Archives for posts with tag: choose your words with care

Don’t be a dick. It’s a good beginning. It’s also “Wheaton’s Law“, and a solid rule for living comfortably among others. 🙂

This morning I woke up comfortably 10 minutes before 5 am, well-rested, and having slept through the night. I considered going back to sleep long enough to roll over and find real comfort (no real reason to insist I get up early), but my mind was awake and ready for the new day. I got up. Yoga. Meditation. A few minutes gazing contentedly out into the night sky, still filled with stars. I sat down to write with a smile…

Seriously. Just don't. :-)

Seriously. Just don’t. 🙂

Yeah. Wow. Thanks, Facebook, for one more opportunity to practice openness, compassion, and acceptance that we are each having our own experience. The lessons in life’s curriculum are sometimes unpleasant. I’m quite taken by surprise by the hateful, fearful, narrow-minded, judgmental things people can say about one another… although, rarely about those dear to them, generally they save the hate for generalizations they’ve made about groups of ‘others’ they assume don’t share their values – or, apparently, their humanity. It’s appalling enough from strangers. I’m (figuratively) stricken speechless when it comes from someone on my own friends list. :-\ Don’t be a dick.


…But… It really is an opportunity to practice acceptance, and to practice a kinder approach to others. Because we are each having our own experience, asking questions instead of making assumptions becomes a way of finding out more, when I approach a friend fearlessly and ask why they’ve said what they’ve said, and inquire, too, how it is to be taken. (I often find that what I’ve read is intended sarcastically, or ironically, and I find those qualities difficult to detect in text, without additional context, myself.) Sometimes people legitimately don’t seem aware that they may sound hateful. Sometimes I straight up ask that question, “Are you aware how hateful you sound, here?” Sometimes I don’t really know what to do, as when a family member or loved one of someone dear to me says something clearly hurtful, cruel, diminishing, or abusive to my dear one; sometimes involving myself is clearly a mistake, or potentially unwelcome. Lately, there’s been a lot of hateful rhetoric on Facebook. I worry that people don’t realize that it does matter, and is hurtful. Don’t be a dick.


No, everyone isn’t being soft or weak when they don’t care to be abused, or refuse to tolerate abusive dialogue. No, it isn’t ludicrous when vulnerable, wounded people want a ‘safe space’ to be heard. No, it isn’t unreasonable when traumatized people still dealing with PTSD want trigger warnings to more easily choose to avoid triggering topics, language, or people. These are people seeking to take better care of themselves – and that’s entirely okay, and rational, and when they must also stand up to ridicule or resistance just to request that support, it’s beyond okay – it becomes heroic. Don’t be a dick.


Attacking people because they hold a political view you don’t like? Don’t be a dick. It’s possible to make your point without personal attacks. Using abusive attacking language toward someone you say you love because you’re angry with them (or the world)? Don’t be a dick. Why would you treat people you love that way in the first place? Really? How is that love? Feeling resentful that someone struggling reaches out for help and gets it, because you struggle too and “no one helps you“? Don’t be a dick. Isn’t it okay to ask for help? Isn’t it okay for someone to choose provide it? Isn’t it okay to receive it? Just seriously don’t be a dick. How hard is that?


“Don’t be a dick.” It’s a great practice. It does require some self-awareness, and a willingness to be honest with yourself in your worst moments, able to acknowledge that you are, indeed, being a dick in the first place. Then, the next step, fucking stop doing that! It would be a nice value add to also make it right if you’ve already gone ahead and followed your worst instincts, and treated someone badly because you were committed to being a dick, instead of being the person you most want to be. Choose your words with care. Think how you would take it yourself if you heard those words, delivered just that way, by someone you think cares about you, in a similar moment. Not liking the sound of it? Do you find yourself reaching for a rationalization? (Because, if you do, it’s probably a dick moment that you could let go, just saying; kind words need no justification.) Don’t be a dick.


For those reading these words, thinking “fuck kindness” (and I know you’re out there), I can only say “please reconsider”. I know you’re having your own experience, but damn, the stain left on our own hearts by our own ugliness saturate our souls far more deeply than the hurtful words of others ever can. Hate changes us. Don’t be a dick.


It could be that you live in the context of hate and fear every day. It may not be that easy to tell that you’re being a dick, if everyone else around you is also being a dick. Brief hurt looks preceded by uncomfortable laughter are a good sign to look for; just because hurtful words are laughed off by our friends, doesn’t mean we’re being encouraged to continue with being such dicks all the damned time. Just stop. It’s not as funny as we may have grown to think it is, and it’s a form of humor specifically based on hurting people based on vulnerability or disadvantage. We can do better as human beings. We don’t have to be dicks. It’s a choice.

As with any choice, there are verbs involved.

As with any choice, there are verbs involved.

I’m aware that these words likely won’t really be heard by any of the humans who need to hear them most; some people are righteous about being dicks, convinced of their position with moral certainty, comfortable telling the world to ‘toughen up’ and swallow more of their shit. I’m still saying it – because I won’t be that friend who let you keep being a dick without telling you I find it unpleasant. 😉

Practice the practices that take you closer to being the human being you most want to be.

Practice the practices that take you closer to being the human being you most want to be.

Today will be a lovely day to be the best of who you know yourself to be, to be kinder than you must, to be more open to hearing about someone else’s experience, to provide a moment of help because you can, to reach across one of the many fairly random pointless divides we have created among ourselves as human beings and say “that’s not relevant to your humanity”, and treat each other truly well.

I woke up ‘too early’ this morning, having stayed up late into the night with my traveling partner, merrily enjoying each other’s good company without looking at the clock. I woke up in good spirits, although a tad frustrated not to sleep in a bit later – 5 hours isn’t quite enough sleep for me. I was pleased my traveling partner continued to sleep.

It’s a practical rule of life that things will go wrong at the least convenient time (thanks, Murphy!), and so it was this morning; the carbon monoxide detector detected that its battery was low and squeaked out an irritating, strident chirp that could not possibly be over-looked – or slept through. Damn it. My first thought was ‘wtf?’ followed by ‘what size battery does that take?’ and ‘can I get that swapped out before my partner wakes up?’. The questions weren’t hard, and the answers were obvious. My partner considered going back to bed… but… morning. Double damn it. What a crappy way to be jerked from a sound sleep!

I really enjoy my partner’s company over morning coffee and a little conversation – we generally do that when I am on my second coffee, well-awake, and comfortably able to maintain continuous consideration and awareness of the needs and space of others. That takes me about an hour to 90 minutes from when I initially wake. I’m more than a little irritable, stiff, clumsy, and emotional first thing on waking. He wakes up much faster, but is also (surprise!) quite human, with his own needs and experience, and he’s frankly often not fit for company until he’s been awake half an hour or so. Our mutual desire to be in each other’s company is, by itself, sometimes insufficient to overcome the less beautiful useful tender qualities of our humanity. lol We were ‘up together’ – which isn’t ideal for the two of us. It’s a good opportunity to practice practices that need interactions… practices like gentle boundary setting, clear communication, and avoiding unpredictable emotional volatility with mindful awareness – and The Big 5. It’s also a fantastic opportunity to practice not taking shit personally; we are each very human, each having our own experience – and we love each other. That’s the important part to keep in mind while we’re so busy being very human. lol 🙂

Time for that second cup of coffee... :-)

Time for that second cup of coffee… 🙂

It’s a pleasant morning, and we’ve given each other the time and a bit of space to get our individual shit together. Today is a good day to enjoy love… so I’m thinking I’ll go do that. It’s more than enough. 🙂

I sip my coffee quietly, considering the day ahead. I think for a brief moment that I have no plans, but realize it isn’t so. I dither, wondering if accepting an invitation to hike this morning would have been a better choice, instead of being here. Right now, here doesn’t feel very good…and I’ve no idea why. Humans being human. It happens.

Words are powerful tools for love. They are not always used that way. I try to use mine gently, wisely, well – with consideration. I try to use them a little more skillfully, and with greater care every day. I hold on to the hope that in doing so, I improve my own experience of myself, of the world I live in, and my relationships. It isn’t always a notably successful effort – still human – and I’m not certain sometimes that anyone else notices or cares much – they are still human, too. Each having our own experience.

Something has gone wrong with the morning. I don’t know what, and I examine my expectations, first; have I somehow crafted this experience with assumptions and expectations? I do a ‘self inventory’ with considerable tenderness, looking for where I may be struggling with something else in the background, or a missed self-care detail more important than I recognized. I feel myself earnestly wanting to connect with my traveling partner pleasantly, merrily, intimately; there is so much potential for joy in who we are together. Somehow, now is not the time. My gentlest approach this morning is met with a frown. I escape to my studio, hoping his morning gets better over his coffee. I contemplate going back to bed, which feels like a childish over-reaction to something that isn’t about me. I work on letting it go, and staying in the headspace I woke in; calm, rested, curious what the day holds, eager to enjoy the companionship of my partner, when he finds himself ready, too.

Expectations and assumptions are the Boss bad guys of relationships, aren’t they? I can’t know what someone is assuming (about me, about us, about the circumstances) but it quickly becomes clear that assumptions are being made when conversation lacks understanding. I sometimes find myself holding onto expectations, unstated, that later detonate and turn my pleasant moment into an emotional blast zone, when my unnoticed expectations are not met by real life.

Last night I expected to arrive home to my partner’s smile and a hug and some time hanging out; he’d already called it a night. I felt disappointed, but understanding – it’s not personal, or tragic, when someone takes care of themselves. I woke this morning looking forward to enjoying his company, talking about my evening, hanging out over morning coffee. He wasn’t yet up, and that didn’t bother me at all. Hell, it’s not personal that the morning is difficult now – we’re neither of us actually ‘morning people’. I find myself feeling rather lonely in this particular moment – also not personal, and definitely more ‘weather’ than ‘climate’. Difficult in the moment. Moments pass. This one, in fact, passes as soon as my traveling partner steps into the studio, shares a few words about his evening, and asks about mine.

Take the time to enjoy the moment.

Take the time to enjoy the moment. Be kind. Be gentle.

Today will likely be quite a nice day, most especially if I am willing to set aside expectations, refrain from making assumptions, and refuse to take things personally. Today is a good day to use some verbs.

I like communication. I think most of us probably enjoy it, or some aspect of it. My favorite, as much as I enjoy words and talking and writing, is being heard.  I’d be surprised in that weren’t true of most people, but I’m not ‘most people’ in a lot of ways, so I likely shouldn’t go out on that limb. 🙂  I do enjoy being heard, however I have a lot to learn about listening; this is another statement I suspect is true of a lot of people, just based on observation.

It is a journey taken one step at a time.

It is a journey taken one step at a time.

I’ve noticed something strange…people who don’t feel heard are generally not listening (at least at that point at which they feel they are not being heard, themselves).  “Communication” so easily turns into tit-for-tat bullshit that there are actually enough books written about communication as a subject to fill a library without help from any other topic. Amazon has 339,665 books on “communication” across a variety of subtopics, such as “communication skills” (very popular, right at the top) and “law” (which I suppose gets involved when communication goes seriously awry).  Human primates work hard to communicate – hell, we created language to facilitate that! We consider both verbal and non verbal forms of communication when we discuss language, and make a big deal over one versus the other, and when it is appropriate to use them, and how to interpret them. We make rules about communication and set up hierarchies of information to sort fact from fiction, lies from well-intended misstatements based on erroneous beliefs, and novels from religious tomes. Us versus them. We get our emotions involved. All that fuss and effort – and we’re still communicating poorly, and taking shit personally based on untested assumptions, and expectations that source from fictions in our own heads.

Part of my own challenge in communication rests on the distinction between ‘hearing’ and ‘listening’. You, too? Have you ever been in a heated discussion, or contentious meeting, and rather than actually listening with awareness to the speaker of the moment, you were investing time in formulating a reply – to something you heard moments ago, or something you are only half listening to in the moment? It’s a poor practice. I can make that assertion comfortably, feeling pretty sure you’ll agree with me – all I have to do is make that observation from the vantage point of the disregarded speaker, themselves. We’ve all been there – making a point that matters to us, doing our best to be clear, concise, and hold the attention of our listener, and… aware that we are not actually ‘being heard’; the vaguely distracted facial expression, and loss of eye contact, or lack of focused gaze, are a hint – the real giveaway is when our listener begins to reply or rebut, and it is apparent they are not speaking to the salient points at all, they are just downloading what they spent time considering – while you were talking. They weren’t listening, they were waiting for their turn. Awkward. Rude. Ineffective communication. It’s so easy, though, to get wrapped up in what feels like matters the most – and lose awareness that what actually matters most is listening while someone is talking.  It gets more complicated if the person talking is an unqualified asshat, I get it, or espousing views that are “offensive” or inflammatory. That’s hard to take. Perhaps in that scenario the more effective communication is to say frankly that there is offense, or express clearly and simply that the information is in some way unacceptable – then disengage without further rebuttal or reply? (Is every battle mine? lol I’ve been making some different choices, lately, myself).

Deceit, treachery, willfully misleading someone, treating them poorly or bullying them with language; my perspective is that these things are not good uses of communication between honorable beings making compassionate choices, and treating people well. We don’t always make our best choices in the moment, though, do we? It’s easy for a person, in a moment of anger, to be willfully cruel, or in a moment of frustration to be impatient or callous. We’re all very human.

I dislike imprecise communication, particularly regarding emotion. I’m not always good at it, myself, and I practice some things I find key, and I do so in a very planned and studied way. The things I put that kind of structured emphasis on are simple enough. I practice communicating willfully in words – for me this means moving gently through physical space, and not using my body to communicate strong emotion instead of using words; no deliberate slamming or banging of cupboards, doors, drawers, etc to communicate distress or anger. It’s very upsetting and imprecise, and it tends (in my own experience) to foster panic, anxiety, and insecurity in the human herd without truly communicating anything with accuracy, or honesty. It seems mean, and it causes considerable extra wear and tear on household goods.  (Do you slam shit when you’re mad? Why do you do it? What does that satisfy for you? I’ve been there, but I can’t say I find anything of lasting value in that method of communicating; I gave it up in principle some time ago.) I won’t claim any mastery; I practice continuously whether I am upset or not.  The other key practice is listening, really attending to the words another person is taking time to share with me, without being distracted by the pressure of my own desire to speak and be heard, or caving to some need-in-the-moment to challenge or disagree. It’s very difficult for me – the disinhibition issues I struggle with often get in the way; practicing is very important for reinforcing better habits. Not interrupting people is a good start on a basic level. (I am so not there yet! I work at it every day.) It matters that much to me, that people speaking with me feel heard.

It was slow going to reach a place where I understand that because I desire to be heard, learning to listen is critically important. It was also a struggle to reach a place where I understand that communicating emotions is not about pushing the visceral experience of strong emotion into the consciousness of other human beings against their will, or without their consent; it is about using gentle words, clearly and simply, while allowing that other consciousness to continue to have its own experience. There’s a lot of practice ahead of me. The day I realized I am practicing these qualities and behaviors because they are who I want most to be – and by intention, who I am – I became so much more able to step back from frustrations built around ‘I will when they do’ and ‘they don’t so why should I?’ or issues of unfairness, and suddenly I felt more heard – because I am listening to my own voice. That matters, too. So often it has turned out the person not listening to me, is me.

Savoring each precious moment through awareness is a nice place to start a journey of discovery.

Savoring each precious moment through awareness is a nice place to start a journey of discovery.

Some rambling notes on communication early on a Tuesday morning. It’s a good day to communicate with love, and with great attention. It’s a good day to really hear the message I am sharing with the world, from the world’s perspective. It’s a good day to be kind, and to treat others with courtesy – not because they deserve it, but because it is who I am. Today is a good day to change the world.