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Remembering Dallas and Sterling

On July 7, 2016, Micah Xavier Johnson ambushed and fired upon a group of police officers in Dallas, Texas, killing five officers and injuring nine others.

These are some of my unedited notes following the incident 3 years ago
Will the shock ever dissipate? The truth is it doesn’t. It never does. We learn to live with it and it becomes part of the fabric – our fabric.
If you allow yourself to look more closely, you can see that it even becomes a thick, shiny, black double thread that holds everything together. Shock feels to me as the other side of a coin of which the one side is awe. Awe and shock: electrical pulses that keep our hearts awake and attuned to the path – a path we chose or one on which we happened to be walking. Awe and shock: the carrot and the stick.
For the latest shootings, I plead guilty to minimal shock; if that is even possible… My black double thread weaves a series of stitches telling the stories of painful shocks generated by the realities and the pains of law enforcement life and near-death, in the field and at home. Police brutality is real. It has no skin colour. It has a thread colour: purple, the colour of mourning in Greek culture. It weaves stitches full of “them-and-us” separation stories which recount daily exercises in loss: of brotherhood, humanity, emotion, essence, inner guidance, love. Them and us.
There can be too much of a good thing. 
Last March (2016), Robert Biswas-Diener got inspired to share thoughts on a PosPsych Facebook page about protectiveness; a possible compound strength. Even though I’m trying hard to not rationalize the most recent events, my thoughts keep circling around overuse and underuse of protectiveness and other strengths; the them-and-us spirit; how people die and the next thing we do is background-check them for overall conduct, criminal records or disciplinary investigations against them. I glance through yet another tooltip headline in my Facebook feed. It is about the two officers involved in the Sterling shooting. Apparently, they had 5 investigations against them between them over the last 7 years. The man they killed had an extensive 20-year-old criminal record. At the same time, a reminder to read through my daily Brian Johnson philosophy nuggets pops up too. I snooze it and look away. While America is burning the midnight oil breathlessly watching Dallas, on this side of the pond, the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, Greece, Lithuania are waking up and going about their days. The EASO proudly present their annual report on asylum; we’re all still commenting on Brexit; there’s a Greek menu recommendation for the coming week… Life goes on. It doesn’t stand still. We have to look away to go cook; prepare the kids for school; volunteer; work and pay bills.
I cannot look away anymore. 
I realize that I jumped on the well-being wagon of Positive Psychology (2008) and latched on the first empty seat I’d found with teeth and nails because I wanted to look away. What goes wrong in the world robbed me from hope even before I could ever feel it. I’m still licking invisible wounds and I jump in hypervigilance at even the sound of keys rattling… I wanted (and still want) to brand my eyes with pictures of happiness, safety, goodness and burn away all those brain cells which recorded memories with proof of the opposite. I want to hide and lie to myself that it will all eventually be fine and that these are exceptions to the “goodness” rule. We cannot look away anymore. We cannot forget. We cannot replace the pictures of senseless violence from our retinas.
While numbness is stealthily trying to take over me, I remember turning to Oliver Sacks a couple of days ago for inspiration: his books about gratitude and the mind’s eye as well as the movie Awakenings. In the movie, pictures were powerful. The words, though, flooded my soul.
Help people who help people.
Because the alternative is unthinkable.
Learn. Learn. Learn. Learn for me.

What we do know is that the human spirit is more powerful than any drug.
That is what needs to be nourished with work, play, friendship, family.
These are the things that matter.
These are the things we have forgotten: the simple things.
I’m written out… Not even 3 hours awake and I feel weary and almost battered… It’s disturbing how content and peaceful this makes me feel. It’s this particular quiet after a combination of agony and exhaustion which gives reassurance that we’re done for the rest of the day. It’s this particularly twisted certainty that if I remain as quiet as I am now and breathe as shallowly as possible and take up the less space imaginable, there will be no further harm on the Globe for anyone for the rest of this day.
After typing the word “twisted” I blanked for a moment. I forgot what I wanted to write. I touched upon something. My ears are buzzing and my throat is closing up… I want to edit this piece before I send it to anyone. Yet, I realize that I allowed myself to write this and that I should keep it as it is. If I keep cleaning myself up and excusing harmful people and their behaviours, then I’m one of them too. This is my un-cleaned, not disinfected, unsterilized voice as it comes out of my lumpy throat right now. This is me today for the rest of the day. I don’t know about tomorrow. 

“You can keep as quiet as you like, but one of these days somebody is going to find you.” 

~ Haruki Murakami1Q84

Feeling better… than you

Here’s a point to ponder from Kristin Neff’s work on self-compassion:

“If I have to feel better than you to feel good about myself, then how clearly am I really going to see you, or myself for that matter?”

Quite a few wise (and silly) thoughts crossed my mind to share here with you about this statement.

As nonchalant and nodding in sage-ly knowing as I came across to myself yesterday at re-reading this after a couple of years, I’m in equally deep and thought-provoking reflection today while I’m typing this post (the fog index in this sentence is screaming, but #onlyfortday I’ll edit myself no more…).

Here are some questions I’ll be taking to lunch with me at the park in a bit:

  • How does this sort or any sort of comparison inform the way you see yourself and others?

  • How did that software get to install itself in your mind?

  • How useful has this been up to this point in your life? <- no snarkiness; an honest question! the things we need to do and be to survive and cope…

  • Who do you have to be and who do you need to be right now?

Instead of typing up more questions or un-edited thoughts, I’ll let the park walk generate some new ones.

Have a fulfilling Friday wherever you are on the Globe, #gentlepeople!

Operator; can I take your call?

Perhaps you have a feeling that there’s more in this life for you at work or at home or both and that you still haven’t dialled in on it… 

Dialling in is a good metaphor. Come with me to the early ’90s. My very first job at 19 years of age was as a switchboard operator at a posh seaside holiday resort. Our call center was the last thing to modernize. Entering the switchboard room for my shift felt as if I were closing the door of a time machine behind me and landing in the ’50s.

Now picture this: all kinds of tiny lamps on the board are lit.

There’s hardly any clue as to who or what request is behind each of them demanding attention.

How do you get to pick one first?

Which other tiny lit or unlit lamp to patch through for the optimal match?

Hey! Is THIS even the switchboard in front of which I should be sitting???


What does sitting in front of a call center full of covert decisions feel like?

And who on Earth said that you have to wait to make decisions about small and big things every other moment of every day of your life?

What if you quit your fruitless occupation as an old-fashioned phone operator waiting for calls to come in? What if you were making the calls without relying on willpower as your best bet to get things done?

Let me invite you to leave the tangled cables and blinking lamps be and

type in the comments below:

What is one very small shift with a notable impact that you’re willing to make today? If you could start taking steps on the pathway which you’re most longing to still be in 6 months from now, what would the first one look like?

The path is personal development.
Any action on the path is good.

Give permission to your Real Self to emerge and enjoy flourishing relationships at home and at work.