Archives for category: more than a little bit of bitching

This morning, before I quite realized what I’d done, I’d gotten lost in my newsfeed within moments of sitting down to write. I didn’t write. Well, I did write – but I wasn’t writing in a rational, purposeful, helpful way that supports me as a human, or shares something of value. I was mad. I was… posting replies. Oh my.

Once I noticed I was putting myself at risk of an angry screed, I pushed my chair back, sat fully upright, and took a couple deep deep cleansing breaths, and let myself relax. I held on to the awareness of that moment, breaking free of the tantalizing sticky trap of opinion, pulling myself free of the outrage machinery. (There is so much to be outraged about this days, no lie, that’s real.) Differences of opinion so easily become anger. We each feel so certain we are “right“, and that if only we could share the nuances of our personal perspective, everyone else would get it, too! While that may be true, now and then, it mostly just isn’t, at all. We are each having our own experience. It’s not actually fully share-able.

Don’t misunderstand, I’m not a “relativist“. While I do recognize that context, culture, and variations in human understanding and experience can change the truth of a proposition, I also understand the nature of reality to have unchanging elements (that I may or may not be fully able to recognize or understand, myself). I think how we define the terms we use matters a great deal, and definitely affects our ability to have meaning dialogue, generally, every bit as much as “the nature of reality”. I have an ethical framework, as an individual, that suggests to me that some actions and choices are “wrong” – meaning, not consistent with my ethics, as an individual. So far so good. Where things get messy, and I think this is true for a great many of us, is when my own sense of “wrongness” pressures me from within to make a point of calling it out when I see others taking those actions, or making those choices. Do I really get to decide right vs wrong for anyone but me?

Yes.

…Also, no.

So… “yes”, in the limited sense that I’m utterly free to express my opinion on the matter. However, in doing so, I’m a wiser happier human if I can also remain aware that my opinion on such things is not likely to a) change anyone else’s opinion (or actions) or b) have any great persuasive weight in the world, generally, and also… c) it’s not for me to decide what everyone else will think or do. I’m just saying. I mean that – I’m literally merely, simply, only, and “just” saying words. Someone may hear my words and change. Someone else may hear my words and double-down out of pure resentment and fury, because in their view I am clearly wrong. Still someone else will disregard my words without ever hearing me out,. We are each having our own experience. I don’t really get to decide what anyone else understands right or wrong to be – but I am not required to respect, value, share, or appreciate their perspective, beyond hearing them out, and accepting their agency.

I don’t personally take any of this to be an expression of futility, or as a reason to “stand down” or “keep my opinion to myself”, because humanity’s culture has formed around our opinions and understanding of the world. Our shared ethical commitments become our shared understanding of right vs wrong, and ultimately informs entire communities, and whole nations, allowing society to enact change. We do need to share our individual sense of right vs. wrong with each other to help steer this cultural ship through the waters of change and growth over time. It’s the anger and outrage of social media specifically (before coffee) that is problematic; too much noise, not enough signal. So, I give myself a break, sip my coffee, and bring my moment closer to home. I have plenty to do to make change happen right here. I have work to do to be the woman I most want to be. That’s a project I have real influence over – every day. My example, as an individual, has meaning without extending my reach “to the world” by replying to all manner of media detritus in a reactive moment. Hell, I don’t even respect the opinions of 100% of every human; some are worth far more than others (this is likely true for you as well), and we each “rate” the value of another person’s opinion on different criteria!! (Totally true, too.) So… another good moment to practice non-attachment. lol

I finish my coffee and begin again.

Hell, not only is this not about “perfect” – it’s not even about “better than you” (and I’m not). I’m walking my own path. I’m made of human. You’re made of human, too. We can help each other out, do better in a shared effort, as a community of humans, or… not. I’m going to do better than I did, generally, every day ahead of me that I can. It’s an effort of will, and requires awareness. I’m not perfect. Being fully made of human, I’m not sure I can even know the form of “perfection”, or aspire to whatever that may be – but I can “better myself”. You can, too, if that’s your choice. The way I see it, if we care to make it so, it can be a shared process among connected individuals, in our families, communities, schools, and tribes. “A social contract”, if you will. Oh hey – that’s already a thing. We already make those agreements as a culture, every day, from the Constitution, to our traffic laws.

We can do better. So… Let’s do that.

Where can we begin? Wheaton’s Law (“don’t be a dick”) is a good starting point, I rely on it heavily, and I do my best to comply with it until it feels almost like a law of nature, more than a suggested rule of personal best behavior.

Another extraordinary improvement, generally, for me, has been learning consideration. That’s a harder one. I see so little of it around me day-to-day, I’ve begun to wonder if it amounts to “advanced adulting”. It means what it says; consider your words, your actions, your thinking, your intention, your purpose – give all the things due consideration. Consideration is the opposite of both thoughtlessness and callousness, and is an extension (and increase in depth, perhaps) of courtesy, politeness, and “manners”, but without the rigid rule-setting. “Manners” sort of require that you have an understanding of what to do in a given situation, you see, and consideration more easily allows one to roll with changes and remain well-mannered, even in circumstances you have no experience with.

Words have meaning.

If you’re laughing when you tell people you’re “a dick” and proceeding to humorously treat people poorly, you’ve probably missed on both Wheaton’s Law and consideration. You may want to take another look at that; is this who you truly hope to be?

If you’re a white person, and you still think saying “the N word” is amusing, or acceptable in any way, at any time, for any white person… yeah, you may want to check yourself. You’ve definitely failed on both Wheaton’s Law, and consideration. You may have overlooked that what you think about that word is not the salient point, at all.

If you’re a male human being, and you are still treating women as property and denying them agency and humanity (dude, seriously? it’s 2018), yep, you know where I’m going with this – you could do better. It’s neither compliant with Wheaton’s Law, nor is it considerate. Actually – it may well be the rotten core at the heart of our cultural apple.

How is it we’re all still working so hard to build good lives, as good people, and managing to fail to be good people so often? When do we change that? When do we each embrace a desire to become the human beings we truly want to be? I think it’s in the mirror, personally. I know that when I am focused outward on what you could do to change, I am not thinking so clearly about what I want to do to change. It’s not that it’s an either/or thing, but… it’s pretty easy to stop doing the work, and if my effort and attention are on your behavior, it’s probably not on mine. 🙂

This is a disturbing, rather sad, trend line.

…I do look up once in a while, and see what the world is up to. I’m occasionally taken by surprise to hear a man I hold in high esteem say something vile and heinously insensitive to, or about, women. Gross. I’m shocked into speechlessness that quickly becomes pity and disappointment when I hear white people using “the N word” as though they don’t understand how incredibly disrespectful and insensitive that is, and how much hurt that word contains. I’m puzzled when I observe seemingly good friends treating each other really really badly – causing actual emotional damage to each other, and then forcing themselves to laugh it off in a way that highlights the mutual discomfort. What the fuck, folks? Do better. Just.Do.Better. It’s not hard.

Here are some easy steps to doing better as a human being – trust me, this works:

  1. Consider your day yesterday, and any awkward moments, uncomfortable moments, and moments when you said/did something you didn’t feel really good/comfortable about.
  2. Don’t do that any more.

Wow. Change is easy! Wait, you don’t like the steps to be so personal, or self-critical? Okay, okay, I can work with that too:

  1. Consider a moment when you recently had to set a clear boundary or express one more firmly with an associate, friend, family member, or stranger.
  2. Don’t do that thing you pushed back on, yourself, going forward, to any other human beings.
  3. Respect their boundaries, too, when they set them with you.

So easy! Still too personal? (Hey, I get it, it’s “not always your fault”, sure…)

  1. Read something online.
  2. React to that thing in an unpleasant way in which you find yourself silently objecting to the reported language/activity/behavior.
  3. Don’t do that thing, use that language, or model that behavior, yourself.
  4. Indefinitely.
  5. Set boundaries about it with others, don’t be complicit in poor behavior.
  6. Keep practicing.

Change isn’t hard. It’s a choice. There are verbs involved. Perfection isn’t a thing. Practice is required. We’ve all got to begin again. And again. Our results will vary. We become what we practice – good and bad. When we work on it together, we get ahead faster. Funny how that works.

Are you ready to begin again? I know I am. I’ve got work to do, to become the woman I most want to be.

Seriously. Today, don’t be evil. How hard can that actually be? I know, I know, you want what you want, you feel right about what you’re right about, and you earnestly want your due – and some damned recognition for your efforts, or your good qualities, or… Is that not it? You aren’t driven by your ego, and a need to have that ego fed? What is it, then? What are you angry enough about to treat that other human being so badly? I mean, seriously… today? Don’t be evil. Avoid explicit deliberate rudeness and inconsiderate behavior. Yep. Those things are petty, I get it, but still… evil.

Maybe don’t be mean, too. Or cruel. Or callous. Or harsh with your words in the moment. Crap, this list is getting long…

Don’t be hostile with people – you may not fully understand what they are going through. Oh. They don’t know what you’re going through, either? Well, sure, I get that… So… You tell, them, right? And get the help you need? Those seem like practical steps. Evil is impractical.

Life and love and community really don’t have to be a zero sum game, you know? Sure, I get that globally there are finite total resources of any given type, but… it seems fairly obvious there’s actually enough to “go around”, if we focus on, say, sufficiency… instead of hoarding. We’re not limited to primitive thinking, these days. We don’t have to yield to an urge to gather and store vast supplies of [ _____ ] to keep all to ourselves. Hoarding vast reserves of … whatever, doesn’t make you look “rich” (well, maybe it does but), it does make you look greedy. Greed is ugly. It’s also evil. Don’t be evil.

While we’re talking about “resources”, let’s spell this out for the folks in the back; sex isn’t one of those. Say it again with me slowly, sex, the physical act of intimate communion, isn’t a resource to be parceled out “fairly” – and no one owes you any. At all. Doesn’t matter how cute/hot you are. Doesn’t matter how physically perfect or emotionally supportive you are. Doesn’t matter if you are a “nice guy” either. There is no debt or obligation that requires anyone to have sex with anyone else. Period. Done. Why are we still talking about this? Because women are still getting injured and even killed because of some dumb ass and his hurt feelings about “not getting any”. Women are people. Actual human beings with their own agency and decision-making. Sex is delicious and fun and exciting and nurturing – and no one owes you any. Sex is something people may or may not choose to do, at all, with anyone, and hey – if they choose to have a lot of it often, and none with you, still totally acceptable. Stop hurting people cuz your mad, bruh; it’s dumb. Embarrassingly stupid. You totally will not get laid after that kind of stupid shit. Ever. Besides, trying to force others around you to bend to your will with actual force? Seriously? What kind of evil bullshit is that? (It is the very most evil kind of evil, actually, just saying; from the boardroom to the bedroom, that’s evil.) Don’t be evil.

For what it’s worth, it took me a really long time to “get it”, myself, on that sex thing. I could not fathom how it wasn’t at some point “my turn” to finally get all the sex I wanted. I mean… hell, it sure seemed like anyone who wanted any could take it from me. When would it be “my turn”? This is the sort of twisted up stupid shit that develops in people’s heads when you rob them of agency; they don’t understand agency. Or consent. Or boundaries. Please definitely respect the agency of your children. Teach them consent – and respect it when not offered to you as a parent, for fuck’s sake. Teach them to set and manage expectations, and boundaries, and to respect their own – and then also respect those boundaries yourself. Yeah, I know, they’re kids. You’re a parent. You own their world, right? No, hell no you don’t – and you know you don’t. Don’t be a petty dictator in your own family. Don’t be evil.

Evil comes in a lot of shapes and sizes. Sometimes, possibly, in your actual shape and size. Don’t be evil. Check in with the person in the mirror once in a while. Are you actually the person you most want to be? Are you rationalizing shitty behavior and trying to “win” on terms that more reasonably could be call “cheating” than “playing the game”? Are you mistreating people, and seeking to justify it “because…”? Are you drawing a line through humanity and putting the “animals” on one side, while you quite conveniently and smugly stand on the other? Have you confused wealth and profit with being a decent human being? All that shit’s pretty evil. Petty bullshit? Petty evil. Still evil. Do better. Don’t be evil.

Just try it out today  – use a detestable public figure as your ruler, and do better than that. It won’t be difficult at all. Tomorrow, make your goal someone who is a better human being than that. Eventually, over time, possibly, you may find that the person you measure yourself against each day, the person you wish to use as an example to build a better you, will be the you of yesterday. 🙂 Of course, you could start there – but you probably don’t notice those moments of petty evil and tiresome bullshit, or you’ve grown to believe your excuses. So… calibrate the good within you, on your own terms, and today don’t be evil.

Yes, you are. Sometimes. You totally are. Maybe only once in a great while. If you are human, reading this, in the world of 2018, you’re probably evil – at least some tiny little bit. It’s in the compromises you make. The rules you don’t apply to you. The moments of taking an advantage for yourself at the specific expense of others. The moments when you stand silent while someone else gets hurt. The choice to turn your back on another human being. The choice to make your experience a zero sum game. We all do it. That thing you personally feel just a tiny bit smug about – examine that more closely. Is it also an opportunity to look down on someone else? Yeah. There it is. 😉

We become what we practice. Don’t be evil.

Do better. Today, you can begin again. ❤

My gear is packed. I’m rested. The work week is behind me. The weekend is ahead. My anxiety is through the fucking roof, in spite of there being “nothing wrong” in any literal sense; I am facing my inner demons, today, or at least one small cohort of the mocking hateful little bastards, and I am hoping to come through, if not “victorious”, then at least fairly cognizant just how okay I actually am. That’d actually be a pretty spectacularly big deal.

I survived family violence in my childhood home. I survived domestic violence. I survived the Army, and yes, I survived war. I have, actually, survived all of what life has thrown at me so far – even the good stuff. 🙂 What has lingered are the scars, emotional and physical. The learned limitations. The fears. The background stress of my injured brain insisting something is imminently going to go very very wrong. Scary dangerous wrong. Look out for that hazard right there!! Only… generally? No hazard. PTSD instead.

When things went sideways with my Traveling Partner’s other partner (in poly vernacular, my “metamour”), becoming a mental health crisis of epic proportions, affecting an entire fairly closely associated community, it was also a re-traumatizing event for me. The aftermath was even directly emotionally abusive, specifically targeted to be so, hurtfulness set on “stun”, although the weaponized words and emotions were being launched by a human being fairly obviously not in her right mind at the time, I am human, and I feel. All the feelings. I’ve got my own baggage to carry. Afterward, the easy solution for me has been to just “let all that shit go” and walk on. I do not need (or want) that kind of bullshit in my life, and I have learned to turn away from it.

Not all of life’s decisions are mine to make. Funny how that works. I get to make mine, and I have learned to respect, value, and insist upon my agency. It’s precious to me. On the other hand, I’m not strolling through life utterly alone, here; other people have their lives, too, and their own decisions to make, and they so do make them. I live with those decisions, as well as my own, because we’re all in this together. lol One such decision is to have a birthday party at the very location where “all the bad shit went down”, some weeks after the fact, and almost-but-not-quite as if nothing untoward or unpleasant had even been a thing. Weird. I have trouble wrapping my head around that. Inviting me into that environment seems a tad disrespectful, or even callous, although more likely it is merely ignorant of the potential impact to me, or even more likely still, I am highly regarded, desired good company – which may matter more to all of the non-me people involved. lol I got invited.  …And… I’m an adult, right? My friends are adults, too. We are each having our own experience. Mine says ‘do not walk, run, get as fucking far away from that shit, as far as possible, because you do not want to be there when that mad bitch burns her fucking house down’… but… really? Well. I don’t know, do I? Mental health challenges being what they are, and love being what it is, people do make a fairly wide range of choices when loved ones lose their shit in one flavor of mental health crisis or another. People don’t always turn entirely away. I still don’t get it, myself, at this point in life; I’ve stopped taking abuse. Protestations of love are not enough to keep me in an abusive relationship. That’s non-negotiable…but…

…What’s a “safe distance”? In this instance, specifically, when there is no clear certain threat to me personally of any notable sort, what then? So… I’m doing something occasionally suggested in therapy, and utterly resisted by me. Exposure. Facing my fears, in real life. Making the choice to visit friends, and have a good time, in a physical location that causes me a fuck ton of anxiety and stress… for no obvious reason in this moment (the stress I mean; hanging out with friends does not need reasons, and every moment is a good one for hanging out with friends). This could be a very healing thing for me. It’s fucking hard as hell, though, and I find myself dithering a bit as I prepare to leave for the weekend away. It’s just an overnight, down and back, and a chance to look over some real estate on the way back. This? This is an experience to have.

There are verbs involved. Self-soothing. Taking time out to regain perspective. Practices to practice. This? It’s a test. 🙂 I’m content if I get a “C”… I would like to pass it, though. lol I take a deep breath and relax. I’m aware of the physical pain I am in – and the potential that some measure of that pain is directly related to my emotional well-being in some way. Another breath. I let my shoulders slide back down where they belong. I am okay, right now. The road beyond the driveway is quiet. It’s a good time to get started on this journey.

I am my own cartographer. My choices are my own. I walk my own hard mile. My results may vary; and I have choices. I become what I practice. The woman in the mirror smiles back at me. We’re in this together.

It’s time to begin again.