Archives for posts with tag: don’t be mean

Yesterday was delightful. My Traveling Partner and I spent the day together (how else, in this time of pandemic? lol). We played video games – not generally my “thing”, and I’m not very skilled. My partner was terrifically patient with me, giving me room to play, learn, and grow, while gently offering some useful tips, and coaching with great care to respect my autonomy, and consideration for the time it takes (me) to learn new skills. So much fun! It matters a lot for the quality of such experiences, when he is patient with me.

…Illustrating that point, I took 2 years of keyboard lessons, and never learned to play keyboard, at all, mostly due to my grandfather’s impatience with me just completely sucking the fun out of the entire experience and totally “putting me off” of it, permanently. Same thing when I sought to learn to play guitar, only that time the impatience was my Dad’s, and my instructor’s. It’s been a recurring theme affecting a number of experiences over the course of a lifetime.

…Sometimes my own impatience with my humble efforts, and frustrations with understandable failures during a period of learning, have resulted in dropping some hobby or eagerly sought experience, simply because it was not enjoyable, at all. Why would I put myself through that misery? Hasn’t been worth it. So… my skills and developed competencies are a strange hodge-podge of things that were sufficiently easy to learn that I learned them, or sufficiently engaging to learn that I overcame beginner’s frustrations with pure will. My aquarium(s) fit in that latter category. I love them and delight in them too much to abandon the work needed to “level up”, learn new skills, and take on the real work involved.

I sit here contemplating the new shrimp tank (formerly know as my “thug tank” due to being thrown together to house some aggressive skirt tetras who persisted in hassling my betta, and eating my shrimp). It’s… kind of a mess. lol Oh, not in any horrifying way, but less tidy than it will become over time, while also “too sparse”. I have to wait (patiently) for plants to take root and begin to grown in. I am also waiting for some varieties of plant to simply fail, being less suited to the water conditioned; trial and error on plants and livestock has been a small source of frustration. Everyone who writes or presents content on the topic of aquarium keeping has their own thoughts on the matter, based on their own experience in their own environment, with their own water sources, and their own research. My results vary, whether I follow them, or learn on my own. I do both. My results still vary. lol Patience is necessary.

This tank looks very different now, than it will in a couple weeks. Patience is necessary. Gaming with my Traveling Partner is very different right now, than it likely will become, over time. I am capable of learning. Sometimes it takes me a while, sometimes a ludicrous amount of repetition is needed – sometimes my “learning curve” is dependent on the kind of thing I am trying to learn, and how many “learning styles” it uses (or requires).

I learn best in an environment of positive encouragement and autonomy. I learn fastest when I do the work involved, myself. I learn most durably when there are a lot of opportunities for repetition, fairly consistent in frequency, over time. Few things shut down my learning process faster than impatient frequent criticism. I have only gained this understanding of myself with this much clarity fairly recently – a byproduct of self-reflection on this aquarium-keeping/game-playing path. Fewer distractions. More focus. No real opportunity to wander away in a moment of frustration.  Even learning these things about myself, which promises to improve future learning experiences, requires some patience – and a willingness to be vulnerable, and honest with myself about my specific challenges. Now I celebrate! Right?

…Um… No. There are still verbs involved. The map is not the world. The journey is the destination. We become what we practice. My results will still vary. lol This is a very human experience. I’ve simply added some depth of understanding, and a smidgen of personal awareness, to my approach to learning new skills – if I can hold on to that. Maybe I have already learned this before, and forgotten it, and now I am learning it all over again? That’s a real thing for me. This morning I laugh it off; it doesn’t change the joy I experience from watching the fish and shrimp in my aquariums, or the delight I feel when I score well on a game I am playing with my Traveling Partner, and hear his merry exclamation at how well I have done.

Being patient with myself (and therefore, also, being patient with other people) is so worth it!

…It’s time to begin again. 😀

I am sipping my morning coffee, considering the walk I am eager to want to take. I’m “not there yet”. lol My muscles ache from pushing myself, already. I’m not bitching about it, and I’m not unhappy over it. Sore muscles are muscles working a bit harder, doing more things that need done, and becoming more capable of more work. Consistency is a requirement for forward progress; if I skip the walk today over sore muscles, I don’t make as much progress toward my goals, nor as quickly, so… at some point? Walking. I’m not looking forward to the walking itself, although I’d like to. I am in pain. The walking helps the pain in my back and my neck (osteoarthritis), but is less helpful with the bad ankle that has to support the weight. Without walking, the weight remains an issue. With the walking, the ankle is an issue. I’m not saying it as though this is an unsolvable conundrum, either, just saying that these complications are part of my experience. 🙂 There’s a metaphor here…

It’s a journey with a lot of steps.

We become what we practice. Emotionally and physically. There’s not a lot of room to argue on this one. Are you hot tempered, easily frustrated, quick to react, and tending to fall back on negative feedback and criticism to communicate your needs? Well, that’s the person you become, over time, in a fixed and rather predictably unpleasant way. Are you tender-hearted, prone to tears in the face of negative feedback, (whether or not it is accurate or well-intended, or useful at all) particularly when it comes from someone whose opinion you value? Same slope; you become more of who you already are, and what you choose to do with the toxicity of the world around you, because it is what you practice. You may get called a bitch when you demand that your agency be respected, or when you insist on not being interrupted in a meeting, but that lack of boundary-setting? It’s a practice, too.

…Also? Don’t be a dick. Don’t be a bitch. Don’t call someone names, either; how about we start there? Speak gently. Be clear, and also honest. “Stay in your lane” in the sense that not every opinion you have actually needs to be shared (particularly with regard to your aesthetic, and someone else’s appearance). Check your assumptions – a lot of them are wrong (the science is in on that) – and practice deep listening, instead of waiting for your turn to talk.

Does it sound like I’m venting aimlessly, about commonplace bullshit we all seem to engage in, if not regularly, then once in a while? Well… then I’ve failed to communicate clearly. I’ll try again…

Your words matter. Use them with care. If you are communicating with someone you say you love, communicate with love – real love, using words and tone that make it very clear that the love is first and foremost in your mind, rather than some momentary frustration. Our bitterness, our hurt, our anger – once shared, it’s out there. Shared with emotional force, and absent the love that may be part of our experience, it causes real harms, real doubts about our affection, and can undermine that love we cherish so much.

Don’t let the sun set on a treasured relationship without saying something encouraging, supportive, authentically affectionate – the smallest moment of authentic appreciation and praise can change the color of an entire day. I am fairly certain most of us share negative feedback with cherished others almost every day… imagine the crushing weight of all that criticism, all that negativity, the constant pressure to raise oneself up from beneath the weight of it… Let’s not do that. Let’s handle our words with greater care, ensuring that we take more time for what is positive and uplifting that we do for things we see as problems needing correction.

I challenge you to practice even a 1 to 1 ratio of (authentic) compliments and (sincere) encouragement to criticism and requests for change. I hope you find that incredibly easy (and succeed) – because people need more love and encouragement than that, and as starting points go, it’s a bare minimum for success. I promise you that if you are only sharing negative feedback, that’s all that is being heard. That sounds like a pretty terrible experience to be on the receiving end of, just saying. Use your words as a force for good in your life, use them to lift others up, to encourage what is positive in everyone you meet.

A lot of people may grow up in environments in which very little positive feedback is shared, or the positive words are hollow superlatives about qualities they can’t control, and no attention given to the whole person. People coming from that place may not know how to give authentic positive feedback, and may genuinely not understand why it is necessary. They need to see it done, to feel it, before it will be something they can easily practice themselves. Is that someone part of your life? Be open to explicitly telling them what you need to hear – without excuses, or a need to justify yourself. It’s okay to need what you need, and it’s also quite okay to ask for it. 🙂 “I need you to say something nice to me right now.” may feel weird to say, but it is one place to start. 🙂

We’re all so human. There’s so much stress and hostility in the world right now. Our culture feels so toxic. Be someone who understands there is work to be done, and recognize you can do some of it. Be someone willing to do it. Be the change we need. Speak gently. Be encouraging and kind. Soften your tone. Be trustworthy. Be honest without being mean. Let small shit go. Don’t drink the poison offered to you. Don’t offer others poison.

Don’t like the world as it is? Be part of what changes it. We become what we practice. Practice being the person you truly most want to be. Every choice, every interaction, every day. Sometimes you will fail (I know I do); your results will vary. Practice more. 🙂 Be that better version of yourself, because you choose it, and it matters. Other people may not make these choices – don’t drink the poison they offer you, and walk your own path. 😉

It’s time to begin again.

I am fortunate that I slept last night. I wasn’t sure I would when I laid down to attempt it. An unexpected rise in the OPD [Other People’s Drama] levels in my life occurred on an order of magnitude sufficient to rouse my PTSD, and it hit me hard and derailed my pleasant evening.

I find myself making a funny face in response to calling it ‘unexpected’, when I consider the source; some people are OPD embodied, and once identified the only thing unexpected is that I found myself mired in it again.  It’s morning, though, and I did sleep, and my coffee is hot and tasty… it’s very tempting to stand in the patio doorway and shout into the dawn “You have no power over me!!” It would feel good. It would feel affirming. It would feel powerful. It would be dishonest – because I sit here, even now, concerned for my traveling partner and how he is treated by an entirely other human being than myself, and struggling to let it go. Truly, it’s not my relationship, not my drama, not my experience, and realistically I know the healthiest thing for me is to trust my traveling partner to take care of himself and make the best possible choices that meet his needs over time, and simply be here for him if he turns to me for help.

It’s hard to stand by and watch someone I love being chronically mistreated. I sometimes find myself feeling guilty for leaving a bad situation, myself… I know what long-term abusive behavior can do to one’s heart, mind, and soul – and there’s nothing of value to be had from that experience, besides leaving it behind with lessons learned. It is, of course, my own perspective on things, and because I have been more severely abused in other prior relationships and bear witness quite personally to the damage done, my testimony itself may be suspect – I am damaged, and it colors my perception. This doesn’t make me ‘wrong’ or ‘incorrect’ or lacking in ability to share my experience then (or now) – but it gives people who want to doubt me quite a lot of basis to support their doubt if they choose to. That’s more OPD in the making right there; putting doubt in my path as a sort of mirror of damage reflecting into another mirror of damage, and me sandwiched between defending my perspective and wondering what’s real.

I know some things from experience. I know leaving an abusive relationship behind doesn’t result in immediate cessation of suffering, nor guarantee healing – there are verbs upon verbs, and much practicing to be done to return to a state of wholeness and wellness. I know living in the context of abuse and mistreatment has literally no positive qualities to be had – and that people who are abusive may or may not ever change their behavior (or their intent), and whether they do or not, the damage is done. I know that I alone have the power to choose to walk away from being abused – and no one, however close to me, can make that happen, or ‘fix’ what doesn’t work on my behalf – and I know this truth is quite true for everyone who chooses to love someone who mistreats them. However much I love my traveling partner – I can’t rescue him from being mistreated in a relationship with someone else. That frustrates me, and the process of ‘being there’ for him when he needs emotional support re-exposes my own wounds, and my PTSD symptoms flare up with all the potential to wreck my experience – in spite of having walked away from the most recent direct source of that particular sort of chaos and damage. I know that my first order of business is taking care of me; I can’t be there to provide support to those I love without putting my own oxygen mask on first.

The lingering after-effects of emotional or physical abuse are quite lasting for me, reaching out from the distant past to strike me in my  present, taking me by surprise when I think I am safe. “You have no power over me!” is what I want to shout to the demons in the darkness – if I do, they will titter in the background, amused by my presumption; they are as powerful as ever, and every single day of joy I experience is taken from them by force: force of will, force of good practices, force of good choices, and the utter necessity to choose to turn away from them (whoever embodies them in my ‘now’) willfully again and again. The power they don’t have, though, is huge; they do not have the power to choose my response to their existence, and they do not have the power to determine my actions. I am free to continue to choose to walk away from OPD, and to decline to be mistreated; that’s always mine.

I don’t say much about the other person involved in all this, and with good reason; that person is not here to speak up in their own behalf, to offer mitigating information, to clear up misconceptions, or offer perspective – and we are each having our own experience. Most of us wander around fairly cluelessly hurting others, not by intent, but generally out of inattention, lack of skill in relationships, bad habits learned in childhood, or because we understood things differently after filtering reality through our own chaos and damage. I’m not sitting in judgement on someone else’s shitty behavior; I am entirely focused on taking care of me, learning from life’s curriculum, and distancing myself from people who mistreat me. I am distracted from those tasks by my concern for my traveling partner, and his experience…and I got sucked into the OPD by mistake last night, in the process of supporting my partner with kindness, compassion, and a ready ear, that’s all.

Enough.

Enough.

It’s morning, now, and I got the rest I needed last night, and woke feeling comfortable, rational, and content. It’s hard to want more than that, and it is more than I expected when I laid down to sleep last night. It’s enough.

Please take care of you, today, people – you are worthy of your very best care, your best treatment, your best manners, your greatest kindness. Please treat others well today, too; we are each having our own experience and you do not know what demons someone else may be dancing with in the darkness. (If your only way to treat yourself well is to treat others poorly, you’re not getting how this works – just saying.) Treat the people you love as if you love them; they deserve 100% of the best you have to offer the world, always.  It’s never too late to stop mistreating people, applying Wheaton’s Law is a good start.

This morning is a nice one. I rested well, woke most pleasantly and just a bit ahead of the alarm. No nightmares. My just-waking-up headache quickly dissipated, leaving only my tinnitus behind, and it, too, doesn’t seem that bad, today. My coffee is hot, and tasty, and a bold reminder of drinking my coffee straight up, dark, and robust in other lives, on other mornings. I’m not shivering in the cold. I’m not sweltering in heat. I am comfortable and content.

For some moments this morning, I was troubled by a strange far off sounding jingling – a holiday jingling that was sort of cute and fun at first, and quickly started causing me some stress; I couldn’t place the source of the sound, and it seemed… everywhere. Thankfully, I realized – before that had gone on very long – I’d chosen it. Oh, not mindfully, nope; it’s very early in the morning and I’m not quite entirely awake. I put on colorful holiday earrings this morning…a cascade of tiny… wait for it… jingle bells. LOL Yep. I chased myself slowly through the house listening for the source of a noise that was immediately next to my ear, small, delicate, ceaseless. (I’ll resume wearing them when I get to the office. The background noise is sufficient that the earrings won’t seem so loud.)

Use your words.

Holiday cheer, and the power of words; speechless is not voiceless.

So far, this morning is as light and pleasant as yesterday’s was difficult. Yesterday ended well, and the day itself was productive and worthwhile – it’s certainly not one that I find myself moved to regret on any noteworthy level; it lingers in my memory in a largely pleasant way, after-the-fact. I enjoy the malleable qualities of the mind, having learned more about making them work for me.

It’s the small course corrections, over time, that have made the most difference for me. I’m saying that because some day I, myself, may need to read those words again… There is a lot of ugliness in the news, and it is so easy to drown in the despair that comes of trying to consume too much bad news too quickly. Those small course corrections happen every day, all around us, and even those entities of great evil that appall and terrify us aren’t static, and change is; it exists whether we embrace it or not. Change isn’t always easy to see, and those small course corrections, and small changes, are not always enough to ease our suffering in the moment – it’s ‘not enough’, somehow, to see some change in the face of great evil. Still, change is, and I had an odd moment yesterday that drove that message home for me.

The value of incremental positive changes over time is huge…but it is easy to lose sight of the improvements, because things can still seem so… status quo.  Two recent South Park episodes were illustrative for me: Season 18, episodes 9 #Rehash and 10 #HappyHolograms. I had never actually been exposed to the popular internet commentator, PewDiePie, or even the phenomenon he represents. I’m not his target audience, so I’m not super surprised. Why does it matter? Incremental changes over time do matter…he became relevant for me when I read this quote:

25 October 2012, Kjellberg posted a Tumblr message, stating “I just wanted to make clear that I’m no longer making rape jokes, as I mentioned before I’m not looking to hurt anyone and I apologize if it ever did.”

That’s actually a pretty big deal. The quote is linked and cited in the Wikipedia article, which tends to support its value as potentially true. A valuable, very real, relevant small course correction. Incremental change over time. It’s powerful – he has a voice, he uses it. Rape humor is controversial, and it’s dangerous territory to be casual and insensitive about; it’s very easy to hurt someone who has been traumatized by rape by carelessly joking about the topic. As a survivor, I still struggle to find the balance between handling the horror, and the healthy healing power of humor and laughter. Most of the comedy I favor doesn’t stray into rape humor territory – but some of it does. It matters how it is handled, and it was those clear simple words assembled by PewDiePie that pointed out what makes the difference [for me]: respect and consideration. When the humor targets the victims as yet another attack on their credibility, or their suffering, it isn’t funny, not at all, not even a little bit. When the humor points the laser beam of comedy at the heinousness of the crime, itself, at the perpetrators, at the culture that ‘doesn’t get it’ – that’s where the laughter is for me. South Park gets it right, seating Bill Cosby on a couch next to Taylor Swift, holiday music playing, a glass of wine the focus of the scene…but we can’t hear what is being said, the voice-over is deliberately louder, distracting…social commentary, comedy genius. Funny enough that it didn’t really warrant a trigger warning. Subtle enough to avoid liability, and unlikely to frighten children. I laughed and laughed. I watched it again. I laughed more. I watched it yet again, and began find the details and references I’d missed the first two times. I’d send Matt Stone and Trey Parker holiday cards and well wishes this year, if I knew them. I’ll probably watch it again, soon. 🙂

Change is. Small changes matter – over time they become larger. I see hints of change in our culture. I see more people finding their voice – and using it. I see more human beings reaching across the details that divide them to recognize we’re all in this together. This morning, I feel encouraged and alive…I’m not sure why. It’s a lovely feeling to start the day on.

Today is a good day to pause and appreciate the change that is.