Archives for posts with tag: the nicest person in the room

Global superpowers have weapons of such indescribable destructive power they are referred to as weapons of mass destruction, or ‘WMD’. Very few people approve of the use of such weapons. WMDs are indiscriminate killers, laying waste to large populations at the point of impact, and involving sometimes a tremendously large area – and a lot of people. These are weapons so deadly that there are numerous treaties and rules by which people have agreed to play nicely, in order not to use WMDs. Very scary.

"Oil Fires" oil on stretched silk, 24" x 65" 1992

“Oil Fires” oil on stretched silk, 24″ x 65″ 1992

I find that in relationships there are also WMDs…but they’re different. They’re ‘weapons of mass distraction’ – behaviors, and language that undermine relationships with no positive outcome, not used for any constructive purpose, that hurt the person they are launched at without any other likely outcome being possible – and highly likely to hurt anyone in the immediate vicinity, too, through the sudden escalation of ‘OPD’ (Other People’s Drama), resulting symptoms ranging from discomfort, to emotional trauma. Make no mistake; weapons of mass distraction serve no obvious positive purpose, and in my own experience appear to be chosen for maximum damage (whether people who practice such damaging behaviors are doing so willfully, or with any real understanding of the damage they do, is a very different question, and I have no answers there). Human beings are capable of causing each other real harm – we’re very fancy primates, and we’re by far the most violent of the primate species.

I’ve been in relationships that would be easy to call ‘abusive’, one of which was quite dangerously physically violent, and I’m lucky to have gotten out alive. One was peculiarly emotionally painful, and did me lasting and nuanced damage over years of manipulation, gas-lighting, and financial abuse. I can’t honestly say at this point that one was truly worse than the other, in some respects; they both left scars, and they both affected the way I understand my fellow-man. Being treated badly by someone who says they ‘love’ you is one of the most horrifically sucking unpleasant experiences, ever. Along the way I discovered that I could choose to be changed, becoming what hurt me so badly, lashing out at the world with similar behavior, and hostility – or I could allow myself the greater challenge of learning, growing, and continuing to become the woman I most want to be, taking care to heal my heart over time, and making better choices, myself. It hasn’t always been easy.

I find that it can be tough to be certain that an emotionally abusive relationship is actually what it is – I never want to recognize that I have chosen so poorly for myself. I have learned to accept that some behavior just isn’t part of the set of Behaviors Common to Love, and I now accept them as clear warning signs of potential abuse. You likely have a few of your own, learned over time. I find that there are 3 behaviors that come up frequently in abusive relationships I’ve been in, that rarely show themselves in good relationships at all: contempt, a practice of continuous criticism, and controlling behavior.

Contempt hasn’t got anything whatever to do with love. There’s not a moment of contempt that ever whispered ‘I love you’ to someone being treated that way, and the damage of being treated with contempt lingers. It’s hard to find more to say about this one; relationships with a lot of it definitely aren’t loving. It’s a nasty way to treat someone under the guise of love, and the damage done lingers.

Controlling behaviors are commonplace in dysfunctional relationships of all kinds. Feeling controlled is definitely a hallmark of abuse in my own experience, and the resulting frustration and feeling of helplessness, and diminishment in personal worth can easily result in reactive acting-out, in a spirally see-saw of love-killing behaviors in which ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’ becomes very unclear. Vulnerability, genuineness, and intimacy are critical to love – and not possible in a controlling relationship. Controlling relationships often outlast love, long before they are finally over. I wonder what point there really is for very controlling people to be in romantic relationships at all; from my perspective it often appears they’d be happiest without the complications of the free will of others, or the requirement to treat them well, and respect and consider their humanity.

Criticism is another thing I find common to abusive relationships. I don’t mean constructive feedback about best practices, or supportive dialogue about personal growth. I am talking about the constant negativity, constant complaining, and chronic assumptions of errors in action or judgment that only a person well-practiced in the hostile art of criticism truly understands. I am specifically pointing to ‘blame statements’ based on unvalidated assumptions, and commonly any attempt to refute the underlying assumption is met with further criticism – generally that I am being ‘defensive’. Personally, I find that in principle it’s acceptable to defend myself when attacked – and there’s the thing; in a loving conversation why would we attack each other in the first place? “ABBAB” (Always Be Belittling and Berating) has no place in love. It can be a balancing act; taking care of me certainly requires that I speak up when something unpleasant becomes a household practice I don’t care for… right? Well, but here’s the thing – can’t it be communicated without an attack? Without tearing someone down or hurting their feelings? Without resulting in disrespect, hostility, or questioning the worth of the other person as a human being? Yes, it sure can. (I highly recommend it, however it requires considerable practice for some of us, and a lifetime commitment to being kind.)

Love doesn’t thrive in relationships built on a foundation of contempt, control, and criticism, and it won’t be particularly relevant how long it ‘lasts’ – that shit’s not love.

"You Always Have My Heart" 8" x 10" acrylic on canvas with glow.

“You Always Have My Heart” 8″ x 10″ acrylic on canvas with glow.

It seems unkind to point all this out and then not say something positive… so, here’s something amazing, and simple, and lovely that I recently read, that seems the simplest possible rulebook for building love.  Maybe you think there’s more to it? Well, okay, I recently read this, too, and it is very practical worthy advice. Considering the wealth of information on how to build love, how to make love last, how to invest well in love and loving… what excuse does any person have to continue to treat people poorly, especially those they claim to love? Hell, two strangers can meet, talk, and fall in love in hours – tell me how it is acceptable for a moment to treat someone you love with contempt, or to criticize or control them? None of us need that. It sure isn’t love.

Try love sometime; it’s quite wonderful.

Are you finding yourself in disagreement with what I’m saying about love? Are you defending yourself in the moment? Already setting up the argument in your head, and not really hearing what I’m saying? Could be a nice place to start for some handy self-exploration; a character quality of ‘being disagreeable’ is another way to kill love, and generally unproductive and unpleasant to live or work around…although not really a ‘WMD’.  “Agreeableness” is an extraordinary character quality in a human being – and one of my most favorites to cultivate, myself, and to seek out in others. “The nicest person in the room” is nearly always someone who has a character quality of being very agreeable, and it isn’t at all about whether or not they agree with some one opinion, or whether they do or don’t dispute factual errors. It’s more about being cooperative, sympathetic, kind, considerate – being ‘a good sort’, basically. Agreeable people are marvelous to be around, warm and supportive in times of difficulty, and agreeable people know intimacy on a whole different level. Seriously. Try it out sometime.

Your results may vary. There are verbs involved.

Today is a good day for love, and a good day to be the nicest person in the room. Today is a good day to build someone up, instead of tearing them down. Today is a good day to respect boundaries, and be compassionate about limitations. Today is a good day to recognize that saying ‘I love you’ doesn’t say I love you half as well as loving will. Today is a good day to change the world.

 

I’ve started this one twice three four times now. I had a difficult night, and I haven’t been successful, yet, at putting it behind me. I must have awakened weeping a million times, once I fell into a restless troubled sleep, and the night lasted just about forever until I woke, about 5 minutes before the alarm would have gone off. Tears streamed down my face when I rose, and as I selected my clothes for the day, and while I stood in the shower. I don’t know that there is much to say ‘about’ it. I’m feeling the weight of years, and changes, and the slow, inconvenient process of aging in the context of relationships with much younger people.

Winter. It's a metaphor.

Winter. It’s a metaphor.

Over the past few days there have been highs and lows, the everyday, the sublime – in short, a very human experience. Why is this one, today, so hard? Why do I feel like ‘giving up’, right now? What is it, exactly, that I would give up on? I guess I should admit that it’s a pretty everyday, mundane sort of complicated human experience that is probably pretty commonplace – however alone I feel right now – and bitching about it (or crying) doesn’t actually help. It’s “The Sex Thing”, you see. Yeah – pretty personal stuff. Hard to write about, for me, with comfort and clarity…too many of my eggs are in this basket, metaphorically speaking; it’s caused me difficulties for a long long time. I love sex, and generally want more of it than any relationship provides. My sense of self is pretty entwined with my sexuality, too, which complicates some things, at this point in my life. My body – and mind – are going through some changes with this whole menopause thing, and sensations and emotions feel different, my body responds differently to touch, my chemistry has changed/is changing. I’d love to say ‘only the parts of my experience that are affected by my reproductive hormones are being affected by these changes’ – but typing the words immediately becomes comedy in my head. I’m a female human primate – what part of my experience isn’t affected by my reproductive hormones in some way? I don’t suppose I’m making things any easier to be in therapy for issues that developed around sexual trauma, domestic violence, and identity, while I am wrapping things up as a reproductively viable adult, either. The challenges and frustrations just keep piling up, until… I spend an eternal night weeping in my sleep, and wake feeling…

I feel like my heart is breaking.

There's often something beyond the obvious.

There’s often something beyond the obvious.

So. I woke early, and without difficulty, which is a nice enough start to the return to work for the new year. 2015. My traveling partner was sweet to me this morning, making me a tasty latte while I was in the shower. Detail by detail, I pick up the threads of my work routine. I’ve no enthusiasm for it, this morning. It seems likely to be a day I spend in the ladies’ room between meetings, splashing cold water on my face, and hoping to drag myself through it all with some measure of grace, and acceptance. On top of tears, I hurt. I’m not surprised – crying in ones sleep must be quite stressful, which would likely result in tense muscles, weird sleeping postures, and this wicked headache I woke with. I still manage to take care of me; medications taken on time, drinking plenty of water, choosing a morning yoga sequence with calming postures, and meditating. The water will matter in the most obvious ways, and it is the thing I would be most likely to overlook, so remembering to drink more water is a win, on a difficult Monday morning.

The first work day of the new year, and I’m feeling irritable and self-involved. I’m also committed to sorting it out and finding my way to a better place. Even in the midst of tears on a moody Monday morning, I recognize life’s joy and pleasure is within reach – if only I can raise my hand to reach for it. There’s will involved. Choices. Verbs. A commitment to change and to action is needed, and it’s not always easy.

I don’t do ‘resolutions’ to celebrate the new year…but I have goals, intentions, commitments – like anyone might. It’s a season of change, and hopefully of growth, too. In 2015, I am pointing will, choices, and action in the direction of being simply the most genuine person I have within me, while also learning to be the most kind, compassionate, reasonable, considerate, loving, and good-natured genuine person I have the ability to be…and since change is, and I am embracing it, it’s my hope that as the year progresses I can be more of those things over time. Which one of those qualities is most important to me? Being genuine. The rest will come with time – because the people in my life really matter to me, and I would treat them well. I will listen more, talk less, and make an active effort to make my default setting to take an agreeable tone in negotiations, and to live well, and pleasantly. From my perspective within myself, I don’t do ‘mean’, and I don’t do ‘bitchy’… but I know that isn’t necessarily the experience everyone has with me. I am hoping to reach a point as a being when I am a woman of whom others might say, themselves, in a firm way with conviction, “Oh, she doesn’t do mean, and she doesn’t do bitchy.”  That’s not intended to communicate that the opinions of others matter to me more than my own evaluation of self, not even a little bit, but how we treat others isn’t actually defined by our intent, or what we meant to do/say – it is 100% and entirely about how what we do/say is received by others. That was hard to come to terms with, initially, but it has been an important understanding to have.  (If you find yourself constantly suggesting, or commenting, that people should ‘grow a thicker skin’, or somehow be less sensitive, you may want to check yourself – could be you aren’t the person you’d like most to be.) I put a lot of thought and words around this one, because I value being treated well, and I want to treat others well, too – because it feels good to be treated well, and kindness, compassion, and taking a minute to let the other guy get a word in are basically free. They have great ROI.

I’m no longer weeping; my tears dried some moments ago. I feel calm. Resolute. Capable. Also wary. Cautious. Concerned. Uncertain. I also feel emotionally ‘cracked open’ and raw – being kind to myself today will be important; I can’t count on the world to be kind to me in my stead, and there’s much to do, and limited time for coaching others how to care for me – I’ve got to be prepared and able to do that for myself.

Walking a winter path.

Walking a winter path.

Today is a good day to get back to work – on me. Today is a good day to be kind to myself, and to the world. Today is a good day to make choices to be the best person I can, and to grow from the moments when I’m not so awesome, and improve on my personal best, each day. Today is a good day to notice that change is.