scarcity culture and finding a sense of worthiness

The beauty of having moved to a new town and only having one friend, is that when I take my kids to soft play I am completely and utterly alone without the distraction of pleasant, refreshing conversation and may as well do more reading. Yay.

So I have cracked on with reading Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly. It’s taking me a while, not because I’m not enjoying it but because it’s not a story. You may have noticed that I like narratives. It’s part of being human I reckon.

Anyway, she writes about a cultural phenomenon called ‘scarcity’ that currently pervades western culture. It can be epitomised by the phrase:

“Not enough.”

It’s potent when you ponder your own scarcity perspective. Here are my ‘not enough’s’ throughout an average day…

I wake up at 4am, sandwiched between my two children.

I’ve not enough room

I’ve not had enough sleep

-I’ve not enough patience

-I’ve not enough energy to be creative with breakfast (weetabix it is)

-I’ve not enough time

-I’m not thin enough to wear that

-I’m not kind enough

-I’m not conscientious enough

-I’m not tidy enough

-I don’t pray enough

-I’m not confident enough

-I don’t like cooking enough

-I don’t have enough company

-I don’t have enough alone time

-I don’t have enough energy to make the most of my alone time

-I don’t have enough integrity (I ate ice cream)

Go to bed (already knowing I won’t have had enough sleep tomorrow because I’m going to bed too late).

Start over.

I feel pretty melancholy after writing that! Man, I give myself and my life a bad rep. I’m my own joy-thief.

“The greatest casualties of a scarcity culture are our willingness to own our vulnerabilities and our ability to engage with the world from a place of worthiness.” p. 29

How do you gain a sense of worthiness? Well, whether you believe in a divine being that has put worthiness into your DNA simply because He created you, or not, it still requires an application of faith. You have to believe in something or hope for something that you cannot see.

Life doesn’t present us with a context in which we can easily look in the mirror and say to our reflection, “I am worthy”.

The problem with a scarcity culture is that our own shame wants us to bring others down to our level of unworthiness. We perpetuate unworthiness as easily as we spread the common cold.

Then we blame. When we can find our own sense of worthiness, we can more easily help others find theirs. Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we perpetuated worthiness?

worthy quote

 

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book review: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend. Eleanor Oliphant is happy. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled life. Except, sometimes, everything. 

It’s been a while since I’ve written a book review. Since I became unwell back in December I put my book club to one side to alleviate any pressure, perhaps I’ll start it up again, perhaps not. I’m still reading though, of course – why wouldn’t you? It’s exercise for the brain, don’t you know? To be honest, finding time to read has been tricky of late but I’m hoping now that we are settling into a routine I’ll pick up books more.

Yet despite being sans book club, some books are so potent that I want to write about them. This is one of those. Not only is it superbly written, it is poignantly hilarious. What does that even you, you ask? Well, see for yourself.

Best bit

The humour is fabulous. Eleanor’s assessments of people and experiences are completely hilarious. They are so left-field in a way that is also touching as you recognise her dysfunctional upbringing as being the cause of it.

She develops a crush on a singer in a bar, who very quickly is revealed to be a complete loser to the reader, but it takes a while for Eleanor’s bubble to burst. Even though she wears the same clothes every day and never makes much fuss over her appearance, Eleanor decides to go and have a wax. When asked if she wants french, brazilian, or hollywood, Eleanor’s choice is dictated by what she feels to be an amusing play on words. “Hollywood – because Holly would!”.

I was in tears!

Worst bit

It was a painfully real depiction of chronic loneliness; the existence of many human beings. It is a psychological affliction that can cause a lot of damage over time. I couldn’t stop thinking about the epigraph at the start of the novel, which quotes The Lonely City by Olivia Laing…

…the lonelier a person gets, the less adept they become at navigating social currents. Loneliness grows around them, like mould or fur, a prophylactic that inhibits contact, no matter how badly contact is desired. Loneliness is accretive, extending and perpetuating itself. Once it becomes impacted, it is by no means easy to dislodge.

Eleanor is one of the most judgmental and critical characters I have come across. But there is a genuine confusion about social norms that stems from her upbringing and this can be perceived as snobby criticism. I do agree with her confusion over the appeal of MacDonald’s though. There are so many layers to her loneliness and it takes someone who is willing persevere with kindness to dig through it.

What impacted me most

It made me think about how easily I might be put off by someone’s behaviour rather than giving second chances… and third chances… and fourth chances. We all desperately need connection and I know I can take my relationships for granted. I hope the next time I meet someone who is intensely lonely I won’t be easily rebuffed.

EO is fine.jpg

 

the challenging choice to be an empathic parent

Empathy can be a challenge. The obvious reason is that it can be hard to see things from another person’s perspective. It can be hard to imagine how they are seeing things and why they feel or act in a certain way. Another obvious reason is that it involves the personal sacrifice that Brené refers to in the video; going into those dark places within yourself and your experiences that help you to connect with the other person’s dark place.

The less obvious reason is that it takes time and effort. This is because the only way you can truly show empathy is by listening and listening for long enough to get the full picture. Not part of it with some additions and assumptions that you have tacked on. But all of it and by all of it I mean all of what they want to share; all of what is important to them. You have to just BE with them in a non-judgmental way and wait until it’s all come out.

It takes effort. It takes intention. It is generous.

It aids connection.

It is what we all need.

On the Monday of my son’s last week of term I waited in the school playground at the end of the day for him. As the children started coming out his teacher caught my eye and then proceeded to walk over to me. Uh oh. What every parent dreads…

“We had a bit of an issue today. B punched another boy in the face and gave him a nose bleed.”

Argh. Apparently, he had said he was trying to catch the boy during a game in the playground. Immediately I’m awash with extreme discomfort. My child is a sociopath. What will the other parent think? What am I doing wrong?!  

I had given the teacher a letter the week before to explain that we were moving and it may affect B’s behaviour. So, she expresses that it could be about that and I agree.

So, there I am thinking that I am practising good empathy by trying to be understanding about the emotions behind the behaviour. I try to talk to him on the way back to his friend’s house and he isn’t paying attention. I get annoyed. I want a quick answer to reassure me of my worries. Why did you do it? For the love of all things good and pure, WHY??

It wasn’t a good time to go there when he wanted to gallop along with his friends. Thankfully, I had a belated brainwave when we got home later on and took him outside to pick blackberries by himself and we chatted.

Oh my, trying to get information from a five-year-old can prove difficult. It’s like trying to have a tennis rally with one. You keep serving balls and they either fall to the ground or get volleyed in another direction. One thing you can guarantee is they rarely make it over the net back to you.

But I wasn’t giving up easy.

I managed to discover that they were playing Rescue Bots and the victim was the ‘bad guy’ of this imaginative scenario. There was a moment when I asked B if he did it for a certain reason and he said yes. But I realised I probably put that idea in his head. So I tried again, hoping to avoid putting words in his mouth.

“So, did you just get carried away pretending?”

I failed.

“Yeah!”

“If you do that, your friends won’t want to play with you. Just because he’s the bad guy, it doesn’t mean you can hit him.”

“Yeah! Like Gru.”

Just then, the penny dropped. This nugget of information just popped out after what felt like a fairly long time of chatting in a non-confrontational way.

The following day, B was going on a school trip to watch Despicable Me 3 as an end of year treat and that morning he had been anxious about it. He was worried he might get scared during it and we wouldn’t be there with him. So we showed him a trailer. during which, Gru punches the bad guy square in the face and because it is hilariously timed, my husband and I burst out laughing without giving it much thought.

Apparently, five-year-olds can’t instinctively discern the difference between finding punching funny when it’s done in a movie and when it’s done in real life, causing a nose bleed. Who knew?

I never could have assumed that such an innocent, age-appropriate reason was behind it. Instead, I leapt to my own conclusion regarding his inner turmoil about moving. If I hadn’t taken that 15 minutes to gently probe the issue I’d have been left feeling like I had raised an up-and-coming school bully with whom I felt completely disconnected.

I know why you did that is a statement that doesn’t line up with empathy… Instead:

Tell me why you did that. I’m listening…

A WIP for me.