a medical imaging facility.

However, my perfectionism has also led me to waste much of my time on needless meticulousness, and to be unduly critical of some of my work/undertakings in various settings and stages of life.

Busyness

In addition to my ravenous internal drive for perfection, I’ve also at times struggled with a sense of guilt for not feeling or seeming busier.

Which reminds me of an interesting video I once watched of a presentation by Adam Grant, on the creators of Warby Parker:

They delayed. They “dawdled”. They deliberated. They dreamed.

Then, after all of that, they finally decided and did. After extensive incubation, they executed their plans.

But those plans required a season of awkward appearances and seeming slothfulness to formulate.

To a potential investor such as Adam Grant, these young creators probably seemed, at best, a bit flighty, immature, or disorganized. At worst, they appeared lazy and unmotivated.

A gestational period was required for their ideas and business plan to solidify and transform into the truly intelligent, well-considered, executable strategy that made Warby Parker successful.

Yet to Grant, in the time prior to the launching of their business, these creators didn’t exactly seem “busy” or conscientious enough for entrepreneurs.

However, their minds were busy thinking, gathering data, processing, innovating.

Impressions and Incompletion – Tying Busyness and Perfectionism Together

“The greatest originals are the ones who fail the most, because they’re the ones who try the most. You need a lot of bad ideas in order to get a few good ones.” – Adam Grant

Perfectionism causes us to be critical of our failures and lose the motivation to keep trying, because we’re focusing on what isn’t and what “should” be, rather than leaving the doors of our minds open to what could be.

Busyness prevents us from even allowing ourselves the time to fail or succeed. We don’t have time to come up with rotten ideas or golden ones. We don’t have time to think, because we’re too busy doing what we – and seemingly everyone else – believe we ought to be doing.

Demands upon ourselves or others – for perfection or perpetual busyness – are black holes which can never be satiated. The sense of accomplishment from such efforts will nearly always be missing, and there will always be something more to “perfect” or “do”.

Only when we come to terms with “good enough” – with the concepts of “finished”,  “acceptable”, and “adequate” – can we eventually lose our compulsion to strive, and our feelings of restlessness, apprehension, and resentment when everyone else is too weary or overburdened to contribute any more to the “completion” of our never-ending list of objectives and expectations.

Without this acceptance, it is incredibly challenging to live peacefully within or with others. We may frequently default to tearing ourselves and others apart for not contributing more, achieving perfection, or “staying busy”.

Staying busy can give us the feeling that we are accomplishing something. And of course, true productivity does require a certain measure and form of busyness – even if that busyness transpires primarily in one’s mind.

However, to simply be “busy” is not necessarily to be productive, or to be making optimal use of time.

We can be busy cleaning and recleaning every inch and corner of the bathroom sink and counter – terrified that we might have missed a millimeter. We’re staying busy, but not exactly being productive with our time.

We can stay “busy” with lots of activities and events we don’t even care about – engagements that feel like a waste of time but look good or seem socially acceptable. However, if these activities are not serving to hone or engage our abilities, skills, and interests, then they are generally a waste of time. And such engagements can be doubly unproductive – or potentially counterproductive – if you’re an introvert like I am. As introverts, it is imperative that we carve out ample time for reflection and recharging. Without the allowance of sufficient “lazy”, “quiet”, nonsocial/”inactive” (i.e. thinking, rejuvenating) time, it is difficult to be productive at all.

Sometimes, the most productive thing we can do is say “no” to an engagement or activity, and instead use that time to sit back and reflect (and/or read, research, write down our thoughts). It is this activity which allows us to realign ourselves with our values, goals, passion, and creativity. It allows us to make intelligent plans and ensure that our physical busyness and efforts are worthwhile, and not wasted due to insufficient forethought.

Being busy does not always mean real work. The object of all work is production or accomplishment and to either of these ends there must be forethought, system, planning, intelligence, and honest purpose, as well as perspiration. Seeming to do is not doing. – Thomas A. Edison

Plan, prepare, ponder. Then perspire.

And be willing to do it all imperfectly. <3


© 2018 Kate Richardson All Rights Reserved

seeking and acknowledging the truth - red pill blue pill blindfold #blindness #truth #ignorance #bliss #reality #courage

Truth

Truth is Like a Sharp, Solid, Steady Rock

It does not move.

It is not swayed by internal impulses.

It sometimes scathes and sharpens those who rub against it.

It stands its ground, seemingly without concern of being an obstacle or inconveniencing others.

Others’ perceptions of the rock mean nothing to it.

It is a shield from the changing, unpredictable waves – a tower that rises above them.
picture of bird on rock - dry place to rest, a shield from waves

Pixabay photo (CC0 License)

It is a perch – a vantage point – from which we can see life and the world clearly.
bird on perch - truth is a vantage point that offers clear vision

Pixabay photo (CC0 License)

Those who value truth are also like rocks.

They are the pillars which keep the community intact. They are the foundation on which freedom of expression is sustained and supported.

They are the people who are willing to be “disagreeable” if they must, in order to stick by their principles and beliefs.

Those who value truth – and live by it – will speak and do what is right even if it is offensive to or inconvenient for themselves or others. (It is the choice of the offended to be so. We are not responsible for others’ feelings and reactions to the truth.)

Upholders of truth are people who will not lie, even if the brutal truth makes them unpopular or costs them their jobs.

They are people who care about being honest on both “micro” and macro levels. They are the same substance – the same compound – throughout. They cannot compromise on their values even in seemingly “inconsequential” areas.

Seeking and living by truth doesn’t come without a price. It may cost us our:

  • Status
  • Popularity
  • Friendships
  • Business relationships
  • Subsistence
  • Lives

This cost exists because the truth is generally unpopular, uncomfortable, and/or inconvenient.

Some of us don’t want to know the truth. Others don’t want everyone else to know it.

In the U.S. we often take for granted our freedom of speech, religion, and self-expression. Sometimes, we almost act like we don’t want it. We aim to be tactful rather than truthful. We forget that we are still free to express ourselves, and instead we require ourselves to conform to constraints that don’t even exist and restrictive laws which haven’t been passed. In the process, we conceal valuable information, and encourage others to be equally timid and cautious.

We withhold springs of life from others for fear of stepping on their toes.

The truth can sometimes be shared tactfully and winsomely. And yet, it will still taste like bitter medicine to those who don’t wish to hear it.

And sometimes, there is no way to sugar-coat or soften the blow of truth. Yet truth – however brutal and bitter – will still taste sweet to those who seek and desire to find it.


If truth is worth defending to the death, then what is truth?

What do you think truth is? And how much would you be willing to sacrifice to defend it?

After you’ve given it some thought, feel free to poke around this blog and The Bleeding Blogger (my other blog), for my thoughts on truth.

Thanks for reading. 🙂

<3

Kate


© 2018 Kate Richardson All Rights Reserved

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