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.

***

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

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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.

***

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

You Will Be Misunderstood

Hello and happy Monday dear readers. I hope your day started off on the right foot, mine has been bumpy since I woke up. I was running late, I forgot half of what I needed for the day, and I have more to do than I have time to accomplish. It’s going to be rough but I’ll do my best to stay positive, or at least remember that if sometimes, just making it to the end of the day is an accomplishment worth celebrating.

This week I am thinking about how much time we all waste being frustrated with each other over misunderstandings. I think most conflicts are misunderstandings and most could be resolved if people realized that it is necessary to explain yourself sometimes and people should not just know what you meant or what you want.

I have a friend who thinks that if you don’t understand what they are saying it is because you are not listening. This can be incredibly frustrating when you are in fact doing the best you can because you really do care and you just miss her meaning. My friend just doesn’t understand that language and meaning are not black and white and that she must try a little harder to get her meaning across.

It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood.

// Karl Popper

Language a slippery thing and humans, the inventors of it, are notoriously horrible at using it. Couple that with all the subtleties of tone, emphasis, and body language, plus whatever is going on the head of the person you are talking to, and you can see how being understood at all is a miracle.

I have noticed people have very little patience for being misunderstood. We want to say as little as possible and we don’t like to repeat ourselves. We lash out at another person for taking our words the wrong way and ever even consider that half the fault might lie with us. You may have to elaborate, you may have to explain, you may have to try more than a few times, but stay calm and don’t give up.

It takes two people to give words meaning, the one saying and the one hearing. Think of any interaction as two (or more) people working as a team to give words meaning. You cannot do it all on your own and you cannot make it all about you.

Don’t get defensive, don’t get frustrated, that only makes things worse. If you yell or give up the people around you will too. If you are misunderstood, if your words are taken the wrong way, if a mistake is made because someone thought you wanted one thing and you asked for another, just stop, start over, and take the time to try again. It won’t cost you much and, in the end, your relationships remain intact and you feel better for it.

No one is an island and you cannot pretend for long that connecting with others is not important. Just make sure you are doing your part before blaming someone else for misinterpreting your words.

Featured image via eflon

The Importance of Sonder

The profound feeling of realizing that everyone, including strangers passed in the street, has a life as complex as one’s own, which they are constantly living despite one’s personal lack of awareness of it.

Do people, feeling, and lives exist when I cannot see them? Is anything important that is not important to me? Do people love, and hurt, and hope, and cry as much as I do? Do they think stupid thoughts and hear a voice that is theirs but isn’t theirs inside their heads? Telling them when to feel embarrassed or pathetic? Do others really day dream and wish for lives they can never live?

I people watch and I wonder what they feel when they go to bed at night. I wonder what they think about in the shower or what they wish for when they blow out their birthday candles. Part of me wants to know if what I do, and think, and feel is normal. Part of me has this crazy idea that no one else think or feels like I do. It’s seems too crazy an idea that there are whole stories and lives, just as complex as mine, going on all around me.

The amount of emotion and thought happening all at once, all over this world, is more than I can fathom.

Object permanence is the concept that a being can understand that objects exist even when they cannot be seen. But what if an object has never been seen? What if a feeling has never been felt? How can I ever know other people are as real as me if I have never felt what it is like to be other people?

Another part of this is my natural ego-centrism. I can never get out of my own viewpoint so it’s difficult for me to imagine any other way. I am the center of my story, the only story there is, as far as I am concerned. But every so often something clicks in my mind, the world shifts, and I clearly see, for just a moment, that everyone has the same story too.

There is no official English word to describe this feeling. Considering how strong and important a feeling it is I am surprised there isn’t. There is a new word though, “sonder”,  coined by John Koeing for his “Dictionary of Obscure Words, but it has not yet entered the greater public’s lexicon. I think it should though. If you’ve felt it you know it is a powerful thing, an overwhelming emotion, and can, for just a moment, change your view of the whole human race.

When it clicks, when sonder hits, it really is like being connected to every other person you can see. You can see that all around you epic and complex stories are being lived, only you are not a part of them. You will never even know them. You are nothing but an extra, a character in the background never to be seen or heard from again.

If it’s particularly strong, you feel it for the whole planet and your heart swells up in your chest and you suffocate with under it. You are overwhelmed by the the sheer amount of humaness walking around on this Earth.

If you’ve never felt it I urge you to go to a park, or a mall, or some other populated place and think about the fact that every person you pass feels, thinks, and dreams the same as you. The are complicated in all the ways you are and they are just as misunderstood. They have families and they fall in and out of love. They are hurting, they feel lost and scared, they try to be brave, just like you. They are nothing but extras in your story too and they will never be privy to the epic tale you are living either.

Think about that for a short time and you will feel it mixed in with a little love and a little sadness for each passerby, for all the hope and suffering they will endure.

Just like you.

*************

Featured image: The Nitty Gritty Rather Pretty…. by Devin Smith

Writer’s Quote Wednesday – Rachel Joyce

Hello everyone and welcome to the middle of the week. I hope it’s going well so far. I hope the words are flowing easily and writer’s block has not reared it’s ugly head. If it has, or if you feel your motivation waning, I suggest you check out Colleen’s weekly event, Writer’s Quote Wednesday.

Every week bloggers pick a quote to share that inspires them, and hopefully others, to keep going. My contribution this week is from British author, Rachel Joyce.

Joyce has written over 20 original afternoon plays for BBC Radio Four, and major adaptations for both the Classic Series, Woman’s Hour and a TV drama adaptation for BBC 2. She jointly won the 2007 Tinniswood Award for best radio play for her To Be a Pilgrim.

She moved to writing after a twenty-year career in theatre and television, performing leading roles for the RSC, the Royal National Theatre, The Royal Court, and Cheek by Jowl, winning a Time Out Best Actress award and the Sony Silver

Her debut novel, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, was on the long list for the 2012 Man Booker Prize. In December 2012, she was awarded the “New Writer of the Year” award by the National Book Awards for the novel The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. Her second novel, Perfect, was published on 4 July 2013 to critical acclaim.

I think of myself as a very ordinary person. I like writing about the juxtaposition between people: the beauty of them at times and then the banal, everyday context in which we find ourselves.

– Rachel Joyce

This quote actually sums up quite nicely who I am as a writer. I’m extremely ordinary but I like being that way. I like writing about ordinary things and other ordinary people because, for me, the ordinary is quiet extraordinary when you consider the apparent lack of other sentient life in the universe.

Every little thing we humans do is something that, has far as when know, is not happening anywhere else. Our everyday actions and feeling are a novelty. They only seem boring because we do and feel them everyday.

If we took time to step outside of ourselves and view the world without all the meaning and context we have attached we would see how precious and amazing we all are. We would also appreciate each other and our planet a lot more. For us life has become almost meaningless. We forget that there is a lot of beauty in us and in the way we interact with each other. We forget that every feeling, even our anger and sadness, is something to marvel at.

I like finding quotes like this because they remind me of who I am. I don’t lead an extraordinary life, I firmly believe most writer’s don’t. Most writer’s write about other people with extraordinary lives and they write about them through empathy. I chose a different route because all too often I see people trying to escape their ordinary lives rather than learning to immerse themselves in it.

I am here to say the every one of us is extraordinary, even on the most common and mundane of days.

Original image via http://www.pexels.com/photo/city-people-woman-street-1714/