Archives for posts with tag: be kinder than that

It’s hard to read the news. Even the business pages are filled with articles that highlight how monstrous human beings can be. Our mythical monsters are no real competition for the actual human beings who likely inspired them, and continue to plague our daily lives at work, at home, and out and about. Some of us marry monsters. Some of us go to work for monsters. Some of us elect monsters. Some of us create monsters – or even become monsters. Pretty ugly. Take a good look in your mirror. Are you a monster?

Monster or not – do better. Seriously. We’re headed into the winter holidays one more time. Who knows how long humanity really has to fulfill it’s potential? Do better. Look at who you were yesterday. Consider the way you interact with colleagues, friends, loved ones – do better than that. Even one improved interaction today compared to yesterday is that much better. Each effort makes the world just a bit better. Each success results in you becoming a somewhat less shitty human being than you were. That seems worthwhile, doesn’t it?

Maybe you’re not a monster? Maybe you’re just a garden-variety troll, asshole, jackass, jerkwad, tyrant, bully, bitch, or douche-nozzle? Maybe you’re a well-intentioned fuckwit prone to saying or doing just the wrong thing at the wrong time? Do better. Give a shit. Make the attempt to improve. Be a bit kinder. Be more considerate. Really listen to people when they talk to you. Apologize sincerely and make amends when you fuck up or when you hurt someone. Set clear boundaries. Don’t make people guess what you need. You’ll still “get it wrong” – maybe a lot – but each time you do better, the world is a better place for it. That seems worthwhile, doesn’t it?

Maybe you’re reading this and thinking to yourself “well, none of this applies to me at all, really, I’m fine…”? You’re probably wrong. Do better. Do something better today than you did yesterday. Care – because it matters. We all have room to improve.

Who do you most want to be? What do you want to be remembered for?

I’m not going on and on about this because I’m a perfect human being looking outward on a world of chaos, trauma, and nastiness. I’m on and on about this because I am committing myself to doing better today than I did yesterday. Every day. I don’t always get it right. Sometimes – even in the context of a loving partnership – I sometimes feel like I’m alone in the attempt. (That’s an illusion; most of the time, most of us are at least thinking that we’re “doing our best”, even when we are able to acknowledge that “our best” in that moment is a very dim light in a very dark place.) What we’re able to do isn’t always “enough”. It’s part of the human struggle, isn’t it? I still see caring about the attempt and the outcome as something important. I still have shitty days. There are still times when I am callous or clueless, inconsiderate or terse, impatient or frustrated – I don’t even expect that to change. I just want to do my best, and have part of that be to succeed in doing just a bit better today than I did yesterday. Every day. It’s not easy. There are verbs involved. I fail a lot. In failure there is growth. When I falter, I begin again. It’s a process.

…We could choose to build a better world. Some of the choices are very difficult. Seems like one of the easier choices is simply to seek opportunities every day to do just a bit better than we did yesterday. Every day.

Each day I have a chance to begin again.

If you’re human, chances are, sooner or later, there’s going to be some yelling. It may seem “appropriate” in the moment. Maybe it’s because something went wrong, or was tremendously frustrating. Maybe there’s a ton of anger behind it. Could be you yelling. Could be someone else yelling. Could be “at you”, or just near enough to be audible to you. There’s gonna be some yelling at some point, because very few people are explicitly taught any other behavior, and we see that loss of emotional control modeled pretty much everywhere, daily, and then amplified in our media and entertainment. Yelling is a thing a lot of people do.

I don’t like yelling. I don’t like it when my own emotional reserves run out and I am reduced to yelling. I don’t like being yelled at (ever, at all, over any-fucking-thing whatsoever). I’m not making any claim to whether my feelings about, or response to, yelling is generally reasonable – I don’t have an opinion on that; I simply don’t like yelling. At all. That’s a me thing.

My feelings about yelling, generally, are of no consequence to the existence of people yelling as a phenomenon. Yelling still occurs, regardless of my feelings. Humans being human. We vocalize, and under specific sorts of stress, we vocalize louder. We’re rather stupid primates in that regard – we apparently think being louder makes us easier to hear, or to listen to. Doesn’t seem to be that way in practice, in any clear or obvious way. Yelling does feel “weaponized” though, and my own perspective is that any good intention in the words being spoken is entirely lost as soon as the words are being yelled. All I hear is the emotion driving the yelling.

Today is high risk of yelling, due to the additional environmental stressor of having our roof being done. It’s hard to relax, converse, work, problem-solve – really anything that requires any focus is wrecked by the “stomping” (they aren’t) and banging (they definitely are) and nailing, and all the various overhead noises that are part of roofing. So, noise being noise, and the both of us having some “noise sensitivity” concerns, there’s considerable risk of lost tempers, frustration, and yeah – yelling. Not gonna lie, I don’t like it. I am eager to have the roof finished, though. It’s work that needed doing when we bought the house, and now here we are, at last. I’m sure not going to do anything to slow this process down. Instead, I’ve got to commit to the practices and verbs that help me manage my own tone and communication – while also committing to the practices and verbs that allow me to make room for my Traveling Partner to have his own experience. We’re both wholly human, and each having our own experience. His frustration often results in yelling (it’s often not personal at all, and often not directed at/toward me – he’s just somewhere else yelling at a thing or process that is frustrating him). It’s part of his communication style and a means of self-expression, I suppose, and it’s not up to me to decide who he is or chooses to be. (I definitely do need to work on not taking it personally – because it isn’t personal.)

I so loathe yelling as an experience, myself, that I work my ass off to just not do that. At all. My results vary, and I admit that I yearn for success that results in a 100% no-yelling environment as a basic condition of day-to-day life, which is a really high bar for success). Again, I don’t make any claims as to whether this is a reasonable approach or desired outcome. I don’t know that. I just know it is what I want for myself (and the world I live in). So I keep working at it. Practicing not yelling. Practicing not becoming a crying mess of bullshit and drama when I hear raised voices.

I mean.. actually… it’s important to practice the positives (it’s hard to practice not doing something, easier to practice doing the more appropriate thing that gets the desired outcome). My Traveling Partner is right about that; expressing such things in the negative (“don’t do” vs “do”) limits success at the most basic cognitive level. I guess that makes “practicing not yelling” more about doing the practices that build emotional resilience and reduce reactivity, and practicing taking a calm and measured tone – even under stress. That’s helpful to prevent becoming a crying mess of bullshit, too, although for that I think also practicing non-attachment, and practicing acceptance, compassion, empathy, and consideration go a long way toward avoiding bullshit and drama.

Now, for anyone thinking to themselves “well, what if it is personal?”. “What if the yelling is abusive, controlling, or manipulative behavior for personal gain?” “What if I really am being emotionally attacked by this person?”. Well, to that I say “I hope you recognize that the most useful solution to such a relationship is to get the fuck out of there while you can?” Meditation doesn’t resolve abuse. Mindfulness, consideration, kindness, openness, and even love will not prevent someone who is harming you from continuing to do so. (Nor will they heal broken bones or broken hearts.) It’s important not to assume someone else’s abusiveness is “you”. Set clear boundaries. Build healthy relationships. Walk away from abuse. You matter. Work on you. Let that other person fix their own bullshit.

Anyway. It’s a second day of listening to banging over head. It’s hard on both my partner and I, and it means a day of practicing patience, of being kind, of being aware and considerate, and of cutting ourselves and each other some slack when tempers flare or voices are raised in a moment of frustration. There will be verbs involved. No doubt my results will vary. I’ll just have to begin again. 🙂

The frown finally lifted. My jaw finally unclenched. My sheer-force-of-will pleasantness in meetings eventually resolved to simply being pleasant. I let go of being angry, in favor of feeling angry, which eventually let me look beyond my angry feelings to my hurt feelings, and then eventually to just letting shit go. Now? I guess I’m “quietly over it”, and it’s enough. Ideally, small things stay small. It’s not always easy to see that through from intention to outcome. It takes practice.

Neither societies nor relationships are (ever) “perfect”, not really; both are made up of human beings who are themselves entirely “human” in all the error-prone meanings of that word, and compounded by the very (very) subjective nature of our individual experiences. Hell, it’s not even a given that we’re all “doing our best” – or that any one of us is capable of a personal best of sufficient real-world value in any objective way. It’s an inefficient system, at best.

Work keeps me occupied. I pause for a break and reconnect with my Traveling Partner. The gray skies beyond my window seem to reflect back our own individual moodiness, today. Suitable backdrop. I think we’re past it, though, with “clearer skies”, though not exactly “sunny”. Metaphorically, I’m hoping for sunny skies (and sunny days) ahead. Funny thing though; the metaphor of climate and weather with regard to emotions and relationships breaks down a bit if pushed too far – we don’t control the actual weather, but do have substantial control over our emotional “weather”. Oh, for sure, not 100% of the control we might like to have, sometimes, and sometimes what we most want to control of the emotional weather isn’t ours to decide at all. Communication takes effort. Listening is work. Kindness requires practice – even for people in love with each other. “Being angry” is easier than taking the time and care to really process feelings of anger with real consideration, self-compassion, and without adding drama to someone else’s experience. It’s hard. It’s worth practicing, and improving over time. It’s worth failing at it and learning from that, and continuing to practice. Incremental change over time is slow – and it’s hard as hell to make the same room for someone else to fail and grow, as it is to do that for myself.

It’s a pleasant afternoon. My partner brings me a small serving of gelato. I take a break to enjoy that, and review what I’ve gotten done today, and what I’ve got coming up tomorrow. There’s so much to get done before the year ends – and it’s already time to begin again. 🙂

The seasons sometimes seem to change so peculiarly. Like, nope, not summer yet… not yet… not yet… NOW! Summer! lol It’s definitely a summer morning, this morning. Warmer than it seems like it should be, shortly before dawn, and a big muggy – I still enjoyed my walk, before work. It’s a nice start to the work day. So far the day is pleasant and mild – I know the afternoon will be a scorcher. It’s been in the news.

I think about ripe summer strawberries fresh from the garden, and cherries on the neighbor’s cherry tree, one temptingly loaded down branch dangles over the fence, beckoning me to turn my attention to the bounty of summer. It’s a work day; it’ll have to wait. 🙂

I sip my coffee, grateful for the pleasant start to the day, grateful to be in minimal pain this morning, grateful for A/C and modern conveniences like refrigeration, potable drinking water, and indoor plumbing. It wasn’t that long ago that sweltering days in the weather forecast would mean days of pure misery, cold showers, and trying to drink enough water or eat enough frozen ice pops of one sort or another to stay “comfortable” (for some versions of comfort – some summers it was enough just to succeed in not falling over from heat stroke). I look out the window, over the fence, beyond the pear trees; the wall of my neighbor’s house is illuminated by the early morning sun as it climbs to it’s preferred summer vantage point. It’s very bright. I smile; I’m grateful to be sufficiently wise to refrain from looking directly at the sun – some people are not similarly fortunate. 🙂

So. Another day. Another week. Another summer. Another moment to reflect with gratitude on how fortunate I really am to have come so far. Another chance to begin again. To reflect. To grow. To do better.

…I’ll get right on that, as soon as I finish my coffee. 🙂

I can’t even string together enough swear words to adequately describe the pain I am in this morning. It’s just physical pain. It’s even mostly the “healthy pain” of spending a day working in the garden, stooping, bending, lifting, digging, kneeling, standing, reaching… all good stuff. Fuck I hurt though. That pain on top of my arthritis, on top of my [whatever the fuck is wrong with this bullshit] neck/headache pain – it’s a lot. I’m sipping a very good cup of coffee this morning, working on shrugging off the pain, to get started on the Sunday routine – housekeeping, chores, upkeep. The details of having good quality of life do not take care of themselves. (Note: if you think that the details of having good quality of life “just sort of happen”, then I suggest you look around for that person who is clearly caring for your clueless ass and say “thank you” once in a fucking while, and oh yeah – how about helping out?)

It was a lovely day in the garden, yesterday. There’s more to get done (I didn’t quite finish, even with my Traveling Partner’s help): there are yet a handful of dahlia tubers to plant, some final tidying up of beds (for this go ’round), and tools to put away. I enjoyed the work, and the effort. I am pleased with the results. I focus on those things, and turn my attention away from the pain I am in. That, and good self-care now, are the best I can do. Some yoga and pain management first thing when I woke, and hopefully once this coffee is done, I’ll be in fair shape for the chores ahead.

If you’re reading this as a healthy fit twenty-something, feeling immune to the aches and pains, and possibly just the tiniest bit dismissive or smug about your fitness, I have only this to say; your turn will come. 🙂 I don’t mean in a harsh way, I’m just saying that I understand that you “don’t get it” – we don’t know what we don’t know. I didn’t get it in my twenties, either. I couldn’t. It was outside my ability to truly understand. Enjoy ease and comfort and freedom of movement while they last you, my healthy fit friends of all ages. We’re all at risk of losing that fitness – whether through age or adversity – and once it is gone, it can be damnably difficult to get it back. (I keep working at that. Slow progress is still progress.)

Be kind to people. It’s unlikely that we know what someone else is really going through – even if they do try to tell us. Our own pain is typically the worst pain we know – and if it “isn’t that bad” we may not have a real reference with which to understand what someone else is going through. That’s as true for me as for anyone else. My partner tells me when he is in pain. I tell him. We hear each other. We earnestly seek to support each other with real care and consideration. We still can’t really know the pain the other one is experiencing. How bad is it, really? Well… I suspect it is always 100% “bad enough” that we do well to be kind to each other. I mean… that’s a small thing, isn’t it? So huge for the person we are being kind to, though. Oh, and when we’re in pain? When we’re suffering with it? Still, be kind. Sure, it’s an excuse one can offer for being a jerk to someone to say we are in pain. It’s even pretty real, right? Be kind, anyway. Pain hurts, for sure, and it can be a huge fucking challenge to muster one last shred of resilience to make that effort… but when we treat people poorly because we hurt, that person doesn’t feel our pain – only their own. From being hurt by being treated poorly. By us. Are you seeing how cyclical that can be? I’m just saying… it may be worth the effort all around, for all of us, every day, to be kind.

“I’m just being real.” I’m suggesting be kind instead. (Or, you know, in addition to being “real”… how about that?)

“I’m just giving helpful feedback.” I’m suggesting that if you must, that you do it in a kind way. Legitimately kind. If you can’t? Maybe don’t bother – especially if you weren’t asked for feedback.

“I’ve got my own shit to deal with.” Don’t we all? I’m just suggesting it may be less of a burden if you are also being kind to people you interact with.

“I’m all about ‘tough love’ and I’m only kind to people who deserve it.” It’s possible you’re missing the point of both “tough love” and kindness and I’m not sure what to say about that, at all. “Tough love” is about love. (It’s also about setting reasonable boundaries to avoid letting someone abuse your affection… seems like it would be possible to do so with kindness, too. I don’t know. I’m not walking your mile.)

Kindness may not save the world, but have you seen what the lack of it does to the world? It’s in the news a lot. Hate crimes. Road rage killings. Family violence. Kindness is a lot less news-worthy, generally… but the outcomes are far better.

I feel like I’m on a bit of a rant. 🙂 It’s just the pain I am in coloring my experience. That’s why I’m on about it; I expect to needs these words, myself, as soon as I interact with my partner, neighbors, or the community beyond. This is a blog post I’ll re-read a number of times, today, as pain wears me down and I fight back for one more shred of resolve to get one more task completed. 🙂

Take care of yourself today. Take care of those dear to you. Be kind. We all need more kindness, day-to-day. If we’re not willing to provide it, how will those around us understand to proceed, themselves? “Please be kind to me, I’m having a tough time today” are not easy words to say… maybe we would do well to practice, that, too? Anyway… practices need fewer words, and more practicing, and here it is, already time to begin again. 😉

Raindrops on a rose bud.