To be quite honest…

The last two weeks have been oscillating between a running riot and a complete disaster.  I haven’t been able to look at or listen to the news because I become either unreasonably angry or completely inconsolable.  But the last two weeks haven’t been any different than the last year-and-change, it’s just that each new day brings a new reason to be angry and distraught.

I haven’t been able to write.  It’s been impossible for me to focus on my own mental health and well-being.  I’m constantly on guard and losing my composure with people.

But I keep trying.  I really do.  I keep thinking and hoping that just the next bit of evidence, the next political fuck-up, the next failure of leadership will finally rip the lodestone out from under the rotten, rapidly-putrefying carcass of this so-called “administration”.

And every time I look up, yet another horror is being unleashed.  More violence, more petulance, more insanity.

And every time, I scream inwardly: “WHAT. THE. FUCK.”

I find it more difficult with every passing day reconciling my deeply-held belief that America is deeply-flawed and completely wrong about a lot of things… but America keeps trying.  Every day I look around and wonder which one of my supposed “countrymen” is going to pull a knife or a gun and make sure I never make it home or see my loved ones again.

I’m angry at being angry.  I’m angry at people for having made me feel this way.  I didn’t even get a choice in the matter of getting angry, I was made to feel this way by people who clearly have no empathy, no morals, and no soul to save.  Morally bereft, spiritually bankrupt, and hopelessly enamored with notions of heroism and exceptionalism draped around a barely-concealed violence-fetish erection.

But heaven forbid I, or anyone else, become upset.  Because of course that would be a clear breach of decorum.  How can you have civilized discussion around the violation of human rights, repression of civil rights, and the rape and pillage of the only ecosystem known to harbor sentient life if you’re becoming emotional?

It’s like waking up in a Mirrorland Hellscape where Violence is Safety, War is Peace, Vice is Holy, and Lying is Truth-speaking.  It’s enough to make someone scrawl the word “GASLIT” on their forehead with an X-acto Knife.

I keep asking myself how we got here; how we managed to let so many wander so far into the proverbial graveyard of failed philosophies and doctrines.  How someone could possibly come to the conclusion that it would be a good idea to raise Authoritarianism from its place on Political Death Row and have it take high-center-stage.  How so many people forgot that the blood in their veins is the same color as everyone else’s (hint: if you paid attention in Science class, you’d know it’s blue until it hits oxygen).  How their god is one of a multitude, and that all experiences and emotions are valid.  How all genders, races, creeds, colors, and nationalities are as valid as the day they categorically came-to-be.

How did it come to this?  How did it come to fear, anger, resentment, and regression?

More importantly, and the really the only question that keeps me from giving up completly: where and when does it end?

Fractures

Muscle fibers and tendons can tear during training.

Bones can fracture and break during the execution.

Brain cells can fire white-hot through the effort.

The thing about things that break, is the fact that if the organism survives, the organism has the opportunity to strengthen and improve.

Muscle fibers and tendons strengthen after periods of rest and careful maintenance.

Bones repair and harden where they were broken if they’re looked after.

Brain cells and neural pathways re-wire and strengthen bonds during periods of rest and rejuvenation.

But it’s not just our biology that can fracture.  Social, political, and economic bonds and structures can fracture.  The bonds that rend themselves under the weight of our egos, our inability to empathize or see each other from a position of vulnerability and openness.

Our inability to empathize in some way with the lives of rural communities when we live in relative comfort and privilege of urban life.  Conversely, the inability of rural communities to empathize with the continuing plight of urban lives who labor under pressures they can neither control nor comprehend.

Without doing the emotional and spiritual labor of trying to lift the proverbial weight of empathy, without causing some rifts and fractures of our own, this kind of strength will elude us indefinitely.

As political, social, and economic forces endeavor to stratify and drive us further apart from one another.  As our bonds continue to strain well beyond their breaking points.  Our ability to understand that without stress or repairable fractures, without friction or frisson, we do not strengthen, change, or evolve depends upon us engaging in the everyday labor.

A life without labors, tears, friction, fractures, or exertion is a life that cannot and will not ever become something more.

Communicate

Communication is complicated.

It’s not just what you convey, it’s how and when.

Maybe that spontaneous email or text message is fine.  Unscheduled positive interactions can be a great basis for some communications.

But more often than not, it’s the consistent, regular interactions that help create the deepest connections.

Leaving a coworker’s question until later when you can actually focus?  Communicating the situation to them can help both of you figure out if it’s even appropriate or if it’s really that urgent.

Leaving friends hanging without communicating anything?  That’s a surefire way to fray a relationship.

Leaving a business contact in suspense?  Maybe it’s not quite time for that purchase, or maybe it’s just not a good fit.

In any case, the remedy is simple: communicate.

The hard part is actually building the habit of communicating.  It takes repetition, commitment, and conscientiousness–but it can be done.

Rationalizing your past

Many times in a life, there comes a reckoning of sorts.  A time when viewing the past through the lenses of experience and brutal honesty becomes more than an activity–it becomes a way of life.

Sometimes, but not always, suffering comes galloping in on the most pale of horses and lays waste to an otherwise copacetic life.  Rooted in the collision of prior expectations and perceived reality, it can rip us from our moorings and make it difficult for us look at the past objectively.

The growth that comes from retrospect is sometimes earned through doing battle with the monsters of our id and the demons of our ego.  What we assume to be true, upon closer inspection, might be something that lies farthest from.  The intentions we might assign or expect from someone might be so incorrect that it could be said that it might have been better to have had no expectations at all.

That being said, the main point not even necessarily be about you.  It might be around reasonable accountability.  Is it reasonable to hold yourself accountable?  Was it really in your control to begin with?  Was it actually someone else’s influence or lack thereof that made it so?

What was the actual outcome rather than the outcome you expected?  If you can’t rationalize your actions, then maybe that’s the first place to start.

The only thing stopping you…

The deep-seated fallacy of hindrance (or in technology parlance, “blocked by”) in a lot of our narratives, interactions, and goals.

We tend to cling to embedded narratives in terms of fallacious pre- and post-analysis.  We tend to self-recriminate ahead of time or ruminate on an outcome that we either didn’t anticipate or couldn’t predict.

Rather than asking ourselves “how can we ensure we learn from this”, we tend to be less directed and say “I’ll give it my best shot”.

Sometimes methodical inspection of the task, the process, or the activity yields new insights.

Sometimes having an experienced mentor or coach can help you break the mental barrier.

Sometimes it’s just making the decision to start and to accept the outcome regardless.

Sometimes the only thing stopping you is making the choice.

How much does it cost…

  • To buy your consent?
  • To buy your ignorance?
  • To buy your ethics?
  • To buy your blindness?
  • To buy your silence?

On the inverse-side:

  • To buy your generosity?
  • To buy your kindness?
  • To buy your empathy?
  • To buy your curiosity?
  • To buy your alignment?

The cost isn’t always paid in terms of monetary exchange.  It’s more likely you gave something up for free or shifted the cost to someone else.

When you allow someone to “buy” your consent, ignorance, ethics, blindness, or silence for a product, a political maneuver, or social issue, are you really getting what you expected from the exchange?  What about the non-white, non-Christian, non-binary people proverbially adjacent to you?  Or how about that sweat-shop factory on the other side of the planet?  Or that family member that looks up to you and loves you dearly?

Sometimes cost isn’t measured in money.  Sometimes there’s an indirect social or political cost.

Are you weighing the costs?

What do you want?

It’s not a question that’s supposed to be superficial or easy to answer.  “A cheeseburger” isn’t the kind of answer that this kind of question, when asked with gravitas and vulnerability, that whole-hearted people are looking for.

It’s not supposed to be easy to answer.  Difficult, yes –– but not impossible.

What makes it seem impossible is fear.  Judgment, exposure, and vulnerability run roughshod over everything…

But only if we let them.

We all have agency, something too many of us lose sight of.  The ability to make decisions in line with our highest ideals and our deepest desires.

Since we all have it, and we can remind ourselves of it, I’ll ask again:

What do you want?