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Social Media – Developing Healthy Skills and Balance

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I received a lifehack e-mail with a link to a list of reasons why social media can be detrimental to our health.

It’s titled, 
You Should Be Aware Of These 10 Effects Of Social Media On You

By Amanda Rife 

http://www.lifehack.org/articles/technology/you-should-aware-these-10-effects-social-media-you.html

Amanda Rife writes:

“Technology is a useful tool, but many people don’t know how to use it properly which can easily become damaging. As much as you may love your Twitter page is it really worth the toll it takes on your health? That’s for you to decide after you read the following 10 ways social media negatively effects your life:”

She brings up some interesting and important issues and great points with some basis of truth to them and I am elaborating and adding my own views about each one, here.

After each number is her reason why social media may be damaging to us. Under each reason is her view and under each of her views is my own opinion.

1.) Reduces person to person interaction.

Amanda Rife writes:
“Not only do you spend less quality time with is people who are physically present in your life, but they will quickly get annoyed by you when you’re paying more attention to an electronic device than them. Eventually the people around you will even stop wanting to hang out with you.”

My view: We have complete control over how frequently and in which ways we use our social media accounts and our phones, computers, laptops, ipads…and whatever else we use to connect to a social media resource. Connecting with people online and seeing people in person are both great and both have advantages that the other does not. One doesn’t have to take the place of the other one. Social media allows us to share photos, statuses, posts..and comment, tag each other in ways we can’t do in person and allows us to meet people and reconnect with people we would have never met or encountered again if not for social media. Seeing each other in person is different than seeing each other through a screen, we can hang out, look into each other’s eyes(if we can see), hear each other’s voices(if you’re a hearing person), have coffee, tea, food together, laugh together… They’re both great and we don’t have to give up one for the other. It’s all about balance. You can put your phone away when you’re out with someone in person and just because you “see” that person online everyday doesn’t mean you don’t have/want to see the person in person when you can. Social media doesn’t control you if you don’t allow it to.

2.)  Increases your cravings for attention drastically.

Amanda Rife writes:

“Posting vague statuses on Facebook to grab others attention could easily become a nasty habit for people who use social media frequently. The never ending competition for likes and notifications can consume you.”

My view: What can be said about this (and other points brought up here) goes beyond the scope of this post. Many of these are deep psychological issues/aspects that are issues that can have posts of their own. Example: What Amanda Rife states here is true for some people. They need “likes” and comments and shares to feel validated and they want competition, to get more love than others. But that’s not Social media’s fault. That’s an inner issue of the individual self. Social media just provides us with the opportunity to get that kind of attention, to get “likes,” comments, shares…and while it’s great to have that kind of attention, it’s an honor to know that people like us and our content and there’s nothing wrong with desiring it, it’s an indication of a problem to feel that we need it to make us feel worthy or important. It’s a sign of a psychological problem that needs awareness and tending to if we become literally depressed or anxious or feeling excessively low to the point it seriously affects our lives if we don’t get attention on social media. I think the inner problem is what needs to be addressed, not just push it under the rug by criticizing or getting rid of social media for it. It may be helpful to lay off the social media accounts if we are the kind of person to need attention to validate us. It may be very helpful to stay off twitter, Facebook, Instagram, blogs…but that psychological problem of ours will still be there and may manifest in other ways if we get rid of our social media accounts. It’s not social media, it’s us. Social media can be our wake-up call, to help us realize we have a problem, not caused by social media, but being triggered by the opportunities it allows. We can then use this realization to our advantage, working on and exploring problems we would have not known we have if not for social media bringing our attention to it.

3.) Distracts from life goals.

Amanda Rife writes:

“It’s so easy to get wrapped up in what’s going on in social media that people will neglect their real life goals. Instead of aiming for the dream job by obtaining useful skills people, especially younger people, tend to strive for internet stardom.”

My view: Again, this is something we have complete control over. We can use the Internet and social media for just the opposite, to inspire us and motivate us to fulfill our goals and even come up with new ones. We can meet people, discover new ideas, and have our creativity sparked by the people and things we encounter through social media. Anything can distract us so we don’t work on our goals, TV, work, laziness, and more, we can get wrapped up into anything and become a slacker, not just social media. It’s great and very effective to manage our amount of time spent on each thing that takes up part of each day, not let one take over everyday.

4.) It can lead to a higher risk of depression.

Amanda Rife writes:

“According to recent studies the more people used social media the more negative feelings they experience, including depression. This could partiulalrly harmful to people who have been previously diagnosed with depression. If you beginning to notice you’re feeling down on a regular basis it’s probably time to take a break from your many social media.”

My view: This is probably for different reasons for different people. I suspect one of the the main culprits is negative comparison. We know how our lives really are, every aspect, every event, every thought, every problem…but with everyone else, we only see what they choose to reveal. Some people only reveal the positive aspects of their lives and keep the pain and problems hidden. For some, this is because they want everyone to truly believe they have The Perfect Life, for others it’s not that they want, necessarily, to be judged as having a perfect life, but they fear being judged negatively if they complain on social media outlets, for others still, it’s not at all about coming off as being perfect but they want to use their social media accounts just for uplifting quotes and happy thoughts, as opposed to using them to vent or disclose unpleasant situations or thoughts. They just aren’t drawn to sharing their whole lives, pleasant and unpleasant. When we are struggling and we see photos, posts, and all kinds of happy updates by people who seem to have it all, this can contribute to us feeling low about our own lives. And if we are prone to true depression, it can trigger an episode or the onset of a full blown disorder. A couple of other culprits of social media contributing to depression are cyber- bullying and friend rejection, people blocking and unfriending others, not responding to requests or comments and messages. If you’re prone to depression, this can be a serious trigger. 

Giving up all of social media may be a solution for some but I think the underlying depression and/or insecurity is what mostly needs to be addressed.

5.) Relationships are more likely to fail.

Amanda Rife writes:

“No good comes out of online displays of jealousy and snooping. It may seem like an easy option when it comes to dealing with relationships, but in reality it does more damage than good. In fact, studies show that the more a person uses Facebook the more likely they will be to monitor their partner, which leads to arguments and crumbling relationships.”

My view: Again, this is not social media’s fault but the fault of the persons involved. It’s how we go about handling our circumstances while also using social media. Relationships and the use of social media are compatible. We have to use our common sense about what is wise to do and not do in terms of social media. Or learn what to do and not to do if it’s not common sense to us. It’s all about our underlying insecurities and issues, not the social media. Social media just provides us with the opportunity to see and reveal all kinds of stuff that can bring out our insanity if we allow it to. We don’t need social media to spy on or stalk people, it just makes it easier to engage in those unhealthy things. If we feel a strong desire or need to obsessively monitor our lover every second of every day , the problem is either us or the lover. Maybe I’m very insecure and my lover is trustworthy. Or maybe I’m not overly insecure but he is being really suspicious and there is some reasonable explanation for my monitoring.

But the true underlying problems would likely be there with or without social media because they lie within us. They are what need to be addressed.

6.) Excessive use of social media stunts creativity.

Amanda Rife writes:

“I can speak from personal experience that social media is the easiest way to stunt, or kill, the creative process. Surfing social media sites, especially Tumblr. in this scenario, has a numbing effect on the mind that’s similar to mindlessly watching television. If you plan on being productive today shut off those apps!”

My view: This definitely has some truth to it and the word “excessive” is the key word here. Nothing is good in excessive amounts, that’s why it’s excessive! It’s also about being mindful and active in all that we do. Mindlessly scrolling through a bunch of mindless drivel thrown about by others is bound to numb anyone’s creativity and decrease our IQ a few points! But when we are mindful of what we’re reading or looking at and fully engaged, our creativity can deepen and we can come up with new ideas. While looking at pics on Tumblr, reading blog posts, Facebook statuses, or anything else, it will benefit you to pay close attention to what you are doing, thinking, feeling, reading. Is it serving you well? Is it inspiring you, motivating you, challenging you? Do you feel peaceful, calm, happy? Or is it just mind numbing stuff you’re surfing through because you feel you have nothing better to do? If so, you definitely have better things you can be doing! Finding something else to read or look at, meditate, tune into your surroundings, the scents, the feelings, the sounds, the colors and textures…your possibilities are endless.

7.) Cyber bullying is alive and well.

Amanda Rife writes:

“People feel too comfortable on the web and say things they wouldn’t normally say in real life. If you’re not the one say horrible things, you’re still inevitably going to be exposed to it. And if you are one of the people talking trash? Cut it out! You’re not as anonymous as you think. With the rampant cyber bullying on the web, people are also becoming more rude off the web as well.” 

My view: This is so true. Cyber-bullying is something we have little control over for the most part. For those of us who aren’t cyber-bullies, we still have to witness it or just really negative, uncalled for comments everywhere. Have you seen the YouTube comments on even the most inspiring, positive, beautiful, uplifting videos?! Good grief, they’re horrible. I rarely even read the comments because they’re so dumb and uncalled for. Internet trolls are everywhere and unfortunately here to stay. I suggest you don’t feed them. It’s what they want. So let’s let them starve. They are people who feel so low about themselves and their own lives so they insist on attempting to drag others down with them.

And it can crush our spirit to see even when it’s not happening to us, personally. Being a witness to uncalled for negativity can be so life-draining. But we can develop habits and skills to not let it get to us to the point it’s overwhelming and leads us to depression or anxiety. We can stand un-buffeted against the negative attention seekers who get off on inflicting pain upon others just for thrills. Focus on your own positive qualities and all the love and positivity you receive and remember as much as it sucks being bullied or being the target of cruelty, it has to suck way more being a bully. To sink to that level, there has to be something seriously wrong. Pay the callous comments no mind, I suggest you don’t respond to bullies directly but when you see it happening to someone, you can write positive things to the person to uplift her/him.

8.) Constantly comparing yourself to others online will make you miserable.

Amanda Rife writes:

“The digital persona people display on Facebook is often much different that what actually goes on in their lives. After awhile you may feel like you know your online aquainences better than you do, creating a social gap. Try to remember that everyone is just as human as you are.”

My view: Like I said in response to #4 about depression, negative comparisons aren’t good. It’s not healthy for us. When we’re comparing ourselves negatively to others we’re either making ourselves out to not be as good or making ourselves out to somehow be above the other person/people. It’s uncalled for. We all have good things and bad things and it’s all about our attitude. We can’t control what other people put on social media but we can control our own attitudes and reactions. Like Amanda Rife says, we are all equally human. Focus on the goodness of yourself. Bask in your own beauty while truly, relishing the beauty of others. 

Let other people’s happiness, accomplishments, success, and beauty inspire you and motivate you, not depress you or trigger jealousy.

If you really feel utterly miserable because of someone else on social media accounts, analyze yourself, think about why this is. Do you feel like you are lacking in some respects? Missing out? Then do something to fulfill yourself. It doesn’t matter what others think. Do what you have to to bring joy to yourself as long as you are not hurting or directly interfering with others. And if someone is trying to intentionally make others jealous, unhappy, miserable, you can unfriend, block, ignore that person and get on with your own life.

9.) Loss of sleep.

Amanda Rife writes:

“The light emitted from your various electronic screens tricks your mind into thinking it’s not time for you to sleep. Getting enough sleep each night is already difficult enough without extra complications. Perhaps it’s best if your phone doesn’t stay with you though the night.”

My view: This is true but has nothing to do with social media itself, really. If we have our phones by our side in bed, we may see the little flashing lights, hear beeping or other sounds, or just be so tempted to check Facebook and other things. Over and over and over. But this has to do with discipline. Self control. Get into the habit of sleeping at night, not playing with phones. If it’s really too difficult, the phone can be put in a different room while going to sleep to make the temptation less irresistible.

After a while it becomes a habit. Then it will be easier and easier to resist until eventually your brain is trained to not think of that phone and Facebook or Twitter at night. 

10.) Lack of privacy.

Amanda Rife writes:

“Between social media websites saving (and selling) your personal data and the whole NSA mess involving unsolicited government access of personal data including email, Skype calls, and so much more it’s very clear that privacy and the internet don’t mix at this point in time. If you post every last thought that pops into your head it could just as easily come back to haunt you in the future.”

My view: This is really very simple. Don’t ever put on social media, anywhere including what you think are personal e-mails or inbox messages, what you don’t want everyone to see. Even if your account is blocked so only people on your list can see, someone, somewhere, can get access to it if those people really want to. Once you put something out there, it’s out there for good, somewhere, even if you delete it and it looks like it’s gone. It can be retrieved. People can get into your e-mail box and any other thing you have on the Internet. Whatever you would never want others to see, keep it to yourself or tell someone in person if you can. Any other way is not safe. But this is a choice. When we put something stupid out there, it’s on us. It’s not Social media’s wrongdoing, it’s ours. Many people don’t realize that when we put something out there into cyber-world, it’s here to stay. They think it can be easily removed because there are “delete” buttons so it’s important to educate people.

Social media itself isn’t the problem. It’s how we use it and perceive it. Social media is limited in its power over us. It mostly only has the power we allow it to have. We can empower ourselves to have a healthy, balanced, positive relationship to social media and those people we connect with online.

We can greatly benefit by developing healthy skills and habits and cultivate a positive attitude about ourselves, each other, and social media. Social media provides us with amazing opportunities and has much potential for great things. We don’t have to give it up to avoid all our problems that arise while using it. It’s ourselves we need to work on.

It’s not the use of social media that is the problem, it’s misuse.

I’m very thankful Amanda Rife brought up these important issues. It is crucial to address them in this age of social media where so many feel that it has a power and mind of its own, where people feel like victims in the face of struggles made possible by social media. Social media is a blessing, certainly not without its negative consequences and distress in some cases, but it’s definitely a positive thing if we allow it to be and use it wisely.
,
Xoxo Kim 

You and me are the real heroes

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I saw a quote a while ago that I can’t seem to find anywhere. I think I even shared it on Facebook. It’s something that says something along the lines of
Superman is not a true hero, he is invincible, literally indestructible, he can’t be broken or conquered, he doesn’t have the ability to be overcome. The true heroes are people like you and me who can be broken, defeated, hurt everyday but we choose to take risks, carry on, share our stories anyway. We choose to live knowing we can and probably will be broken again and again.

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I love this concept and it’s true. I was thinking about it recently when I was thinking about depression and my physical pain disorder that comes and goes. I’m generally very happy, positive, and joyful but I still experience random episodes of severe depression which I feel violate and contradict my true happy personality I had since I was a little girl. Sometimes I wonder if experiencing episodes of depression is an indication that I’m weak. When all of a sudden I don’t want to get out of bed or take pictures or go out or put makeup on or even go on living sometimes. This is not always true when I am depressed! Sometimes I do still want to get out of bed, see people, socialize, take pictures, read..depending upon the kind I have then. Usually it is not the numbing or worst kind.

Especially when the episode isn’t triggered by any environmental factor that I know of, or is triggered by a memory/thought, I think of the people with “real” problems, the tragedies they experience but they still want to live and post pictures online and go on social media pages and do everything they always did. This is a great strength they have. To suffer but still carry on. I can’t believe some of the horrors people experience and they share their stories, wisdom, and life lessons on social media outlets with pictures of themselves smiling brightly and sharing their joy and pain and I can’t believe the strength they find in themselves.

But it doesn’t mean that someone with depression or anxiety or bipolar disorder or addiction of any sort or any other mental health condition is weak. Even when we have a flare up or relapse. It’s just a different kind of problem. Mental heath disorders are some of the worst things because they crush our spirit. Even with physical problems, grief and loss, and other things it’s possible to still be ultimately happy while enduring it along with the sadness as long as the person doesn’t becomes clinically depressed. That uplifted spirit can remain.

But with mental disorders like depression even when everything is going well for the person, it’s a disease or condition of the “mind.” We can sometimes succeed in keeping a kind of positive attitude even with it but unlike with physical pain and even grief, it’s literally a thing of the mind or brain so it’s nearly impossible to separate the depression and a happy outlook. Depression consumes all so there’s seemingly no happiness or positive feelings or joy or pleasure.

I’m not weak when I’m depressed. I still go on even when it seems I don’t want to. I still laugh. I practice techniques that help me and I still try to help others. This is actually a strength.

And when I’m in so much physical agony because of my facial pain disorder that, like depression, comes & goes completely, that I don’t sleep for days and scream til my throat is raw, punching and slapping myself over and over for hours because I don’t know what else to do when the severe aching, burning, stabbing, throbbing, pounding in the one side of my face, eye, ear, head, won’t let up for a split second, I’m not weak. I still carry on. I still grasp and hold onto any slither of hope I can find in me that it will end or I will learn to cope and live with it.

I can choose to completely give up hope, to stop living, to let it make me bitter, to succumb completely and not get back up, to let it take over my life. But I don’t. I choose to pro-act. To ultimately get back up, to move forward, to smile and learn and share my stories and lessons learned in the hope of inspiring others.

Screaming in pain doesn’t make me weak. Collapsing with my face in my hands, banging my head against walls doesn’t make me weak, sinking into despair doesn’t because I get back up. Just like I always have. Just like I always will.

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If you ever think you are weak because you have a sickness either physical or mental/emotional/psychological or a relapse of some sort, because you fall or fail or break or succumb to your bed or to the floor in utter despair, when you’re tired and worn out and ragged, when you’re exhausted and uninspired and shattered, remember you always get back up and move forward and learn and teach and carry on. You’re still here!

You choose to seek help or to handle it on your own if you can and keep moving. That’s a strength.

When you experience something traumatic or painful or devastating and live to tell about it, sharing your story with others, reach out, learn lessons, and carry on, that is a strength, not a weakness!

Never getting sad, never getting angry, being fearless, not having the ability to hurt or kill, being invincible….those aren’t strengths.

Strength is being sad and afraid and angry and crushed but still going on, finding a way to still be happy eventually, seeing beauty through the tears, finding joy in the sorrow, finding pieces of perfection in the flaws.
Strength is having the ability to break but putting yourself together more whole than ever. With all the cracks and scars and flaws but being even more beautiful for them.
Strength is being able to hurt someone but choosing not to or saying sorry in a genuine way when you do.
Strength is how we react positively to our unpleasant situations. It’s our hopeful attitude, it’s the love and life we choose instead of choosing to become constantly bitter and give up.

It’s you and me, not a fantastical superhero who literally can’t be destroyed. He literally has nothing to fear.

Physical strength and other power doesn’t make someone strong or a hero. It’s how people use their power and strength. How they choose not to abuse it to overpower others when it would be so easy and so tempting.

We all have some sort of power to hurt others in some way. And sometimes it’s so tempting when someone makes us angry. But we can summon the wisdom and love in us and not abuse our power to hurt and destroy. Sometimes that’s the more difficult choice. And choosing the harder but more loving option is an even greater sign of strength.

“What makes Superman a hero is not that he has power, but that he has the wisdom and the maturity to use the power wisely. From an acting point of view, that’s how I approached the part.” ~
Christopher Reeve

Wishing you much love, hope, strength, wisdom, and courage today.

Xoxo Kim

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Ugly-beautiful

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“And she’s so pretty cause she will never be…
She’s so pretty to me, to me, to me.
It doesn’t matter what everybody sees.” ~ Jude
 
I’m reading a novel called “My Grandfather’s Eyes.” I don’t know which page I’m on since it’s a Kindle book on my phone and the Kindle books don’t always show a page number. I don’t even know how many pages are in the book. I’m not at the very beginning but not quite to the middle. I know because of the virtual line showing reading progress.

What I read up until now is thoroughly beautiful. The main character, Alexandra or Alex, is something like a psychopath. She’s around thirty-two years old. Alex has no concern, love, affection, care, empathy, or any positive emotion for anyone in the world except for one person, her best friend Lizzy. She loves Elizabeth, or Lizzy, more than anything and anyone else in the entire world and would even die for her if she had to to save Liz’s life. They were best friends since Kindergarten and Alex was always in love with Lizzy but never acted on her romantic interest in her.
Alex was born with a facial deformity, a bump on her forehead and dark moles, some of which are hairy, and grow darker and bigger across the side of her face as the years go on. Alex’s dad took her when she was a little girl, to a cosmetic surgeon to have them removed but Alex refused. She has always loved her moles.

Even as a young woman in college, she cherishes her deformity, she thinks they add to her beauty. But it has always hurt her how most other people would react to her for her whole life, even her own family, her own mom. Many just stare while others say cruel things to and about her.

What I read until now leaves me to believe, for now(i think later she may go on a killing spree or something but not sure), that Alex is more indifferent to people than vicious or cruel, although she does think about and desire killing certain people and she murders her own husband who she was never in love with but he truly loved her. The two loves of her life have always been reading and Lizzy.

She doesn’t care about other people’s pain, she shows no empathy or concern when others come to her with problems or when she witnesses someone suffering. Sometimes she just doesn’t care and sometimes she actually takes pleasure in it. She’s somewhat sadistic.  She has absolutely no regard for human life.

Except Liz’s life. She cries for her when she’s hurt or when she misses her.

Lizzy is a beautiful, thin girl, with long blonde hair, flawless in appearance except for one thing. In high school she made a mistake in chemistry class and burned her hand up her arm which caused severe damage and is now disfigured. She thinks it’s repulsive but Alex finds it beautiful in the same way she knows her own deformity is beautiful. Lizzy is aggressive and funny. She’s intelligent but doesn’t care to display her intelligence. She’s also a thief.

Alex’s facial deformity doesn’t and never has fazed Lizzy. And Lizzy defends Alex when people stare or say rude things. She even kisses Alex goodbye on her “ugliest” and biggest mole.

“As I try to read, there is one thought that overwhelms me: He did not look at my moles. I am sure of this. There is only one other person who does not see them. My Lizzy.” ~ Alex

This may just be the most beautiful line in the book. I just love how she says “does not see them” Instead of “does not look at them” or “does not have a problem with them…” It’s just they don’t see them. They look straight through and see her for her.

The book is Alex reminiscing and telling us about different stages of her life, flashing back and forth.  

What I find beautiful is that the author shows how beauty can be found in ugly things or ugly things can be beautiful themselves. There is beauty in pain and darkness, in sadness, and struggles. Sometimes we can overlook “ugliness” and see the beauty in it or we can actually see “ugly” things, themselves, as beautiful. Maybe something is beautiful because it’s sad or dark or unusual or different.

She loves reading so much that her decision for which university to attend is based on the beautiful library.

“…the Gothic Hall complete with turrets and gargoyles – where I will study English Literature. It is ugly-beautiful and will suit me very well. A fitting place in which to study the works of great authors. I feel the hairs bristle on the back of my neck with the excitement it generates in me.” ~ Alex

It’s beautiful because it’s ugly. It’s dark and aggressive and enthralling.

And even though Alex is like a psycho, her self-love is so very beautiful to me. She’s extremely arrogant but also has genuine love for all that she is in and out. She embraces her ugliness and flaws and refuses to conceal them for what others think and say.

Some people mistake self-love as conceit or arrogance but this character, Alex, with both traits, arrogance and genuine self love, is an embodiment of the sharp difference. Arrogance isn’t love. Someone can be arrogant or act arrogant but have no true love for herself and someone can love herself and not be arrogant. Alex is both. She even admits that she “wears her arrogance like a badge.” But she genuinely appreciates her own physical features and her personality traits. She’s an intellectual with no patience for simple, less intelligent minds and trivial drama.

I also like how Alex isn’t a very beautiful character on the inside but there’s so much beauty to be seen in her anyway. The novel isn’t about a sweet, loving, innocent girl who lives a life of goodness but happens to have a physical deformity where the author plays on our empathy to overlook her physical ugliness but see straight through to her obviously beautiful loving heart of gold and love her anyway.

That would be easy.

This? This is challenging because beneath her physical deformity lies a deformed or ugly heart as well. But it’s impossible not to see incredible traits in her anyway. Like her self love even though she was tormented for being deformed her whole life, her indestructible love for her best friend that she would do anything for even if it puts her out, her passion for literature, the way she appreciates and basks in the simple joys of living like lakes and quietude, the way she bursts out laughing uncontrollably for no reason when she meets the man she’ll eventually marry, her intelligence, and dedication to her goals. We see her humanness as well as her monstrous side. And there are little bits of beauty scattered throughout.

I have felt guilt and various other emotions reading this book. Guilt for judging and guilt for adoring a psycho’s positive qualities and even some of her ugliness. I love when novels provoke uncomfortable as well as beautiful and positive emotions in me, when they force us to question ourselves in awkward ways. I don’t promote what she does but I can’t overlook her beautiful qualities. 

It reminds me to be like that with real people who may not be my favorite, ones with qualities I don’t care much for. I don’t have to be their best friend or be head over heels in love with them but I can still work to see the beauty in them and appreciate it.

Here is a beautiful quote out of the book about her looking at herself in a mirror, by the main character, Alex:

“In the mirror, I see a woman sitting bolt upright in her chair, with her handbag on her lap. She has long mousy hair, parted in the middle, her scalp white in the harsh fluorescent light. There is a large, dark mass spreading across the side of her face. I think her elegantly middle-aged, sensuously beautiful. I cannot identify with her. I see her smile, first with her eyes, which remain young, and then with the whole of her face. We fuse together, and I feel an energy building inside me, so that my reflection seems to disturb the air in the room, like a breeze across the surface of a lake.  It is a lake I have visited many times in my dreams. We are luminous and powerful.”

This is in a hospital after Alex’s husband dies. No one knows she murdered or tried to murder him. She planned to kill him but after she did, she wasn’t prepared for the feeling that would hit her, the reality of his death. She wanted him dead but after hearing those words, it was hard to accept and come to terms with the fact that  her husband is dead, that she killed him. She wasn’t shattered and is ultimately happy with her choice to kill, but she felt awkward, uncomfortable at first. She started to dissociate. 
Like, feeling as if one part of herself is no longer connected to another. Like her body and her mind or inner self, disconnect. Some people feel as if they leave their body when they dissociate,  after a serious trauma like assault of some sort, for example.

People don’t choose true dissociation but this excerpt reminds me of how many of us often hold ourselves to greater standards than we hold others. We judge our bodies and self worth in ways we wouldn’t judge our sister or best friend. “I have rolls or stretch marks, or am not a size 2 or have scars or acne…or whatever…so I’m hideous, fat, worthless, no good, ugly, not beautiful….” But would you ever say or think that about someone close to you? Or even a stranger? Chances are, no! Try to look into a mirror and kind of dissociate, not like a mental illness or result of a traumatic experience but remain unbiased, not shadowed by self critical thoughts. Take a good look at yourself and pretend you aren’t you. 

Look at your beauty with new eyes, with a stranger’s eyes. If you weren’t you and not so judgmental, if you weren’t brainwashed by the media or society’s concept of beautiful perfection, would you think you are ugly, horrible, not beautiful? Would you think you’re beautiful? Now take the beauty you see and feel and know, and become you again, the whole you, let you and the person in the mirror fuse together. Love one another as the whole that is you.

This book is already so thought-provoking and inspiring.

But….

I read some reviews and I think there may be some violence later in the book, maybe violent sexual scenes. Sometimes I don’t read much about a book, reviews or even the basic description, before reading. I like to go into it completely unbiased, not knowing. Sometimes I read a few reviews and for this I did and a couple said something about there being some “uncalled for sexual violence” or something like that, in the book that does nothing for the story but be disturbing. I read so many books and reviews though that I don’t always remember which reviews are for which books. For all I know those reviews are for another book!  I can tolerate extreme violence in books if the book is really good or has a deeper message other than just violence for thrill. It doesn’t thrill me.

 I felt drawn to this book immediately but then read something that contributed to me deciding not to buy it. And I think it’s the reviews that said there’s uncalled for horrific violence. But then I bought it anyway because what I did read about it in other reviews, the love she has for her Lizzy is so beautiful and it pulled me in and I also love the title. Yes I do judge books by their covers. Lol And even if that’s true that there’s unnecessary violence later, I’m happy I did buy it because of the deep insights I have already come to know just by reading what I did. But I can’t actually recommend the book without knowing the rest, especially if it has scenes that can trigger distress in someone who may have experienced trauma of some sort. Empathy while reading a book is one thing for a person who never experienced serious trauma but for someone who has, it can be completely  different, like the person is reliving it, the body can be like literally living it over, causing severe distress and pain. So I am careful recommending books without warnings.

“My moles continue to grow and darken. I take less care to hide the bump on my head, and I wonder whether my deformities will eventually take me over. I am impatient with them, wishing they would stabilize. I think I notice people staring more, and imagine they are whispering to each other but I decide that I will not try to hide myself away. It will be easier if the people who are alienated by such things have the chance to avoid me, and I reason that those who are indifferent to them will not care.” ~ Alex

I love this and completely agree. I would never want friends or people who like me only because they don’t know something about me that if they found out later they would reject me for it, whatever it may be. We don’t have to like everything about a person we like but we can accept, tolerate, or overlook it and love the person as a whole. I don’t necessarily want someone to like every single thing about me, like all of my opinions or anything, and I won’t conceal something just to have them like me or not reject me. It’s like an asshole repellent,if you show your ugliness or controversial views or something right off, you weed out the assholes and the true ones are still standing by your side. Or if you’re the asshole and people are going to reject you for it then they can back off and the ones who don’t mind asshole-ness will still be there. 
I don’t always like people’s opinions but I often appreciate the courage it takes them to stand up for whatever it is and the passion that drives them.

I am what I am whether I conceal it or not and whether someone likes it or not. So why deny or repress it? Instead I will give people the chance to know me and embrace me or know me and reject me.

My love for fiction has deepened dramatically over the last year and one thing I love about it is how the novels can teach us even
 deeper empathy and greater compassion and understanding for real people and real life situations. We can’t always see or know why people do the things they do and it can be easy to judge and direct hostility towards them without any ounce of empathy or understanding but in books, authors bring their characters alive, stripping them raw, so we can hear their every thought and know their motives and intentions, and we can then, have compassion even more and understanding for the characters. We can extend that to real people and situations.

Understanding and empathy do not necessarily entail or require encouragement of or promoting something. I can understand and be empathetic of a person doing something wrong or not good but not promote or encourage it. I love when authors challenge us. This author is clearly brilliant, not just in writing but her deep understanding of life.

The girl’s wedding day is on June 25th in the book and that’s today for real! Lol what a coincidence that I read that today!

Is that something only I would be thrilled over? 

;-D
I hear that a lot “only you, Kim!” or “only you would think or notice that, only you would laugh at that…!”

Xoxo Kim

“The only disability in life is a bad attitude.” – Scott Hamilton

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