The Insidiousness of What Other People Think

I don’t remember how I found this, but it’s a good article:

The Good Guy Contract

Here’s how the author defines it:

The Good Guy Contract was simple:  I would agree to be nice to you, to advise you, to sacrifice for you, to care about you—and in return you would agree to believe that I was wise, compassionate, excellent as a human being in every way, and finally and most importantly, you would like me.

It’s common in the  present culture to believe that altruism is a noble philosophy.  But what does it really mean?  That sacrificing yourself for others is moral and good.  Your entire morality and self-esteem (for how can you feel good about yourself without knowing that you’re moral?) is built upon other people.  I hear a lot of lip service paid to “doing something for yourself” so that you don’t go crazy, but more often, when you see a person or their actions held up on a pedestal, it’s because of their sacrifice.

You might go through life thinking that you’re doing things to make yourself happy, but I see so many people hung up and anxious about what other people think.  I have this problem myself.  It’s pretty easy to figure out what you want, and if no one else is around, it’s trivial to do exactly what you want to.  But it’s so rare that other people aren’t involved.  Ay, there’s the rub.  All of a sudden, there are these other pressures involved.  Well, I want to stay home and relax tonight, but I don’t want to disappoint so-and-so because of whatnot.  Then the anxiety comes.  I want to do something, but I don’t want to feel that someone is displeased with me.  Well, should you be making decisions because of what you want or because of what you don’t want?  That’s what I try to keep in mind.  The author is right, it does take practice.  You just have to bite the bullet and risk finding out that someone doesn’t like what you’re doing.  Most of the time it’s not so bad, and when you survive another’s disappointment one time, you gain more confidence for the next time.

So why are the opinions of others so insidious?  Because it feels so good to get praise.   However, praise is fleeting, and you can’t bring up old praise in your mind to make yourself feel better down the road.  You have to learn to feel good because of your accomplishments, otherwise you’re left constantly needing a praise fix.  You’ll surround yourself with people you don’t care about because they happen to be there.  Your relationships are built, not on values, but on whether or not the other person can give you your fix.  When your self-esteem comes from inside yourself, you can feel happy without anyone else around.  If you feel down, it’s easy to think of all of the good things that you’ve done.  Life seems so simple once you realize this and live your life for yourself.

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What’s Up with Faye?

Since I haven’t updated my blog in about a month, here’s what’s been happening for the past few weeks:

  1. I finished my fiction writing class.  It was fun!  Some of the class members are trying to get a writing group started, so we’ll see how that goes.
  2. Helped shoot for a couple of films.
  3. Decided I like writing better than filmmaking.  More on that later.
  4. Found out my dad wants to write a memoir.  Neat!  He has some really good stories about being a Chinese refuge in WWII and immigrating to the US.  Apparently he wanted to be a writer when he was young.  I guess now I know where I got my storytelling bug from :)
  5. Got sick.  Boo!
  6. Work…oooo…fun!

To expand on #3, I’ve decided that I don’t like working on a film set.  Granted, I’ve only tried it a few times with amateurs (both experienced and inexperienced), but I found it boring.  I didn’t feel any spark for it whatsoever.  The people were usually nice, and now at least I’ve tried it, so I don’t feel like it was a waste.  I was hoping that if I did something like directing or cinematography, I would be more excited.  However, that’s a really small part of the film.

Most of the time on the set was setting up a shot and moving the camera around.  So there’s a lot of waiting…and some more waiting…and then you do a scene for about a minute.  And then you do the scene again.  And again.  And then you set up the next shot.  This is alright if you get to wait around in a nice comfy chair and read.  But you’re mostly standing around all day.  Add in some cold and wind, and you have a pretty miserable day.  A pretty miserable day of waiting around.

Part of the reason I thought I’d like making movies is because it’s collaborative.  But that can be good and bad.  They make it look pretty cool on all the behind the scenes features on DVDs.  You see Akira Kurosawa hanging out with his friends, having tea, talking about the film they’re writing and just having a grand ol’ time.  That’s if you’re buddies with everyone.  What if you don’t gel with the crew?  What if they’re not as excited as you are?  It’s awkward.  You don’t have this wonderful, inspired feeling that comes from collaborating with other creative people, all while combining each of your best assets to create a work of art.  It just falls flat.  You’re trying to inspire a bunch of people who are bored or have motives other than creating art.

*sigh*

I could keep trying at this, but that’s what I did in college.  I liked something just fine, but I didn’t love it, and after “giving it one more shot” for 4 years, I hated it.  I was depressed and full of self-doubt.  What I do like is writing.  When I was in my writing classes, I was excited.   I had fun.  I liked thinking of stories.  So I’m going to focus on that.  Maybe I’ll come back to film at some point and maybe I won’t.  You have to follow what excites you and cut out the cruft.  And right now film is cruft for me.  I still love watching movies though, so look out for some film reviews soon :)

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Boot Camp

I’ve been going to a Boot Camp twice a week for a few weeks, and I finally feel like I’m progressing.  I haven’t lost any weight yet, but I feel like I’m getting stronger.  Today was the first day I was able to run up the hills we work out on without totally dying.  It was definitely hard, but I felt like I could handle it, whereas before, I had to stop and catch my breath.  I can also do more pushups.  Hooray!  The beginnings of arm strength!

When I’ve exercised like this in the past, it’s always taken a while for me to see results, so I’m hoping that now my weight will start going down :)  Especially since I’ve been waking up at 5:30am twice a week for the past month or so!

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Homework

I used to hate doing homework when I was in school.  There were always more fun things to do like play Monkey Island or read really long ubernerd fantasy books late into the night.  And yes, I also did the “but I want to hang out with my boyfriend” thing in college.  Don’t look at me that way…he’s nice to hang out with.  I married him after all!  Anyways, I have homework again, and it’s been hard to break my procrastination habits, but I don’t have the anxiety and loathing for it that I used to.  Probably because I’m doing something I actually like this time (more on the “Faye Decides To Be a CS Major” problems later).

What kind of homework do I have?  Well, the first assignment is from Toastmasters.  I joined to become a better public speaker and improve my communications skills in general.  The reason being that I needed to practice this whole… talking thing.  Being shy, that was something that I always had a problem with.  There was even a moment in high school when I realized I was so awkward at verbally communicating that I just decided to talk less.  Good one, Faye :p

There’s a Toastmasters club at work, and they meet at lunchtime once a week, so it’s quite convenient.  It seems like a bit of a cheesy corporate thing to do, but the club I’m in is full of really fun people.  I liked the meetings, so I joined up a few weeks ago and now have to write my Icebreaker speech.  I’ll basically do what so many people love to do, and talk about myself.  The speech I have to come up with is to introduce myself to the rest of the club and to get me started down the road of practicing public speaking.

I’ve also been taking a fiction writing class.  It’s through The Writing Salon, a small writing school housed in a San Francisco loft.  I’ve taken classes with them before and really liked it.  I started these to get into the habit of writing more (that’s what this blog is for too) and to hone my wordsmithing skills.  I haven’t written very much since high school, so I thought this would be a good way to get back into it, and it’s been worth it so far.  Most classes have you free write every week, so it’s definitely a good workout for the right side of your brain.  My writing habits aren’t the best yet, but I feel like those are getting better as well.

The homework I have for this class is to eavesdrop on other people’s conversations, and try to figure out when they’re lying.  Someone is actually telling me to snoop on what other people are talking about!  The trouble is, I think I’m around too many honest people, because I haven’t been able to pick out any lies yet.  I guess I’ll just have to keep listening.

So I actually have homework that I want to do now.  The problem I had so often when I was in school was that I didn’t see the point.  Everything is given to you as something you’re just “supposed” to know, but the reasons why it’s important for your life are so vague.  Integrals are important because you can build bridges or…something.  History is important so we don’t repeat bad mistakes…and stuff.  This book is really important to read because people have been reading it for a long time.  Never anything like, it’s important for you to read this book as an inspiration for how to live your life or, you need to know about this period of time so that you can relate it to the principles of good and evil and human survival, later using this analysis to judge and be involved in current events.

So, to wrap up this somewhat rambling post, why are writing and speaking important to me right now?  I want to learn how to be a filmmaker, and so far I think that I may want to be a screenwriter or director.  The connection from screenwriter to writing classes is pretty easy.  But what about public speaking?  Well, if I want to be a filmmaker, I’ll have to be able to communicate my ideas, not only on paper, but amongst other people.  And possibly (if I’m successful enough), amongst many, many other people.  So Toastmasters seemed like a good place to start.

It’s funny that when you realize you’re in control of your own life and you know where you want to go, you start to make up your own assignments.  Attend writing classes and finish all assignments given.  Attend Toastmasters meetings and complete speeches in the Competent Communication booklet.  Sign up for Scary Cow and pick 2-3 films to work on in order to get experience on the set.  All of a sudden homework isn’t just drudgery being forced on you for arbitrary reasons, it’s how you become one of those exciting, fleshed out human beings.

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Happy Weekends

I had a really good weekend!  On Friday night, Tim and I just relaxed with some pizza and watched Terminator 2.  It was his birthday, and usually we’d have a nice dinner somewhere, but he just wanted to chill out.  The next day I cleaned up a bit in the morning and then helped out to shoot Lyman and Marcela, a short film that I’m working on.  I just did sound, so I basically held the boom mic up from 2-6pm.  It was pretty interesting though.  I haven’t worked on films before, so I got to see what it was like.  Lots of waiting :p  What was cool was seeing the film come together after reading the script.  Seeing the characters in front of you interacting can improve the words on the page.  You also have to plan quite a bit.  The director already had storyboards and everything, but we still had to work things out, like keeping the boom mic out of the shot.  The cinematographer and director also argued a bit over “the line“.  And finally, it took 4-5 hours to shoot about 3 minutes of dialogue.  Something I’ll keep in mind as I continue my filmmaking exploration.  After this experience, I set a goal for myself to write a script for the next Scary Cow round, so I can try out being on the creative end of things.

After I finished the shoot, Tim and I went out for a belated birthday dinner.  He had special ordered a chocolate pie from Mission Beach Cafe, so we went there.  I had this awesome eggplant and cheese raviolis.  The cheese was Red Hawk triple cream from Cowgirl Creamery, a local cheese maker.  So good!  It was a very creamy, but somewhat tangy, cheese.  Then we took home the chocolate pie and I also got a slice of Key Lime Velvet Cream pie to go.  Oh boy.  If you love lime or citrus, this is definitely the pie for you.  I’ve also had the Lemon Velvet Cream pie which is also really good.  After dinner, we relaxed some more, and had a pretty lazy Sunday.

It was just such a nice weekend!  I remember thinking many times how happy I felt.  I had such a grateful feeling the whole weekend.  Grateful for my husband and grateful for the choices that I’ve made.  Here’s to cherishing life!

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The Value of Men

I saw this article on BBC News the other day, about the development of sperm from stem cells, and the response of certain bloggers:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/8142104.stm

“Yet I feel compelled – and not just as the mother of two small boys – to make a spirited defence of the weaker sex. Where would I be without my husband to read 80 pages of a car manual, in French, to find out how the back windscreen-wiper works?”

“Women have always known that men are a bit of a waste of space … Now British scientists have proved how unnecessary blokes truly are by creating the first human sperm from stem cells.”

Sure, these are sarcastic comments, but you hear this sort of thing often.  That all men are pigs for instance.  The problem that I see is that men aren’t held up to any standard anymore.  It’s (apparently) prissy to look nice, to clean up, to be kind to and revere your wife (or partner).  Men are redundant and unnecessary, and mothers are telling their sons that what they’re good for is looking up how to fix a windshield wiper (!).

When you say all men are pigs or slobs, they have no reason to act any better than a lazy bum.   When you proliferate throughout the culture the idea that men are useless, why would they strive for greatness?

My husband is a good man who showed me how to have pride in myself.  My father and brother are intelligent and productive men, who both taught me the values I still hold today.  My father-in-law and brother-in-law are both kind and caring and welcomed me into their family, which I’m grateful for.  I’m friends with men that are doting fathers, dedicated husbands, who dress nicely, clean up the dishes, paint works of art, fight for justice, and certainly are no sissies.  They all add so much value to the world, and it would feel like a lesser place without them around.  If you don’t see what I see, maybe the solution is to start looking in the right places, instead of slandering the whole sex.

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“They’re just so…cold”

Atlas Shrugged is my favorite novel.  I’m re-reading it now, and had the opportunity to talk about it very briefly with some of the members of my book club.  A couple of women mentioned that they thought the characters were very cold and they wished they could see more emotion from them.  At the time, I explained that these characters represent an ideal, and not flesh and blood people.  Ayn Rand writes in a Romantic style, so if you want Naturalism, her novels are not the place to look for it.  However, when I thought more about this later, I realized that there’s another aspect of the novel that I neglected to mention.  These characters aren’t unemotional.  They’re just not emotional about the things that most people are emotional about.  For instance, what other people think of you, whether or not you’ll find love, or how to go about pursuing your dreams.  I realized that this is what I love so much about these characters.  They know what they want and how to get it.  They have pride in themselves and don’t need the approval of others.  Romantic love feeds their souls like any other person, but finding a soulmate is not their primary purpose in life.

Dagny Taggert feels elation and joy at the grandeur of her coming out ball, but utter disappointment when none of the young men attending live up to it’s beauty.  She rages at her brother Jim when she realizes that he’s using her to save his own hide while also stabbing her in the back.  Hank Rearden knows exactly what to do at his factories, when he’s pursuing his goals of making one of the best metals in the world.  But in his home, surrounded by his sneering wife, his ungrateful mother, and his purposeless brother, he is tortured when he doesn’t even know how to speak to them and tethered by a sense of duty to take care of them.  When Hank and Dagny meet Ellis Wyatt after the success of the John Galt Line, they are all thrilled to be surrounded by true peers and individuals of strength for one fleeting moment.  All such beautiful and heartbreaking scenes.  How could you say these are cold people?

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First Post!

So, what’s this blog going to be about?  Whatever I want.  Hah!  There is no clear purpose right now other than to be an outlet for my writing.  But I’ll start with an introductory post, since those are always fun.  My name is Faye Cheadle and I’m from Burke, Virginia.  Burke is a suburb of Washington, D.C.  It’s small enough for people to say “I’m from 30 minutes outside of DC” instead of “I’m from Burke, Virginia”.  Even if you do say your from Burke, you usually have to add where it is in relation to DC to prevent awkward looks or expectant silences in the conversation.  Both of my parents are successful immigrants, which has shaped my worldview quite a bit.  I grew up around lush trees and grass and logs that would be pulled up to look for salamanders and worms.  I tried playing with neighborhood kids, but it would never last long before I started crying about something.  I’d usually retreat back to my bedroom to read or sit watching TV and movies or playing computer games.  Solitary activities for a shy girl.  My older brother was a fan of science fiction and fantasy, which ended up rubbing off on me and my little sister.  That didn’t really help with the shyness…or acceptance.  Other kids were always confused that I would want to read books that were 1000 pages long and already knew most of the words in the class vocabulary books.  When I did socialize, it was with other nerdy girls.  I resented this for some time, because it always looked like the popular, gregarious girls were so much happier than I was.  However, early in high school, I figured out that their friends didn’t really like them.  These were marriages of social convenience and show, without the real support or shared values of true friends.  From then on, I worried much less about how many people liked me and concerned myself with trying to find people that I could be happy around.

Pre-school, elementary school, and high school went by like a blur.  There are defining moments of course, but things didn’t get really interesting for me until college.  I was an unsure, wandering spirit before then.  So what happened in college and afterwards?  Did I find myself?  Sort of.  It was a little more bumpy than the movies where someone lands on their true self in an epiphany.  I had to scrounge around a bit.  There were little mini-ephiphanies, I guess, but it was a very halting, jolting process.  There was no one moment where I said “Ah, yes, this is it”.  And you usually don’t really “find” yourself, like looking for something you know you’ve lost.  Things get degraded, pressures and expectations are piled on one another.  Then you wake up confused, not completely realizing what’s going on but with a feeling that something’s gone all crooked.  And then you feel around, pawing at some things, grabbing on to others, until you can pull yourself out into a more well-lit corner of the room.  You remember the things you liked when you were a kid, and decide that these are perfectly fine things to like.  Great things to like, even.  You find new ideas that have somehow always been inside you, but someone else has managed to articulate clearly and coherently.  Sometimes you realize you were wrong, easily letting go of certain ideas, and having difficulty letting go of others.

What did I find?  What did I let go of?  I found philosophy.  I found lifelong friends.  I realized that I didn’t really want to be a Computer Scientist (this happened, quite unfortunately, after I already had the degree).  After being told for so long that you have to accept with the flaws of your friends, I found out that you shouldn’t have to put up with people that are unhappy and cynical.  Condescension and arrogance don’t equal confidence.  Real confidence comes when you no longer need someone else’s approval to feel good about yourself.  I realized that I don’t believe in God or religion, but I do believe in the importance of a good philosophy.  Inspiring art is also important and can feed your soul more than any dogma.  I believe in an individual’s right to their own life, and recognize how important a community of good individuals is.  I’m creative.  I like to make stories and use my imagination.  I revere scientists and their work, but don’t have the meticulous nature to do this kind of work myself.  You have to define yourself by what you value and love, not by the things that you revile.  I’ve realized these things and many more, all of which I’m sure will come up in my blog.  Happy reading!

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