Archives for posts with tag: play nicely

[Oh hey, I’m talking about emotion and domestic violence in this one. No surprises. Please take care of you. <3]

Think about this carefully; anger doesn’t solve very many relationship problems. It’s not that anger is “powerless” – it isn’t. It’s a dangerous force for change, particularly in the context of lost self-control, lost perspective, and a righteous sense of entitlement, possession, or justification. Tragedies happen by way of uncontrolled rage. Clearly, anger can be quite powerful. “Violence never solved anything” is both true and false – and very much dependent on what we mean by “solved”. If we end an argument with violence, we’ve ended the argument certainly, but whether that counts as a solution depends on whether everyone walks away undamaged.

There was a time I didn’t understand emotional violence as violence – primarily because I lived in a messy tangle of both physical and emotional violence, served up with a hearty helping of military life, as well as gas-lighting. Emotional violence was the least of my worries. I didn’t understand my experience. I lacked the emotional intelligence to understand that I had options – and choices. It’s hard to look back comfortably on the choices I did make. Like a barefooted journey across hot asphalt and broken glass, every step did more damage. I lived with continuous fear and anxiety. I rarely slept. The emotional violence in my relationship was the least of my worries; I just wanted to survive the physical violence. I eventually got out of there, safely away, and sadly still unaware of the worst of the damage that had been done, because that wasn’t physical at all.

Physical injuries heal in a physical way. Bones mend. Scars fade. My arthritis follows me everywhere, but as a consequence of earning my freedom from fear it is a reminder that I live…still…it fucking hurts. I never forget how I got here. Tomorrow is 22 years since a nightmare ended. I ended it. I walked on.

…I took the chaos and damage with me…

The worst of the damage was emotional. I didn’t understand that for a long time. I understood “symptoms” – complex PTSD has many – diagnosis in hand, I recognized that I seemed to have no ability to manage my emotional volatility, as a symptom – as something that happened to me. I didn’t understand how accountable I actually was for my actions, though. I didn’t really “get” that like it or not, when my feelings become choices that become actions that affect other people, I am responsible for my actions. There’s no argument there, so just don’t. “Hormones”, “PTSD”, “a terrible headache” “a tough day” – none of these things actually make it okay to be emotionally violent with someone (most especially and particularly someone I say I love). I didn’t understand that I could – no, seriously, I totally mean this – I could choose to behave differently. My experience is my own. My emotions are entirely mine to feel. My choices are mine to make. I am responsible for my actions. Not one moment of personal misery really excuses treating someone else badly.  I was slow to learn this lesson. I carried the violence forward into my future with me, woven into the damage I’d survived, and expressed it as uncontrollable impotent rage, meltdowns, tantrums and frequent loss of rationality. I’m done making excuses for emotional violence – few people die in a literal way from emotional violence, but the life they are left with is changed. It’s really not okay to behave that way. (Nope, PMS, PMDD, they don’t excuse it either. Get help. Make amends. Say you’re sorry, for fucks sake. Do better over time.)

I’m glad to be moving. Escalating domestic violence next door is uncomfortable to live around. It fucks with my head when I hear the yelling through the walls, the slams and bangs, vague and undefined. There are no good guys. Only human beings unwilling to choose differently and calling it “love” (it isn’t).

Look around. There’s a lot of that going on. We can choose differently. All of us can do better. I can. You can. That person pulling out a gun on the highway to shoot a teenager can choose differently, too; they chose their actions. Think about what that means. Feel your feelings. Behave well. Treat others well. Recognize the subjective nature of your emotional life, and don’t inflict weaponized emotions on other human beings. Fuck your hormones. Fuck your PTSD. Fuck your anger. Care. Care enough to choose better behavior. Care enough to be the person you most want to be. Care enough to seek help if you need help. Care enough to take care of you – well. Care enough to take a step back from a difficult situation. Care enough to understand that each of us is having our own experience – and it’s ours, not to be taken from us. None of us belongs to another.

I say that, then sadly spend minutes contemplating the very real continued existence of slavery and violence around the world. I don’t really know what to say. I am saddened by the constant awareness that there is so much violence loosed on the world. That we wear the face of our own destruction, as a species.

We can all do so much better to treat people well than we actually do. What will you do today to become the person you most want to be? We become what we practice. What are you practicing?

Be kind. It’s a simple enough suggestion. It’s not expensive to be kind to people (or animals, or celebrities, or nice things you may have acquired along life’s path). Further, what good reason is there to be unkind? Oh sure, there’s a lot of wiggle room between ‘kind’ and ‘unkind’ that isn’t so clearly defined. Can we accept that both kindness and unkindness are likely active choices or processes, rather than just fumbling along doing and being? If so, and we also recognize that most of us living in the U.S. probably heard the ‘be kind’ message, the ‘play nicely’ and ‘do unto others’ messages pretty repetitively growing up…what the hell is the matter with us as adults? Have you seen the way people treat each other? The nastiness? The negativity? The vicious unending criticism of self and others? The callousness and cruelty built on foundations of self-righteous entitlement and us/them thinking? So…um…if this is our idea of ‘kindness’ or ‘good treatment’ of our fellow man…maybe we would do well to be kinder than that? Seriously.

Sorry. I’m sick with a head cold, and feeling out of sorts. Life’s day-to-day bullshit and drama are more easily tolerated, avoided, or managed more skillfully when I’m not ill. My emotional resilience is limited – and when I’m sick, my default reaction is often anger; I honestly just want to be treated gently, supported, and cared for – because I’m sick.  Of course I’m not alone in that; it’s spring, and the second significant wave of illness has hit the area (there’s ‘flu’ season, then just as spring gears up, we often see a major short-term increase in people out of office with colds).  I’m pretty sure I picked this cold up either in the office or on the commute. (Cover your coughs/sneezes, people, please!) Hell, I’m not even the only person in the household who is ill this week.

Here’s the thing about kindness that I notice most often; people aren’t doing it. A lot of people, totally not investing even the slightest effort to be kind, and instead actively investing will, intent, emotion, time, choice, and action into treating people poorly – not just any people, the people they say matter most! I regularly see or hear people being total dicks, seriously hurtful and unkind, to friends, lovers, even family. What the hell? These are people we care about? What’s the thinking there?

What does kindness really look like?

What does kindness really look like?

I’ll take a real-life example – a stranger from a recent bus ride – to illustrate. A woman gets on the bus, she is on a phone call. She is talking very loudly, and it is not possible to avoid overhearing every word of her phone call (at least her end of it). So, okay – that’s our first moment of unkindness; she seemed utterly unaware that this behavior could be disruptive or unpleasant for other passengers at all. As the call progressed I learned way to much about her, but it fuels the writing this morning. 🙂 She was angry, and venting to a friend about her resentment that her current lover expected her to shower before sex (note, this is happening late in the afternoon on a Wednesday) and observes “I just had a shower on Sunday morning, and it’s not like I’ve had sex since then!”. I’m struck by her resentment… we live in a pretty hygiene conscious society, and my own perspective in this context was to feel just a little shocked that she’d admit to ‘being so nasty’. lol (I am aware that different standards exist in other cultures, and that the frequency of bathing in other circumstances could reasonably be quite different.) She goes on from there to rant about his many other lovers that she is sure exist, and all manner of vengeance she is inclined to enact due to the existence of these other lovers. The conversation continues. In the space of a few minutes she rather self-righteously exclaims a variety of fairly criminal acts to be within reason for her, in her circumstances: stealing her lovers phone to go through his address book without his consent, contacting people she doesn’t know to say derogatory things about him (specifically untrue, and she’s quite clear about that, too), physical violence against her lover or his potential lovers, arson, homicide, assault, gas-lighting, stalking… and all delivered in a tone of utter self-righteous entitlement, and clear anticipation that her position is rationally supportable and justified. It was actually pretty  horrifying to listen to. I could not help but wonder why anyone would have sex with someone who would say such things about them, or potentially behave in any of those ways! She directed an equal measure of implied invective toward herself stating assumptions about other women with similar characteristics reflecting her self-defined short-comings, and the imagined advantages held by women of others sorts. (She was very concerned about the weight of her lovers potential paramours, and made it clear that ‘skinny girls don’t have these problems’ – which goes well beyond any acceptable lack of social awareness for an adult, I think.)

Am I gossiping? I hope not… I am also doing my best to avoid being (or sounding) judgmental… I’m trying to get around to making this point; be kind. Treat yourself and others well. Sure – but if you don’t understand that being loud on a cell phone on the bus is unkind to other passengers, will you know not to do it? If I don’t understand that making threats of violence when I am angry is unkind to people for whom that level of acting out causes anxiety, will I know to work on handling my volatility differently? If we live in a culture where we regularly see people treated as property, will we understand that people are not property – and that assault and arson are not appropriate responses to another human beings sexual decision-making? That it isn’t okay to kill people because we’re angry with them? The woman on the bus very clearly believed in her cause, and that she had been wronged, and that any action she might take to redress that wrong would be acceptable – who taught her that? Who taught her that her lover becomes her property because they have a sexual relationship? Who taught her that someone else’s needs are of less importance than her own? It really got me thinking about me – about what I do or don’t expect from people, and what I find appropriate day-to-day – and why. I can do better, day-to-day, to be kind. I can’t find any reason not to.

Many years ago I was admittedly not particularly concerned about kindness. I didn’t ‘get it’. (Righteous rage doesn’t make much room for compassion or kindness, honestly.) I think about kindness a lot now. I am not able to make a good argument against being kind – but I see a lot of ‘traps’ along my journey; it is tempting to rationalize very good sounding reasons to exclude one person or another from being treated with kindness. It isn’t easy to maintain kindness toward others when I’m having a difficult moment, or feel angry at that person I am tempted to be unkind towards. It is sometimes difficult to be skillful at not permitting myself to be taken advantage of or treated badly in the face of kindness; I know I have much to learn, and I also know that kindness is possible without sacrificing good self-treatment, consideration, and self-respect, too.  Life’s curriculum is rich, complex – and rewarding. I am still a student. I am still a beginner. “I am only an egg.”

What does it take to build a beautiful life?

What does it take to build a beautiful life?

Today is a good day to be kind. It’s also a good day to be kinder than that. It’s a good day to take being the woman I most want to be to another level. We are each having our own experience; a kind moment might be all that other person needs to thrive. It’s a good day to be the change I wish to see in the world.