Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Monoculture By F.S. Michaels, Education, and Living Parallel to Culture

Personal views on education have gradually changed for our family over the years. While we value autonomy, freedom and learning we have come to understand that these values are not synonymous with the educational systems we have today. The ethics of education have changed. The economic cost of secondary education has created appalling debt. We have a culture of "learned" students without options. 

For our personal family, choices regarding freedom, autonomy and learning, involved many books and philosophical thought patterns which brought us to the choices that we make today. But one of the books that propelled us towards change a bit quicker was 'Monoculture' by F.S. Michaels. The book is short, concise, well researched, and worth the read. The book is based on the economic story that is overarching many disciplines and thus affecting our decisions within our culture collectively and our individual lives. For a quick book review CLICK here or amazon HERE. "F.S. Michaels' Monoculture...Winning the George Orwell award, being asked to speak at Alain de Boton's London School of Life, NPR, Brainpicker and now TEDs. It's definitely an idea worth spreading." (Quote taken from the Ted Talks' link HERE.)

The book does not have solutions to living parallel to cultural (which is a concept suggested) but instead show how economics shape our lives. F.S. postulates that the values of the past which included beauty, truth, justice, and freedom have been replaced by economic values such as capitalization, competitiveness, efficiency, and growth. The last few chapters encourage living parallel to cultural. Parallel is important because it's not reactionary. If we simply live contrary to culture we are just creating a similar problem in reverse. Plus, a reactionary response usually stems out of anger, and while this may be a legitimate stage in a journey, it should not be the end game. 

Most of us have enough autonomy to BE our own stories. At least where I live, there is the privilege of choice in many areas of life. With this freedom we can revolutionize our mind by changing our perspectives.

My personal beliefs on education transitioned from a large believer in secondary education, to student in a secondary college, to an online student, to drop out, to enrolling my own kids in school, taking my kids out to homeschool, and finally finding a way to incorporate unschooling methods (see side labels.) My way is not the only way nor the "right way," but it was the path that enabled me to live the F.S. Michaels concept of living "parallel to culture." Our family choices today are contemplated versions of parallel living. An important point of living parallel to culture is that it can not be mass produced or it simply becomes another culture. Instead with thought and respect we each get to actively think and choose how we live our own story. Thus, your children may be in school. You may be a supporter of secondary education. The reasoning behind WHY you choose what you choose and contemplating the history and cultural belief surrounding your choice is what's important.

"Education was thought of as a service to humanity, as a cornerstone of democracy. Through education, you came to an enlightened understanding of the world, became someone who could think critically, someone who knew how to participate effectively in society and how to hold democratic leaders accountable. Education was a public good, a social investment in our life together as a society. We believed that education improved us collectively whether we were personally the ones being educated or not. We used education to redistribute opportunity. Education would narrow the gap between the haves and have nots by making access to a better life more equal. If you started out at a disadvantage, through education you have a chance to improve your life."- F.S. Michaels.

F.S. Michaels continues to write upon the original process behind our institutionalized learning. While the story of education started out fantastic and honourable, the story of education and science changed. The economic story isn't simply just about money but it is about what is considered rational instead of what is the good of all. Entrepreneurs and marketing make education something to buy and sell at the educational institutionalized core. Education is now a service and ethical simplicity is no longer in the equation. "In the economic story, education is ushered into the world of markets and becomes a commodity. Students become buyers. Schools become sellers, service providers competing for business in the education services industry. The economic story says that education is a private good, not a public one. Education is something that helps you get ahead in life as an individual. Education matters, not because it will help you become a fully formed and informed citizen capable of participating effectively in society, but because it will help you get a better job, make more money, and improve your quality of life."- F.S. Michaels 

What is more alarming is the inequality in a time period that we mistakenly believe is full of equality and autonomy. Hundreds of students are giving up autonomy to owe debt to large companies and systems. Families are working to pay off debt in low end jobs while dreaming of the work they thought they would do with their degree. Education is supposed to be a free leavening agent for the peoples of the world, for each to have opportunity, freedom and choice. Instead higher education (debt free) is given to the few chosen who are privileged. Money is an important factor to freedom. Instead of learning how to manage it properly with blogs such as Mr. Money Moustache,(CLICK) we believe we will make money by paying to go to school to land that job we think we deserve instead of focusing on quality and responsibility.

"Those leery about taking on that kind of debt have fewer options than they once did. Scholarships and grants- money that doesn't have to be paid back- are now based more on merit than financial need, and the criteria used to measure merit are highly correlated with socio-economic status. In other words, students who are more affluent to begin with have higher merit scores, which makes them more likely to be awarded financial aide that doesn't have to be paid back. Education scholars observe that in the 21st century, more economic and racial inequality now exists in access to higher education than in the 1960's."- F.S. Michaels 

The decision to homeschool our kids came with many factors and none of them hinged on the future possibility for secondary education. If our children decide to attend higher education, so be it. Where there is a will, there is most often a way, and we are not too worried about it. They are learning quite a bit of "higher education" now, including a complete university level liberal arts education in podcast form (CLICK) . We want them to learn for the sake of learning and critical thinking. We want them to find jobs that get them out of debt or optimally to not get into debt to begin with. Their personal autonomy, responsibility, ethics, and outside the box thinking matters. Overall, we don't want them to be another cog in the wheel of conformity and competition. We don't wish them to base their value on competing or achievements which we felt was an overarching theme in traditional schooling. 

 "The economic story says you should choose which school to attend based not on the quality of the teaching but on the recognition and cachet of the school and it's degrees; a better brand represents a better return in your investment. In your classes, you compete against others to get ahead. You're ranked against your classmates and your ranking is largely based on how you preform as an individual. If you're independent, flexible, adaptive, fast, self governing, and entrepreneurial, you're someone to watch. High preforming, valued students are those who can help the school achieve its benchmarks in its own competition with other schools...because in the economic story your school educates you to give the country a competitive advantage in the global knowledge community...and to train workers for the workforce."- F.S. Michaels

"After science lost its moral high ground by creating the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima in the second world war, science slowly became industrialized... Scientists now find ways to create knowledge, then find an application for it. Outside funding is a common theme. Winning contracts and grants outside becomes huge. What was once for the intellectual commons is now intellectual private property. Colleagues become competitors. Scholars are advised not to share findings....After all, research can generate major income. In 2000, licensing revenues for research results like the hepatitis B vaccine, the cancer drug Taxol, the sports drink gatorade, and vitamin D technologies topped 1.7 billion; revenues are typically split in thirds between the researcher, his or her department, and the university... Programs like Humanities become less valuable because they attract less outside money."- F.S. Michaels

Education is one segment of the themes of life that are shaped by the main economic story. F.S. Michaels also includes this main theme in creativity, religion, health care, nature, and relationships. These disciplines and their cultural mentalities are important to consider.

So, if most of us are living monoculturally, and are aware of it, what are we to do? What is an informed, truth seeking, citizen determined to have choice and freedom, for the greater good of humanity, to do in this economic educational story?  

The first time I read F.S. Michaels book, I felt slightly overwhelmed by HOW to live alongside monoculture. I remember wishing she would give real life, diverse examples of people who chose different paths at the end of her revelations. Not for a prescription of mass production but for a stepping off point or a spark for those who wish to implement change but don't even know where to begin. When we see the courage of difference in others, it's easier to find it in ourselves. When we witness people OWNING their stories, we in turn want to find the discipline and inspiration to own ours. It shouldn't look exactly the same, but someone else's story may encourage our OWN. Change is not easy and it's not one size fits all. 

For my family, it took years to get where we are today. We currently live and own our form of dignity. We have found a way to birth our life into something independent yet still reliant on community in healthy doses (and contributing to). Our life is based on simply LIVING our story and encouraging others to live theirs thoughtfully even if it differs vastly from ours. If, after pursuing the deeper meanings behind the cultural story, large picture and beliefs, one chooses to still be in facets of varied parts of culture, that is still a valid way of living. But if you are unhappy...if you find yourself resonating with the fact that economics are at the helm of your story, then find a way to change your story. This depends on what you think and who you become within your thoughts. As Gandhi challenges, "Be the change you wish to see in the world." I would highly recommend starting in your own world first. Who do you want to be and who are you now?  BE. Honour this moment and this story you are the main character in. Actively CHOOSE.

 I feel that living parallel to the current culture is a revelation to many. Healthy self and healthy community starts by having a thoughtful choice instead of being swept away by "one economic story that is shaping our Education, Creativity, Religion, Health care, Nature/Environment, Relationships ect. "- F.S. Michaels. 

Your personal story, WHOM you are, what motivates you, your thoughts and challenging yourself within these thoughts, matter. The quality of life depends on choice, which in turn is influenced by gut**(Click here for more thoughts on the gut and how it shapes your decisions) and thought. Beliefs are meant to be questioned. The reasons why we do things are just as important as implementing choice.

You ARE your story. Not the monoculture. Not the economic story you may happen to find yourself in. Perhaps that is your setting but it does not have to be the place where your ending is. Our stories involve what we tell ourselves everyday. Change the narration. Find a way that honours your personal beauty, freedom, justice and wisdom. 

Song Choice: Brick in the wall- Pink Floyd 
*All quoted material written by F.S. Michaels chapter on Education in Monoculture.

** check out the book Gut by Gulia Enders

American Idiot- Green Day

Friday, September 9, 2016

The Choices That Brought Me to A Life I Love Today Based on Sartre's "We are Our Choices."

*This is a lengthier post in general because it was tough to condense the choices made to the point of freedom we are at today. Skim it if you want basic tips, read it if you need more, skip it if you are loving your life and in need of time elsewhere. :)

Sometimes (ok almost every day) I am in awe that the life I lead is MY life. I LOVE my life. It's a princess sort of existence without the responsibilities and gender expectations that would otherwise come with that role. I have the surroundings of a queen. I live in general comfort and each day I get to choose what I wish to do for the most part. I am free in many aspects of living and my children enjoy the same. It's a privilege of course but I didn't just wake up here in this lovely life. I made choices. I became my choices. My husband made choices. He became his. Life was mostly hard in various ways for me up until the age of 26/28 ish (or at least that is the mentality I owned back then.) I didn't understand the culture I was immersed in, I disliked many events I participated in but felt that it was my fault, I felt secretly ashamed of how I worked but KNEW that something was different about me, and I struggled with dark depressions, crazy baby hormones, finances, daily grit, and general BEING.

I often get asked why I am so happy now even though some events in our life are tougher than before, I am aging, and I still struggle with health. People have asked me what is the difference between my mentality then and how I view my life now. There are MANY events that lead up to the last few years of abundance and most of them involved changing perspectives to a startling degree.

I was burning old piles of letters, papers and journals last week. Having a recent death in the family had me asking myself what I wanted people to go through when I was gone and I realized my papers needing a lot of weeding. As I was travelling down memory lane one last time before the blazing fire, I came across pages filled with prayers to the lord and heavy Christianize language regarding my life. I wrote a lot of tag lines like 'Daughter of the King' or 'Christ follower'. I defined myself by a set of rules or even ironically my own self rule but called it God. I thought saying phrases like that were a testimony or a huge part of my identity but I didn't see the part of it that was not what it seemed. Back then I would have considered these current statements blasphemous but now I understand how immersed my belief was as a cultural experience and how blind we are to our own control issues. Many of the letters were full of guilt or shame disguised as humbleness. An example of my letters; "Dear Precious Lord and Saviour. I know my life is yours heavenly father and I realize that I am your servant but yet I still struggle. Even though I know I am your precious daughter I don't understand why I am unable to get passed the death of my baby. Why am I this way? I ask you to forgive me for my sins and that I can be more of a witness for you. Please allow me to show grace and to not be bogged down by the world and rest that my baby is with you. Please shine through this circumstance." Instead of truly grieving for what I lost I felt conflicted between my true feelings and being a testimony through the pain or winning souls to the lord. Anyway, it got worse after that to the point that I could not stomach much more of my own Christianize thus I disgustedly threw the pile in the fire. Because truthfully, that was NOT me. The essence was me but the language was full of christian expectation that was fighting within me. Plus, it was a short stage in my life. While I was a bit more religious in high school, I wasn't as conservative and was considered an outside the box, "grace based" christian until after I was married. My husband was quite strict for the first years of our married life. Our adherence to biblical rules to the point of fanatic, happened after we had  our first two children and for a few years I was the wife whom, even though I had a rebellious, non conformist spirit, ALMOST believed in submission and read the 'Power of a Praying Wife' believing that it was ME who was the problem. I was the one crying out to god in my room. I was the one parenting the kids while he went out to serve in the church continuously, thinking that it was the true work. We sacrificed a lot in the name of god and religion. Until one day our aunt called us on the hypocrisy of our doctrine. We thought she was going to hell...but the seed had been planted. 

We started questioning. As a result we received more control from others in our life, more patronizing and more accusations of being deviants...which told us that maybe we were right in questioning our so called safety of church in the first place. We went through the stages- first we became more Benedictine, then Anglican, then we focused on grace filled application, then charismatic, and then eastern/new age sort of christian. It was interesting the stages and phases and while they all had their benefits and we can recognize many types of Christians from what we went through ourselves, we began to see the benefits, downsides and mentalities that were surprisingly similar deep down. We stopped attending church...at first it was a few times a month, then for months, then finally after three years we stopped attending the special occasions too. And we breathed LIFE. Lazy like Sunday finally made sense.

The support was taken from our lives with these choices and for a couple years we did not have many people speaking that love so we built our own supports gradually. It took about four years total but one day we woke up realizing it all paid off. Fast forward through many books, podcasts, and finally access to the Internet, philosophy, secular history, psychology and sociology and you would never believe that I wrote letters like the ones I threw in my fire. I look at that girl and I don't recognize her at all. It feels like I have lived several lives re incarnated within the same lifetime of myself. I actually have more questions than answers. I am definitely against organized religion in general of all shapes and sizes but I also accept individuals who practice many faiths out of love. I am more familiar with the religion of my childhood so thus I WILL be tougher on it. Because we don't go around parenting other children but we do have a responsibility to parent the children we know well. I also believe each faith has something to teach.

Religion aside, many life altering choices became available to us in the last decade. I found understanding in diagnosis. Finding out I had Asperger's Syndrome (now simply Autism) was one of the most freeing moments of my life and the co conditions I was diagnosed with like Dyspraxia, Dyscalculia, ADD, and being a Highly Sensitive Person. Suddenly, I no longer looked at myself through the lens of flawed. I no longer spent agonizing nights going over my day, where I went wrong, how I was foolish and wondering WHY my inner life could never be expressed properly from my outer life. It wasn't easy finding a diagnosis or getting my kids diagnosed. It took years of our life going to appointments, finding therapists and dealing with pretentious beasts of people at times while finding a few intellectual gems and acceptance. I was thirsty for any information on our conditions and I read hundreds of blogs, articles and at least forty (ish) books on the topic. Some were thrown across the room while others were highlighted and still have an honoured place in my library. My husband was not comforted at first by the thought that his wife would be autistic for life. He confided that he always thought one day I would magically be "normal" and that one day I would wake up able to cook and drive. That was a moment when there was a choice. For both of us. Those months were tough. I had to choose to accept myself but to also accept his decision if I was even what he wanted anymore. He had to choose to learn about differences and how to adjust to a different brand of family function. Along the way he realized he had a diagnosis of his own and suddenly accepting mine was easier because he suddenly understood what it was like to be a minority in diagnosis too. Hours were spent on trips reading and discussing our perspectives. Our marriage went from hanging on a string to the strongest souls uniting. But it started with a choice. It meant not giving up despite a flawed medical system. It meant being berated by some, criticized by others and told we were sinful (which is soul destroying when you actually believe in sin but became a lot easier to deal with once we did not.) Yet, despite the many odds we CHOSE the difficult path which ended up getting us to the easy path we are on today.

Our finances began to be worked out which I wrote about in other posts (see side labels), I learned about boundaries which I have also written a lot about (see side labels), and I learned that despite being an honest and open person, not giving all my information away to anyone whom I wanted to make a connection with was key to survival. People are not as nice as I assumed. Most are curious but not caring. Boundaries and necessary endings were painful at first as I took proverbial scissors to many events and relationships...the first few years especially. But after I adjusted I looked around at what first seemed like a burnt up forest and saw that instead it was a flourishing secret garden. 

Personality Cognitive Functions was another step in growth. I am not speaking upon the simple tests and letters of INFJ but the actual cognitive function and science behind these brain function stacks. Personality Hacker is one of the better tools for explaining this. We learned the function stacks of our children and each other and this cut family arguments in a third. Sometimes it's a choice between wasting time somewhere else or sitting down to learn about each other. But a choice that has paid off in so many ways.

The INFJ put another piece of the puzzle together on why I love people but need to sparse out my social commitments. It also drove home to me why I still often felt like an outsider in most of the Autistic community. I didn't fit in with the Nuerotypicals but I didn't fit in with most of the Nuerodiverse either (even though I fit more.) I realized it was because I had the INFJ component which very few autistics have. It made even more paradoxes for me. I discovered Sam another INFJ Aspie blogger who became a friend even off the blogs. I discovered home in a private blog by a few random ladies finding me and becoming some of the most treasured friends I have today. At least five of them are in my life on a more personal level. No longer were my only friend options those in my town. Don't get me wrong- I LOVE my friends from my home town but with an exception of a few, I didn't really know a diverse group of people from different countries, sexualities, mentalities and religions. Each of my blog gals fit a category of differences that I had not yet come across and they grew my perspectives. When you grow up in  a rural small town religion mentality, even if your family is considered liberal and you have lived in other places and visited other countries, there is a limitation (pre internet) on growth outside of books and film. I was well rounded enough BECAUSE of the movies and books I grew myself up on, but when I actually began to know other people from diverse differences, suddenly these aspects of being were no longer simply labels but an organic piece of a loving person. This changed everything.

When my kids were little I thought traditional schooling was the only option. I thought homeschooling was for either super religious people or those who were over protective of their children and limited their choices. I could not have been more wrong (or more of a snob really.) When my children attended the school I became shocked at what they didn't learn, what peers taught them in a not so good way, what went on even in a private school, the sensory overload and how hard it was for all of us. Their behavioural issues went through the roof. One day I was speaking with a mental health professional about it all and she suggested I look into homeschooling. "You are smart and think of things most don't- it doesn't take a degree to teach a child- look at the years of history leading up to school as we know it today. Think about it." The seed was planted. A new choice had to be made. It took three years of pulling them in and out of school until I found my groove in homeschooling and fully committed to it. At first I hated it but now I could never put them back in. My biggest worry is that I will die before they finish school and they will be sent to that prison of conformity, walls and time. Yup- my mentalities are open to OTHER people choosing school- I really do get it, but I realize I am aware I am quite opinionated about the school system itself. As time went on I grew into an even different mentality within the homeschooling community which was unschooling. That choice made our life even more beautiful. I still have more growth to go and each year I learn a new approach or change my own. 

These are all choices that I never in my wildest dreams thought I could implement as a child. I thought I would be a working woman with an epic love story but I did not want kids. I believed that University was the sign of success and that job security was the sign of a fruitful life. I valued education not realizing that really what I valued deep down was choice, freedom, responsibility and learning about diversity and choices. I didn't want to stay home and I certainly didn't want to ever entertain the idea that I may change my faith and go to hell. Turns out there is a lot in our place of freedom that can be done to make a living or Be.

Other choices and changes that brought us to this point:
*Health Answers and Questions

*Kids Passing the Age of Five. I am not an early year person even though I adore little children. The sensory overload and exhaustion, PPD and general work did not suit me. I almost hated my kids sometimes if I am truthful but now I look back and realize my mind was tired, overwhelmed and sick with hormone imbalance. Now that stage is done I ADORE having children and I am glad I did it.

*Therapy! It's not easy finding a good therapist and it takes a lot of work but it's worth it! When you can't find one, be your own. Read challenging relationship books outside of your chosen religion or perspectives. Find Youtube videos and self help that actually make you THINK, take responsibility, become aware and lovingly implement respect and boundaries. Make time to discuss all outside the box thinking with your partner. 

*Body Acceptance. See side label. 

*Not Giving a Damn but Then Avidly Caring in Other Areas.

* Learning about Sensory Overload. This was HUGE. I started avoiding situations I could, making the best of what I couldn't and accepting myself when I melted down over certain triggers.

*Changing my homeschooling facilitator even though my last one was kind and smart. I realized I needed to have someone who suited my personality and goals. It was actually very tough to quit on someone who was such a kind and smart person. It took bravery of a different sort. As an INFJ I can actually deliver in such a way that makes someone feel happy while I leave them but it takes a large amount of energy and I normally save that for important situations. It was a choice I could have been ok with not doing but by stepping out it made a larger difference in our life than I thought was possible.

*Legal Name Changes. It's surprising how last, first and middle names change a person. In fact, as we were going through our changes we came across a whole philosophy built around name changing and what it means sociologically and individually. Name meanings also have also been shown to become a trait the person becomes. We live up to what we are often called. We must be wary about what we nickname others because names influence behaviour. Of course there is a choice factor too but there is an aspect of names that contribute to becoming. The names we give our children may not be the names that suit their later personas. We learned how to let go of our children choosing different names when they age or important nicknames. We allowed them to pick their middle names based on meaning and a range of options we gave. We changed our last name (CLICK) and it has made all the difference in our daily living. 

* The Art of Eating and Diet (see side label.)

*Our Home Renos. The Not So Big House series taught us what makes a home. We started designing our starter home into our dreams instead of waiting for the "right dream" home. We chose to spend our time and money on where we were at. A split level is the last sort of home design I wanted and yet ours now is one of my favourite places in the world. Is is exactly what I would choose if given unlimited options? No... but I would enjoy many different types of home. Thus we put into it what was important to us in detail, design and the layout we could. We focused on roots yet wings but not physically so much as mentally. I learned that decorating is important to me even in the midst of a minimalist movement. I learned I could love and respect my minimalist friends while filling my home with everything I love. And no that did not mean I was a hoarder, could not let go or held on too much to things. It just meant I knew what fills me, what I love and how to enjoy what is surrounding me.

*Realizing Family may NOT always be Blood Relatives. Family members are those who accept, challenge in a loving way, and grow with you. They are a support system who call during good times and not just bad times or when they want you to change something. Family are those who try to understand the topics that are important to you even if it bores them and vice versa. Family are also people who are willing to let go of their ideas of the afterlife enough to not pass judgement or have every conversation revolve around AFTER and instead focus on what they have NOW. They give up control over the outcome of your fate and simply become travellers together even if their beliefs do not line up- it's about love and acceptance instead of judgement and control. Family are those who become with us...and it can change...some family members stick around while others come and go.

* The Gifts of Imperfection. Letting go of any shame story changed my relationships forever. Thank you Brene Brown.

Those points above were some of the key moments that brought us to loving the last few years of life. If I died today I would die content in what my life was and is. I have everything I never knew I always wanted. It was a crucial moment the day I asked myself, "Why can't my life look like Anne of Green Gables or Father of the Bride 2? Why can't I make little choices and mentalities to perceive that way? My life IS a story ... so why not be the director of it when I can?!" And so I did.

It's still hard, as life can be sometimes, but in general when I am alone witnessing it all, I feel gratitude deep and abiding. It's magic. In Once Upon A Time, Mr. Gold often cautions, "Careful what you wish for dearie, all magic comes at a price." Our magic did come at a price but the magic was worth it. The price was paid by us in all these changes initially but once the adjustment period was over in each of them, the price no longer bothered us because the magic was there. I used to have a life filled with regrets of what I should have done, what would have been more of a testimony, what was the "right" decision...and now I rarely if ever, regret anything. It's all a learning process and if I am going to accept other's mistakes and look at them as opportunities for change, growth and acceptance, I must do the same for myself.

J.P Sartre, a philosopher of the last century wrote, "We ARE our choices." We become what we choose. Looking back I can sum these choices up in a tidy package and most seem large, but at the time most of them were small, daily choices that seemed to have little impact. I had no idea that when I acted upon a thought of research that I would be witnessing a domino affect of years getting me to where I am today. I didn't know I would be happier in my thirties than ever before. I thought I would be dead or miserable because I was no longer young according to culture. I thought those best years of my life everyone kept telling me to enjoy were mostly not so hot. If people were right I was screwed. I didn't think I had autonomy and in some cases my environment did make me have less freedom...finances would be one of those areas that has restrictions...but there ARE ways around sometimes...it's finding them that is both adventure, hardship and freedom.

Today I watched my kids play basketball out on the road as the autumn sun beat down on my deck. I listened to Steve Tyrell croon as my neighbourhood was quiet because all others were chasing down other dreams and expectations. I sat and I realized I was happy. More than happy because I was content, I was rich in what I have, and I was part of beauty and am beauty. Of course my tummy was off as usual, I was exhausted and breathy and a little apprehensive about my latest blood work result, my child had been obstinate at one point and my house wasn't clean...so I am not saying life was perfect or had a lack of struggle. I am not looking for perfection. I am looking for the gifts within imperfection. I found that. I made choices that put me at risk. I participated in existential crises and turned many of my previous mindsets on their head. It all started with a little choice that I could make inside- owning my perspective. Like Sara in The Little Princess I decided that markings of a princess involve an internal belief system. I didn't think I would ever get my cushy home as a lovely reality so until I did I pretended and chose what I could. That made all the difference.

I know I've lived and it has mattered. I try to savour every ordinary moment I have. I want to own every second...even the ones I would rather forget. That girl I was talking about that I no longer recognize in my early twenties? Well, even though I don't recognize her- she helped bring me HERE so I don't regret her. She gave me lessons and grit and a remembrance of what it is like to be immersed in a belief system. She continues to give me grace for others like her because I was once her. I am glad I am no longer her and in another way she was beauty too, but there will be aspects of myself now I will shed later if I get to live longer. A large factor in all of this though was choice. We become our choices and we ARE what we choose.

Looking back, what daily or key choices brought you your best moments?

The music video for the song below "I Lived" is part bio of an attractive boy with Cystic Fibrosis and each time I watch it I relate in some areas, and am relieved in others while also growing in my awareness of each of our stories, how they are integrated, what becomes us and how we choose to live: