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

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.

Be who you are. I say it. Other people say it. I think when it is said, it’s generally well-intended, and a sincere expression of an understanding of being that implies being all of the best of who we are, and hopefully still contains a kernel of awareness that reducing ourselves to our own worst qualities, as we understand those ourselves, is not at all the intention. But… just in case… I’ll go ahead and say that, too; being who you are implies being who you are wholly, with skill, and with your fundamental good-nature and humanity intact. Don’t just dissolve in a heated moment, becoming your inner most slime mold. lol That’s less… yeah. It’s less. Less well than you could choose to do. Less pleasant among all your character qualities. Less ideally you than even you would have you be. Yep. Still a shit load of verbs involved there, and some willful decision-making, and the needs to manage your chaos and damage with a modicum of adulting – and you will fail. Sometimes. Other times, you will rock the shit out of all that adulting, and friends and loved ones will be astonished by your general awesomeness and ability to love and treat others well. Mostly, I’ve found, I fall somewhere between those two extremes, day-to-day. Doing my best. Capable of improving on that. Working to improve over time, and become more the woman I most want to be.

Authenticity is a big deal. You really are you, and not someone else. Becoming the person you most want to be isn’t about faking something, or wearing a mask, or playing dress up. When I say I want to become the woman I most want to be, I mean in all the best ways I see myself, and then maybe improving on that – in a bunch of other ways I would like to see myself, but don’t yet, because I’m legitimately not that, yet. We become what we practice. If I want to be accepted as being gracious, calm, and loving, it is necessary for me to practice actions and behaviors that are gracious, calm and loving. Those qualities don’t become “who I am” until there has been so much practice, sufficiently skillfully, and entirely sincerely, that over time the behaviors themselves become my default behavior, and the thinking behind them has become, over time, my natural way of thinking. Am I “faking it” in the meantime? Nope. I’m practicing. Still has to be “the real deal” – I can’t grit my teeth, clench my jaw, and go through the motions (that’s not practicing a behavior, that’s enduring having to comply with a commitment, perhaps, but it’s not “practice” – which requires a certain amount of “buy in” and willingness to change). “Fake it to make it” isn’t a thing I do, myself, because I don’t think that works for me. The key is in the word “fake”. I prefer to rephrase that well-meaning sentiment as “we become what we practice”.

Don’t be fake. Get real.

Who do you most want to be? Behave as though you are already that person – because those behaviors align to your values. (If they don’t, is that really who you want to be, or are you just saying that because someone else wants that of you? Something to think about.) Sure, there is awareness and effort involved, and every day choices matter a lot. It helps, too, to have an understanding of who you already are. Ask the hard questions of yourself. Look yourself in the eye and call shenanigans on your own bullshit – leave all those other people out of it, they’ve got their own hard mile to walk.

Being authentically this person that I am doesn’t permit me to be nasty to people and just say “well that’s who I am, accept me” in any comfortable way (I’ve seen a lot of people take this strategy, though). I find, instead, that it forces a certain uncomfortable obligation to be authentically vulnerable about where I could improve, or change, based on my own understanding of myself and what I want of me. Yep. Being authentically me, accepting of myself, and non-judgmentally aware of “who I am right now” doesn’t alleviate the burden of self-reflection and personal growth, and it doesn’t allow me to break my social contract with the world (which is basically an agreement to treat others well, based on certain common standards). What it does do is place my growth and progress in life in my own hands, based on my own choices. I can choose to be the worst of what I am capable of – or the best – or I can fall somewhere between the extremes. I can choose to progress, to do nothing, or to fall behind. I can act using my own will and agency, or allow learned helplessness to stall me in the moment. All choices. I can choose authenticity – or I can choose to go through the motions, resenting my lot in life.

Thoughts on a Wednesday morning, as I prepare to begin again. Real-ly.