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.

not just a work bod

There is so much more to life than work. There is so much more to life than looking a certain way and achieving some ideal you aren’t actually happy with. There is so much more, and yet we still get stuck on these basic things of loving ourselves and being content with where we are.

We fundamentally feel empty when we reach grand milestones without the backing of social support. If we aren’t making a difference, if we aren’t paying attention to the people around us, it’s just hard to have any motivation at all. We can strive after money, freedom, success, all of that, but we are nothing if we are alone.

Granted, money, freedom, and success are all nice. But we feel like we are using our money wisely when we can support ourselves and those around us. We feel free when our bonds to others are healthy instead of constricting. We feel successful when we are able to feel secure financially and are connected to others. Sitting alone in a pile of gold has a similar feel to sitting on a pile of rocks alone.

We struggle with motivation at times because we’re often going about it the wrong way. We try to use fear, but fear wears away. We try to use logic, but logic isn’t very inspiring. We try to use self-discipline but that’s something we need to build up over time and for the right reasons.

It’s true, we need money to survive. This shouldn’t be a spot of shame on us. We might not love what we do– that’s okay. If we are miserable, over time we can work to see if there is a better path. It’s easy to fear getting stuck. Midlife crises are unfortunately common. There’s that terrifying idea that we will blink and our life will have passed us by. But if that is your fear, then act. Take charge of your decisions. Whatever you chose in life, chose it willingly. Chose it without regrets. We are forced into all sorts of situations, but we take responsibility for who we are, we are empowered.

Life will be difficult in some way, no matter what. There will always be boring situations. The key to being okay with that is realizing that even the boring moments are moments of our lives. There is a beauty in everywhere if we look for it. There is always something interesting, and when we open our minds to it in the little moments, we can begin to trust oursleves that we’ll find it in the important moments.

thinking about positive affirmations

Here are some positive affirmations I found:

I am a diamond. It is time for me to shine.

My opinion matters.

I am a magnet for love.

Self-love is a natural state of being.

I am loved and I am wanted.

The site I got them off of has a massive list of all sorts of positive affirmations, these are some of the self-love ones. I guess half of me was curious about the process of positive affirmation and the other half was frustrated with myself for procrastinating. However, as I was reading some of these, I began to feel uncomfortable.
“I am a diamond. It is time for me to shine,” doesn’t that sound self-centered? I realized it was aimed at self-love, but it put me off balance. Growing up, I was taught that the highest form of good a human can do is to serve others. Focusing on yourself was a risky path down to the way of being selfish.
Even “I am a magnet for love”, and “I am loved and wanted”, these two involve other people. It’s like game theory, you can’t map everything out on your own because there are other player’s strategies you need to keep in mind. And deep inside of me, it felt wrong.
Not all affirmations make me uncomfortable or angry, but these particular ones did to a certain degree, and I was trying to figure out why. The answer is relatively straight forward: maybe I don’t love myself enough.
But the question goes deeper, because what does it mean to love yourself? Why do simple phrases get under our skin?
When we compliment other people, we say similar sorts of things without thinking, “Oh my goodness, you’re a Queen”, or “You have so much potential, don’t sell yourself short!”. In those situations, it’s usually clear: this individual being someone of worth is independent of everyone else’s worth. Person A is absolutely lovely, kind, intelligent, funny, and they are all of this without making Person B less kind, intelligent, etc. They are two separate people, and we recognize that everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses.
Something like, “I am a diamond” insinuates that your own life should be valued more than others. But also: does it?
A lot of the value of a diamond comes from the people who value it, who wear it. It’s a symbol of a bond typically. As living human beings, we exist in networks. There are people who value us, who like us near them. Our personalities in some way are the result of the bonds we have with other people.
As for “I am loved”, and “I am wanted”, these things are easy to doubt. By definition, you aren’t the other people around you. How can we ever be sure we are loved and wanted? Most people assume there aren’t psychic connections or body swapping magics we can turn to.
But this also has caveats we overlook. If you love yourself, if you want yourself, then you are loved and wanted. We need other people, but we don’t need the same exact people every day of our lives.
Sure, we have issues. We can be frustrated and wish we were physically different, mentally stronger, more adept, etc. But this doesn’t mean we can’t love ourselves through that. When we love someone, that doesn’t mean we are okay with what the other person does 100% of the time. Sometimes we can really dislike someone, but we fundamentally love them. The same can be true with yourself.
Self-love is more about being comfortable with the decisions you’ve made. It’s about having hope that tomorrow you’ll be better. It’s like any other relationship, you spend special time, you get gifts, you listen, you communicate (via introspection), and so forth. It’s being committed to making the life you live the best it can be.
Saying you are worthy of love doesn’t suddenly make you unworthy of love. Instead, it actually makes us more likely to love others. If you don’t need to spend all of your energy worrying about your image, about feeling shame over your choices, then you can live a better life for both you and those around you. Self-love isn’t being self-centered, it’s about being comfortable enough in your own skin that you can focus on others in the first place.

 

So yes, it feels weird at first, but say positive affirmations about yourself. Understand why you’re feeling uncomfortable, and why you’re saying it in the first place.

listen to Paul McCartney’s mother and let it be

There are loves we forget about. When we are young, we often feel a deep attachment to an idea or an object, such as the idea that we will find out that we can shapeshift into a unicorn at age twelve. Often American children have comfort toys, little fuzzy stuffed elephants or lambs that they were trained to use as a substitute for their mother. When we develop into adults, we may have other loves, such as a guitar hobby we pick up because we think it’s our destiny to become the next rock musician of the century. What we love can be small or large, human or non-human, but at some point in time, we felt an incredible connection to it. Then it fades, and we might regret that we weren’t able to hold onto it.

The nature of love is something people dispute about. In this day and age, we most often associate love with romantic love, but the concept of romantic love didn’t really take off until the industrial period when the number of potential suitors rose significantly for individuals, and they could be more picky about who they paired off with. For most of human history, our concept of love wasn’t defined as a particular feeling, but rather a social obligation and connection that mandated action. It doesn’t sound as fantastical as being proposed to in the rain, but there is a strong case for love in this light because it means the people we are close to aren’t there because they always admire or like us. Instead, the people we love and who love us stick around because they value the connection itself (Granted,  one of the basic premises for that definition of love is the assurance that both people are working at the connection value and respect each other; sticking to an abusive partner out of ‘obligation’ isn’t something I think anyone should deal with).

However, the fact remains that connections still go out. We have all had people that were fantastically important to us at a point in our lives. Sometimes we have to let those people go, and it can feel wrong even when we know the connection isn’t the same as it was. It’s the same story with the little loves we have, such as an obsession with a certain musician or book. Even when we’re “over it”, it still feels like we are letting a part of ourselves go. Or, when we look back and are reminded of something we used to value highly, it can hurt, as a sign of time passing.

What I want to say here is, “Be grateful for all the love you’ve been given and had, even as it passed away, because it meant something.” However, on its face, that seems to be a sort of ambiguous opt-out, a meaningless hippie saying you might hear a barista in an indie coffee shop say to their poet friend with dreads. Still, I mean it.

It’s hard to be grateful, and moving past something can hurt in a way that’s indescribable. Both of those things are feeling-based, and how can you make yourself feel something you don’t? Most people can’t just summon gratitude on a whim. Instead, what we often need to do is do something physical. For example, forcing ourselves to write down three things we are grateful for. You might not feel grateful in that moment generally, but if you remind yourself about specific things, it can revise your mood on the whole. When it comes to moving on, people often find it helpful to get rid of the things attached to the memories, such as giving away the guitar you haven’t touched in decades in a garage sale. Other times we may feel like we can’t give something away because it matters too much. In those instances, we might be able to transform our feelings. Instead of keeping all of your childhood shirts in your drawer, turning it into a memory quilt blanket.

At the heart of it, our experiences are something to appreciate. It’s something we didn’t have before that we were given and now can learn from. By moving on, we are allowing ourselves to experience something new, giving ourselves the chance to find something else to love, and that’s really amazing.

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!

 

 

 

‘thank you’s are a little awkward, so this is how you do it

There is no shame is needing someone. Turning down offers may seem polite in certain circumstances, but if they offer food and you want food, who benefits from that situation? Giving makes us feel better, and encourages us to be even better people. Accepting a gift or a favor from someone makes them feel like they are generous, kind people, and you get a gift or favor in return! But the awkward part, the part that gives us the most grief, is what to do afterward.

Gratitude is strange. It makes us tense, because we have these emotions, and yet we might not always know how to express them. ‘Thank you” on it’s own may seem too short. In order to remedy the situation, here’s a quick crash course on how to say thank you:

1. Start out with thank you, and/or some sort of exclamation like, “WOw!” or “Oh wonderful!” This first part initiates your response and if it seems like their gift has made an emotional impact on making your life better, the first reception of the gift should be exciting.

2. Explain why you love the gift. If you don’t really know what it is, ask in an interested way about some details of it. Even if you know what it is, pointing out some immediate details that catch your eye that you like. Some situations are more difficult than others, but do your best and practice will makes things easier over time. Noticing the details makes people feel like you are going to use every bit of it.

3. If you can, directly say how this will improve your life. Lay out a difficulty you have that this problem will solve. Again, people want to know that what they are giving you matters to you.

4. End with another thank you. It’s hard to get angry at somehow for being overly thankful, because generally we tend to not be thankful enough.

If you can, the best way to show gratitude, is to do something kind back, especially further on down the road. Remembering and helping them when they need it means something. Hopefully receiving gifts should make us more gracious to other people, and a consistent show of love helps all of our relationships.

it’s not your natural talent but

Everyone has their talents. Everyone has a field or activity that they love. Sometimes those two things don’t overlap. To be naturally gifted in one way, and not at all in something that really matters to you can hurt. However, there are two primary things we can learn from this dilemma: hard work matters, and so does taking the time to ask yourself about your own motivations.

Ask yourself about why you hate a specific activity. Probably everyone hates the activity of getting shot because of the incredible amount of pain that risks your life. In other areas, however, it’s not as clear. You may hate exercising because it’s painful and perhaps humiliating in the presence of others who are more fit. However, if you want to be healthier and happier, you know you have to do it. You’re split because you want to be someone who likes and consistently exercises, but getting to that point is intimidating and will require a lot out of you. Maybe you hate an activity because it’s associated with people you don’t respect, who’ve hurt you. As there are many reasons we hate activities, ask yourself about why you love the activities you do. Why do you like writing? Why do you like watching movies? Why do you like partying with your friends? As silly as it may seem, there’s overlap in both the things we hate and the things we love.

When we understand our motivations, we get a better grasp on the activities and things we hate for their own sake, and things that maybe we love because someone else did it. When it comes to deciding how we spend our time, if we are okay with our reasons for pursuing an activity and are committed to it, not having the ‘natural talent’ for it is unnecessary. Hard work means a lot. It may take a long time, it may take far more effort for you than for other people, but that hard work will pay off. Whatever our tendencies are, tendency does not equate to destiny.  Looking at what and why we do things can help us make ourselves into who we want to be.

spell out where you’re at

Traditional weddings are a lot of planning, stress, and drama. Whenever you have large numbers of people to organize, then you throw in personal bonds that may or may not be the most sturdy, and ideas of how perfect the day needs to be– it’s significantly stressful. However the most important part is the promises made.

That’s the meat of the event at the end of the day. People will leave the venue, the set up will be packed up, flowers will wilt, and family and friends will scatter back to their personal corners of the globe. The thing that lasts is the idea that, “I love you, and I am committed to you and this relationship”. In practice, maybe that idea isn’t meant or kept. But when we look at the ideal traditional wedding, the point is that this couple is being upfront about their feelings and intentions and promising to keep those intentions alive every day. No matter your romantic relationship status, we all can do with more honesty and love.

Promises and depth of connection don’t have to limited to romantic couples and special days. Each day, how we interact with those close to us is our way of speaking a promise to them. Maybe it’s, “School comes first, but I’ll help you after,” or “I like hanging out with you but I don’t trust you with my personal struggle” or any of a large number of things. We don’t have to be super close with a large number of people, it is difficult, exhausting, and has little benefit. What we can do, however, is look at those people who are close, or who we want to be close with. We can decide to actively be honest and loving to them because they are special to us. By reminding ourselves, we hold ourselves accountable to treating them like they deserve.

thankful for an abacus

My brother got me an abacus for Christmas, this massive nicely painted black one from the thrift store. It was a symbolic gift more than anything else. But it was interesting that out of anything he could have found in an antique thrift store, he felt this abacus was the thing that represented me the best. I can’t help but think that I must come across as calculating.

It’s interesting to get those glimpses into other’s perspectives on you. Parts of your personality that you view as dominant might not be so to others. Who we are is dynamic, fluid, yet constant in some ways. That’s why is so very important for us to be thankful. In the changing seas of life, having people by you is something really amazing once you think about it. Being able to grow together, or even being able to open yourself up to new sorts of people, these are all incredible events.

It can be frustrating because we may work hard and not get acknowledged. We may go through times of great change and no one may notice. But those changes will be obvious in how we act, and over time, the right people will take stock of it. But it is our opportunity and joy that we get to help other people. If we want to be acknowledged, we should help turn the spotlight on others. As counterintuitive as it may feel, we are more ourselves when we’re focused on others. Our relationships are so important; we should be thankful for every gift we’re given, physical or not.

you are a water bottle

For the next few posts, I’ll be starting a little theme: I’ll pick a physical item and explain how it represents something we should remember. That way, every time you see the item, hopefully it’ll make your day a bit better. Today, that item is a reusable water bottle.

You are a water bottle. Inside of you, instead of water, there is life. However, like an environmentally friendly reusable water bottle, we can be filled up, again and again. The problem is that we forget that. We assume that all we are is the strength we have inside of us at the time. While we do have strength inside of us, that’s not the entirety of our source.

Humans don’t exist in a vacuum. Just by being around people, we begin to develop relationships with them. In fact, they don’t even have to be people. Consider the fact that animals can’t talk to us, and yet for our pets, we still try to overcome those barriers by learning how what kind of noises they make and their behaviors. Even inanimate objects, if we hold onto them long enough or if they are from someone who held unto them long enough, become special to us. Whether you think of yourself as a relational person or not, we seek out and form relationships because it is our nature.

Knowing that makes it only all the more obvious that if we are not alone in our daily life, there’s no reason we should be alone in our struggles. While we may have to face individual obstacles by ourselves, we have support. Sometimes it just takes a while to find those who are willing to support you, and who you can support too.

So be a water bottle! Pour out into other people, and let them pour into you. Cherish your relationships, and try to be a person you’d want to be friends with. If you isolate yourself, you’re not only depriving yourself, but you’re depriving people out there the chance to get to know someone they’d love.

*a few of the stickers in the image are from snapchat