Archives for posts with tag: don’t read the comments

This has been, so far, a very complicated weekend, emotionally. That’s neither good news, nor bad, it’s just damned peculiar and quite unexpected, although each time some challenge is met and passes by I find myself thinking “how could it not be so, all things considered?”  It’s quite uncomfortable nonetheless. Some of the difficulties that have come up [for me] have been catalyzed by my traveling partner’s presence, which is just… so not okay with me. Other difficult moments have been dropped on my experience by OPD (Other People’s Drama), which could be avoidable, when I see it coming. In all cases, it’s been incredibly precious to have my traveling partner here for support, encouragement, and love. Even the difficult bits that were more to do with him than not are significantly eased by his presence, although I am not easily able to appreciate it fully in some emotional moments. I’m glad he’s here.

Sharing the journey can help me navigate obstacles more easily.

Sharing the journey can help me navigate obstacles more easily.

It’s clear, after a couple days dealing with me, that I’ve “hit a bad patch of road” on this journey, and my partner is my lover, my friend, my ally, my buddy, my confidante… but one thing he is not? He’s not my therapist. He suggests, and I agree, that it’s a good time to make an appointment with my therapist to discuss some of life’s recent… “inclement weather”.

Yesterday, quite unexpectedly, a Facebook friend (and long-time historical associate, someone who once resided in my home briefly), unloaded a quantity of emotional poison in the comment(s) on a post. The post was an innocuous seeming political post – I’ve been working on taking a more positive approach, instead of locking step with alarmist negative campaigning and media frenzy – and I wasn’t actually expecting anything from it (no likes, comments, views); I seriously expected it would be disregarded in the storm of shock-value headlines being shared, and angry rants about what isn’t okay today. Instead, someone I have long considered quite dear to me – a friend – just went off on me in an angry verbal outburst that crossed over to multiple threads, took many comments to write, and was just… It was the verbal equivalent of assault, and I definitely felt attacked. Viciously. Over a positive Facebook post supporting a presidential candidate. Ugly stuff – the sort of things that end up making the news because women deal with so much of it on the internet. I haven’t had to wade through much of that kind of thing – this time it came from someone I thought a friend. I was immediately overcome with horror, sadness, panic, fear; my PTSD flared up hardcore. It happened on the way to the farmer’s market. It could have gone very badly indeed. It wasn’t pleasant as it was.

My path is mine to choose.

My path is mine to choose.

I did my best not to panic. I read enough to recognize, appreciate, and deal with the practical matters; I deleted the comments, first (don’t leave spoiled poison on food prep surfaces). Threats, crazed hateful accusations, intimidation… this is not the sort of stuff that ought be left lying around Facebook where people could be hurt by it. I blocked this person who had once been dear to me; it isn’t in my best interests to excuse, tolerate, or justify someone’s ill treatment of me, or to permit it to continue. I was still in shock, shaken and frightened. PTSD is a bad-ass, and doesn’t back down easily. I finished my shopping with little enthusiasm, and headed for the safety of home. On the way, I logged into each social media account I have, of all types, and blocked the person who attacked me. Mistreatment is a very good reason to end a friendship.

I got home and sought space and isolation, seeking emotional safety. My traveling partner and another friend were hanging out, and when I attempted to excuse myself, asked me gently to share, instead, and be supported. I did. I didn’t expect much; men don’t deal with some of this sort of thing as much, or in the same way, or as often on the internet – their haters use different language, or maybe it reaches them differently, or… no, hell, that just sounds sexist. The simplest truth, I felt wounded and alone, and I didn’t expect anyone would really understand, and that I’d be told to ‘get over it’ and ‘move on’, and told to minimize the impact, or calm myself without regard to my actual experience. I was so wrong! My partner and my friend listened, looking angry and appalled, using words as first aid to help me past the worst of it. I cried. I let my hurts be soothed. It was very human, humane, kind, compassionate, loving – the sort of thing one expects from friends.

My traveling partner is right, though; in the space of such a short time, to hear from exes, to deal with internet haters and trolls, to ride out life’s storms in a dingy is a lot of work, and I could likely use a bit more help. I “need an oar” with which to row; it’s time to make an appointment with my therapist. My emotional experience, at least lately, is sufficiently volatile to evoke a question about hormones from my partner at one point; it’s an easy answer to “what the fuck?”, before menopause. There’s no shame in needing medical help, and having both a TBI and PTSD I am well aware that mental health care is “medical” in nature… so it’s off to the appropriate doctor I go. 🙂

It’s been quite wonderful to share the weekend with my traveling partner. To need him emotionally in some dark moment and actually have him right here is powerful. To want his company, and enjoy it without crossing town, is a treat. The pleasant moments have been by far the most plentiful. I try not to deal with myself overly harshly that I am so human, having made that remarkably clear this weekend with my difficulty managing my emotional life skillfully. I pause to really appreciate my traveling partner’s insight, and new awareness that I’ve been treating myself poorly on a couple points – it isn’t necessary, nor an accurate reflection of “what it is”. Attachment issues again? Oh yeah. So human. 🙂

Today starts well – most days do, actually, regardless what direction they go from there. I haven’t had enough sleep, and the sleep I got was restless and disturbed. I’ll probably crash early tonight, sometime after my traveling partner departs. Maybe not. I thought I was both tired and sleepy last night when I went to bed; I laid awake well past midnight, and woke at 4 am. I managed a nap until not-quite-six. The morning is cool and overcast. My head aches. I’ve no idea where the day will take me…but I know I am my own cartographer, having my own experience. I know I am not alone. 🙂

On the internet, and in life, there are trolls waiting for us all. Sometimes their attacks feel very personal. Experience suggests these attacks are rarely truly personal – how could they be without connection, and shared knowledge, and mutual understanding? Sometimes they definitely feel personal, though, and that’s where I get tripped up, myself.

I watched a couple of videos recently that are on point with the direction I am headed on this topic, this morning. One, from the vlogbrothers on YouTube. The other from School of Life, also on YouTube. Both have some relevant observations regarding that experience of succumbing to troll attacks – whether online, or in life. The mechanism is so simple: we are presented with information to which we object, or take exception to, or find offending in some way – and we react to it. It might be a comment on Facebook (as happened this morning, in my own experience) – someone reads the comment, objects to the comment in some way; it becomes an exchange. I enjoy such exchanges when they are reasoned, thoughtful, thought-provoking, and add to the dialogue of the world on important topics. That’s far more rare than it could be, and often it turns out to be comment > offense taken > bait offered > bait taken > loss of adherence to rules of logical discourse and finally the whole thing is wrapped up with an exchange of hostilities and elevated negative emotions. How suck is that? In my own experience this morning, some faceless unknown other citizen of the world took an observation about a system as a direct personal attack on her own actions, being, and place in the world, and returned those feelings as a very specific personal attack on me. Not necessary, and foolishly I responded – which wasn’t necessary, either.

Seriously. Just don't. :-)

Seriously. Just don’t. 🙂

We are each so very human. Taking something as a personal attack happens – I find myself mired in that bullshit too easily, too often, relative to the enjoyment in life I am seeking. (To be fair, ‘at all‘ is ‘too often’.) Once I recognize the pattern, I set clear boundaries and halt to the exchange and move on. It’s not personal – it’s can’t actually be personal between strangers, unless we choose to buy in, and accept that ourselves; we each have absolute control over whether we take something as a personal attack. I don’t have the time in this limited mortal life to feed trolls. (Are you nodding along?)

What if I am the troll? What if you are? If the dialogue is allowed to continue, it quickly becomes less clear who was the chicken, and who was the egg. With this in mind, I work to ensure I’m not out there baiting others on issues that are close to home, emotionally relevant, and potentially… personal.  As an individual, I tend to look at things – often – from the perspective of systems, rules, trends, and generalizations; this is one way I maintain perspective (not everything is actually about me). I sometimes forget that many people around me read every word from the perspective of “I, me, mine”. I am at risk of not recognizing that some small point I am making may feel very personal to someone else, perhaps because their perspective differs – or simply because they, themselves, as a practice take things very personally [by choice – because yeah, even here, there are verbs involved]. There is OPD around every corner – and some people dive into that pile with real enthusiasm; it is a choice. I can choose differently.

I am reminded this morning that there’s no need to feed the trolls. It is enough to be kind, to be clear about my thoughts and ideas, to be very specific and reasoned in presenting them, and to refrain from taking someone else’s words personally, or attacking their perspective (they are on their own journey). Listening deeply requires practice, and verbs, and a commitment to consideration and respect – if consideration and respect are not reciprocated, there is no need for further communication beyond a pleasant and polite word or two by way of departure. Argument achieves little, beyond stoking negative emotion. Civility is a lovely thing, and it goes beyond ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, and carries the potential to allow us to be clearly heard – and to clearly hear others.

Realistically, being civil offers no assurance others will be civil in return, and that can feel scary sometimes; in a world that values and fosters violence over reason, being civil can feel a little bit like laying down one’s arms. That’s actually part of the point; it is necessary to choose whether we are building a culture of civility, or a culture of violence. Still more questions than answers here, but I definitely prefer a culture of civility, myself, wherein human beings are valued, treated with kindness, compassion and respect, and one in which individuals think critically, and behave encouragingly – one in which growth is favored, nurtured, invested in – and appreciated. A culture of authenticity, comfortable personal accountability, and good-natured vulnerability. Am I dreaming? I don’t think so, myself – there are verbs involved, sure, and clear expectation-setting, and open communication is necessary – and practice. I practice every day. We become what we practice. The world we create is based on our choices, our actions – and our practices. If ‘practice makes perfect’, what are you choosing to perfect?

Today is a good day to choose civility. Today is a good day to walk away from hostility. Today is a good day to avoid taking things personally. Today is a good day to hear the hurt in another person’s anger, and to recognize how human they also are. Today is a good day for being and becoming, and offering an encouraging word to someone struggling. We’ve only got this one world to share, today is a good day to be civil about it.