Posted in Personal Life, Psychology, Uncategorized

3AM Internal Alarm Clock

Why I’m usually up at 3AM in no particular order:

  1. Someone is Snoring Loudly
  2. Cats. Cats are being loud.
  3. I’m thirsty.
  4. I had a weird dream and now I need to look something up
  5. I had a night terror and woke up screaming.
  6. I read somewhere waking up at 3AM is the perfect brain frequency for working on creative projects.
  7. I was born at around 3AM, so now I feel like it’s a “lucky” time for me.

 

So, what do I do with this time? 
I use this as “extra” time. I can do whatever I want! If I want to draw, I draw. If I want to play a game, I game out. I exercise, do yoga, write, read about spiders. Whatever I want to do.

Sure, I could probably use it to work or do something “productive”, but I noticed when I try to do that, I get sleepy very, very fast. I need this time to be pressure free.

And that’s what works for me. Anyone else have this weird internal alarm clock thing happen to them?

What do you do with your “Extra” free time?

Posted in Attitude, Personal Life, Psychology, Uncategorized

The Bully in my Head

When I was in highschool, there was a guy I thought was just the apex of cool. The way he carried himself and the things he was interested in were so outside everyone else I knew. From music to movies to ways of writing and reading, it was a window into another world.
I studied his family from a distance trying to figure out their family dynamic. Somehow, they seemed closest to my own.

His parents were also a huge influence on me. They were my teachers and children’s church leaders. And they talked to me like I was an actual person…which I didn’t feel like most of the time. I didn’t really think of them as parents, but I definitely trusted them.

Their son was my #1 role model as a teenager and the primary voice of doubt in my head for years afterwards. He was a huge jerk most of the time. Always saying things like, “You’re a loser.” “No one cares.” “No one cares what you have to say.” 

He did me a huge favor by impersonating all of my self doubt.

And, as an added bonus, since we basically grew up together, I saw the times when he was hurt, angry, frustrated and vulnerable. And at the strangest moments, he would do something kind and sweet. Which was usually not taken seriously and rejected. This gave me a huge insight.
He had made his reputation and probably felt like he was in too deep to turn it around. People were already expecting a certain thing out of him and I think we all know from experience, how hard it is to destroy your reputation in a positive way and rebuild.
This made me want to try to understand why he would say so many of the mean things that cut me deep – seemingly totally unaware of what effect his words had on other people. I learned later on that this need to understand people that on the outside seem so mean is called, “Compassion“.

I might have misinterpreted the quote – “Keep your Friends close and your Enemies closer.” But it seems like it happens way too often to ignore that we have more in common with our ‘enemies’ than our friends. And get more out of it. Our enemies challenge us, push us, and make us better people. As the Joker said in The Dark Knight, “I don’t want to kill you – You complete me.”

Strangely enough, I started counting up the similarities between us. Neither of us felt like we belonged where we were. Neither of us wanted to be there most of the time. Both of us wanted bigger things in life than the people around us. Both of us had so many questions that were constantly going unanswered – and being reprimanded for asking.
The big difference was, he externalized all of his anger. He wasn’t afraid to get in trouble. He wasn’t afraid to hurt someone’s feelings. He wasn’t afraid to be in a bad mood. While I, on the complete opposite end, was terrified of all of these things. I internalized all of my anger and kept my thoughts to myself because I tried to avoid confrontation at all costs. 

“Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.” – Rainer Maria Rilke

This guy is the epitome of “dragons turned into princesses” for me. He unknowingly showed me how to confidently look my monsters in the eyes and have compassion for it.
Because, I realized having compassion for my monsters, my demons, my bullies – is having compassion for the darkest parts of myself.
Posted in Attitude, Personal Life, Psychology, Uncategorized

Vlog #10 : Transforming Anxiety

I’ve spent a LOT of time analyzing anxiety – studying where it comes from, biologically what happens in the body, and mystical theories. I’ve also spent a lot of time documenting different strategies on how to cope with anxiety, so I’ll share some of that with you today.

In terms of biology – Anxiety is the fight or flight response. Something has sparked the survival instinct in you that says, “You’re in immediate danger! Quick! Either put up your fists or RUN AWAY!! THIS IS LIFE OR DEATH!” All of this happens in the less evolved part of the brain nestled inside of the neocortex – the Limbic system in us. Meanwhile, our rational evolved pre-frontal cortex is like, “What are you freaking out about? There’s nothing happening.” And this is where judgment of ourselves really intensifies matters. Because once we start saying to ourselves, “I’m overreacting” we belittle ourselves (often adding depression to the mix) and have little hope of actually figuring out what’s going on.

Our minds are a complex interaction between the evolved parts (the prefrontal cortex) and the primal parts (the limbic system and the “reptile brain” autonomic functions). However, since the primal parts don’t know how to speak in words (frontal lobe – far, far away from the limbic system) – we must learn how to interpret their signals.

For years, I tried meditating, a LOT of exercising, reading, affirmations, pretty much everything you can think of besides medication. I really did not want to take medication. Then, in 2014, I was going through a very stressful time and having convulsive panic attacks which were scaring my stepdaughter – really, if it wasn’t effecting people around me, I probably still wouldn’t have gone to the doctor! But because I knew I needed to keep my sanity for her, I went and was fortunate enough to have a fantastic doctor who listened to what I was going through. She prescribed sertraline and buspirone and seriously, it was life changing. I was internally warm for the first time that I can remember. Walking down the stairs was a challenge because I could actually feel my legs – I had no idea I was living as a floating head all of this time, totally disconnected from my body. I was actually viewing life through first person view instead of 3rd person. AND! The best thing is, I continued doing all the things that were supposed to help and they actually did! Meditation, exercise, even sleep, everything was so much more effective. I was afraid that medication might ‘change me’ or make me a zombie, but it did exactly the opposite. I would just lay in bed and enjoy feeling my own body heat itself. This was the first time I felt “back in my body” again.
As a teenager, we had this furnace in the hall next to my room, and I would lay in front of it trying to get warm. But it was like the cold was on the inside and I couldn’t get the warmth past the skin. 

Another part of anxiety was the racing thoughts. Darting from here to there, up and down and around again. At around the same time I started taking medication, my husband was also experiencing intense anxiety said he had never experienced it like that before. He’s normally a very level, even keel type of person and really didn’t know how to handle it. I remember saying to him, “It’s like you’ve eaten way too much sugar and your brain is foggy and racing – but you haven’t eaten any sugar.” He was like, “YES, exactly!” I like to think that it helped to have someone near that understood – even if I couldn’t make it go away.

When I feel really anxious, I feel like I can see the particles in the air. Everything is intensely bright and loud.

I’ve had really intense night terrors – there was nothing to fight, nothing attacking me, just extremely real. I once dreamed my husband and I were going to bed and all of these children were around. I told them they needed to go to bed and all but one ran off. The one girl sat at the end of our bed. I picked her up to carry her to bed and she fell limp in my arms. Her head turned to the side with a slack jaw and half of her skull was missing with the brain exposed. I woke myself up trying to scream and when Brian asked me what was wrong I told him about the dream and told him the girl was “pretending to be alive“.

I still haven’t figured out a solid way to get rid of anxiety for good. But I have found a few ways to transform it into excitement and use the extra energy for good.

  1. Racing thoughts – WRITE IT ALL OUT. It doesn’t  need to be pretty, it doesn’t even need to make sense. Take a timer, set it for 5 minutes and just try to get out everything that’s in your mind. If the timer buzzes and you’re still writing, keep going and go until you can breathe again. If you finish before the timer, then say to yourself, “Wow, all the things I’m worried about fit into less than 5 minutes.”
  2. CLEAN something! Anything. And really take your time to see the difference. The floors work great for me, especially the corners, because you have to get on your hands and knees into “working posture”.
  3. Think about how much time you’ve spent being anxious. Say to yourself, “Something bigger than myself knows that this thing is bothering me – I’m going to trust in it that it will take care of me.” Trust in God, the Universe, Family, Community, whatever you believe in that’s bigger than yourself will help you realize you’re not alone and you don’t have to figure it all out yourself.
  4. Realize that sometimes, anxiety just happens for no reason at all. Once you stop looking for a reason, you break the cycle of “Why am I anxious?” Cut off the dialogue in your head with the anxiety. Instead, start a conversation with gratitude. “Why am I thankful today? What am I looking forward to in the future?”

Being anxious is a repetitious and addictive cycle that feeds off of itself.

Be thankful that you experience human emotions with such intensity – this means you’re a very empathetic individual, meaning you’re very in tune to those around you and desperately want to help. Let go of control and start trusting that everything will be okay in the end. Once you realize you’re stuck in a rut and determine you’re ready to move on, only then can you really break out of it. But don’t expect to be ready right away, it’s a process. And it’s totally okay to run around in this circle for a long time until finally – you’re just bored of doing the same thing over and over again. Get bored of being anxious!
Once that happens, you can transform the anxiety to energy you can put into the things you have control over and be aware of the things that are out of your control.

Then we can focus more on becoming who we want to be, rather than who we were or what happened to us (often lending ourselves to blame and giving up our responsibility and power to others), only then can we move forward with our lives.

“You have many habits that weaken you. The secret of change is to focus all your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”

Posted in Attitude, Personal Life, Psychology, Uncategorized

Thinking Whole Brained

Today, I want to talk about WHOLE brain thinking and share with you a couple of books that have really helped me to think in different ways when I put in the effort.

Some of you might have heard the term “Renaissance Man”. This term references the ultimate jack of all trades and man before his time – Leonardo Da Vinci.

There are Seven Da Vincian principles:
  1. Curiosita (Insatiably curious approach to life)
  2. Dimostrazione (A commitment to test knowledge through experience, persistence, and a willingness to learn from mistakes)
  3. Sensazione (Continual refinement of the senses)
  4. Sfumato (A willingness to embrace ambiguity, paradox, and uncertainty)
  5. Arte/Scienza (Development of the balance between science and art, logic and imagination)
  6. Corporalita (Cultivation of grace, ambidexterity, fitness and poise)
  7. Connessione (Recognition of and appreciation for the interconnectedness of all things.

These are the principles I’ve studied and try my best to live by because it covers Everything! And, I know I’ll never ever be able to “perfect” these things in my life. Sometimes, we need completely unattainable and unrealistic goals to push us forward. Because even if we don’t meet that goal, we’ll still do way more than we would have otherwise. 

Also, if you’re always pushing yourself to think in these seven different ways, forcing yourself to be aware of your own thinking patterns, actions, and words – you will be WAY less likely to get irritated with others or ungrateful for the life you have. If you’re focusing on doing the best job you can – and I mean Really focusing and trying hard – there’s no energy left to nit-pick on others or do the mindless things that hold us back.

Really, the only energy left is a silence. This silence allows others to be themselves and allows you to understand and appreciate the people around you – even with all their flaws and inconsistencies.

Posted in Attitude, Personal Life, Psychology, Uncategorized

Feeding Your Demons Pt. 2

Yesterday I talked about the process of “Feeding your Demons” and it seems like people are really interested in this, so today I’ll walk you through the exercise.

First, I should define these “Demons” because it sounds very serious and scary – but really, it’s just the shadow parts of ourselves. Stress, irritation, impatience, shame, hopelessness, loneliness – this are all part of the human existence and I’m not saying that there’s a “Cure” for these because all of these have a purpose. Just like pain in your physical body, they’re there to draw your attention to something – we just have to learn how to listen and understand what they’re pointing at.

Say, if you find you’re having a problem with being jealous all the time of other people – there could be a part of you that feels like you’re not giving it the attention it needs and projects this feeling onto other people. If you’re finding yourself turning to alcohol or substance abuse of any kind, chances are there’s a part of you that wants to feel comforted and is craving relief.

Before I begin, I want to caution you about this exercise.
It’s possible that when thinking about whatever it is you’d like to confront, you may start to feel really anxious or sad or angry – if you find yourself becoming too emotional, take a break! Walk around and focus on your breath. This isn’t something that should be rushed or approached with a “Get it done” type of an attitude. This is just one part of the process of healing.

Another note of caution is, make sure you’re really wanting to move forward in whatever area it is. This opens your eyes to parts of yourself that you honestly do Not want to see and can be a very humbling process. Prepare yourself to have a cushion of acceptance to fall back on so that you’ll be able to accept and hold that part of yourself.

Start with something small.

If you’re an alcoholic or had a severe trauma – do NOT start with those things!!! Start with an every day thing that you feel just lowers your quality of life, that frustrates you every day. Narrowing this down alone could take a bit of reflection and introspection – but I encourage you to put the time in and maybe make a list of things you’d like to investigate. The more effort you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it.

In the book( Feeding your Demons), Pema Chodron describes the exercise of sitting down on the floor and “facing” your demon. This is all really symbolic of course and you have to really get in touch with the child in you that used to play pretend. So you sit down, on the floor or in a chair. Then you put a pillow or a chair in front of you so you’re facing it. You start by focusing on your breath and closing your eyes. Then whatever it is you want to face, whether it’s fear, impatience, anxiety, depression, whatever it is that’s causing you the most stress, think about it in your head and start trying to visualize it. What color is it? What form would it take? Is it an animal? What does it smell like? Try to involve as many senses as you can. When you get a clear image in your head of this, invite it to sit in front of you. Take a moment for breathing and really feeling what it feels to be in that ‘worst’ part of you. Then, when you’re ready, you can start asking it questions.

  • What do you want from me? 
  • What do you need from me? 
  • How will you feel once you get what you need?

Be silent and calm breathing in to it. It may take a minute or two to ‘hear back’ from it. It helped me to have a notebook so I could write out what I was feeling it say, whatever works for you!
Then respond by “feeding” it in a very descriptive way. You can make it in whatever form you like, but make it very visual. If it’s wanting comfort – making something warm and thick like honey for example.

Once you’ve “fed” your demon, calmly wait for it to be satisfied. Breathe into it and just sit with that feeling of being satisfied and fulfilled. 

If you wait a bit longer after the demon has been fed – sometimes it will get up and leave (in the case of oppression or trauma you’ve held on to), or it will transform into an ally (such is the case with “double sided” emotions like Excitement and Nervousness). It could take several sitting down sessions feeding your demon before your ally shows itself.

When your Ally appears, breathe into it and ask it these 3 questions (or more if you feel inclined): 

  • How will you help me? 
  • What pledge do you make to me? 
  • How can I gain access to you?

Here’s an example of this process in my own notebook. If you want to get a special notebook to document your discoveries, insights, and milestones, I would HIGHLY encourage that!

Sometimes it helps to see how far we’ve come with ourselves to appreciate where we are. 

demonfeeding1

demonfeeding2
Posted in Attitude, Personal Life, Psychology, Uncategorized

Feeding your Demons Pt. 1

My goal is to be authentic – and if I’m going to be truly authentic, I need to share some of the negative parts of myself.
Throughout my life, when I have struggles or really, really difficult internal conflict, I always think, “It’ll  all be worth it if my experience helps someone else.”
So, I’m hoping by sharing this very personal experience of mine, it will help someone else out there.

I’ve shared a bit about always being anxious – and today I’d like to talk about how I’ve really pushed myself to … not really overcome anxiety, depression, and feeling disassociated with myself, but live with it and integrate it to my advantage. 

When I was maybe 7 years old, I remember looking at my hands. Really just sitting at the end of my bed and looking at my hands and thinking, “Wow, these are my hands” and thinking how am I even here? In this body? And then I was just felt overcome with gratitude for being alive and for having hands. All of a sudden, I didn’t see through my eyes, but above myself looking down from a corner in the room. And that was the last time, until the past few years that I felt like I was really living in my own body. All my memories, whenever I would interact with people, even if I was just sitting down by myself drawing or watching tv – all of this was viewed from above me, behind me, or some other place in the room. 

And this is probably why a lot of people through out highschool said I acted like a stoner because, living like this, you’re very spaced out and a bit disoriented all the time.

Fast forward to 2006, I went to the doctor for extreme anxiety and just feeling very low. She recommended a therapist to see where she diagnosed me as having general anxiety disorder/depression/disassociative identity disorder. And… that was about the end of her helpfulness.

A few years later, I was still really struggling and becoming self destructive…again.
In 2009, I went to see another therapist who was very into meditation, natural remedies and things like that. She directed me to authors like Pema Chödrön and Thich Nhat Hanh and this is when I really started feeling okay and better with myself – even though I still felt very much ‘out side my body‘. I started meditating – but that didn’t really help me because I was already living ‘outside myself’ and the point of meditation is exactly that – to view things objectively. 

I bought a book called “Feeding Your Demons” by Pema Chödrön. In the book, she describes an exercise of talking with your “demons”, giving them a form and shape,  and looking at these things that you think are holding you back in a completely different way. Up until this point, I had been “Fighting” my demons.

In the western world especially, everything is very divided into “Good” and “Bad“.
Pema’s book talks about more non-dualistic thinking. Such as viewing these demons not as “evil spirits” outside of you that you have no control over – but instead as neglected and ignored parts of yourself.
Think of it like if you get a puppy. You bring the puppy home, but you never pet it or play with it or love it and barely feed it. Chances are, once it grows up to be very aggressive. (This analogy actually came from a podcast I listen to called, The One You Feed)Same thing with these inner parts of ourselves – when we neglect our creativity, our inner voice, try to silence our natural gifts or shame ourselves, we turn that part of us into a monster in a cage who acts out whenever it can.

The good news is, we can transform that monster back into it’s original shape and integrate it with ourselves again.

This is a two parter, my next entry will discuss the technique Pema Chödrön talks about in the book to “Feed the Demons” in yourself and I’ll share my own experience with doing this. This is the #1 thing that’s helped me “Feel whole” and integrate those parts of myself instead of trying to starve them out or cut them off.

I’ll leave you with this excerpt from one of my favorite poems :
And if only we arrange our life according to that principle which counsels us – 
that we must always hold to the difficult, then that which now still seems to us the most alien will become what we most trust and find most faithful. How should we be able to forget those ancient myths about dragons that at the last moment turn into princesses; perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave.

Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us.

Posted in Attitude, Personal Life, Uncategorized

Live Feed Vlog Notes : Consistency

I have a very complicated relationship with consistency.

And maybe some of you can relate to this.

Growing up, it felt like it was a very controlling, stressed, and strict atmosphere.
I hated how I was being told how to think, how to act, how to live – And if I did try to ask questions, I was either misunderstood or brushed off, so it was a very frustrating environment to be in.
And I didn’t have a counter to say, “Actually, can I be this way?” and as a kid, if you try to think for yourself and it’s discouraged, you give up.
I didn’t really know what else was out there – but somehow I knew that there had to be more to life, that people are too individually different and there’s too many of us to believe that this is the only way and I have to do it the way. Or else, I or my family would get sick and die or something really bad would happen to me or my family if I tried to live another way. They most likely didn’t MEAN to make it a life and death situation, but as a kid, that’s how I understood it – it was life and death and black and white.
I’ve always been a very literal person, and a can be a bit gullible. It’s taken me a long time to understand metaphors – if you say, “There’s an elephant in the room” I’ll look around and be like, “There is?? where?!”

On top of that, I’m the youngest of 4 sisters so I’ve always felt like everyone is at this level, and I am way down here at this level. They were all in middle school and highschool at the time I was like, learning how to sit up.  I’m always feeling like I need to catch up with the world and should already know how to do “whatever” by now. This created a very deep seeded sense of self-doubt in myself. I’ve always looked for approval and definitely for impressing people.
And, another thing about being a baby – I don’t remember being a baby, but I’m pretty sure I hated it. Being completely helpless and dependent on other people is terrifying for me … which probably also bleeds into all the other reasons I’ve never wanted to have kids haha.

Back to my fear of consistency. I’m afraid that I fall into a routine – much like the one I was used to when I was growing up – I’ll never be able to break out of it. And I’ll miss out on something – something I could have experienced or learned or an opportunity.
And even more scary for me, that routine may be being controlled or manipulated by someone who doesn’t have my best interest in mind. Even just in part, like you hear of those stories of stalkers and thieves who know the exact time a girl goes out for a run Every Day and that’s the time they know is safest to rob or worse from her. I feel like having a routine or daily schedule will make me miss out on something because “I have to do this thing”.

Ok, all that is why I haven’t believed in schedules and routines. However, fairly recently, I discovered a term “Decision making Fatigue” and realized that this is the biggest problem for me. I’m a designer, I’m always deciding how big something should be, the color, the font, what it should say blah blah a TON of decisions. And then on top of that deciding which project to do next, how to proceed, and it is really overwhelming sometimes. THIS is where having a schedule and following it would come in handy.
So I do have a rough schedule to keep me on track, but I don’t like to make it rigid. Because once I start including things like times and dates, I lose focus. I just work as hard as I can, day by day, and anything I don’t finish that day, that’s priority one the next day (ironically, just like how I learned when I was growing up).

I want to encourage you guys to make your own routine and figure out the ways that being inconsistent may be hurting you or draining your energy.
I don’t believe routine and schedules are the end all be all, but I do believe they do have their place and value –

– as long as you keep in mind to be gentle with yourself. 

Posted in Attitude, Personal Life, Psychology, Uncategorized

Granny’s Coinjar

Surprise! I bet you thought my #thursdaythoughts were going to be posted on Thursday, right? Haha, fooled you!

Just kidding – I forgot. 
This past week I’ve been thinking a lot about my family, where I came from, and how it’s impacted my future.
My Granny’s birthday was this past weekend, so I’ve been thinking a lot of how she influenced the way I think. She’s a very elegant type of woman and it shows in the way she holds herself and talks.
When I was younger, I was really intimidated by her – which made the moments we shared together having fun 10 times more special. When she smiles or laughs, you know it’s genuine. One time, I managed to persuade her into playing Crazy 8’s with me. I remember her saying she thought it was going to be just a silly kids game, but it ended up having a lot of strategy to it and she really enjoyed playing it with me.
Fast forward to now, as an adult with a stepdaughter of my own, I see myself acting a lot like her. Granny was always pushing me to try new things and be independent – in a very not subtle way! I do the same with my stepdaughter and she’s told me Many times that she appreciates being pushed and the “tough love” (IE – when she asks me to do something for her, my typical response is, “Figure it out for yourself! You’re a big girl now!” I’m pretty sure those words came Straight from Granny).
I’m a pacifist and peace keeper by nature, so it’s a pretty big deal for me to Not help someone and come face to face with the possibility of confrontation. But I see the value in believing in someone enough to push them out there, believing they can do something. And then being supportive if they fail and encourage them to try again. My stepdaughter tells me she’s Much more independent since I came into her life because I don’t do things for her and push her to At Least Try.
 

My Granny never promised I’d succeed at the things I try, but I do remember her saying clearly, “You’ll regret it if you don’t try. Who knows, you might even enjoy it! What’s the worst that can happen anyway?” 

Imagine if we all lived with that attitude. 
Posted in Attitude

Cowboys Knitting on Horses

Thanks to my Dad’s amazing social skills, I’ve never had a problem talking to ‘strangers‘. I don’t even know if I’ve ever met a stranger.
It’s easy for me to talk with people face to face because they supply me with all I need to know about them through their facial expressions, body language, clothes, and whatever else kindof clue I can spot that tells me who they are, what they care about and how they like to be treated. When I talk to someone, my goal is to mirror all the potential I see in them back at them. Somehow, this has made me extremely lovable – what people don’t realize is, it’s not me they love, it’s the reflection of themselves.
To say I overlook any negatives about a person is probably an understatement – but also a bit inaccurate. I look deeply into ‘flaws’ and negatives about a person and investigate why they’re there and how it contributes to that person’s identity. 
For example, recently a friend and I were exploring Annapolis together and ventured into this Antique Bookstore. As we were leaving, we saw a book with a cowboy knitting a sweater on horseback. We thought it was so funny that we had to take a picture of it. We were pretty close to the checkout counter, and as we were giggling we heard a very stern German accent come from that direction:
“What do you think is so funny?”
We looked around half realizing there was someone even sitting at the desk who had been watching us the whole time.
“What are you laughing about?? What is funny?” She repeated, sounding obviously irritated.
I made eye contact with her, looked at my shrinking friend, and then decided to take action and involve her in our “treasure hunt” (<to be explained in a later post)
I grabbed the book and took wide steps over to her saying, “It’s this picture, don’t you think it’s funny?”
Now, since I lived in Germany for 4 years and been in love with Germany and German culture since I was 14, I already had a bit more insight than the average Joe. Germans are unapologetically straightforward and have a Very Distinct sense of humor. They love to be challenged. (I know I’m speaking in general terms and that there are exceptions to the rule, but… deal with it.)
She looked at me grimly above her glasses, and said, “No, I do not think it’s funny. Why would it be funny that a man is knitting on a horse? What else is there to do back then?”
Sensing my friend beside me growing all the more nervous, I grinned, “Well, I guess you have a point. They didn’t have phones back then.”
My joke went unnoticed and I had unknowingly stepped on a gender stereotype nerve with her where she had become irritated to young girls coming in and making fun of Men knitting. I listened to her as she very passionately spoke about how men have every right to knit and shouldn’t be laughed at because that only promotes the stereotype of “Men Shouldn’t Knit”.
Somehow, the energy shifted, she lightened up and said, “There are lots of books about men knitting, and I’ll show you one that IS funny…” She stood up from her desk and walked around towards the shelf. As she did, I was still smirking a bit and gently touched her shoulder, “But you have to admit, this picture is a little funny.” she grinned while walking, “Okay, yes, it is a little funny.”
We ended up staying there for I’m guessing a good 20 minutes talking with her about stereotypes, being independent, dogs, military life, and just enjoying each other’s company.
Her message was, “When you see someone doing something you think is wrong, like promoting negative stereotypes, you should approach them and challenge their thinking. Nothing will change if we don’t do this. Have an open conversation, don’t argue, but try to understand.”  Which, is right on with what I believed and exactly how I talked with her. I respected her opinions and tried to understand what was happening rather than running away in fear or getting angry.
I like to think this interaction inspired both of us and gave us an even warmer spot in our heart for people we don’t immediately understand.