Archives for category: Logic & Reason

I’m sipping my coffee and thinking about social contracts – those implicit, rarely stated, seemingly “universal” silent agreements about how we behave together. The thing in the background that tells us “how rude!” when someone else breaks that contract, or we find ourselves shrugging off our own behavior (“sorry, I’m just being a bitch”, “sorry, I’m a dick sometimes”), and making an excuse. The specifics vary by region, by community, by employer, by in-group, by geography, religion, even time of year… weird, right?

…Who wrote these contracts??…

Trust me, most of us signed one before we knew anything about language at all. A rare few enter one explicitly understanding it, signing with their eyes open, fully aware of what they are agreeing to… Which is weird, right? I mean… “read the contract” is even a thing we’re told to do, when we get old enough to start signing things. How is it that, as a culture, as a global community of adult, reasoning, human beings, we haven’t done a better job of setting down clear rules for conduct and society that are more broadly accepted, and more thoroughly understood?

…Maybe we just suck at this thing called free will, competing with this other thing called agency, and both all tangled up with this bullshit we call “being successful”? I mean… we’ve got a Constitution, here in the United States. The world (by way of The United Nations) has the UN Charter, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights… both sound pretty all-encompassing, with the grave exception that a great many people don’t agree with either. So… yeah.

We have local laws, county ordinances, state laws, federal laws – and lots of people employed to enforce them, change them, write new ones, and the rest of the population following or breaking any number of those laws, every day. (Maybe we’d need fewer of them, if we had a better social contract in the first place?)

Maybe the problem is… us. We aren’t the best at “getting along”, being fairly territorial, more than a little bit delusional, prone to logical fallacies, emotional, and poorly educated (yeah, you too, college degree and all; there’s just too much to know). We get hung up on bullshit assumptions and expectations that we make up in our heads. We get angry, frustrated, sad, or depressed. We wander around feeling entitled to this or that experience, person, or object. We’re all about… us.

The moth does not understand metamorphosis.

I sit sipping my coffee. I’m hard on myself on this one. How do I live up to this committed desire to become the woman I most want to be? Who is she? How does she treat other people? How does she balance her commitments to others with adequate self-care? Where does she stand on the matter of people vs. profit? How does she live her life, moment to moment? What matters most to her? What does she not understand about getting where she wants to be in life? How does she know when to let go, and when to hold on? How does she know which questions to answer, and which ones are pure, sparkling, delicious rhetoric – intoxicating, but not nourishing?

More questions than answers on a quiet morning, and already it’s time to begin again. 🙂

I’m sipping coffee and considering how difficult I sometimes find it to communicate. Asked a question, I often launch a dense volley of words in reply, carelessly unleashing metaphor, poetry, and unhelpful allegory. I thoughtlessly drown friends, family, and colleagues, in wasteful verbiage – regularly. Worse, it sometimes gets all tangled up with what I actually meant, and all manner of foolishness, humor, and bullshit, whereupon one or another takes something personally, or becomes frustrated. It would be comedic gold where it not so ceaselessly frustrating (for me, too).

I take a breath. I smile. Pull myself back to this present moment. Make a point to make room for self-awareness, self-reflection, and some kindness; generally, my way of speaking isn’t damaging anyone, and I am able to be considerate, appreciative, and of positive intent. I have, over time, learned to listen – mostly. It’s a practice. It became a bit easier and less frustrating, once I accepted that there wouldn’t be much positive reinforcement; people want to be heard, but they also expect to be, and are not very mindful that they, themselves, interrupt chronically, and “wait to talk” instead of actually listening – but most people don’t see those behaviors in themselves, only in others, and are notoriously disinclined to notice, or appreciate, subtle improvements in how well they are being listened to. (And, strangely, are sometimes very aggravated if they are listened to with such care that they are held to their words in some way…)

…I’m just saying; communicating using language is one of the fanciest things human primates do. We don’t do it very well, generally, and our emotions still arrive to every moment ahead of our ability to reason. We’re not as good with our words as we perceive ourselves to be. We are every bit as shitty at it as we think other people are. lol

I frown, suddenly, noticing an entirely unrelated aggravation; the spellcheck icon appears to be missing from the row of formatting tools in this editor… weird. I sigh and let that go. Hell,there is at least one spelling error or overlooked typo in every post. It’s almost a fucking commitment. I laugh and finish off my coffee. I’m okay with that. This journey is not about perfection. Being able to communicate is notoriously complex; in the grander scheme of things, spelling errors are not that big a deal. Meaning matters so much more.

I think over the words I’ve said and heard in recent days, and wonder if I’ve truly done my best to communicate skillfully, with care, considerate of the feelings of those around me, respectful of factual accuracy, and a willingness to “be real” – to be authentically this person that I am? Could I do better? I think about momentary awkwardness and resentful silences. I think about peculiar micro expressions. I think about being called a bitch, “playfully”. I think about tripping on my words and saying just the wrong thing. I feel the negatives tugging at me, and realize that this could become a spiraling rumination of frustration and insecurity… So, I also think about moments of laughter. Irresistible mirth. Joyful smiles. Appreciative exclamations. Softly spoken loving compliments. Witty retorts. Playful banter. Knowledgeable answers. I take time to consider the words, and the context, because they matter.

…Then I let all that go, because clinging to it isn’t helpful, and becoming mired in my thoughts does not ease my steps down this healing path. They’re just words. Just thoughts. Thoughts about words. Briefly useful, perhaps. Definitely not permanent.

The morning unfolds gently. I am listening to the traffic beyond the window, and planning a trip to the store for some groceries, before an appointment, later. The day has started well, although I slept rather poorly last night. Still… perfect is not a thing with which I need to concern myself, and this, right here, is enough… so… I guess I’ll finish this, and put a period at the end of all these words… and go seeking a beginning, somewhere beyond the words to describe it. 😉

I read a post online today that frankly offended me. Did you see it, too? It was so… well, you saw, right? :-\ Lingering outrage is a pretty common reaction. Sharing it. Talking about it. Coming back to it again and again. Writers, advertisers, and media outlets count on it; it drives “engagement” to get people mad or to offend them. Engagement means $$, or so goes the common thinking about such things. It seems to be true.

I didn’t link the post, no. That was deliberate. Why would I need to link it? Are we not offended, equally, by all the same things because all such things are entirely obvious?

LOL You know I’m messing with you there; it’s a ridiculous idea.

My apologies for messing with your head. Here’s a flower. 🙂

We are each having our own experience, and the fun meme that made you laugh sooo hard that one time? Maybe that was a thing that hurt me to my very core, leaving me shaking and triggered. Isn’t that possible? Isn’t it equally possible to simple reverse the circumstances – you offended, me amused? Sure, it is. That’s the thing about being so individual, and why the idea of “equality” can be so tricky, linguistically. It’s tempting to let the abstract word games obscure our awareness that real people are really affected by… all of it. The words, the choices, the actions, the memes, the assumptions, the reactions, the excuses,  – every bit of all of it is part of a very complicated larger whole thing. We are human. We are all quite human. We are each having our own experience. We are unique and individual. We are a lot alike. We are all in this together. We each have to walk our own hard mile.

Are you right about what “is” offensive? Am I? Even if either of us are “right” about something we understand individually to be “offensive”, what is the value of our individual experience relative to the existence of all of the individual experiences of each of the other human beings also having their own experience? Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness… Don’t kill me. Don’t confine me. Don’t coerce or force me. It’s that “pursuit of happiness” that is such a challenge, is it not? Do I get to pursue my happiness in any way that undermines your ability to pursue yours? I would not expect to. Perhaps you think differently? Then what? And what of being “offended”? If I am offended by your words or actions, but those words or actions in no way do me any damage, risk my life, reduce my liberty, or stop me from pursuing my happiness…? What if it is my actual existence that offends you? Do I no longer have the right to be? It doesn’t follow that such would be the case, does it? We know better than that, at least …don’t we?

Here’s the thing about “being offended”; it’s an emotional experience. If I feel “offended”, that’s mine, and it can’t be taken from me any more than my anger or my sorrow can be taken from me (i.e.; only if I allow it); my emotional experience fully and wholly belongs to me. No one gets to tell me how to feel, how I “should” feel, or that my feelings are not “okay”. Having and experiencing my emotions is mine. Changing how I feel? Mine, too. People sometimes do or say things that result in my having an emotional reaction to what was said, or done. My emotions are still my own to experience – and mine to manage. It was a long journey getting to that understanding. Understanding that my feelings don’t dictate reality or obligate others to action was farther still to go. Understanding that my feelings are only feelings – sensations, emotions, perceptions – which are also exceedingly easily manipulated, was a bit farther still.

I generally don’t continue relationships with people who regularly do or say things I find “offensive” or specifically hurtful to me. I am learning over time that ending such relationships is important self-care. It’s not for me to choose someone’s values, or dictate what they may find amusing or acceptable; if I am offended by something, that is a reflective of my own values, and for me to resolve. Taking care of myself isn’t on their “to do list”. Simple enough, generally. Having taken this approach, as an individual, though, I find myself occasionally in the awkward situation of interacting with someone I’ve offended (usually with some thoughtless remark), who clearly has the expectation that I will take steps to “fix” the situation beyond a sincere expression of remorse for causing them upset, and making a point to understand their experience in context. I mean… yeah. I wouldn’t cause offense willfully, with the intent of hurting someone. That’s just mean. That’s not who I understand myself to be, at all. I am, however, capable of causing offense just by being the person I am… depending on who you are yourself, offense could occur. I’ll apologize for offending you, I surely will. Next step is for you to walk away, if there is a fundamental mismatch of values that may cause the offense to recur. Take care of you. I’m not likely going to be changing the person I am solely to avoid offending you, under most circumstances

On another hand, though, I do enjoy authentically connecting with other people, and I don’t enjoy hurting them. So, when I learn that something I am likely to do or say, particularly with any regularity, or by any preference or defining characteristic of self, is reliably offensive or hurtful to others, I take a long close look at that, and ask myself if that is who I truly want to be, and does it really reflect my values? Because it matters. Because I do care. Sometimes, I even care enough to change who I am, or how I express myself, in order to be a better human being, just generally. Sometimes, upon reflection, whatever the potential offending moment is doesn’t seem to be a thing I want or need to change, for myself, and I choose instead to stand firm on those values, understanding that my choices reflect my character, my values, and define who I am. I recognize that not everyone is going to find me likable. That’s okay, too.

My swearing, and sarcasm, are good examples to use to illustrate my point.

I swear. I swear rather a lot. I sprinkle my writing and my speech with swearing. Feels naturally expressive, and I use it as a sort of verbal punctuation. There have been times in my life when individuals of varying closeness have expressed a distaste for, or even been offended by, my swearing. I reflected on that long, and often, and chose not to change, other than refining the way I do use such language to be more limited, more specific, and less likely to be a direct attack on another person.

Sarcasm, on the other hand, once flowed from my lips like a singer’s song, and as it turns out, I’m also a bit “tone-deaf” in that form of speech. I can dish it out, but don’t understand it reliably when I hear it, and did not understand when I was much younger how easily people can be hurt by sarcasm, or how easily confused if they don’t recognize it, or at the extreme edges of the verbal form, how little difference there may be between sarcasm and, say, gas lighting or deceitfulness. It has a lot to do with whether or not the listener realizes what they are hearing is sarcasm. Turns out quite a few people, including me, often don’t recognize sarcasm when they hear, or read, it. I reflected a lot on sarcasm, and how I used it, how I received it, how I understood it – and how commonplace it is that someone else doesn’t realize what is being said could be being said sarcastically, resulting in misunderstanding. I chose to change. I rarely use sarcasm, even as humor, at this point in my life. Now and then, and usually without realizing I’ve done so until too late to reconsider, one might still hear sarcasm from me. It’s rare. Very rare. More common is to hear sarcasm in my speech and misunderstand me – because I wasn’t being sarcastic, I was perhaps, just… wrong. Or thinking I was being funny (I’m not that funny, and I have a very weird sense of humor based, primarily, on wordplay, and the layers of meanings of words). These days I try to stay very deliberately away from sarcasm. It’s hard to do well without hurting someone.

When do words matter? When don’t they? Language functions by agreement. Communication is most effective when we understand each other. We build healthy relationships most easily when we don’t use language to hurt each other. Explicit clarification of our position is more readily understood than implicit acceptance of assumptions. These things seem obvious to me. They resonate with me, personally, as fundamentals of speaking, of listening, and of being heard. I found it worth changing, to make use of these principles with greater ease. There are still verbs involved. I’m quite human. I still find it necessary to “check myself” now and then in a moment of frustration, or annoyance. Still, I have a good idea of who I want to face in the mirror each day, and what her values truly are. I make mistakes. I can begin again. I become what I practice. 🙂

In December, 2015, shortly after I moved out from a shared living arrangement with my partners at the time (one of those being my “forever Love”, my Traveling Partner), I wrote the post below, which somehow I never published. No idea why now, seems a perfectly adequate bit of writing. Considering I would have likely been reluctant to cause drama for him with careless words, it may have been the concern that she might still be reading my blog had caused me a moment of doubt, some second thoughts, and into the Draft heap it went. Looking for a shortcut, or a way to jump start my thoughts, this morning, I found it, and read it with “new eyes”. 🙂

It Ain’t Me, Babe (December, 20th, 2015)

I spent much of the day in the company of my traveling partner. We had a great time, generally speaking, although he arrived burdened by hurt, and the OPD [Other People’s Drama] of his other, rather difficult, relationship. My place is a drama-free zone, and I welcomed him in with open arms when I opened the door on his unexpected knock. We watched cartoons – appropriate for a Sunday morning, I think – drank coffee, shared laughs, and lingered long in the warmth of cherished company. Lunch came and went. Eventually, when the gloom of evening suggested it might make an appearance some time soon, my partner went on ‘home’ – that physical space where he is currently sleeping at night.

I spent time contemplating things he said, the emotional content of his experience, and his distress. I thought back on moving here to Number 27 in May, and the heavy burden weighing me down thinking so much of what we were all going through was some how ‘my fault’ – that my chaos and damage ‘is too much’ for any relationship to endure. I put myself through a lot over it. Perspective being what it is, so much of that, then, didn’t actually have that much to do with me at all. It’s more obvious now. It’s a lot more obvious right now.

I continue practicing good practices, learning to love well, and incrementally over time I am becoming the woman I most want to be. It turns out, as things so often do, that I wasn’t ‘the bad guy’ in the complicated tangle of … yeah… all of that. And then some. I wasn’t ‘the guilty party’, or some sinister figure, I wasn’t even the charming antagonist of the tale, the one that you know is entirely wholly in the wrong but just so damned charming. I was – and am – just a person. A human being, subject to emotional volatility and misjudgment, prone to taking things personally and hurt feelings, and able to leap to tall conclusions with no data at all – all very true. Looking back on that living arrangement then, from the perspective of ‘right now’ – yeah. That? That wasn’t about me at all, not even a little bit. We were each having our own experience. We continue to do so, now.

It’s hard to watch human beings struggle, even from a distance, and especially when it’s someone dear. Like a commuter stuck in traffic worsened by an accident up ahead, I am torn between compassionate concern for the injured and my own experience of being inconvenienced along my way; in this case, the drama seems precisely timed to interfere with a lovely joyful holiday in the company of my dear love. It’s pretty hard to avoid taking it personally – but I am stopped in my tracks immediately, being far more concerned about my partner’s safety and well-being; caring for the hearts of real people and treating each other well on life’s journey is more important than any perceived destination, or any planned outcome.

I take a moment to also observe that my partner’s stress today and the particulars of his difficult circumstances didn’t set off my PTSD – that’s a small handful of words to describe something of great personal importance. It’s actually a pretty big deal to sit here, concerned about my partner and a bit worried, but also able to have that experience without being torn apart by my emotions, or so overwhelmed I can’t function or make use of reason. Neither agitated nor immobilized, I am simply aware. Incremental change over time is a thing. 🙂

I take some deep breaths, and make some time to let it all go for a while to meditate. I am okay right now. That matters. I am so much more able to provide a partner with the emotional support needed, when I am taking good care of myself… And there’s one thing I don’t know right now; I don’t know what comes next on this complicated journey, or how much of my strength will be needed on a moment’s notice. I’m ready with what I’ve got. It’s no small thing; it’s enough.

I’m feeling pretty fortunate this morning, and definitely wrapped in enduring love. It isn’t always the easy choice to walk away from a bad situation – for anyone. We cling to what we know. We cling to our illusion of Love, fearful that it may be all there really is. We cling to a promise in the face of our awareness of how human we are, ourselves. We cling to the thinnest hope – because the unknown, the real, and the unscripted outcomes of our own free will can be terrifyingly uncertain, and omg we do love certainty so very much. lol

I have 3 “X’s” – relationships so wrong for me, that there was actual danger to my life, health, safety, and emotional well-being. I am grateful that I walked away from each one, with as little damage as I did choose to endure. I phrase it that way because I did indeed make choices. Each subsequent poor relationship appeared promising at some point… each one also boasted huge red flags and “warning signs” that were more like full sized air raid sirens placed as ear muffs. I chose to look at the promises and ignore the klaxons, which is sort of odd, considering our minds are generally wired to avoid threats and danger, when recognized. It took me awhile to realize I needed to walk away.

“It wasn’t all bad…” my memory attempts to reflect on the best times in those relationships. Of course it wasn’t “all bad” – that’s why it was difficult. Nonetheless, 5 minutes of good times don’t balance the scales when what is on the other side are broken bones, a broken mind, or a broken heart. Just saying. One apology after another doesn’t change the behavior that created the need to make the apology.

I sip my coffee, considering all of it; a river of life and choices, a walking path, a journey that stretches behind me – I have come so far! The path leads ahead, too, and I don’t know what is beyond the next bend. Another challenge, surely. I hear my Traveling Partner’s soft breathing in the other room. We share space easily, and speak of contentment and joy together. It’s a nice life. It’s very early, now. I am awake, writing, drinking coffee, and he sleeps. We have our own ways, and don’t mind that about each other; where our hours and presence overlap, we exist in shared time and space. Where we wander from each other, we do what we do, and return home to share a traveler’s tales, and make merry. I silently wish him well in our safe haven, our wee corner of the world, and I wish him pleasant dreams of being ever wrapped in Love. I smile, sip my coffee feeling safe, and content.

Another day begins, and with it, I also begin again. 🙂

It’s a lovely morning, so far. The sun isn’t yet up, and there’s a bit of mist in the trees beyond the deck. My coffee is hot, and satisfying. I feel pretty good, generally, and aside from some stiffness, and awareness of mild discomfort here and there, even my pain level is pretty low. An excellent start to a Saturday – and brunch a bit later. 🙂

I’m thinking a bit about the funhouse mirror of social media, and the way it turns so many people into emotionally demanding narcissists unable to support themselves through emotionally self-sufficient practices day-to-day. Leaving Facebook is eye-opening. I’ve stopped using it, and expect, today, to finish off the last of the data entry into my contacts list, then move on with deleting my account.

…Hell, I already have the page open to the “delete my account” action, ready for me to click it. (One last click for ya, Facebook. lol)…

One of the nicest things so far, about leaving Facebook I mean, is the increase in authenticity in my affected relationships. Already. I like that. Sure, it’s more effort to “stay in touch” – but if the only “staying in touch” we’re doing is eavesdropping on each other’s lives from a distance, lol’ing at memes, and amplifying each other’s outrage… are we really “in touch” with each other, at all? How much slower is the progress toward any personal goal, or our journey to be our best self, if we’re constantly seeking – or waiting for – likes, clicks, and views along the way. Very distracting. I just… can’t. Too much I’d still like to see, do, achieve, complete, stumble on, enjoy, share in real life, savor without comment, and reflect upon without further input, honestly, and when all that is added to the mish-mash of bullshit, misinformation, racism, sexism, trolling, data-mining, and drama that Facebook has been built upon… omg. So over it.

So. Here I sit. Realizing, in this moment, that I’ve already downloaded the historical content I wanted to save – all the conversations I’ve had with friends over this past 10 years, inclusive of all the contact updates – I’m ready. Ready to end this toxic relationship and move on with my life. 😀 No last good-bye. No final statement as I depart. No dramatic exit. Just a Saturday morning, a cup of coffee, and a couple of mouse clicks. 🙂 Easy.

…And just like that, Facebook has no power over me. 🙂 Nice.

This one is a new beginning (and then some), but also an allegory and a metaphor; do what matters most for you. Make your choices wisely, using wisdom you have acquired in years of living. Consult when you must – but living ones life is not a matter of consensus, likes, clicks, or trending views. Being present in the moment may not be the instantly gratifying shot in the brain chemistry that having all your friends (and a bunch of strangers) comment favorably on a post on social media may be… but it’s tangible, and authentic. It’s real. It’s also a choice, and I’m making mine. Doesn’t have to be yours; we each walk our own path. Mine diverges from Facebook, right here. 🙂 There are a lot of reasons why, really, the largest of which is that although my friends add to my experience, Facebook twists that, and then adds a layer of toxic cognitive goo, and then a shitload of advertising. lol I am all about saying “no” to that.

I’ve got a hearty and well-filled contact list full of friends of many years, some old, and some new. I’ve got addresses, email addresses, phone numbers, a calendar… and the time with which to begin again. 🙂