What Lessons Are Left?

Life lessons learned so far:

Be kind – It takes more strength to return selfishness and anger with kindness and empathy than it does to lash back at the person or try to prove you’re right. This doesn’t mean you are obligated to subject yourself to cruelty from others but returning anger with anger or hate with hate doesn’t produce anything of value.

Don’t judge others for superficial things – You rarely know what other people are going through, or what their true intentions are, and we all see the world a little differently, so putting other people down because they are different from you won’t actually make you feel better or solve any of your own problems.

Fear is often a liar – Back when we were primal creatures fear was an integral and much needed emotion to keep people alive. However, now that we have much easier access to food, shelter, and society (most people, not all, there’s still lots of poverty and war) fear is bored and it likes to manifest in insecurities that cause people to lash out at others. Projecting your fears onto someone else doesn’t make your own insecurities go away. Pushing people away before they can potentially hurt you in the future doesn’t protect you, just keeps you isolated. Fear has its place, usually to keep you from doing dangerous things that could kill you, but often it’s just lying to you and ultimately causing you to miss out on amazing people and experiences. Learn to recognize when fear is useful and when it’s just fucking with you.

Money is nice but it isn’t the most important thing in life – Money is a tool that you can use to trade for goods and services, to travel and experience new cultures, to provide a sense of security for everyday living. However, it is an arbitrary item that we all just agree has value, it’s an inanimate item that can not provide you with authentic love or happiness long term. It is worth having but shouldn’t be your sole focus in life.

No one is perfect and life needs balance – You will fuck up plenty in your life. You make mistake so you can learn what not to do. Your mistakes do not define you, but your repeated actions do. Eventually you have to make a choice about the kind of person you want to be. Some people will be destructive (usually because they’ve experienced trauma or weren’t taught any other way) others will be constructive and strive to create general goodness in the world, but without the contrast how could we define one or the other. Many people will be a mix of both good and bad over their lifetime depending on external factors and internal feelings. Indulging in questionable choices or vices, when they don’t negatively impact others and are done in moderation, can provide a balance that helps you figure out who you are.

Life is less stressful the more open minded you are – When you don’t close yourself off to new ideas, new experiences, or new people you don’t have to waste your time freaking out about anything that differs from your pre conceived notions or pulls you from your comfort zone. Instead the sense of security you get from having a vast store of knowledge lets you face life with confidence and fortitude. You also get in less fights or pointless arguments with people online.

When you love, do it unconditionally – Love, real love, doesn’t come with conditions. Again, this doesn’t mean you subject yourself to abuse in the name of love, but learning how to love another person regardless of their flaws is one of the greatest experiences in life. Having the strength to be open and vulnerable with another person and to have them feel safe enough to do the same…fucking magic right there.

Anything worth doing is worth doing well – I’m not sure how much explaining this needs, but basically it always feels better to take pride in what you’re doing.

Leave the world and people better than you found it/them – Don’t shit where you eat. Don’t destroy the planet you depend on for survival. United we stand and divided we fall. Building others up is more beneficial than tearing them down. Lead by example. Pet all the soft furry domesticated animals that are friendly.

You are never done learning – I get the irony of listing this in contrast to my title but I already understand that for as much as I know, in relation to all knowledge I know barely anything and each day will bring new information, new ideas, and new ways to accomplish things. That being said, please do share the life lessons I’m missing because I’d love to add them to my list.

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I Want My Mommy

My old man cat, he’s almost 15, I’ve started noticing similar symptoms in him to what one of my previous old lady cats had. Most likely hyperthyroidism, meds and treatment might get me another year or so with him, but basically there’s a countdown now. On his bad days all he wants to do is curl up on me and sleep. I guess that even when they’re not human children, when they don’t feel well, they still just want their mom.

Meanwhile, coming to terms with another impending loss is something I don’t even want to contemplate.

I’ve actually been doing really well, emotionally, lately. Finally working through years of repressed grief and trauma had allowed me to reconnect with myself, and merge the optimistic person I used to be with the desensitized person I’d become. I hope that watching another beloved pet shut down in front of my eyes doesn’t derail my progress. It’s exhausting being sad all the time.

 

I’ll Be Your Neighbor

I went and saw the movie, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” the other day. It’s about the life and legacy of Fred Rogers, better known as Mr. Rogers, to generations of kids. I had watched the show when I was younger but since it was mostly in the late 80’s I never knew about all the timely lessons/messages he helped to explain to children about war, assassinations, grief, and numerous other important topics that are glossed over in most children’s programming. In my memory, the show was mostly about being accepted as you were and to show kindness and love to those around you.

I was mildly surprised to see how much backlash and personal attacks were directed at a man who devoted much of his life to helping children learn and grow into decent human beings who felt loved and appreciated. I didn’t understand what would motivate people to spew hatred at a message of love. They didn’t appreciate a minister who would accept and befriend members of the LGBT community so they protested at his funeral. He wanted children to feel safe and confident enough to be themselves and accept others as they were and people wrote articles condemning him for “creating an entitled generation,” which confuses me as I never got that from his message. Acknowledging that there is something special about a person without them needing to conform to standards of the day doesn’t mean they are entitled to everything they want with no effort on their part.

I really related to Fred, I completely understood his vision and I openly cried several times during the movie because his message was so close to my heart. I have long advocated for acceptance, for building others up, for kindness, and for leading by example. I wish I could’ve met him and had a chat, I think it would’ve been one of those amazing conversations you almost never get the chance to have.

With Fred no longer around to spread the message of love and acceptance, maybe it’s up to us to carry on in his stead. Will we be viewed with suspicion, ridicule, and anger…probably. However, much like how I feel about the political atmosphere right now, some things are worth speaking out about.

 

America Dies in Apathy

It’s been said that democracy dies in darkness, but America is more than just a democracy. It’s a country, albeit stolen, that was founded on principles of freedom, tolerance, the melding of different cultures, and balancing forces.

As I’ve watched the country I was born in, and mostly took for granted, slide downwards on the same slippery slope Germany did when they let authoritarian tactics gain legitimacy, I fell into a depression so deep I pulled back from everything.

In the past I’ve been very clear on how I feel about the current president and his administration. I never shied away from stating that I think we (collectively) all need to do better, stop letting fear dictate our actions, and be willing to embrace the differences in one another. Yet as things have gone from bad to worse in America I stopped speaking out. Part of that was the depression, part was because of the personal drama I was dealing with, but part of that was just the idea that my voice doesn’t matter so there wasn’t a point to continually rallying people against the actions of Trump and his supporters.

Except that’s the trap. Feeling like there’s no point in trying.

As each new story broke many Americans felt like they should be outraged and something needed to be done. Except, nothing has been done, save for the desensitization of the general population about actions that were priorly unacceptable. People cry out “that’s not right, that’s not ok” and congress ignores the will of the masses. Democrats are virtually impotent in their ability to stop anything, therefor there is no ability to check or balance anything. For everyone who doesn’t like the direction the country is going in, there’s the very real danger that we let things get too out of hand already and that only makes it harder to believe we can do anything about it.

At this point some of the horrifying realities Americans already have to face are that we have a Muslim ban the Supreme Court just upheld, we have hateful racists called “fine people” by our political leaders, we have been pulled out of the Paris Climate Change as well as some trade pacts which only causes the rest of the world to be far less willing to want to work with us, we are told not to believe our own eyes by Trump and his administration, we have people in the same administration brazenly engaging in unethical behavior, allies are insulted and ruthless dictators treated with respect, and now we have concentration camps for children and the people running them have no desire to help reunite the families torn apart.

WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK PEOPLE!

How do we come back from this? Can we vote our way out of it, because I am not sure we can. However, we can’t continue to sit back and hope that someone will come save us.

This shit isn’t ok. I don’t care who you are, if you think what is happening in America is acceptable and doesn’t need to be stopped right now then you’re an insecure coward with no empathy and no investment in a sustainable future and I am not afraid to state that. If we’re picking sides than I am on the side of democracy, of decency, of truth and of a future I’d actually want to bring the next generation into.

Those that don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it and I don’t particularly want to repeat WWII. I’d rather there be a whole new civil war.

 

 

 

Breaking From Social Media

I don’t really make new year resolutions, but I did make a conscious decision to reduce the level of detrimental substances I ingest for the year. This includes meat, dairy and, as it turns out, social media.

While I don’t really associate wordpress with negative or stress inducing content, it was part of my online routine that included other social media sites that are chock full of divisive rhetoric. The less I checked my phone for updates the more I interacted with other people in real life conversations. I’ve been exercising more and swiping less. Changing my conditioned behavior to opt for reading a book, instead of a news feed, has drastically reduced my online presence but increased my general satisfaction levels.

Since cutting back on the internet I’ve noticed a dramatic improvement in my overall mental health, personal relationships, and physical health. Since the initial results have been positive I think my posts here will most likely remain infrequent for the foreseeable future. Unless, of course, there is any interest in participating in an attempt to ignite respectful online discussion/debate about relevant topics. If there is, that would be a project I would love to be involved in.

Priorities

I used to focus on money…a lot. I’d save as much as I could, my “nest egg” was never big enough and I would work longer hours and burn myself out so I could make more and feel more secure. I would chose work over play, and limit myself on food, clothes and fun just so I could keep more of what I earned. I thought if I reached a set amount of money that I could finally relax and start living my life the way I wanted to. Money would buy me freedom.

This is what I thought until I hit a major bump in my life. I was working for a company that, unbeknownst to me, was in the process of going bankrupt. I ended up being demoted (along with many others) as they started to close down stores and saw my pay cut in half. Around the same time I learned that a previous roommate had forged my name onto his student loans years back and my credit score was now taking hits as his loans went into collections since he wasn’t paying on them. The apartment I was living in was full of mold in the carpets and vents and I couldn’t live there but the rental company wouldn’t let me out of my lease even with solid proof of my claims. It wasn’t money that came and saved me. Money didn’t solve any of my problems. It was the people around me that were willing to be there and help me, support me, love me…that is how I managed to hit that bump and keep going.

I moved out of the moldy apartment and stayed with a friend (rent-free) till my lease was up. I found a new job with the help of another friend who referred me and was happy to get out of the retail/service industry. My cousin helped me find the right contacts to prove to SallieMae that I had never agreed to be a co-signer and my name was forged by previous roommate and I got my information removed from the loans. I still thought money was important and I would still get stressed out feeling like I didn’t have enough, but I was starting to see that there was far more value in my relationships with others.

Getting married was a huge challenge on the money front. It was a major source of stress and fighting between us because we had different views on it. He assumed we’d figure it out no matter what and I wanted to know that I had a cushion to fall back on. I started to focus on the money again…instead of on the people.

Then came the husband injury and the unemployment and then the fire…which resulted in getting a bunch of money to replace things and having that large chunk of money in the bank didn’t change my stress level. I didn’t feel any different, no safer, no more fulfilled. I told myself then it was because husband was spending the money as fast as we were getting it. Eventually I got sick and tired of fighting with husband about his excessive spending and gave up stressing about money. I made sure I made enough to cover all the bills and stopped expecting anything from him. I decided my relationships needed to be more important than money.

If you think about it…money is an arbitrary concept and holds only the value we agree upon. US currency isn’t really backed by anything other than faith in the government. Most money is virtual now as well…numbers in an account that could be wiped out with the push of a button. Your assets could be seized by the government or skilled hackers and what would you do? Where would you go? Who would you turn to? Instead of focusing on making as much money as possible I have started focusing on building my skillset. Learning how to utilize what I already have and what is around me to accomplish tasks instead of just buying something new or hiring someone to do it for me. I focus on building stronger relationships with people. I no longer tally up a mental account balance in my head over what they’ve spent on me vs. what I have spent on them. I value time and events over making additional income. If I had to take on additional work to make money to cover my bills I would, but if I don’t have to I would rather spend my time making memories I can look back on fondly. Money is useful, but if I had to make a choice today I would choose the people I care about over money every time.