Four Emotions that are Simply a Waste of Time
May19

Four Emotions that are Simply a Waste of Time

 If you follow Facebook or LinkedIn there are any number of articles appearing in your feed (or at least in mine) each day about all the little things successful people do to be successful. So what happens when either you do all these things (or at least enough of them) and yet you seem to be stuck? Why do some seemingly successful people always feel stressed or anxious? Why do some people apologize over and over again? Why do some people fail and keep going, while others fail and call it quits?

Maybe when we get desperate or anxious or lose our way, even when we think we are doing all the right things, maybe what we really need is a change of perspective….

I talk a lot about gratitude because I have found it to be a foundational component of my own feelings of happiness and success. Gratitude is a commonly accepted character trait and practice of successful, happy people. If you read certain texts or books you might come away thinking that gratitude is the magic bullet to a happy life.

But then how do you explain the experience of a highly successful entrepreneur who practices gratitude and yet is perpetually anxious? Or how can we explain the thousands of stay at home moms (and dads!) who have everything they need, who adore their children, who are so grateful to have the possibility to stay home, and yet they feel incomplete or stressed?

They say you are a success, but you don’t feel it?

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Four Emotions that are Simply a Waste of Time
May19

Four Emotions that are Simply a Waste of Time

If you follow Facebook or LinkedIn any number of articles appear in your feed (or at least in mine) each day about all the little things successful people do to be successful. So what happens when either you do all these things (or at least enough of them) and yet you seem to be stuck? Why do some seemingly successful people always feel stressed or anxious?  Why do some people fail and keep going, while others fail and call it quits?

Maybe when we get desperate or anxious or lose our way, even when we think we do all the right things, maybe what we really need is a change of perspective….

I talk a lot about gratitude because I have found it to be a foundational component of my own feelings of happiness and success. Gratitude is a commonly accepted character trait and practice of successful, happy people. If you read certain texts or books you might come away thinking that gratitude is the magic bullet to a happy life.

But then how do you explain the experience of a highly successful entrepreneur who practices gratitude and yet is perpetually anxious? Or how can we explain the thousands of stay at home moms (and dads!) who have everything they need, who adore their children, who are so grateful to have the possibility to stay home, and yet they feel incomplete or stressed?

They say you are a success, but you don’t feel it?

As I discussed in my post Satisfaction and What is Next setting, tracking, and achieving goals results in candidly quantifiable feelings of success. And indeed, “successful people” are often known for not only practicing gratitude but also for setting specific goals and working diligently to achieve their goals. People with GRIT learn from their mistakes when they fail.

So, let’s say that you are both a goal setter and you practice gratitude. You are extremely grateful for all that you have and that you have achieved. And yet, you still get caught up in the “what ifs.” Maybe you lose perspective when watching the success of your peers. Or maybe you have a list of things that you should have done or could have said…you still can’t find those feelings of contentment with your success.

Maybe you regret the paths you didn’t take or the actions you did take. Maybe you wonder how your neighbor always manages to buy a new car every three years or why someone else has just taken the vacation of YOUR dreams.

What is going on? Maybe it is not what you are doing right, but something else?

The longer we live and the more we do, the more people cross our lives and touch us. Some people make an impact that is unforgettable. Sometimes they are unforgettably good, sometimes they are unforgettably bad! When I was younger, I used to get worked up about all the bad things or bad people that had crossed my path.

Starting when I was about 10 or 11 I would often lay in bed at night going over the things that I could have done or said differently, to have obtained a different outcome. I was a good student. I was kind to my friends. I was funny. I was not a particularly anxious person, but at the same time, I let guilt and anxiety weigh me down. In secret.

As a young college graduate, my ability to think strategically to solve problems and my drive towards perfection, led me to positions of responsibility that are most often given to individuals of greater experience and age. I always did a good job, but I was always sure that a fuck-up was just around the bend or that I could have done an even better job.  I had about 7 years of hospitality experience under my belt before I realized that 1 complaining guest out of 250 was actually a really good ratio. That a night in which 99.6% of our customers went to bed happy was in fact amazing.

A Shift in Perspective

One day about 12 years ago, I was sitting in a large hotel conference room. The general manager of our hotel was hosting an all employee training. John is what one would call a servant leader (I’ll write about servant leaders another day). He earned this title because he considered himself more a mentor than a boss and he did everything he could to make his employees feel like part of something bigger. John would take a chance on just about anyone who was willing to put in a little sweat.

At the same time, he wasn’t a softy. One of his favorite activities was going to baseball games. Although, unlike an umpire, he practiced two strikes and you’re out (versus the traditional 3) policy. His logic was that anyone can make a mistake once, but if you do it again you are either stupid or not to be trusted (not his exact words, but you get my point).

He was also the kind of person who believed in continual learning and self-improvement. This is one of many reasons that John had been brought on board by the hotel’s owner to fix a problem of inconsistent customer service. Hotels are traveler’s home-away-from-home and a successful hotel doesn’t just meet client expectations, it exceeds them.

What is more, is that people who travel tend to be tired and not necessarily on their own best behavior, and so successful hotel staff also need to be somewhat forgiving or at the least thick-skinned. There is nothing better than a customer service employee who can turn a frown upside down!

The day I realized that one bad apple doesn’t ruin the bunch…

During this particular all-employee training, John brought up a topic that I will never forget. He said that in his experience, there were for emotions that he saw people get caught up in that contributed to bad customer service and generally unhappiness.

Most companies have training manuals, codes of conduct and staff training. In the service industry these tomes and training, of course, tell staff to be nice to the customer. But they often don’t talk about how to be a better person or more effective. They don’t explain how customer service affects the bottom line nor how all the pieces of the company come together to make one whole.

John did all of these things and more. Not everyone appreciated the detail, but those of us who took the time to listen had the opportunity to learn and grow our knowledge not just in the field of hospitality, but also in the game called life.

Four Wasted Emotions: GUILT; WORRY; REGRET; AND, JEALOUSY

Boy did I have an “ah-HA!” moment during this talk. I had been weighed down by the big FOUR on a daily basis for YEARs. I was guilty of imperfection, I was worried about the consequences, I was jealous of the perfect people, I regretted the mistakes I’d made…

John explained that when we encountered these emotions, our initial emotional response itself was normal. When bad things happen, we get upset. And then we can either learn from the problem or we can let the problem eat us. Too often when we get hung up in life, it is because we don’t let our problems go.

Let’s look at the healthy way to address each of these emotions:

GUILT: You do something wrong or you make a mistake. Accidentally or intentionally, it doesn’t matter, both instances require that you recognize what you did wrong and that you resolve to do it differently in the future.  And then, you MOVE ON.

WORRY: You recognize your concern, you determine if it is something that you have control over. If yes, fix it. If no, let it go. MOVE ON.

REGRET: You can’t fix the past. Recognize what happened. If it is in your control, figure out what you need to do differently in the future. MOVE ON.

JEALOUSY: It doesn’t change anything. It hurts you. It hurts other people. Set your own goals, focus on yourself and don’t worry about other people.

Hallelujah!

Now, a lifetime of guilt, worry, jealousy and regret cannot be erased overnight. And to be honest, even a decade later, I sometimes revert to old patterns, especially when I am pressed for time, overtired or sick. But. BUT. Since the day John gave that talk, I have been a different, and happier woman. I have been able to recognize these emotions and learn from my mistakes.

Of course, this doesn’t mean I don’t make mistakes either, I do. I do make mistakes. Sometimes daily, but I don’t get bogged down in worry, regret, jealousy or guilt. I notice. I recognize. I use my BREATHE app to meditate. And, then I practice gratitude for having people in my life like John.

Do you get caught up in any or all of these emotions? Have you ever? Do you think that they have had an effect on your happiness? Your feelings of success?

Here at Alibcandid, I share my experiences, my lessons learned,  and even daily existential crisis. I also talk about my lessons learned. My hope is that together, you and I will learn to live authentic, intentional and satisfying lives. That we will find a path to true gratitude and experience all the happiness and success that the abundance in our life offers. To learn more about my professional services please visit Alison Rakoto. To learn about my infatuation with food and fitness please visit American Bakery (in French) or Health and Fit at Forty (under construction).
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May15

If you are wondering where my promised Monday, Wednesday and Friday posts have gone, don’t worry! I am still writing but at 30 minutes a day, I have decided to put more effort into publishing thoughtfully edited posts. Here is a teaser quote regarding the next piece that I will be publishing. Likely on Friday of this week!

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Le Sigh: French Politics from a Privileged American
May08

Le Sigh: French Politics from a Privileged American

To start off today, let me be frank, you may not agree with my point of view, but that is the beauty of living in a free world. We can agree to disagree. This will be the last politically bent post you see from me for a while, perhaps for three years or more (French politics or American politics). I am going to focus on my own business and my family, but before I do so, I want to cause a few people to question their own beliefs. To question what you think are the meanings of “left” and “right,” “conservative” and “liberal.” Who makes these definitions, who promotes them in the media, and what is it that we as citizens really want and need from our governments?

Living overseas, living in an interethnic and interracial family causes me to question the status quo more often than I would have expected before I made the plunge. I used to think I was well rounded and open-minded, but what I learn each year, is that although I have basic values at my core, my beliefs and my experiences are very one sided. As an American, I am continually challenged to see things in different ways.

As an American, my roots are more complex than some non-Americans might imagine. I grew up in a family represented by “self-made” men and women: Colorado cowboys, potato farmers, teachers, and cattle ranchers. The immigrant roots on this side of the family go back a few hundred years, but religious freedom and respect for diverse beliefs were important parts of my upbringing. From Mary Baker Eddy to Ralph Waldo Emerson, reading, free-thought, debate and non-judgment were a major part of my early education.

The other side of my family has more recent roots as immigrants. My grandfather’s parents were poor German farmers and he was very proud to have not only gone to university but studied for a Ph.D. in chemical engineering. This side of the family is more decisively “liberal” and yet the belief in hard work and the protestant ethic came across strong in my upbringing.

How do we learn to question the status quo?

I share this information, because from my perspective, as the child of a university professor in a liberal town, I had a relatively well-rounded and open-minded upbringing. And yet, my life’s activities, from a semester in Madagascar in 1998 to travel in West Africa for a month in 2000, and then working for a few years in a rural area of Haiti, I have learned that other people have had very very different world views and experiences than my own.

As an American, I have had the privilege of living a very privileged life. I have never had to consider the risks of boarding an overcrowded boat in Guantanamo bay with the hope that we will make it alive to Miami. My grandfather was not killed in an uprising against the French. As an American, I have benefited, when even others around the world have been struggling. Every year, maybe even every day, I learn something that I didn’t know before, especially when I am traveling or listening to those who have grown up with vastly different histories than my own.

The Real and the Imagined Fight between “Patriots” and “Globalists”

For the last year or two, much of my TV and social media world has been infatuated with the so-called British, American and French political fights between “patriots” and “globalists” or “fascists” and “liberals.” I could go on with the comparisons, but really, listening to the debate as an American living overseas I feel somewhat disconnected from it all. As an American the “challenges” to our various “western” political establishments have been particularly, interesting learning experiences.

With the American 2016 presidential election, I watched my blood relatives split down the middle in regards to their viewpoints.  Friends have surprised me by tipping one way or another. And I have wondered how others remain mysteriously tight-lipped. All sides, of course, think they are right. Personally, I think that perhaps no one is right. This would perhaps make me the perfect conspiracy theorist, but I don’t like conspiracies either. They are inefficient.

No one is right…

Ultimately, politics and voting are selfish. Normal people are too easily motivated by fear and self-preservation. A few people try to look towards the future, at cause and effect, but more people look to the past. And, it seems that many people shut down new and or different ideas before they even get a chance to listen.

Yesterday, I attempted to comment on the Facebook post of a writer that I had come to respect in the Seattle area regarding Macron’s election being a “win against Fascism.” As an American living in France, my hope was to shed light on why not all French people supporting Le Pen should be considered crazy fascists. Within a few seconds of posting, before anyone could have possibly tried to think about what I wrote, I’d already been publicly labeled a “Fascist Racist” myself. Mon dieu!

Immediately, the preconceived notions of this author and her followers associated me with their image of a “Trump supporter” and a white elitist Fascist. The author and her followers also pegged me as a privileged white person (which I am) with my head up my ass (it’s not). What they missed, is that if we want to achieve progress we need to make fewer assumptions and do more listening. Americans also need to realize that they as a category are also privileged when it comes to Americans versus the World. And so, what the author missed in my comments is that more important than me being a privileged white person, I am a privileged AMERICAN.

What is Privilege?

I am also a privileged citizen and resident of several countries that got rich off of colonialism and slavery. I tried several times to get the author and the other commenters to see the point I was trying to raise, but they simply couldn’t get past their belief that as a privileged white person, I was trying to normalize hate. If they only knew that hate is probably the last thing you will try to find me normalizing. Indeed, I am writing this post, because I don’t want to live in a world that is fueled by fear and hate.

Countries like Madagascar and Haiti are poor because the colonial powers became rich off the backs of the citizens of these countries. And yet, most Haitians and most Malagasy, don’t hate Europeans or Americans, but if they wanted too, their hate would certainly be justified.

Africa made Europe rich.

But which Europeans? The average citizen voting for Melanchon or Le Pen? Simply signing off Le Pen supporters as crazy fascists, ignores the very real reasons that she got so much of the vote this year. I guarantee you that 34% of French people are not fascist racists and that black, brown, Jewish and Muslims voted for Le Pen. Obviously, such voters are not to be found in great enough numbers, but they do exist and they exist for a variety of reasons. And I would argue that their vote for Le Pen is not equivalent to “normalizing hate.” In fact, can also be a statement against hate, fueled by a desire to fight against the ruling parties and individuals that they see as disconnected from reality.

I agree that we cannot nor should not normalize fascism or hatred in the form of white supremacy or any other “supremacy.” However, do we so easily forget that the wealthiest nations and corporations also made their fortunes off of backs of others? Is the Front National really our greatest enemy? Is the Front National really a greater enemy than Brussels? Or, from a different point of view, is Brussels really the true friend of the immigrant? Or is Brussels using the immigrant as a pawn in a complex game of oligarchical chess?

The far left in France also sees Brussels as a threat.

People around the world live or die as the result of American politics and American money. How many people have died in the last 100 years as a result of American foreign policy? How many people died as a result of colonialism and slavery?

50 Shades of Grey should be about politics…

Sadly, the book 50 Shades of Grey is about sex, because it really should be the title of a book about politics. It is so easy for good well-meaning citizens to get lost in political parties and in sound bites. We let those already in power buy and sell our news and we lose sight of the real goal of government to represent the people. As Americans, we tend to think that America only does good, but there are millions of people around the world that will tell you otherwise.

During the American election campaign, I was at a dinner party in France where individuals from several different countries said that they would relish a Trump win, simply because it might weaken and destabilize American domination of the world. That is not the kind of statement that an American wants to hear, nor is it the kind of thing that you will hear, without venturing out into the world. It was also not the first nor probably the last time that I will hear a citizen of another country bemoan American influence or the strength of the US dollar.

Macron does not have the widespread support reported by American news outlets…

I read a breakdown of Macron’s vote and if you take out the people that voted for Le Pen, voted white (blank ballots) and those that abstained, Macron actually only won about 30% of the total French vote. I am not sure if that is something to be celebrated. At the least, it is something to be questioned.

In the numbers of French casting a “vote blanc” or voting, but not choosing either candidate, a larger percentage of these voters were youth and or unemployed (25% of French youth also happen to be unemployed). Really, in either the American or the French election, who had more power the citizen voters or multinational corporations like Bouygues, Google, Exxon Mobile, and the Waltons?

Earlier this year, before his victory was even known, Aljazeera posted an article discussing the unfair presence given to Macron by the French media. Melanchon, a Vegan Socialist, who got 19.6% of the vote in the first round, also supports negotiating the treaties surrounding the EU and NATO. And Melanchon would have raised taxes on the wealthiest of French even more. Here is a quote from the article regarding one of the first debates:

And in the aftermath of a national TV debate, bringing together five of the 11 candidates, almost all major media outlets anointed Macron as the most convincing personality of the debate. A simple critical look at the debate in question would suffice to see how Macron’s performance and discourse were banal. In contrast, far left-wing candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon, who had distinguished himself during the debate both by his innovative political proposals and his provocative style, did not get the media coverage to match his ground-breaking political platform.

The Oligarchy versus the average citizen…

Melanchon and Le Pen both ran campaigns against the Oligarchy. Oligarchy is a term we heard a lot during the French campaign in reference to Macron and it is one reason many people, myself included, would call him representative of the Oligarchy. I would call Trump the same. Indeed, in many ways, the French far left and the French far right meet in the middle in their fight against the oligarchy. Both sides see that money talks. And money votes. Personally, I don’t know which of the French candidates I could have really gotten behind if I had been able to vote. I can’t honestly say that any one of them offered a platform that more than 50% appealed to my American background and my personal goals for the world. French politics and French political parties are quite different from what we are used to in the USA. I am not convinced in a 100% socialist state nor do I think the EU should be ended. At the same time, in today’s world, who has more power? The oligarchy or the average citizen?

Now, if the woman who called me a “racist fascist” yesterday had taken the time to listen and to consider what I was trying to write, perhaps she would have more accurately called me a naive anarchist. I just want to live in a world in which people get along, respect one another and take care of the vulnerable.

CLICK TO TWEETAnd so, while I sign off politics to focus on my own life, family, and finances for the next three years and maybe longer, let me leave you with the statement that I saw another friend post on Facebook today. “A Macron presidency does not necessarily spell out “hope” for the French.” And, in saying that, I hope that I am proven wrong.

I want my children to grow up in a world where I am proud to be a citizen and where the vulnerable have a chance to win the game.

If you like this post please share it and discuss!

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Le Sigh

To start off today, let me be frank, you may not agree with my point of view, but that is the beauty of living in a free world. We can agree to disagree. This will be the last politically bent post you see from me for a while, perhaps for three years or more. I am going to focus on my own business and my family, but before I do so, I want to cause a few people to question their own beliefs. To question what you think are the meanings of “left” and “right,” “conservative” and “liberal.” Who makes these definitions, who promotes them in the media, and what is it that we as citizens really want and need from our governments?

Living overseas, living in an interethnic and interracial family causes me to question the status quo more often than I would have expected before I made the plunge. I used to think I was well rounded and open-minded, but what I learn each year, is that although I have basic values at my core, my beliefs and my experiences are very one sided. As an American, I am continually challenged to see things in different ways. READ MORE HERE…

 

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Space: the final frontier of Health Care


Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.

Growing up in the USA and watching the transition to a more formal European Union (EU), I often thought of the EU, like I did the Starship Enterprise. Peaceably bringing together nations that had been squabbling amongst themselves (to put it mildly) for hundreds of years, if not millennia, is an amazing feat. Creating a common monetary union, even more amazing.

Living in France, I will admit that I still have a very romantic view of the EU. The EU represents progress and peace. Open borders, freedom of movement. This is the world we would all like to live in. At the same time, there are sacrifices to be made. Outside of a common monetary system, the nations of the EU do not share political systems, economic systems, systems of health care or do they even have standardized accounting systems. Each nation is unique and relatively independent. Certain countries have stronger economies. Others have better health care. Some have higher wages. Not even road signs are universal between countries.

Today, over 10% of the French population is foreign born, overall unemployment is near 10% and unemployment for young adults is near 25%. France also has a higher average income than all but a handful of EU countries. Open borders in the EU, mean that anyone from an EU country can come to France and access both the health care system and legally work. Once you have met certain basic requires for legal work in France, and you become unemployed, you are eligible for unemployment. Unlike the US, there is not a cap on how long one can pull unemployment and it is not uncommon for individuals to work a 6-month contract and then take unemployment for 6 months, before taking a new contract. Affordable health care, housing assistance, and other social programs make meeting life’s’ basic necessities much more easily attained in France than in the United States.

READ MORE…

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Uncomfortable
May03

Uncomfortable

IMG_1925This weekend my husband and I took a little trip without the kids to a big city. Toulouse is similarly sized to Denver, in my home state of Colorado. Sometimes Toulouse reminds me of Boston, with its red brick buildings and tree-lined streets. At the same time, Toulouse is a very contemporary French city. The population is diverse and the people on the streets are of all persuasions. In general, one feels safe and the mood is pleasant.

Normally, when we visit Toulouse we stay with family, but this time we rented a hotel room off of TripAdvisor (and Hotels.com). Saturday afternoon, after eating with my brother-in-law, we decided to stop and pick up some bottled water. Just because one can safely drink water out of the bathroom tap, doesn’t mean that one WANTS to drink water out of the bathroom.

As we are driving down the street, we saw a little market. Similar to your average French mini-grocer, with boxes of produce outside. I hopped out of the car and walked in. Unlike your normal French grocer, where the cashier immediately says “Bonjour!” I was greeted by silence. After a minute or so of trying to decide between flat water (l’eau plate aka Evian) or seltzer water (l’eau gazeuses aka Perrier), I realized why I had not been greeted. I was a tall woman, in tight jeans, standing amongst conservatively dressed Muslim men wearing robes and caps.

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Uncomfortable: Religion and Politesse in Public Spaces

This weekend my husband and I took a little trip without the kids to a big city. Toulouse is similarly sized to Denver, in my home state of Colorado. Sometimes Toulouse reminds me of Boston, with its red brick buildings and tree-lined streets. At the same time, Toulouse is a very contemporary French city. The population is diverse and the people on the streets are of all persuasions. In general, one feels safe and the mood is pleasant.

Normally, when we visit Toulouse we stay with family, but this time we rented a hotel room off of TripAdvisor (and Hotels.com). Saturday afternoon, after eating with my brother-in-law, we decided to stop and pick up some bottled water. Just because one can safely drink water out of the bathroom tap, doesn’t mean that one WANTS to drink water out of the bathroom.

As we are driving down the street, we saw a little market. Similar to your average French mini-grocer, with boxes of produce outside. I hopped out of the car and walked in. Unlike your normal French grocer, where the cashier immediately says “Bonjour!” I was greeted by silence. After a minute or so of trying to decide between flat water (l’eau plate aka Evian) or seltzer water (l’eau gazeuses aka Perrier), I realized why I had not been greeted. I was a tall woman, in tight jeans, standing amongst conservatively dressed Muslim men wearing robes and caps.

I picked out my water (no prices to be seen) and went to pay. I had to stand there for several minutes as no one would look at me. The men seemed to be arguing amongst themselves and talking around me. Finally, one gentleman came to address me. He rang up my water, which came to a total of 5,40 Euros. When I got out my credit card to pay (the only form of payment I had on me) he pointed out that they had a 10 Euro minimum for cards. I pointed out I only had a card. Generally, even in France if you can only pay with a card, a store will overlook his or her minimum to make the sale. Not this time.

This time, the gentleman offered to raise my prices (for 4 bottles of water) by 50 cents each. I gave a nervous laugh and said no, that is a little steep. He said we are done then. I said ok. And then he told me to put my bottles back. By this time, from the tone of his voice to his body language, the entire exchange had me feeling queasy. In fact, writing about it four days later is actually making my body shake. The tension in the room at the time was immense. I might have actually followed his instructions to put the bottles back, except for that I literally had to bolt out of the store. I was physically repulsed by the exchange. As part of the privileged class of white folk in the Western world, I am not used to this type of exchange. I am often surprised by French customer service, but then the French tend to see me more as an interesting curiosity. I may periodically be served with indifference, but that is not the same as hate.

Respect. Tolerance. Religious Freedom. The United States. France. And many other countries of the world practice religious freedom and religious tolerance. One is not supposed to be discriminated upon due to religious belief or practice of customs. I realize that what I experienced Saturday, may be what some Muslim women or men experience in reverse. Perhaps this is why these gentlemen opened a store. Of course, this then begs the question, if you open a store to protect your cultural population from discrimination, why would you reciprocate with hate? Or perhaps the store was opened, so that Muslim men, would not have to come in contact with Western women? And, by walking in the store, I had unknowingly upset the balance?

Whatever the case, tit for tat doesn’t make it O.K. and running a store on a large French boulevard, shop-keepers ought to be prepared to welcome all sorts of customers. When I first noticed the men in the store were dressed in Muslim garb, I was not put off in any way. Many years ago, when I was growing up in Boulder, CO there was a “Middle Eastern Grocery” store in the north of the town. It was a fun place to visit. They had interesting spices, the owner made his own Baklava, they sold dates in bulk. It was a romantic and friendly place to visit. The store made me want to travel and see the world. Perhaps at home, the man’s wife wore traditional clothing, but in his store, I was welcome. This is the way our world should be.

In our minds, in our homes, we can practice what we wish; however, when we mix with the world in which we live, there needs to be space for us to respect and appreciate our differences. I think one reason I felt this experience at such a visceral level is that I am scared of policies that seem to favor this growing divide. And whether it is reality or a sensationalist trick of the news media, it seems problems that we currently have in the U.S. and in France that stem from this divide seems to be growing larger and more common.

One thing I think that is interesting to note is that in France there is a much more authentic practice of laïcité or secularism than I have experienced in the USA. Conservatives in France are not proponents of one religion over another, they say that no religion should receive special treatment, this goes for Catholicism, Judaism, Islam and even Protestants. In spite of France having culturally Catholic roots (and most national holidays remain Catholic holidays), I am continually surprised that my experience living in France as a more secular experience than the US. And so, while Trump is proposing to make it okay to discriminate based upon religion (specifically Christian beliefs), France is balancing between two candidates who both propose that zero essentially zero preference for religious belief should be given.

The centrist candidate (Macron) says all religions should be respected, which for him means that people whose religious beliefs have a public component should be able to express those beliefs in public (aka wear religious clothing in public). At the same time, the conservative candidate (Le Pen) goes further and says that in public spaces, citizens should not be able to assert their religious beliefs, including clothing.

Now, I am not prepared to debate this issue any further here today, because as a delicate issue, it requires more time and space than I have at the moment. At the same time, I encourage you to discuss this issue in the public sphere, but without anger or accusation. In the ideal world, we would respect our brothers and sisters in public and not judge one another. We would not hate a stranger for her beliefs or her cultural background. Life is a two-way street. And no one should experience hate and or fear, simply for just being themselves.

The Oatmeal just published a little piece that addresses this experience of different beliefs and so before you get mad one way or another at what I wrote above, just let your feeling of uncomfortableness sit, and read this instead.

Your Not Going to Believe This

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La famille

Aujourd’hui, je vais essayer de m’exprimer en français. Depuis 2013 je suis une résidente de France d’où j’habite avec mon mari. Il n’est pas facile de changer son pays et ses coutumes, mais on apprend beaucoup sur ce qui est important dans la vie. C’est sur que je ne suis pas la même femme aujourd’hui, comme j’étais le jour de mon arrivée.

La Famille

Ma mère a grandi dans une famille nombreuse et mon enfance était passé entouré des cousins et cousines. Malgré que j’ai grandi moi-même comme un enfant unique (j’ai un demi-frère de 17 ans plus âgé que moi et on n’a jamais habité ensemble), j’ai eu toujours un appreciation pour une grande famille.

Ici en France, mon mari a deux frères et trois soeurs. Entre-eux, ils ont des époux et des enfants en plus. Ses parents a au moins 15 petits-enfants. Depuis que la première fois que je me suis rencontré de ses parents, j’ai senti que j’étais un vrai partie de la famille. Maintenant qu’on a ajouté deux petits-enfants en plus de la famille, je le senti en plus.

La vie avec deux enfants de moins deux ans et toujours presser. On a toujour quelque choses à ranger! Et il peut être difficile de se concentrer sur son couple. Ce weekend, mon mari et moi ont parti pour célébrer 5 ans de mariage. On a eu le désire de prendre une pause ensemble sans enfants.

Grâce à la famille de mon chéri, c’était possible de laisser nôtres bébés et aussi mon grand chez eux pour le weekend. Samedi j’étais un peux malheureuse jusqu’à le moment j’ai vu sur Facebook ma petite fille avec ses cousins. Ils étaient entrain de fêter un anniversaire. Entre les câlins de ses taties et les cousins et les cousines, j’ai vu que mes petits soient très chanceux. Ou comme mon mari l’a dit, ils avaient eu la possibilité ce weekend d’apprendre l’importance et la grâce de la famille.

L’appréciation et Le remerciement

Les êtres humains ont toujours un grand désir d’appartenir à quelqu’un ou quelque choses et d’être aimés. C’était une chose merveilleux de voir comment ma petite fille de deux ans comprends la connection et l’amour de ses grands parents et ses taties et tontons. On est chanceux.

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