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… or, Sherman Alexie: I hear you, but it’s complicated too

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.

Laboring under misapprehensions

Countless occasions have come and passed without getting proper attention. They arise, things transpire, and yet we are missing some things… there are fundamental understandings. Frequently people make basic assumptions about shared knowledge or experience between us. They think they have fully assessed a situation and all of its ramifications. For whatever reason people believe they know how to correctly interpret the motivations of others. Largely things happen and move on because they are fine, and of course technically it all turns out in the end.

The trouble with too many assumptions and heavy conjecture on our part, is an overwhelming lack of evidence that is more than just a few seeds of doubt. Too often by far people take something and run with it, despite the fact that they’re wrong. They’ve miscalculated somewhere, be it people’s intentions, or their plans for the future, someone’s background or what they value.

As much as we all must at some point decide, and move on with our own actions regardless, our initial assessment should not stand alone if we have the opportunity to confirm it. Treating someone as if we know for sure what they mean, or how they feel is pretty presumptuous. Regardless of how much communication you have engaged in before, this time could very well be different. And if you confirm all the suspicions you had built up to now, there’s certainly no harm in gaining some surety of it.

It’s actually quite often we’ve gotten something wrong in the course of a series of happenings. Things move quickly, with lots of moving pieces, and it’s hard to keep track of everything. People forget, misconstrue or jump to conclusions. Perhaps we missed part, heard wrong, or simply didn’t understand one another. Giving others the benefit of the doubt should be our default bare minimum of courtesy.

Asking a few clarifying questions is the best way to go, but sometimes that still leads to strife. People often assume that type of question to mean we don’t agree with their assertion, or that we’re questioning their right to assert it.  The unfortunate part about that is the fact that it tends to come from a little shame around what they’ve been saying or doing. People can’t stand getting caught and would rather get away with everything. Putting a fine point on exactly what they said can be really uncomfortable. But if they said or did it in the first place, shouldn’t it bear repeating so we can all be clear?

Why wouldn’t people clarify before not just assuming the worst, but acting on that feeling as if it were true? A few simple questions or reflective statements to assure we’re on the same page goes quite a long way towards mutual understanding. But I think that’s where I can get caught up sometimes, because I always come into communication wanting to make sure we all understand each other. It seems to me now, less and less a priority for people in conversation. They instead are just waiting for others to finish so they can get on with proclaiming what they feel.

They don’t want to make sure and be thorough or complete, they want to throw caution to the wind at every turn. They think they are understood and that they understand already, they basically think that this entire talk was unnecessary. And I sit back trying to find a way to clue them in to the conversation before them. Because if we already understood each other so well, nobody would be sitting here saying all this stuff.

It’s not just that these little misunderstandings occur, because alone they’re not that terrifying. But laboring under misapprehensions can quickly escalate to affecting more important things. Making decisions like whether or not to stay with a partner, get a pet or have a baby… nothing of real value or consequence should be clouded by misunderstanding. No one should have to go on living with problems that could be resolved with a good dose of honesty.

I’ve watched people live their lives, year after year, going on information that’s incomplete or just plain wrong. It’s like watching Wuthering Heights play out before me, knowing it’s all just a case of someone who misconstrued something or someone, like a child’s game of “telephone”. I can’t fathom why they would continue to suffer and labor without doing anything to ease their discomfort. Especially if you’re unhappy with something someone said or did to you in particular.

We have all seen people feel so much better when what’s bothering them gets worked out and they get resolution. Anyone who would avoid achieving that greatness is being ruled by insecurity or fear, I would bet. I hope folks can find a way to see that feeling hurt for years is way worse than the alternative. An uncomfortable afternoon or even full week it might take to find closure with some direct action is entirely worth it. It’s also fundamentally more respectful of others and ourselves in this process.

 

 

 

 

Ethics – Geek Out on The New Morality

Move over Andy, there’s a new sherriff in town. Right and wrong have been turned upside down in modern culture, and people are using it in different ways than before. When we look at morality in culture, we can first agree that those waters are plenty muddy, whether we’re talking about the definitions of right, wrong, and morality, or their applications in our lives. I may circle back around to it, but I do want to acknowledge at the outset that most people have flexible morals that shift and change, especially when they feel cornered or challenged. Although it’s always been done, lately, it seems more common for people to use morality to back up what they’re doing, or what they’re espousing, rather than guide those things along.

Of the major modern changes in moral trends, there is an overarching theme I believe I’ve found. It’s pervasive in media and is being strongly reinforced there, as well as online. The basic concept is that there is a style of morality that is thought to be “evolved” or “advanced”, and the major feature it sports is deviation from consistency. It has been called “postconventional morality”, although few people are achieving that, so I’ll continue to use my “new morality” term to describe what I believe people are actually doing. The new morality is using personal judgment to override existing moral constraints – largely in the name of eschewing outdated cultural norms that are restrictive or oppressive.

What’s important to realize is that this scenario is full of assumptions. The main ones being that the initial moral code we’re describing is religious in nature, or otherwise equally rooted in cultural practices that were established generations ago. As much as I’d like to separate morality from culture, it’s pretty ingrained. So many folks assume that morality supports social constructs like misogyny and discrimination. The assumptions are too many to number here… but suffice it to say morality is currently seen as a sort social extortion mechanism.

When we realize those connections, it’s easier to understand why folks want to step outside of morality – it’s a concept seen as the backbone of social control. People do use morality to back up what they’re saying or doing, and as such we shouldn’t blame morality for the failings of culture. That said, the moral code we abide by should be altered or reimagined, rather than just avoided or circumvented. That’s because morality has always been the basis for those judgment calls we make so often, and if we don’t have a moral compass, people fall back on physiological desires and fears to guide them instead. More importantly, the concept of having a moral code is to help us collectively drive a conceptual image of how we can improve ourselves and the world around us, it’s our ability to behave beyond instinct.

Much of the stress around morality could be resolved if more people could realize that their problem is not with morality as a concept. Their problem is with it being used as a tool – be it by religions, organizations or individuals. What folks need to realize is that there are various sets of moral and ethical codes worth considering and using in our daily lives to help direct our intentions and actions toward greater good. No one has to reinvent this wheel, they just have to discover that their upbringing had limited their understanding that wheels come in all shapes and sizes, and that there are vehicles we could choose that better suit our needs.

That better vehicle is ethics. Morals and ethics may seem to be overlapping, but the difference lies in the basis or reasoning.

From Kant to Kohlberg, the idea of extending our actions to a universal model is not new. This vision helps us determine if something is appropriate based on whether or not the behavior would be sustainable if all people behaved that way, or if we each behaved that way all the time. It’s a great way to determine if something should be done or not. I see it in opposition to what has been called territorial ethics, which focuses on consequences, and whether or not a consequence impedes on the territory of another. That’s basically the “no harm no foul” idea, which may be great in a pick-up b-ball game… but if no one is in the forest to hear it, the falling tree still does make a sound, and that sound is loud.

To say that consequences should be the only determining factor in morality is a misunderstanding of the foundations of morality as a concept. Focusing on whether or not negative consequences have arisen due to an action at that time is nothing but subjectivity to power games and robs the individual of genuine free will to choose right actions based on their merit. It replaces that genuine morality with a system of external punishment and reward rather than cultivating an internal capability to determine appropriate courses of action. The fact that an action didn’t spur negative consequences at this time does not mean that it could not, or that it will not, or that it makes it right anyway. That mentality is just a defense mechanism to support irresponsible behavior and is used by people who want to do inappropriate things and rely on external forces to moderate their behavior rather than control their own decisions in a respectful way.

Without a strong sense of morality, people are having a harder time achieving compassion and respect for others too, and part of that is because their new moral code is based on the individual experience (dubbed territorial ethics by Celia Green), rather than being based on what’s good for the group (dubbed tribal ethics by the same). And when the new morality so severely deviates away from the greater good, it gets farther from right and wrong and closer to a tool for manipulation – which was the complaint that drove people away from morality, so it shouldn’t be the result of the new morality, or the goal has not been achieved.

The foundations of ethical  systems lie in consistent and logical application of decision making skills that reinforce a framework of morals that have been examined and determined to be beneficial. There are many schools of thought, but most ethical systems focus on benefit and detriment in a way that sidesteps the cultural habit of inequity, as ethics are typically applied to all people equally. No one is obligated to take any of the established systems wholesale, but they are a great way to form a solid foundation based on reasoning rooted in observation and evaluation.

Learning about ethics can be very complicated and is well learned in conjunction with logic to maximize critical thinking and minimize regurgitation of indoctrination language.

If we don’t want to rely on external perspectives to control what we do, then it is up to us to develop an internal system that is not based on our feelings alone, but a broader perspective that seeks to reconcile our actions with their inherent merits in an effort to guide action toward benefit and away from detriment. Ethics are the answer!

Sang Froid

I prefer to play a good game of offense rather than needing to rely on defense because a strategy wasn’t formed or executed well in the outset. I have become attuned to finding and using opportunities to prevent disaster long before it happens. I love to consult on scenarios to help improve possible outcomes. I can see angles, moving parts and pieces that no one else catches. I can extrapolate results based on proposed actions to determine missing links or loopholes. I can calculate whether or not a project has enough material support to succeed before it’s attempted, and make sure all the necessary steps are accounted for.  I can determine if a proposal is feasible, and whether or not it meets criteria to accomplish its goal.

The world has a lot of things that need doing, and I’m in it for the long haul. I can and often do pick up the slack in the rigging so we don’t have trouble with the sails. I can work lengthy, grueling hours day after day, with no days off in-between. I can get up before the birds, or go to bed when they’re heralding the sun’s arrival, or do both back to back. I can take a nap and then do another shift, with just a few hour’s notice. I can work two jobs, come home, and still get up in the middle of the night for my child or partner. I can be woken early to help solve a problem, or kept up late working on resolution and still make it to work on time. I can even handle having my breaks dominated by other people’s personal problems (or my own), just to go back to my shift and work longer.

I can tell when things are going bad, and often bring a stop to it, if people cooperate. When things go wrong, people look my way, and I am normally prepared to handle it. In a crisis I’m somewhat of a superhero. I jump into action, make sound decisions, and move forward quickly to minimize harm done. I can set aside my pain or frustration as long as it takes to stop things from spiraling and get them back under control again. If people work with me, I can coordinate a concerted effort that can respond to an incident with a united front. I’m amazing at mitigating damage in the short term as well as the long.

I can determine consequences and repercussions, but I prefer to use that skill for active prevention. I am great at negotiating priorities and drilling down to core issues to get them resolved before they cause problems. I can keep a discussion on topic and make sure it addresses logistical concerns. I can help people gain perspective, and interpret possible motivations. I can remind people of the big picture, and help them refocus on the issues at hand. I can help people move past roadblocks and setbacks to complete necessary tasks. I’m great at making sure a job is completed, at least in my work (not so much in my hobbies, of course.)

The silly thing is, when all’s said and done, the smoke has cleared, the dust has settled, and everyone’s on their way home…

That’s when my heart takes over, and tells my mind to wait. That’s when I look around and make sure the world is still standing, that way I know I can fall apart now. And fall apart I always do, as without fail the stress and anxiety finally overwhelm me in the aftermath. Long after it’s all over, my mind closes the barn doors, so I can cry in peace in quiet. At that point it’s not that I don’t know it’s all been resolved. I made sure of it myself. Ensuring that everything is all taken care of is the only real way I can go through mourning and arrive at acceptance.

It’s not much of a surprise to those who know me that I suck at being happy or recreational for very long. That said, I’m a workhorse, always have been and always will be. I get shit done, and I prefer it that way – any day of the week.