Everybody’s Talkin’ at Me

“…I don’t hear a word they’re sayin’. Only the echoes of my mind.”

For many of us, this song lyric is far more true than we’d like to admit.

It’s not because we’re shallow or uncaring. Well, most of us, anyway. What we are is distracted, defensive, and, ultimately, disconnected. It keeps us from being fully present in most of the conversations we have. It keeps from hearing what the other person actually said. Worst of all, it puts a wedge between us and those most important to us: partners, family, friends, and professional peers.

Distraction: your child is trying to tell you about something really exciting that happened at school, but you’re trying to get dinner on the table and thinking about a presentation you have to give tomorrow at work. So you hear something approximately like, “…so then Keisha said blah blah blah and I tried to blah blah blah but Mrs. Rothstein told us we had to blah blah blah and it made us feel really blah blah blah….”

Results: you didn’t just miss what your kid was saying, you missed an opportunity to learn something, to see some of the treasure unique to her glinting inside her.

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Boarding Pass Privileges

Of all the things that can keep me up at night, one of the most pernicious is reliving and stewing over something hurtful someone said to me.

smiling receptionist, boarding pass, maggie mcreynolds blog

Smiling Receptionist: Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

“I should have said this,” I mutter, punching my pillow into what I hope will be a more sleep-inducing shape. “I should have said that,” I growl, trying one leg outside the blanket to see if that will cool me down without giving me shivers. “I should have…done something!”, I sputter as I thrash around and succeed only in knocking over the glass of water on my nightstand.

And I am right: I should have done something. And that “something” I should have done is not let someone else’s judgment of me, my life, my kid, my business, or even my dog on board, if it didn’t resonate with me or feel true to me. What’s keeping me awake and seething isn’t the original comment itself so much as the fact that I opened my door and let it in.

Building these kinds of boundaries—what you will allow on board, into your core, and what you will not—is challenging work, and most of us never get taught to do so, or even told that we should.

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Fear: Friend or Foe?

fearful man, maggie mcreynolds blog, Signature:1aa0edd3f00ecb0adc8aa215f572f8061f81f2bd7ee14d34f53c48d50acdcb69My son tells me he is afraid. “There are so many things to be scared of,” he says. “I don’t understand the point of fear. Is it to keep you from doing stuff?”

Well, yes. And no. frightened guy

Life without fear would be dangerous indeed, because fear can provide useful information that might help keep you alive. Consider sufferers of congenital analgia, a rare and total insensitivity to pain. People with this disease often don’t live past age 25, because as children, it’s extraordinarily difficult for them to learn to avoid danger when they simply can’t feel the consequences.

While the rest of us are learning—often the hard way—that fire burns, that knives cut, that heavy objects break bones—those with congenital analgia get no such feedback from their brains. They can get third-degree burns from a scalding bath or cut off a finger without feeling a thing.

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