“How do we prevent and stop violence and harm without creating more violence and harm? How do we transform a society in which harm is endemic to build a culture where violence becomes unthinkable? How can small everyday acts of accountability and relationship building lead to a broad cultural shift away from harm?”
The old world is dying and the new world struggles to be born. Now is the time of monsters.”
— Antonio Gramsci/Slavoj Žižek (via Dense Discovery)
To begin a process of contemplation, one must begin with these four premises. They are self-explanatory.
- Life happens in the present, so you don’t have a minute to waste.
- The past was meant to be learned from, not to be re-lived in the present. Regrets are useless because you can’t go back and remake the past.
- All your experiences and people in your life, whether you see them as good or bad, helped shape who you are today.
- You are the only one responsible for changing your current life to the one you want.
“We ask, typically and acutely, when we’re in a relationship with someone who is inflicting a great deal of pain on us: someone who is refusing to open their hearts or can never stop lying, someone who is aggressive or detached, someone who is harming themselves or managing to devastate us. We ask too because the one immediately obvious response to frustration isn’t in this case open to us: we’re not able to simply get up and go, we are too emotionally or practically invested to give up, something roots us to the spot. And so, with the example of one troublesome human in mind, we start to wonder outwards about human nature in general, what it might be made of and how malleable it could turn out to be.
One thing is likely already to be evident to us: even if people can change, they certainly don’t change easily. Maybe they flare up every time we raise an issue and accuse us of being cruel or dogmatic; maybe they break down late at night and admit they have a problem but by morning, vehemently deny that there could ever be anything amiss. Maybe they say yes they get it now, but then don’t ever deploy understanding where it really matters. We can at best conclude that by the time we’ve had to raise the question of change in our minds, someone around us has managed not to change either very straightforwardly or very gracefully.
We might ask a prior question: is it even OK to want someone to change? The implication from those who generate trouble for us is, most often, an indignant ‘no’. ‘Love me for who I am’ is their mantra. But considered more imaginatively, only a perfect human would ever deny that they might need to grow a little in order more richly to deserve the love of another. For the rest of us, all moderately well-meaning and half-way decent requests for change should be heard with goodwill and in certain cases acted upon with immense seriousness. Those who bristle at the suggestion that they might need to change are—paradoxically—giving off the clearest evidence that they may be in grave need of inner evolution.”
1. Write about what you love as much as what you hate. Write about the good things you have as much as your pain. Your perspective is the way you habitually see the world. It is adjustable with practice and perseverance. Practice gratitude more often because balance is how you get closer to the reality of things. It helps to take stock of what is good and to remember that things are never as bad as they seem right now.
2. Start cooking at home again. It isn’t easy, I know. Working long hours and fighting back the exhaustion and the disappointment of another bad day make it hard to even want to cook. It’s easier to “pick up something”. It’s easier to snack or rely on foods from the freezer to the microwave, but it’s awful for you both physically and emotionally. Instead, change the way you think about cooking. Make it your “me time” or your “us time”. Open a bottle of wine, play some music, talk to one another and then share your delicious and good for you creation with each other.
3. Leave your shelter more often. Anxiety and chronic fatigue make it hard but getting out into the world really is the best thing for you. Stop wallowing. No more weekends spent entirely indoors. Get out of bed, fix yourself up, and go meet the sun. Go where the people are, where nature is. Find places where you can be a part of the world and where your problems look a lot smaller from.
4. It’s okay not to know. There is always something that everyone of us does not know and so much of that unknown is found not in lofty and elite places but all around us in the everyday and ordinary. Not knowing is not just human, normal, and understandable, it is also admirable. Not knowing is part of the work, the journey and the joy. Share what you don’t know as much as what you do. It’s infinitely more relatable.
5. Return to your bliss station. You cannot create from the couch, while you watch this movie, or this show, or even the news. Stop lying to yourself. You do not even enjoy trying to write or read or learn that way and you always regret the decision. You know where you would work best, away from the what distracts you, what exhausts you, what stunts your creativity and ability to think. Go there, work there, make it a place where happiness, inspiration, and your spark can be found time and time again.
6. What you want is not always the path to what you need. Humans notoriously want what is bad for them and we justify it by calling it what we need. We start from the wrong end trying to get the wrong things but when we take the time to dig beneath those excuses, those rationalizations, and those lies we find the core of need. Start there instead and work your way back out to a better, healthier, more efficient and effective solution.
7. Learn to love all the seasons. Try to love all the ways they change you and make you feel too. Spring isn’t the only season of growth and summer isn’t the only season in which we can find joy. There are versions of you and ways of living that can only be accessed in the winter in fall and the days and seasons we’ve yet to name that exist in a space between. Give all these seasons attention and cultivate a habit of studying all the ways you exist in them.
Post inspired by Nicholas Bate
1. Appreciate the work your heart does for you. It isn’t broken, or weak, or a burden. It has loved you from the start and it works just as it should, every day. It loves because love is what you need and sometimes the hurt just means it’s doing its best. Don’t smother it, harden it, or wish it away. Give it space to do its job and take care of it in return.
2. Get some distance from yourself. It’s important not to make yourself the center of the universe, for good or bad. You are not the most anything or the worst anything either. Your perspective, feelings, and priorities are not the only ones and they are not the sole right ones. Nothing revolves or relies solely on you either, and this is a good thing.
3. Take notice of who you become when you are around other people, certain people, and no people at all. At first, you may feel ashamed watching yourself act in such degrading and humiliating ways as you imitate and perform to please but do not be overcome. Learn from that weaker version of yourself and build a stronger sense of self and character.
4. Having mixed feelings about the people you love is okay. From parents to friends to role models everyone we love makes mistakes, lets us down, and sometimes they even hurt us, a lot. The internet would have you believe boundaries are simple and that only the people who meet our expectations and needs perfectly should be allowed in our lives, but life and love are messy and there is never one simple way to react or proceed. We can feel many often opposing emotions at once and people who make mistakes can still make us happy.
5. Make promises to yourself and commit to not breaking them. When we put the needs of others (and our need to please) before our personal passions, goals, and needs we are the ones who suffer. The commitments you have to yourself and your one and only future are important, the most important and must be treated as sacred. A promise will keep your priorities in focus and the covenant will keep you accountable.
6. Stop apologizing so much. Stop explaining yourself all the time. Stop giving away your self-worth to everyone you meet for every trivial transgression. Your boundaries are valid. Your mistakes are human and normal. You don’t owe anyone everything all the time. Learn to discern when you are truly in the wrong and when your explanation and excuses are unwanted and unwarranted.
7. Remember to “thank those who make your day easier”. Too often we view others such as service industry workers, our coworkers, and even our friends, family, and spouses as people who “owe us” their time, attention, care, and assistance. As a result, when they cannot, or will not, deliver we lash out. Remember that no one owes you anything, and the people who give you their time, attention, care, and assistance deserve a sincere display of your gratitude and patience at the very least.
Post inspired by Nicholas Bate
1. Focus on the reality of the process and not the end result in your dreams. Too often we circumvent discomfort, doubt, and fear by playing perfect scenarios over and over in our minds. We enjoy a sense of accomplishment without having to do the dirty work. Dream, and then put the dream away leaving nothing but space for the real work.
2. It is true that you should not waste time reading books you don’t like, but before you give up, you should consider first whether what you are reading is simply challenging. Reading, like anything, shouldn’t just be about what is easy. Sometimes what you don’t like is that it’s hard and sometimes you will find that greater joy can be found by sticking with what challenges you rather than giving up because it’s “not for you”.
3. Begin before you are ready. The truth is the first attempt will be bad, no matter whether you start now or a year from now. No matter how much you plan or research. No matter how you rework or rewrite. No matter what classes you take or how many “how-to” articles you read. The first attempt will suck because no one is ready the first time. Better to fail now than later.
4. Don’t be afraid to write about it more than once. Write about the same thing every single day if you want. Study it from all angles. Practice it until it’s right. Put it in a new order, a new light, a new place, context, and time. Write it for me, for her, for you, for people living a long way ahead, and write it again for people long gone. Write it as a poem, an essay, a letter, a story. Write is as a truth, then write it as a lie. Write it to death.
5. Don’t give a second of your time to feeling guilty for giving up what other people want for you. Your aspirations may only be comprehendible to you but that doesn’t mean they aren’t valid, worthy, or possible. People can be pushy in their bid to control the direction of your life but don’t feel bad for giving up the opportunities and advice they offer if they do not lead to the life you want for you.
6. Know when to rest. It’s good to have so much expectation of yourself and to work so hard building so many good and admirable habits, but not everything can be done every day and it better to fall a little behind and rest, that to fall far behind when you finally collapse.
7. Move your body. Sweat. Get up from your desk and exhaust yourself. Cultivating the mind and living in virtual and abstract spaces is not the only way to improve the self. There is much to be learned in nature too and the mind appreciates physical exertion as much the body. Balance the mental and the physical, both are part of you and both need the other.
Post inspired by Nicholas Bate