How our differences can bring us together


It is not our differences that divide us.
It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.

~Audre Lorde~

In my previous article I wrote about whether our differences can bring us together. Now I would like to consider how this might happen. At first glance it might seem like an impossible task. We seem more polarized each day and pulled to extreme positions. This only causes resentments, hard feelings and is destructive to any sense of unity. What would it take to reverse this trend?

I think the key lies in how we look at and think about ourselves and others. Don Miguel Ruiz suggested four agreements we should make with ourselves based on Toltec Indian practices. His son, Don Jose Ruiz added a fifth agreement. I have written about these in the past as well.  Lets consider how these agreements might guide us in our interactions with others and help us use our differences constructively.

The first agreement is to be impeccable with your word. This means saying what you mean and meaning what you say. It also involves speaking only the truth. Lies lead to mutual distrust. We will never reach agreement with others if we lie to them.

The second agreement is to not take anything personally. We must remember that people say and do things for their own purposes, whether they are expressing their beliefs or working toward what is important to them. They are not out to attack you unless you both agree to be in conflict. Remember that you are also acting in your own best interest and are not out to harm anyone either.

The third agreement is to not make assumptions. Sometimes we are tempted to think others believe the same way we do or just the opposite. Do you like it when someone assumes things about you? If you find yourself with such assumptions, find a gentle way to check them out and don’t start an argument or war in the process.

The fourth agreement is to always do your best. Don’t expect perfection from yourself or from others. Do the best you can. If someone disagrees with your approach, try listening first and explaining second.

The fifth agreement is to be skeptical but learn to listen. You are not always right and neither is anyone else. It’s okay to question your own opinions as well as those of others. What is the evidence on which you both base your beliefs? Can you hear each other out without attacking? It takes practice.

There is a tradition passed on by several thinkers. Before you speak, it is wise to ask yourself if what you want to say is true (agreement 1), whether it is necessary (agreement 5) and whether what you have to say is kind (agreement 4). This does not mean that you need to examine every word that comes out of your mouth, but it suggest that you need to pay attention to what you say and the effect of your words on others.

Even more important than what you say is how you listen. If you are thinking of ways to counteract everything you hear, it will be a short conversation. How different would it be if you were to listen carefully and ask for clarification of anything you don’t understand or with which you do not agree.

If you can do this with everyone you meet and others can do the same with you, we will have made a good start toward resolving our differences. Give it a try.

Back to Back and Belly to Belly­: Where Do We Go Now?


Enemies are people whose story you haven’t heard, or whose face you haven’t seen.


~ Irene Butter~

Take a moment to let your imagination loose. If you were tied back to back with someone and both of you looked straight ahead, what could you both see clearly? Nothing! You can’t see what is behind you. If you are tied together facing belly to belly, is it possible to feel neutral toward each other? Not likely! It would probably depend on how well you knew each other. Lately it seems like we are in both situations at the same time. Either way, the arrangement is most likely uncomfortable on both sides.

Getting back to reality, what can you do to manage your discomfort? You might start by introducing yourselves to each other. Most people start with something safe to see what reaction they get. If they receive a positive response they might try something a little more personal. If something uncomfortable arises, they have the option of a conversation, including listening to each other and explaining themselves.

In today’s politically, socially and morally charged climate, it is easy to wonder if those you encounter are potential friends or enemies. Is that what you want them to wonder about you? Most people don’t. I dare say most people want to be understood, taken seriously and respected. If you are determined to get along with other people, don’t wait for them to make the first move. Take the initiative yourself. If you don’t want to take that chance you can always bristle like a porcupine, warning others not to get too close to you.

Why are we at each others’ throats? On the surface it appears to be a matter of anger with political parties engaged in a struggle for power, racial and ethnic divides and a battle between genders as well as conflict over religious, moral and ethical principles. We have always had differences among groups on these as well as other issues. There have been times when we have been able to talk about these differences and to some extent arrive at a modicum of understanding if not agreement. At other times we have ended up in war.

Finding bridges among groups seems more difficult than ever these days. But why? The anger behind our conflict has its chief source in fear. What are we afraid of? Scott Bonn writes in Psychology Today about General Strain Theory. According to this theory, fear “leads to anger which in turn leads to violence. Such strain results from losing something of value or it can result from failing to attain something of value.”  This could involve loss of a job, loss of financial security or a relationship turning sour.

For lack of any constructive alternatives to handle actual or feared losses, some people end up on the road to anger and possibly violence as a way to express their anger and rage. Some people grew up in families where they never saw good ways to handle fear and loss. They are more likely to follow the path I just mentioned.

So what do we do to get along better and avoid the strain? Here are some suggestions:

Action steps  

  •  Start by finding out what is important to others.
  • When they are ready, ask what bothers them.
  • Mention what is important to you.
  • Talk about what bothers you.
  • Find ways to work together toward mutual goals.

Considering marketing and promotion


Joe:  Good afternoon Calliope.

Calliope: Good afternoon Joe. It’s been a little quiet on your end.

Joe: It just seems that way. I have been busy.

Calliope: Doing what?

Joe: I have been tweaking my website as well as my blogs on Release Your Stress and Reclaim Your Life as well as Making the Best of Your Teen Years. I have added some links, posted related articles and excepts from my books.

Calliope: Anything else?

Joe: I found someone at Facebook willing to help me get started with Facebook advertising which I had not considered. I think I will have a go at it for my books.

Calliope: I guess You have been busy. Is that it?

Joe: Not quite. I am looking for some reviewers for Make the Best of Your Teen Years: 105 Ways to Do It. I would especially like to have some teens review it. If anyone is interested, let me know and I can send you a free PDF copy to review. I guess that’s about it for now.

The summer of writing tools


Joe: Good afternoon, Calliope.

Calliope: Good afternoon, Joe. I have seen your posts but wonder what you have been up to.

Joe: I thought you might be wondering. I have been working on some new tools, mainly Scrivener and KindleSpy. They have both been around for a while But I just decided to add them to my armamentarium.

Calliope: Do tell. How is that going?

Joe: I added Scrivener first and am still learning it’s intricacies. I plan to use it to reorganize my novel, Marital Property. I have found that it helps to break it down into small parts and to have references such as scene and character descriptions at my finger tips. I tried it today to work on my latest column for publication this Saturday. I am not sure about this use but I think I need some more practice.

Calliope: Indeed. What about KindleSpy?

Joe: I debated about it for some time and did some training. I wondered whether I cold do keyword research on my own and tried it first. The time it would take this way would be prohibitive. Also, I don’t think I could reproduce the results I found. I am using it to develop keywords for my published books and also for my columns. I am happy with it so far.

Calliope: What about your actual writing?

Joe: I am still waiting for feedback from some beta readers but otherwise am ready for a final read-through and publishing hopefully in the not too distant future.

Calliope: Sounds like you have plenty to keep you busy for the moment.

Joe: Indeed I do! I will keep you posted.

What if this is your last day on earth?


The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe,

to match your nature with Nature.

~Joseph Campbell~

People don’t like to think about death, especially their own. Sometimes life brings it to their attention. Friends and relatives die or develop serious illness. Sometimes illness grabs people so ruthlessly that they don’t know whether they will survive it. Passing a cemetery reminds them that there is a plot waiting for them there too.

Most people don’t know when they will die. With an advanced disease such as cancer, you might know that the end is near but the day of your death is not written on a calendar. It remains a mystery until it happens. The only sure way to know the exact time of you death is suicide, but choosing that course is rare unless life becomes unbearable.

If you knew you would die within the next twenty-four hours, what would that mean to you? I have met people on their deathbeds who reach the point of being at peace with death and are ready for it. I have met others who may never be ready for their final act and would like to go on endlessly. But you don’t have to wait until death knocks at your door.

Maybe you feel guilty about hurting someone and have never apologized even though your heart wanted you to. Maybe you have been estranged from someone with whom you once had an intimate relationship. Maybe there is some place you would like to visit before you die, perhaps the homeland of your ancestors, and your life would feel incomplete unless you did. You know you will die with regrets if you don’t act.

It’s not too late. Other unfinished business besides what I have mentioned might burden your life. Instead of just wishing things were different, it’s time to do something about it.

If you have offended or hurt someone, it’s not too late to apologize. It would be best to do so in person. If this is not possible, a phone call or letter might substitute for a personal appearance. Be careful of email, texts or other electronic communication as a substitute. Your emotions will most not likely come through clearly.

If you are estranged from someone you once loved dearly, reach out and try to reconnect. Mostly likely you both have hard feelings about whatever happened. Ask for forgiveness for your part in the standoff, and say you would like another chance.

Your ancestral homeland is most likely still there. Perhaps you can arrange a trip even if this means making sacrifices in other areas. Maybe you could ask your relatives with the same roots to accompany you.

These are just some examples. Perhaps you have other unfinished business to which you could attend if you made the effort. Unfinished business adds stress to your life. Having it resolved might well make your life more peaceful. Releasing this stress might also allow you to live longer.

Life Lab Lessons       

  • What unfinished business in your life plagues you?
  • How long do you want to live with it?
  • Are you willing to resolve it?
  • Make a plan to face it.
  • Get on with it.

(Published by Joseph Langen as Sliding Otter News and available by free subscription.)

Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Stress and Peace

Light Post

Peace is the only battle worth waging.

 ~Albert Camus~

 The holiday season ahead of us, including Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa are meant to be times of peace and joy. Yet this is also a time of high stress for many people. It is also high season for depression and suicidal thoughts if not suicide itself. How did we get from a time of peace to a time of great stress?

In the first place, most people say “Happy Holidays” to each other without much thought to what the holidays mean. In an attempt not to offend anyone, we make our greetings so generic that they have lost most of their meaning. I think it is easy to lose sight of what we are celebrating.

We seem to be celebrating money. The focus is on sales, discounts and how much money you have available for the season. The success of the holiday season is measured in the bottom line for retailers. Personally, success is measured in whether we can find and afford the right gifts for everyone of importance.

So where does the stress come from. Many people spend more during this season than they can reasonably afford. In the back of their minds, they know a day of reckoning is coming with their next charge card bill.

This is also a time of year when we get together with others we do not often see. If you have lost someone important in your life, the idea of joy may seem distant as you remember the person you have lost whether through death, one of you having moved too far away to get together or through a conflict which has destroyed your relationship.

You might also not be on the best of terms with some of your relatives or people who used to be good friends, but whom you spend time with this season so as not to ruffle any feathers. They don’t bring you any joy either.

How can you get back to peace and joy in your life? First be grateful for what you have including whatever money you have, a good place to live and the people around you who bring you joy. Just because stores focus on sales does not mean you must too. If you can’t afford expensive gifts, think of what you can do for those you love to make them a little happier. Maybe just spending some special time with them would bring you both joy.

If you have strained relationships with some of the people you will see in the next few weeks, think about what you might have done to create part of the strain. Apologize for your part in the conflict. If you don’t know, a nice gift would be to tell him or her that you are troubled by the distance between you. Ask him or her to help you make a new start.

Life Lab Lessons

  • Rather than generic greetings, find out what holiday other people are celebrating.
  • Learn a little about their customs and what they mean.
  • Give the gift of yourself rather than things.
  • Thank those you can who bring joy to your life.
  • Apologize for offenses you might have committed and forgive others for theirs.
  • Use this season as a time to restore your troubled relationships.



Ready for Publication

Sunset in Englewood

Sunset in Englewood

Joe: Good afternoon Calliope.

Calliope: Good afternoon Joe. What’s the news on your book.

Joe: I have been very busy. after my conversation with Mary Dougherty, I decided to self publish my book on BookSurge.I know it would involve all my resources so i braced myself. I located the upload page without any difficulty bud did not find any directions. With a little luck I found them and soon got a sense of what was required. I formatted my book as a paperback in 6″ by 9″ page dimensions. I converted my book into this format and uploaded it. With a few tries, I got it to the point where I was satisfied. I was then off to procure an ISBN and Library of Congress Control Number. Then I designed a cover and uploaded that too. I submitted the book and now am waiting to hear that BookSurge is ready to print it. I know I am.

Calliope: Great news. When do you expect it to be available?

Joe: I wish I knew. But I am ready to go at a moment’s notice and move into the world of marketing.