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

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. 😉

In some moments I feel as if I am walking some invisible slack line high above sharp rocks or dangerous obstacles, no safety net, with an armload of squirming cats that don’t get along with each other, and haven’t eaten in days. The sensation is not improved by upheaval in my day-to-day routine, disarray in my environment, or the challenges of experiencing emotional intimacy and connection, while also developing emotional self-sufficiency. Sometimes it’s hard. Difficult. Complicated. Emotional.

Well, sure, you say that, but...

Well, sure, you say that, but…

My traveling partner does his courteous, considerate best to ease the strain, to minimize the challenges. He is, however, having his own experience. I practice deep listening, while also recognizing I have both a need and obligation to my own emotional wellness to set boundaries; this is by intent and respecting my ‘OPD free zone’; my partner is welcome here any time, but relationship drama is not. I continue to invest in my own emotional self-sufficiency, while also recognizing that the skills and tools required are not yet forged of unbreakable materials, and require continued practice, and more good boundary setting. I actually suck rather a lot at the setting of clear reasonable boundaries and maintaining them skillfully. An ongoing challenge requires ongoing attention, and the work involved is on me; there are verbs involved, choices, and mindful attention to the needs of the woman in the mirror, while also being compassionate, present, supportive, and aware – considerate – of the needs of the person so dear to me, now sharing this space.

partnership

Partnerships endure and overcome challenges with shared effort, support, consideration, and awareness.

It has been very tough to relax entirely this week, or to find a feeling of being grounded, centered, balanced, and hold on to it; the symptoms of OPD are present in many moments. I set all that aside and listen to the rain fall. I could contentedly spend the day listening to the rain fall; it’s not a comfortable fit for shared living. At least, for now, I don’t yet know how to say ‘I need more quiet time than I am getting’, without causing hurt feelings, or heaping more experiences of feeling rejected on someone who urgently needs very much to feel welcomed – somewhere. This is home. My home. His home whenever he is here. A safe place to be at home with oneself, and with love. I remind myself that healing takes time, and that hurt creatures need comfort and care, and that change is. Human beings don’t tend to remain ‘in crisis’ indefinitely (unless repeatedly subjected to an insane cycle of empty promises, baiting, and torment). Healing happens in a safe nurturing environment. It still takes the time it takes. I ask myself an important question or two about what matters most to me, and find myself feeling soothed, content, and comforted. At least for a while, it will be on me to provide much of the positivity and comfort here, and to be the builder of an emotionally healthy environment that meets needs for two, and to do rather a lot of ‘adulting’ – maybe more than I feel ready for. I remind myself I’ve been providing these things for myself successfully for a year, and that love is not an adversary, or a drain on resources, or an inconvenience, but may require some tweaks and changes to the way space is used, and the timing of various practices, tasks, and activities.

partnership

Partnerships don’t alleviate the requirement we each have to take care of ourselves, while we also care for each other.

I take some time this morning to meditate on boundaries, ground rules, The Big 5 on which I personally seek to build all my relationships (respect, consideration, compassion, reciprocity, and openness), and what I can do to deliver on those characteristics well, and not simply assume they are my due. A partnership requires equanimity, and shared effort. We can only each do our best, as we understand our best to be in the moment, and even at that, sometimes our best is literally not enough to cause change. I can choose not to take small hurts personally, and be a supportive presence in the midst of my partner’s emotional chaos and suffering; it will require me to learn to juggle my own needs and theirs with considerable efficiency, and to learn to set boundaries more firmly, but also with great tenderness and compassion. Fuck – I hope I am up to the challenge. A year ago – almost exactly – the best I could do was simply remove myself from the problematic environment, because the difficultly level far exceeded my competency, or ability to care for myself while enduring it.

Having both complex PTSD and  a TBI, trust me when I say I don’t find living with people easy; however lonely solitary living may sometimes feel, it is nearly effortless in comparison to cohabitation!

Today's sunrise wasn't this colorful. I am reminded that change is.

Today’s sunrise wasn’t this colorful. I am reminded that change is.

Every day is a new opportunity to begin again. I spend the time over my first coffee revisiting my budget. There is change to account for. I account for it. I accept how uncomfortable I feel having to do so, so soon after moving. I take a moment to recognize the simmering anger and resentment lurking beneath the discomfort, directed toward someone who is literally no part of my life in any direct way. I resent that there is even an implied presence, or any agency affecting my routine that I have not invited into my experience. I breathe and let it go. I’m okay with the anger, and the resentment too, they seem a reasonable emotional response to being shoved from the slow moving-in process I had embraced so deliberately, to being in circumstances that feel rushed by need and urgency. I dislike the unpleasant negative emotions that come with the lurking ‘OPD’ now a constant threat in the background.  It is part of my partner’s experience, and as unpleasant as I find it, it’s no doubt worse for him. I’d like most to ease his suffering. How do I set and reinforce boundaries about this OPD free zone I have created for myself without encroaching on the free will of a respected adult now in my household? (I mean, seriously? I entirely don’t care to deal with it, don’t see that it must be dealt with at all, and don’t want to encourage it; it has no place here.)

...and listen deeply.

…and listen deeply.

The day is barely begun, and holds so much promise. Perhaps a second coffee, and another chance to begin again? Perhaps a different selection of verbs with that? 🙂

I woke very early this morning, minutes after 4:00 am. It’s a work morning, so making any effort to sleep longer isn’t likely to be very satisfying. I get up, and linger in the shower, while I take the chill off the apartment by pre-heating the oven. I’m up early enough for a proper breakfast. No idea what I’ll make, or whether it will actually require the oven. It’s definitely autumn, now; I am no longer making any effort to cool off the apartment. I have been here in my wee place long enough for the seasons to change. 🙂

Enough.

Enough.

There is very little drama in this experience. I sip my coffee and let myself wonder what ever kept me in any abusive relationship, ever, in the first place? Love? No – because that sort of treatment doesn’t qualify as being loved, and doesn’t tend to produce love as a reaction. I learned that the hard way. Fear of being solo, of being unqualified to adult all alone? Could be, at least the first time. I was very young when I married my first husband, and mostly did so because I earnestly wanted to move out of the barracks and ‘didn’t know how’ otherwise…and… it seemed expected, culturally, that I would marry. Now that, right there? That’s a shitty reason to get married, or be in a relationship of any other sort. Loneliness? I suppose loneliness is an important reason people may stay in an abusive relationship – loneliness sucks that much, sometimes – so much that self-care and good decision-making are undermined in favor of the mere idea of love.

Be love.

Be love.

Living alone? Not so scary, honestly. By far better than living with chronic mistreatment, neglect, disrespect, deceit, evasion, misdirection, or physical, emotional, or financial abuse. Do I get lonely? Sure. I’m human, and I miss touch, and the everyday intimacy and connection of living with someone I love dearly – but I’ve got to be honest, I’ve only approximated that experience in most relationships, generally very short-lived during the newest weeks of the relationship, and with only the most superficial level of connection, and very little real intimacy – because I didn’t have well-developed skills, practices, or understanding of what relationships take to build and maintain in the first place. My own ignorance and lack of personal development definitely limited my ability to forge the bonds I didn’t know I was looking for in the first place. Now I have the skills, the desire, the partnership – but we are separated, day-to-day, by 14 miles that sometimes feel infinite. Now… I am also learning that however common love can be, when we live from a loving place, a love like the one I share with my traveling partner is on another order of magnitude entirely, and it is not affected by the distance between us, even in lonely moments, when I yearn to be near him.

"You Always Have My Heart"

“You Always Have My Heart”

I sip my coffee and think about love, and loving. Is there some magic, mystical secret to this powerful love we share? I suspect not. It’s quite probably part chemistry, but I feel fairly certain that the larger portion of it is simply that we treat each other truly well. The Big 5 are pretty consistently in play (respect, consideration, reciprocity, openness, and compassion). We’re human, there are moments that challenge us now and then, but day-to-day, moment-to-moment, I can count on my traveling partner to treat me well, to support my growth, to encourage me, to listen deeply, and to be connected and really with me when we are together, and he can count on those things from me. It’s quite lovely, and it’s all in spite of being quite human (the both of us), with our own baggage, our own chaos and damage, and our own view of the world.

"Cherry Blossoms" 12" x 16" acrylic on canvas 2011

“Cherry Blossoms” 12″ x 16″ acrylic on canvas 2011

There are other reasons to build a relationship than for love, even marriage is not always built on love. Even the most practical, logistical, or political basis for a long-term relationship benefits from The Big 5, and suffers without them. I think so, anyway. I think a lot about treating people well, and what that means, and how I get there. How we treat people changes us. What we endure in our relationships, and the treatment we receive at the hands of loved ones, changes us. We become what we practice. When we treat someone poorly, however valued we may say they are to us, we change them over time; the damage piles up and changes how we are treated in return. Living alone, I have only one person to count on to treat me well day-to-day – and I’m still learning a lot about taking care of me, and treating myself truly well…but I’ve got a lot less drama while I do, and I’m not having to expend precious resources, or waste valuable time, healing fresh wounds.

"Communion" 24" x 36" acrylic on canvas w/ceramic and glow. 2011

“Communion” 24″ x 36″ acrylic on canvas w/ceramic and glow. 2011

I know you want to be treated well. I think everyone probably does (in the way they define that, themselves). This morning, I’m not thinking as much about how I want to be treated – I’m thinking about how I treat others. How about you? Are you treating your loved ones truly well day-to-day, or do you let your temper get the better of you and say vile things you regret later, then expect people around you to ‘stop taking things so personally’ or ‘grow a thicker skin’? Maybe you justify the terrible hurts you deliver with your words by rationalizing the truth of them, or the necessity of hearing them said, or because you are ‘right’? Do you excuse your own bad behavior by saying it’s your hormones, or you had a rough day, or you hurt or don’t feel well? Are you aware you are still causing someone you love pain, and maybe even tearing down something you built that was once beautiful? Treating someone you love poorly is like spraying political graffiti on a precious work of art, or painting over a mural, or… well… it’s actually just not okay, and is entirely unpleasant, and doesn’t show any hint of love. Just saying. Even a heartfelt apology does not make the words unsaid, or take away the experience of being hurt – and no one forgets those things, not really. In a good relationship, it’s simply that the good moments outweigh the difficult ones a lot.

"Contemplation" 11" x 14" acrylic on canvas 2012

“Contemplation” 11″ x 14″ acrylic on canvas 2012

I am humbled by the wonder in the realization that I am good at love. (I wasn’t always, I’ve worked to get to this place.) This is a powerful place to be in life. Practice matters, even on this, and it isn’t the bit about being loved that needs the practice, generally. Loving isn’t just a word – it’s a verb, and one that requires quite a lot of things, like kindness, and deep listening, and attentiveness, and authenticity, and vulnerability, and compassion, and patience, and surrender, and tenderness, and being comfortably wrong as easily as being right, and laughing, and touching, and sharing experiences, and eye contact. I enjoy how many verbs there are from which to choose to show love. Practicing them is both entirely necessary, and highly rewarding… I mean… If you want to love, and be loved in return. Some people only want to be loved (or maybe just worshiped, adored, or served); it’s much less work, but eventually love dies when it isn’t nurtured.

p.s. I love you.

p.s. I love you.

Today is a good day to love well, and to deliver on the promises made by love. Today is a good day to treat every heart well, not just my own. Today is a good day to make eye contact, to be kind, and to really listen when someone is talking. Today is a good day to practicing loving. The world could use a little more love, and we become what we practice.