๐Ÿ“• My Experience with Conscious Parenting

A book that really made it harder for me to raise my daughter was The Conscious Parent Parent: Transforming Ourselves, Empowering Our Children, by Dr. Shefali Tsabary. I loved the book’s message that parents should accept their children the way they are, and it was probably not meant for small kids or to be literal, but I tried to use it that way.

I think when your child doesn’t use the toilet, and then they become ready to use it, you aren’t accepting what they want, you are training them to do things in a better way and somewhat change who they are.

Dr Shefali mentions that “normative” things should be taught as a routine, assertively, but she doesn’t address the dissidence between not trying to change your children vs changing them to do “normative things”. I also read Dr. Shefali’s second book, and loved it on paper. I committed myself to trying to use her method for my family, but many years later I am admitting to myself it did not work for us.

My understanding of the idea of conscious parenting is to 1. examine each situation on a case by case basis, 2. take in the moment, 3. examine your own soul and upbringing, 4. think about what to do, 5. put a space between being mad and acting (wait five minutes before punishment), 6. act to address the situation.

That all sounds fine, but it all doesn’t work for us. Examining each situation sounds great, but if you are pregnant with another kid vomiting in the toilet, how do you examine why your first child broke something in the playroom that you didn’t witness, and they say they didn’t break it… you don’t, you really can’t always do that. Clear, consistent rules are better for us, than a family meeting over each and every new infraction. We have tried it both ways. With clear rules my daughter isn’t scared of the punishment (you drop your ice cream you have no ice cream – you don’t get another, you hit your brother I talk to you about “mฤlama” (caring for) him and using your strength in a helpful way), she knows it is coming, she doesn’t love it, but it doesn’t give her anxiety the same as when we decided punishment on a case by case basis.

Conscious Parenting was a huge cognitive burden for me, to try to think about myself and my childhood every time anything bad happened. Yes,it was important for me to let go of a traumatic childhood, but having done that, not everything that happens to my family now has anything to do with my past upbringing.

When I am mad, it is often because my valid boundaries are being violated, not because I am a raging psycho who needs to chill out.

For me, especially with two kids to care for by myself, it makes things way easier if I don’t have to think about what to do when the same problem comes up, sure I have to figure out each new problem, but the set protocol really helps.

For something unsafe, phase 1 I grab my daughter and take her away, phase 2 soothe her, then phase 3 explain, I don’t ask for permission, I don’t negotiate, I just take action.

For emotional fits, I allow the fit, but ask her to go to her space so not everyone else in the family has to be disturbed from their life (quiet meal/music practice/computer project/work from home phone call) for her to throw her fit.

The protocols allow me to be a much better person in the heat of the moment than my attempt at conscious parenting did. For a big disturbing mess I separate her and the mess, have her wait, I clean, then I talk to her about mฤlama/caring for our home, or items she may have broken. I really do that. Before I had the protocol, it wasn’t as nice… There was yelling sometimes, it didn’t really seem to change her bad habits though.

Now with standing protocol I get less flustered, I treat her better, my husband can help me decide on the protocol (sometimes he has good ideas). The last point about why I’m not a fan of conscious parenting anymore, is that when you want to modify behavior waiting five minutes uncouples the cause and effect in the brain of the child, if each time the child does something bad something adverse happens (like they get their toys taken away for the day, when they hurt someone with the toy) it’s a more powerful learning message, than if that toy was taken away five minutes later, when they are already thinking and possibly doing something else.

Sometimes I get too angry to talk to my child about our values when she does something bad, and I confine her somewhere safe while I calm down, but I don’t expect her to learn from that… I’m just keeping her safe from being verbally abused by me, while I am furious. I talk to her when I am calmed down, and I tell her what our family values are. I’m trying to use ICC, inform, consequence, choice from the Four Tendencies book, so I say “when you kick the dog you are not mฤlama-ing/caring for our dog” (inform), “if you kick the dog you can not be in the living room where the dog lives anymore, you will go to your space” (consequence), then I let her choose to either apologize to the dog, or go to/be taken to her room (choice). I don’t punish her with hitting, with screaming, with taking away toys (except if she used them as weapons), I don’t confine her in her room as punishment (though I do for safety, while I calm down) and over the past month I’ve noticed a big improvement in her behavior.

There are some really wonderful ideas in Dr. Shefali’s books, so much so that I tried to live by them for about three years. However, I think it’s so important for parents to know that not all ideas work for all parents or children, even if you try them consistently and do a good job, since kids are different, parenting can never be a one size fit’s all eye glasses prescription. My favorite Ted Talk about parenting, Jennifer Nacif’s “the Secret to Motivating Your Child,” changed the way I saw all parenting advice forever, and empowered me to start viewing my child as a person first, and child second and if all people are created equal, that means my child isn’t really somehow “holier than me” needing me to constantly be the one to go the extra mile, while she won’t meet me half way.

๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐Ÿ‘ฉโ€๐Ÿ‘งโ€๐Ÿ‘ฆ Why I Want to Change My Child

I’m not that traditional, but everything “kind of normal to society” is optional to my daughter: wiping her dirty butt after using the potty, washing her dirty hands before putting them in her mouth… I had pinworm for two years because I couldn’t stop her from sticking her dirty hands in my and her mouth for two years.

My daughter doesn’t just hurt herself when she won’t take health and safety advice from me, she hurts other people in the family too. I had less nutrition for my growing baby, when I was pregnant with my son, because of my daughters never ending parasites that she shared with me (that was emotionally difficult), but the downsides of our child are an unavoidable cost that we pay to have the great parts of her in our lives, it’s the ticket price for the show…

I haven’t given up on trying to keep my daughter safe, and trying to advocate health and hygiene, and make normal routines like hand washing override what she wants to do (run off to play without hand washing), but I’ve made peace with the fact that a certain percent of the time I will fail, because my daughter is a rebel, not because I suck as a human being.

Other parents may have better behaved children, other parents may be kinder to their children, other parents may have a better relationship with their children, or do more enrichment activities with their children, but I do a good job with the real life situation that I have within my capacities as a human being.

There are parts of my daughter that I do want to change and parts that I don’t want to change. When I say I don’t want to change “her” anymore, I mean her soul, her personality, her “higher self,” but it doesn’t mean that I can’t tell her we don’t steal or try not to hurt the baby (head butting his nose when you flop down on the bed for fun – that happened today) or we put trash in the trash can not the floor. Someone vs someone’s behavior a very fine distinction to make, a difficult line to divide, a subtle, yet vital distinction.

Some people say “don’t try to change you kids,” but in real life, I will continue to try to change my daughter’s actions and habits, not because I’m uncomfortable with her being different, or because I want to meet the status quo, or I don’t want to be judged for her outbursts, but because I love her.

Discipline, to me, means teaching with kindness, what is wrong and right (sure it’s situational, but there is a wrong and right, punching her four-month-old baby brother when she is frustrated is so wrong). Discipline, even in a kind manner, is a very ugly, tiring job, but to skip teaching what is expected ie discipline, is a form of neglect.

I grew up without discipline, it was scary not knowing what punishments would come if my parents did get mad. They didn’t make any rules, but when they got mad they punished us unexpectedly, it made me really afraid of emotions instead of being afraid of misbehaving.

Discipline is not bad, like guns are not bad, it’s the way that it is used that matters.

Is the intent teaching with love? If so, the method probably works. If the intent is to punish a child for making a parent be uncomfortable in some way, that’s not really discipline.

There are things I never want to change about my daughter, that she is creative, that she is empathetic, that she doesn’t blindly follow, but I do want to force her not to cut people with knives and garden shears, I do want to force her to not kill people and eat them (which is what she says she wants to do when she grows up, because I showed her a Youtube video saying not to do that and she is quite contrary), I do want to force her to wash her hands (so no one else in our family gets pinworm again), I do want to force her to not hit the baby when she is mad. I don’t want to change “her” thoughts, feelings, personality, soul, but I do want to change her beliefs, actions, understanding of cause and effect, hygiene and safety practices, out of love for her, and a belief she will have a better life if she learns to be kind as she stands up for herself and be a gentle friend to the people who she wants to keep around her.

Sometimes it gets really confusing to know what I want to change, and what I should never try to change, but I have to take the responsibility for bringing my kids into this world by making the best decisions that I can, out of love, and hope that what I do is enough to let my kids someday enter the world ready to be confident in who they are, yet not shoot other people on a whim or because they had a bad day.

I recently read a helpful post, by Dr. Fawzy Masaoud, about mental health in sibling relationships, that helped me get more insight into my daughter’s internal struggles. Since the first child, my daughter, was the center of attention for three years, she is trying to act like our baby, to get the attention back. She swings in the baby swing, walks in the baby walker, chews on the baby’s teething keys ext. we tried to stop her at first, but she does it with such a strong compulsion, that since it hasn’t caused any real problems, I stopped trying to stop her.

It may seem obvious to everyone else, but I really didn’t know my daughter was doing it for attention… I thought she wanted to use the new stuff, just because it was new.

Although I plan to give her attention and love, I think it’s going to be more important for her to get used to having less, than it will be for me to try to tend a three-year-old and a four-month-old with exactly the same amount of attention.

I was also the oldest child and the habit of expecting more attention to be due to me, than what other people want to give me, caused problems in my marriage. Sometimes having less can be a blessing, because it gives you the opportunity to exercise developing gratitude, then even if you get more you know how to be happy with what you have. {Note from 2 Years Later: My daughter did not learn much gratitude by the way, but happily I did and that helped me get through my daughter’s Sensory Processing Disorder which explained why she didn’t develop much gratitude, unfortunately her prefrontal cortex was too overwhelmed to develop at the normal pace.}

๐Ÿ“• The Four Tendencies

I recently started reading Gretchin Rubin’s book about the four tendencies to help me understand more about my daughter.

I have a three year and a half year old problem, I mean daughter (said somewhat jokingly). Things have always been hard between us, a poor fit, I’m not proud of it, but it’s the elephant in the room I would rather talk about than ignore. Part of the problem is that we don’t understand each other. I don’t know anyone like my daughter to help me get inside her perspective and understand her motivations to encourage her to be her best self and comply with necessary health and safety rules in a neutral or pleasant manner. {12-31-2020 I found out my daughter has Sensory Processing Disorder and I realized I was right about not understanding her, but I didn’t even realize the depth of the differences between us}.

Recently, I read the Jon Klassen shape trilogy. I really enjoyed it. It’s a children’s series, but I think I would have liked it even if I didn’t have kids (maybe because I loved “Flatland“). In the shape trilogy there are rowdy, rebellious triangles, hard working, yet inflexible squares and emotional, encouraging circles. I really associate myself with the squares, and my husband and daughter with the triangles. At the same time I read the shape trilogy I also started listening to “The Four Tendencies,” by Gretchin Rubin. After another horrible rock bottom moment with my daughter I was looking for an answer somewhere. There was a lot of synchronicity between the shape trilogy and the four tendencies book. I enjoyed learning about analyzers/promoters/assertives from Chris Voss’ “Never Split the Difference,” and the 16 Personalities from 16personalities.com (I’m an INTJ), but although they helped me understand and accept myself, they didn’t help me understand and deal with other people, nothing had until now.

I remember being a child myself, I remember feeling in my 20s that even though my family helped and supported me in many ways, they had never loved me “for me”, because they had never known me “for me” at all. I felt unheard and unaccepted until I accepted myself, over the past 2 years, after doing that I still think my family hadn’t known and accepted me, but it doesn’t crush me anymore, because since I have my own understanding and acceptance of myself, I don’t feel I need theirs anymore. It took me about 30 years to understand who I am, how I am, what I value, because most of my life I was trying (yet failing) to do and be, what I thought people thought, I was supposed to do and be. I got my head straight more during a long illness, which forced me to take more down time and evaluate what I wanted to do with the time I had left, since I was made aware that time wouldn’t be forever.

The Four Tendencies book was a really good finish to a journey I started a few years ago to gain a workable amount of understanding of myself as a human being. It’s probably the best to focus on self knowledge, more than values, strengths, personality, because self awareness transcends values, strengths and personality, and interacts with all of them. The tendencies (Rubin’s but not the traditional temperaments that is completely different) describe what you really do on a normal day, the way you live on autopilot, which is how most of life happens.

The four tendencies (Rubin’s) are upholder, questioner, obliger and rebel.

I am an upholder, I finish the fight most of the time, but I was an obliger just a few years ago. Meaning I put other people first, I could have gone to the grave without ever having played the cello (which I wanted to do since age 8), without trying to write (which I wanted to do since age 5), without enjoying a simple sunset without rushing to clean up or teach my kids, or ask my husband if he needed something.

It’s fine to help people if you like it, but I didn’t like it, I just felt that I had to put everyone else first, and there wasn’t much left over after I was done with what was demanded from me on a daily basis.

I’m not that person anymore. My demanding daughter killed that person.

Now I put myself equal with my loved ones, not really first, but not after. I think about what we all need and want, what makes sense to me to do first, and what I have to do now because the chance won’t be there later.

My husband and daughter are rebels, which is hard for me to deal with, but I love them, and I think someday the love will carry me all the way through the pain and help me find the wisdom I need to restore the harmony I want to have between us again.

My sister is a questioner, she is and always has been so different from me that it sparked an early interest in personality types for me. Physically we aren’t too dissimilar, small, female, thin, short, but mentally we have always had a different process of thinking about and interacting with the world, besides just having different tastes in food, pets, hobbies, music, books, people.

The Four Tendencies Book has convinced me not to try to change my rebel daughter and rebel husband anymore, I had stopped trying to change my husband already, but I had stopped out of desperation that it didn’t work, that isn’t the same as stopping on purpose because I accept the way my husband really is. With my daughter, I felt like I had to change her, that I couldn’t release a J-walker into society, but as painful as it will be to see it, she is mainly going to learn from experience what she does or doesn’t like in her life, and won’t just take my word about what situations to engage or avoid.

It’s not that easy to change people, but it is possible, because of leverage. I can change the environment I share with my daughter, and I can change myself and both of those things will change her. It’s subtle, but it’s true. We can change ourselves and we can change others, but not easily, or totally, not just by commanding the world to be the way we want it to be immediately with no time and effort expended.

The best part of the Four Tendencies Book, for me, is the guide on how to work with people of different tendencies. It’s helped me already, with myself, managing myself as another person. It’s helped me accept myself, when the book talks about an obliger having “a burnout moment” and refusing to meet expectations, which happened to me recently: after a really hard day my sister said, “we still love you,” to my daughter and I screamed “not me,” if it wasn’t described in the Four Tendencies book I would never have understood why I did something so unkind and uncharacteristic of my typical behavior. I’m not excusing my behavior, I don’t even need to excuse it, moms don’t loose the right to yell once in awhile while being yelled at, kicked, bitten, pooped on and otherwise abused by kids who get a pass for anything and everything… But, still I don’t like yelling at my kids, or think it’s the best way to communicate on a normal basis. I could have lived and died without ever knowing why I did yell though, since I have a small baby I could have thought it was postpartum hormones, but it wasn’t. It was burnout, because I don’t take breaks. It’s a workplace health code violation to go 4 years without a 10 minute break, but it’s standard parent lifestyle in the modern world… I should take breaks, so I don’t get burnt out, so I don’t yell. I never knew that before this book. Because I thought I could live up to an unlivable standard of doing everything my husband and daughter asked me to do before taking a break, but I didn’t know that break would never come, I didn’t know that I couldn’t ever satisfy my daughter, and that with or without a break she wanted more than I ever had to give her. Now that I have more insight I can get more help, I didn’t know I needed it before, but I do. I need more help to take more breaks so that when I am caring for my kids I can do my best job, imperfect as it will still be.

โœ๏ธ 100 Blog Post Journey ๐Ÿชž

THIS PROJECT BEGAN ON A CHILLY FEBRUARY MORNING IN 2017

all the best

Who am I?

By kindergarten, I was already a writer. Hunched over my small, desk/chair, prision cell thing, I didn’t have enough lines on the journal page (under the picture drawing area), to say what I wanted to say. Once prompted, I had something to say. I was so integrated with my internal voice, that I felt like I was running downhill, as the words cascaded onto the page, filling the front, side margin and then the back with my thoughts converted to lines of graphite. Over time my voice was silenced by the rules of academia, forced repetition, citation of all ideas, essentially killed any chance for me to communicate any of my own original ideas in any of my own style. Love eventually turned to hate. But after getting my degree I’m not beholden to the shackles of acadamia, I can start a sentence with the word “but” if I damn well please, and my paragraphs may have a completely crazy number of sentences if that pleases me, and it does.

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Why Did I Start This Blog?

So I started this blog to be my white, armchair sitting cat, who I stroke for the hell of it, as I laugh (to not cry) at the joy, beauty, pain and ugliness of life. I plan to make this mental space a fun and safe place for my creative self to live. For me, this place is more than a blog, because it will host my Audible Book Fight Club and the blibary. This is a digital representation of my mind, heart and soul, my experience as a human being on Earth. I’m specifically writing 100 free form blog posts, in response to Mark Manson’s personal challenge to me (yeah it’s personal, because I took it personally…). So here I am at middle age, finding my lost voice as a writer, with the time I have since I didn’t get into medical school as planned (the new plan is to get in as a donated corpse).

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My Inspiration to Write

I deny being insired to write, for me, writing is instinctual; A natural part of being alive, which I have to block if I don’t want to do it. It’s my soul’s path of least resistance to get to a state of flow. I think writing is the natural digestion of thoughts, which readers ingest mentally. Writing feels right to me at this point in my life, for reasons yet unknown.

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How Did I Get My Sh*t Together?

I’ve always been a writer, but I’m just starting right now (this very sentence) to be serious about actually producing writing on a consistent basis. Now is the time because, I’ve got my shit together at a higher lever than ever before, and also because I learned to stop doing everything my loved ones would roll downhill for me to do as I slowly die inside. Initially I accidentally purchased a year of Instacart, food delivery, instead of just trying it (which I was trying to do), so then I thought, what if instead of the hassle of cancelling, I use that saved time to do something worthwhile in my life for this year just to see what happens? And what came to mind was writing. So I made the jump between observer/planner/wisher to doer/writer/jumper. Later my husband took over the shopping and more and more mundane things I stopped doing, which is awesome, but he never picked up any burdens I didn’t set down first.

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Guiding Lights

There were a few things that made a difference to me, Mark Manson’s book “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck,” was the first step towards defeating my deep fear of failure and imperfection, the guiding light was Charles Duhigg’s “The Power of Habit,” which let me know I had the power and the responsibility of living my life how I wanted to live it (because I’m no sleep walking murderer). I had two years of proactivity denial and time management struggles, but I changed and have been living my best life, as best I can, for a few weeks already, which for the most part means living by my values first, not as an after thought, on a daily basis.

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Isn’t Living by Your Values Everyday Too Hard?

Yes and no. Not every value everyday, not an essay and a drawing about how it happened in my journal everyday, but living by one or two of my values each day kills that horrible “did I do enough” feeling I get otherwise. If you never read another post, please take this knowledge with you: there is a free website http://www.lifevaluesinventory.org, which lists a lot of values people don’t talk about in everyday life, it helps you rank them based on how significant they are to you, and then helps you troubleshoot difficulties between values and how to fit them into your life harmoneously. In six seconds a day, you can live by your own values, and it will make you feel better about yourself and your life. I’ll detail the steps of value based living in further posts, but it’s also on http://www.lifevaluesinventory.org totally free. If you only used the internet once in your lifetime, I think finding your soul’s unique value mosaic is the most significant thing you could do with a half hour of your time.

live your best life

Summary of Life Value Invetory’s Guide to Living by Your Values:

Part A: Recognize you are in control of your own life/destiny.

Part B: Learn about different values.

Part C: Pick which value from your own heart to live by today.

1. Think or Write: What do I want to do today to live by my value of _?

2. Think or Write: What can I do today with what conditions (time, money, help, ability) I actually have?

3. Do That, As Best You Can

4.  Think or Write: What you appreciate about what you did do (let go of anything you didn’t do).

5. Write: One thing you learned today, that can help you through tomorrow.

Random Personal Example:

1. Set my value for today: Persistence.

2. What do I want? Show my kids how to garden for fun and to be outside.

3. What can I do? After breakfast, start outside play until lunch, relax if the weather isn’t right.

4. Did I? Yes, yay!

5. Celebrate the effort/journey! My daughter helped me make a fence on a new veggie bed. It was fun.

(So it’s not a big fancy hard thing, but it can be tricky to set aside time to think about it and it can be a big thing, emotionally, gives me a sense of purpose, impact, control over my life, significance, that increases my resilience and helps buffer some of the hard parts of life.)

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My Journey

It took me a lot of trial and error, what sounded good, what I thought my values were, didn’t really resonate with my soul, but letting go of what doesn’t fit freed me to reinvent myself and learn how to ascribe truthful meaning and satisfaction in my life and the past few years have brought me more satisfaction, with who I am as a person, and my own integrity, than anything else has. I found a deep well of satisfaction, previously missing from my life, when I uncovered and started living by my values.

EPILOGUE

true story
Most of the first year went to fear, the second to procrastinating, the third to putting my life in order and only in this fourth year do I remotely have my sh*t together at all.

THREE YEARS LATER

Did you think I would finish? Spoiler alert I did. What I learned about myself among other things is it takes 1262 days for me to write 100 articles. It wasn’t at the same pace, last year I wrote 60 posts total last year, this year I wrote 60 posts in 7 months… so writing accelerated. Shyness eased. Perfectionism evaporated. Quality hopefully improved (but at least didn’t drop – I guess why would it?). Check out the centennial post if your interested or live in the present with my most recent post instead.

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I’ve had wonderful readers! Thank you. ๐ŸŒน

FOUR YEARS LATER

I took about four years for me to feel comfortable in my own skin as a writer, my whole life people have said “I like your writing,” “you should write” but it’s only very recently that I’ve felt like “I like my writing,” “I should write.” Sounds similar, but it isn’t. It’s one small step for man, but one giant leap for my confidence. Four years ago I wanted to begin a blog, but I didn’t know how to write without second guessing myself, I didn’t know how to finish original images in a way that didn’t take forever and I didn’t know how to run the technical end (which seems easy to people with advanced tech skills, but really isn’t that easy for the average person). So I struggled with each side of blogging, the writing, the images and the tech of the links ext. I’m not an expert by now, but most problems I can solve myself that same day, without quitting or getting angry. There is a ton of artistry to blogging that isn’t talked about much, beyond marketing, having things short form doesn’t mean loss of content, it means really subliming a concept or process mentally in order to have it be short form, people expect videos to be fast, articles to be summarized, but without a loss of information. Also each blog is unique like boats, some boats haul cargo, some people, some both, some are hand crafted, some are toys, some are weapons, blogs are like boats, very diverse in function, style, form and purpose. So no one can really break down the journey for most blogs, because most of us are going somewhere new. The average blogger doesn’t set out to copy a successful blog, which would be okay in most cases, it really seems like we are the nomads of the web who keep migrating to a new frontier that will forever be limitless. I think it’s wrong to say we find niches, to me it feels more like we spin tapestries, together, in a complicated interplay. Some people’s tapestry maybe all blue or all red, but I feel like they are still tapestries. Or maybe it’s just me? Be I don’t think so. I think Rachel Macy Stafford is always building on herself, never off topic with who she was to begin with in Hands Free Mama, I know Lovie Price reflects back between where she was looking forward and where she is looking back, I suspect Mark Manson is forever questioning if he should revise his old articles as his opinions do another 180ยฐ in light of new growth or new evidence. When I first wrote this article I was kind of unsure of myself, quite embarrassed, but it is my internal truth and I still find it to be four years later, I’m glad to have it, so I don’t forget that once I didn’t think an ordinary person like me could really find a way to live by my values in everyday life and there was a way that I found out it wasn’t as hard as I thought and it was well worth the effort, because to a certain type of person it’s a huge joy.

“The highest good was the virtuous life. Virtue alone is happiness, and vice is unhappiness.”

– Marcus Aurelius

Anyways I now recommend Russ Harris’ value list, though actually it missed the number 1 Asian value “wa” or harmony, so that perhaps a good place to start is African or Hawaiian values or simply looking inward at the times in your life that seem the most significant. Living by both old and new values, I have found modern values hold more traps towards unhappy outcomes. Kind of like bad classical music is already lost, but what is left is epic. New music has wonderful pieces, equal to any classic, but there is a ton of … filler and chaff that you have to watch out for yourself in modern music. I’m Asian, but I find Asian values are often a way for the country to get people to fall in line for the good of the country, I would say the same of american values also, so that it’s not a problem per se to value the group, but it leaves part of your soul empty, the part which was meant to know about your own needs, purpose and aspirations even when they don’t happen to coincide with what would be best for the group. To be interdependent is to know both your needs and who you are and also the group, not just one or the other, but it’s easy (yet difficult) to understand that people who want something from you have a motive for not wanting you to decide for yourself what is best for your own body mind and soul.

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