I slept well and deeply last night. I woke feeling stiff, and in pain, but in a generally positive place emotionally. It’s an ordinary enough Wednesday. I sip my coffee and consider how meaningless the sentence “It’s an ordinary enough Wednesday” actually is, if one does not know the meaning of the word ‘Wednesday’. It’s quite difficult to have a good quality discussion on a topic, if the participants don’t share a similar understanding of how the words being used are defined. It’s a huge part of the ‘each having our own experience’ puzzle; the way we understand the world, ourselves, and the way we use language have the potential to be misunderstood.

We are each having our own experience.

As with the definitions of words in the spoken and written language we use, our assumptions ‘about’ things and people going on around us define other characteristics of the world, and our experience; our assumptions are quite individual and personal, and may not be shared by others. The assumptions we each make may not even be ‘accurate’ when compared to what can be shown empirically, tested, or verified.

We are each having our own experience – and it may not be ‘real’… or to be more reasonable, it may not be anything at all like the experience a large percentage of other people are having, seem to be having, say they are having – or is being held out as some sort of defining ‘norm’. It’s our own. Exclusively and entirely ours – and mostly chosen, and often based on our assumptions. To be clear, I’m not attempting to say that we are ‘at fault’, ourselves, when someone else acts against us violently, or when we must endure non-consensual experiences inflicted upon us. We can make use of our free will to take action, and some of the actions taken in the world are inflicted on someone, by another, causing pain, injury, or assorted other negative outcomes.

Some of the most horrible things that occur in the world are defended, and often by a great many people, using assumptions and definitions to support them, while the suffering is decried by others, also based on assumptions and definitions. It’s messy. Who is ‘right’? Does the injured party define the circumstances because they are injured by them? Does an aggressor define the circumstances, free to do so based on ‘intent’ versus ‘outcome’? We each have our opportunity in life to examine this puzzle closely; we will each hurt someone, sometime, and we are each at some point hurt, ourselves. When we are hurt, does the intent of the one who hurt us matter more than our pain? When we have injured someone else, which thing is more significant to us: explaining why we didn’t mean our actions to cause injury, why our actions ‘shouldn’t have’ caused injury, or that someone is hurt? Is being ‘right’ more important than treating each other well?

We are each  having our own experience – and I can’t answer my questions for anyone but me, really. I am thinking these things over, myself, because ‘reciprocity’ is on my mind; it’s one of my Big 5 relationship values. Reciprocity, from my perspective, might mean everyone takes turns on a household task, or it might mean that one person does a specific thing routinely because they don’t mind or have unique skill at it, while others also take on tasks similarly suited to their nature in equal measure, thus distributing the work in a way that is balanced and fair to all. Reciprocity can mean ‘taking turns’. Reciprocity, emotionally, means I give support in equal measure to receiving it, and that I back my partners goals and growth equally with my own. “Equal”, “balanced”, “fair” and “reciprocal” are all words, and because we are individuals, we define them for ourselves, quite individually. My need for reciprocity is not necessarily shared by others; it is my own choice to value this quality in my relationships, and to foster it in my own experience. I choose whether to build relationships with individuals, and can’t force my values on them. Sitting here sipping my coffee and considering reciprocity as a relationship value I realize that one thing I think is utterly urgent to be reciprocal with is consideration, itself. Reciprocity is hard to achieve if I don’t take time to consider what has value to others, what their needs may be… Oh, damn. Another definition would be needed… “need” versus “want”.

Each having our own experience…and it hits me hard, as I down my last gulp of now cold coffee; if I am engaged and present in my own experience, awake, aware, and observing the experiences of others while doing so…making the wisest choices I can to take care of me, and meet my own needs over time…listening deeply when others interact with me…practicing non-harm, compassion, and self-compassion…treating myself truly well, and living beautifully…it sounds rather as if on those terms, reciprocity happens, consideration is, and The Big 5 dovetails quite seamlessly with The Art of Being. So…this tells me living my own experience fully, and mindfully walking my path each day is ‘all’ that is required to live a life that is generally contented and joyful. There’s definitely a lesson about attachment sneaking in there, too. My definitions, my values, my goals…your results may vary.

I am a flower, blooming in my own time.

I am a flower, blooming in my own time.

Today is a good day to enjoy the person in the mirror. Today is a good day to do my best. Today is a good day to build emotional resilience and self-sufficiency, appreciating how far I’ve come, and what a lovely journey it generally is. Today is a good day to listen deeply, to love well, and to savor being okay right now.