Are You Your Labels?

Do you like to be labeled? Try asking that question to five people and you’ll find that most if not all will assume the term label to which you may be alluding will be derogatory. I’m not sure why, but it’s a fun experiment.

While we may not like to be labeled we are often guilty of labeling others. Have you noticed that when we meet someone new it’s not uncommon to find the questions steered in very basic directions:  Are you married? What do you do for a living? What kind of a car do you drive? Where did you go to school? And on it goes. We get that information, pigpen-hole the person through classifications (labels) and create our judgment of the person.

(I apologize to my foreign readers – you’re probably saying to yourself, “That’s SO typically American!” And though I have just as much evidence as you that it is so, it’s also another form of labeling. This is another example of how labeling is critical, not complimentary.)

On the other side of this discussion are the labels we stick on ourselves and then refuse with tenacity to peel off when they are old and tired. The unhappily married couple must face the truth of their relationship once the kids leave home. The corporate executive or factory worker is forced to reassess her place in life when she is laid off. Who are we without our spouse, our careers, or our homes?

James Baldwin is quoted as saying, “I have become afflicted with so many labels that I have become invisible unto myself.” Would you be willing today to make a list of the labels you have for yourself? Do they serve you? Is this the way you want to be known or remembered?

The other Baldwin quote in the graphic above is our guide. Perhaps today is the day we can ask ourselves, Am I my labels? Once we answer that question we will discover whether or not our labels enhance who we are, or obscure us to the point of being invisible unto ourselves.

In Spirit, Truth and Playfulness,
Terry

#DrTerryMakingSense
#IAN1
@TerryDKaranen

Copyright © 2017 Terry Drew Karanen. All rights reserved.

What’s In Your Consciousmess?

Is that a typo in the title? No. But when you think about it, consciousmess just might describe life as we know it right now. At this moment in time it seems a lot of us are angry with this mess we believe humans have made of our planet. But under the outrage is another, simpler emotion:  Fear.

Our government seems to be imploding, with actions reported on domestic and international news networks that we might more commonly expect on late night TV or “Saturday Night Live.” To add to the madness this week, we include a Russian “spy ship” off the coast of Delaware. So, yes, there’s a good deal of concern, fear from many, about what’s next.

Philosopher and writer Ernest Holmes once wrote that “fear is faith misplaced.” In other words, we have a strong belief that something will go amiss. The result of such thinking is a consciousmess; it’s messed up thinking about the occurrences around us.

Without constant vigilance we can easily take this mess into our lives. Some of us are acting like it’s an honored houseguest. We nurture it, post constantly on social media about it, and “what if” ourselves into a stupor.

The principle of cause and effect – that we have control over our experience of the conditions in our lives – is simple. That doesn’t mean it’s always easy. And, it doesn’t mean we’re helping to heal the situation by spreading our doubts and fears all over everyone around us.

The consciousmess we are dealing with right now has been created by a series of events, but if it’s our face now then it must be there for a reason. It has the potential to involve and affect us in inspiring, healing and amazing ways should we choose to participate in this manner.

The question is either how much we want world and national events to affect us, or whether we want to affect change in whatever way we can with what we’re faced with today. We have the option to act in love, instead of reacting in fear. It’s long-passed time to watch others suffer and do nothing. And, it’s very human not to want to scream “I told you so!” along with all the articles, facts and data that are so abundant to support our causes.

Still, some people are not willing to change, at least right now. The best we can do is to make sure we are living by the principles we believe are being broken by others, and not joining in the fight against everything we find adverse to the peace we know is possible. Here’s a quote to consider from Albert Schweitzer:  “Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.

In other words, this is going to take time. We’ve seen the havoc that can be caused when a nation believes complex problems can be fixed through simple solutions or unenforceable mandates. The consciousmess in which we find ourselves will not be solved overnight. But it’s already unfolding into a newly-found confidence of hope through change being brought about by positive action. What part will you play?

In Spirit, Truth and Playfulness,
Terry

#DrTerryMakingSense
#IAN1
@TerryDKaranen

Copyright © 2017 Terry Drew Karanen. All rights reserved.

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“Only In New York”

I'm home for a week and using part of my time working on a new project I plan to have available to the public before the end of the year. In my research I ran across a piece I wrote in 2001. In light of the contentiousness of current times I thought you might enjoy it.

In Spirit, Truth and Playfulness,
Terry

"Only In New York"

“Only in New York” is a phrase hard to explain unless a person has had the joy of living in Manhattan for any length of time. Yesterday I was taking the 1 train down to Midtown to run some errands. An older, black woman burst into our car right after I’d boarded the train, ran into my shoe with her over-filled shopping cart of worldly possessions and screamed at me, “MOVE YOUR GODDAMN FUCKING FOOT, ASSHOLE!”

Charming, I thought.

I reacted as any other New Yorker would:  I avoided her glance, moved my foot, turned up the volume on my CD player (Dixie Chicks, in case you wondered) and continued reading my book. I began mouthing the words I was reading so as to focus on my material rather than the political tirade upon which our homeless picture of ebony femininity had now embarked.

Okay, so when she got to that part about the evil white Devil in the White House I had to nod slightly (forgive the political commentary), but the truth was that this woman was becoming somewhat compelling. She was preaching and I suddenly realized I was the choir. I just had to be amazed at how focused she was on her message about politics, poverty, the rearing of children and healthcare for the elderly. No one else dared to look at her or respond to her, though snickers were abundant.

At 110th Street I turned off my CD player, replaced my book in my backpack (black, of course, as was my outfit — this IS Gotham after all!), and headed for the door — the one next to Miss Congeniality. “What’s this stop? 86th Street?” she hollered.

I looked down at her, the filthy clothes and the pieces of this and that which made up all her worldly possessions. Apparently, I saw something no one else did at the time. Her face opened and revealed something no one else saw.

I smiled at her, not a condescending smile, but a sincere and painless effort to show her affection. “No, my love”, I said, looking straight into her angry brown eyes, “It’s 103rd Street — you’ve got a few more stops to go.”

The anger peeled away, her face brightened and I saw the Christ in that dirty, brown face. “I love you” she said, looking up at me. I smiled back and said, “I love you, too! Now you have a blessed and wonderful day.”

As I walked off the train, she sat quietly, still beaming, with the majority of the eyes in the car on her, mouths slightly a gap, eyebrows raised. I love New York.

Copyright © 2001, 2017 Terry Drew Karanen. All rights reserved.

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So MUCH To Complain About!

Have you got complaints? “Have I got complaints? You should only HAVE the problems I have!” It’s not enough that we have our own issues to deal with. On top of everything else there’s the constant stream of bad news coming to us from social media. What can we do?

First of all, we can stop complaining. I realize, quite acutely, that you may have someone in your life that has made bitching about everything into an art form. It’s not healthy. What we focus on increases in our life. Do we really want all these personal and global issues to get worse? Hardly.

There’s a balance, of course. We don’t turn a blind eye to what’s happening around us or in our personal lives. The balance comes from the discernment we exercise in what to handle ourselves, what to allow others to handle with our help, and what to let go of. Michael Michalko put it this way, “Change the way you speak, and change the way you think.”

That’s a form of the famous Ernest Holmes phrase, “Change your thinking, change your life.” Michalko, however, brings a excellent point to our attention. It’s one thing to think about some issue or desire. It’s a completely different thing to speak those thoughts. Not only are we thinking them, but we are hearing what we say; in doing so we’re reinforcing the thought. Additionally we are putting those thoughts out so that others hear us, and thereby take those thoughts into their consciousness as well.

Unity minister, Will Bowen, created the “Complaint Free World” several years ago. The challenge is to be complaint free in our speech for a full 30 days. The first time I took the challenge I was doing good to get through 30 minutes. But, with intense practice, patience and determination, I finally made it to 30 days.

During the last few weeks I have found myself doing a little complaining here and there. Okay. I’ll fess up. I’ve been bitching my fool head off, as my Grandma Esther would have said. I decided last week to once again stop complaining about things over which I have no control. That encompasses about 98.9 percent of what I see on social media.

Would you be willing to do what you can for your personal, family, community and global effort toward peace this week? Start by being a citizen of action, instead of reacting through the bitchy cycle so many have found themselves wrapped up in. It’s a nasty little hamster wheel you don’t need to be on.

In Spirit, Truth and Playfulness,
Terry

#DrTerryMakingSense
#IAN1
@TerryDKaranen

Copyright © 2017 Terry Drew Karanen. All rights reserved.

#Resist

Have you seen the hashtag, #Resist? I’ve been using it, but today a colleague of mine brought up an interesting question.

We are both part of a group of individuals who believe in being for something, as opposed to being against anything. How, he queried, can we “resist” if our focus is on being a positive force for good by acting, not reacting?

It was an interesting question, one that I contemplated for a moment or two. I found it most jarring at first, because I felt like my use up until now was suddenly suspect to criticism I thought just might be warranted. (That’s a great place to be, BTW, no matter how uncomfortable!)

Here’s what #Resist means for me:

I’m not resisting a person, place, ideology or thing. I don’t believe in being a doormat. But I’m not going to waste time trying to teach a pig to sing; it doesn’t work and annoys the pig. Here’s what I’m resisting:

  • I resist thinking I’m clueless. I’m dedicated to challenging myself to lead, instead of being led all the time, and frequently by persons, organizations and ideologies which are far less qualified to determine my good than I am.
  • I resist being afraid. I will not succumb to worrying about what could happen. I will be focused upon what is happening and what I can do about it.
  • I resist thinking that I don’t make a difference. Even if I never know how my actions affect others I know that by acting instead of reacting I move from victim consciousness to empowerment.
  • I resist the temptation to take on more than I can handle, and acknowledge with joy the things I can do.
  • I resist blaming others instead of taking responsibility for being the force of change.

It’s a growing list for me. I’m glad I got challenged because it’s helped me to re-enforce my commitment to excellence and in my purpose. We all have a choice to make about how to respond to adversity and conflict. How we choose to do so will make all the difference in our lives and health … and for our planet.

In Spirit, Truth and Playfulness,
Terry

#DrTerryMakingSense
#IAN1
@TerryDKaranen

Copyright © 2017 Terry Drew Karanen. All rights reserved.

Food Pictures, Anyone?

Are you craving non-political, non-outrageous social media postings? You’re not alone. The past couple of weeks have been exhausting!

One of my co-workers posted this the other day:  “I've done a lot of unfollowing lately. Please bring back the posts of what you are having for dinner.” I get what she’s saying:  I want a simpler time, a happier time, a more carefree and “normal” life.

Okay, news flash. That ain’t happening anytime soon, so fasten your seatbelts ‘cause we’re in for a bumpy ride. For better or worse what we see before us is our current “normal.” Personally I’m not willing to perpetuate that if I can help it.

I remembered four questions to ask ourselves before we post that juicy tidbit. You know, the one that bitch-slaps our current most hated and despised individual, which could be Kellyanne Conley for some of you and Sen. Elizabeth Warren for others.

These suggestions are called “The Work,” and come from Byron Katie in her book, “I Need Your Love – I That True?" For any possible posting (and also for any problem or situation in your life), ask:

  1. Is it true? – Or is it just supporting our biases, prejudice and unresolved hatred for someone or another ideology.
  2. Can I absolutely know that it’s true? – That means vet before we post, not just because what we’re reading agrees with our own beliefs.
  3. How do I react when I think that thought? – In other words, how do we react internally to question #2? Do we get defensive? If we do then we just might be defending our own ignorance and refusal to see the truth.
  4. Who would I be without that thought? – Does posting this idea or report benefit us personally and make the world a better place? Or, to put it another way, are we informing others from truthful information (to the best of our knowledge) to encourage them to take positive action for change; or, are we just gossiping about shit which means we’d rather bitch about others than actually do something that makes a difference?

We’ll probably still post things we haven’t checked out thoroughly, or wish we hadn’t stirred up a hornet’s nest. But taking these four very simple, but important, questions into mind in posting – as well as in our lives in general – just might allow us to sleep a bit sounder at night. Believe me; the people who are making the news would be delighted to know they’ve interrupted your slumber. Don’t give them that power.

In Spirit, Truth and Playfulness,
Terry

Copyright © 2017 Terry Drew Karanen. All rights reserved.

Are You Paralyzed or Progressing?

How do you feel about that question? Many people, including me, have gone through periods of feeling absolutely paralyzed due to conditions in our world that seem to be out of our control. When we allow issues to become monumental in our lives we can feel frozen, unable to do even the simplest of daily chores.

That’s a horrible way to live. It’s indicative of seeing ourselves as helpless victims of circumstance. We may believe we are justified in feeling that way, as we can surmise that we have done everything possible to stop something from happening. Yet still, here we are, with life presenting itself in ways we thought not possible.

To move through these emotions and beyond we must recognize we where are in consciousness. Nurse practitioner Marcia Upton, creator of the NaturallySlim eating program, says we only have four emotions:  mad, sad, glad and scared. When considering all our emotions with just these four words we find ourselves without the drama we so willingly add to our lives, particularly in the politically-motivated times in which we live.

It’s drama that creates the energy to spend more time in our upset than in working toward a satisfactory result. When we describe our emotions as “incensed,” “inconsolable,” “ecstatic,” or “terrified” instead of mad, sad, glad and scared we open up a whole new level of drama. Is that a bad thing? No. As a professional writer I love to use the plethora of words we enjoy in the English language.

But as a sociologist and counselor I also acknowledge that we can become far more effective in our own lives by losing the drama and getting down to the business of changing our undesirable circumstances and thereby enjoying our blessings.

We must move beyond the outrage, the indignation, the shock and, yes, even the elation, to progress forward into lives that matter. It’s by losing the drama that we become more effective in changing our thinking, which in turn causes conditions to change not only for us but for those around us.

There are plenty of issues out there that bring up our emotions of sad, mad, glad and scared. I’m sure you can think of several without much difficulty. The question is whether we will let the actions of others paralyze us with those emotions, or whether we will use those feelings to change the world in which we live.

In Spirit, Truth and Playfulness,
Terry

#DrTerryMakingSense
#IAN1
@TerryDKaranen

Copyright © Terry Drew Karanen 2017