It Begins by Seeing Each Other as People

“We are each other’s harvest; we are each other’s business; we are each other’s magnitude and bond.”

— Gwendolyn Brooks

We live side by side. We go to work together, shop together, sit next to each other in movie theaters and walk past each other on the street, and we don’t see each other at all. We don’t know a thing about our neighbors or the people living in the same spaces as us. We won’t look the cashier in the eye. We don’t have the patience for other drivers on the road. We don’t care about our coworkers weekend, even if we ask. We don’t want to help. We don’t want to hear it. Hell is other people, right?

And that’s just the people we see day-to-day. Then we get online, on Twitter, on Facebook, on our blogs where people are even people anymore. We jump into the comment sections under YouTube videos and articles on our preferred news and opinion sites. We turn on the TV and see nothing but violence and feel fear.

Soon other people aren’t even people anymore. They are obstacles and annoyances. They are different and dangerous. They are the other side, the enemy. They think differently than us, they feel differently than us and anyone who is different from us doesn’t matter. They are wrong. They aren’t worth the time.

Indifference grows to hate, and people never run out of reasons to hate. They hate people because they’re brown, because they’re femme, or because they’re queer, or disabled, or transgender, or Muslim, or poor. They hate people who look different, think different, worship different. Eventually, the hated ones grow bitter, and they hurl hate right back in return. The hate mixes with fear, and they fight, some with fists and guns, some wielding the law.

I’m angry, and I am full of hate too. It grows every time I turn on the news, and I’m tired of it. But as angry as I am, as scared as I am, and as much as I want to shut out half of the world, and as many solid reasons as I know I have to do so, I’m not convinced it’s the right way. I’m not sure that isolating myself from the people who I don’t like, that I don’t agree with, that I don’t want to acknowledge, dignify, or give space to will make the world a better place. I’m not sure that going on hating all those people will change them.

I know what they think of me, and convincing them otherwise is close to impossible, but every so often one is converted, and it happens more and more every day. It’s my job not to just stand up to them, but to convince them, help them, educate them.

To open yourself up this way is exhausting, I know. To have to explain yourself your needs and to in turn give space in your life for such hate to be lobbed back at you hurts. It’s not for everyone, and it’s not for anyone all the time. We have to take turns. We can retreat to safe spaces as needed, but we can’t stay there forever. We have to find a way to work it out no matter how hurt and angry we are because if we don’t both halves of humanity will go on fighting and living this double existence side by side and nothing will ever get better, and no one will learn anything.

But is that so bad? Is it really your job to care what people who hate you or are ignorant of your perspective think? Is it your job to educate them or drag them kicking and screaming toward compassion and cooperation? No, of course, it isn’t. Giving them space in your life is a purely personal decision but I think it might be the best thing to do if we want to make the world better. We are all we have, and I think it’s important we all care about each other, whether we agree or not. That doesn’t mean I accept your thinking, or that I will compromise my values. I can fight for whats right and still let you know I care about you. So, it’s not your job, but it is your problem. It’s all our problem to solve.

And solving it begins with seeing each other as people.

Both sides have to begin by understanding that we are all much more alike than we are different and nothing that any human feels or believes is beyond another human’s understanding. It takes stepping into the shoes of another and imagining their whole life had been your own. You may think and believe the same that they do now, and if you did, would the way you isolate and shame them make you change your view if you were them? I doubt it.

To think we can go on making progress with the world split and going for one another throats every day is delusional. The reality is someone is going to have to find a way to take the first step and the longer we tell ourselves that to do so is to compromise your integrity the further we drift from each other and the harder it will be to reconcile, but it will have to be done one day. We are going to have to care. We are going to have to stop seeing each other as the enemy.

We are going to have to start seeing each other.

We are one country, and one world, and in this vast, cold cosmos all we have is one another. Each of us is precious, even those among us who we disagree with. Even those we find ignorant and stubborn and who put themselves at the center of the world to the exclusion of all the rest, even they are rare and precious. Like Carl Sagan said “If a human disagrees with you, let him live. In a hundred billion galaxies, you will not find another.” So, yeah it should matter to you who hs healthcare. It should matter to you who has food, who has a job, who has a home, and who doesn’t. It should matter to you why people feel the way they do, hurt the way they do, and fight for the things they fight for. It is your problem too!

Your fellow human beings, whether you like them or not, agree with them or not, understand them or not, they are your responsibility.  We have to learn to get along sometime, so let’s try a little harder today, and a little harder the day after that. No matter your race, your class, your nationality, immigrant status, gender, sex, or sexuality, no matter how you were raised or what you believe, start by seeing each other as people.

Start by seeing each other at all.

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Thanks for reading! If you like this post check out my weekly-ish newsletter for inspiring reads + existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering. Or help support what I do by sharing a cup of coffee.

Featured image is by Evan Kirby on Unsplash

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Show Me How You Move Your Mountain

“You have been assigned this mountain to show others it can be moved.”

— Anonymous

Lately, my life has become a series of things I have to overcome. I feel like no matter what I am doing, every action, big and small, ends in failure and embarrassment. A step in any direction just moves me closer to something I am afraid of, something I don’t know how to do, something that hurts.

I’m trying hard to grow, but I feel stuck, caught, blocked. There is something in my way. My past and my future loom enormous above me, and I already feel too tired to begin. I feel angry that such an obstacle has been placed in front of me in the first place. It isn’t fair. It isn’t right. It’s too much!

My mountain is made of all the love I didn’t get, and the hole that love can never fill now. It’s made of my driving phobia, and my social insecurities, and my death anxiety. My mountain is made of the strength I have to find, somehow, somewhere, to get help for it all. My mountain is made of the ways I failed my partner and the ways I make her happy that I can’t see no matter how much she tells me. My mountain is made of all the things I wish I could do for everyone I love and the realization I need to come to that help is a form of control and minding your own business is a virtue. My mountain is my passion for writing and the gap between my passion and my talent.

My mountain feels impossible to move, and there seems so little time. What is most important? Where do I begin? How do I  even start? Where will I find the strength, the wisdom, the help, since I know I can never do it all on my own?

We all have a mountain I suppose, made of all our pain and potential. It is made of everything you have been through It is made of all the things that make it hard for you to live, for each of us it is different. Most of it is our childhoods, some of it is death. Part of it is all the shit we do to ourselves personally, publically, collectively, and the rest is all your own bullshit you refuse to see. You made this mountain, we all did, and now you have to move it. Well, you don’t have to. You can ignore it, sure, but what will you do instead? What is life for if not to bring that monster down, to make a wreckage of your past and pain?

So you face it. One rocky side rises before you, a beautiful mound of hard shit, sacrifice, and suffering all your own. It rises so high you can’t make out its peak from this side of the clouds. You are small before it. Its size will humble you but don’t let it intimidate you. You can get over it, rock by rock. It will be hard but a mountaineer you have become and all you see is an adventure, a challenge, and a victory. You will own yourself, or be owned. But you know that it’s better to die than to live a life that isn’t your own so you will conquer it, or you will die trying.

There is no magic advice. Nothing moves it faster, nothing makes it easier. You just have to get shoveling. It must be moved to make room, for what, I don’t know. I only know it must be brought down. There are more mountains after yours, ones of hate, and ignorance, and pain and all must be leveled, blasted to rubble and a way made through for the next person. There is always more work, more to get over, and progress always to be made, but each of us gets only one mountain to move. If you can move yours, the next person won’t have to. They will see what great things you have accomplished and attack the next with confidence and fervor. They will know that the impossible can be done.

But first, this mountain is yours, and time enough or no, wisdom, strength, and help or no, you have to move it. No one can do it for you. No one knows how to do it but you. Moving your mountain makes something significant of your life. That pile of shame and suffering is a mountain of meaning. It’s a living moving breathing thing. It is you. You simply have to move…yourself.

You have been assigned this body, this mind, this experience, to show us how a person can be moved and an experience can be made to mean something.

Thinking about it this way helps. This quote jumped out at me yesterday and a light switch was flipped, and I saw something. That is what I have forgotten. I am not the only one who has been through what I have, and none of us has experienced anything new, we’ve only been given a new way of looking at it, and overcoming it. My job is to get through it, and heal from it, and share how I’ve done it so the next one can do the same. Then they will share how they have endured and healed too, and so on.

So, go move your mountain. Show us it can be done. Show the next one to stand below such a harsh existence that rock by rock can bring the whole thing down.

***

Thank you for reading! If you like this post check out my weekly-ish newsletter for inspiring reads + existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering. Or help support what I do by sharing a cup of coffee.

Photo by mohammad alizade on Unsplash

Things I Thou​ght Love Was, and Learned the Hard Way, that it Wasn’t

Today is a big day. Today I am celebrating 14 years with my lovely lady. Fourteen years since the day I decided I only wanted to be with her, and I only wanted her to be with me too. Fourteen years since she told me she wanted the same, and we started this strange and wonderful journey together.

This anniversary doesn’t feel like an especially exciting one, but I think for good reason. I think we have come to the point where anniversaries are less of an accomplishment and more of an inevitability. Now, instead of celebrating by doing something special and new, we do things the things we always do because they are our favorite things. I like it better this way.  It feels like honoring how far we have come and who we are together.

I would like to honor what we have learned along the way by sharing it with you.

***

When I was young, and my love and I were first together, I thought that love was about perfection. I thought that love was proof of her perfection and mine, and our perfect perfection together. I thought once she started to find faults with me, that she must be falling out of love. I thought that since I saw faults in her, she must not be the one.

I learned that love is about accepting imperfection, in each other and in your relationship. The trick is finding more good than bad in one another and always striving to do better.

I learned that the person who loves you is the only one who can show you your faults in a way that makes you love yourself despite them. I learned that only seeing the good in a person and making them perfect in your mind is cruel. It is cruel because the illusion will fade and the fall will be worse than if you had both been honest and loved one another, flaws and all, from the beginning.

***

When I was young, and my love and I were first together, I thought that love was only expressed with kindness, empathy, and generosity. I thought fighting meant you weren’t in love and when my girlfriend and I began to fight I became afraid. When I saw her anger I thought she didn’t love me, and when I felt angry it was only my frustration at trying and failing to make her and us happy.

I learned that sometimes love is expressed through actions and feelings that look nothing like love. Sometimes love is angry and mean. Sometimes love is scared and jealous. Sometimes love hurts and is hurting.

No one comes out of their childhood unscathed, and no one comes into a relationship emotionally unburdened. Everything we were taught about how love should feel and be expressed becomes what we expect from the one we’ve chosen to spend our lives with. When our expectations aren’t met, it scares us, and we react in irrational ways.

We try to change, control, and cage each other, thinking we will escape a terrible fate. I will tell you if you do that you will set yourself on a course for failure and heartbreak.

***

When I was young, and my love and I were first together, I thought that love was the prize. I thought once promises were made to spend eternity together there was no need to chase and earn that love again. I thought the fight was over, the rest of my life only need be lived, but when we both became restless and feared being taken for granted, I thought I had to go looking for love elsewhere.

I learned that meeting, falling in love, and settling in our home was not the ends of the journey; it was only the beginning. I learned that love is not like finding your treasure and settling down to empty your spoils. Falling in love is like finally being handed the treasure map and a partner to go hunting with, for the rest of your life.

I thought that love should feel like a burning, consuming passion and love that doesn’t is a love that has run its course, fizzled out, and should be abandoned. I had never been told that after the passion and drama there comes a kind of peace. There comes comfort and contentment and if you come to it without fear it can be something more beautiful than the drama and passion ever were.

Let that comfort be the place your love is journeying toward.

***

When I was young, and my love and I were first together, I thought that love was static and unchanging. I thought that the person I fall for would remain the same person forever. I thought, I hoped, that the paradise we had found and created in and with one another would be timeless and insulated from outside influence.

When I woke up one day and looked at my love and saw someone I didn’t know and who didn’t know me, I panicked. I heard the words “grown up” and “grown apart” saw her drifting away. I raged, and I whined, and I tried to make her back into the girl I first knew, and she only drifted more.

Love isn’t supposed to stay the same forever. Love grows and morphs from day-to-day because ethe people who fee it grow and morph too. They may grow apart, that is a part of the risk, but if they are careful and give one another space and support, the love will grow stronger, and the bond solidifies. Don’t fear the change. Take pride in the way you and your love move through life, sampling different temperaments and becoming different people.

It is the gift you are meant to give one another.

***

When I was young and my love and I were first together we didn’t know what it meant to learn to not only love each other but to live and grow together. Most couples fail to learn the lessons, but we were determined to make it through the dark caverns of jealousy and the jagged mountains of uncertainty. We came out the other side feeling like two people who had also become one entity and would always be.

We are happy, even with our flaws and our fighting we are happy.

I hope you are too, and if you aren’t I hope you can stick it out and come out the other side filled with love, comfort, and contentment.

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Post inspired by The Daily Post’s Discover Challenge: The Poetry of List-Making

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