Wednesday, 24 July 2013

When My Paint Peels

There is this old, simple, square, post-modernist building in front of me. The side of it has been painted three or four different colours in its 50 years standing. The paint is peeling in massive strips off the side of the building revealing the multi-coloured shades of red bricks. Too much sun, too much rain. Yet somehow, something quite naturally beautiful exists in it. All the different colours and textures, and the illusion of different depths. I have seen people having wedding photographs next to building walls like this one. Similar to how my friends recently had engagement photos next to an old, rundown barn outside of the city. 

I like how things that become old and rundown can become more beautiful. It gives it character. It tells a story without words. Well maintained or not, it can be appreciated for the years it’s been through. Old is beautiful, in most regards. 

Some people only like new things - new, modern-style, trendy homes and apartment buildings. The kind of new things that go out of style in a couple of years anyway and eventually become another expense in order to keep up with the look. And regardless of maintenance, eventually that building will become old. And maybe someone will just tear it down. Or maybe it will stay well maintained. Or maybe it will start looking like this building in front of me, and will be appreciated for its subjectively-imagined story. 

But those people, the ones who only like new things, they are the kind of people who don’t like anything getting old. Many of them like Botox: no wrinkles allowed. And they hide their well-earned grey hairs. They have people use knives to lift their boobs up. And their faces. And sometimes their bums. And all of that is fine. I can definitely appreciate new (or do I just mean young?) looking things. They are fancy, and look like they have status and importance. And society agrees with this and often holds more respect for these fancy, new, important looking things (like boobs – fancy boobs are very important. Ahem.) 

And sometimes – okay, more than sometimes – I’m really attracted to those fancy, new important things. And while I’m still young in regards to a larger population, I’m just now rounding the age where I’m noticing all the aging characteristics that my elders warned me about (wrinkles, cellulite, joint pains, etc.). And I have to make a decision regarding how I feel about these things. On one hand, it feels nearly tragic to say goodbye to what felt like a never-ending youthful body of which I abused and took great advantage - in all the right ways (don’t pretend you don’t know what I mean by that.) 

But my decision, is that I’m going to appreciate the stories my wrinkles will tell one day. Just like one day I will buy an old house, and give it love and respect to show off its well-earned, genuine beauty. And I don't expect that everyone will see the loveliness that I do in the old, paint-peeling, sun-bleached building across the street from me right now. And some people may not appreciate the beauty in my old house, and in my wrinkles. 

But that’s okay. Lots of people won’t appreciate their Botox-ed eyebrow line and fake tits.

“I want to grow old without face-lifts...  I want to have the courage to be loyal to the face I've made. Sometimes I think it would be easier to avoid old age, to die young, but then you'd never complete your life, would you? You'd never wholly know you.” 

- Marilyn Monroe

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Beyond These Blog Posts

I have more stories than the average person. Granted, I’ve travelled a lot more than the average person. And I’ve taken a lot more “life risks” than the average person. I also think I live closer to the edge of vulnerability than most.

(As a side: I don’t believe this to be because I’m brave; I truly believe I’m frightened of nearly everything. The difference? Possibly, I’m just not opposed to feeling afraid. I scream and jump and hide my eyes during “scary” movies as timid as Resurrection Evil, and yet I still love to go to them.)

I love telling my stories. I feel like they allow me to relate to a variety of people from different lifestyles and upbringings. And the perspectives my stories have given me of the world help shape my everyday decisions. They provide me with guidance and wisdom, somehow. (Note, I view this wisdom as an external entity, because owning it would hold too much responsibility. A blog for another day.) 

Sometimes when I share selections from my journey, I get too caught up in how they are being received. What does that listener take from it? Is it simply entertainment for them? Or a life lesson? Or perhaps they aren’t really listening? Sometimes, when I’m feeling particularly sensitive, I concern myself with how I may be judged. Does this person think I’m crazy for having taken these risks and put myself in these situations? Do they even believe me? (Some of my stories sound quite outrageous, and all of them put together is hardly even a believable fiction novel.) And there is the odd time, when I’m feeling particularly insecure, I just wonder if I’m talking too much. Are they even interested? Do I sound self-indulgent or narcissistic? 

None of that stops me. I love to share what I’ve learned. What I’ve seen. What I’ve smelt, felt, climbed and crushed! What I grew, what grew in me. What I can’t wait to do again, and what I wish I’d never done (kidding, I have none of those.) And I hope and believe that some people, many in fact, want to hear about it. 

And this, amongst many other reasons, is why I’m choosing to write. Beyond these blog posts. I’m pursuing a new profession. Once again, I’m taking a huge risk. A career of art and passion with no promises of financial stability. (Serving may be the avenue to pay bills for the foreseeable future.) But I believe in me, and apparently many of you do, too.

So now I’m going to tell, and exaggerate, and twist and turn, and re-create, and explore, and tear apart the many different stories of Miranda Landry. I’ll let you know how it goes. Your feedback is always welcome. And any and all support, suggestions and criticism is appreciated and accepted. 

Much Love, 

Miranda Landry - Author and Freelance Writer ;-)

“Don’t only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets, for it and knowledge can raise men to the Divine.” ― Ludwig van Beethoven

Monday, 8 July 2013

Where Growth Begins

Everyone reacts interestingly to criticism. I'm starting to believe the only way to accept criticism well is by attempting to remain fully objective to the circumstance and remaining aware of how your ego is affecting your reaction. But most individuals do not do this. And to be fair, most people (including myself) are poorly rehearsed in giving effective constructive-criticism.

I've been berated a number of times by insecure managers thinking the only way to keep order and a sense of discipline was through stamping authority with harsh tones, patronizing and condescending verbal reproach, and much worse, micromanagement. What these managers fail to compare is how they imagine themselves being perceived, to how they are actually being perceived. (The difference, of course, being a large reduction in respect and overall belief in their professional competence.)

That category of manager is more common than the ones we love, the ones who feel confident in their role, and who gain respect through organization and ability rather than cracking an unnecessary whip. But even the motivational and approachable managers, when giving criticism, will encounter strange and disappointing reactions to their well-intended feedback.

We find many ways of defending our ego and self-esteem when getting dealt a perspective on our behaviour that is vastly different from what we believed about ourselves. 

One, would be the "angry defendant", where rather than spending a moment considering that the critic could have some remnant of truth to their viewpoint, the initial response is to find every justification possible for why the feedback is bogus, or untrue, or that it comes from a place of negativity and bad intentions. It's usually a highly emotional response, and appears to be quite arrogant, but comes from a place of severe insecurity, and a need for emotional healing. Some people, actually, can't handle the truth. This response leaves almost no room for growth and development.

The second would be a less powerful reaction, and might be called the "Canadian defendant", as it is usually started and finished with a million apologies. The individual probably feels genuinely terrible for their poor actions upon which the criticism was based. However, this response is almost as equally as useless as the former, only because simply accepting the outward perspective without considering one's own thoughts on the issue can lead to a lack of understanding in future behaviours. They change out of guilt, not out of knowledge and desire. The critical thinking step of receiving criticism is where the growth begins.

Then I think the "defendant in denial" would be another easily categorized response. Not quite as useless as "angry defendant", only because in order to lie about the behaviour, they are acknowledging at least to themselves, that the incident or behaviour exists. And most likely, if they feel the need to lie about or deny the truth you are putting on them, they already knew it was a problem, and have spent time thinking about it. The acknowledgment and the introspective thought process will eventually lead to a more permanent and genuine form of growth.

There are infinite numbers of reactions. We like to pass blame, ignore the issues, accept and then immediately reject. Some of us pretend (even to ourselves) that we are really digesting the information and then decide it's inapplicable.

And then, there are ones who can put their ego aside, for just a moment, take a deep breath, consider what is true about the new information provided, and digest the rest. 

To analyze and be honest with oneself - in deciding if the criticism comes from a caring place and with the intentions to improve and grow your character, and determine if it is valid and actionable, and then attempt develop one's own path of development - is exceedingly difficult to do. 

"To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing." - Elbert Hubbard