compassion and not hating people

Humans have a habit of seeing things as cause and effect. You drop a dish, it will shatter. You close your eyes and wake up at a different time, you were asleep. You say something rude to person A and they are angry.

Emotions are wild entities because while they usually have some manner of correlation between cause and effect, the proportions don’t always fit like we want them too. When a person is under an incredible amount of stress, sometimes something as small as a sad puppy picture can make them cry. Furthermore, even when we know it’s selfish and unrealistic, we can find ourselves angry or frustrated that things don’t work out the way we want.

No human is the center of the universe, and yet getting that into our skulls is another matter entirely. We want things to go well, even when we realize that the bumps and swerves and mountains in the road are necessary to feel that things are going well.  It’s a dangerous habit to claim a thing is part of human nature, but it is easy to feel that we all want the best for ourselves, in some form.

I feel like the more I learn about humans, mistakes, crime, and every other bad thing we go through, the more I feel that we largely have a cooperation and interaction problem. Many, yet not all, diseases come from our inability to care for ourselves and others. Both psychological and physical problems we face are often the result of not having the necessary social support, whether that be financial, emotional, etc.

People lash out because they are hurt. It doesn’t mean they should have lashed out, it just explains why they did so.

When it comes to cause and effect, we can simplify the situation down too much. We can point to A, B, and C, but we might miss the emotional reality of a person altogether. It’s not so simple. Events and actions add up over time. Experiences can remind someone of another experience.

When we look at ourselves, we know how it feels to be in our own shoes. However, being compassionate toward others is important. Communication and balancing out complex interactions is a tightrope walk with the whole circus making a ruckus around you, and it’s a tightrope for everyone.

There are so many things we don’t know. Being loving towards both ourselves and others begins with realizing that. Everyone is doing the best they can, as messed up as they may end up. The only way any of us gets to something approximating normal is by depending on others and letting others depend on us.

laziness doesn’t really exist

Why are people lazy? Actually, let me rephrase that. Why do people give up on their goals and settle for the minimum? “Lazy” is a term we hear over and over again, but what human genuinely desires to put in the least amount of effort? Theoretically, if we care, we will put in the effort.

That theory doesn’t always hold up though. There are plenty of situations where we do care and technically have the time but we still take the ‘lazy’ option. It’s terrifying to think about how often we become okay with the minimum. And we are okay with this minimum because it’s exhausting to go above and beyond.

This is a bit of a radical position, but I’m here to defend it: few to no people are actually lazy.

The main distinction between those who are determined and work hard versus those who slack off is that those who work hard have figured out how to handle their own emotions. Everyone has things they have to do that they don’t want to, and we also all have things that we care about. “Lazy” people, of course, have things they care about. It’s rarely a lack of desire and more of a lack of self-trust. To put yourself out there takes courage. It takes drive, and it’s risky. Doing the minimum feels safer.

Self-discipline and self-trust are emotional skills, and they take time to build up. One builds up self-discipline by doing things. Doing things takes commitment and being okay with failure. Self-trust is the same, it takes commitment to yourself and again, being okay with failure.

Whatever we do or don’t do is a result of how we feel. Sure, rationality is an important mediating factor, but we will find a way to justify our actions in some manner, no matter what route we take. Even if you are trying to go after the most ‘rational’ answer, you are beginning the search with an emotional basis and social context. We should research what we can, make sure we have the full picture of the situation, etc., but our emotions aren’t something to fear. Having emotions is what gives us the drive and purpose in our lives in the first place.

When it comes to laziness then, “Oh, go pull yourself together”, isn’t going to be useful advice for most people. Learning to trust yourself and follow through on the promises you make to yourself is a pretty massive undertaking. It requires confidence and acceptance of risk. It’s a big deal, especially for those who don’t have the highest self-esteem to begin with.

If you have difficulty being self-motivated and getting things done then, try to look within yourself. Forgive yourself. Be patient with yourself. Start with little things, and build up your own trust in yourself. Change is difficult but worth it.

 

Photo creds: Enya Callibuso

stop making emotions your enemy

When someone moves on the floor above me, it sounds strangely like water. Sloshing. Although I seriously doubt any individuals are shoving large bins of water around. However, I can still imagine that scenario if I desire because I can choose to see things in a different light.

We can’t change our beliefs. We don’t choose what we believe or what we feel. Our experiences give us information and we translate that information in a way we want to. Our emotions take us over whether we realize it or no, always lurking and influencing our decisions, no matter how rational we desire to be. Even our desire to be rational is still fueled by emotion, like pride or a sense of honor.

Yet the word “lurking”, isn’t fitting. Emotions aren’t evil. Emotions aren’t some sort of enemy we have to conquer and keep down.

Nor is rationality evil, or leading us to an unhappy life. People who advocate for getting rid of all emotions or all rationality are both irrational and likely spurred by emotion.

We need moments in our lives where we do the irrational thing. We need those moments where we act silly because the alternative is to be miserable. There comes a line between carrying out one’s responsibilities and also not dying a dull bore.

When we villainize our emotions, we begin to make ourselves into the enemy. We begin to shame ourselves when we don’t feel the ‘right’ thing. It feels good when someone we don’t like embarrasses themselves. It feels good to hate annoying people. It feels good to be vicious from time to time. Feeling that inclination doesn’t mean you are evil, it means you’re human. To some, that might be one and the same.

But that’s not the point. The point is that we shouldn’t shame ourselves for something we cannot control, but rather focus on what we can control. Why are you feeling good when your peer fails? Ask yourself about the feeling. Track down where it’s coming from.

Many times when we feel hatred, we feel it because we are afraid. Hatred is an outlet for our insecurities. It feels good to hate because it gives us a sense of power, and that power stabilizes us for a time. It doesn’t solve the core problem, however. It doesn’t solve the core insecurity and ignoring it will only make the problem grow worse.

Our emotions are not foreign entities, they are us, and we should embrace them as we gently guide them. We can choose to see things in a different light. We can’t change our immediate perceptions, but we can change how we interpret what they mean.

a radical pact

A poem about nerves and fear:

The thing about fear is that drives you down to your stomach in Now

Now is here, there, and living like a wild monkey on your shoulder, playing with your chest like it’s strumming a harp

And the drive is to forget, to distract, to just get away to a place with unfamiliar bridges in shadowy nights

But what do we have, if we do not appreciate this moment?

Every moment we have is a moment of our lives, a moment of time, limited edition feat. You and yourself and all the rest of you

Maybe it’s radical, but even if it is our fear making us hold Time in the forefront of our minds, we are still holding Time

And as we shift towards gratitude, an absurdity, we make a pact of peace

Why should we be ashamed of our fear? We didn’t cast Fear as the starring role in the film, all we can do is deal with the diva

And we handle it,

as we have in the past, as others have done, and as we will do in the future, as other future selves will do

little weights and balance

There is a balance between being patient with yourself, and encouraging yourself to actually get things done.

Oftentimes we have to treat ourselves like small children. We have to reward ourselves with snacks, set time apart for naps, make sure our schedule is in line. Things become messy when we realize the person who will reward us is usually us. It’s easy to be our child-self, far more difficult to convince ourselves to be adults.

Being an adult seems like its own world when you’re a child. It is a set of concepts we associate with responsibility and personal power: opening accounts, setting a budget, going grocery shopping, going to work, etc. It seems foreign to those who haven’t done it, terrifying, really.

But it’s a challenge like every other we face. We learn things one by one. We walk to a place, we fill out a form, and we ask questions when we aren’t sure.

Being “adult” is more or less scary to different individuals, but the same idea holds for a lot of things. Fundamentally, we build things up in our head. We make mole hills into mountains and that makes the prospect of climbing them far more difficult. No matter how complicated a task, we break it down into simpler steps. No matter how important a decision is, the moments leading up help give us the necessary information.

So be patient with yourself on the little things, but get those little things done. All of the huge weights we create are an accumulation of little bits we can handle.

don’t feel bad about feeling bad

Chet Baker singing “I Fall In Love Too Easily” is one of the smoothest, purest, and delightful experiences I have ever had in my life. Good music is just something that makes me happy, and I think it’s a fair assumption to say other people typically feel the same. There’s just something beautiful about when a song hits you “right in the feels”.

But as magical as songs can be, real life seems to match it with ugly construction sounds. There are moments when we are socially suave, where we fit, and there are also moments that are painfully awkward. We realize things are a balance of the good and bad, but it doesn’t make the bad feel less horrid.

Here’s a fun little challenge: don’t feel bad about feeling bad. When we start pathologizing our own emotions, it can lead us down tricky roads. Maybe your mental state is unhealthy and should be treated, but even if you think you can diagnose something on your own, don’t treat it on your own.

It often comes down to, if you need help, get help. If you are unsure, ask. Even the rarest conditions, the ones where truly no one feels and experiences the same thing as you, have some semblance to something else.

This applies broadly to mental health, of course, but also to the little things, and for the people who think there’s completely fine. If you feel something, you feel it for a reason. It may be irrational, it may be nonsensical, but it’s how you feel. Emotions change and will change, but often the hard part is allowing yourself to feel the way you do, and subsequently forgiving yourself. Feelings do not equal actions. They are related, but they are still separable.

Your actions are your own. If you know something is wrong, if you know that you’re in a tempting place, physically get yourself out of the situation. Take a walk. Listen to some good music.

When we feel emotions, they can take us over. We can feel so engrossed in our own experiences that we forget we’ve felt other things. But we have, and we will.

be sad with Chopin when you need it

If you’ve never listened to Chopin, I highly suggest it. His music is moody, dramatic, and that sort of stunningly beautiful that Romanticism brings out in all of us. Part of what makes Chopin as influential as he is is how in love he was with using the piano in his pieces. Unlike most classical music whose melody become entangled and (in my opinion) frequently too complex, his work clings to a sense of singular focus. Although he worked in an orchestral setting, my personal favorite pieces are the nocturnes with the solo piano. I doubt I’m alone in this preference, considering his Nocturne in E# Major is one of his most popular pieces.

My reason for bringing all of this up is that nocturnes, in a musical setting, mean “a short composition of a romantic or dreamy character suggestive of night, typically for piano”, as Dictionary.com helpfully puts it. Of the same thread is Clair De Lune by Debussy and of course, Moonlight Sonata by Beethoven. The night is a muse for so many musicians, and so many piano pieces in particular because. Well, it just seems to fit. Part of what makes nocturnes so lovely is that they are sad. Contrary to popular media, we don’t always have to be happy. Happiness is a fleeting emotion, and that is deeper, further down, is contentment. However, we can’t even be content all the time. It is almost certain we won’t be. Depression is a problem because of the extended period of time it takes up, how it drags into the rest of our life. Sadness, on the other hand, is necessary. It’s needed, even when we hate it. We have to let ourselves be sad sometimes. We have to be moody, dramatic, and “emotional” by realizing that we have other emotions than happiness and contentment.

If we hold ourselves to an unachievable standard of happiness, we will most certainly become miserable. Part of life is the parts where we feel like trash. That doesn’t mean that we are useless or defective or wrong. It means we’re human. Sometimes we need the time to listen to sad music, curl up, and be alone until we feel okay. If it happens every day, or often enough that you feel like you can’t live your life, seek help. But for most people, for the one-off days that hit us, it’s okay to be sad. We are allowed to have our emotions.

attention, talking, and time

Talking to people is important. That might seem like a no-brainer, but the number one way to make yourself miserable is to shut yourself off. The stresses from social anxiety, for example, may make talking to people seem absolutely impossible, but it doesn’t matter if it’s awkward. Humans are awkward, we misunderstand each other all the time.

All of the awkward conversations you’ve had are still conversations, and even if it seems like you’ll never get better, it’s the first necessary step. Even if a relationship doesn’t work out, the experience is important. If a happy memory is special, what is about it that makes it so important? Feelings are fleeting, and we need all of them. Happy memories are special partly because we like being happy. However, all the rest of our emotions can define a moment and also make it important. The sad moments, these also are integral to who we are.

As radical as it may seem, ordinary moments can also be special. If you consider how we experience time, you might realize that our attention drastically changes how we feel. “A watched pot never boils”, because by staring at something and waiting, it feels longer. “Time flies when you’re having fun” because when we don’t pay attention to it, we don’t mind how fast life is going. If we want to live a full life, that means paying attention. It means being mindful of how we live our lives and living it with purpose. Even the most nihilistic people can find a reason to live and have a beautiful life. If you feel the universe doesn’t give you a purpose, then you’re free to make one up. By being physically a part of this world, we are necessarily a part of it, so go be awkward and exist to the best of your ability.

 

 

on loving yourself in little ways on little days

Today is a day just like any other. Statistically speaking, it’s an average day. But what is absolutely amazing is the fact that the Present never stops. It’s never Not the present. It is always today, which means that we always have the opportunity to take action. That’s something spectacular, because it means we have the ability to make choices.

We have an undeniable skill at making excuses and limitations for ourselves as humans. And part of the reason is that, as humans, we need limitations. We need boundaries so we know where to put in our effort. We care about what other people think because we have to get along with other people to survive to the best of our ability. We need to fulfill our duties at work and/or school in order to tell people know we are trustworthy and reliable in the future. We need to complete our various goals, even pushing through the boring parts because it allows us to be confident in our abilities and build our character.

There are plenty of reasons to do all of these things, but those examples above are just to illustrate the fact that there is a reason to have and care about our responsibilities. The thing we tend to forget and also the thing we need to remember is that we have freedom outside of that. If we want to use an extra two dollars to buy a overpriced drink we love, we can. If we want to stay up late drawing different kinds of pumpkins, we can. If we want to keep up with the styles and be basic, that’s up to us. These are silly things to think about as ‘freedom’, but we place an extra layer of expectation upon ourselves at times when we think something is too nonsensical. We’re more emotionally driven than we think, and that’s okay, but if it’s better to bend to the emotion of joy than that of fear for simple things that will do us no harm. Do those little things you love for yourself, because life is too short to not!

 

 

 

the kinds of effort we put in

Work, at it’s core, isn’t very fun. It requires you to focus and pull away from what’s entertaining to accomplish some goal. Different parts of one’s work may be interesting, but for most everything, you have to be in the right mood for it. And no matter how amazing your job or school is, there will always be times when you just don’t feel like putting in the effort.

There is a strength required in being able to do what you don’t want to do. Its name is self-control, and it’s difficult to wrangle down at times. However, you can. We all have some amount of self-control, and you are no different. The trick is that thinking you have more of it helps you actually have more of it. If you tell yourself that you have little self-control, you make yourself feel less guilty for loosing control and giving in to your temptations. However, knowing you have high self-control keeps your expectations high, and helps you not give up. And you should want to be in charge of yourself!

Our emotions are not all of us, nor is our rationality. They are mixed together in order to help us live full lives.Giving in to whatever you want, whenever you want is fun, but it quickly makes you miserable. Our impulses are not always good, and not ever holding back tends to ruin our relationships. Your emotions shouldn’t always end up on top, just as logic is limited in circumstances. Denying your whims helps you get to your true desires, the ones that actually matter more to you. Work is hard and probably not that fun. That’s okay. Not every moment of life has to be fun or happy. Instead, we can be grateful and committed to our goals and relationships, because that is what’s important. Your effort matters, even when it doesn’t feel heroic or interesting.