Archives for posts with tag: words have meaning

I slept in. Woke gently, and although I still feel fairly groggy, the day is off to a pleasant start. Sipping coffee in my news feed, my consciousness is being tormented by a common turn of phrase that irritates me. “I feel like…” followed by words that do not communicate either emotion, or sensation, and therefore – not feelings. C’mon, People, do better! Use your words with some skill. Fuck.

How about “I have the impression that…” if what you are communicating is, um, a largely unsupported subjective impression?

Or, if you are communicating something that you feel pretty sure of, but are aware maybe you don’t have all the information, a handy “My opinion is….”?

Maybe I can interest you in a lovely precise “I’ve observed…” to precede your anecdote?

There’s also, tried and true, “I think…”. Yep. If you’re sharing your thoughts, it’s wonderful to make that quite clear, because you know what? “I feel like people just don’t know how to…” is not a fucking emotion!

“Well, that’s just how people talk, though.” Fuck that lazy bullshit. Words have meaning. Do better. Are you not grasping the idea that the sloppy use of language, undermining the meaning of words, and even gas-lighting the entire fucking nation by way of the media’s sometime also similarly shitty use of language is part of the bullshit we’re all struggling with? Seriously.

This is not hard.

I feel rested. I feel a bit groggy. I appreciate my morning coffee. I feel the cold iced coffee on my tongue. I enjoy that sensation (and don’t have to say “I feel” anything at all to communicate that impression; I can actually use words that are about sensations and feelings, themselves). I recognize that people can be less than ideally clear when they speak (which is certainly more true than saying “I feel like people aren’t very clear”).

Just… yeah. Fuck. Please? Stop using the language of feelings to attempt to communicate your thoughts. Firstly; people may not understand you. Secondly, it’s not accurate. Thirdly, it undermines language, generally. Fourthly, it’s a lever that allows influence over your consciousness. Lastly? It’s just not well done. Do please share your actual feelings and sensations. Do share your thoughts. Just stop mixing them all up like that into some surrealist word salad. Do better.

End rant. I’ll just head for coffee #2, and begin again. I’ll be over here, able to distinguish the difference between my thoughts and my feelings. 😉

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.

Are you a Republican? A Democrat? An “Independent”? A “liberal”? A “conservative”? “Right wing”? “Left wing”? Progressive? A “nationalist”? A “patriot”? Among the “faithful”? An atheist? A “free-thinker”? Cis-gender? “Gender queer”? Non-binary? Are you a “social justice warrior”? A “snowflake”? A capitalist? A socialist? A communist? An anarchist? Neurotypical? “On the spectrum”?

Are you fused with an identity, seeing yourself as part of a specific limited group with specific challenges, limitations, requirements, rights, or burdens to bear that no one else can understand, and everyone else stands against? Have you divided the world into “us” and “them”?

That’s a lot of work. Maintaining the details of identity moment to moment, protecting it, shoring up the details of that internal narrative overtime and through conflict sounds like a lot to take on. Does it have real value? Are you that, and only that? Really? Are you even actually definably that at all?

I woke up this morning thinking about pigeonholes, identity, definition, and the way  I can so easily limit myself by becoming fused to just one element of my experience, potentially even building road blocks on my journey through life that may not have been there, in fact, at all. We make up most of our understanding of our own experience (and who we each are) out of “thin air”. Who are you? What matters most about that person in the mirror? If life ended in this moment, right now, no time to prepare – and in the next, strangers were going through your things – what would they learn about you? Is that the legacy you want left behind? What is your truth?

Who are you? Who am I?

My visit with my therapist yesterday was productive, and peculiarly comfortable and celebratory. I heard words I’ve never heard from a therapist before. “Well… do you want to just give me a call in a few weeks, if you want to see me again? I don’t think we need to schedule anything regular…” That’s probably not verbatim. I recall the moment more than the words.

Well. So, I guess I adult decently well these days. That’s… scary and cool. Who am I? The woman in the mirror doesn’t look different to me. There’s a thread of recognizable self that reaches back all the way to my earliest memories. I’m not any of the things it is so tempting to grasp to fill out some sort of “profile” of self-ness, though. It’s a strange awareness. I could say “I am…” and begin a long list of all the qualities and characteristics that could be used to identify me, but I am not any one of those things. If I allow myself that moment to fuse with some one characteristic or quality of my experience (“anarchist”, “liberal”, “progressive”, “survivor”, “veteran”, “woman”, “artist”…), I seriously undermine my experience of self. There’s so much more to me than any one quality.

I decide to stop wearing any labels, at least today, and enjoy that feeling of wholeness, of being human, of simply being. If we could each stop dividing our experiences into “us” and “them”, we could begin to change the world.

Isn’t it time to begin again?