Archives for posts with tag: be kind

It’s morning again. I’m okay with that. I even find something to appreciate about the week hours when the world still sleeps and a mere handful of other humans are awake. I just heard a car going by. It’s very quiet this morning. The sky is just lightening, and appears to be a vague, soft, lavender steely gray, hinting at a cooler morning. No real knowing what the day holds – there was a time when that would have troubled me a great deal.

Today I am content. Sipping coffee. Thinking “about” nothing much. Taking some time for me. Feels good.

The titular “doing better” isn’t given any context in any specific way, because I’m honestly not sure quite what my meaning is. Maybe I mean I’m doing better? I’m definitely feeling pretty good this morning. Also, though, and this is important – “doing better” (than I am, than we are…) is a thing worth doing, and certainly I think, and talk, about that rather a lot. So… there’s that. Then, there’s “doing better”, where the emphasis is on the doing, rather more than it is on “better”, that reminder that there are verbs involved to get there seems pretty relevant in a world where so many people seem so very focused on doing less, more easily, with greater convenience and less effort. The doing – both the what, and the how, matter. We could do better. I know I could do better.

It’s a morning. The sky is a not-quite-indigo, like favorite faded denim. It’s time for another coffee, and some verbs. There’s an entire day ahead, and then… the weekend. A busy one at home, filled with visits with friends, chores, errands, and a photography gig… and at least one or two chances to begin again. So many verbs. LOL

What will I do this weekend to do better? Better than yesterday? Better than I have? Better than I see going on around me? How will I make the world just a little better? I smile to myself at the obviousness in this moment right here, because sitting here quietly with my coffee it seems so easy; I will be kind, helpful, compassionate, and treat human beings as human beings. I mean, if that was a universal approach, how much nicer would life be for how many more people? Just don’t be a dick to people. Don’t be cruel. Don’t put process (or laws) over humanity, use it, instead, to support humanity.

…Damn… I hope it is as easy as it sounds, from the vantage point of a quiet morning. 🙂

Are you ready to change the world?

We can begin again. Together.

I woke with a headache. No arguing with that; it’s a headache, it hurts, I feel it. Being a positive person isn’t about pretending there is no headache. That’s silly game playing that lacks consistent results. It’s more about… being aware that the headache is a temporary thing, that it will pass, and that it is only a headache. My choices still matter more than the headache itself.

We can do a lot to predict outcomes of events and choices, given a willingness to be self-aware, honest, and true to the data. Our choices still matter; our choices change the outcomes. Predictably enough, predictable outcomes change over time, as our choices are made, and our will brought to action. There’s no reason being angry about an outcome we’ve chosen, ourselves, with our actions; we could have seen it coming, generally, as human primates are fairly predictable. Even the unpredictable ones, if you’ve observed their specific ways long enough. Hell, the predictable nature of unpredictable people is so predictable, in fact, that fairly realistic scripts can be written of such things, for our amusement.

I sip my coffee and wish my Traveling Partner well. Day break soon. It’s been a rough couple weeks as his Other’s mental health declined, and her behavior spiraled out of control; that shit gets ugly fast. It was also fairly predictable, taken in the full context of my own experience of her. I take a deep breath and relax. He’s okay. Our friends are okay. Material losses are just things. Hopefully all that ugliness and stress is behind them, and everyone can move on with healing. Done with that.

Emotional resilience in times of turmoil is a big deal. If I don’t have it, I don’t bounce back from stress, and if I am not easily able to bounce back from stress, it begins to wear me down over time, becoming harder and harder to deal with, and as smaller things begin to loom larger in my daily experience, I become raw, emotional, off-balance… and I start to take shit very very personally (and almost nothing at all in life is actually all that damned personal). It all spirals downward from there. How is it that emotional resilience isn’t a common every day emotional wellness talking point? Why is there not elementary level course curriculum in emotional health in public schools? Why has it been such a struggle to get health insurers to cover mental health care fully and without limits? Who the fuck came up with the idea that emotions are the bad guy? Our ignorance about our emotions is far worse than any single emotional experience ever could be. Our personal demons are less likely to be our actual emotions than our lack of emotional intelligence, our lack of cultivated emotional resilience – and the ensuing chaos as our intellect attempts (and fails) time and again to “cut to the front of the line” in every experience. Reliably, our emotions get there first. Visceral. Raw. Real. Felt. Unavoidably we feel our emotions. (That’s why we call them “feelings”.) What we do about them is a wholly separate matter.

…Emotions are still only emotions, though. A reaction to stimulus. Sometimes that stimulus isn’t a high quality of “real” at all. We react emotionally with equal intensity to actual events as we do to imagined ones. Our internal narrative drives our emotional experience every bit as much as actual events and interactions do (for some people, less tied to reality, more so). This is problematic when our own lack of emotional intelligence, or a lack of developed emotional resilience, results in being unable to discern the relative value of whatever is the source material of our emotional experience.

If I am thinking about my Traveling Partner, and imagine losing him… forever… and I evoke an emotional reaction in myself with that thought, I may briefly feel a terrible grief. (No kidding – it won’t be anything like the real deal, but I won’t discern that difference in the moment I am feeling my momentary emotion.) Is the grief not real? Oh hell yes, the emotions are real! That’s what often undermines our ability to maintain resilience in the face of storms of hormones, as women; our emotions are entirely “real”. What is questionable is the quality of the source material driving that experience. Our emotions are bio-chemical. We’re literally on drugs when we’re enraged. On drugs when we are euphoric, in love, experiencing “new relationship energy”. On drugs when we are sad, feeling low, and overcome by ennui. Emotional intelligence is the quality that allows us to understand ourselves sufficiently well to say “omg this sucks, I’m not myself today, I need some space (or I need some hugs) and I’m sorry in advance – I’m feeling a little less able to find my center today”… without laying waste to the experience of our loved ones in a shitty moment by weaponizing our emotions and attacking the world. Over time, “I’m sorry” isn’t enough, if you regularly treat your loved ones poorly. Eventually, too much damage is done, and no apology eases the hurt feelings, or restores the lost trust.

“Emotion and Reason” 18″ x 24″ acrylic w/ceramic and glow details, 2012

We are creatures of emotion and reason. Understanding the complex interplay of intellect and feelings, of reaction and resilience, of emotional intelligence, cognitive skill, and intellect, goes a long way to making us seem more rational while we are also experiencing a rich and varied emotional life. Trying to tip the scales in favor of one or the other is an exercise in futility that weakens our ability to adapt to change and to overcome trauma. Avoid or shut down our emotions, and we become distant, tend toward callousness, prone to clueless insensitivity, unable to fully experience intimacy in relationships with others. Suppress our intellect, eschew a factual basis to life, and we find ourselves chaotic, reactive, and unable to gain perspective. Either of those results in our treating everyone around every bit as badly as we treat ourselves. (Well, yeah, because it’s a true thing that we do generally; we treat everyone as badly – or as well –  as we treat ourselves). Fuck all that – it is a more comfortable experience to walk my path mindfully as much as I am able, aware of my emotions, appreciative of my intellect and cognitive gifts, able to balance and use them both comfortably. I am able to bounce back from stress and trauma with greater ease. It does take practice. Yep. And, you guessed it, there are verbs involved. (And maybe a meditation cushion. lol)

Real is real. I still have choices. You do, too. 🙂

It’s time to begin again.

…Or maybe even just care.

I’m sipping my coffee. Scrolling through social media. I’m stunned by the quantity of anger, of propaganda, of knee-jerk reactions to both of those – I’m stunned by how often and how easily I am, myself, baited.

I reach a repeat of a meme that is some version of the “I don’t know how to convince you to care about people” meme. It’s one that resonates with me. Why are we even still trying to convince each other? Well, obviously; because we do care. But.

(And it’s a big but)

We’re each having our own experience. Some people really don’t care about other people at all. That’s real. It’s who they are. It’s who they choose to be. They practice that whole not caring thing, daily. Other people care so much, so hard, so publicly, that they become an abstraction of caring, a caricature of caring, an advertisement for caring – so emotionally invested in the pain of the whole world that they become immobilized with grief and outrage, and all of that without actually acting on their caring, except, possibly, through some Facebook posts, Tweets, and charitable online donations, with just enough energy left over to shame others who appear to care less. Some people care less publicly. They care quietly. They care privately. They help when and where they can. They don’t talk much about it. Maybe they don’t think their effort is enough, or that it doesn’t really matter. (Of course, it matters if you are a person needing help, right?) Maybe they worry that if undefined mobs of people know they care, they won’t have enough resources to share that caring with all of them. Some people help those they love, and only those they love. Others help only strangers. (Fuck family and friends, don’t they have jobs??* Those losers…*) Some people care, and help, and support, and nurture, and really deliver on their commitment to care… except for themselves. There is, as with so many other human behaviors, a definitely spectrum, a range, an assortment, a real variety of choices and experiences.

I sit sipping my coffee and thinking about who I am in the context of caring about others. Where do I fit in? Is it “enough” – from my own perspective? Do I “wish I could do more”? Is that something I can manage more efficiently? Considering the matter of “caring” – do I communicate well and clearly, expressing my appreciate, my gratitude, my loving concern, my support? Could I do that better? Is there someone yearning for my time, my presence, my help, my companionship, that I’ve been overlooking? Someone I could reach out to, who needs me? Am I giving myself enough of my time, enough of my effort, enough of my good-natured regard and consideration?

We can care without spending a dime. We can be considerate of others without giving more than a moment to slow down and really be aware of the needs and experience of other people in the moment. We can be present. We can make a point to understand, and experience compassion for, circumstances we’ve never endured. We can listen deeply – what a priceless treasure to really be heard by another human being.

I smile and sip my coffee. Of all the things I am learning in life, the most cherished detail may be learning to love, to care, to consider, to listen, to share a human connection with another traveler on life’s journey for some little while. To experience and understand things that aren’t “about me”. Today is a good day to care and to love. Today is a good day to change the world – even just this tiny corner.

Today is a good day to begin again. 🙂

 

 

*that was sarcasm – seemed worth pointing that out in this instance to avoid confusion.

Funny that the two conversations happened on the same evening, in near-real-time simultaneity, although I didn’t quite notice that until after the fact.

Each moment the only moment.

Each moment the only moment.

One friend reached out to let me know he’s doing better, that things I have shared previously have more value now that he is more able to understand, and that he is more or less generally mostly okay, but… Yeah. I remember smiling to myself as I read his message. I understood the poignant moment of changed hearts. Sometimes the very solo journey through our own chaos and damage, however successful for us, ourselves, however healing and however much growth we experience… it’s not well received by some who love us dearly (or have said that they do). I’ve lost quite a few “friends” along the way; people who were more invested in who I had been than they were willing to accept (or understand) who I am becoming.

These are my choices. This is my life. The decisions about me that matter most are my own. This is as true for you, as it is for me. 🙂

Most of what we think we know about each other we've made up in our own heads.

Most of what we think we know about each other we’ve made up in our own heads.

We’re walking our own mile. This journey, like it or not, is a solo-hike of self-discovery. It may sound a bit existentialist – but we are born alone, we live our experience in a uniquely solitary way (however much we surround ourselves with the busy-ness of other lives), and we will each die alone – even if we are surrounded by our loved ones. We are each having our own experience.

Another friend reached out to me to tell me sternly that I am “in a very dark place” and that my “soul is in danger” and also that he doesn’t know me anymore. That last is a true statement. The rest is internal narrative he’s made up for himself, that meets his own needs, and has nothing whatever to do with me, so no point internalizing any of that.  It probably goes without saying that he doesn’t read my blog. lol My soul is in danger now, but not while I was contemplating suicide after a lifetime of struggling with my PTSD? I’m in a very dark place because my politics lean left and I’m comfortable saying so, and think that the quality of life of people different than me is also worth fighting for? Funny way to conduct a discussion, and I frankly don’t tolerate emotional manipulation or bullying. His choice to end our friendship is surely his own, and although it was a poignant moment, the underlying truths of the conversation are that we don’t see the world similarly, and my views are received as a threat to his perspective.

I went to bed still feeling a little sad about losing a friendship that has existed since 1986. I also felt hopeful and encouraged that another friend was sticking with us in the mortal world, to walk another hard mile, and find his own way. It was a complicated experience, emotionally rich and fairly adult. I slept well and deeply.

I woke feeling content, settled, and emotionally comfortable. I also woke feeling rather acutely aware that of the friendships that have ended over divergent politics in the past 16 or so months, they’ve all been male friends, and all of those friendships have ended on some moment during which I spoke up firmly, and positively, about my values, and stood up for people who are at a disadvantage. In each case, my lack of willingness to argue set off a storm of fury for the friend in question, that could not be silenced or eased except by silencing my own voice, and yielding my own understanding, and negating my own opinion. Each of these friendships ended in some moment when only my full capitulation to their rightness would suffice. Each ended with me feeling bullied or silenced (or at least aware of the attempt to silence me).

I don’t prefer to argue. My mind is not changed through argument or bullying. My thinking is changed through reasoned discourse, with cited references and real data, and being heard. I still recognize facts as things with actual reality, and I’m pretty strict about what qualifies. (I’m dismayed by how much opinion and made up shit people tout as ‘fact’ without even blinking, solely because it sounds true or feels agreeable and fits their world view.) Shouting at me alienates me. Silencing me fuels my resentment, my anger, and creates distance. That’s no way to conduct a friendship. lol

I am, myself, quite entirely made of human, and I am also capable (and at risk) of being hung up on an opinion not well supported in fact, because it sounds true, feels agreeable, and fits my world view. I try to stay on top of that sort of foolishness with plenty of reading, fact-checking, consideration, empathy, new perspective, and wholesome reasoned dialogue with friends more expert in one area or another than I am, myself. I do my best to be the human being I most want to be. I am painfully aware of how little actual value “being right” has, particularly if “being right” is wrecking someone else’s experience, robbing them of opportunities, or generally just creating a shitty world. For a lot of people, “being right” isn’t actually about any sort of factual accuracy, or progress for humanity, it’s only about winning some invisible trophy to hold over others, a way of feeling important or valued, specifically by making others “wrong”. “I’m right and you must succumb to my will!” is toddler bullshit. lol We can do so much better as beings.

Yeah. Pretty far left… and not allowing myself to be shouted down anymore. That can be uncomfortable for friends who liked a different set of characteristics about me – and that’s the point this morning. I am my own person. This life, my life, is about me. No kidding. Even if I give it in selfless service to others, it’s still my own experience of life, and can’t be muted or shouted down or denigrated or dismissed or diminished, without my accepting that experience, and permitting it. I’m walking my own mile, because it’s the journey I’ve got – and it’s mine. I may share some portion of the journey with a friend or a lover, but even then, I’m walking my mile, while they walk theirs. We are each having our own experience. I can’t change that – and in the process of changing who I am, learning to become the woman I most want to be, myself…I’ve lost some friends, who wanted a very different me. Well…but… only sort of. I’ve lost associations with individuals who were fond friends of a woman who is not, now, me. Some friends outlast changes and personal growth, others do not. There are choices involved, and some of those choices are not mine. 🙂 I’m even okay with that.

(It doesn’t matter if I’m okay with that… Reality does not care what we believe, or what we are okay with, and we are each having our own experience. Some of the choices going on around us simple are not ours to make.)

Begin again.

Begin again.

Today is a good day for perspective, for balance, and for walking my own mile. I’ve no ill will for friends I’ve lost over time, and wish only the best for them on their journeys. I’ve grown, so have they, and people change. Being and becoming. This is how we change the world.

This morning I woke contented and relaxed at a very ordinary 5:00 am. An hour later, sipping my coffee, innocently enjoying a lovely quiet moment, I recall that my visiting friend leaves today, and feel the excitement of my traveling partner having returned…and realize I have a job interview this afternoon, too… oh, and the housekeeping needs some attention… and I need to do laundry… crap! I haven’t yet checked the weather! Is it going to be very hot today? It didn’t take long for my sweet moment of contentment to expire, and for anxiety and tension to wash over me.

One new day, approximately infinite possibilities.

One new day, approximately infinite possibilities.

Initially, I blamed my sudden tension on the irritating sound of a freight train idling on the track, not too far away (near enough to be annoying). It wasn’t honestly that at all. I had drifted from now into the future – a place where anything can happen – because nothing has happened there yet.

I breathe. Relax. I inhale deeply, feeling my chest tighten as it expands. I exhale fully, feeling my body relax, my shoulders ease themselves back down where they belong. I am okay right now. There is literally nothing wrong (right here, right now, in my own experience). It wasn’t even a bunch of scary details that got me, which frustrates me some; it was all utterly commonplace, and pleasant or neutral in emotional content.

My visit with my dear friend has been lovely. It’s time for him to return home, to his life, his family; he misses his love, and his children. There’s nothing about that which is either noteworthy or stressful for me. My traveling partner’s safe return home is a matter of pure joy and great delight; I’ll see him soon, before he departs again, for new adventures elsewhere. The job interview? Okay, there’s some small amount of natural (healthy?) stress to that; it’s time to get back to work, and it matters to me to do my best. Still, hardly the sort of thing that should be permitted to blow the morning.

I wonder if I could get through life without using the word “should”? I smile to myself, aware that as words go, “should” has far too much power over my experience. “Should” is a word that signals an assumption, or an expectation, potentially one that defies reality entirely – and still guides my thinking or behavior. Powerful – and generally not in positive way. “Should” holds me back, keeps me down, causes me to keep doing something that doesn’t work at all, prevents me from walking away from bad situations… I’m trying to think of a situation in which “should” has served me well, in some positive way… I struggle to do so. “Should” is often the word I turn to specifically when life is not cooperating with my thinking. (I wrote more about this, but it got twisty and confusing. Perhaps another time. I don’t like “should”.)

The cool morning has my attention once again. Birdsong, the sounds of traffic nearby; it’s a noisy morning. Tuesday? The community landscapers will be working, so I try to appreciate what quiet there is now; it’ll be noisier later on.

Strange morning. I feel a little sad to say good-bye to my dear friend – and eager to have my routine back.  I feel eager and joyful to welcome my traveling partner home – and a little “pressed for time” knowing he will leave again fairly soon. I feel hopeful and self-assured about the interview this afternoon – and a little anxious about the outcome, in spite of myself. The complex back and forth of my emotions will benefit from more time meditating, today, and taking especially good care of myself.

IMAG8161

One day of many. The plan is not the experience. The map is not the world. Today is a good day for moments, for kindness – and for changing how often I use the word “should”. 🙂