What Am I Reading Now?

I just finished reading Po Bronson & Ashley Merryman’s book Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing.

I am highlighting more sections than not in this fascinating exploration of when, why, and how we engage in and deal with competition. Much of the research comes from sports and business, but it has some personal applications as well.

There is some interesting tie-in with the last (also fascinating!) book that I read, Sex at Dawn, by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha because both explore competitive behaviour.

In the latter book, the authors argue that long-term monogamy is not a natural (historical or universal) state for humans and that polyamory / promiscuity (minus your judgemental connotations, please) is possible, despite our assumption that sexual jealousy would prevent this. Fearing the loss of and competition for what is seen as a limited/scarce resource (sex and affection) makes our natural tendency to share seem impossible.

I believe a lot of our modern social anxiety comes from two sources – lack of intimacy – and I don’t just mean sex – (too little or from too few sources) and uncertainty about our social connections. Humans use touch and (varying forms of) intimacy as ways of creating and maintaining social bonds. North American culture is repressive and tends to sexualize touch and nudity to the point where our bodies and desires sometimes seem shameful. We are constantly fighting our innate human needs for touch and connection. Top Dog discusses how what makes teams (specifically in a work setting, but it seems applicable to all social groups) successful is everyone knowing their role within the group. When we are not clear about our relationships to those around us, it is very stressful. Historically, humans lived in groups small enough that everyone knew and had a personal connection to every other person in the community. People shared food, tools, child care, everything and this provided strong incentive to not be a total jerk.

Modern North American (popular) culture beats us over the head with the IDEA that romantic love can only happen in a singular pair, forever and always. But just look at all the divorces, fractured families, unhappy unions, and infidelity. Clearly this is a system that goes against our nature. When we are taught that there is only one true love for life, well that is a LOT of pressure to make the right choice and you had better damn well never let anyone take that person away from you! But what if you and your partner where secure in knowing your role in each other’s lives, without fear that they would seek to REPLACE you or find someone BETTER?  What if your lovability was not decided solely by one individual?

Sex at Dawn presents compelling evidence that, unlike our gorilla cousins, where males aggressively defend their sexual interests by closely guarding a harem and ousting male competition, we are most similar to bonobos, whose males and females have a lot of sexual variety (and not just for procreation). This keeps the members connected and outwardly peaceable, while the competition occurs at the sperm level (the fertilization competition is won by the objectively superior specimen from a larger pool of applicants).

As Bronson and Merryman state, competition is the foundation of democracy and the engine behind evolution/innovation.

Gross and Fine Motors

I recently read Christopher McDougall’s book Natural Born Heroes. 

There is a passage in which Christopher recounts a conversation he had with some Traceurs.  They explained to him that as a practitioner of parkour [in my mind, one does not “take up” parkour, but rather “puts down” the innate human drive for physical exploration], you begin to see your environment as movement possibilities instead of a collection of physical objects.  This sparked a realization of a parallel concept elsewhere in my life.  I noticed that when I look at (well-designed & hand-crafted) jewellery, my enjoyment and appreciation is heightened by my analysis of HOW those things were constructed.  They are not inert aesthetic objects, but the result of a process of creation.  My mind analyzes the construction of the pieces, as much as it does their form and colour.

I love both creative pursuits:

Parkour, for using my whole body (gross motor) and seeing the opportunities in an environment, and for creation something that last for mere seconds, and

Jewellery-making, for using my hands (fine motor) and seeing the opportunities in my tools and materials, and for creating something that may last for ages.
Check out my Flickr portfolio: http://www.findmeriveting.ca

I don’t really have a bigger point to make here. I just found this realization interesting and am glad to have both of these creative outlets.

My Achilles’ Heal

Are you familiar with the concept of something being someone’s “Achilles’ Heel” – a point of personal weakness?

For the past four months MY (latest) Achilles’ Heel has, in fact, been my Achilles’ Heel. Much of the problem came from excessive (for me, at that time) jumping, landing, and sprinting. After focusing most of the last decade forming human beings from scratch, I guess I have been neglecting the things my body requires for high impact and doing activities of explosive power.

I had been cycling through stages of improvement and exacerbation and feared developing a chronic problem. So what do you do when healing your body requires you to forego doing something that you love? How do you keep from losing momentum in learning new skills?

I took some time away from parkour and tried to focus on the bigger picture. I have been thinking about the process, the progress, and longevity.

While I gave myself some time for my Achilles to HEAL, I focused more on strength and balance training:

Bear crawling, walking forward and backward on railings, strength training, and some targeted rehab (eccentric heal drops).

I have been focusing on staying motivated (thank you YouTube and Instagram!) and mastering the basics, versus (being lured into, or continuing on a path of) progressing in a hurried way without first building the proper foundation.

I have a track record of being fuelled by unsustainable passion, or losing confidence or interest in my endeavours. I can happily say I am healing and have been served well by directing my energies towards balance, strength, consistency, and pacing myself. I have returned to doing a weekly parkour class and my tendon seems to be adjusting to the new demands.

Two steps forward.

One step back.

One step forward….

Tears of Frustration

I was so nervous, I almost thought about not going at all.  I got all my things ready. Mental checklist: Bathroom. Phone. Wallet. Keys. Shoes. Water bottle. Intern dialogue: “I gotta do it. The longer I wait to go back, the harder it will get.”

I had been away from parkour classes for a month, trying to rehab an Achilles injury. It was time to test out my recovery, so this morning I SHOWED UP…even though I was super nErVous.

I was primarily worried about three things:

– was I gonna make my Achilles problem worse again

– will I have lost the progress I made

– would I appear lazy or uncommitted if I did not go full out today

I noticed myself getting happier and happier the closer I got to the gym. Definitely felt good to walk in there. I had to remind myself it would be worth it to start ALL over from the beginning, I was there to improve my skills, not impress my instructors (though I deeply want that too), and that I gave myself lots of extra warm-up to prevent re-injury.

All that stuff was bubbling under the surface while one of my instructors was giving me feedback over and over about a move I just.could.not.get. So I started crying. In front of my instructor, a handful of teenage boys, a man roughly my age, and a teenage girl. Not like “bwwaaahaha,” but, you know, flushed and teary.

My typical reaction is to squelch it, look for a way to hide. DENY.

That is shame. I see you shame.

I stood there with tears in my eyes, looked at my instructor and said, with a steady voice, “I am frustrated.” My instructor nodded. The man looked at me and said, “It’s a frustrating move,” which immediately helped me feel better.

I kept working at it and felt like I was on the verge of a breakthrough. I had to push through that uncomfortable place to make progress. I got a little further ahead today and I am so glad that I went back.

 

Traceuse-in-Training

I think of the average person as a frugal use of potential, given the actual capabilities of humans.

I started taking classes at my local parkour gym a few months ago, after some casual exploration during their open gym times. A parkour gym is like permission to do what I would do all the time, everywhere, if I were not afraid of being laughed at for using my body in typically forgotten and neglected ways…or bailing hard. Admittedly, in my first class I got literally WIPED across the floor. Imagine a petite unconditioned Mom on the far end of a resistance band from a 6-foot+ slab of man, while he is sprinting. Thankfully I was able to laugh it off.

I have made a little progress since, though I think we can all agree I am not a superstar. The thing is, that I love doing it so much that I won’t let the fears, embarrassments, and bruises deter me. Some people see parkour as a competitive, show-boating, adrenaline-fuelled dude-fest, but I think it is for everyone. The good practitioners seem to do the impossible, but only because the majority of us have come to ask so little of our bodies.

This video shows me working on slide vaults; notice how I am gaining confidence with successive passes. First I use my foot (a step vault), then I skim over the vault, and final get a little air. It took me 1 month of conditioning classes (once a week), then another month of technical classes (once a week), to do a slide vault as seen on the last pass. I am trying not to expect too much too soon, but I do want to see how good I can get.

Why I Chose To Use EC With My Kids

Don’t know what “EC” means? Read this.

When my husband and I decided to have children, I had had little-to-no experience caring for babies…no younger siblings, no teenage babysitting job, nothing.
I did know, however, that there would be a LOT of pee and poo involved.

I had read about and seen enough of the world to know that diapers were not a cultural universal. Just as parents have choices to make about feeding, sleeping, and other baby care issues, I knew there had to be different ways of dealing with infant waste. I like to do my research, so I started looking into ways that other cultures deal with this very necessary part of babyhood, without access to a 24-hour drug store or a stacking high efficiency washer/drier combo.

What I read convinced me that the Western theory of potty training readiness was yet another example of humans thinking they are smarter than millions of years of evolution and that products can replace parental involvement… and that most parents have only ever been shown ONE option – prolonged diapering.

How very satisfying it is to have this extra level of two-way communication with infants and to respond and eventually anticipate the baby’s needs in a hygienic and loving manner.

Pottying My 3-Month-Old Son While Camping
Pottying My 3-Month-Old Son While Camping

 

 

Linchpin-ification

In his extremely excellent book Linchpin, Seth Godin writes,

Artists understand that they have the power, through gifts, innovation, and love, to create a new story, one that’s better than the old one.

…far more often we find the dreams of art shattered by the resistance. We give in to fear and our art ends up lying in a box somewhere, unseen.

These are just two quotes that resonated with me, but it’s like he wrote that whole book for me, personally. I know what your struggles are, and here is some advice for you, Steph.

I am a creator, but I have trouble sharing beyond my tight, trusted circle – one of the biggest forms of resistance I encounter is vulnerability to the disapproval of others. I am also a maximizer, so I have trouble “shipping” the products of my creative mind. There is no DONE in perfectionism.

This website is one way for me to practice calling something done and putting it out there. Being a Linchpin is about being unapologetically unique and seeing how everyone benefits when we ALL think of ourselves as Artists of sorts.