T.J. BROWN BLOG
I’ve had people ask me about my morning routine, (okay, one person, hi Gill!), so I thought I’d blog about it. Like most blogs about anything, you have to wade through the story before you can get to the stuff you really want to read. If we didn’t tell story, blogs would just be bullet point lists of the good stuff and what fun would that be? So… read more…
Every Friday evening, I tell my students to go out and do something AMAZING over the weekend. Actually, I say the same thing to my co-workers much to their annoyance, because then I judge what they think is amazing by saying things like, “No, binge watching such and such on Netflix isn’t amazing,” or “No, playing video games isn’t amazing,” to which they hem and haw and argue. Then I tell them that they don’t know what amazing is. read more…
I’m not a pagan, nor do I play one on TV, but I find myself drawn to their holidays. Why? Because celebrating the changing seasons in whatever fashion makes much more sense to me than celebrating holidays fabricated to keep the pagans/wiccans from observing festivals like the Autumn Equinox. Celebrating the final harvest and the changing of the seasons feels so organic to me and, in my quest to find celebration without deity, I am making merry on the first day of fall.
Last night’s bonfire was the beginning. I had a friend who I hadn’t seen in a long time over and I listened as she and my husband strummed their guitars by the light of the fire in the crisp cool air. read more…
The publishing business is fully of dizzying highs and stomach plunging lows and my writing career is no exception. From a nasty publisher to a six figure deal to getting dumped by my agent to dumping my agent, from international sales to film agents, to famous producers being interested in my book to books tanking, from scoring articles in national magazines to having an editor completely rework your copy because she hated everything you gave her… I’ve pretty much seen it all. I could teach a master class on publishing—and if there was any money in it and I had the time, I probably would, ha)! If you aren’t crazy when you start writing, the business can make you crazy. read more…
I graduated last night. Now before you ask me which university I graduated from and what I majored in, I have a couple things to share with you… it wasn’t a university, it was a community college and my major was an Oregon Associate of Arts Transfer Degree and I’m not going to transfer.
Saying both of those things is hard for me. Really hard. And yet the power of those words and the meaning behind them is worth exploring, both for me personally and within the wider context of what it means to not to hold a BA in a country that both worships and hates education. read more…
When you have a save the world complex, it’s important to watch for the following pitfalls:
- Being angry at people who seem to be obtuse about the suffering of others. Everyone has a protective layer that keeps them from being heartbroken over the myriad of injustices and suffering surrounding them. In some folks; the layer is several feet thick. Sometimes it’s almost as if they blame the sufferer for hurting. Try not to get angry, dear ones. They may be battling their own demons—like assholery and callousness. Remember that anger impedes the work.
- Mistaking the save the world complex for the savior complex. You’re not here to help the professional sufferer—they’re actually quite attached to wallowing in their pain and unless you’re a professional therapist, run when you see yourself trying to make someone happy to no avail. It‘s their job to find their own happy, not yours. Being entangled with the chronically unhappy and dissatisfied takes away time from your work for social justice, intersectionality, economic equality, environmental action and education, and world peace. They suck up valuable time from the work. (And please, don’t think I’m talking about the clinically depressed—I’m talking about toxically unhappy people. Learn the difference. The clinically depressed needs help. The professional sufferer needs to be eased out of your life. Protect yourself and the work.)
- Looking at the work with too broad of a lens. It’s difficult when there’s so much work to be done to narrow your focus to the issues that feed your soul, but it’s important that you do so. You’ll feel better, like you’re making more progress when you focus. Because I’m in school and work full time, my focus is all over the place. I don’t really have time to set get my teeth into one or two issues, so I use what little time I have to calling my electeds over a ton of topics, writing thank you cards to people showing courage, trying to get the vote out by sending reminder postcards and giving money to various non-profits in need. Saying focused also helps you from getting burnt out by the sheer magnitude of the work to be done. I’ll be figuring out a process on how to narrow my focus and choosing which issues feed my soul this summer when school is over. (One more term!)
- Forgetting to take care of you. It’s imperative that you know that real self-care isn’t actually bubble baths, scented candles, massages and pedicures. Self-care is creating and maintaining healthy boundaries. Self-care is educating yourself, being mindful of your time, saying no and working on yourself and your own issues. Saving the world is taxing—mentally, physically and emotionally. The work demands that you keep yourself healthy in all those areas. Our community and the world desperately need more emotionally and mentally healthy people. It’s not selfish, it’s necessary.
I love Saturday mornings. It’s when I look back on the week to see which goals I reached and where I fell short. It’s when I ask myself honestly if my goals are attainable or if I’m holding the bar too high. How did I self-sabotage myself? Are these little goals creating the life I want to live now and the life I want in the future? In the midst of the busy, did I include down time to relax? Did I nurture my important relationships? What did I learn?
Last week I did some ciphering and learned that everything I want to do in a day takes up 22 hours give or take. That includes 7 hours of sleep, working out, food prep and eating, work, commuting, meditation, journaling, homework time, etc. There IS enough time to do what I need to get done, so why am I constantly falling short? I’m thinking social media. Not socializing, really–I realized that I’m reading five or six news articles or essays from various news outlets a day. Something interesting goes by on my feed and CLICK, I’m there. While being informed is important, I think I need to cut back. So that goes down in my goals for next week. read more…
It’s hard to believe that I will have my AA degree in June. Seriously, Four. More. Classes. This three year journey has been exasperating, stimulating and transformative. I spent a lot of time going back and forth as to whether I should continue my formal education or not. Oregon State University has a wonderful online Human Development and Family Sciences degree that I’d love to have. Education, while taking time from some of the things I love to do, also helped me do other things with more clarity and understanding. I believe more education would take my ability to create social change to the next level. However, not only is it cost prohibitive, (especially since my husband is seven years from retirement), but working full time means I could only go part time and it would take me another three years to finish. So that’s probably not in the cards. Most of the time, I’m at peace with that decision. read more…
I found a dying bird the other day. Sahalie and I were taking a much needed holiday break and set off for a walk, crunching through the ice that Portland decided to gift us with for Christmas Eve. I was carefully watching the ground, (afraid of slipping and falling and breaking a hip), when I spied a tiny bird shivering in the gutter. Following my instincts, I swooped down and picked it up. Spots of blood showed on its beak and I surmised that it had been hit by a car and had little time to live. My heart tugged. No creature should die freezing and alone in the gutter. Cradling the bird in one hand and holding a bag of poop and Halie’s leash in the other, I spoke half to the bird and half to my dog as I carefully picked my way home. “No, leave it, Halie. Its okay, little bird, you’re not alone. Stop it Halie. Let’s go home. Poor baby, poor little bird.” I sounded like a mad woman. The warmth of my hand translated itself to the bird and the shivering stopped. I opened my fingers a crack and it blinked at me. I would have felt elation but there was more blood on its beak and I knew better. Had he lived, I would have taken it to the Audubon Society as soon as it opened. The bird died while the humans and baby dog celebrated a dark and snowy Christmas Eve. But, as I left it out in the woods near our house, I realized that it was enough for me that I’d followed my instincts and offered what comfort I could to a fellow earth creature as its life ended.
It was just one of many moments of growth and reflection that 2017 gifted me with.
It’s an understatement to say that it was a growing year for me. Many years have been growing years (the year I fought cancer and wrote four books leaps to mind), but my awareness of that growth has trebled. Between meditation and journaling, the year’s lessons have taken on profound meanings. Perhaps my heightened awareness is simply an symptom of growing older—the impermanence of it all has settled sharply in my chest.
A few of the things I’ve learned this year:
- I’ve learned both the importance of community involvement and the importance of personal boundaries.
- I understand the interconnection of our country and our world in a whole new way.
- I’ve learned how the mentalities of scarcity and abundance impact our entire world.
- I’ve learned how important positive female relationships are in my life.
- I’ve learned more about how our democracy works than I ever learned in school and I’ve learned how it’s currently being threatened.
- I’ve learned how important and precious that democracy is to me.
- I’ve discovered the perils and rewards of radical honesty and I’ve learned the limits of my own courage in regards to that honesty.
- I’ve learned how important that moment of space between stimuli and reaction actually is to the quality of your life and your relationships.
- I now know just how vital mentorship relationships are and how they are the lifeblood of female growth and maturity.
- I also know that mentors can come in the most unlikely places. Among my mentors for the year, I count an astrologer with a bent for human justice and healing, (No, I don’t really believe in astrology, but her intuitive, humane and feminist writing is glorious), a ghost writer, whose compassionate and well-researched Action Check List for Americans of Conscience has deeply impacted my activism, and a former lawyer in New York whose Resistance Live broadcasts have informed me of the inner workings of our government and made me think about female leadership in new ways.
I’m sure many people will agree with me that 2017 has been a shit-show of a year but as I set my intentions, goals or resolutions for 2018, (I hate all those terms, btw. They’re so cheesy and don’t even cover how sacred this process is to me), the growth that I’ve achieved this year directly impacts how I’ll proceed next year. Or, in writer terms, every line I have written, every character trait deepened and every plot point informs what comes next. I wish I had a way to tie up this blog with a deep corresponding lesson about the dying bird, but I got nothing, so I’ll just leave you with my love and hope for 2018. May it be a brighter year for all of humanity.
I recently applied to New Leadership Oregon, a PSU residency program that will help me take my skills to a whole new kickass level in terms of leadership, activism and community engagement/involvement. Cross your fingers for me, because I really want to get in. Why? Because I believe that all women need to learn to be better leaders and I believe all people need to concern themselves with self-actualization. I see this as one path I can take to turn my self-actualization into change. I know myself pretty well and I know what my strengths are. I believe this residency will help me turn those strengths into weapons for progress.
In my job as a transition specialist, I emphasize self-actualization to my students. Why? Because by knowing yourself, you can manage yourself. It’s only by recognizing patterns of behavior or emotional reactions to stimuli that you can change your behavior. So it’s incredibly important that you be authentic… at least to yourself. What do you value? What do you like? What works for you? What doesn’t? I find that for many people, (not including my students, because they’re just beginning their journeys) it’s almost impossible to successfully manage themselves because they have no idea who they are. Yes, we change, yes, learning who we are is a life-long process, but too many people adopt whatever mode of thought happens to be popular at the time. They mimic trends and the people who start those trends, as if being like Marie Kondo, Elizabeth Gilbert, Oprah Winfrey, Danielle LaPorte, Natalie Goldberg or Cheryl Strayed, etc., will make them happy. Spoiler alert: It won’t—because you are not that person. I’m not saying that people shouldn’t have heroes or even learn from the experiences of others, (I adore and study the works of Strayed, Goldberg and Gilbert, for instance), but if you’re busy trying to be someone else, you will never learn who you are.
Getting to know yourself is a beautiful commitment. It includes finding the tools that work for you and applying them to your life. Setting long and short term personal goals and checking in on them is one method I use to get to know myself. My hits and misses show me where my priorities are, where my strengths lie and what weaknesses I’m either ignoring or abetting. For instance, if health is a goal and I’m continually sneaking in to McDonalds for fries, (true story) I have a weakness. Once I spot the weakness I can recreate the circumstances that led up to my enabling it. Am I stressed? Why? Am I too busy? Why? And more… did I fail to plan healthy snacks or lunches? What caused the failure to plan? Did I collapse into an exhausted heap and play on social media too long instead of cooking my lunches or packing snacks? What is the science behind choosing unhealthy fries instead of the fruit and yogurt plate (Tired people often go for carbs). Once I recreate the scenario, I can create positive systems to change it.
So yeah, self-actualization rocks.
It’s my hope that the leadership residency will broaden my horizons and deepen my commitment to being an agent of change. Why? Because I want to change the world for the better, or at least a small portion of it. In this shit show of a world, I want to work to decrease the world-wide suckage and make it a better, more just, place for all living things to dwell. Overreaching much? Probably. But nothing of import has been accomplished by thinking small.
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