Remind Me

Technically I don’t need anyone around. But it sure is nice to have friends. When I offer or invite I’m looking to bond, and hope to see the sentiment returned. If the invitation has been made, it’s up to us to decide how important it is in our life. I’m not the least concerned about where I lie on your priority list (as long as I’ve made it on there, we’ll call ourselves friends).

When I reach out I’m hoping you’ll join me on a leg of my journey. I know it’s mine to make, and you can’t make it for me. And you’ve got your own journey, I certainly know that too. It’s why I don’t mind when yours takes you on a jaunt headed away from me. I know it’s just for now, and that you’ll change direction in life more than not.

Of course we’re all busy. It’s the adult version of “the dog ate my homework”… and that’s ok, no really – I mean that. We can’t all go everywhere being all people to all things, and whoever expects that is the fool. We must each know our limits, and take care of ourselves as we can. Throughout our lives we see time roll by, catch some and miss other opportunities.

“Remind me” is your way of putting this on the back burner, to simmer the night away. Reduced to its purest elements, the soup gets spicier as it slowly condenses.

Dream upstream

It turns out to be harder than it may seem just to stick to who you are and what you dream.

I was ridiculously lucky to be born and raised in a time and place that encouraged me to be who I am, who I actually am, not some sham just for the sake of appearances.

Even with all that encouragement it was easy to hear only discouragement, especially in relation to others.

But it took me so long to discover that I had been selling myself short for nothing.

It takes real courage to look at a neat package, and strip away all the trappings to get to the heart of the matter, and still harder to question or change it.

We’d rather absorb or deflect or protect than engage in a way that takes risks for what it’s worth.

And it is immensely tiring and strenuous at best, giving up is so much easier than putting up with the rest.

I had thought that there might be some glorious transition screen, a nice montage scene or at least there would be a sign to be seen.

It’s really just us holding us here, no one better between us and failure or success, two things that live in the space between reality and the eye of the beholder, somehow immune to either or both, they occupy in the mind that path between constraint and possibility.

Stop swimming in a sea of regret, self doubt and self pity. Stop waiting for encouragement or fighting discouragement and stand strong in your own convictions. Continue to grow and learn as you go, but don’t wait for someone to tell you it’s ok to be here.

When you’ve swum around the ocean enough, it’s time to head up the river. Instead of going with the flow, some of us know, you gotta swim upstream to get home.

 

My cat is sick

I like to think of stepping out of our own experience as the hallmark of advanced emotional development. It’s the height of achievement for many as it is not inherently a part of all humans – it’s a learned and honed skill that takes practice. It’s one of the most difficult things a person can do. It’s the basis for compassion; honoring the struggles others have as we have is to step out of our own experience and to step into theirs.

I can’t give him due credit because this is from a stranger on the bus, but he had a great way to address this concept in real time: he was frustrated, and my friend sort of wouldn’t stop asking him about it – I’m not sure why, she didn’t know him before he graced the bus with his presence that day. At first he said he wasn’t feeling well, but then he said “my cat is sick”. So my friend pursued the cat line of questioning, at which point he admitted, no neither he nor his cat was actually sick.

However, he had had an experience with someone that was upsetting, and rather than sulk in his experience of frustration, he used a technique. He told himself (and relayed the same to us) “maybe their cat is sick”. He told us that he knows what that feels like, and that it can make someone grumpy, so he extended his experience to another, and gave them the benefit of compassion in a moment when he was feeling hurt. For a young man under 30 that seemed in good health and doing alright for himself, I was a little surprised. It takes work to focus on someone else’s experience, and give it consideration.

Invaluable knowledge and experience comes from practicing the art of stepping out of our own experience. It helps us gain perspective about our selves and our experience (not to make it all about us again). It also helps us put the behavior of those around us in perspective and can help us relate with them which is critical to forming complex, healthy relationships, not to mention supporting self esteem. We need to recognize that others have a rich and varied experience just like we do, and seeing that is to everyone’s benefit.

Stepping out of our own experience generally results in stepping into the experience of another, but it can also lead us to gain external perspective on the human experience as a whole. Sometimes we need to see that frameworks and expectations are only there to guide our thought processes and feelings – these are tools people use to be able to formulate quicker and more useful responses. Those guidelines do not actually define or constrain the human experience, they only help us navigate rough waters on the high seas of life.

Stepping so far from my experience, and by extension my identity, has helped me chip away at a monstrously inflated ego that may have been childishly appropriate, but needed to fade away in adulthood. I am proud and honored to feel like I could even come close to appreciating the struggles of another. I’m thrilled to have proven to myself that I’m not always right, not by a long shot. I am excited to see where the world will take me since I’ve been able to let it have its own space and time, not crowded by my experience dominating the scene.

Although I suppose some could manage to step out of their own experience without being humbled, I hope that more people can use this or any other method to learn lessons of life. Hopefully others can realize that existence is vast, and the more we step outside of what we’ve built in our minds and hearts, the more we can learn about what’s really out there, and what’s really inside us, and everything in between.

 

Existence is Futile – A little tribute to David Dondero

Our journeys rarely take us where we planned to go in the beginning. Divergent possibilities open opportunities to change direction at the drop of a hat. Motivation strikes us in its own time and space and we can choose to entertain or ignore it. Inspiration has no rules, it woos us despite our moods and best efforts. We walk this earth looking for answers when we don’t have a question, and we give each other what we never had, in hopes they never want for it like we have.

The more we follow the thread of humanity winding through the fabric of the universe, the more we see the tension and unending spiral nature that gives fibers the strength to become the thread we need to weave ourselves together. Handmade or by machine, single threads hang on each other in utter dependence, coalescing into an entirely new concept that bears weight or accommodates it depending on the nature of the relationship of strands intertwined with themselves and each other. We need others as they need us, and we are wrapped around them as we hold our own throughout and between them.

When we fray at the edges we just show off our experience and the strength that allows breakdown without disintegration. Our lint balls, bare threads, loose ends and missing buttons celebrate our lives well loved. We cannot predict or manipulate despite the best laid plans we have made, and in our haste to move right along, it all unfolds behind us. Looking back is just our way of falling in love with our past selves, and sending our hearts comfort in the wake of entropy.

We all just want to really be alive, as if there was ever any way to do otherwise.

 

I’m just a coward, plain and simple

I’m such a coward. Such a big coward. I talk big, and no one would ever think I was cowardly, because I spin such a yarn to the contrary. But all my bravado and big out loudness is talk, and it’s safe when I don’t have to do anything about it.

I always wanted to be a writer. I have always wanted it but I was so scared to jump into a sea of people like me, all trying to be heard over the crash of the waves. But the waves break boats on the shore and I don’t want to be a boat or a wave either.

I don’t want to be turned away, dismissed or dismantled. I don’t want to answer for generations of people that were so much greater than my tiny self. I don’t even have my own answers, so I really don’t know how to answer anyone else about much of anything.

I know I could do so much more with myself but I don’t want to be hurt by this big bad world and I’m just so very tired right now. I don’t want to put my family through uncertainty and doubt to live out my fantasies that may never bear fruit because maybe I’m not that good of a gardener, after all, most of my ancestors were hunter-gatherers.

I’m inspired all the time and dream of a moment when I can rise and shine with my muses and glow like they do inside and out.

But they tell stories of going without, and struggle and strife and I’m tired of all that in my life. And I know my lot hasn’t been that bad, but the truth is there’s just so much more to it than that. How do I demand to get attention and appreciation when in my family that’s practically a sin?

I wish I had the real courage to move beyond loud words and into brave action. I want to be that guy that says “to hell with it all, I’m going to do this shit right now!” and not just when it’s time to get on the bus or ride the elevator upstairs.

How do I make my dreams happen while I juggle the struggle of everyday life?

I just want to curl up and read books and sip coffee and appreciate everything this world has to offer. Making my own way is just so much harder.

 

After letting this sit overnight I’ve got an addition… I’m on my way. Some days I get really self conscious or scared or skeptical. But I am on the path, and I get ever closer, and that’s all I can ask of myself for now.

Turnover

Like the raven saying Nevermore, I’ve been looking in the wrong direction, facing the wrong way. I sat there listening and watching the things I don’t want. I’ve been seeing and hearing the wrong stuff. I somehow got back into some place of receiving, lying in wait. I forgot to steer and let the boat run ashore.

Like some kind of pastry waiting to be glazed over I have waited too long to be eaten up, and spat out. Why did I give these outside angles due that’s not actually representative of the whole truth? It’s not that I can’t let them have their say, their part in the play isn’t mine to take away… I can avert my gaze, and let it alight on better days.

Like I’ve been staring at the villain, or the comic relief, looking for more than just a bit part out of it. I’ve been blowing up ancillary storylines like they are the ones that deserve all the eyes when the truth is they’re just some added fun on the side.

Like it matters which way my eyes stray, when it turns out existence has both more meaning and less than ever I gave it credit. It’s hard work to be an existential humanist, but it’s up to me to step back and get perspective. I get inside and hide hoping others will join me, but not everyone thinks everything is so important, at least, not like that.

Like all the times and ways I think there’s pressure and things get tight, but really I must admit, it’s all in my mind. I’ve always said the only difference between your grandma and a raisin is your viewpoint. Why can’t I seem to keep in mind that not everything is really that dire? It’s so hard, I grew up under the skirts of a skittish naysayer, but underneath I was always hopeful, even if it’s mostly been trained out of me.

But it’s still there somewhere inside, and if it’s the jelly in my turnover, it’ll ooze out from every side just as soon as you bite into me… don’t worry, just let the flaky protection fall away from the sweet treasure.

Praise be for honesty with ourselves and others

Self expression needs no audience, it is for the individual to release feelings and do things that they feel is relevant to their identity. Self expression is beautiful and fulfilling and cathartic and it is good for us.

We need to know the difference between self expression and performing for others in hopes of winning their affections, praise, or validation.

It is ok to want validation, praise and affection. We should be able to openly and honestly ask for it when we need it, rather than try to surmise what we think others will be interested in, and then attempt to reproduce that in an effort to engineer a desired response.

Other people are not puppets that we direct to feel or think a certain way, but when we try to manipulate how they feel about us, that’s what we’re doing – using them as puppets.

The people around us were not put here to make sure we feel secure or good enough. When they do it, we should appreciate it and acknowledge it is a gift of their heart.

Should we feel insecure or inadequate, let us be aware of self enough to own our humanity and by extension its necessities. Let us recognize that we do generally get the support we need, and that we do have the fortitude to meet life’s challenges without it.

Let us also recognize that the people we seek support from need support as well. They have the same worries and fears and struggles we have, and the grace to help others as they go on in their own life too. They are not fundamentally different – they have access to the same tools and resources as the rest of us. When others choose to help us they are giving of themselves and if we like that and want it, then we must also do that for others.

Let us not confuse ourselves about meeting needs vs expressing individuality. Praise is good, and getting it is good too. Let us give our thanks and praises freely, that they may flow over all of us in unity. Let us ask for and receive these good things in good time and in a good way. Let us express ourselves for the joy of existence and share that joy for its own sake.

Healthy relationships and stability start inside each of us

It’s been my fault, and I’m ready to admit it – and even take it a step further; I’m doing something about it. It wasn’t anyone else’s fault that I overextended myself, made promises I couldn’t keep, and generally drove myself into the ground trying to be all things to all people, while ending up being nothing to almost all of them in the process. No one forced me to keep going until I was exhausted and depleted, no one held a gun to my head and said “you can’t stop, you must meet every challenge ahead of schedule.”

It really, truly, and deeply is only one person’s responsibility to properly take care of me and that is… ME!

It’s not my husband’s job, although he’s kind enough to help. It’s not my employer’s job, although society is so dysfunctional that they’re taking it upon themselves to offer advice since people are not successfully caring for themselves at all now. It’s not my friends’ job, they’ve got their own problems, and as much as I can lean on them that’s different than being cared for by them. It’s not my kid’s job to recognize when I’m fatigued and burned out either, it’s my job to keep myself from it in the first place.

I’ve realized now how very vital it is to see my own mental health as important as the physical health that is just as affected by all this. I’ve come to see it’s up to me to take care of myself every single day, good, bad, or indifferent. I still want to accomplish things, which means I can’t just work myself to the bone and then collapse in a useless heap.

Taking care of myself does not mean simply shutting down or retreating when overworked. Behaving that way means I’m not moderating my efforts effectively. Hiding and disconnecting completely is a sign of not setting appropriate boundaries, or not choosing actions with enough forethought or consideration.

I’m recognizing my own limits and working to modulate that work output in the outset. It’s up to me to decide how to utilize my time and efforts to best effect. To rely on others to direct my work or rest is not only burdensome to them, it’s inappropriate. No one should need to tell me that perhaps I’m just tired or hungry, it’s my job to know when I’m in need of something. Whether it’s physical or emotional rest, I need to take it when I can, and make time for it when it seems to be detracting from productivity. Because productivity is unsustainable without a well prepared individual to get the work done well and efficiently.

Consider how often you’re tired and busy, and take it seriously when it’s time to commit to the next thing. Because saying “no, thank you” right now is hard, but failing others over it does not do anyone any favors in the long run. And if you can manage to say “no, thank you” at the right moments, it opens up more opportunities to enjoy it when you say “yes” and choose to spend time with others in your life who you care about and who care about you in return.

Fetuses don’t need empty promises, and neither do their moms

Don’t you dare blow smoke up her ass. she’s got enough shit to deal with. don’t you dare make promises you can’t keep. you’re only setting her up for wicked failure and she doesn’t need that in her life.

so if you’re not prepared to help her through her daughter’s first period or teaching her son to drive, don’t you dare say shit while she’s pregnant. if you won’t be there day in and day out to wipe away her tears, make kids lunches or answer their questions about inequity and the nature of the universe before she’s had her morning coffee, then you need to just fuck off already.

don’t tell her you’ll be there for her when what you mean is you’ll be there for yourself when you want something cute to hold and smile at but give back when it starts to smell bad. if you don’t plan on making dinner when she’s deadbeat tired or doing the dishes afterwards, when the kid is 7 or 8, then don’t make empty promises.

pregnant women don’t need your half baked plans or assurances, and they don’t need your pity or your excitement. they need help cleaning up all the trappings of childhood before they can be strewn around again like nothing ever happened.

if you’re not going to do the laundry at least twice a week, every week, until her kids are through with college, then just keep your trap shut; don’t you dare open it up. when people talk about babies keep your ridiculous high pitched noises and that self-serving reframing language to yourself.

let her make the decision that is really in front of her – am I ready to do this when everyone else gets too busy and tired to help anymore?

Winter is Coming, or Armchair Revolutionaries

You are ready for revolution. I was too. But winter is coming. Winter is always coming. And so I stopped one day, and realized that when the system is torn to shreds and lying spent in barren streets, we still need to eat. I stopped and realized that what it really means to want revolution is not what it seems.

It’s fun to tear down power structures and social mores that no longer serve us.

But it’s work to gather and preserve a winter’s worth of food to feed all of us. A lot of work, as it turns out.

Our elders wiped our mouths and butts and held us tight when storms raged outside. Unless we’re willing to build a safe home and keep them warm, we have no business telling them it’s time to tear down anything they built. They too grew up in a world that’s not fair, with greed, corruption and violence. They too hoped for better, taught us right from wrong, and hoped we would make a difference.

The difference we make means nothing if it’s only destruction and devastation. We aren’t upholding or honoring any ethical standards by bringing down everything that came before us. Surely they too made mistakes like we do, but if we want to correct that we’re going to have to talk replacement. If the system now doesn’t work anymore, it’s up to us to decide what to do instead.

The sad part is if you took even a slice of your time to put towards good, we would all be home free. But if you’re more than willing to make signs and take to the streets yet don’t want to take in any new mouths to feed, your speeches are hollow and don’t mean anything to me.

If you’re not willing to gather and prepare a winter’s worth of food, or teach children for free, or care for the elderly, it’s all just lip service you’ve been issuing.

Because at the end of the day, when you leave the riots and go back to your little safe haven, if you haven’t built anything solid for anyone but yourself, or haven’t gathered a winter’s worth of food to sustain us all together, then you haven’t torn down shit nor have you made any valid point known; you’re just a fraud with a big mouth and too much time on your hands.

Do what’s right. Because winter is coming.