Archives for posts with tag: don’t be a dick

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? ❤

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…

I spent some minutes marveling as my brain lied to me about the lovely dawn beyond the window, hinted at through closed blinds. Looks like it’s going to be a warm, late spring day… but… it’s the Winter Solstice, so… no. I sit, drink coffee, and contemplate how easily I am fooled by a trick of light – and lighting. I recently changed the bulb out there on the stoop, and the light is a different color. I even know this. I am aware of it… and yet… it definitely looks like a pearly dawn, of the sort that precedes, perhaps, a slightly humid, warm-ish sort of clear day… maybe on the coast somewhere, or in the desert. I can see that. I can know it is not a real thing, and only a trick my brain and senses are playing on me.

I open the blinds, after a time, to see what is really beyond the window, in the way of morning light. Only the chill steely blue-gray of winter dawn, well before sunrise. Through open blinds, the porch light is just a porch light, perhaps a somewhat peculiar choice of bulb, but certainly nothing any stranger than that. What special tools these brain things are. lol 😀

A lot of our experience is like that; built on assumptions, sensations, perceptions, corrected through fact-checking, “double-checking” experiences, verifying what isn’t clear, and allowing ourselves to adapt to what we have learned, to hold a more accurate picture of the world in our mind’s eye. Not everyone is good at it. Yep, one more thing that takes some practice. 😀

When was the last time you over-reacted to something? Wouldn’t it be fantastic to just… not? To see things accurately, hear what is being shared with you with a clear understanding, to respond to the world – and your relationships – always in a wholly appropriate way? It’s definitely a goal, for me. I work at it every day. Every day, I see some tiny improvements. Every day I see room for more improvements. Every day I practice. That first reaction to an experience is nearly always driven by “unseen forces”; implicit values, assumptions, disappointed expectations, misunderstandings, miscommunications, unexpressed needs, unstated boundaries, physical comfort (or lack of it), emotional state of being in the moment, the fucking weather… the list is pretty long. I continue to practice being accepting of my first reaction to things, but not allowing that reaction to lead my decision-making, or ideally even also preventing it from coloring whatever the fuck is going to come pouring forth from my face holes as a stream-of-consciousness rant of some sort. I definitely also really have to work at this; however much I’d like it to feel (and become) quite natural, I very much have to practice… very much. lol So human.

That fancy brain is just trying to help; it’s so much faster to put reactions on our internal “automation” – that’s what makes them “reactions” rather than responses (measured, well-considered, thoughtful, appropriate). It’s sort of a bother that our reactions are not all that helpful, and are often just entirely incorrect – they are definitely faster than our ability to reason clearly.  Emotions generally get to the party ahead of our ability to reason clearly. It would be more efficient to fall back on our reactions in the moment, but honestly, they are often only useful in emergency situations – the rest of the time it is definitely worth slowing the fuck down and giving every-damned-thing a second thought.

…On second thought…

(You knew that was coming, right?)

…We’re also not actually very astute about what, specifically, in this modern century of humanity, actually amounts to an “emergency”. We get seriously jacked up about the dumbest shit. TV shows. Petty resentments. Who ate the last treat. Territorial disputes. Money. In a world literally covered in resources, more than adequate for everyone, we’re all very busy fighting over crumbs while a handful of dragons sit on hoarded wealth… and we distract ourselves from all manner of things that really matter a great deal – by reacting to shit that does not. (So human) We seem, often, largely incapable of honest collaboration and community, prone to viewing all of life’s challenges as tiny zero sum adventures in greed, “being right”, or “winning”.

What matters most? (The question does not go away, simply because answering it is uncomfortable.)

Today is the Solstice. The longest night. A celebration (for me) of contemplation, of wonder, of silence in our own personal darkness – and of waking up to the light.

A wintry sunrise is imminent. The dawn is a bleak pale gray with a hint of blue. The traffic on the road outside reminds me that I am not having to join them on the race to beat the clock to the office this morning. I take my time with my coffee, considering my experience and my plan for the day, thinking ahead to sharing the holiday with my Traveling Partner.

It’s been a peculiar year, and much has changed. I’ve made some interesting new friends. Broadened my social network both geographically, and in the variety of new human beings in my experience. I’ve ended some relationships – including one that reasonably ought not have been given another chance at all – and moved on with my life. There’s been some turmoil, some drama, and some major headaches (both literal and figurative). The world has strained with the pain of watching civilization heave, and perhaps fall… no way to know, quite yet. This moment? Right now? I’m okay. There aren’t a lot of extras. It won’t be a lavish holiday. I have what I need, though, and that’s enough. 🙂

I welcome the Solstice this year, as a season of change, and of reflection, and a time of vision. It’s definitely time to begin again.

 

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.

Hell, not only is this not about “perfect” – it’s not even about “better than you” (and I’m not). I’m walking my own path. I’m made of human. You’re made of human, too. We can help each other out, do better in a shared effort, as a community of humans, or… not. I’m going to do better than I did, generally, every day ahead of me that I can. It’s an effort of will, and requires awareness. I’m not perfect. Being fully made of human, I’m not sure I can even know the form of “perfection”, or aspire to whatever that may be – but I can “better myself”. You can, too, if that’s your choice. The way I see it, if we care to make it so, it can be a shared process among connected individuals, in our families, communities, schools, and tribes. “A social contract”, if you will. Oh hey – that’s already a thing. We already make those agreements as a culture, every day, from the Constitution, to our traffic laws.

We can do better. So… Let’s do that.

Where can we begin? Wheaton’s Law (“don’t be a dick”) is a good starting point, I rely on it heavily, and I do my best to comply with it until it feels almost like a law of nature, more than a suggested rule of personal best behavior.

Another extraordinary improvement, generally, for me, has been learning consideration. That’s a harder one. I see so little of it around me day-to-day, I’ve begun to wonder if it amounts to “advanced adulting”. It means what it says; consider your words, your actions, your thinking, your intention, your purpose – give all the things due consideration. Consideration is the opposite of both thoughtlessness and callousness, and is an extension (and increase in depth, perhaps) of courtesy, politeness, and “manners”, but without the rigid rule-setting. “Manners” sort of require that you have an understanding of what to do in a given situation, you see, and consideration more easily allows one to roll with changes and remain well-mannered, even in circumstances you have no experience with.

Words have meaning.

If you’re laughing when you tell people you’re “a dick” and proceeding to humorously treat people poorly, you’ve probably missed on both Wheaton’s Law and consideration. You may want to take another look at that; is this who you truly hope to be?

If you’re a white person, and you still think saying “the N word” is amusing, or acceptable in any way, at any time, for any white person… yeah, you may want to check yourself. You’ve definitely failed on both Wheaton’s Law, and consideration. You may have overlooked that what you think about that word is not the salient point, at all.

If you’re a male human being, and you are still treating women as property and denying them agency and humanity (dude, seriously? it’s 2018), yep, you know where I’m going with this – you could do better. It’s neither compliant with Wheaton’s Law, nor is it considerate. Actually – it may well be the rotten core at the heart of our cultural apple.

How is it we’re all still working so hard to build good lives, as good people, and managing to fail to be good people so often? When do we change that? When do we each embrace a desire to become the human beings we truly want to be? I think it’s in the mirror, personally. I know that when I am focused outward on what you could do to change, I am not thinking so clearly about what I want to do to change. It’s not that it’s an either/or thing, but… it’s pretty easy to stop doing the work, and if my effort and attention are on your behavior, it’s probably not on mine. 🙂

This is a disturbing, rather sad, trend line.

…I do look up once in a while, and see what the world is up to. I’m occasionally taken by surprise to hear a man I hold in high esteem say something vile and heinously insensitive to, or about, women. Gross. I’m shocked into speechlessness that quickly becomes pity and disappointment when I hear white people using “the N word” as though they don’t understand how incredibly disrespectful and insensitive that is, and how much hurt that word contains. I’m puzzled when I observe seemingly good friends treating each other really really badly – causing actual emotional damage to each other, and then forcing themselves to laugh it off in a way that highlights the mutual discomfort. What the fuck, folks? Do better. Just.Do.Better. It’s not hard.

Here are some easy steps to doing better as a human being – trust me, this works:

  1. Consider your day yesterday, and any awkward moments, uncomfortable moments, and moments when you said/did something you didn’t feel really good/comfortable about.
  2. Don’t do that any more.

Wow. Change is easy! Wait, you don’t like the steps to be so personal, or self-critical? Okay, okay, I can work with that too:

  1. Consider a moment when you recently had to set a clear boundary or express one more firmly with an associate, friend, family member, or stranger.
  2. Don’t do that thing you pushed back on, yourself, going forward, to any other human beings.
  3. Respect their boundaries, too, when they set them with you.

So easy! Still too personal? (Hey, I get it, it’s “not always your fault”, sure…)

  1. Read something online.
  2. React to that thing in an unpleasant way in which you find yourself silently objecting to the reported language/activity/behavior.
  3. Don’t do that thing, use that language, or model that behavior, yourself.
  4. Indefinitely.
  5. Set boundaries about it with others, don’t be complicit in poor behavior.
  6. Keep practicing.

Change isn’t hard. It’s a choice. There are verbs involved. Perfection isn’t a thing. Practice is required. We’ve all got to begin again. And again. Our results will vary. We become what we practice – good and bad. When we work on it together, we get ahead faster. Funny how that works.

Are you ready to begin again? I know I am. I’ve got work to do, to become the woman I most want to be.