People are People, Just Like You

Hello, and happy Monday! I know, I know, Mondays aren’t happy. Mondays are for being tired, and grouchy, and remembering all the things you don’t like about your life. Mondays are for wanting to crawl back into bed.

But, let’s try something different. Let’s think of Mondays as a chance at a fresh start, every single week. Each Monday is a reset button. Let’s take this opportunity to do it differently. Let’s make the changes we want to see in ourselves and the world, okay?

“Don’t let us forget that the causes of human actions are usually immeasurably more complex and varied than our subsequent explanations of them.”

— Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Idiot

People are simple, and stupid, and complex, and feeling, and wise, and fallible, and beautiful, and dark, and ugly, and so much more than we can ever convey with words. We know this because we know ourselves and deep down we know other people feel and think and go through what do, even though we rarely act like it.

We know we have rich inner lives, profound thoughts and feelings, shades of emotions, wants, and needs that language can scratch the surface of. We know there are reasons behind everything we do that rarely ever fall fully to one side of good or bad, selfless or selfish. There are more shades of human motivation and reason than there are stars in the universe or grains of sand on every beach but humans aren’t good with subtle shades of being or thinking.

We know that our psyches are deep and varied and we know that because of this, because every thought and action and all that we are is a product of all we have been through and sometimes all that many generations before us have been through, we know we are deserving of understanding and patience. Somehow, we know this, but at the same time, we know that other people are simple beings with simple and often nefarious motivations for doing what they do.

We forget that people are people, all over the world and all throughout time, same as we are.

They have the same thoughts, the same questions, the same failings and triumphs, the same daily, grueling, inner struggle between who they are and who they ought to be. They share the same complex inner life and painfully vague understanding of why they do what they do. They are hurt and hoping and fucking up, and we should be working harder to understand their needs and motivations, the way we would ask them to do for us.

We are too quick categorize and condemn each other in ways that are radically different from how we think of ourselves. They are mean. They don’t care. They aren’t good enough. They are stupid. They are trying intentionally to sabotage and set me back. They are the enemy, but it isn’t so simple. They are human, and so are we, and they do all the things they do for the same reasons as us. Because they don’t know any better.

 

Of course, in all the ways we are the same, there are as many ways in which we are different, and that is where the work of understanding happens. Besides the fact that we all come from different places and were born in different times, besides the fact that each of our parents was raised in a time with different struggles and different values, besides the fact that no two perspectives can ever be the same, we all simply have very different brains. We have different thoughts, needs, motivations, wants, and ideas about right and wrong and every shade in between.

Even on our best days, when we are listening well and using language as precisely as we can, no human language is articulate or exact enough to ever explain who we are, what we feel, and what our motivations and reasons may be. Each of us no matter how we reach out and to how many is alone within our own minds. We can never be understood and we can never fully understand, but we can try harder, and do better, and stop treating each other like simple beings and react with simpler solutions and emotions.

This week, before you judge who is right and who is wrong, who is worth listening to, and who is worth compassionate understanding, or friendship, just know that each person you encounter is a complex mix of history, culture, experience, emotion, and wisdom that you will never fully comprehend.

We owe it to ourselves to treat one another better. To owe it to each other to understand each other better. To step into each other’s shoes isn’t so hard when you stop acting as if you are the only one who can be right, who can be hurt, who can have needs, or can make mistakes.

This week, try to understand that you have no right to presume to know who a person is, why they do what they do, how they ought to act, or what help they need or don’t. Get to know people and do the hard work of letting them exist on a spectrum rather than at the easy to categorize extremes.

This world has become far too black and white, I’d love to see some grays, and one day, when we are better people than we are now, we might even be comfortable with color and hue and brightness too.

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Check out my weekly-ish newsletter for interesting reads + my own existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering, or buy me a cup of coffee perhaps? :)

Featured image via Unsplash

Perfection is not Attainable

Hello, dear readers and happy Monday! I know, I know, Mondays aren’t happy. Mondays are for being tired, and grouchy, and remembering all the things you don’t like about your life. Mondays are for wanting to crawl back into bed.

But, let’s try something different. Let’s think of Mondays as a chance at a fresh start, every single week. Each Monday is our own personal reset button. Let’s take this opportunity to do it differently. Let’s make the changes we want to see in ourselves and the world, okay?

“For whatever it’s worth, I believe we’re born imperfect, and perfection, whatever that may be, is unattainable by us mere humans.”

— Liza M. Wiemer, Hello?

I’m not perfect, but I never thought I would be. I had been born too flawed and been too fucked up by my parents, and boys, and women, and love, and failure to ever be perfect. I felt sorry for myself, watching everyone on their way to being divine human beings while I am stuck with a life, a body, and a mind that will never be any better than it is now.

I have low self-esteem, obviously, and like all things in our minds, knowing it doesn’t change a thing. I spend a lot of time thinking about all the ways I don’t measure up. I think about how clumsy I am, and all the wildly imperfect things I say and the incredibly wrong decisions I make. I think about all the people who don’t like me, don’t care about me, or who are burdened by me. I think about how much I will never measure up, and I feel so small and so stupid, and I feel it nearly all of the time.

I know I measure myself against an impossible standard, against accomplishment no one has achieved. I measure myself against what people show, say, or post online without letting myself believe that they too have work to do toward becoming a better version of them too. I want to be perfect but I’m learning perfection is not attainable, not for me, but maybe not for anyone?

How can it be when we are set up so perfectly to fail against the standard?

Not one of us is born with a road map. We aren’t told what the right path to take is or how to deal with the flawed parts of ourselves that persist even after education, reward, punishment, and culture and the law. OF course, our parents tell us they know the way, and our teachers say they know the way, and TV and blogs say what we should do, but o one really knows, and no path will work for every person or geographic or economic location and level.

So we each waste a whole lot of life making a whole lot of mistakes on our way to somewhere we get never get to. You wouldn’t even recognize it if you did anyway since none of us can agree quite what perfection looks like anyway. Think of every contradiction you have ever heard from your parents, your friends, your teachers, your spouse, and your idols. Think of all the ways you have been told to live and all the ways you have hurt yourself trying to do it all. It just can’t be done.

There simply is no such thing as a perfect human. We haven’t even been able to accept being basic human. We spend all of our time repressing and suppressing who we are that we move further away rather than towards perfection. We can’t be our best selves when we don’t even know who we are. I would argue we’ve done nothing but be our worst selves in our misguided efforts.

So, I’ll say it again: Perfection is not attainable! It is something you can never achieve, and therefore you should stop trying so damn hard and feeling so damn sorry for yourself. We should let go of the dream human being and start working on being the most us, the most human, we can be.

You can only ever be a better you and only in some ways, not in all. There is always a give and take because there are only so many hours in a day and neurons in the brain. You gain something you lose something, and you can only hope that what you become makes you happier with yourself and your life than what you were before.

Perfection has gotten us into a whole lot of trouble and kept us from a whole lot of love. We hold so tight to it, we do anything for it, we give up anything for it, and we miss out on what makes us great and wonderful. We forget how good it feels to be comfortable with you are vs. how soul crushing it is to spend your life trying to be something you aren’t.

This week, take a moment to let go of perfection and get to know and accept yourself as you are now. Meditation and mindfulness can help with this. Mindfulness reminds us to live in the now, not in a past or a future that can’t be changed or may never come. Meditation teaches us to accept and gently direct our thought and wants. Take 10 minutes a day to sit and breath, be gentle and aware, or just forgive yourself for you next shortcoming and remind yourself that it’s normal and beautiful to be who you are now, flaws and all.

Don’t give up on improving yourself. Don’t give up on learning more about who you are and what this thing called life is. Don’t give up on working hard and finding your happiness. Just change your idea of what “perfect” is. Let go of it completely and focus on being a better you.

Start with just being a human. Feel your feelings fully and explore who you are. That in itself is a life long journey! Don’t waste time comparing yourself and trying to be something you can’t. You can be good. You can be a you that is open and aware of the world. You can be wise, and compassionate, and successful too. You can be loved, and admired, and remembered, but you can never be perfect.

You can only be you, imperfect, boring, beautiful you.

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If you like this post check out my weekly-ish newsletter for interesting reads + my own existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering, or buy me a cup of coffee perhaps? 

Featured image via Unsplash

We Know Not What We Do, I Hope

Hello, dear readers and happy Monday! I know, I know, Mondays aren’t happy. Mondays are for being tired, and grouchy, and remembering all the things you don’t like about your life. Mondays are for wanting to crawl back into bed.

But, let’s try something different. Let’s think of Mondays as a chance at a fresh start, every single week. Each Monday is our own personal reset button. Let’s take this opportunity to do it differently. Let’s make the changes we want to see in ourselves and the world, okay?

“No man chooses evil because it is evil; he only mistakes it for happiness, the good he seeks.”

— Mary Wollstonecraft

I’ve been having a really hard time coping with the state of the people and politics here in the United State since the election. There are many of you, and many people I know in real life, who would tell me it’s long past time to get over it, but every morning I watch the news, I scroll my feeds and timelines, and I get progressively more afraid, more cynical, and more depressed.

It feels like there are so many people who want to hurt the poor, the lost, and the vulnerable. They want to hurt our environment. They want to hurt people who look and live differently from they way they look and live. They want to line their pockets and laugh while the world burns. I am convinced, but what I can’t understand is why.

I hear two voices shouting out at me through opinion pieces and blogs. One says not to listen to them, not to give them one moment’s consideration. They are the enemy and they must be guarded against at all costs. The other says to understand them. See the world their way. They are afraid, they are ignorant, listen and reassure them. They only need time and love to come around.

My heart likes the sound of the latter, but my anger tells me I am stupid and pushes the former course.

I’m highly suspicious of any calls to understand, and appeal to, people who refuse to understand or appeal to the needs of those less fortunate than them.

What I mean is, if you are angry because full equality under the law and fair and respectful treatment for immigrants, Muslims, women, and the LGBTQ+ community has become an important issue in American politics, I think the last thing we should be doing is giving you more time to explain why people who have suffered and fought for so long should slow down, take a back seat, and give you the floor. Sorry, I’m not sorry.

I am weary of anyone who says you can’t eat, you can’t feel warm, secure, and safe because they need more. There are real consequences for people when you won’t let go of your ego or a small amount of your money. When people say they need something, they need it. End of story.

But as weary as I am, as much as I don’t want to spend my time understanding and coddling, there is part of me that longs to understand and the only thing that makes sense is that people just don’t know any better. They can’t help themselves. They really think they are doing what is right.

We have so much privilege we have become so blind to it. We spend more time protecting our luxuries than we do protecting human life and dignity. We are all guilty of it. Some more than others, but every day more and more sees the light. There is hope, I hope.

I recognize that may be a lie I am telling myself too. Maybe part of me just wants to, has to, believe that the world isn’t that cruel. People can’t be evil for evil sake. Even if the universe doesn’t care and there is no rhyme or reason to any of this, we have to have reasons right? We have to, deep down, want to do what’s best, for love, for our families, for our country and our sense of right and wrong. Right?

So, this week, I’m exploring what lies are worth telling myself. What leaps of faith are worth taking. What aspects of human nature are not worth looking too closely at.

My instincts tell me none. My instincts tell me wherever humans are involved things are always complicated, and there are never easy answers. There is always a spectrum and it is rare we fall to one side or the other fully. People aren’t all bad, but they aren’t all good either. People’s intentions must follow the same patterns I suppose.

So, this week I guess I am exploring what that means to me and in these times, where we are so divided, so angry, and so willing to turn a blind eye or let loose our rage, we should all explore what that means for us, about us. How do we find common ground? How do we listen and teach? How do we change hearts? How do we do it without losing our own sense of right and wrong?

This week, ask yourself what are the value the value of rose-colored glasses and leaps of faith in humanity? Contemplate the motivations behind why we treat each other the way they do. Look within yourself and question how it makes you feel when another person says they need things that you cannot understand. In what ways do people who live differently from you make you afraid?

I want to know what evil lives in me and why I think it will lead to happiness. I want to know that about all people. I want to know how to fix it.

“In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”

— Anne Frank

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If you like this post check out my weekly-ish newsletter for interesting reads + my own existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering, or buy me a cup of coffee perhaps? 

Featured image via Unsplash

I am Sorry

“Would ‘sorry’ have made any difference? Does it ever? It’s just a word. One word against a thousand actions.”

― Sarah Ockler, Bittersweet

I have hurt people.

I have hurt them in big and small ways, and I will continue to do so for the rest of my life. I am human, I am flawed, I am scared, and I am hurting too. I don’t want to be like this and, trust me; I am working every day not to be. Eventually, I may learn to cope in some instances, but I will always have a tendency to fall back into old ways. I will always want to do what is easy, and it is easy to hurt others.

The world is a confusing place, and all I am looking for is a way to find some solid ground. I am looking for some control. I am looking for a way to feel safe.

Sometimes that means I am unkind. It means I pretend at not caring. It means I do things to hurt you, push you away, and keep you near. I just want to love you, make you happy, and help you love me back. I don’t know how to do that, and I feel inadequate. My actions are wrong, and they don’t make sense. I get frustrated with myself, and then frustrated with you. In the end, I blame you for my inability to act like you are important and worth my time and patience.

I am sorry.

“I feel sorry for anyone who is in a place where he feels strange and stupid.”

― Lois Lowry, The Giver

Hurting others feels better than feeling strange and stupid.

We hurt each other to avoid our own hurt feelings. It’s pathetic, I know it, and you know it, and there is no excuse for it, but to be human is to be burdened by more feelings that you can safely hold. We suffer but we have been given no means of alleviating that suffering in any meaningful and permanent way. Anything that makes it even a little better only leaves us with more anxiety. We live in fear of losing what we find soothing, and we act in increasingly erratic and insane way to keep it.

We should all be apologizing to each other. All humans are guilty, and all humans are the injured party. None of us deserve to be on the receiving end of another’s insecurity and disappointment, and none of us have the right to use another as an emotional punching bag. We all do it in our personal relationships, but we do it on a much larger scale too.

Have you hated whole groups of people? Have you refused to listen to another point of view? Have you decided “those people” don’t deserve the same rights and comforts as you? Have you ever hit someone? Have you agreed that bombing another country is the right answer?

You may owe the world an apology.

This letter has been mine.

It isn’t good enough, though, because I cannot promise I won’t do it again. It isn’t good enough because I know I will do it again. I can only say again I am human, and I am hurting and like most humans, it is my first instinct is to spread that pain around. I am sorry I do this, I know better, we all do, but it takes a lot of work to be better. A lot of work, every single day.

I beg your forgiveness and ask for your patience, and I hope you can find it in your heart to give it to me.

I will do the same for you too.

“Love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing compared to love in dreams.”

— Fyodor Dostoyevski, The Brothers Karamazov

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This post first appeared as part of my weekly newsletter, if you like it, consider signing up. You’ll get a bit of experimental writing from me—something more emotional, more private—and some interesting reads from a few other people. All made with lots of love, every week ♥

Original image via Harsha K R

P.S. Inspired by the video Why and How to Say Sorry by The School of Life

Be Kind to One Another

I regularly like to watch videos or animations that put the universe into perspective for me. I like things that remind me how small and fragile we are. It is the one thing that keeps me from becoming cruel.

It sounds strange but I don’t think people realize how easy it is to become a cruel, uncaring person. Cruelty is just as much human nature as love and in order to keep it in check, we must remind ourselves that other human beings are just as important and precious as us. We have to remember just how lonely we are in this universe, and just how much we need each other.

This Earth is our home and it’s all we have. All the humans on this God forsaken rock are all the humans there are. Each one is unique and so each one is special, and yet we treat each other as if we are nothing at all. People hurt other people every single day. We treat our things better than we treat each other. To me, this makes very little sense. Each of us only has one life, and that life is ticking away at an alarming rate. Every time you are cruel to someone you take a tiny piece of their happiness that can never be gotten back. You make a tiny part of their life less joyful and that can never be undone.

Life is hard enough and the world is so full of suffering we should all be doing our tiny part to make it easier, safer, happier. We all feel so lonely, so disconnected from everyone around us. We bare our own little pain and carry all our emotional baggage and every cruel word or mean look is added to the pile. How many have you contributed to? How much hurt have you doled out?

“Be kind, because everyone is having a really hard time.”

Plato

I believe each person, because they are special and only have one life, is entitled to as much joy as can be had on this planet. Unfortunately greater society does not agree. Oh, most people say the do and yet many take great satisfaction in infringing on the joy of as many people as they can. Most of these people don’t understand what they are doing but I find it to be a great crime against nature to be cruel to others.

Cruelty is a part of who we are and what we are capable of and we make bad choices sometimes. We say mean things out of anger, frustration, and broken-heartedness. We can be selfish and self-centered, and forget that other people feel harsh words and brutal indifference just as acutely as we do. We use our cruelty to others as a means to build ourselves back up. We wrongly think that our ability to inflict pain confirms our strength and control over our lives.

I believe the greater show of strength and control is to be kinder and gentler to your fellow humans. It takes a great deal of confidence, security, and self-awareness to treat others with kindness when you can. It shows great moral character to be able to put your own feelings aside and focus on the feelings of others before your own. It shows that you understand the value of a person and have chosen to make a positive impact on the world around you.

But even those who are unkind deserve our kindness too. They are just as precious as everyone else and through the kindness of others they might find their way. Often it takes just having one person in our lives who is selfless and loving of all human beings to show us that it is ok to be vulnerable and help others. It’s sad but we have to learn again to understand each other. We have to learn that it is not only ok, but good to be kind whenever possible, and, as the Dalai Lama said, it is always possible.

“Be kind to one another. Bye, bye.”

Ellen DeGeneres

Searching for Some Positivity

It’s Monday again and while I am happy to be at work and out of the house I find that my mood is a little down. Lately the problems of other people have gotten to me. My friends and family are going through hard times and the national news has been especially depressing. For a sensitive person like me this means an easy trip straight into depression.

Already today I can see how I am being affected. I don’t care about much because the tedious, day-to-day tasks my boss expects me to complete seem so small and pointless compared to what is going on around the world. The growing problems of race-relations in this country, the police brutality, the shootings, the wars, all of this seems so much bigger and more important.

Closer to home I have friends who’s parents are dealing with cancer and knee surgeries and even my own family is dealing with ongoing health and financial problems.

The hardest part is feeling like there is nothing you can do to help any of it. You want to go out and fix all of the worlds ills but where do you start? How can you, just one lonely person, expect to do anything about these problems that are so much bigger than you. Then again, even if you could find a way to help you can’t because you are stuck working a day job that doesn’t even pay you well enough to give you the option of throwing money at the problems.

So I guess there isn’t much to do except let those close to me, and all over the world know I am here. I see you and I am thinking of you. If there is anything I can do, let me know. I promise to do my best.

Beyond that I think I better try to take care of myself. So this week I am taking the advice of some of my readers and removing myself (temporarily) from all the bad news and looking for some positivity in the world.There has to be some good things happening out there too. Things the news doesn’t report. I have to believe the world isn’t all bad. It’s the only way to cope.

To start I want to share with you a website I have been following for a while that brings to light some of the good people are doing all over the world. It’s called GOOD. You can subscribe to their magazine which is a “beautiful and expansive publication that sets out to discover what it means to pursue a meaningful life — to live well and do good in the 21st century”. Or they have a neat YouTube channel that does episodes called “Fuck Yeah Humanity” which are little snippets of news about the good things people are doing.

I watch them whenever my faith in our species starts waning.

If you have any other sources of good news to share, please let me know in the comments.

I could really use it this week.