Battles are not won by one hero alone

Whether they are young or old, people still have things to learn.

Now, of course we know how to get it done – those of us who complain about how often people lean on us.

Of course we know what to do next, we’ve done it over and over again.

But they haven’t.

Because we don’t let them.

Every time we jump in to save them from that feeling of struggle and stress, we are telling them we don’t think they can do it.

Not without us, or someone, or something, somewhere, or somehow.

We are telling them we think we can do it better, and maybe we can. But maybe they can too.

Maybe it doesn’t matter if it’s done better because it turns out they need to learn how to do it at all, unaided, before they can master it.

Of course we could get it done faster, more efficiently and cleaner. But it wasn’t always that way. At one point all of us were but wee ones, learning how to tie our shoes. We had to get our little fingers tangled up and get frustrated and start again.

Would we push them aside to walk for them, tie their shoes when they are 10, or chew their food for them?

Who are we to take away this chance to be great? who are we to think that they should have achieved greatness any sooner? who are we to think that they aren’t already great?

In all their flawed and fragile glory they are learning for themselves how to do what needs done.

It isn’t up to us to give them that chance. It’s for us to realize that it was never ours to give.

In fact, our desperate insistence to complete someone else’s work or meet their challenges is making this about us, and not them. It’s about our own desire for control, and we may tell ourselves it’s about the product, but if it isn’t ours to make then it’s not our shame if an inferior job was done.

It has more to do with our fear of repercussions or consequences of an imperfect result. It has everything to do with the expectations we set and the outcomes we prefer to see. But it’s not for us to set the standard for others; who are we to dictate to them?

It’s not that we can’t act in an advisory capacity, dole out advice, or provide coaching. But there comes a point when excessive instruction becomes nothing more than backseat driving or armchair quaterbacking.

Each of us has our journey in life, with pitfalls and turns and surprises. We develop at our own pace, learn lessons along the way, and eventually figure out what we need to.

It’s great to have family, friends, or a support network, but none of us needs mother-hen managing.

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Man vs Man

In the behavioral sciences it has been said that Western or Modern culture values the individual over the group, whereas Eastern and less industrialized cultures value the group over the individual. It is presented in a way that treats these two approaches as equivalent. Ostensibly people are merely focusing in one direction vs another. I find this definition to be a false equivalence that is intended to prop up Western values to make them appear rational and serviceable.

Focusing on individualism is selfish. It’s self-centered, it’s self-focused, you can call it whatever you want, but at the end of the day it’s quite clearly caring for self above and before others. Which inherently is caring less about others than one’s self. It’s a lack of respect for the people around them in a profound way.  Individualists tend to extend their own viewpoint to others, framing everything from their own perspective and expect others to see things as they do – thus assuming that they are right and that everyone agrees with their values. Group-oriented people by nature are better at seeing things from another’s perspective, giving them a better chance of building compassion and respect for others.

Whether it’s inappropriate behavior or discourtesy from the individualist, people who focus on the group know better. Those who focus on the group are being responsible and mature by sharing this world with others in a way that honors our mutually shared existence. None of us lives alone, and cultures that focus on the individual would be fine to do so if the individual was fully self sufficient. Many indicators point to the exact opposite, and that people reared in a group-oriented society are more self sufficient, more productive, and more contributory than individualists.

The dichotomy of individualism and groupism is a sign of the ambivalent relationship humanity has with competition. Individualists value competition, and by extension, winning victories over others. Group-oriented people value collaboration and cooperation, and would rather overcome challenges together. Individualists fiercely defend the concept of competition as the means to prosperity, they equate prosperity with success, and success is equated with happiness by their standards – thus they see prosperity as happiness.

The World Happiness Report is based on several indicators, but some of those are distinctly Western values. A country’s GDP or a an individual’s freedom to make life choices are valued higher by Westerners than some other groups, and using those as factors in measuring happiness reinforces bias toward individualism when other cultural groups may not consider those to be significant factors in their own happiness.

Western values associate individualism with freedom, but those can be mutually exclusive. Focusing on the group is a sign of mutual respect and moral/ethical adherence to respecting that which is greater than ourselves; it does not preclude or prevent freedom of choice. Considering the needs, wants and circumstances of others is honorable and should be seen as exercising superior social/life skills. Denigrating caring for the group is an indication of participation in oppressive social ranking that pits individuals against each other while degrading their confidence and self-esteem. It also disregards the difference between people focusing on the group experience and people being controlled by those who hold power.

To the individualist’s eye, focus on the group is seen as a negative thing. A large part of the negativity associated with group orientation is the correlation between it and conrolling power groups. The assumption is that no one would focus on the group unless they were coerced, since (again) the individual has such a difficult time broadening their perspective rather than just extending their worldview to others. It doesn’t occur to the average individualist that power groups have simply been able to infiltrate group-oriented societies, which should be obvious as power groups are universal in human existence. Those in group-minded societies are no more corrupt than individualists are, and my feelings tell me that if anything, it’s the contrary.

Individualists have been subject to propaganda that reinforces their world views, just as those who are group-minded. Because they are individualistic, they somehow assume that means they have more freedom or control, which is a false assumption at best. What’s even more unrealistic is their complete lack of personal responsibility accompanying all that freedom and independence. For some reason, the individualist believes they should be allowed to act with complete autonomy of free will – yet they don’t seem nearly as concerned with the consequences of those actions.

More importantly, the individualistic idea that happiness or even “success” should be the goal of each human and humanity as a whole is flawed at best. The WHR is used by organizations to pressure governing bodies to focus on happiness as the goal of their governance and the measure of its success. This is a deeply damaging goal, not just in considering the inconsistent and fickle nature of happiness itself, but in the broader sense of dismissing priorities that do supersede personal satisfaction.

The individual focusing on their own happiness, or on the happiness of the group is reasonable. However, a governing body needs to focus on the totality of its capabilities to affect change for holistic benefit; that which is best for all rather than some. Leadership needs to be focusing on the impact its populace has not just to mitigate damage but to be able to drive change to provide lasting benefits to future generations.

If humanity wants to claim that continuation of the species is paramount, and that we want to give our offspring the best chances of success, we’re going to need to work on our individual roles that come together to make the whole of society work, so we can each support this goal. Although group orientation focuses on the group as a whole, the group is still comprised of individuals coming together to support common goals. Constantly competing to succeed detracts from humanity’s ultimate goals and makes false promises that some of us could escape suffering, while diminishing our collective capacity for good – it wastes valuable resources.

In some ways, a group-oriented mind set is still an individualistic mindset, but it’s one that focuses on the responsibility that each of us has in handling our decisions and actions in a way that recognizes that none of us is the only individual in this universe trying to survive.

Unrefined

Sometimes it’s not pretty or refined or organized. Sometimes the thoughts don’t make any sense. Sometimes it’s just word salad and you’re picking through looking for the croutons. It isn’t simple, easy, by no means fast. Sometimes it strikes you and know it deep inside, and other times it sits just out of sight to lie in wait. It doesn’t mean much… just a lil ditty

Pococurante

There is a popular attitude that all humans are riddled with shortcomings and weaknesses that they are entirely unable to overcome. That sentiment is highly detrimental to the denizens of this world, and it’s also wrong. The very idea that people would be unable to change a bad behavior flies in the face of everything we are told is great about humans – our ability to learn, adapt and grow, to overcome challenges and create new things the world has never seen is what makes it possible for us to become better all the time. We know that we are special, and it’s because we can choose behavior that benefits us in the long run and not just what immediately feels satisfying. The amazing thing is that we can accomplish greater and longer lasting happiness through that measured behavior than can ever be achieved without it.

Traditional values in my  culture tell me that since I have free will and am autonomous, my choices (be they action or inaction), and the results thereof, are all my responsibility. In my grandmother’s eyes all choices on our part are either deliberate, careless or negligent. In that world there is no room for accidents. A mistake still has fault even if the person feels remorse. The idea of an accident is that it’s no one’s fault, and frankly, that’s a bit of a logical fallacy to apply to human behavior. For the most part, we absolutely can and should be held accountable for our actions and decisions – even if the results are different than we intended. This isn’t about berating poor performance though, it’s about understanding behaviors to help change them from the inside.

My grandmother firmly believes that often, people purposefully disregard or are indifferent to the principles of courtesy and respect for others. The people she describes see themselves in those same scenarios as not having known (think “oblivious”). Or they believe they live ‘naturally’, which is my best term for following feelings without any attempt to predict consequences. They don’t see that behavior as an ongoing refusal to recognize the effect that we each have upon others, our environment, and our future. That ‘living naturally’ mindset does not acknowledge the value of taking preventative measures in life. All it does is revert to self-pleasure and self-preservation alone, forsaking morals, ethics, and altruism. It doesn’t eschew responsibility out of malice toward others though, it is more of a way to protect a fragile emotional space that needs propping up to be maintained.

Caught up in the concepts of fate and destiny, so many people believe that the course of events is unchangeable and that they personally have no impact on the world at all. This gives them a strange freedom to act as they will, believing that they either do or should have no impact, and if anyone implies otherwise, they direct the affected party to accept those bad choices based on the inevitability angle. They often use language like “mishap” and “misfortune” to describe outcomes and act like or believe that they are constantly subject to the whims of intangible forces from afar.

Human behavior is not inevitable. It takes significant cause to induce action in a person; it has to be worth their time and efforts to take action. Each person makes a choice because it provides some kind of reward, no matter how convoluted the reward’s connection to the choice. We all know how difficult it can be to get someone to do something that they don’t want to do. Any attempt by any person to say they had engaged in behavior by accident is lying to themself or others. No one goes out of their way to do anything unless something brought them to feel a desire or need to do it. As aforementioned results can vary from anticipated but that’s different. I’ve never blamed someone who was misled and truly didn’t know it either, but even that has its limitations.

I don’t always agree with my grandmother’s thinking that largely people are careless or indifferent. I think it’s an issue of misguided beliefs surrounding what it means to be mature and what the basis of independence is. Too many people see adulthood as ultimate unbridled freedom. This puffed up image of doing as we please and telling others to take our actions as immutable is not simply exercising our free will, or taking artistic license. It ends up relying heavily on the forbearance of strangers and family alike, and is a burden on those with a deeper level of maturity. It reminds me of ‘Catcher in the Rye’ in so many ways.

When we’re looking at the positive we want to make a difference and/or be recognized in this world. When it comes to the negative of course we’d rather not be associated with it; we don’t want to make that impression on the world. The tendency is to cover mistakes with excuses and justifications, or lies and manipulation. This immature behaviors belies the shame people feel when we are caught by the authority figure of honesty. This demonization of the home of catharsis and closure is a travesty. The best way for everyone to move on from emotional pain is honesty – unless the perpetrator has no remorse whatsoever, which is much more rare than it’s made out to be… normally remorse is hidden behind self-preserving defenses more than it is absent.

Insecurities become evident when this behavior is seen for what it is – a poorly executed way for people to keep themselves from being hurt or wanting for anything, all at the expense of those around them. Highly insecure people have a hard time because they are ridiculously critical of themselves and therefore they already feel punished by their own guilt in ongoing cycles before any outside forces come to bear. Especially when the insecurity has whittled away any confidence in their own abilities to affect change. When these cycles are internalized they result in dysfunctional relationships with self and society. A decision made in error need not be so devastating that the victim is pulled into consoling the perpetrator over the commission of whatever misdeed they chose to undertake, but things get turned around within the dysfunctional cycles of the insecure mind.

It’s not that I don’t think we should see humans as imperfect or subject to the forces of the universe – it’s that I want people to own their part in their own choices and by extension the results of their choices. It’s that we do all play a part in the theater of life. Some of us may stand at center stage, but if the grip never shines the light there, no one sees the lead performance. In our way we all have an important role, if only to those closest to us. Sometimes that someone may be a retail clerk at an establishment we frequent, or an online gaming partner or a pet, but whoever it is we affect them with ourselves and our problems, our insecurities and dysfunctions. It’s true that none of us are perfect, but that doesn’t mean those who share our space must suffer for it.

Dealing with our own issues helps us deal with others and the world around us. We don’t have to lash out at others because we are scared to be wrong, or don’t have enough experience in a given subject. We don’t have to be so ashamed when we choose wrong or miscalculate the outcome. We can admit our human imperfection without using it as a cop out to avoid the spectre of failure. We can do our best, be proud we did so, and own our part of existence wholeheartedly. We should be able to deliver an impassioned if not flawless performance. We are the better for it when we work to gain the confidence and self respect needed to make healthy decisions in life, and so are those around us.

 

Movin’ on up

i don’t want to beat you because i don’t want to win at all. i don’t want to be on top, be first or be the best at any one thing.

At the first job I had full-time, I’ll never forget the day someone looked at me and said “don’t you want to move up?”… I didn’t even know what they meant. I had never been part of corporate culture, not even when I did work for a big corporation prior to them. But I had never understood, never made the connection, that everyone else was here to rise up in the long run.

For me, moving up should be no more necessity, no more frivolity. I don’t care to move up or down or sideways. I just want to support myself and my family. Where is up anyway? I’d rather not work, not because I’m lazy, but because I would like to spend that time in a better way. I wish I could support my community, my friends and family – with more than just money, items or position. I want to help support their dreams and feelings, make the world a better place and hold on to traditions.

I don’t want to earn more and more and more. I don’t want to compete with you, I want to collaborate with you. I want to work together to build the future of our dreams, eliminate suffering and foster harmony. I don’t want to get ahead of anyone else in this world. I don’t want to dominate anything or anyone. I don’t care if I’m in charge or I win anything. I don’t need external validation.

If we could make this world a better place for everyone, and satisfy our basic needs, I am sure we could find a way to get away from the idea that we need to compete. Endlessly achieving benchmarks for their own sake makes no sense in the face of true suffering and hate. It’s not that I don’t have goals or dreams, it’s that the ones I have are not just a means to serve me. I don’t want to be alone atop a mountain of losers, looking down on all the shattered dreams of my fellow humans. This world deserves more than nothing but Alpha/Type A oppressors. It deserves more than petty bickering and infighting. Ensuring my own success at anyone else’s expense is first of all not success, but also unacceptable.

I don’t care how I fare if I live in a world where little kids and grandmas are pushed out of the way. If you can’t be counted on to help when needed what is the point of living in the group experience? We were all children and will most of us grow old. I would rather care for those who are most vulnerable than turn my heart cold. I am not willing to do all the things it takes to make myself a success or bring someone else down to failure. I want to get along and work without pressure. I don’t need these demands on my life when I don’t care about “getting to the next level”.

I am here, I am good, and all I want is to exist unfettered.

 

[TA]

Chopped Liver

I have been there for countless people.

I gave them a place to crash, held their hair back while they threw up and counseled them through breakups.
I listened to people’s problems, cooked them food and enlightened them.
I was there for people who used me and never paid me back a thing.
I got them jobs and saved their asses when they really really needed it.
I have taught people the answers, helped them find answers for themselves, and waited for them to figure it out.
I have patted backs, held hands, wiped butts and tears and everything in between.
I have been wise and patient and forgiving for years and years.
I have been the supporting actress to would-be stars in the gutter.
I have been the audience in everyone else’s show, I’ve shown up to their gigs and performances.
I have played second fiddle, back up singer and side kick for many.
I worked my ass off following every rule and doing the right thing.
I have been honest, straightforward and forthcoming.
I have thrown out a “yeah man” and “right on” when you’re up on your soapbox.
I give people play in the conversation until I’m bored with it, and still I listen.
I have spent hours and days, and longer, of my lifetime in transit going to get or do something for someone else.
I have dispensed advice when asked that was never followed, or certainly not heeded from what I can see.
I have rescued and treated and nursed many an injury.

I have waited for my turn endlessly.

I have catapulted more people into success, wealth, and health than I can remember.

And it’s me they look at like I never started.

 

Click here to read the sister post.

 

Fat girls don’t get to escape sexism either

I cultivated an image to avoid unwanted advances, and negative repercussions of rejecting advances. I kept on 100 lbs of unneeded weight for the same reason. I told myself for my whole lifetime that I had succeeded at avoiding the pitfalls of sexism. But lately I have started to realize that I too, like all other women, do have countless experiences of sexism that I have had to endure.

I am realizing that all that attitude and style I cultivated still did not keep me safe, maybe a little safer than some, but still not remotely safe. This list is but a smattering of what I’ve endured over the years – and I haven’t reached 40 years old yet.

 

When I was 12, a respected community leader was in a van as a chaperone for myself and 3 teenage boys. He had the decency to ask if he could tell an off color joke. I told him I didn’t want him to tell it, and made that clear. He proceeded to tell his joke about masturbation while we drove on in a van I could not escape.

I have been told to wear a bra – by young people no less.

I was mistaken for a male at 14 years old.

I have been included in misogyny on both sides – perpetrators have assumed I agreed with them because of a supposed lack of femininity on my part, and it has been inflicted on me in other cases, both because and despite my supposed level of femininity. Like I’ve been considered “one of the guys” when they are the guys who say things like “I’d bend that over a bathtub” in reference to females.

I have been assumed to be a lesbian and assumed to be a man hater, respectively.

I have been called a femenazi – and I assure you I have no rhetoric or agenda regarding feminism unless asked.

I have been told not to worry my pretty little head, and was kept from doing some things as a child based solely on the fact that i was a girl.

I have been told to smile by a stranger, to make myself look prettier.

I have been told to lose weight, had “Jenny Craig” shouted at me, and heard jokes enough to choke a horse.

I have been catcalled.

I have been told inappropriate things regarding my body, sexualizing and fetishizing me.

I have been called more names than I can recount, but fat bitch is certainly near the top of the popular list.

I have been propositioned to whore myself out.

I have been told to wear makeup.

I have been assigned to, and relieved from, certain job duties based on my gender.

I make less money than the man sitting next to me holding the same position I do. But I was qualified enough to teach him his job when he joined my team.

When I worked while pregnant I was asked why I wasn’t at home, and I had to explain to my boss’s boss that I was the breadwinner in my family, and that I had to work to make rent – not that it was any of his business to ask in the 1st place.

When my husband stayed home with our baby while I went back to work, I had to repeat myself and endlessly explain what would have never been questioned had I been the one to stay home with our daughter.

Men consistently attempt to determine my marital status prior to engaging me, as if that has any bearing on how they should be treating me.

When they find out my best friend is a man, or that I’ve had any conversation with any man, people ask me if my husband knows.

I am sure I have been denied at least one job simply for being female.

I have been hit on in a business phone call.

I’ve been followed by more than one man on different occasions.

I’ve been hit on as a practical joke before.

I’ve been groped by strangers in public settings at least twice.

I’ve been touched in a way I did not like as a girl, and when I spoke out against it my own mother tried to brush it off and sided with the perpetrator – her boyfriend at the time.

I was told by my family that I was lucky that my marriage wasn’t arranged – no similar commentary was ever made to male relatives of my age.

Oh and how could I fucking forget the guy I gave a place to stay, thought we would just make out a little, and when he didn’t take no for an answer tried to pry my legs apart anyway?!

Yet somehow, lashing out is inappropriate though?

 

These are only the cases that stand out in my mind immediately; I could dig for more but it’s starting to bring me down a little. At some point women always circle back around to acceptance in the face of disgrace. I like to joke sometimes because of stuff like this that I never understood why women are made out to be weak, when we probably take more shit than men ever could.