I met this Barbara at a gathering that Rose Archer and her husband put on. Barbara Hastings was there, too, and she recommended I interview this Barbara. These community connections sure are starting to thicken. I found chatting with Barbara to be very easy. She has a lovely, no-nonsense way of getting right to the point while still being soft and welcoming. And she's not afraid to be real. I'm not afraid to be real either and I'm learning that that either works or it doesn't for some people. We've managed to create quite a facade, haven't we? And some people seem to be quite comfortable there. Well, not me. And, if I may speak for her, not Barbara. Enjoy the interview below. I'm quite happy to introduce her to you.
Who are you and how would you describe yourself?
I am Barbara Ayres Ball Trask. And I would describe myself... hmmm. There's those labels - I'm a wife and a mother, a daughter, a sister. I'm a vital, adventurous, intense person. I'm very alive. Inquisitive. Thoughtful. But intense is usually a pretty common adjective people would use to describe me.
What matters to you or what motivates you?
Truth and authenticity really matter to me. What motivates me is real connection. I don't do smalltalk very well and I don't tolerate what people called politeness - that superficiality - it just really doesn't land with me. I really have a desire to be seen and to see people - real connection. Yeah, I'm an eternal student. So, I love learning and I'm super inquisitive. Knowing. Oh, that's interesting! And I have a real strong bullshit monitor. When that starts going it's like, Next! I'm gone. And I get to be picky, so I don't have to do those.
What concerns you? What gives you a heavy heart?
Well, I mean, there's the state of the Union - the politics. For me, I feel a legacy of paternal and male-dominated that is not sustainable for me. I don't believe it's sustainable. The short-term gain, the unwillingness to think long-term, the thinking quarterly profits not doing things 'cause they're the right thing to do. I've lived in socialized countries - I know what that's like. We've gotten so lost from the sense of how we're all connected and that long term matters into these short-term profits and things. I guess that's really what concerns me.
What is there to do about that?
Well, I'm definitely a... the quote of Einstein, It's better to light one candle than curse the darkness. I'm definitely living life like I can make a difference. It was interesting when I was choosing to be a parent and looking at this in the world. It was like, Wow, the future is so uncertain. How could I bring a child into this world? And then the other part of me was, Conscious people like me have an obligation to bring children into this world. Because we're bringing children that are gonna be having a voice and be the people that make a difference in our future leaders. Because there are so few really leaders; there's so many sheep. So, I think what makes a difference is these empowered beings - people that feel we can make a difference; that will stand up; that will do something. Because one person does... the hundredth monkey principle. There is a turning point where there is change. In that way, I'm optimistic. I would say I'm hopeful, not optimistic. I can't say I'm optimistic, per se. Although I am, by nature, an optimist. I do believe I'm gonna be happy. Who knows? So, I'm gonna live with that illusion 'cause it makes things feel better.
What do we mean to each other - person to person?
I think we are inherently tribal; we're community; we can't exist alone. I'm a verbal processor. I know me by how I'm reflected to other people. It's essential. We go crazy in isolation. We can't do it alone. And that's the illusion - that we're separate. I think that's just crazy. What happens to other people impacts us. And my health is reflected in the health of my community and my circle. I can't raise up without raising the people around me and I'm drawn down by the people around me. We're connected. The comfort, the love, the meaning happens in connection.
What does it mean to you to be part of a community?
Sharing. Not isolated. Cared for. Caring for. Being seen. Being known. It also requires a level of vulnerability because you have to be willing to be transparent; to actually ask for things you need. Not in this, I'm fine. Oh, it's fine! How are things? Fine! It's not about that. It's like, No, I'm scared. Or, It's hard. And be willing to not look good. I have a temperament - a personality... in psychology, we talk about your fundamental wounds. There were ways that my needs were met in my childhood where I adapted by not having needs. And if I had needs, I took care of them myself. So, it's called an invulnerable. So, I'm fighting that inherent nature which is that, I'm fine and I can do it all myself. If I have any needs, I take care of them myself. No, that's not true. I do have needs. And I need help. I want help. And it's easier and more fun if I have help. It's healing that lie that I developed around, which was my protection. When you're there as a kid and there isn't another adult to meet your needs it's a very good adaptive mechanism that helped me to survive. But I don't want to survive; I want to thrive.
What do you think about the polarization within community and do you have thoughts on bringing the ends together?
People will change their diet more easily than they'll change their religion and most people won't change their diet. So, I have no illusion that we'll bring people together. I think exposure does lead to a little more tolerance. So, being able to be completed isolated - like only being around people like you - makes you think that that's all there is. And I don't think that's healthy. So, inclusivity and exposure is important. But the reality is I hate cigarette smoke. I don't ever want to be around cigarette smokers - it makes me sick. You know? They can smoke, but I don't want them in my airplane; I don't want them at my restaurant; I don't want to breathe their smoke. You have a right to do that, but... that aspect. I think there's a natural polarization that happens. The same way that I don't really want to be in a place that has open carry laws. I don't want to be around a bunch of guns; I don't like that. So, I think we have to be able to tell the truth about what we like. I'm not saying I want to take everyone's gun away... although I do feel strongly that we should limit semi-automatics. There's no justification...
What are your thoughts on human rights and social injustice and what can we do about it?
I am grateful to say that I am aware of it; you know, I'm not oblivious. It's been something I've been in dialogue about, having had awareness. Also, a little bit of transparency of the veil of I am privileged; I am white and educated; and I was raised middle or solidly upper-middle class, so I had many privileges. Also I've been clear that not just that, but as an attractive woman, I have also privilege in ways that other women don't have. So, at least I feel that having awareness, it doesn't have as strong a hold as the unconsciousness - Isn't it the way it's supposed to be? - kind of thing. I feel like we're hitting a critical mass 'cause there's much more dialogue about it. That at least there's some shifting. But the idea that there isn't gonna be a gradient is naive. There's gonna be gradient.
Although the culture I'm most familiar with is Denmark - my mom's Danish and I've spent time there - and they're consistently rated as some of the happiest people. And they have a very strong socialist system. And they pay up to 70% of their income in tax. So there's this high level of taxation, but there's no poverty. There's certain levels of things that everyone has because of that. And in their parenting and the ways they do things, they're much less focused on I and more on We. Subtleties, it's not whether I can do something, it's how the experience... like the game - not Did you win? but Was the game a good game? There's just real subtle things that create this inclusiveness that makes it matter. I'm doing better because my neighbors are all doing better; because they're not on the street, starving. This pleasure or satisfaction gets taken in in being a part of something that's working. And so I think because there's been more - like the internet - exposure, more opening, and children are aware; I think there's an aspect that can change. But like what's happening with Trump, I mean we have really conservative justices going in that are undermining so many of the laws and things that have been done. And people are so naive in not getting that big companies and big corporations are running things just for themselves. That 1% is getting richer and richer and things are really dropping. We're going in the opposite direction here in the States. Which is kinda scary. And I don't know what will wake people up.
I don't have any answers. I know that I'm trying to be conscious and aware and live as well as possible. And I know that I'm doing the ostrich, but I know personally, I have a news diet. There's a lot of things I don't even want to hear or watch because it just makes me sick and I can't do anything about it and it doesn't help. So, I try to do that more Ghandi-esque, Be the change you want to see in the world. And think that these ripples and things will connect. There's the possibility of having aspects/places be different. I have done service work. I want to continue that. I know I'm working with my daughter - and want to be involved in her school - in empowering... I'm most committed to woman's rights 'cause I'm a woman and I'm raising a daughter. So that aspect of really teaching girls about consent and boys about consent... boys understanding that absence of a No is not a Yes; it's not a Yes 'til it's a Hell yes. Teaching girls that they get to say yes. Not like Oh, maybe because they can't actually say Yes. And I mean that in general not just in sex. Somehow we're not supposed to admit what we want or say what we want or know what we want. Some of those aspects of empowering. In that way, I'm trying to make a change with one person and then I know with her friends and the people that we come in contact with - you know, that aspect of ripple.
It's a heavy one. I can put my toe in it for a little bit and then it's like concrete boots - it just drags you under. Then you want to go to the cabin in the woods. Then I want to run and hide. So, I don't want to do that. I want to stay engaged. I touch it as much as I can tolerate and then come back up for air.
Do you have a sense of purpose?
Gosh, I think I do. I feel I have a very purpose-driven life. It's to live life fully; to be connected; to love fully; to be fully engaged. I joke and say I want to be well-used. I want to die with all original parts, but I want them to be really worn. I have a very strong sense that I'll live a long time. There's so much to do. It's like I said, I'm an eternal student; I love learning and sharing. Some aspect of purpose is to be a person of integrity; to be a good person; to leave the world a better place. I definitely want to leave a legacy that's more than my daughter. And in ways, I know I've already done that in my practice of medicine and then in the school. I've touched a lot of lives and I know that I've made things better. I'm a healer; I've lessened pain; I've helped people to feel better.
And I've walked through my own recovery and my own pain. And so I have a real commitment to pay forward and have my pain make sense by helping other people deal with theirs. I can sit with people and they can get that they're not alone and it's not so scary. Wow, other people can live in the world and be functioning and have known trauma or pain. 'Cause that's so secret or quiet. I've had different layers of places where I've had pain and I'm real transparent and I'm real honest about it. So I don't hide it. In circles, I went through a whole bunch of stuff around infertility. And that's such a really quiet, hidden shame. I had a bunch of miscarriages and lost a bunch of children. And so people now have been able to talk about that. Very rarely people go, I'm childless by choice. You're never allowed to acknowledge that pain. So, I guess that purpose is to be real authentic and vulnerable.
What do you want more of in your life?
(Sighs) Always more time (laughs). And I'm working on that. There's sooo many things that interest me. I joke I could fill three or four lives. So when I hear people say they're bored or something, I think, How the fuck could you be bored? I could fill three or four lives. I often say in my parallel life, I would like to design jewelry. Or I would like to learn to paint. I'm gonna try to learn to play the ukulele. They're lifetime things, but I'm not gonna buy into that I'm too old to try. I'm at that delicate balance where I'm not trading time for money so much. I'm not saying that I'm financially secure or I'm done, but I have enough comfort that I can kind of take some space and not just be about, How do I secure my needs? The survival needs. I'm in more comfort. I'm able to make some privileged choices. So, I want time with daughter to actually raise her; to go to the school; to be involved; not to just witness, but to actually be a part of.
And then time to slow down and actually feel what I feel or experience what I'm... to ask those questions: What do I want right now? I made some decisions in my 20s and I'm just in a trajectory; Do they even fit me anymore? The metaphor I've had in moving trans-state is I'm moving and I want to be careful about what I move with me. I don't want to just install the same life again. I get to think about What's the baggage I'm gonna take with me or what am I gonna leave behind? I haven't gotten clear on how I even want to label myself as my profession anymore. I don't know what label I want to wear. 'Cause it's a big one - what we do in the world.
And then all of that is about having more joy. 'Cause it's pleasure. To be present to my life is the time aspect, not just doing it and operating... I head down and burrow. My mother was in Denmark during World War II, so she had a programming for scarcity. I mean, understandable. She was in an occupied country; there was rationing. She had that real. But it's not real anymore and I've lovingly and lightly and jokingly reminded her that she doesn't have to squirrel for her winter anymore and there's abundance and that. I've watched her be willing to spend money on herself and do things and that's really been an important thing. But I was very engrained in this incredible European work ethic and owned my own businesses and did things. So, when you do that... I worked seven days a week. There was always stuff that had to be done. Yet, I can say I've probably at least eaten two or three meals a day with my family - we have family meals. That's an incredible privilege. So, even when I worked, I would go from work to home for lunch and then to another job. Those are things that make it valuable. I always made time to play every day, not just work. Those are things that matter. We have a ritual where we talk about our highs and lows; what were the good things that happened today and were there any challenges? I'm wanting to cultivate in my daughter and in our family this feeling and environment of gratitude. And that, for me, is about joy. We broke the word down to in joy and it means being present. We have to actually feel it to enjoy it. Little things like slowing down and if I'm putting on lotion, actually notice the texture of my skin. Like, feel it. To be present to the pleasure in my life. And so all of that is about slowing down. Feeling like I have enough time will let me slow down into it. Not like, Ahh, I have so much I gotta get done! And that urgency. So, that's the opposite of answering that question around time; it's that relaxing out of the urgency. And I still have it because there's so many amazing things and places I want to go and things I want to do. I've already been to 52 different countries and my goal was to stay up with my age, so I've got some stuff to do.
Do you have anything else that you'd like to put out there?
Purpose, back on that one with purpose. It's a great question and most people don't ask it or acknowledge it or it's like a hidden or something. It's not goals - 'cause it's like we get really goal-oriented. You know that quote, To have lived well, laughed long, left the world a better place - there's things like that to make a life meaningful. It's more about just really being fully present. Whatever it is. And that means being willing to feel the pain and the sadness and the hopelessness that's there so that I can be fully present to the joy. I don't want to miss it. I just want to be present.
Would you like to ask me anything?
How much have you let yourself be moved by this and change who you are? Or has it just solidified who you are? Do you find yourself being swayed or more intensified?
That's a nice question. I guess that's a both/and for an answer. More intensified, certainly, but within this and within my reason for doing this project is essentially to become swayed. I'm looking for hope and I'm finding it in these interviews. I guess I'm not totally convinced - I'm simultaneously two beings having two experiences, I think. It's hard for me to believe that everything has gone to shit as hard as it seems to have. And that's real. But it's also true. But then there's so much joy that we're experiencing and there are so many good things that don't make the headlines. The only answer anybody ever has for that is, "Well, it doesn't sell." But, that's not true; it's just a thing that we keep perpetuating. So, I'm trying to find the good - knowing that it exists - and then put it out there. I'm not getting the readership or the listeners that NPR or Fox News, certainly, but at least I can go to sleep at night knowing that I've done my part. I need to find these connections and I need to make them for myself because they're not so easy to happen upon. You have to be quite intentional about being serious about life. Otherwise, you get caught up in the things that don't really matter. Both/and - more intensified and I'm still malleable. Right? I can still change my mind.