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The Double Meaning behind the blog title 'Dream Follower:'
First, for 14 years I was a ballroom & social dance instructor, and have studied both leading and following. I feel that learning to follow is full of nuance and is often misunderstood. I made it one of my personal goals to become a really excellent follow on the dance floor, and will probably talk a lot about the art of following - both in and out of the context of dance.

Second, I am a huge fan of author Michael Ende, probably best known for The Neverending Story. The book is incredible, and the first film captured some of the essence. (Please don't watch the other two films...I urge you to read the book though!) Anyway, at least twice in my life I have been caught in a storm of my own indecision, and my inner Moon Princess yelled to my inner Bastian...'Why don't you do what you dream?' I tear up even now as I write this little blurb. The tension between being practical, keeping my feet on the ground and my head out of the clouds (at the risk of compromising my inner vibrancy, true self, and who knows what else)...and reaching for my true dreams (at the risk of losing everything) is still a very real struggle. In fact, one of those struggles lead to my 14 years of teaching dance, so we can see which voice won the battle that fateful day when I was staring at the want-ad...

And so I strive to be two kinds of Dream Followers in my life. One has to do with connecting with others, and the other has to do with connecting with my inner Moon Princess and the world of possibility that opens when I do...

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Kinds of Currency

There are many kinds of currency, and it reflected in our language in obvious ways sometimes, but not always.

First, the most obvious which is of course actual money. We spend it, invest it, save it, waste it, gamble it (win, lose), loan it, borrow it, earn it, crave it, and sometimes some people even steal it.

Next most obvious is time.  "Let's spend time together."  "That is such a waste of time."

And then:  "Pay attention!" "Attention deficit disorder"

So how much do we monitor our attention budget?  Do we need to have one?  And if so, how do we prioritize?

We can be out of time, out of energy, out of we also run out of attention?  Are there things that sap our resources while we are unconscious?  Would we spend those resources differently if we were 'paying attention' to them?

A little over a year ago, I shifted my time/attention budget dramatically in the area of social media.  It was an important and healthy shift for me, reclaiming both my time and energy/attention.  It means that I no longer post on walls for birthday greetings.  (I used to log in each day partially to stay abreast of such goings on.) Now, if I send a greeting it is a private message, but in many cases I feel pretty sure people don't miss me.  In some cases I'll appreciate the reminder to call or text someone, but if someone misses me they can reach me and the wall post is such a tiny gesture, and some folks have even taken to shortening it to say hbd, so as the latest slang says: (which is probably obsolete by now) whatevs.
And then I took an extended break from social media of all kinds.  That was also good for me.

When I first started blogging, I had similar obsessive checking habits, and adrenaline responses when numbers changed on the statistics, or seeing which country was looking...okay, okay, I still get a big endorphin hit from all those things, just like when there are likes, shares, comments, etc...But knowing it's a drug has empowered me to keep it in perspective in some important ways.

Do I still spend time on social media?  Yup.  Is it an addiction?  Definitely.  Do the pros outweigh the cons?  For now, for me, yes.  I have my spending habits under control.

But on this topic, on a related note, are some of us addicted to attention?  Do we behave or misbehave in an attempt to get attention?  As a recovering people-pleaser, I can attest that praise is indeed another form of currency.  Some folks are on the other side of the same coin, craving attention in their case yields misconduct, which yields the 'reward' of punishment, yelling, time-out, or some other version of attention.  So is there a solution?  If you are a parent reading this, I'm afraid I don't have much useful advice.  Maybe notice trends, and then when your child expects a certain response go the other way?  I'm not sure.  Kids are so tuned in.  But also we 'pay' people compliments (a form of praise) which is further evidence of it being a kind of currency.

Now our language takes a funny turn when calling someone morally bankrupt.  We all sort of know what that means, and maybe we picture Harold from the Music Man selling snake oil to the good (gullible, desperate) people.  Or someone can be spiritually bankrupt as well.  Does that imply that morality or spirituality can be spent, saved, invested?  The way we invest time or energy into something?  Are those two things (morality/spirituality) even quantifiable?

When we've had an emotional day, we say we're spent, which I think refers primarily to energy levels, but does it go deeper?

And if these things are all a form of currency, how do we balance our checkbooks?  Is it most important to keep our attention greed in line, not have a deficit in our morality, or be owing on some mortgage in our neglected spiritual house?  How do we measure our overall dependence on these things, and how can we become accountable for our own balance?

Friday, November 20, 2015

Fending for Ourselves

In all my meditative digging over the past year, I have been considering offense, defense and boundaries in general.  Boundaries are sometimes even fences, aren't they?  And people defend, or offend...and fence-sitters are condemned for wanting the best of both worlds.  Also there's that saying about good fences making good neighbors...

I'm reminded of one of my favorite quotes from the movie "10 things I hate about you" which happens near the beginning.  "I've heard of people being overwhelmed, and people being underwhelmed, but can you ever just be whelmed?"  (Her friend responds "I think you can in Europe.")  So here I re-formulate it:  I know people can play defense, and offense, but do we ever just fense?

This lead to me looking up the etymology of both offense and defense in hopes of learning the Latin root or something fancy, linguistic, and nerdy and fun...but I have to do some deeper digging to satisfy those urges, but since my reboot on this blog I am making an effort not to let red pens and research stop me from airing my thoughts.  (PS, I think offence is a legit alternate spelling...just sayin'.)

So I plunge onward sharing my unedited thoughts:

In order for me to get offended about something someone says or does, there has to be a receptor in me for that.  This was one of the teachings I received from Michael Barnett during my meditation immersion.  When I was in a state of being offended, it was easy to blame the other person, the circumstances, the "other," so it came to me almost like ice cold water in the face while still trying to wake up to be told that I had something to do with my own offended-ness.  It was not a welcome message at all.  But upon reflection it is true that there are times when offensive things are said or done and they do not touch me, rattle me, enrage me, engage me.

So two questions arise in me; is it possible to choose which things trigger or do not trigger these defenses in me, and if so how will I accomplish this?  I know that a series of such 'offenses' triggered a large response in me recently, inspiring me to write the piece about uptalk & vocal fry.  Which rattled something loose in me, and felt good to express.  Which raises a third question, having to do with whether offenses are undesirable in the first place, as one, ahem, meaning me  I might have originally thought.  Or perhaps offenses yield a lot of worthwhile engagement, which then makes me re-calibrate my position on offenses.  Maybe offenses are desirable after all?

But I feel like I'm jumping around.  Let me go back to the first question.  Can I choose the triggers to which I respond?  I think there are two realities.  First I want to acknowledge that responses that have become automatic will not disappear from wishing them to, or overnight.  So in that sense I think no, I cannot choose when it is still automatic.  What I can do is observe, reflect, and begin to recognize that those automatic responses happen in me.  And then my awareness can grow, perhaps large enough to recognize them from further away, or closer up.  And someday my former unconscious reflexes can become conscious ones, and ultimately perhaps even in the hot-trigger moment I can become a chooser rather than a reactor.  So in that sense, yes, I can eventually choose to become conscious, grow my awareness, and begin to celebrate the possibility.  What this leads to is not the kind of detachment that dis-engages me, but an inner wisdom about engagement in general.  And it allows me to engage in a way that my core self has no need to refract segments of shame, guilt, or regret over.  I don't aspire to be un-triggerable.  I do aspire to engage in meaningful ways, and in ways that foster healthy open communication, a free exchange of ideas, and the opportunity to learn even more.

There is an interesting worrisome phenomenon in the online world.  With the advent of google and twitter, facebook and instagram, like-minded people are finding each other.  Is that a bad thing?  On the one hand, no, not at all!  We gravitate toward things that resonate in us in a positive way.  Who would seek out opposing viewpoints?  They offend!  But there is an 'on the other hand,' to be wary of.  (I know, I know.  Ending this sentence in a preposition is making my inner red pen jitter, but I am forging ahead inspite of the red pen these days!)  On the other hand, if we are not confronted with alternate points of view that challenge our thinking, help us learn or grow, then we risk stagnation.  We also risk a false sense of feeling that 'everyone agrees with me.'  When I studied the Colosseum in school, it was explained that the structure was built to prevent any kind of riot or uprising, by segmenting the sections of the stadium.  In isolating by beliefs, we might be giving up more than we are gaining.  I may have read about the search engine version of this in a Gladwell book, or something similar, where based on your search history the machine will begin to show articles higher in the search that will agree with your political leanings, which might sound convenient, but also contributes to the narrow-minded convictions of whatever beliefs I might already hold.  It's slick and dangerous.  I hope we all have friends in our online and real life social circles with whom we can respectfully disagree, a gadfly or two, a devil's advocate, and the tolerance to hear another perspective than our own.  A willingness to be offended, and learn through that encounter one of at least two the very least!  If nothing else, we can learn the courage of our own convictions, because nothing proves our belief better than being tested, prodded, and asked to justify that belief.  And the opportunity to grow and learn and expand our awareness is exponential when confronted with diverse and varied opinions.

Fight the urge to flock together!  Fight the urge to follow along with the visible trends!  Buck the system.  Friend an enemy on social media, and then actually try to understand their point of view.  Engage and enrage, watch and observe.  I am not suggesting that we go around trolling our enemies, blasting and shouting opposing views.  I am suggesting an online expansion, and inner expansion, and a true courage...the courage to let our convictions be tested, tried, and demolished when necessary, fortified when appropriate.

And so I guess I landed on yes...offenses are desirable.  Funny, not the conclusion I would have expected myself to come to - but there you have it.  Leave room to surprise yourself in this funny life!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Sometimes I'm An Inside-Out Porcupine...

I'm learning to zoom out, which is critical in terms of self-awareness and growth.  While I'm in the middle of an emotional wave, it's a little harder to be clear, so I cherish the reflections that happened in my mind between those waves.  

Today I saw a movie which on the screen was your typical sci-fi post-apocalyptic action movie, in case you haven't seen it I guess I should warn you that it's called Snowpiercer and there might be spoilers at some point.  Maybe.  Although if you know the premise of the film that might be enough for my purposes, which is that all of surviving humanity is on this train which has all these features and gadgets that allow it to go on running, and in the movie it's been running like this for 17 years.

For my personal taste it had a bit too much gratuitous violence, but here's what happened while I was watching.  I decided to take it as a metaphor, and each person in the train is an aspect of myself.  Like any good movie, it had tension, in this case (for example) between the oppressed at the rear of the train, and the affluent rich guy-in-charge at the front. And it got me thinking about my own internal systems which I take for granted.  How do I decide what is most important to me, who is running the ship/train/body?  Who has who hostage?  Whose side am I on?  Because every conflicting priority can't simultaneously rule, perhaps internally we murder or cage or enslave our inner compartments. 

Maybe it doesn't have to be all or nothing, vanquish or be vanquished.  But on the inside, there are oppressed sad pieces of me, plotting their revolt, plotting a hostile takeover.  And for each of them, it is do or die, or wither on the vine.  Or maybe the reality is that none of that is true, and the best answer is to go off the rails.  Change completely.  Walk away. 

Anyway, there are a million perspectives and opinions even now as I write this - on life, liberty, what happiness looks like, how things could be or should be.  And sometimes, instead of pointing outwards, like they do on a porcupine, those barbs point inward, poking, prodding, judging, invading, and right now, I am learning how to hug and accept this awkward creature, an inside-out porcupine.  How can I let it know those barbs are sometimes too sharp without that becoming a new barb?  How can I let warmth ooze through and soothe the stinging wounds?

Because maybe it's okay to be attached to the train, the system, and buy in, and it isn't selling out.  Maybe being on board is the best we can hope for today, and the revolution is not until tomorrow.  Or maybe we're on somebody else's train and we need to get on our own.  Or maybe we have a stowaway!    

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Gentle Giant Within

Tonight, squeezed in among the harried to and fro, a fellow dancer reached out for some advice, and it was truly my honor to extend to her the wisdom and kindness and gentle spirit I have been evolving into these last years, and especially this past year.

She asked in the quietest of tones if I had any advice for why she is letting this tiny thing (that shouldn't) bother her, why it gets to her, why it should upset her, why does she let it upset her?

She ran off to dance, giving me time to compose my thoughts, and when she came back I told her to first acknowledge herself for recognizing that she is allowing it to be a trigger.   And that she will eventually be able to breathe even more breath/space between the trigger and the response, and that she has taken the first step in even seeing that there is a trigger.  I told her to be gentle with herself, and that today the response might still bubble up first, but someday she will be able to zoom out even further and gain perspective on why it is a trigger.  Also that the response is valid, even if some part of her mind deems it out of proportion, but to embrace the whole experience.

I wish I could convey more clearly the depth of what we shared, the warmth, the kindness, the compassion that passed between us.  So much understanding, so much sisterhood, so much vulnerability and empathy.  It was humbling that she came to me to ask my advice in the first place, and that I could offer some comfort, some guidance, some encouragement, and link with her energetically was truly a gift tonight.

I feel so blessed in having become so much more stable myself, so much more grounded, so clear in myself...the teachings are still working in me, through me, and I celebrate and embrace each day's offerings.

Show me my path, I will not shy away.  I will walk this path in tandem with all who wish to join me...or perhaps our paths will weave a colorful tapestry as we intertwine for a time and then go on to engage or unwind or rewind or unravel or entangle somewhere new and unexpected...!!!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

a life-changing taco

Somewhere along the line, I swallowed some lies.  Lies like 'I'm in the way,' or 'I'm too loud,' or 'I don't matter,' or 'I shouldn't ask for anything, I don't deserve to be.'  Well originally I was going to write happy...I don't deserve to be happy.  But then when I got to the word be, that might have been the lie I swallowed.  'I don't deserve to be.'

Children soak up the world in gulps and gobbles, un-discerning, unyielding, impatient to grow and become adult, eager to be treated as an equal and a whole human being.  As a child we might mis-read or misinterpret the heart of a message, or maybe we get the underlying meaning more clearly than intended...who knows.  The thing is that when I was young I believed the world reflecting me back to myself through how others treated me was an accurate mirror.  Now that I've grown older I can see that there are many fun-house mirrors mixed in with good reflectors.  The fun-house mirrors at a carnival are only fun because you know them to be distorting.  But if we took them as a real and accurate reflection, they'd be truly terrifying.  In life it becomes important to treat distorting mirrors differently, giving them less credence, and maybe even a little compassion, since we do not know their story of how they became their warped selves.  Maybe I'll write a short story about human fun-house mirrors wandering around unable to figure out which ones are warped the least...what a wonderful children's book that would make...!

In any case, the life changing taco was an experience at dinner last night, and I must try to convey into words the magic of the moment before it slips away into the minutia of today's magical learning opportunities!

After a day of darting around town hunting for items at stores, comparison shopping, weighing options, and getting things done, we navigated through the sea of food options and I finally found myself in line looking at a menu of food options.  For more context on my level of vulnerability after all the option-weighing, you can read about it in one of Malcolm Gladwell's books or find Sheena Iyengar's TEDtalk.  Basically, not only was I hungry, but I was mentally exhausted from all the weighing and choosing.  And I was just relieved to be done making decisions.  (Or so I thought...)

I had no trouble deciding on the burrito, but as hungry as I was I wanted a taco as well, either a pork in adobo or a mushroom and onion taco.  The thing is, I am avoiding four-legged foods at the moment, so as delicious as the pork in adobo is at this place, I was ordering a chicken burrito.  And I was thinking a pork taco might be a nice compromise (being small), but then the mushrooms sounded really good, and since I was having them hold the yummy mozzarella from my burrito I thought maybe I could substitute mushrooms (or something at least) since I was not having the cheese.  On the register I saw that my total had jumped up by $3 once I said to add mushrooms to the burrito, and in that moment I let go of ordering a side taco in addition because I wasn't interested in paying more, but she hadn't said 'by the way there is an additional charge of $3 for adding mushrooms to your burrito,' she had just assumed I wanted them at any price.  Also there was someone in line behind me, and they were typing in to go orders from the phone in between taking my order and the person who had gone before me...and I felt myself shrink.  I didn't want to slow things down.  I didn't want to be a nuisance.  I didn't want to make a fuss.  I didn't want to gum up the works or ask more questions.  The cost of adding those mushrooms was more than a side taco would have cost, but I couldn't bring myself in that moment to change my order, change my mind, say 'hey, that's not okay with me, you didn't give me a warning or an option!'

Flustered, hangry, irritated with myself for not standing up for what I wanted, I huffed my way to a table to wait.  Swirling accusations in my mind, what's the fucking big deal, it's only three dollars, why do you care if the mushrooms are in a taco shell or on your burrito, why are you even so upset over something so insignificant, and on and on the litany in my mind, mocking, deriding, unforgiving, relentless.  And then tears welled.  For god's sake, am I really crying about a taco?  Or three dollars?  Get a grip!  The inner judge and jury were having a field day.

And I let the storm roll over me, through me. 

And after a little while, glassy-eyed, but clear, I rose out of my inner meltdown, walked myself back up to the counter, and bravely asked 'Is it too late to switch my order?  Can I get the mushroom taco instead of the mushrooms in my burrito?'  And whoever I spoke with needed to know my order number, which I knew, and she made it happen, and I walked myself back to the table feeling worthy.  Feeling brave.  Feeling I had gone to bat for myself.  Feeling my request was totally reasonable, and knowing that my asking was all that was necessary.

Giving people credit for wanting to please me too is something I'm still working on.  I have a long habit of people-pleasing, but it's sort of like learning to take a compliment rather than brush it aside.  Or like allowing someone else the joy that giving generously can bring, by receiving too now and then. 

It may have been the most delicious mushroom taco I have ever eaten.  I earned that taco, in more ways than one. 

I am so grateful to myself for weathering the storm of inner insults, and rising above, beyond, and taking care of my desires in the moment, allowing me to celebrate, and rejoice.  I have a track record of not asking for what I want, and later being sad and that old pattern is (slowly but surely) dissolving!!  That old pattern of swallowing my true desires in favor of not rocking the boat, not being a pain, not being the squeaky wheel.  The thing is, all my life I guess I've secretly been jealous of squeaky wheels.  And the external and internal rewards of not being squeaky aren't that great, to be honest. 

Maybe I've been robbing other people of the opportunity to please me, all these years, by keeping my needs and wants to a whisper.  Or on mute.  How can anyone even try to please me if I don't share my thoughts, my dreams, my heart? 

Next time, perhaps I won't even have to go back to change my order.  But that too will come.  

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Emotional Non-Judgment

I am a fan of positivity, and finding the silver lining, and the teachable moment.

I am a fan of affirmations.

Am I alone, however, in finding the constant pressure to be positive, harness the law of attraction, and in general try to manipulate my emotional state oppressive?

Since when is being positive a cure-all?  Last I checked, when something shitty happens the response I have in that moment doesn't define me as a person (positive or negative)

I find a creeping counter-culture within my closest circle of true friends.  In hiding, we still preface negative statements of honest emotional state with "I'm going to hell for saying this..." or "I know I should not feel this way..." or "It sucks that I feel this way..."

And I want to share this counter-culture...and demolish the inner and outer judgment walls being paraded around as superior.

It is not a superior state of mind or heart to inflict or enforce a positive spin on every shitty thing.

Nor is it superior or inferior to wallow in a negativity spiral.

Neither is better or worse.

A lot of meditation and a lot of heightened self-awareness have brought me to a realization worth sharing.

Some positive thinking exercises are worthwhile, don't get me wrong.  But it is equally delicious to indulge in a fantasy of negativity, to follow the train of thought to all the worst possible conclusions.  Why else is the world so in love with the entertainment in books, film, tv, binge watching or imagining a fantastic series of explosive and terrible life choices unfold?

My teacher and guide on a spiritual path, Michael Barnett, has helped me recognise the possibility in the universe of transcending the judgment, and the duality of right and wrong, better and worse, and so on. Many gifts came through to me during meditations and time spent both in Germany and in seminars here in Santa Fe sharing space and resonating with his incredible cosmic connective energy.  (Perhaps I will write more about those as it feels right, for now a lot of it is still so raw and personal, and writing about it doesn't feel right for me just yet.)

I am a fan of Jeff Foster, who is also a speaker, spiritual teacher, someone I have not met, yet has taught me through his facebook posts, and youtube videos.  I found him through friends also connected with Michael, and Jeff invites us to embrace the full spectrum of emotion in our lives.

If we manage to keep some perspective in the midst of the emotional roller-coaster, positive or negative, then we can begin to evolve.

So yes, we can begin by being aware of the tendencies, habits, knee-jerk responses.  We can observe whether we trend toward doomsday scenarios, and whether those serve us well.  We can learn to dance in and out of moods, rather than be enslaved by them unconsciously.

And I will make a renewed effort to cease my judgment of my own emotions...and those close to me.

This whole topic might also be part of why I loved the movie Inside Out so much, because all of our emotions serve functions worth validating, and if we can embrace each other through the process, and accept the full complex cornucopia of our human existence, maybe we can grow beyond our known limits.

Are you with me?  Do you have a similar ambivalence toward all the Think Positive preaching surrounding us?

Friday, November 6, 2015

Just a little Uptalk (?), with a side of Vocal Fryyyyy

In the midst of a social media crackdown on the most vapid sounding language trends, the last thing I ever thought I would do is defend their worth.  Nor do I wish to fall into the trap of defending women for what are admittedly irritating habits in speech.  But here I am.  And it isn’t only because men aren’t receiving the same language shaming these last few weeks, though that is in fact a big bone of contention.  It is also because these language trends enrich our social vocabulary in important ways!  Read on for the top 3 reasons I will continue to use mitigating language, uptalk and vocal fry when I speak.  (Though perhaps not all in one sentence.)
For three weeks, I have been reading articles about women, and directed only at women, about how our speech habits are holding us back in the professional world, and in some cases these articles were even written by successful women.  First I came across this article advising against using the word “just” too much.  Initially I supported the idea, because women in the business world probably do self-efface and apologize too much for everything, including their own success in an effort to come across as less threatening.  Here is another blog article supporting the idea that we as a gender overuse the word just.  And who better to give advice to women about how to be successful than a successful business woman, in fact a former google executive!?  But then I decided that removing the word ‘just’ altogether would probably be disastrous for society.  And then I got angry that no one counts words that men might overuse, and writes shaming articles to call men out on how they are standing in the way of their own success because of their gender-specific linguistic choices.  But I will (deep breaths) come back to the gender discussion, because there are many nuances to the topic.

The first topic at hand is the word ‘just,’ which is a form of mitigating language.  Mitigating language is designed to soften a blow, or make delivering bad news a little less harsh.  Also it is associated with a polite way to address a superior in many cases.  Notice that I am staying gender neutral.  Mitigating language can be extremely helpful in relating touchy, volatile or potentially offensive information.  Here are some popular catch phrases that I would consider mitigating language and some of their functions.

1.      Just in case, just so you know, just checking
a.       Implies deference, and also respect for the other person’s ability/capacity/intelligence
2.      Like, you know (alone or in combination)
a.       Serves primarily as a buffer before saying something that might be hard to hear.
b.      Gives the listener time to process or prepare for the shoe to drop.
3.      On the off chance
a.       Signals to the listener that the speaker already thought it unlikely, which can be self-preserving or help the listener save face depending on context.

Does it sometimes sound apologetic?  Probably.  Is it always appropriate?  No!  Mitigating language is, however, a form of social lubricant, without which we might too often find ourselves in confrontational situations.  This is useful for any person who has a boss.  So if we tell women to remove this word, thus is born a fun catch-22 – sound confident by eliminate mitigating language and see that promotion sooner, but at the risk of being chastised for sounding “bossy.”  This leaves us (women?) forever on the pendulum of over-correcting, never finding that porridge speech equivalent in the middle that’s juhhhst right.
I have my own reasons for thinking “just” is a four-letter-word, and for that matter so is “easy.”  When someone is in a teaching, parenting, or managing position those two words should be used maybe never because all they do is cause the learner to feel slow and stupid.  An evolved learner might recognize these words as crutches their teacher uses when he or she is frustrated and out of ideas how to rephrase the lesson, but most learners are feeling too vulnerable to be in touch with anything other than their own failure in that moment, so it falls to the teacher to be aware of their own use of language and its implications.

Then someone posted an article about uptalk, also known as valley-girl speak, upspeak, or rising terminal.  I might be a fan of the movie “Clueless,” but I don’t actually have conversations that sound like that.  So ‘Sure,’ I thought ‘get rid of it!’  And then I started hearing it among family members, and noticed my best friend using it, and oh the horror, I even heard myself doing it!  So I did some deep reflecting and found that there are some really worthwhile reasons to use uptalk.  In fact, a well placed bit of uptalk could save your relationship with a spouse or co-worker (or at least prevent a misunderstanding).

1.      Uptalk is a way of creating a conversational comma:
a.       Subtext “Don’t interrupt me, I’m not finished expressing my thought.”
                                                                          i.      Listener should not interject their own fully-formed thoughts, because what comes next could change their mind, or add vital information to the discussion at hand.
2.      Uptalk can be used by a speaker to be sure the audience is still engaged instead of daydreaming:
a.       Subtext “Are you with me?”
b.      Subtext “Do you understand?”
                                                                          i.      Listener on phone should usually respond “uhuh, uhmmm”, in person silent nodding or eye-contact might be enough.
3.      Uptalk can inject enthusiasm into an otherwise boring story:
a.       Lilting tones of voice keep your listener from wandering off mentally, since we have the attention span of a fruit fly and it seems to be getting shorter and shorter!  (Congratulations, by the way, on reading this far.  You must not yet be converted to the Twitter-esque character consumption limitations descending tragically on future generations.)
b.      No one ever complained (in my hearing) of an Australian or New Zealand accent, which is sing-song and riddled with delicious and sexy uptalk…

In conclusion, there are parts of the world where uptalk is a consistent part of the vocal sing-song and conversational vocabulary of expression and intonation, and the desire to label it as a sign of being vapid or even specific to a (female) gender is enraging me.  I know that boys and men use uptalk as well! 

The third article I came upon back in July, and perhaps the hardest vocal trend for me to defend is vocal fry, or vocal creak.  The article implored young women to give up the vocal fryIt can happen with your first speaking of the day, pre-coffee, without any meaning behind it at all.  It can happen accidentally if you run out of breath at the end of a sentence.  As Jessica Grose commented in her recent NPR interview, it can happen as a result of over-correcting for uptalk.  (Another shining example of the porridge being too hot, or too cold.)  It can also happen because you’re tired.  But I’ve observed it can also have meaning in certain context:

1.      Vocal fry can convey exhaustion
a.       Seeks sympathy nods, signals a need for support on a rough day
2.      Can also convey boredom
a.       Signal to change the topic, or be more engaging
3.      Or can convey ennui, or world-weariness
a.       Feeling hopeless or helpless, seeks comforting, or a desire to be asked “What’s wrong?”

This glottal vibration doesn’t have to mean anything, and if we spend our time modulating our breath, intonation and word choice, we the speaker and we the listener can be completely thrown off and distracted.  I know I was when I did my YouTube hunt for examples of men using vocal fry and uptalk.  

And that would be the real shame.  The real shame would be if your listeners are so caught up in looking for uptalk, vocal fry, or counting the occurrence of the word “just” in your presentation that they are deaf to the content of your presentation.  There is a brain phenomenon called inattentional blindness which is a kind of temporary blindness.  This is illustrated brilliantly in this Smithsonian Magazine article, but of course you will all be brilliant instead of being tricked because I’ve prepared you in advance, so congratulations! 
In a fit of outrage on behalf of my gender in the last few weeks, I found myself trolling YouTube in search of footage of well-respected men giving speeches or being interviewed to illustrate that men use these same vocal trends as well, but are not scrutinized for the way their voice peaks (Mr. George Bush, Mr. William F. Buckley) or creaks (Mr. Clinton).  During this searching, I experienced the auditory version of inattentional blindness (perhaps it should be named inattentional deafness?) and realized that I had heard but not understood a single word.  In my effort to notice language styles, intonations or count words I could not have told you what they were trying to explain or express.  I long for an age when people can drop the filters relating to who is delivering the message and how, in favor of a respectful dialogue or dare I even dream – a discourse.

I do agree that it is annoying when voice and speech trends like this catch on like wildfire and lose their original purpose, hence my reluctance to champion them.  But I also caution against the total elimination of them.  Anything done to excess becomes irritating (even political correctness) but let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater just yet.  I for one am not ready to retire all signs of uptalk, mitigating language or even the occasional creak from my vocabulary.  While stripping the world of all of these language habits might make some folks really happy, I think removing them entirely would potentially diminish or hamper our nuanced communication.
I wrote most of this on August 2nd, 2015.  Then I wanted to tweak and edit, and my blog went dormant until today...There was yet another fantastic KQED radio show critiquing women for tentative speech, and I knew I had to put down my red pen and publish this post in all its imperfection.  I thoroughly enjoyed the Amy Schumer bit on women apologizing as well. 

I know I am not alone, and here is an article from December 2014 written by Marybeth Seitz-Brown stating many similar points, and stating them well and clearly, and strongly.  

Let's all put down our auditory red pens and start listening for content!