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Keeping the Tree Upright ⇉ Guest Post by Marnie Lamb + International #Giveaway!!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017
Society in the United States, Canada, and many other Western countries today is highly polarized. On one hand, difference is increasingly celebrated. Intermarriage, gay couples parenting children, and friendships between people of different faiths are becoming possible in ways not imagined even twenty or thirty years ago.

On the other, a lot of hatred, judgment, and suspicion of those who are different remains. People continue to be pigeonholed into categories based on race, religion, and gender, and are expected to behave in ways stereotypical to those categories. Movements against these stereotypes have produced their own extremes. For instance, until around the 1960s in Western culture, women were generally expected to be modest and subservient to men, remain out of the public eye, and put themselves last. Now, a self-promotional, “me first” ethos predominates in some circles, with naked selfies shared with the Internet the norm for some celebrities. But what if you’re a woman who, like many of us, wants to be thoughtful and caring towards others without being dominated by them? Or someone who is happy with her body but doesn’t necessarily want an intimate shot of it immortalized for posterity to click on, download, and share?

Navigating this terrain as an adult is difficult enough. What about as a tween or teenager? If I had a daughter or niece, I’d give her a few hard-learned tips about how to navigate today’s social biosphere.

1. Be choosy about who you listen to. There are many self-proclaimed “experts” out there, but what are their credentials? What makes them experts about vaccines or nutrition? Practise a healthy suspicion of the celebrity culture. If you feel like you shouldn’t really be spending your time following someone, that’s a good indication that this person is an addiction rather than an inspiration. What is important to you? What qualities do you admire in others? Knowing the answers to these questions, you can find and follow people who display your values. Are you passionate about the environment? If so, check out Canadian crusader Severn Cullis-Suzuki. About education for girls? Look to Malala Yousafzai.

To narrow the definition of “society,” extend this choosiness to your friendships. Sometimes, “friends” appear to have your best interests at heart, but they’re actually looking out for themselves. Beware of anyone who tries to push their way on you, even if they appear to be doing you a favour. I’ve had friendships where the other person insisted on paying my way every time we got together, despite my attempts to reciprocate. Sounds nice, right? It was until I realized that these friends had been subtly controlling me for years, always choosing where we went and how often we met and putting down any opinions of mine that differed from theirs. Paying my way was simply a beautifully clothed example of this manipulation, like new silk curtains hiding a dirty, cracked window. Anyone who tries to control you isn’t allowing you to be free to be yourself. They’re warping you into someone who serves their needs. Be alert to these patterns and prepared to take action if necessary. Society often still tells us girls to be nice, but you have to draw boundaries.

2. Have one day a week without social media. We’re bombarded with myriad pieces of information every day. The more information that gets in, the more confused we become, especially because much of the information is contradictory. Not so long ago, a slender body was the norm to which Western girls were taught to aspire, and girls with rounder bodies were belittled. Now, “thin shaming” has entered the English vocabulary. Yet fat shaming still exists. What does that mean? Are all of us, slender or round, deficient in some way?

Coming as it does via a website, this advice might seem counterintuitive, but we all need to take regular breaks from the too-easily accessible online world. Read a book. Get outdoors and walk. And turn off your phone. Unless you’re on call for work, you don’t have to always have your phone on. “But I might miss a text from a friend,” you say. So? Unless you’re meeting the friend immediately and need to know whether she’s still coming, the text can almost certainly wait. If you open it, you might decide to check your Facebook account and then see a link a friend has posted and click on that link, and before you can say Zuckerberg, you’ve been sucked back in, surfing the net and ending up who knows where reading who knows what. I have a rule that I don’t turn on my computer on Saturdays unless I have to work that day. If people want to contact me, they know that they have to phone me on my landline (yes, I still have one!).

3. Find your container. In The Highly Sensitive Person, Elaine Aron talks about the need to find “containers,” spaces of nurturing that provide an escape from the stresses of daily life. Everyone, highly sensitive or not, needs such spaces, which include places away from the online world, with its rapid stimulation. Not being glued to a screen on Saturdays frees me to bask in the comfort of some of my containers, like biking on recreation paths on a sunny summer afternoon or catching up over a scrumptious brunch with a friend I haven’t seen in ages. These containers ground me and help me simply be, without worrying about becoming.

Following this advice won’t free you from the woman vs. world conflict. But taking a moment to consider, step away, and recharge will help you steady yourself, like breathing deeply, fixing your gaze on a single unmoving point, and looking away from the other yogis as you’re trying the tree pose in yoga class. You’ll still wobble or even fall over every once in a while. But if you can block the outside distractions and focus inward as much as possible, you’ll be more likely to stay upright.

What is your favourite container? It could be physical or mental.

About The History of Hilary Hambrushina

Hilary has one goal for her first year in junior high: to become popular. But her plans are turned upside down when her best friend leaves for the summer and a quirky girl named Kallie moves in next door. Kallie paints constellations on her ceiling, sleeps in a hammock, and enacts fantastical plays in front of cute boys on the beach. Yet despite Kallie’s lack of interest in being “cool,” Hilary and Kallie find themselves becoming friends. That summer friendship, however, is put to the test when school begins, reigniting Hilary's obsession with climbing the social ladder. As Hilary discovers the dark side to popularity, she must decide who she wants to be before she loses everything.


Though she once dreamt of heading to Hollywood, Marnie Lamb decided that writing, not acting, was the better outlet for her creative impulses. She earned a master’s degree in creative writing from the University of Windsor before embarking on a short but glorious career as a globe-trotting ESL teacher. Her short stories have appeared in Journey Prize Stories 25 and various Canadian literary journals. Her first novel, a YA book named The History of Hilary Hambrushina, will be published by Iguana Books on May 31, 2017. When she is not writing fiction or running her freelance editing business, she can be found cooking recipes with eggplant or scouting out fashions—preferably ones with polka-dots—at the One of a Kind Show.

For more information visit her website. You can also connect with her on Goodreads and Facebook.


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1 comment on "Keeping the Tree Upright ⇉ Guest Post by Marnie Lamb + International #Giveaway!!"
  1. Thanks for joining us on the blog, Marnie. It's been a pleasure working with you! Some of my favorite containers include taking walks with the family and early morning devotions. These help me rest and recharge :)


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