Archives for posts with tag: don’t take the bait

I look back on the weekend and find myself smiling in spite of notes of discord and discontent in life’s song. Learning to recognize the difference between emotional climate and emotional weather has been useful. 🙂

I spent what felt like a deliciously long Sunday on leisurely self-care in the form of housekeeping, marveling at the quality of my time, having not spent the morning in a fury heading up the highway. The drive itself was leisurely and pleasant. I arrived home feeling more balanced and content to begin with, and I guess it makes sense that the day was therefore more easily a pleasant one.

Why do I find myself, even now, surprised when things work as intended? When a practice intended to improve emotional resilience does do that, why would I be amazed? Is it only because I fought so hard to achieve that result using means that could not be expected achieve it at all, and grew to believe it was therefore not achievable? We screw with our own thinking far too much for our general well-being, don’t we? That’s what I find myself thinking about this morning.

My thoughts began with a meme posted by a new friend. Some random obvious-seeming list of statements that bites at me and worms into my consciousness expecting my agreement – and since there is a list, it’s likely I may agree with one or more of the listed statements, but… why would I swallow a pill of unknown origins handed to me by a relative stranger, based on casual assumptions about the effects, and no real data or confirmation of what, precisely, is in that pill, and the effects will be?? I wouldn’t do that. I know not to do that. We do that with our thinking all the fucking time, though, without pausing to consider just how important our ability to reason clearly really is, and just how fragile the sanctity of our cognition and will really are. Memes that “go viral” could be understood, seriously, as “viral”, indeed. A kind of sickness. A kind of contagion. Maybe mild and mostly harmless, but some of them really dig down deep and foster a sort of cultural reprogramming – and it would be wise to really consider them in context, more fully, and insist that the content we shove into our brains to be included in our actual thinking and behavior be, at a minimum, factually accurate. Just saying; don’t take poison. Even well-meaning, or humorous, poison has consequences.

We become what we practice. We “know” what we hear repeated often (even if it is not, in fact, true). Don’t just trust me on this; do your homework. Test your assumptions regularly. Try hard to prove yourself wrong, regularly – because you are wrong, more often than you know.

Don’t share poison. Don’t take poison. Practice cognitive good hygiene and intellectual self-care with the same rigor, attention to detail, and concern for your health and well-being that you do with your physical care (do better, though).

Don’t feed the trolls.

Don’t take the bait.

Do the verbs.

Begin again.


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. 🙂

This morning I woke with a headache. It’s okay, it’s not a bad one, just a garden variety probably-slept-too-long-with-my-neck-in-that-position headache. I feel fortunate that I didn’t wake with significant pain, otherwise, nor a kink in my neck – a particularly uncomfortable pain, when it is my turn to endure that experience.

My coffee is good this morning, but I’m struggling to bother with drinking it. I feel emotionally comfortable, though less so as the morning develops around this other strangely specific bit of discontent lurking in the background. It is mystifying and unsourced, and I am disliking the feeling that ‘there is more to know’ and I’d like to read about it. I think my first mistake was allowing myself anywhere near the news. lol I’d like to ‘settle in and read the paper’, honestly, but it is a feeling that hearkens to another time in my life, when the paper was actually reliably paper, probably inconveniently large for anyone else wishing to sit at the table with their coffee (or breakfast) and when being the person thusly engaged (in reading the paper) was also a sign of household status; everyone else made room for that person to do that thing, as if reading the paper were a critical function, respected and accommodated.


My father read the news at breakfast. My mother read the news privately. Implicit biases are more subtle than can be effectively discussed in sound bites, or memes. This observation is not apropos to this post.

I think my discontent comes from the experience of reading what amounts to ‘news’ this morning. I bounce from one news source to another, some domestic, some foreign, some right-wing, some left-wing, some ostensibly neutral (which lately I find only means that they have not made clear what their agenda may be). I even check a few favored trade journals and niche periodicals (usually science, medicine, and areas of artistic interest). I would enjoy spending the morning reading short informative factual articles on clear topics, thoroughly researched, well-cited, and relevant to my experience of life and the world. It’s not going to happen today. What the fuck is up with all the hate? With all the finger-pointing and blaming? With all the artificial outrage and vile mud-slinging? I’m not a fan of news-via-meme. I also really really like it when terms are clearly defined to ensure the best possible shared understanding. Unfortunately for me, factual, emotionally neutral, ad-free news reporting doesn’t keep readers coming back to generate more revenue.  Most of what is put forth as news lately seems to be [mostly unsupported] opinion and reactionary rhetoric, and ‘sponsored content’. It’s a big uninformative emotionally provocative downer. Clearly – I am emotionally provoked, right now. It’s our own fault as consumers; we take the bait. The click-bait, I mean. Yeah. Me, too. I gotta stop doing that – it’s not informative, and it takes a toll on my consciousness in an unhealthy way. I’d be better off re-watching South Park season 19, episodes 8, 9, & 10 before clicking on another headline, anywhere, ever. I’d ‘lol’, but I’m quite serious.

I rarely read the news these days. I actively avoid it. Unfortunately, my best effort there still results in reading many more pages of utter garbage, without meaning or value, than is healthy for me. Impulse control issues affect me in this area of life, too. Click-bait is most particularly designed to overcome our impulse control… and I’m a little short on that already. The internet is vast – and just filled with shiny sparkly nonsense intended to get my attention for purposes not my own. It takes practice to avoid it all. There are plenty of opportunities to practice.

What to do about my fractured unruly consciousness this morning and my cold coffee, is now the question… I sip my coffee (honestly, if I’ll drink it hot, and I’ll drink it iced, is there some reason to resist drinking it at room temperature?) and look out the window at the flat gray sky. Was I grumpy when I woke up? I sure am now. I am irked even about that.


There is value in literally stopping to smell the roses.

I sit for a moment, listening to birdsong, breathing deep calm breaths, and feeling myself relax. I take a mental step back from the internet, and consider the morning without all that. The dark green of the pine just beyond the window, and the brighter greens of the grasses of the lawn, then the meadow beyond, stand out from the flat neutral gray of the morning sky. Cyclists, runners, and walkers pass by, some distance from the window, beyond the playground at the edge of the park, too far away to see facial expressions or hear conversation. The stop/start rhythmic tapping of fingers on the keys seems loud in the stillness of morning; one observation at a time, one sentence then another, I rebuild the morning of better parts. It’s a good start to a better day. My coffee is cold, sure, but still tasty. I think ahead to a fresh cup of coffee after a hot shower, and consider taking a few more minutes for me on the cushion by the patio door; meditation is the thing that comes through for me most reliably to calm a busy mind, to soothe restlessness. “Easy” doesn’t describe it well, as a practice. Meditation is not costly. Meditation does not require special gear, elaborate equipment, or specific specialized coaching; given the interest, and the willingness to do the verbs, I’m pretty sure anyone could build an effective meditation practice on their own, with some bit of reading on the topic, and some… practice. Yeah. It’s about practicing, whether you want to play the piano, or calm your monkey mind. Skills take practice.

It's not always an uphill climb... there are definitely steps to take.

It’s not always an uphill climb… there are definitely steps to take.

Strange start to the day. Certainly a few uncomfortable moments don’t determine the day. I smile to myself, remembering my lunch plans a bit later, and later still my date with my traveling partner. Yeah… I’m okay right now… and this is totally enough. 🙂

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.