Archives for posts with tag: listening deeply

I read a post online today that frankly offended me. Did you see it, too? It was so… well, you saw, right? :-\ Lingering outrage is a pretty common reaction. Sharing it. Talking about it. Coming back to it again and again. Writers, advertisers, and media outlets count on it; it drives “engagement” to get people mad or to offend them. Engagement means $$, or so goes the common thinking about such things. It seems to be true.

I didn’t link the post, no. That was deliberate. Why would I need to link it? Are we not offended, equally, by all the same things because all such things are entirely obvious?

LOL You know I’m messing with you there; it’s a ridiculous idea.

My apologies for messing with your head. Here’s a flower. ๐Ÿ™‚

We are each having our own experience, and the fun meme that made you laugh sooo hard that one time? Maybe that was a thing that hurt me to my very core, leaving me shaking and triggered. Isn’t that possible? Isn’t it equally possible to simple reverse the circumstances – you offended, me amused? Sure, it is. That’s the thing about being so individual, and why the idea of “equality” can be so tricky, linguistically. It’s tempting to let the abstract word games obscure our awareness that real people are really affected by… all of it. The words, the choices, the actions, the memes, the assumptions, the reactions, the excuses,ย  – every bit of all of it is part of a very complicated larger whole thing. We are human. We are all quite human. We are each having our own experience. We are unique and individual. We are a lot alike. We are all in this together. We each have to walk our own hard mile.

Are you right about what “is” offensive? Am I? Even if either of us are “right” about something we understand individually to be “offensive”, what is the value of our individual experience relative to the existence of all of the individual experiences of each of the other human beings also having their own experience? Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness… Don’t kill me. Don’t confine me. Don’t coerce or force me. It’s that “pursuit of happiness” that is such a challenge, is it not? Do I get to pursue my happiness in any way that undermines your ability to pursue yours? I would not expect to. Perhaps you think differently? Then what? And what of being “offended”? If I am offended by your words or actions, but those words or actions in no way do me any damage, risk my life, reduce my liberty, or stop me from pursuing my happiness…? What if it is my actual existence that offends you? Do I no longer have the right to be? It doesn’t follow that such would be the case, does it? We know better than that, at least …don’t we?

Here’s the thing about “being offended”; it’s an emotional experience. If I feel “offended”, that’s mine, and it can’t be taken from me any more than my anger or my sorrow can be taken from me (i.e.; only if I allow it); my emotional experience fully and wholly belongs to me. No one gets to tell me how to feel, how I “should”ย feel, or that my feelings are not “okay”. Having and experiencing my emotions is mine. Changing how I feel? Mine, too. People sometimes do or say things that result in my having an emotional reaction to what was said, or done. My emotions are still my own to experience – and mine to manage. It was a long journey getting to that understanding. Understanding that my feelings don’t dictate reality or obligate others to action was farther still to go. Understanding that my feelings are only feelings – sensations, emotions, perceptions – which are also exceedingly easily manipulated, was a bit farther still.

I generally don’t continue relationships with people who regularly do or say things I find “offensive” or specifically hurtful to me. I am learning over time that ending such relationships is important self-care. It’s not for me to choose someone’s values, or dictate what they may find amusing or acceptable; if I am offended by something, that is a reflective of my own values, and for me to resolve. Taking care of myself isn’t on their “to do list”. Simple enough, generally. Having taken this approach, as an individual, though, I find myself occasionally in the awkward situation of interacting with someone I’ve offended (usually with some thoughtless remark), who clearly has the expectation that I will take steps to “fix” the situation beyond a sincere expression of remorse for causing them upset, and making a point to understand their experience in context. I mean… yeah. I wouldn’t cause offense willfully, with the intent of hurting someone. That’s just mean. That’s not who I understand myself to be, at all. I am, however, capable of causing offense just by being the person I am… depending on who you are yourself, offense could occur. I’ll apologize for offending you, I surely will. Next step is for you to walk away, if there is a fundamental mismatch of values that may cause the offense to recur. Take care of you. I’m not likely going to be changing the person I am solely to avoid offending you, under most circumstances

On another hand, though, I do enjoy authentically connecting with other people, and I don’t enjoy hurting them. So, when I learn that something I am likely to do or say, particularly with any regularity, or by any preference or defining characteristic of self, is reliably offensive or hurtful to others, I take a long close look at that, and ask myself if that is who I truly want to be, and does it really reflect my values? Because it matters. Because I do care. Sometimes, I even care enough to change who I am, or how I express myself, in order to be a better human being, just generally. Sometimes, upon reflection, whatever the potential offending moment is doesn’t seem to be a thing I want or need to change, for myself, and I choose instead to stand firm on those values, understanding that my choices reflect my character, my values, and define who I am. I recognize that not everyone is going to find me likable. That’s okay, too.

My swearing, and sarcasm, are good examples to use to illustrate my point.

I swear. I swear rather a lot. I sprinkle my writing and my speech with swearing. Feels naturally expressive, and I use it as a sort of verbal punctuation. There have been times in my life when individuals of varying closeness have expressed a distaste for, or even been offended by, my swearing. I reflected on that long, and often, and chose not to change, other than refining the way I do use such language to be more limited, more specific, and less likely to be a direct attack on another person.

Sarcasm, on the other hand, once flowed from my lips like a singer’s song, and as it turns out, I’m also a bit “tone-deaf” in that form of speech. I can dish it out, but don’t understand it reliably when I hear it, and did not understand when I was much younger how easily people can be hurt by sarcasm, or how easily confused if they don’t recognize it, or at the extreme edges of the verbal form, how little difference there may be between sarcasm and, say, gas lighting or deceitfulness. It has a lot to do with whether or not the listener realizes what they are hearing is sarcasm. Turns out quite a few people, including me, often don’t recognize sarcasm when they hear, or read, it. I reflected a lot on sarcasm, and how I used it, how I received it, how I understood it – and how commonplace it is that someone else doesn’t realize what is being said could be being said sarcastically, resulting in misunderstanding. I chose to change. I rarely use sarcasm, even as humor, at this point in my life. Now and then, and usually without realizing I’ve done so until too late to reconsider, one might still hear sarcasm from me. It’s rare. Very rare. More common is to hear sarcasm in my speech and misunderstand me – because I wasn’t being sarcastic, I was perhaps, just… wrong. Or thinking I was being funny (I’m not that funny, and I have a very weird sense of humor based, primarily, on wordplay, and the layers of meanings of words). These days I try to stay very deliberately away from sarcasm. It’s hard to do well without hurting someone.

When do words matter? When don’t they? Language functions by agreement. Communication is most effective when we understand each other. We build healthy relationships most easily when we don’t use language to hurt each other. Explicit clarification of our position is more readily understood than implicit acceptance of assumptions. These things seem obvious to me. They resonate with me, personally, as fundamentals of speaking, of listening, and of being heard. I found it worth changing, to make use of these principles with greater ease. There are still verbs involved. I’m quite human. I still find it necessary to “check myself” now and then in a moment of frustration, or annoyance. Still, I have a good idea of who I want to face in the mirror each day, and what her values truly are. I make mistakes. I can begin again. I become what I practice. ๐Ÿ™‚

Things have been so peculiarly perfect in some regards, it’s been easy to become complacent about how good life is day-to-day, and how content I feel, generally. Tactical error, I agree.

I woke groggy this morning, head pounding from the headache I spent the night with (not a metaphor – I wish it were). I woke with Pink Floyd in my head. I don’t know what that says about anything. I also woke feeling vaguely embarrassed and slightly ashamed of myself. No point to any of that, it’s just my demons enjoying their moment to shine. I’m over it already. Drinking coffee, beginning again.

Frustration is my kryptonite. Last night, yet again, the closed captions on YouTube videos were on (I don’t use them, haven’t turned them on). This has come up before. It frustrates me, and creates some internal resistance to conversation, some irritability, and causes me to question my sanity – and to feel as if my partner questions my competence, every time he seeks to help with this. Hell, depending on which device I access, the closed captions are not even turned on, at all. Glitch? Bug? Well, maybe, maybe not, but it irritates the hell out of me, and leaves me feeling as if the fucking internet is gas lighting me.

…Do you see where this is headed?

So… yeah. My partner offers to help. I perceive “a tone” (doesn’t matter whether there was a tone, it’s the perception that triggers the reaction, and I explicitly understand this). I react, rather childishly, and although it wasn’t any sort of “thing” really, it created an uncomfortable moment rich with hurt feelings on both sides. I could almost hear my fucking demons laughing their asses off. We got past that; we’ve been together too long, and worked too hard on our own issues, to let something so ridiculous ruin a lovely evening. My headache wasn’t helping. Still, the evening ended on a good note, affectionate, connected, and real. It wasn’t left to chance. I made a firm point of very specifically letting all that bullshit go, even announcing that it was my intention to do so – which is probably a weird thing to say out loud, however effective it may be. It was still some minutes before my chemistry began to return to some sort of normal. (I find it helpful to remind myself that as with ingested substances, our chemistry can provoke “a high” specific to the chemical involved, and the “come down” – both in intensity, and in duration – varies with the circumstances and with the chemistry.) I still felt a bit distant when I finally called it a night and went to bed. I wasn’t sure I’d sleep with this headache…

…I guess my headache got some sleep too; it’s ready for a new day, today. lol (groan)

I drink my coffee. Reflect on my good fortune. Take time for a moment of gratitude, and to appreciate my Traveling Partner; he “gets me”, and understands my issues nearly as well as I do myself. We do okay. Last night fell short of supremely awesome, but it was still spent in the good company of this human being I love. That definitely matters more than a moment of stress. Life is filled with moments. A few of them are going to be more challenging than delightful. That’s just real. I’m okay. There’s no lingering ill effect, which is lovely. This moment, right here, is just fine – aside from the headache, which will hopefully pass. My coffee is warm, and delicious. The workday ahead should be a more or less routine one. I decide to ride the light rail again this morning, for ease, and laugh at myself because I said as much yesterday, ended up driving in and parking on the waterfront. (Yep. In the minutes between deciding to take the train, and getting the car onto the street to go to the park-n-ride, I entirely forgot that was my intention. lol) This morning, I think I’m firm on the decision-making… I’m probably not; I’ll know when I get in the car and “feel the day”. Maybe a lovely drive before dawn on a Spring morning is exactly what this headache needs?

I smile, thinking about my garden. There are flowers sprouting in big colorful pots, already. A couple of the roses have buds on them. I came home yesterday to an excellent new hose, and a new spray nozzle, which delighted me greatly. I sip my coffee reflecting on that moment, and enjoying how well-loved I am, and feeling an intoxicating mix of gratitude and love for this human being who loves me so. I notice the time, and instead of rushing off promptly, I remember that my day needs to end a bit later than usual, and so I have time to linger. Feels good. I hear my partner stirring in the other room. Coffee together, too? Maybe so… Great start to the day.

I begin again. ๐Ÿ™‚

Sipping my coffee, scrolling through my feeds, reading the posts of friends dropped into this app or that one, during the night. There is content that troubles me, and I see a lot of it; people posting vague remarks that are self-critical, negative, and on a hopeless sort of downer that shrieks of depression, self-loathing, and… a regrettable lack of understanding that there are, still, and yes, even if they are deeply depressed, some choices involved. Harsh. Why the ever-loving-fuck would someone repeatedly post this sort of quagmire of terribly self-contempt-filled morsels on which to feed themselves? Horrifying.

I don’t have to look too far in the past to “get it”. I only “don’t get it”, now. It’s one major drawback, for me, of healing and forward momentum; it can be hard to understand, or identify with, those past challenges. I guess I’m grateful for that, generally, but when I want to offer comfort, or suggest there is another way, I wish I were more easily able to do so. How do I tell someone in such circumstances “that’s just your opinion of yourself, and only for right now, and holy crap – did you know you can change that??”… when it is their own heartfelt convictions, and deepest terror, about themselves, that I’d be seeking to challenge? I mean, I can say words. Words I’ve got – lots of them – but, generally, these friends are not listening to those words. They hear the words they say, themselves, about the self they so loathe. Anything I could (and often do) say is drowned out in the din.

…It can be heartbreaking to scroll past egregious thinking errors that recognizably mire dear ones in misery. We each can only do so much. If a feeding frenzy of corrections, positivity, love, and encouragement, in response to such posts does nothing to bandage a wounded heart… what can? Well… being present helps. Listening deeply helps. Constancy and steady patient friendship helps. Eventually, though, it’s down to that person and those feelings. …And the verbs…? Yep. No surprise; they’ve got to do the verbs, themselves. No one else can actually undertake to do the work to feel better, aside from the person having the shitty experience – particularly if that shitty experience is one they’ve willfully crafted for themselves and reinforced over time.

Well… shit. That sucks. I’d love to be able to reach out a hand to a friend and take their pain away. Generally, it does not work like that. If I cling to them, wrapping myself up in their pain, eventually some may even sap my strength for living my own life, and caring for my own heart – and not out of malice, just done in a way not so dissimilar to someone overboard grabbing for a life vest or flotation device and just holding on desperately. So, I focus on self-care, and listening deeply, and sharing the journey, and “being there” – but I also work to set skillful boundaries, to be there for my own self, reliably, and to avoid getting sucked into drama. I do what I can to encourage friends who are suffering to choose less suffering, if they are able to. I still feel sad when I watch them choose suffering again and again, in a way that appears crafted and willful. My heart aches for them; I’m pretty sure that if they were able to really understand how much suffering they specifically choose, foster, nurture, and feed, they would also understand they could choose differently.

…I couldn’t treat myself differently until I both understood that such a thing were possible, and – but? – also not until I was ready to see myself differently, and as worthy of better treatment from myself. Harsh – but the truth of it is that I can’t walk that mile for anyone else. I can only suggest that there is such a path available to be walked.

It was a lovely quiet weekend, spent in the gentle good company of my traveling partner. Some snow fell. Some rain fell. Movies were watched. Content was shared – as was contentment. It was warm and connected and close. It feels good to share the company of such good companions: my Traveling Partner… and the woman in the mirror. It feels good to be in a place in life where my own good company is precious to me. I finish my coffee, wondering what words it takes to suggest to the worn down, forlorn, depressed, or anxious, that they, too, have this amazing relationship near at hand…? That perhaps the answer to the question “when will I find someone?” could be found in their mirror, right now?

The coffee is finished. It’s time to begin again. ๐Ÿ™‚

We are each having our own experience. As true in this calm moment as in any moment of chaos. ๐Ÿ™‚ I sip my morning coffee, already cold because I got caught up in listening to music, and chatting with a friend online. I don’t mind. The music – and the friendship – are very much worth my time.

I sit here contentedly musing over the conversations of the week behind me, and the evening, last night. It was an excellent first week at the new job. It resonates pleasantly in my memory. My Traveling Partner and I worked out plans to do with benefit selections, and changes to the budget for the year to come. No stress, anxiety, even though the topic was definitely to do with money. I smile and let myself recognize the growth that experience implies – and the healing. I’ve come along way with myself, and savoring that awareness is, itself, a form of growth and healing. ๐Ÿ™‚

At one point, we decided to watch a couple of videos that intend to contrast “get ahead habits” with “fall behind habits”. Both had excellent content, in some regards. Both were also deeply flawed, depending on context, perspective, and framing. This presented a challenge for me; I was viewing them from an awareness of other experiences that made some of the points in these videos… problematic. For one thing, I’ve told you that these were videos about getting ahead versus falling behind, but the content creators don’t actually frame them up that way at all; they say the videos are about “poor people” versus “rich people”. I found that, frankly, highly objectionable, and it kept getting in my way of my ability to listen deeply to the actual points being made, which in several cases had real value. More than anything, the implicit definition of “rich” as de facto equivalent with “successful”, “deserving”, or “good”, and of “poor” in a litany of negative ways presented with a shaming tone was super aggravating. The videos were purposefully made with a very particular demographic in mind; people who want to get ahead in life, from where they are right now. Rich versus poor is a common enough false dichotomy in our culture, and it’s also not uncommon to blame poor people for poverty, or to treat rich people as though they are also ethical, and deserving. I just also think it’s fucking mean to take that approach.

Here’s the thing, though; the content has value. The points being made were not in error, generally. The points were merely drastically over-simplified, lacking in nuance, and stripped of context – in order to make those points more obvious to an audience that may not understand. The terms “rich” and “poor” weren’t being defined with any clarity to provide context – rich is rich, and in the videos no distinction is made between wealth gained through ill means (fraud, theft, exploitation), inheritance, or good fortune, and wealth gained through skillful endeavors. Actually, and I think it is what was annoying me most, the videos very carefully imply that all wealth gained is a goodness, and eschew any discussion of ethics. Same with poverty. The content providers allow an implication that enduring poverty rests on the decision-making of the poor, without even a hat tip to misfortune, institutional racism, or the very real limitations our culture has placed on people’s access to the tools and knowledge that might ease their scramble from poverty to… not being held back by poverty. The content only has two options: rich or poor. No discussion of middle-class success… or any discussion of success versus wealth – conflating cash hoarding with success in life tends to lock out viewers who might see success quite differently than a mountain of cash.

I watched them again this morning, and considered the points from many angles, allowing myself to “talk back” to the faceless narrator. I got more from them the second time through. I still think the content could have been more nuanced, deeper, more authentic, and more informed by explicit discussion of ethics, success, and happiness “metrics” that are more legitimate than a bank balance. I ask too much; the content provider knows their trade. I am not their audience – I am an eavesdropper gleaning something useful from a discussion that doesn’t have much to do with me, really. The target audience may not have the will or interest in also learning to live well, behave ethically, be their best selves, and treat others (and the world) well. They aren’t there yet. They just don’t want to be poor. An understandable position to take, and I hope they succeed at escaping poverty.

I hear my Traveling Partner stir in the other room. The weekend is here. I smile and finish my cold coffee. It’s time to begin again. ๐Ÿ˜€

This morning feels a bit like emotionally squinting into the full measure of mid-day sunshine, as I sip my coffee quietly, letting myself wake up to face the new day. The coffee is good. I’ve got butterflies in my tummy, like an excited kid. This morning, I choose to interpret these physical feelings as excitement. In other moments, perhaps I’d see it as anxiety; they feel too similar to me, and sometimes I just confuse them.

How many such firsts will I experience in life? First days. First dates. New jobs. New destinations. This very specific experience of excitement and quiet tension is one of firsts. Change. Not just that roller coaster of experiences of change that is, itself, the living of life; this is the experience of choosing change, choosing to “really go for it”, and staring directly into that process, and participating with my entire will, unified in a single purpose. Exciting barely describes it. I feel a tad breathless and wild-eyed around the edges.

Meditation helped.

I’ve checked my laptop backpack too many times, already. It has in it what it needs for the day; the laptop, a book, my kindle, an ink pen, a notepad. It matches the purse I’d purchased for the start of my last job, and the weekend bag I had purchased when I began traveling regularly to see my Traveling Partner. I feel so grown up. lol Delight fills my moment. I add it to the excitement. I try to also maintain some small amount of focus on a couple of errands I need to run after work. I sip my coffee and wonder when that will be?

New day. New beginning. New verbs. Old sweater. lol That’s fine; it’s a favorite, and it’s enough. Mustn’t lose sight of the exquisite value of sufficiency and perspective as I start down a new path; what has mattered so much, matters still. ๐Ÿ™‚

It’s just time to begin again. ๐Ÿ˜€