Archives for posts with tag: do better

I may not write for a few days. There’s a lot going on in our flailing culture, right now, and I’d rather not provide a distraction. We all need to face this. We need to look America’s “original sin” of racism in the face and clean up the mess we’ve made.

I’ll resume writing, but for now, I am doing other things, and making room for long-silenced voices to be heard. Thank you for understanding. Please, definitely vote every time you get a chance, and definitely do your part to put decent human beings who value humanity and human life into office, instead of self-important already-wealthy liars and cheats whose sole intention is to enrich themselves at the expense of the nation. We can do better than we have, and we owe it to ourselves, our communities, and our future, to do so.

It’s been a wonderful weekend with much to celebrate and very little stress. 🙂 Life doesn’t always hand out such lovely weekends, uninterrupted by bullshit and drama, characterized by laughter and love; warmth and affection saturated each welcome moment. It was beautiful. I’m sipping my coffee and smiling, and taking time for gratitude. I can even pin-point what made this particular weekend so incredibly delightful; kind words.

It is not an exaggeration to observe that when most people talk about giving “feedback”, they are talking about negative feedback. Let’s be real about that; negative feedback can also, generally, be called “criticism”, and being criticized, especially if it is a regular thing, is not pleasant. It’s quite difficult to give negative feedback in an encouraging way that lifts someone up, and promotes improvement and positive change. It fairly commonly feels like a beat-down, discouraging, punishing, and devaluing. Yes, even when well-intentioned, and particularly if there is no balancing positive feedback or encouragement offered. Negative feedback is hard to do skillfully, and can be damaging.

You know what isn’t all that difficult? Positive feedback – encouragement. You know what is also fairly easy to do skillfully, and rarely causes damage? Kind words. Yep. Negative feedback isn’t nearly as effective, but it does provide a certain something for the giver-of-feedback (that isn’t at all needed by the person receiving it); the satisfaction of insisting on being heard. Many people avoid clearly understanding what the negative feedback experience feels like for the recipient – until they are, themselves, receiving it. It’s a shame, because positive feedback, encouragement, and kind words, given honestly, and from an authentic place, work in the most remarkable way to actually change behavior over time. Seriously.

(No one is talking about “white lies” here! Or lies at all.)

The key to both positive and negative feedback is the honesty and authenticity, but without kindness and encouragement, negative feedback is often just… mean. Whether we intend it that way or not. It’s just that no one likes being criticized. Feeling rejected actually causes an experience similar to physical pain. It does not matter in the least whether we are “right”; negative feedback stings a little every time, and if it comes as a barrage of nagging and complaints, all the positive intentions in the world won’t ensure the person we are speaking to thinks of it as “helpful” or “welcome” or will recognize that we are well-intentioned, at all. It’s often what comes to our attention most commonly, and most quickly, though – all those things we see as “could have been done better”. We notice that immediately. We are irritated by things that aren’t “right”. We speak up quickly to offer “feedback” – or feel like we’re not being “heard”.

Kindness does take a bit more effort; it’s important to actually notice real things that please, impress, or support us, or which we want to acknowledge and reinforce. That means actually actively paying attention to that person we care enough about to give feedback to. It also means understanding what is important to us, and being very aware of words and actions that support what we see as something that “matters”. Where negative feedback has it’s own notification system in place to let us know when something isn’t quite right, positive reinforcement doesn’t seem to do that, and puts the burden of awareness in our relationships where it belongs; it our here and now, a practice we practice. Can you even count the number of kind things, encouraging words, that you’ve said to your partner or a dear friend in the past 24 hours? If you’re like most people, that number is pretty low, most of the time, and the number of criticisms, “negative feedback”, and back-handed compliments are probably pretty high. It’s a pretty sad state of things considering that there is science to support the need for healthy relationships to have a high ration of positive to negative interactions. Just saying. Do better. Be kind. Be present. Be encouraging. 😉 Have pleasant weekends. 😀

…Now, having said that, it’s also a real thing that if we’re not playing the game of life by the same rules, within our relationships, it can get weird and unpleasant very quickly when we make a change in our behavior of this sort. If a person living in the context of a very negative, sarcastic, gas-lighting relationship starts trying to embrace positive feedback and kindness, it’s not going to “fix” the other person, or the relationship. It’s just not. (I’m not saying negative feedback and criticism are therefore the way to go; sometimes the way ahead isn’t easy, and a few small changes just aren’t adequate to put things right, generally.) What I am saying is that otherwise generally emotionally healthy people do well to treat each other truly well, placing more emphasis and priority on positive feedback, encouragement, and kind words, than on negative feedback.

This past weekend really proved that idea for me. The once or twice I was offered any sort of negative feedback in the moment completely fades from my recollection. I remember the points being made, and the suggestions, but not the negative words or moments. What I remember most about the weekend was the kindness, the compliments, the encouragement, the supportiveness, the listening, the connectedness, the shared humor… it was a wonderful weekend. I felt valued, appreciated, and loved. Words do matter. Assumptions do matter. How we approach each other as human beings does matter. All weekend long I’ve felt the heartbeat of this partnership in a warm, positive way, wrapped in love and held in high regard. So much kindness and tenderness. 🙂

There are subtleties to consider. The difference between “a helpful suggestion” and “unwelcome criticism” is in things like tone, context, and intention; it’s super hard to make useful “rules” about how to do that skillfully, that I could share and someone else could make use of. I am painfully aware of the complexities and required nuance – I’m learning as I go, myself. (Sorry for the extra “homework”!)

Empty compliments are hollow, and don’t work as positive feedback. Content, authenticity, honesty, these things matter. The moment matters. The choice of words matters. Tone of voice matters. Sincerity matters (we can all hear a passive-aggressive “tone”, or sarcasm.) It does take some practice, particularly if we’ve tended to be very negative in our life (possibly framing our choice to be so as “taking care of myself” “expressing my needs” or “setting boundaries”). If you find yourself reading these words thinking “well, except for so-and-so, because I literally have nothing good to say to them”, well, now you’re in “if you can’t say something nice…” territory. Seems unlikely that any one individual could be someone with literally no redeeming qualities of any kind worth reinforcing or encouraging… certainly seems unlikely you’d have chosen to marry such a person, or build a life with them, or develop a deep friendship with someone like that, right? So, start where that positive feedback and those encouraging kind words will make the most profound difference; at home. This holiday season, don’t be a dick. 🙂 Tell the people who matter to you that they do matter. Say nice things more often than you criticize or “correct” them. Trust me; it’s painless to be nice. 😉

…And if you just have to offer up a “correction” or “criticism”, definitely try to at least soften your tone! Sounding angry or irritable is real communication of emotions. It’s helpful to be at least aware that the emotional experience we’re having is our own, and to acknowledge that honestly and not try to put it on the person we’re talking to in some kind of blame-laying way. 🙂

Are you afraid of fucking this up? Are you worried about “being wrong” or “taken the wrong way”? I get it. Change – however necessary, or desirable, can be hard. Fortunately, there are a ton of opportunities to begin again. Go ahead – take a chance on being kind to people you care about. Hell, it’s the holiday season, be kind to everyone, as though each person you meet is human, and really matters. (They are, and do.) If you don’t like who you become, the new year is here, soon enough, and you can begin again, again. 😀

It’s a great starting point, and fairly basic; just don’t be evil. Don’t willfully, deliberately, take actions (or share words) that harm another person. Done; humanity just leveled up. No kidding, it’s that commonplace for petty nastiness to overcome an entire culture. (Sorry, some bitterness here, since here in the U.S. we’re literally chest-deep in nastiness these days, and petty evil has gotten to be almost routine, and hardly newsworthy.) We can absolutely choose to do better – one moment at a time.

Immigrants at the border? Yep. They’re people. Same as we all are. When we treat them as such, we demonstrate our humanity – our shared humanity. When we treat them poorly? We demonstrate our willingness to be evil. Simple as that.

Neighbors of another political party? Still human. Still our neighbors. Still have more in common with us than they are different. (I will admit with considerable sadness, I’ve ended long-standing friendships “over politics” in recent years, and it still hurts to have done so. The lack of openness to discussion, and the hostility toward clearly defining terms, were larger drivers to ending those relationships than any party affiliation.) When we treat our neighbors as our enemies, we set another stage for doing our worst. This is not complicated stuff.

A colleague you don’t get along with? That slow woman ahead of you in the grocery aisle? That politician? That pundit? A stranger? A homeless person? We are each and all of us quite human. The constant “in grouping” and “out grouping” we perform in conversation (and in our thinking) serves only to divide us. Advertising companies use such strategies to harvest our data, our views, and our dollars – for profit. I don’t much like the idea of slowly becoming evil to boost someone else’s already fat bank balance. That’s… sick.

“Sick” sort of describes a lot of what I see in the news, lately. We can do better. Small choices, lots of chances to choose change. Be kind. Be considerate. Be present. Treat everyone you interact with from the perspective of being aware of their humanity. It’s only simply “on paper”, written down as words; putting it into practice takes a lot of verbs. It’s not enough to say you care.

Yesterday was a good day. I faced it with a “sunny heart”, filled with warmth, and merriment. Not sure why yesterday was such a wholly decent day… but… I’d definitely enjoy a repeat today. 🙂 We become what we practice. That seems relevant. I sip my coffee and reflect on my decision-making, conversations, and perspective-in-the-moment, considering what the choices were that, once made, decided the day and had such a lovely result. Worth repeating the things that work, where such things are repeatable. I crashed early, slept well, and woke feeling rested – it’s a good start. My coffee is good, contrasting with yesterday’s fairly poor cup of coffee. I’m not in much pain. This seems the sort of day that “should go well” – and that’s not generally how such things work, at all. Not for all of us. Our implicit memories, and “auto pilot settings” are built on a lifetime of joy – or trauma. Some of us struggle to assemble anything in a day that feels even mildly worthy – or even “normal”. We struggle, generally. Well… I don’t now, not so much, which teaches me that getting beyond the worst of it, that chronic grind that beats us down relentlessly, is possible. We can do better – for others, for ourselves, for the world. As things stand right now, people, we’ve only got the one world to work with, and if we destroy it… well, we’re all entirely, completely, permanently fucked. 😦

So, this morning I go forth to do some better as a human being than I did yesterday. For myself. For my community. For my colleagues. For the world. Yep. Tall order. Here’s the thing, though; every moment of presence, courtesy, humanity, kindness, compassion, real listening, authentic concern, consideration for others, and willful, deliberated, thoughtful decision-making has the potential to change the world – even if only in some very small way. The changes pile up. Being “part of the solution” isn’t a matter of drinking straws and sea turtle eggs – or, well, not just those things. It’s more a matter of understanding that small things do matter, and being considerate that the specific small things that matter most to you may differ from the specific small things that matter to someone else – and being okay with supporting what matters to them, as they support what matters to you. We’re all in this together. We’re each having our own experience. 🙂 Consideration is a good start. Kindness, too. Why not? What does it cost you to be kind? What is the value in being cruel?

Begin again? For sure, why not? Maybe we can change the world? ❤

Sipping coffee on a quiet President’s Day holiday morning, and contentedly relaxing, letting go of baggage and bullshit lingering from jobs past, preparing for a future that begins in earnest, tomorrow. (Doesn’t it always?) I breathe. Relax. “Fuck my bullshit,” I think, smiling.

This seems relevant today (and many other todays as well). Far more experienced and expert words than I could offer. 🙂

I’m comfortable telling my own bullshit to fuck right off. If I don’t, I’m sure someone else will, but… what would I learn from that besides rejection? It’s too easy to excuse bullshit because someone else called it out, and the resulting feelings of defensiveness, hurt, rejection, and possibly resentment and anger, will quite likely blot out my ability to easily recognize that there is real truth to it. It’s important, I find, to be awake to my own bullshit, as much as possible, and do that work myself. It’s peculiarly far less lonely. 🙂

While I’m on about it… fuck your bullshit, too, damn. Can you do a little something about that? (Yes, you can. Choices. Verbs. It’s a lot of work I know.) I’m being somewhat playful, but also quite serious and purposeful. When was the last time you did a serious self-inventory? Who are you? Where are you headed in life? Are you wasting your resources and potential as if there is no future? Are you playing a grand game of Let’s Pretend and failing to understand how very much control you actually do have? Are your thinking errors preventing you from being emotionally and physically well? Are your addictions degrading your quality of life in return for a few minutes of something like pleasure? (Fine, fine, you’re not addicted, it’s just something you do… whatever. Fuck your bullshit.)

Seriously. Fuck your bullshit. Let it go. Change something you don’t like about yourself – because you don’t like it. Change your circumstances, if they suck. Seriously. Make choices. Use verbs. Don’t just party through your heartache or the wreckage in your head that’s holding you back. Educate yourself. Read a fucking book. See a damned therapist. Make every possible effort to be the person you most want to be! This is your life. Live it well, for fucks’ sake – because it is yours.

Why? Well, damn – because it’s what you want. Did you not already catch on to the fact that when what you want (of yourself, and of your life) is very different than what you are providing yourself, a deep despairing unhappiness can set in, an ennui that can destroy your ability to act – or to care – leaving you vulnerable to yet another evening/weekend/week/month/year of going… nowhere. Stress that never ends because you never choose in favor of your own long term interests and needs. Are you on a path that leads somewhere? Are you “wandering purposefully” seeking a greater truth? Or are you sort of just… killing mortal time? You could likely do better, for yourself. Your will to do so will matter a great deal. There are verbs involved. It’s a lot of work, and at least initially (maybe always, just being real; there’s work to do), damn little in the way of obvious pay off. It takes time. Incremental change is slow.

Anyway. What I’m saying is; this is your mess, you clean it up.

…And also? Fuck your bullshit. Damn.

…And also?…

Begin again. ❤

I’m sipping my coffee and marveling, a little awestruck, but not in any pleasant way, really, at the quantity of posts, reposts, and shares in my feed that are seriously… emo. Like… bleak. Self-denigrating. Depressed. Blue. Despairing. So many of these are also coming from friends and associates I understand to be lovely people, from the perspective of my experience of them as individuals, in some cases gifted, warm-hearted, and thoroughly promising samples of what humanity is capable of, which… is weird. People who simultaneously appear to be on a journey of growth and improvement, and also appear to be mired in negative assumptions and self-loathing. That’s a lot to take over a cup of coffee on a Saturday morning. (Personally, I’d rather not have to wade through all that suffering; I’d rather have brunch.)

I find myself wanting to answer each such post. To correct the thinking errors. To correct the mis-assumptions. To fact-check. To lift people up, by giving them tools to prevent themselves from drowning in their own bullshit. It’s not that easy, is it? A lot of people are ever so carefully crafting that experience. Building the narrative that supports it, with great care. Seeking emotional support and feedback from others who will nurture the suffering – instead of nurturing that human being who is their friend. Drama creeps in from the edges pretty quickly. I breathe. Let each one go. That is my own challenge; to refrain from reacting to each new outrageous self-deceit posted by a friend. Sometimes, attempting to correct these things only reinforces them by way of repetition and sharing. (See? We have learned something from social media!)

For fuck’s sake, people, try not to hate yourselves. Let go of hating each other, too. Try to assume positive intent. Oh, I know, you’ve been hurt – or soaked up the residual lessons resulting from the hurts your parents and community perceive, invent, or celebrate. (Quick aside for the white people in the room; no, this doesn’t get us off the hook for being aware of our privilege, or make it okay to shrug off generations of abuses delivered to others, or in any way defend the heinous institutions and practices that have held back our brothers and sisters of color. You’ll want to let that go, too – real wrongs definitely do need to be made right, and I am calling bullshit on racism, sexism, and xenophobia, just in general.) It’s time to let go of treating yourself like shit. That’s what I’m saying.

If nothing else, don’t be a dick. Not to yourself. Not to other people. Not – perhaps especially not – because you think it’s “just a joke”. When the humor comes at the expense of someone else’s injury, it’s not funny. If you’re laughing at other people’s pain, maybe spend some money on therapy instead? Sort that shit out. Why do I care? Because when we treat ourselves poorly, mock others for our amusement, and allow the world to strip away our humanity, we create a shitty experience for everyone involved. Why does it even have to be like that? Truth: it doesn’t. We can each choose differently.

My friends are all – each and every one – so special to me. I see your charm, your wit, your heart. I enjoy your merry laughter, your presence, and your forward momentum in life. I worry when you are in distress. I celebrate when you triumph over adversity. I celebrate your milestones. Your self-loathing? I’m betting neither of us really benefit from that. Maybe consider letting that go? You are so worthy. ❤

Really? You only need to begin again. Like, but a whole lot of times, probably, and yeah, it’s a slow transformation. It’s there for you, though. So am I.

It’s a journey with a lot of stairs to climb…