Archives for posts with tag: Wheaton’s Law still applies

Was it me? Was it them? Is anyone at all “right”? Is anyone “the good guy”? It doesn’t feel like it. We’re each having our own experience. Really listening to each other – both of us, reliably – is not a thing right now. This shit went so wrong that even the neighbors are awake with it. It’s not okay. I can tell I’m not “the good guy”. It’s pretty much a given that I’m not the good guy, any time shit blows up; complex PTSD is nasty shit, and most of the time, in most circumstances, when things fall apart this badly, this fast, it’s on me. I’m not being hard on myself, or sarcastic, or fatalistic, or catastrophizing. It’s just statistics. If something goes this badly, this quickly, I can reliably assume with considerable likelihood of being correct that it’s me, because far more often than not, it is. My words. My actions. My reactions. My… something. My PTSD. It’s hard to take, as answers go, and at least right now I’m feeling mostly despair and that bleak sense of “this again?” I feel like I’ve fallen and I can’t get up. Metaphorically speaking.

…I’m so tired of it…

…I’m so tired of me.

Is this “who I am”, when it comes right down to it?

I’m tired of PTSD. So tired of it. The unexpected flash of unreasonable anger/frustration/rage/tears that sweeps in out of literally nowhere, and just lays waste to every fucking thing that could ever have been good about a moment is beyond comprehension, and seems defiant of management or control. It leaves an emotional film of unpleasantness and sorrow over everything that follows for some time.

…But… I have all these excellent practices… all this therapy behind me… all these good intentions… all this fucking work. My demons howl with laughter and general merriment. I can hear them like a Greek chorus, “Fuck your practices you stupid meat puppet! We fucking own you. We will own you until it kills you or destroys everything you love.”

Sure, there’s shit my Traveling Partner fucks up, too. He’s human. I think it’s easy enough to acknowledge his humanity. Sometimes he’s wrong. Sometimes he’s an asshole. Sometimes he’s not either of those things, and shit still goes sideways. I’ve got to acknowledge that he definitely loves me, too; how else could he have stayed through so much of my bullshit? How else could he continue to approach me, seeking to calm things down and soothe me when he is hurting, himself?  Is it enough? Is love actually enough? Can it really keep me trying? Can it really lift me up? Is love enough to get me to hang in there through another freak out? Another break down? Another fuck up? Another moment of missed communication, sabotaged joy, lost delight? Is love enough to endure more of this shit? Is it unreasonable to expect it to be?

What do I even do right now? (What do I even do right, now?)

I’ve lost my appetite. My coffee tastes sour. My head aches. My tears just keep slowly flowing down my face. This is an incredibly painful moment. We’re on the edge of doing something really wonderful together… and I continue to suck as a human being. God damn it. Fucking hell. This is miserable.

…Why am I choosing misery?

(Breathe. Exhale. Let it go. Breathe. Exhale. Let it go, some more. Breathe, exhale, let it go, be here – present in this moment. I remind myself that I am “okay right now”.)

So, now what? I don’t know. I know my partner is hurting in the other room. Emotional pain because this was a painful moment. Physical pain because he’s a human, and aging fucking sucks; old injuries hurt worse as we age than they did when we were recovering from them. Both of us are hurting. There’s no physical violence in this relationship, but we sometimes treat each poorly. Harsh. Unkind words are for sure “better than a punch in the mouth” – but they aren’t good. It’s not what I want from myself. It’s not want I want for myself.

…I just want my pleasant relaxed morning back. I want to roll back the clock and treat my partner well, and feel well-treated in return. We missed our moment. I can’t refuse to own my part in that. I can’t turn away from my critical failures. The way out is through. We learn best through our mistakes and failures. Growth is uncomfortable.

“Begin again.” It’s feeble, but I heard it. That’s something, I guess. I think I want to, too. I just don’t feel confident about the outcome, right now. 😦 That’s even okay. It’s enough to make the effort. It’s enough to begin again.

…and again…

…and again…

We become what we practice. It’s time to practice calm. It’s time to practice loving words. It’s time to practice listening deeply.

…It’s time to begin again.

 

Yesterday I found myself mired in an unexpectedly contentious moment with my Traveling Partner. Life in the Time of Pandemic takes its toll on us all, I suppose. Clear communication and skillful expectation and boundary setting are sometimes more challenging for me than I’d like. Living and loving well can be fraught with challenging circumstances. My results vary. I’m fortunate I can retreat to my studio and take a bit of time and distance to care for myself, and restore my sense of perspective, often through writing, sometimes through study or creative endeavors, sometimes meditation is enough. Yesterday evening was a bit strange in an unexpectedly helpful way; I used my words.

Wait though, I mean… I still retreated to my studio to take care of myself, emotionally, and sort myself out. It wasn’t about skillfully using my words live, real-time; I used them long ago, at some other point, and happened upon them on my way to opening a manuscript I am working on, expecting to spend some time writing. No kidding. I had written myself a note, at some point in the past. I happened upon it by chance (which sort of suggests I did a shitty job of putting it where I could easily find it, but this is not about that).

The note I wrote to myself has the title “What about when it feels like nothing really matters?“, which suggests I wrote it in a moment of despair, frustration, and futility, and great emotional pain. Out of curiosity, and feeling cross with myself, I opened it, and began reading;

So, okay. Right now is hard. Breathe. Sit upright. Breathe again. Let this painful, personal, very subjective moment, right here, this one, let it go. 

…Just… let it go. 

You’ve got this. Moments are brief. Temporary. Colored by emotion. Rationalized by a thin veneer of what feels like reason – and often isn’t that at all. Breathe. Exhale. Relax. 

Sometimes, and this may be unavoidable, you won’t feel heard. I’m telling you – from me to you (also me), that this is a thing and maybe always will be. Don’t join the queue of people who aren’t hearing you; listen. Give yourself that moment. Forgive yourself that instance of reactivity. Let that go, too. I’m not saying this is an easy thing, just that, with practice, and consideration, and presence, it is a thing that can be done. You can be heard by one human being who is literally “always there” as much as any one human being can be; yourself. So… do that. 

Start with a body scan. How does your body feel right now? Are you tired? Hungry? Cold? Hot? Thirsty? In pain? Be present and aware of your own physical experience. 

Assess your emotional experience. What are you feeling right now? Emotions and sensations are associated with words. They are not the words. They are experiences. Subjective. Tied to our personal dictionary. Informed by our personal understanding of the world – however flawed. Our perspective on our experience belongs to us – it’s yours. Fix it if it is broken. Accept it if it is an accurate reflection of your understanding of reality. Cut yourself some slack about being so human. 

Now, cut that other person some slack, too. They are every bit as human. Their emotional experience is every bit as valid – and also every bit as wholly subjective, and flawed. Doesn’t matter; it belongs to them. It is their context. Their narrative. Likes yours is for you. You won’t always find a match. Reach past that. Be compassionate. Be kind. Be understanding. Be those things for yourself, from your own perspective, and then also be that for them – aware that their perspective differs, and still able to embrace their humanity as fundamentally more important than this perceived difference. 

Rejection hurts. Conflict is uncomfortable. We want what we want, and often react to not getting that by lashing out in a hurtful way – which we are prone to justifying and rendering somehow righteous, by running that shit through our personal narrative, tidying it up, and making excuses for who we are. We’re not so right. We’re not all wrong. We can’t be “fixed” because we’re not, in fact, broken – we’re human. You are human. We each are. Seeking peace and nurturing, but finding demands, or rejection, or diminishment, or lost agency, or disappointment, or hurt feelings… all that sucks so very much – but it doesn’t have to define you, yourself. It’s just a moment. Let that shit go. 

Re-frame the experience. Assume positive intent (particularly if this “moment” develops within the context of a loving relationship). If you look again, with the certainty that all involved are authentically invested in the well-being of the individuals, and the relationships, does it still look the same? 

Shit sucks though. It’s unpleasant. It can feel overwhelming to feel so insignificant. To be unable to voice your experience in the face of the Other. Breathe anyway. Exhale in spite of it. Allow yourself to exert your agency by relaxing, and letting go of small shit. Specifically avoid lashing out. God damn, that can matter so much! Breathe. Listen. Exhale. Relax.

At the end of it, I was in a different place than when I began. It wasn’t so hard to reconnect, to begin again, to go past that moment and on to some other. The evening ended well. My perspective on the entire day changed. It was helpful. 🙂

Finding that right balance between joyful connected intimacy, and the frank realer-than-real truths of living life together 24/7, has its challenging moments. That’s okay, too. It’s an opportunity to do the work of growth and to explore more depth in this relationship. Nothing about that suggests a comfortable process. There doesn’t seem to be any ill-intention to it – just humans being human. We’re each having our own experience.

…Look at that… Already time to begin again.

This morning, before I quite realized what I’d done, I’d gotten lost in my newsfeed within moments of sitting down to write. I didn’t write. Well, I did write – but I wasn’t writing in a rational, purposeful, helpful way that supports me as a human, or shares something of value. I was mad. I was… posting replies. Oh my.

Once I noticed I was putting myself at risk of an angry screed, I pushed my chair back, sat fully upright, and took a couple deep deep cleansing breaths, and let myself relax. I held on to the awareness of that moment, breaking free of the tantalizing sticky trap of opinion, pulling myself free of the outrage machinery. (There is so much to be outraged about this days, no lie, that’s real.) Differences of opinion so easily become anger. We each feel so certain we are “right“, and that if only we could share the nuances of our personal perspective, everyone else would get it, too! While that may be true, now and then, it mostly just isn’t, at all. We are each having our own experience. It’s not actually fully share-able.

Don’t misunderstand, I’m not a “relativist“. While I do recognize that context, culture, and variations in human understanding and experience can change the truth of a proposition, I also understand the nature of reality to have unchanging elements (that I may or may not be fully able to recognize or understand, myself). I think how we define the terms we use matters a great deal, and definitely affects our ability to have meaning dialogue, generally, every bit as much as “the nature of reality”. I have an ethical framework, as an individual, that suggests to me that some actions and choices are “wrong” – meaning, not consistent with my ethics, as an individual. So far so good. Where things get messy, and I think this is true for a great many of us, is when my own sense of “wrongness” pressures me from within to make a point of calling it out when I see others taking those actions, or making those choices. Do I really get to decide right vs wrong for anyone but me?

Yes.

…Also, no.

So… “yes”, in the limited sense that I’m utterly free to express my opinion on the matter. However, in doing so, I’m a wiser happier human if I can also remain aware that my opinion on such things is not likely to a) change anyone else’s opinion (or actions) or b) have any great persuasive weight in the world, generally, and also… c) it’s not for me to decide what everyone else will think or do. I’m just saying. I mean that – I’m literally merely, simply, only, and “just” saying words. Someone may hear my words and change. Someone else may hear my words and double-down out of pure resentment and fury, because in their view I am clearly wrong. Still someone else will disregard my words without ever hearing me out,. We are each having our own experience. I don’t really get to decide what anyone else understands right or wrong to be – but I am not required to respect, value, share, or appreciate their perspective, beyond hearing them out, and accepting their agency.

I don’t personally take any of this to be an expression of futility, or as a reason to “stand down” or “keep my opinion to myself”, because humanity’s culture has formed around our opinions and understanding of the world. Our shared ethical commitments become our shared understanding of right vs wrong, and ultimately informs entire communities, and whole nations, allowing society to enact change. We do need to share our individual sense of right vs. wrong with each other to help steer this cultural ship through the waters of change and growth over time. It’s the anger and outrage of social media specifically (before coffee) that is problematic; too much noise, not enough signal. So, I give myself a break, sip my coffee, and bring my moment closer to home. I have plenty to do to make change happen right here. I have work to do to be the woman I most want to be. That’s a project I have real influence over – every day. My example, as an individual, has meaning without extending my reach “to the world” by replying to all manner of media detritus in a reactive moment. Hell, I don’t even respect the opinions of 100% of every human; some are worth far more than others (this is likely true for you as well), and we each “rate” the value of another person’s opinion on different criteria!! (Totally true, too.) So… another good moment to practice non-attachment. lol

I finish my coffee and begin again.

Hell, not only is this not about “perfect” – it’s not even about “better than you” (and I’m not). I’m walking my own path. I’m made of human. You’re made of human, too. We can help each other out, do better in a shared effort, as a community of humans, or… not. I’m going to do better than I did, generally, every day ahead of me that I can. It’s an effort of will, and requires awareness. I’m not perfect. Being fully made of human, I’m not sure I can even know the form of “perfection”, or aspire to whatever that may be – but I can “better myself”. You can, too, if that’s your choice. The way I see it, if we care to make it so, it can be a shared process among connected individuals, in our families, communities, schools, and tribes. “A social contract”, if you will. Oh hey – that’s already a thing. We already make those agreements as a culture, every day, from the Constitution, to our traffic laws.

We can do better. So… Let’s do that.

Where can we begin? Wheaton’s Law (“don’t be a dick”) is a good starting point, I rely on it heavily, and I do my best to comply with it until it feels almost like a law of nature, more than a suggested rule of personal best behavior.

Another extraordinary improvement, generally, for me, has been learning consideration. That’s a harder one. I see so little of it around me day-to-day, I’ve begun to wonder if it amounts to “advanced adulting”. It means what it says; consider your words, your actions, your thinking, your intention, your purpose – give all the things due consideration. Consideration is the opposite of both thoughtlessness and callousness, and is an extension (and increase in depth, perhaps) of courtesy, politeness, and “manners”, but without the rigid rule-setting. “Manners” sort of require that you have an understanding of what to do in a given situation, you see, and consideration more easily allows one to roll with changes and remain well-mannered, even in circumstances you have no experience with.

Words have meaning.

If you’re laughing when you tell people you’re “a dick” and proceeding to humorously treat people poorly, you’ve probably missed on both Wheaton’s Law and consideration. You may want to take another look at that; is this who you truly hope to be?

If you’re a white person, and you still think saying “the N word” is amusing, or acceptable in any way, at any time, for any white person… yeah, you may want to check yourself. You’ve definitely failed on both Wheaton’s Law, and consideration. You may have overlooked that what you think about that word is not the salient point, at all.

If you’re a male human being, and you are still treating women as property and denying them agency and humanity (dude, seriously? it’s 2018), yep, you know where I’m going with this – you could do better. It’s neither compliant with Wheaton’s Law, nor is it considerate. Actually – it may well be the rotten core at the heart of our cultural apple.

How is it we’re all still working so hard to build good lives, as good people, and managing to fail to be good people so often? When do we change that? When do we each embrace a desire to become the human beings we truly want to be? I think it’s in the mirror, personally. I know that when I am focused outward on what you could do to change, I am not thinking so clearly about what I want to do to change. It’s not that it’s an either/or thing, but… it’s pretty easy to stop doing the work, and if my effort and attention are on your behavior, it’s probably not on mine. 🙂

This is a disturbing, rather sad, trend line.

…I do look up once in a while, and see what the world is up to. I’m occasionally taken by surprise to hear a man I hold in high esteem say something vile and heinously insensitive to, or about, women. Gross. I’m shocked into speechlessness that quickly becomes pity and disappointment when I hear white people using “the N word” as though they don’t understand how incredibly disrespectful and insensitive that is, and how much hurt that word contains. I’m puzzled when I observe seemingly good friends treating each other really really badly – causing actual emotional damage to each other, and then forcing themselves to laugh it off in a way that highlights the mutual discomfort. What the fuck, folks? Do better. Just.Do.Better. It’s not hard.

Here are some easy steps to doing better as a human being – trust me, this works:

  1. Consider your day yesterday, and any awkward moments, uncomfortable moments, and moments when you said/did something you didn’t feel really good/comfortable about.
  2. Don’t do that any more.

Wow. Change is easy! Wait, you don’t like the steps to be so personal, or self-critical? Okay, okay, I can work with that too:

  1. Consider a moment when you recently had to set a clear boundary or express one more firmly with an associate, friend, family member, or stranger.
  2. Don’t do that thing you pushed back on, yourself, going forward, to any other human beings.
  3. Respect their boundaries, too, when they set them with you.

So easy! Still too personal? (Hey, I get it, it’s “not always your fault”, sure…)

  1. Read something online.
  2. React to that thing in an unpleasant way in which you find yourself silently objecting to the reported language/activity/behavior.
  3. Don’t do that thing, use that language, or model that behavior, yourself.
  4. Indefinitely.
  5. Set boundaries about it with others, don’t be complicit in poor behavior.
  6. Keep practicing.

Change isn’t hard. It’s a choice. There are verbs involved. Perfection isn’t a thing. Practice is required. We’ve all got to begin again. And again. Our results will vary. We become what we practice – good and bad. When we work on it together, we get ahead faster. Funny how that works.

Are you ready to begin again? I know I am. I’ve got work to do, to become the woman I most want to be.

Seriously. Give this some thought; all it takes to make the world better is that we each take steps to do so. No kidding. Just don’t be a dick to other people. Be kind. Be giving. Be open. Love. Treat all people well. Be genuine. Relax. Enjoy life without ruining it for other people. Be inclusive. Be curious. Assume positive intent. Set clear boundaries and take good care of yourself. Did I mention being kind? Yeah, do a lot more of that. Be patient. Be compassionate. Just be. Be here. Be present. Listen deeply. Recognize there is much you do not know. Clean as you go. Respect boundaries. Get consent. Be kind. Be kinder than that. Let go of assumptions and expectations. Be mindful that people are not property.

Remember the part about being kind? Do even more of that. Yep. Verbs. Omg – and all the practice? Yeah, that goes on indefinitely. Easy? Well… easy-ish. Do your best. Do that better tomorrow. Keep at it; we become what we practice.

We can begin again together, this morning, right now. One thing at a time. Start with the person in the mirror. Be kind to that person too. 🙂

…Please don’t tell me this won’t change the world. We can’t know that until we’ve actually tried. 😉