Ramble Within A Ramble

Do I have anything at all worth saying to write this morning? I did just take a few seconds pause before I bothered typing out the question that was in my mind to watch a yellow leaf fluttering on a breeze outside the window until it dropped out of sight. So maybe no. Or maybe procrastination is just a sign that I do not want to expose the thoughts that are currently occupying my mind and filling my body with a feeling that, if I have to name it, I would describe as a mingling of dread and sadness.

If you are just a stranger reading these introspective rambles, it probably seems unlikely, but my ruling tone in communication is humor, which is an excellent way to keep people wanting to be around you and deflect attention from any raw emotions or darker topics, whether you simply don’t want to share those things, or you don’t want to drive people away. Not many people want to hang out for the bad shit, and of those who do, in my experience, some have really messed up motivations for doing so. Some predatory, some parasitic. Some, not all. There are a few incredibly decent human beings out there who just genuinely care about other people, who know how to hold space and allow pain to be expressed, and don’t treat other people’s suffering as a threat to their own happiness or good fortune, or as an opportunity to do harm to or feel a sense of power over a person in a vulnerable state, or as a source of entertaining “drama.”

I don’t feel particularly share-y, and being honest about what is painful or undesirable is  a weird territory.

Some people long to have the ugly parts of life discussed, and if they are not among the weirdos mentioned above with messed up motivations, it tends to come from the entirely normal human impulse of the social animal we are, to want to see our experiences and emotions reflected in another person. Being alone with pain is antithetical to healthy human function.

Some people don’t want any mention of unfortunate topics, whether because they are in denial about their own pain and the mention strikes a nerve, or because they are among the lucky few whose lives are filled with good fortune who don’t like hearing things that might harsh their good feelings, or some other reason or excuse. Some people go absolutely apeshit when anyone mentions a misfortune online, resorting to played-out jibes about “looking for attention,” which is exceptionally irrational to comment on social media. The act of participating is seeking attention, unless you have a totally private account only you can access and you never post anything visible by anyone else. It is an attention-seeking medium. And the attention of others of our species is necessary to our survival and our happiness, not something pathological.

(Negative attention seeking, on the other hand, like abusing strangers for having the courage to speak honestly and allow themselves to be vulnerable…kind of pathological. The kind of pathology that presumably comes from the misfortune of having been falsely taught that your normal, healthy feelings, and the need to have those feelings acknowledged, and commiserated with, are wrong and bad, or unimportant. If you get ignored or berated for healthy emotional expression, and you can vent those feelings or get someone to notice you, even if it isn’t positive, well…attention is a human need. Being alone is a survival threat, being ignored can make us feel scared or crazy or nonexistent.

What is this ramble within a ramble about? If you got taught or learned or experienced fucked-up things that created self-loathing or insecurity about having feelings and wanting to be cared about, or resulted in a way of behaving that is never going to get you the things you really want: I am sorry that happened to you; that does not negate or excuse the harm you do to other people; and you can change. It might not feel easy, it might take time and effort, but you can change. And it is worth it, because every person deserves to live a life with some peace and happiness in it.

Even if you don’t get exactly what you want in every way, if you learn to love yourself, you will still have one thing virtually every person wants: you will be loved. And in the most important way, because if you don’t love yourself, then even if someone else loves you, really loves you, and shows it, and treats you like it…you still will never believe it, because self-loathing and a belief the self is inherently unlovable are two sides of the same fucked-up coin.

Was this a super long aside that further degrades the coherence of this ramble? Maybe. But fuck it, I don’t care, because I think that was a ramble worth rambling. People who are in pain who express that pain destructively are among the people least likely to ever get empathy or the human compassion and positive attention human beings need. I am not advocating taking abuse, but I am all for never denying a person’s humanity. And for acknowledging that any person who learned negative behavior and self-hatred can learn positive behavior and self-love. We are people, and we are malleable. Our personalities and behaviors are not set in stone.)

I am not even going to pretend this is a fully coherent piece of writing. It feels somewhere between stream-of-consciousness and emotional evasion to me. Which is a fair enough summary, I suppose. I am trying to make a point of doing this every day if I have the time, because sometimes making up structure and building a new habit has good results; if nothing else, it will improve my skills over time, and if I look back over it, show me where I am still falling short of what I think makes for good writing. Which brings me back to the ramble-at-hand – one of those things is the willingness to just put it all out there, unreservedly, to create something without holding back. Writing in your own voice while biting your tongue, so to speak, kind of makes for a garbled mess.

If I were an optimistic type, looking for the silver lining, I could consider that being at odds with yourself, and feeling a tension in wanting to do something and wanting to hold back, is in itself relatable enough. But being not so much of that worldview, I mostly wonder, if I randomly read something in this vein, if I would just feel like my time was being wasted while nothing was being said. Being in the space of tension of opposites, I don’t feel I have a good perspective on this, one way or the other. I am typing words, so I am technically meeting that part of my goal, but I would be an utterly disingenuous asshole if I pretended I don’t want to write something that is enjoyable or useful to other people. Frankly, if I was in that don’t-give-a-fuck zone, this might not be enjoyable or useful to anyone else, but it also probably wouldn’t be so stilted in the writing and quite possibly stilted in the reading.

(But I totally stand by my long parenthetical aside, coherence be damned.)

 

Is there something you are waiting for?

Is there something you want to say or do or change, but you have set some condition, maybe a condition you know is unlikely or impossible, that would have to be fulfilled before you act?

I don’t mean a necessary condition, like someone else’s consent for something that involves them, or an absence of gravity because your desire is to float around like you are in space. I mean something that maybe isn’t so much a condition of attempting or possibly accomplishing your goal, but something you pretty much made up because there is some degree of uncertainty that the result you want is the result you will get, or some degree of certainty (whether accurate or just rooted in your own self-doubt or self-loathing) that the result you want is impossible for you to get. Made-up conditions are lies we tell ourselves rather than owning some truths about ourselves that we don’t like – that we are afraid, that feeling in control is actually our primary motivation, not love or integrity or happiness or success or whatever the avoided action would serve.

Something like “I will only say how I feel if I already know for sure what response I will get in return and that it is the one I want.” Which, barring clairvoyance, or doing something really shitty like invading someone’s privacy, is not really possible (and invading someone’s privacy is the sort of wrong action that seems likely to be revealed at some point, which is pretty likely to turn whatever positive response you are hoping for into a negative one).  Or something even more far-fetched, like “I would only try if things that I already did that affect this didn’t affect this.” Which means we have limited ourselves to finding a time machine or someone, maybe even ourselves, getting selective enough amnesia to forget only the very specific things we did that we fear rule out the outcome we want.

I think we all do this sometimes, usually where we want something that somehow ties in to mistakes or bad actions we have already done, and we don’t want anyone to know, or we want something, from those who do know, that is unlikely in light of their knowledge; or where we have bad feelings about ourselves, about our worthiness, about our abilities, about our chances of experiencing success, and fear that the vulnerability of acting will affirm those fears.

I don’t know that there is some universal answer for how to overcome such blocks. I do think that a good place to start is being honest with ourselves. To allow ourselves to ask and answer truthfully what motivates them, whether it is an unwillingness to own our own past mistakes, or not wanting to look too closely at ourselves and find some unflattering qualities, or whether maybe the thing we are avoiding is something we have identified with but in truth is just something we like to imagine, not something important enough to us to try to have it, or maybe the avoided thing is just a mask for something else we feel less comfortable with feeling or wanting.

Maybe the truth won’t motivate us to act – maybe the truth is even that we don’t want to act. But I think we get healthier when we don’t engage in the abusiveness of deception, especially within ourselves. If we can’t be honest with ourselves, we are unlikely to be honest with anyone else, which sets us up for a lot of anxiety about keeping track of our lies and fearing revelation, and for a lot of loneliness, since no one will really know what we think or feel, and we will be aware of that, even if no one else is.

And getting honest with ourselves might move us closer to taking chances on things that really are important to us, and make our lives better, even if we don’t get exactly what we want. There is real satisfaction to be had in having the courage to act in spite of our fears, and in treating ourselves as worthy of taking chances and attempting difficult things. We might even get what we seek – and if not, we will still likely feel better about ourselves than when we were frozen in fear. Trying and failing (or trying and succeeding, for that matter) also tends to bring some new understanding – sometimes that negative things we believed about ourselves aren’t true, sometimes about how much or little an outcome really means to us, and those new understandings can move us to carry on or change directions.

It might not be something any of us like to think about a lot of the time (or maybe at all, depending on the person), but none of us lives forever. None of us even knows how long we get. However uncomfortable thinking about death might make us, that is an unavoidable truth; and we all deserve to live lives made up of more than fears and regrets. Failure isn’t something to be ashamed of, it is evidence that we have been courageous enough to try, knowing our outcomes aren’t guaranteed. It is an inextricable part of learning and of growing and improving.

We should all allow that we are worth the effort. I believe we would all be better off if we did. Allow ourselves to take a chance. Do it incrementally, if that feels less scary. Commit that we are going to try, and make one tiny step today. And commit to make another after, maybe one per day, maybe more, if we find our fear decreases when we begin to act instead of agonize. Better to make thirty little bits of progress, and in a month find yourself however far that has taken you, than to still be in the exact same place we were a month ago, feeling just as scared or powerless – or more scared and powerless. It would be nice if more good things just happened to us or happened all at once, but that they don’t is no reason to deny ourselves a chance at greater happiness.

Hell, maybe what we are holding back is the pleasant surprise someone else is waiting for, and by acting, we will be doing more than adding to our own happiness, we will be adding to someone else’s. For all of the people who are waiting to say something important or do something important, there are a fair number of people waiting to hear something important or experience something life-changing. Maybe our apology or confession or profession of love or gift or assistance or effort is exactly what someone is waiting for. Maybe in acting, we will both get what we want. And sure, maybe might be scarier than “definitely” – but it is a lot more likely that we definitely won’t get what we want by doing nothing.

Not the most earth-shattering final thought, but I need to wrap this up and get out to vote. For those of you who are over eighteen and living in the States, I also wish you the motivation to get out there and do the same. Your voice matters, just like your dreams matter enough to try to achieve them, just like you matter. I probably have never met you, so how can I be sure it is true?

Because it is true of everyone.

I have no idea what to title this

As my insomnia- and sinus-sickness-addled brain labored over word choices in what was begun as an exercise in writing about something serious in a humorous tone, the thought occurred to me (not for the first time) how easy it is for us to try so hard to get “the right words,” as if we have any control over how anyone else responds to what we say, that we get farther and farther away from our original intention.

If it is easy to do that in a writing exercise that no one else is looking at, how much easier is it for the truth to get lost when we are addressing our words to someone else, and the words are personal and vulnerable? When the fear of being misunderstood or doing harm or being rejected can so easily lead us never to really say what we mean, whether we use too many words or too few or words that are lies or no words at all? How easy is it to convince ourselves it is better, hell, it is the right thing to do, to say nothing at all? As if it has nothing to do with us being scared, or selfish, or both.

Too fucking easy.

If we just come out with short sentences made up of small, specific, easily understandable, true words, someone might actually get what we mean, and if they don’t respond the way we want, we don’t have that last little sad security blanket of telling ourselves that maybe it wasn’t failure, maybe it wasn’t rejection, maybe they just misunderstood (with a little help from our self-protective/self-destructive total fucking vagueness). And the more vulnerable the truths, it seems, the more readily we let our fear take over and destroy any chance we will be heard, or understood, and any chance of possibly getting the response we wish for.

I bet you know the kind of short-but-scary sentences I am talking about.

Why did you hurt me? Are you sorry? Do you love me? Does it matter to you that I am hurt? Why did you leave? Where did you go? Will you come back? Will you help me?  I was scared. I am scared. I am sorry. I am not sorry. I love you. I don’t love you. I was hiding. I lied. I fucked up. It was my fault. Yes. No. I am hurt. I got hurt. I was rejected. I was wrong. I am lonely. I don’t know. I don’t want to. I chose not to. I choose not to. I care. I don’t care.

And then there are the questions we are maybe even more afraid to ask, and rarely do, because as much as we want answers, we know there aren’t any…and even if there were (there aren’t), we don’t want answers, we want to be contradicted.

The scariest of these, probably, is “Why don’t you love me?”

 

Dear You,

Dear You,

All that stands between the person you are and the person you are capable of becoming is the manner in which you choose to behave – not your fears, not your desires, not your excuses.

Without any of those things changing, you could, at any time, choose to behave differently.

Still wanting to feel in control, you could acknowledge that the only place where you have control is your actions, and change them.

Still feeling afraid of so many things, you could choose to act not merely in deference to your fear, but in defiance of it. It is not impossible; it is courage, the very definition of.

Still wishing that the truth were not what it was, and is, you could choose to speak the truth anyway, even where it is ugly, even where it might be inconvenient to you, even where it might be costly to you. Even where it might reveal the imperfection everyone already knows is there, whether or not they know all the details, because we are all of us imperfect.

Still wanting to avoid “punishment” by pursuing perfection, you could choose instead to own up to where you have done or are doing wrong, and start doing right. Acknowledge fault where it exists, correct the record, reach out, apologize, make amends, get help with making the deeper changes that tend to require time and effort to unfold.

Often, those who love you and have been hurt by you are longing to know that you regret the harm you did, that their pain matters to you. You might help heal the harm. You might even find they are willing to let you back into their lives. That they have only been waiting for you to leave behind the behaviors that caused pain, and to acknowledge that you did, and be in their lives as the better self they knew, and knew you were capable of being in full. Even if the latter is not in the cards, isn’t knowing that you helped to heal a human being you injured a worthy endeavor? Isn’t being a decent human being who acts from more than selfish motives the person you want to be, the person you will be proud to be, and find peace and self-respect and self-love in knowing you are?

You might also find yourself feeling closer to people, truly close, maybe for the first time – because allowing yourself to be imperfect, you are more likely to be able to forgive others their imperfections, instead of treating unpleasant emotions and bad moments as reasons for fear, as reasons to lash out, as reasons to demonize, dehumanize, or to sever all ties. Having demonstrated that you are willing and able to own faults, and in doing so, that you see such things as able to be overcome, as forgivable, you might also find others opening up to you in the same way. You might get to hear some things you, too, have been longing for. And suddenly, you have true intimacy – mutual honesty and empathy and trust and comfort.

Honesty is not merely the only means to get meaningful help (how can someone help when they don’t even know all – or any – of what is wrong?), and the foundation of trust and of intimacy, it is also the minimum prerequisite for truly loving and truly being loved, and feeling loved. If you are always trying to hide parts (or all) of who you are (whether those parts are actions denied or thoughts and emotions never expressed in action), even in the unlikely event that no one sees through or suspects your dissembling, you will always be aware of it, and aware that if anyone feels love for you, what is loved is a facade, not the whole of yourself.

There is no guarantee that if you choose to behave differently, your choices will always have the results you want – or even that they ever will. But if you continue to behave as you do, it is almost certain that you will always feel at least some degree of loneliness and at least to some extent unloved – and likely, wholly so. You will almost certainly feel increasingly fearful, worrying “what if” about the lies you tell, and the truths you hide, being revealed. And you will, sooner or later, have to face something much more painful than fear or loss or failure: regret. The things that go wrong when we try, we can grieve and, having grieved, move on. The things we never allowed ourselves even a chance at having – those are the things that tend to haunt us.

Besides, changing our behaviors is the way we change who we are to everyone else in the world (no one else experiences what we keep inside – to everyone else, our actions are who we are), and eventually, who we are in our own thoughts and feelings – who we are within ourselves. There are some things we cannot purely think our way out of. Anxiety. Loneliness. Dysfunction. Deception. We have to go beyond thought to action, whether it is drawing calming breaths, or trembling out words we are afraid to speak while our hearts race.

This is a statement of the truth that lovable and unlovable don’t exist – no one possesses qualities that cause or repel love. Love is something that arises, generally unbidden, in another person, of its own volition. Let go of worrying about whether you are something that is only imaginary. Instead, be your honest, best self, take responsibility for your actions and the truth of the words you speak, and believe in forgiveness – including in forgiving yourself when you do, as will inevitably happen, make mistakes or behave badly (just make sure you also hold yourself accountable, and act to change, to do better in the future – otherwise, you are not so much forgiving as indulging yourself). Do so, and when someone loves you, you will have the security of the knowledge that their love is true, and not directed at a fictitious person you wear like a mask.

This is a statement of the truth that it is possible to see someone’s worst self and still love the whole person, even if you do not love those particular harmful qualities, even if it may be that person cannot be in your life as they are. And that, all things being possible, remorse is possible, apology, forgiveness, even reconciliation are possible. And should they never come to be, it is alright to live in the space of acknowledging that you love where there is necessary separation, or no reciprocation. Feelings are not all logical, love maybe least of all. You feel what you feel; where it is not healthy, where it brings you harm, where it is the source of an unfulfilled desire, you can accept that the love is true as well as the unpleasant truth. Reality is sometimes unpleasantly complicated. Lying to yourself only adds to the unpleasantness, as it sends you on the downward slide into isolation and emptiness, and you deserve better than that. We all do.

This is a statement of the truth that there is no such thing as “too late” as long as the person or persons in question are still alive. Life is change and possibility. And death comes for us all, sooner or later. Take chances while you have chances to take. Live your life with the acceptance of the inevitability of some pain and failure and disappointment, for the worthy cause of making joy and success and fulfillment possible. Spare yourself regret, and a life of scarcity of the things that make it worth living but tend only to be available to those who accept the risks.

Whatever you believe, I believe, still, in you, in your ability to change, in your ability to do right, in your ability to be strong, and brave, and honest, and to heal. Whether that means anything to you, I can’t know, but maybe there is a chance that it does. Maybe not that it comes from me – maybe just that someone believes in you will make a difference, now, or in the future.

I certainly hope so.

I hope you find whatever it is that will help you cross the distance between where you have been and where you can be, where you are safe and happy and healthy, where you love yourself by treating yourself with love, and love the people you love by treating them with love. Where you do your best to do right by others, and do right by you, too. Where you live a life without regrets, and so enable yourself to build the relationships with meaningful intimacy that will get your through the disappointments and griefs.

I hope you give yourself every chance of living a life full of real happiness. How ever many chances it takes, I hope you never give up on that. I wish that for both of us, actually.

I hope my wish comes true.

 

Love,

Me