Wednesday, February 22, 2017

6 questions for setting intentions for 2017

I started writing this after Christmas, and then totally forgot about it. So I finished it today!

6 questions for setting intentions for 2017, which I have modified into 7 questions. The original 6 came in a blog post over at Medium, from Jessica Semaan, Lebanese poetess who "writes about love, life and what we are scared to talk about. Always unfiltered. Always from the <3"

I like her approach because it's so much making resolutions, which so often fail and then we feel or get depressed about the failure. These questions feel to me to be much more well-rounded to our humanity, our spirit, and our grounding by looking at experiences, relationships, growth, self-care, and approach to the world. On new year's day, which was a Sunday in 2017, my sermon was about looking toward 2017 and no so much making resolutions (see my previous danger statement on those), but to face it as a new slate in which one can strive to be better. It's an ambiguous term, "better", but I like it more than trying to achieve some specific, and perhaps far too ambitious, goal. Instead of "I'm going on a diet!" say, "I'll eat better." Instead of, "I'll exercise every day!" say, "I'll be better at taking time to exercise." Or instead of, "I'll get the novel written!" say, "I'll be better about fanatically protecting my writing time." And as the preacher, my suggestion was to be better at being Jesus' disciple.

I also offered the 1% rule. This is something I first came across last year in some reading of a blog post somewhere, and then started seeing in more places. The idea of the 1% rule is that we don't set the goal to be perfect, but to be 1% at the end of today than I was this morning at whatever skill one wants to improve. I'll be 1% better at being a disciple today than I was yesterday. I'll be 1% at writing at the end of today. I'll be 1% better at being a dad or a mom or a lover or a salesperson or a caregiver or a sibling or a mail carrier or a grocery clerk... I'll be 1% better at being generous, compassionate, merciful, hopeful... I'll be 1% better at not being sarcastic, caustic, ridiculing, bullying, greedy...

See the difference?

Here are the suggestions:

1) What are 1–3 experiences you want to have in 2017 [maybe: skydiving, travel to another state, go to a rally/protest, swim in the ocean, eat at a fancy restaurant, help someone learn English...]

2) What are 1–3 relationships you want to focus on deepening in 2017 [maybe: mother, father, aunt, boss, someone you knew as a kid but have lost touch with, a neighbor, or maybe even yourself]

3) What are 1–3 ways I'd like to get out of my comfort zone in 2017? [maybe: stay away from Facebook, move to a new city, do something you dread (attend a funeral; visit someone in a nursing home; speak publicly, learn to drive a stick shift), finish that book or short story that you haven't finished because you fear what it would be like to complete it; hang out with people not like you (maybe you need to go hang out a dive bar with working class folks; or maybe you need to go hang out at the bar that the Wall Street or educated professorial class are at]

4) What are 1–3 ways I want to show care and love to myself in 2017? [maybe: take all the vacation I am allowed at work; not check work email outside of work time; start riding a bike; upgrade those clothes that you don't like but feel like you don't deserve to spend the money to replace (you do deserve it - go for it!), turn the phone off for a night or a day or a whole weekend, eat better, take up something you've always wanted to do and don't feel guilty for spending the time or money doing it, saying "no" to things that you aren't interested in or don't really have the time to do]

5) How do I want to be feeling exactly a year from now? [maybe: happier, more centered, more at peace with myself and the world, more energetic]

6) What is the word or phrase for my year in 2017? [this is a tough one! What will guide you through the year? I don't even want to offer suggestions here for fear of contaminating your creativity and your deepest need]

I will also add a seventh one, something else I came across last year as a way to frame positively a negative, and a way to stay on target for the year.

7) What will I say "I don't do that" about in 2017? [Maybe: I don't re-schedule time with my family; I don't skip my exercise dates; I don't work overtime if I've made plans with friends; I don't eat fried foods; I don't check work email when I'm on vacation; I don't disappoint my lover by failing to show up; I don't say "no" and then feel guilty about it (or maybe "I don't say "yes" to everything that is requested from me")]

So instead of saying, "I will exercise every day", schedule your times and then say, "I don't skip my exercise times." Or reframe it as "I'm the kind of person who doesn't skip their exercise time."

Saying, "I don't do that..." is a way to keep focused, and make sure that you get the experiences, work on the relationships, do the self-care, find ways out of your comfort zone ("I don't let fear keep me from trying"!), to feel the way you want to feel next year.

Best wishes and all blessings to you in 2017!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Wonderful article on the Tenderloin District in SF, the tech companies that have moved in, and Glide Church

So far in this blog I think I've only featured my own writing, but this time I am point you toward an article from Wired Magazine, which in the past few years has re-found its journalistic voice that made it so wonderful in the 90s.

This article is about the Tenderloin district in SF, and Rev. Williams of Glide Church that has been serving the homeless and poor and addicts for 50+ years, and the tech industry (Google, Zendesk, Twitter, etc.) that has moved into the neighborhood. It's a complex issue there, and the writer of this article embraces the complexity without seeking simple solutions or soundbite interpretations of what's happening.

It has moved me because a) it's just plain well-written. Exciting to see a piece of journalism that shows curiosity and openness and a willingness to take the time to make something special. And b) it's an issue that touches my heart: I'm a fan of tech and what the tech industry has brought to humanity, while also understanding that it has had some costs; and I'm concerned about gentrification and pushing poor people out of neighborhoods even while acknowledging that we can't let areas turn into blight and unsafe spaces, either - there's a tension around that which we are seeing here in Eau Claire, as well, as our downtown revitalizes and becomes a destination for business, tourism, and locals; and of course, the theological component that comes up in this article of the ministry of Glide Church and its pastor and volunteers and their commitment to meet the needs of people without judgment and a radical inclusive generosity.

This is good writing and good reporting - looking at a situation from many angles, just as the people involved in it are looking from many angles. This is longer than most articles, but oh so worth the read.

"For Williams, though, embracing tech isn’t just about money. “I’ve discovered a brokenness in the tech community. It has to do with self-definition. They’re not always good at creating humanity,” he tells me. The companies aren’t just benefactors, in other words; in a sense they’re also clients. 
If you belong to the tech world and feel an objection welling up, know that brokenness is not a crime in Williams’ book. On the contrary, it’s the channel on which we all relate. ... [Williams' wife Mirikatani said...] “I believe we’re more connected by our wounds than our comfort zones,” she says. “If a CEO is wounded by something, a connection to that would be stronger than money.” Put another way, the tech world’s C-suites could need salvation more than stock options.

Read the article

Monday, February 6, 2017

The American Action Network wants something better than the ACA (Obamacare)

First, let me just remind people, in case you don't know, that the ACA (Affordable Care Act) is the same thing as Obamacare. The term Obamacare was first offered as a pejorative against the ACA from those on the right who opposed the ACA, and the term stuck.

And now, to the reason for this post.

I just saw an ad on WEAU during the evening news that begins "Rising premiums and deductibles! Washington, D.C. intruding between doctors and patients! Expensive mandates that destroy jobs! Ron Kind voted FOR Obamacare and Wisconsin families are paying the price!"

My first thought was, "Oh, God, please don't let this be already an ad from someone running against Ron Kind in 2018! My brain/heart/body/soul can't take it if the campaign season is beginning now!"

And then, the ad continues: "We deserve better! We need patient-centered care with more choices and lower costs; peace of mind for people with pre-existing conditions; tax credits to help families buy insurance; and a stronger medicare."

At this point I was thinking, "What the heck? This can't be a campaign ad. What's their point? Is this anti-Kind or pro-Kind? I can't tell!

Then the ad finishes: "Tell Congressman Kind to replace Obamacare with the better healthcare we deserve."

End of the commercial (except for the very last line that comes in the commercial - wait for it, I post it further into this blog post). First thought at this point is - "You seem to be against ACA/Obamacare, except unlike the usual right-wing/tea-party official line, you're against it because it isn't socialist enough? You begin your ad by accusing Kind of voting for Obamacare, which any sensible person would take to mean that you are opposed, therefore, to any kind of national health care... but then you end the commercial with a plea to call Ron Kind and ask him not to repeal it, or kill it, or get rid of it because it's evil - you want us to call him because you don't think it covers enough people, at a low enough cost, with enough protection for the consumers?!"

Well, okay, maybe this a kind of stealth ad being put up by Bernie supporters or similar.

But no, the final line of the ad appears on the screen: "Paid for by American Action Network".

The American Action Network is a center-right organization.

Here is their own self-description from their website: "The American Action Network is a 501(c)(4) ‘action tank’ that will create, encourage and promote center-right policies based on the principles of freedom, limited government, American exceptionalism, and strong national security.  The American Action Network’s primary goal is to put our center-right ideas into action by engaging the hearts and minds of the American people and spurring them into active participation in our democracy."

There's a head-scratcher. Seems like they ought to be opposed to any kind of national healthcare; and ought to be against coverage for pre-existing conditions; ought to be against expansion of medicare; ought to be against tax credits.

All of this post here to say: just because someone (or some organization) places themselves in a certain political/social bucket, doesn't mean that they can't go outside that bucket on some issues. All of us have inconsistencies and areas of hypocrisy. Whatever ideological or theological or epistemological or political ground into which someone may have so self-righteously jammed their tribal flag, there are likely places in which that person does not abide by the doctrine and can in which can find some common ground for dialogue.

What this organization is asking for is very much similar to what Obama and others on the left wanted in the first place! But they decided to tone it down and only offer what Republicans had already come up with, out of fear that the Republicans would vote against anything more "radical".

Humans. We're rarely rational or consistent. :D