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Writing, learn-ing, jewelry, deconstructing t-shirts and reality - it's what I do. I live to be inspired, and to inspire.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Overcoming "Normal"

Normal is an illusion. What is normal to the spider is chaos to the fly.” ~Morticia Addams

It’s normal for a men to be given more money and resources than women. It’s normal for African-Americans to have lower incomes, health and education. It’s normal for a woman to put her husband and family above her personal needs, goals and dreams. It’s normal for a man to put his own sexual desires ahead of respect for a woman. It’s normal for certain people to be born into privilege, have more economic and political power, and for certain other people to be born into poverty and live the “hard life.” It’s abnormal to love or marry outside the bounds set by religion, law, caste, class or race. It’s abnormal for a woman to not be interested in pursuing marriage or to not want children. It’s abnormal for a young black man to be more interested in writing poetry than playing sports; abnormal for to walk down the street in an “English-speaking” country and hear residents speaking languages other than English. It’s abnormal for someone “different” to not want to assimilate, give up their culture and beliefs to be more like the dominant class.

Injustices, inequalities, discrepancies and double standards are passed off as normal – just the way it is – and people’s freedoms and rights are infringed on the basis of them not falling within the dominant class’s category of normalcy. Sometimes people are so afraid of change that they fail to realize that the “norm” is not the ideal but is actually oppressive to many groups. But when the current system gives you an advantage or stability, it is difficult to see its flaws. Even those on the wrong side of those flaws may resist change because, as the saying goes, “better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.”

Yet the “natural order” of things is not so “natural.” Humans have created these norms through patterns of domination and strategy, decisions and actions over the course of history. If we so haphazardly and very carefully created this world of haves and have-nots, then we can create a better one. People with power and privilege are not likely to want to change a system that gave them power and privilege, so we really need to stop waiting for those people to “do something.” Such people will appease the masses by giving an inch as they continue to take yards and yards.

One of the first things we need to do is change the way we think. If more people examine themselves, their biases, stereotypes, conditioning and apathy we can stop thinking what we’re taught to think and start thinking critically about the world around us. Critical thinking allows us to question the norms, recognize their flaws, change our behaviors and find solutions. It is crucial to transition from thinking to action

Changes in our every-day behaviors, choices, how we spend our money, how we treat others, all baby steps in creating a better world around ourselves. Actions that extend beyond, teaming up with others in finding solutions that can have positive impact on a larger scale, is also a big part of re-writing the norms. It’s important to focus on things you can do rather than get frustrated by what you cannot do (right now). The process is slow and uncomfortable – quite opposite to the convenient instant gratification that consumer society is trying to make into the “norm” at the expense of many around the world.

This world is not static and norms are not absolute. If no one believes things can be changed for the better then no one will ever change anything. But things can change for the better when people are determined to make these changes happen. Question “normal” and acknowledge the chaos it causes to those trapped in its web. Let us each commit to doing our part to make the world better than “normal.”

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Doing More With Less

Things are tight and many of us are learning to do more with less. There are things we all want to do one day. Dreams. Goals. When trying to accomplish something you need to be prepared to do so “in spite of.” The time will never be perfectly right. You will never be perfectly ready. What we often fail to realize is that achieving our goals isn’t a one-off effort: it is the culmination of many, many little efforts over a long time. 
There are always little things we can do every day that lead up to those goals. Some of these practical things can be tangible – like registering a business name or writing a blog post. Others are less tangible like reading a book, working out a timeline or putting aside money each month.

Money is the first thing many people cite as the reason they cannot chase after their dreams or achieve certain goals. Saving and making good decisions about money is important. Too many people have a mindset of getting debt and taking loans. This culture has turned debt and credit into a “good” thing that “responsible” people are expected to have. Horse-shit! I’m not a financial advisor but I am practical about money which is one of the reasons I’ve survived this long. The first and foremost thing I’ve learned is to avoid debt like the plague – save up for what you need or want. Below is some saving advice that can help you accomplish a lot with a little over time. It assumes you have an income – however small, large or indifferent.

·         Before anything else: subtract 10% of your paycheck every month for savings. This first 10% is savings. It may be savings for a specific purpose (like a car etc) or in case of emergency (like unemployment). Do not touch it for any other reason! Put it aside then figure out how to live the rest of the month without it. If you have to eat nothing but rice and beans for a while then so be it.

·         If you can do a second 10% then put that aside as investment/givings. This is multi-purpose and a bit more flexible, but still not for bills and typical life expenses. Put it into your children’s or nieces and nephews mutual fund or college savings; put it aside to invest in your future business plans; or give it to whatever cause or charity you feel like contributing to. Heck! Split it up and do all three of these things if that 10% chunk is big enough. Point is use it to invest for the future, your community, and to make a positive difference.

·         Next: pay your rent and bills. Include in here payment for credit card and loans. Do not pay only the minimum on debt. Pay as much as you can spare to get rid of debt. Debt is a blight you need to get rid of as soon as humanly possible.

·         Buy groceries. If you plan meals, buy groceries and budget for food monthly, you’re less likely to end up eating out (spending extra/wasting money).

·         If there’s any remaining, the rest is your disposable income. Dispose of it as you wish and try to have some fun. Sometimes you won’t have this and your entertainment might have to be staying in and reading a library book. That works too.

I know it doesn’t sound exciting; being smart and cautious never does. But savings and investment are truly important and key in helping you make things happen. You are in control of your money. It isn’t some willful thing that comes and goes into your life like an on-again off-again relationship. It is something you work with logically, not emotionally, and you make it work for you.