Sometimes the problem is you

The approach is to learn to find peace with chaos.

~ Leo Babauta from,

As with everything I’ve ever seen Babauta post, I agree. If you’re feeling scattered, you could do a lot worse than to read that article. It provides perspective, and some small, actionable things to start on.

Sometimes whatever-it-is is not actually a problem; The problem is our attitude about the problem. (Try Jack Sparrow’s admonishment which echos Aurelius’s reminder to himself.)

But, my Dear Reader, sometimes the problem is ourselves. We said ‘yes’ to one, or two, or twenty, things too many. And the yes’s are insidious. We are all so eager to help, that we rush in. (“The rescuer,” is one of the corners in the Karpman drama triangle. For which I refer you to M B Stanier’s, The Coaching Habit, p138.) So, if you’re feeling scattered: Check for drama.

The hard part is when you learn to start to set boundaries. Dealing with how setting boundaries feels when you’re comfortable being the rescuer is hard. Dealing with how it feels when everyone knows you as that person is hard. It takes cahones to relax and sink, to save yourself from the drowning swimmer you were trying to save. It takes chutzpah, when a friend asks you for what they think is a small favor, to pause for several seconds, to do the mental calculus, to set your boundaries for just how much effort you’re going to put into the thing… and only then answer them, ‘Yes.’ It takes brass to be kind enough to yourself to ensure you have boundaries that work for you.


Attitude and assessment

It seems likely that Jack Sparrow’s admonishment about attitude is an echo of Aurelius’s reminder to himself two thousand years earlier. This idea that the attitude and assessment is most important has really helped me relax. Things will never be done, and I create all of my problems. I’ve come to understand that concrete goals and clear progress are detrimental to my health. They’re necessary, yes, but detrimental. The more goals I set, the more clear progress I can measure, the worse off I become; Mentally and physically those things grind me down.

Since they’re necessary—without them, it seems I’d simply devolve to being a blob on a sofa—I must have something in my life which counters the damage so that I can continue setting some sane number of goals and measuring some concrete progress. One of those things is practicing my attitude and assessment. I set aside time for this each morning. It’s not meant to take long. 15 minutes is really long enough. I read through a prompt from a set that I’ve created for myself. I read through a selection from some key books. I write in my journal, usually copying a single new quote from my collection as the beginning of the journal entry. I write some thoughts. I write some observations from the previous day.

Unfortunately, just about every morning, my urge—affliction? addiction?—to measure and create goals creeps into my morning reflection. Why am I taking all this time? (I’m up to something like 4,000 hand-written pages of journals!) Am I getting benefit from all this reflection? What’s the optimum “dosage” of reflection which yields the most benefit? How do I even measure the benefit? Is that page—that one I just wrote, an instant before these questions pop into my mind—worth writing? If I read that page in a year, will it in any way help me? Is the entry for today long enough? Should it have more “here’s what I did yesterday,” type stuff, or less? Maybe I should be also making a small note on my mood, or how I feel physically? Maybe I should… Oh, crap.

Close the journal, and go on with today!


Our federal government has failed

The problem is not the problem.
The problem is your attitude about the problem.
Do you understand?

~ Captain Jack Sparrow

I think we need to reframe the problem so more people understand.

Civics 101: Are we on the same page?

I’m not going to discuss political parties. I’m not trying to sneak in the idea of “republican” to later make a case for a particular political party.

A federation is a government composed of several independent states. Each of the 50 current members of The United States of America are sovereign states which, through the process of their joining the union, have agreed to pass certain of their powers to the federal government. We, the individual people, are not members of the federation; The states are members of the federation. (May I recommend Wikipedia’s article on Federation?)

The distinguishing principle of a “republic” is that the activities of the government are public. To be a republic, the government cannot be arranged below a monarch, dictator (benevolent or otherwise), or some other (for example, a secret inner circle of corporations) inscrutable font of authority. (May I recommend Wikipedia’s article on Republic?)

The distinguishing principle of “democracy” is self-determination of the governed. To be a democracy, we need features that derive the government’s power from the governed people and that foster equality of each participant’s contribution. (Again, may I recommend Wikipedia’s article on Democracy?)

A pure democracy is one where the governed people may be fully involved in all decisions. A pure democracy of 300+ million people is absurd. But from the absurdity of pure democracy springs the idea of “representative” democracy. In this form of democracy, representatives are empowered to participate in the democratic process on behalf of the governed people.

The United States of America is a federation.
The United States of America is a republic.
The United States of America is a democracy.

By the way, “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”, is the original 1892 wording adopted by Congress.

The Federal Government Has Failed

Yes, exactly! Craig, I know what you’re going to say…
Our military is too big! (nope.)
The 1% is getting all the benefits! (nope.)
Too many people live in poverty? People can’t afford health care?! (nope and nope)
Look at the national monuments being closed!
…the IRS tax system?!
…immigration reform?!!
(nope nope and nope)

My definition of, “the government has failed” is: When I am expending increasing amounts of my time “on” the government. We, the governed people, are spending increasing amounts of our time on our federal government, and I put it to you that this is the ONLY thing on which every single American can immediately agree.

I want to be very clear: I’m not talking about spending more time interacting with the government. I’m not talking about time spent filing your federal taxes, or waiting in line at some federal agency. I am talking about time spent watching news about the federal government, reading posts, (including this one,) and debating federal policy, activities and programs with other people. Wouldn’t you rather spend your time doing, well, anything other than spending time on the federal government?

Some people have “tuned out” of the whole thing. This saves their time in the near future, but turns them into freight stored in the cargo hold of the ship; Their future remains coupled to the success, or failure, of the country.

As a democracy, a distinguishing feature of our government should be that it enables self-determination. If I’m spending increasing amounts of time on my self-determination, then I have decreasing amounts of time to enjoy the fruits of my self-determination.

Is this definition of failure useful?

If we can agree that the government has failed, then I think we can start a new discussion.

Instead of discussing any of the topics on which we’ve recently focused, we could instead discuss the very nature of our government. It would be a discussion which we – those of us alive today – have never actually had.

At some point, you were told where to register, and were told to “do your civic duty” by voting on certain days. But aside from a wee bit of civics required in high school, did you take the time to learn and care about the nature of our government? (I admit that I did not.)

If only we could agree on the nature of our government.

My hope…

My hope is that you’ll try to change the topic of discussion the next time some hot political topic comes up.

The current discussions are an endless train of political topics. Last year it was [this topic], before that it was [that topic], and next year it will be [this other thing.] You must know by now that in 5 minutes at the water cooler, you are not going to convince that other person to fundamentally change to your view of the current political topic. So you are clearly wasting your time “on” the government by participating in political discussion of the current topic.

Change the topic.

Talk about the nature of our government. Talk about why our government exists. Talk about the origin of its powers. Talk about what specifically are those powers.

…and if you don’t feel comfortable discussing the nature of our government, then why are you comfortable being governed by it?