Archives for category: Words

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. 🙂

Groggy and fussy, this morning, sipping my obviously too hot coffee with considerable care, and still burning my tongue, and letting my mind scroll through the recollection of the week, so far, and yesterday, specifically. I’m feeling irritable in those places where life or work shove me outside my “comfort zone”, forcing me to reconsider my expectations, assumptions, and knowledge. What works? What doesn’t work? Is this thing that once worked well no longer going to work at all? Is this new way of being or doing or thinking going to last? Does it fit? Does it work?

…I find non-attachment most difficult when it requires me to let go of a long-standing practice that once was the clear choice on my path to success.

…No, that isn’t some hint that I’m thinking about not writing. lol Stay with me. Here. In this moment. This is a safe space, here with the words, and the coffee. 😉 (Well, I mean… safe for me; I may occasionally be less than ideally comfortable for someone else.) I’m just saying – it’s hard to let go of things I think I know well.

Sometimes we have to let go of something we think we really know, something we accept as “fact”.  It’s to do with so much of our “knowledge” being built on internal narrative, bits of memories, things we think we heard, and our runaway need to be certain about things that are not easily defined with certainty, at all, perhaps. I do know that I occasionally notice I’m “knowing” something with a firmness of conviction that is, all by itself, a warning klaxon of belief. Gotta let that go. Sometimes it’s hard.

I’m chuckling because I have not made it clear that in this particular instance, I’ve gone all meta on a practical fucking bit from work, of all things, because it became very clear yesterday that I need to let some assumptions go, and either re-test their validity in my (forecasting) model, or allow myself to explore new ways of thinking about it, entirely. It managed to become a life lesson, over a night’s sleep, and my morning coffee, and here I sit, thinking about queuing theory and forecasting. Some other part of my less-than-ideally-awake consciousness mews pitifully about not having finished my coffee… lol

I take some time to continue the data entry of updated details from friends, from Facebook, into my Contacts. This process is tedious, and also heart-warming. I absolutely admit I expected maybe 5 or 6 people would actually act on my advisement that I’d be leaving the realm of Facebook… instead, I’m facing a couple hours of actual work. LOL S’ok. They are, and I am, quite worth the time. 🙂

So is this. So are you.

I smile into my coffee, and take a deep, cleansing breath. I hear the soft breathing of my Traveling Partner in the other room. I feel content. Wrapped in love. I sit with this lovely moment as I finish my coffee… as moments go, it is quite perfect precisely as it is. I’ll sit with it awhile longer, before I begin again. 🙂

I’m quitting Facebook. I use the active verb form because it is, like so many things, a process. You see, I’m not walking away angry, or reacting to outrage, or taking a revolutionary stand against Big Data… I’m just done with the negative changes to my cognition, to my brain chemistry, and, frankly, to my relationships. Social media hasn’t improved our relationships so much as given us a perception of connection, a veneer of the superficial imposed over the framework of real connection. The depth and authenticity are being lost. More memes, less original content. More shared articles I’ve already read elsewhere, fewer shared actual individual observations, opinions, or commentary. More advertising – a lot more advertising – and I’m no longer comfortable with the trade-off for what is, at its heart, nothing more than a hyperlinked address book of sorts, with pictures. So… I’m quitting Facebook. We’re breaking up.

It’s weird, but then, so am I, I suppose. 🙂 I’ve put a lot of thought and consideration into this, and it’s been a long time coming, supported by rather a lot of content and reading that touches on the subject of “what is social media really doing to/for us?

I don’t actually want to lose touch with friends – old or new – or close family members. That’s not the point at all. So, I have been contacting friends in batches, letting them know I am breaking up with Facebook, and updating my contacts to enjoy a future of actual conversations (I know, right? So weird.), and email, and pictures on Instagram, which I’ve decided to keep (at least for now). It’s taking some days just to do the data entry involved with this break up – like other break ups, there’s paperwork involved. lol

I remind friends of where my blog lives, mindful that sharing it on Facebook won’t be a thing anymore. I redirect fans of my artwork from my Facebook page, to my WordPress art blog. I update my contacts as friends reach out to share their current details.

…I scroll through my Facebook feed a few more times, aware that this is symptomatic of one of the reasons I’m breaking up with Facebook; it is a huge drain on my bandwidth, without any legitimate reward. Rarely any new information gained. Too many opportunities to be immersed in drama, and negativity. Relationships colored by propaganda, trolling, and mutual outrage. Spelling errors. Russian troll bots.

…I’ll miss the pictures. Pictures of moments I did not share with my friends… possibly because it didn’t feel necessary to participate; I knew I’d see the pictures. :-\ Yikes. Yeah. Time to move on from this bad long-term relationship, Facebook, you’re no good for me. lol

Looks like I’ll be getting back more time to write… 😉 Definitely a new beginning, right here. 😀

Hey, welcome to morning (or afternoon, or evening, or whenever you find yourself reading this)! Got your coffee (tea, beer, fizzy water, or whatever it is you drink to refresh yourself in this particular moment)? Mmm, me too; coffee. Hot, black, delicious – a carefully crafted pour-over, made just the way I prefer it. It’s an acquired taste – not everyone likes coffee, and not everyone who likes coffee prefers their coffee black. There are quite a few preferences we individually express, and, obviously, that’s part of what makes us individuals – however similar we actually are as mammals, as primates, as citizens, as community members, as families… yep. Similar and different. Individual.

Who are you? Are you living your values? Are you making the choices that slowly allow you to become the person you most want to be? We toss around the phrase “a work in progress” to excuse so many things… but… are you working on being the best version of you that knowledge, skill, and practice, allow? It’s just a question. I can’t answer it for you, or change the outcome of your self-reflection. I can’t do those verbs – those verbs belong to you. 🙂

I had a difficult day, yesterday, for some values of difficult. I felt irritable all day. Easily annoyed. Frustrated by life. I found myself, more than once, seething in the background, but unable to ascertain “why”. A couple years ago, such a day would have resulted in many more similar days, perhaps, or escalated to some explosively unpleasant emotional moment that “ruined the day”. Yesterday, I was patient with myself. Willing to be aware of my challenges, without pushing that experience (and energy) out into the world, and other relationships. My Traveling Partner and I exchanged testy, irritable words in the morning, but the moment passed quickly, and resolved itself entirely, and the remainder of the day was a delightful one, with the one shadow being that bit of moodiness lurking in the background, waiting to take me by surprise. Well, that can really only happen if I let go of being aware of it – gently observant, compassionate, non-judgmental self-awareness for the win! Each time it surfaced as a concern, I made room to be aware of my emotions, and also the realities of my moment, to the fully extent possible for me. I let go of expectations. I let go of assumptions. I made a point to approach the world  – and more importantly, myself – with considerable care, and unyielding commitment to refraining from lashing out at others as a result of my “headspace”. It was fairly effective; the day, generally, was quite a lovely one. Win and good.

I relate all this as a reminder that we can choose. We have a lot of choices. 🙂

This morning I begin again, over coffee, after a good night’s rest. A little later, brunch with a friend. Some time after that, a trip to a local artisan’s market. Fun. Monday will come soon enough. 🙂

What about you? What about your choices? Who are you? Where does your path lead? Do you take your coffee black? Cream and sugar? Blended with ice and high-fructose corn syrup? Flavored? With whip? Dairy or non-dairy? Extra shots? Perhaps you eschew coffee altogether? What I’m saying is, it’s a big menu, and there’s room for you to be who you are. How will you craft that raw self into the person you most want to be? What will you learn from life’s traumas? How will you approach educating yourself? How will you interact with the world? It’s a big menu…

…Are you ready to begin again?