Archives for posts with tag: be kinder than that

Most of the time, these days, I’m writing from a contented, emotionally fairly comfortable place. Life is pretty good day-to-day, in spite of the pandemic. I don’t have the terrifying, chronic, so-frequent-as-to-be-routine, issues with emotional volatility that I had 8 years ago. I’m fortunate. I also “work hard” at this. There’s a lot of practice. A lot of very necessary restarts, do-overs, and new beginnings. My results vary. I am entirely 100% made of human, from the soaring heights of the most delightful moments of great joy and celebration, to the lowest depths of the most grim, bleakest darkness, the most despairing moments of sorrow, ennui, and futility. Anger gets a turn in there, somewhere. Frustration, too.

…So does love. So does hope. So does happiness – yep, even happiness gets her day in the sunshine. Doesn’t happen to be today, but today this moment is apparently not about feeling good. At least not right at this very moment, right here, right now, which mostly sucks.

…This too shall pass. It sure will. Eventually. I wonder sometimes if that’s actually a good thing at all. Storms pass. The weather clears up. It’s so tempting to just move on from the things crying out for attention during stormy weather, once the sun is shining again. Something to think about.

I’m not sure what to say “about” this moment, right here. I feel…angry. I… feel hurt. I’m annoyed and frustrated. Not just with myself and my own limitations. Not simply with “not being heard”. It’s complicated. I don’t have a healthy relationship with anger. I am aware of that. Mine or anyone else’s; it’s not specific to whose anger it is. I’m uncomfortable with anger. I’m especially uncomfortable with mine. That’s true. Today, I’m angry with my Traveling Partner. (This may be the first time I’ve written that sentence in this blog, I’m not certain.) I haven’t lost any affection for this human being I am so fond of… I’m just angry right now. I don’t know what to do with/about that… it just is, and I’m incredibly uncomfortable with it. So. Here I am. In a separate space, door closed, headphones on, working on “being alone right now” – which is very tough in a small house during a pandemic. As I said; uncomfortable. I’m not lashing out or escalating. I’m maintaining a self-inflicted disciplined calm, because I just don’t know what else to do with or about my anger. I clearly can’t act on it. I’m also having trouble conversing through it to resolve things with my partner; I start weeping. It makes conversation difficult and needlessly, unproductively, emotional. Not okay – and I’m frankly not at all interested in taking the risk of damaging anything I own by having some tantrum, or finding myself in the middle of further emotional escalation and angry words with my partner. Anger feels like emotional poison to me. I know there are ways to process anger more skillfully than I do. I haven’t finished that work, yet. I am unskilled. It takes a lifetime to process a lifetime of trauma, apparently…Or, at least, I have not, personally found a shortcut to the work that must be done to heal the damage that already was done.

Yelling at one’s partner is mistreatment. I work to avoid raising my voice. I don’t even like “yelling across the house” in a conversational way (seriously seriously dislike that shit – if I’m not in the same room, let’s just not converse, or hey, it’s a small house, join me in a shared space). I’m human, though, and I am more easily provoked than I want to be. If I raise my voice, I’ll also apologize for that, and having accepted responsibility for that behavior, immediately seek to bring the volume back down. It’s hard. I don’t always succeed. I struggle with anger – particularly when I am not feeling heard, or when I am being interrupted, or when I feel mistreated myself, in the face of mockery, insults, or other such (also very human, unpleasant, not okay things, but I particularly detest mockery). I work on not yelling. I ask people in relationships with me to not yell. It’s a choice. Take a kind tone. Speak gently. Choices. Encourage each other. Worthwhile – but, yeah, there are verbs involved, and it takes a lot of fucking practice, and it’s got to actually really matter. No one can do the work for you. Hell, you may even find yourself in the unfortunate position of having to choose to make these changes or do this work without much encouragement or reciprocity. Hard, right? Sometimes, yeah. For anyone.

What makes any of that shit worth it? Why is the ongoing effort – and ongoing frustration with having to make that effort – worth it at all, if it won’t placate an angry partner, or restore the peace, or diminish the chaos, or create calm? …I think about that question a lot, and I’m pretty clear on my answer; it’s about being the woman I most want to be, myself, for myself. I’m okay with feeling anger. I’m not okay with losing my shit and yelling at someone I love. Doesn’t matter how provoked I feel. Doesn’t matter who is “right” or who is “wrong”. Doesn’t matter whether I am in pain, or exhausted, or absolutely 100% justified in my opinion, or my understanding of the situation. What matters is … who do I most want to be, and is my behavior consistent with that standard? How does that woman respond to such a situation? How does that woman maintain her calm, stay balanced, and process strong emotion? I think that over, looking for answers, and a next step to being that woman… more so today, than yesterday. More so tomorrow than I am right now. We become what we practice.

…That’s true for everyone, and everything we choose to practice (or fall into habitually). Just saying. Choices. Practices. Beginnings.

Again.

…I hear the tv in the other room. My partner bravely checked-on me, and expressed his desire to hang out – in spite of the chaos, what matters most is our affection for each other. It’s hard to be vulnerable. Hard to set down the baggage. Sometimes it’s even hard to begin again. I take a breath, and steady myself to take that step…

I wrote a lot of rather angry words this morning. I’ve deleted them. I’m reluctant to give OPD (Other People’s Drama) that much of my time – or to allow it to take that much of yours, either. I’ve done my best not to waste time ranting…but…I suspect it comes across a bit more that, than not. ūüôā

Saving the world over my morning coffee...or something similar.

Thoughts and coffee

I sip my coffee and think over the whole point I thought I was getting to on the first draft (and the second, and third)… I think I was using way too many words just to communicate something simple – a caution? More a request.¬†Please don’t be vile, nasty, bad-tempered, callous, cruel or mean¬†to people you say you care about. It is¬†mistreatment. In a perfect world, people don’t stick around for that shit, but we’re imperfect beings, and trudging through bullshit is sometimes part of the journey;¬†we end up too willing to tolerate abuse. Love is not nurtured by mistreatment – and how much of your nastiness your loved ones can withstand is not an¬†ideal measure of their affection.

Oh, hey, while I’m at it – please don’t be vile, nasty, bad-tempered, callous, cruel or mean¬†with strangers, either. Realistically, you don’t know them well enough for them to warrant any sort of mistreatment, and it amounts to unkindness that just makes the world a shitty¬†place. Stop it. Seriously? How do you excuse that shit?

Thinking it over, if it is unacceptable to mistreat our loved ones (which, frankly, it totally is), and also unacceptable to mistreat total strangers (and, I mean, why would you?)…how is it justifiable to mistreat all those people in between? You know the stuff I mean: being rude to a waitress, or nasty to a check-out clerk, or barista, or dismissive toward the landscapers, the mail carrier, or a telemarketer is all just as unacceptable and inappropriate – certainly, it is rude, and unnecessary. They are human. You are human, too. End of conflict… or, it easily could be. Your choices matter.

Being a better human being than you were yesterday is as simple as making¬†just one choice to treat someone a little better than you might have – make it easy, start with people who really matter to you. (If someone ‘really matters’ to you, how do¬†you justify treating them badly with purpose, deliberately, aware of the outcome, in the first place?) Here’s the thing – we like to think that we are not doing these things willfully –¬†¬†it’s ‘happening’, ‘things just went wrong’ in a bad moment, we ‘didn’t mean it’ or some how meant it differently but lost our cool, or… but… that only holds up the first time. After that, it’s a choice, perhaps a habit, or worse¬†a character quality, and it is definitely mistreatment and also entirely and completely unacceptable bad behavior.

How are you adding to global happiness?

How are you adding to global happiness?

Sorry about the lecture-y demanding irritated tone; we’re all human here, and feeling cared for and being heard matters to each of us. You are probably frustrated by these things, too. (I am finding it hard to watch from the sideline as someone I love is mistreated in another relationship, and I am not the sort to pretend I don’t see it, or to make excuses for bad behavior.) There’s no ‘chicken or egg’ paradox to mistreatment, either – that’s verbal slight of hand used by people to excuse abusive bullshit, and it doesn’t hold up under scrutiny.¬†Tit for tat nastiness between lovers is just another variety of mistreatment, still unacceptable. Mistreatment is mistreatment. Make all the excuses you want to, the excuses do not change the behavior. We all have moments when we fall short of being that person we most want to be, but it does matter to make the attempt, and to address our poor behavior toward others, honestly, and openly, being fully accountable for our bad behavior, and poor decision-making. We all have opportunities to choose to listen deeply, to be open to understanding someone else’s experience, to demonstrate compassion, and to show growth – sadly, we don’t all take those opportunities when they come.

I tried a number of times to ‘find the right words’ this morning. My annoyance¬†gets in the¬†way of taking a lighter tone. I am frustrated at how easily human beings justify their shitty treatment of others. Seriously? How is abusing people we [say we] love even a thing? Personally, I find it most effective¬†to snarl ‘go fuck yourself, that bullshit isn’t love at all’ and walk on – because when someone mistreats me, I do not feel loved. I no longer allow abuse to be part of my definition of love, loving, or¬†being loved. “Love” is a verb, and it does¬†not¬†include abuse, mistreatment, or emotional weapons of mass distraction. Those are their own experiences, their own verbs, and choosing them is no demonstration of love – and it very much is a choice.

I could have just said “Wheaton’s Law, people, damn!” and saved a couple hundred words from being misused this morning… or maybe suggested a sing-a-long… ¬†Be kind – there’s a surplus of jerks in the world these days. Be genuine – there’s also a surplus of shifty pretenders, and the real you is by far more worthy. Be considerate – we’re all human, each having our own experience, each suffering under the weight of the burdens we choose to bear, each worthy of being treated well.

Be love. That’s the thing most worth being.

Be kind. It’s a simple enough suggestion. It’s not expensive to be kind to people (or animals, or celebrities, or nice things you may have acquired along life’s path). Further, what good reason is there to be unkind? Oh sure, there’s a lot of wiggle room between ‘kind’ and ‘unkind’ that isn’t so clearly defined. Can we accept that both kindness and unkindness are likely active choices or processes, rather than just fumbling along doing and being? If so, and we also recognize that most of us living in the U.S. probably heard the ‘be kind’ message, the ‘play nicely’ and ‘do unto others’ messages pretty repetitively growing up…what the hell is the matter with us as adults? Have you seen the way people treat each other? The nastiness? The negativity? The vicious unending criticism of self and others? The callousness and cruelty built on foundations of self-righteous entitlement and us/them thinking? So…um…if this is our idea of ‘kindness’ or ‘good treatment’ of our fellow man…maybe we would do well to be kinder than that? Seriously.

Sorry. I’m sick with a head cold, and feeling out of sorts. Life’s day-to-day bullshit and drama are more easily tolerated, avoided, or managed more skillfully when I’m not ill. My emotional resilience is limited – and when I’m sick, my¬†default reaction is often anger; I honestly just want to be treated gently, supported, and cared for – because I’m sick. ¬†Of course I’m not alone in that; it’s spring, and the second significant wave of illness has hit the area (there’s ‘flu’ season, then just as spring gears up, we often see a major short-term increase in people out of office with colds). ¬†I’m pretty sure I picked this cold up either in the office or on the commute. (Cover your coughs/sneezes, people, please!) Hell, I’m not even the only person in the household who is ill this week.

Here’s the thing about kindness that I notice most often; people aren’t doing it. A lot of people, totally not investing even the slightest effort to be kind, and instead actively investing will, intent, emotion, time, choice, and action into treating people poorly – not just any people, the people they say matter most! I regularly see or hear people being total dicks, seriously hurtful and unkind, to friends, lovers, even family. What the hell? These are people we care about? What’s the thinking there?

What does kindness really look like?

What does kindness really look like?

I’ll take a real-life example – a stranger from a recent bus ride – to illustrate. A woman gets on the bus, she is on a phone call. She is talking very loudly, and it is not possible to avoid overhearing every word of her phone call (at least her end of it). So, okay – that’s our first moment of unkindness; she seemed utterly unaware that this behavior could be disruptive or unpleasant for other passengers at all. As the call progressed I learned way to much about her, but it fuels the writing this morning. ūüôā She was angry, and venting to a friend about her resentment that her current lover expected her to shower before sex (note, this is happening late in the afternoon on a Wednesday) and observes “I just had a shower on Sunday morning, and it’s not like I’ve had sex since then!”. I’m struck by her resentment… we live in a pretty hygiene conscious society, and my own perspective in this context was to feel just a little shocked that she’d admit to ‘being so nasty’. lol (I am aware that different standards exist in other cultures, and that the frequency of bathing in other circumstances could reasonably be quite different.) She goes on from there to rant about his many other lovers that she is sure exist, and all manner of vengeance she is inclined to enact due to the existence of these¬†other lovers. The conversation continues. In the space of a few minutes she rather self-righteously exclaims a variety of fairly criminal acts to be within reason for her, in her circumstances: stealing her lovers phone to go through his address book without his consent, contacting people she doesn’t know to say derogatory things about him (specifically untrue, and she’s quite clear about that, too), physical violence against her lover or his potential lovers, arson, homicide, assault, gas-lighting, stalking… and all delivered in a tone of utter self-righteous entitlement, and clear anticipation that her position is rationally supportable and justified. It was actually pretty ¬†horrifying to listen to. I could not help but wonder why anyone would have sex with someone who would say such things about them, or potentially behave in any of those ways! She directed an equal measure of implied invective toward herself stating assumptions about other women with similar characteristics reflecting her self-defined short-comings, and the imagined advantages held by women of others sorts. (She was very concerned about the weight of her lovers potential paramours, and made it clear that ‘skinny girls don’t have these problems’ – which goes well beyond any acceptable lack of social¬†awareness for an adult, I think.)

Am I gossiping? I hope not… I am also doing my best to avoid being (or sounding) judgmental… I’m trying to get around to making this point; be kind. Treat yourself and others well. Sure – but if you don’t understand that being loud on a cell phone on the bus is unkind to other passengers, will you know not to do it? If I don’t understand that making threats of violence when I am angry is unkind to people for whom that level of acting out causes anxiety, will I know to work on handling my volatility differently? If we live in a culture where we regularly see people treated as property, will we understand that people are not property – and that assault and arson are not appropriate responses to another human beings sexual decision-making? That it isn’t okay to kill people because we’re angry with them? The woman on the bus very clearly believed in her cause, and that she had been wronged, and that any action she might take to redress that wrong would be acceptable – who taught her that? Who taught her that her lover becomes her property because they have a sexual relationship? Who taught her that someone else’s needs are of less importance than her own? It really got me thinking about me – about what I do or don’t expect from people, and what I find appropriate day-to-day – and why. I can do better, day-to-day, to be kind. I can’t find any reason not to.

Many years ago I was admittedly not particularly concerned about kindness. I didn’t ‘get it’. (Righteous rage doesn’t make much room for compassion or kindness, honestly.) I think about kindness a lot now. I am not able to make a good argument against being kind – but I see a lot of ‘traps’ along my journey; it is tempting to rationalize very good sounding reasons to exclude one person or another from being treated with kindness. It isn’t easy to maintain kindness toward others when I’m having a difficult moment, or feel angry at that person I am tempted to be unkind towards. It is sometimes difficult to be skillful at not permitting myself to be taken advantage of or treated badly in the face of kindness; I know I have much to learn, and I also know that kindness is possible without sacrificing good self-treatment, consideration, and self-respect, too. ¬†Life’s curriculum is rich, complex – and rewarding. I am still a student. I am still a beginner. “I am only an egg.”

What does it take to build a beautiful life?

What does it take to build a beautiful life?

Today is a good day to be kind. It’s also a good day to be kinder than that. It’s a good day to take being the woman I most want to be to another level. We are each having our own experience; a kind moment might be all that other person needs to thrive.¬†It’s a good day to be the change I wish to see in the world.