(Trigger Warning: This post references suicide and depression. If you need help please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.)
My favorite priest once gave us an analogy. He said to us that someone once told him that people who are depressed with suicidal tendencies feel like they are standing in a burning building with flames all around and the flames are growing bigger and bigger, closer and closer. They can’t run through the fire, the flames will engulf them. They stand on the edge, waiting for the moment the flames die down, but sometimes the flames move so close that they cannot escape them any longer and the only way out is to jump. The jump isn’t designed to hurt anyone else or even themselves. The jump is designed to escape the fire that is all consuming. People jump from burning buildings. We instinctively search for an escape from the pain that we know has the potential to destroy our lives. Sometimes the pain is physical. Sometimes it’s mental. Sometimes it’s both.
I think what’s important here is that we must seek help. We must do something to remove the flames, to put out the fire. Mental health is so important, but so gravely overlooked. It is underfunded, under researched, and services are nowhere near what they should be, but they do exist. Help is out there. And it’s important to remember – you know those moments when we are sick with a virus or an ailment where we are in so much pain we can’t move, we can’t take care of ourselves, we can’t get things in order on our own – that’s what it’s like when a mental health issue takes over. It’s not that people don’t want to fight it, it’s just that it seems impossible to do on our own. We have to create support. We have to care about one another. We have to remove the “why can’t you just get over it, we all have problems” mentality and move towards caring about one another and ourselves again. Treat people well. Be good people. Help one another. That’s what we are here to do.
It saddens me tremendously to lose someone who provided so much joy, love, and depth to so many through his work.But thankfully, those things live on. And hopefully we can strive to give those things to those around us – share in the joys and the sorrows, spread love and hope. We all have something to offer. Let’s offer it all with love.
Some days it really does seem like the world is conspiring against us. All things – sometimes small, sometimes big, sometimes both – have decided to work together to see if we really can reach that breaking point. So, since today started off on a less than pleasing note for me and continued in that pattern, I decided to start reminding myself of what I needed to be doing instead of what I was doing. And then I decided to share it. I really hate when my Monday’s are so Monday. But when we find ourselves stuck that mode, it’s important to stop, breathe, and re-frame.
We stop when we realize that we are irritated. It’s not good to be irritated. Irritation is an indication that something is wrong, so we stop, we pause and give ourselves a second to process the situation.
We breathe because breathing is good for the body and the mind. We need oxygen. Irritation messes up all of our processes and gets us out of order, so we breathe and it helps us to return it to order.
Then we re-frame. And my re-framing went something like this today:
-“Seriously!? No one else can pick up the bath mat off the ground? I’m the only one?” Stop. Breathe. “I am thankful I have hands that work and the capability to pick up the bath mat on my own… And it’s okay for me to feel others around me capable of this too, because I’m thankful they have the health and control to do this also.”
-“It’s so frustrating that no one considers me when they are doing what they are doing.” Stop. Breathe. “Sometimes I don’t consider others, even though I don’t consciously mean to forget to. I’m not perfect, nor should I expect everyone else to be. But I am thankful I have people around me who can help me when I truly need it, and who trust me enough to help them when they need it.”
-“Did you really just spill the glass I told you not to carry in there because it was going to spill?” Stop. Breathe. “I am honestly beyond thankful that I have a child/nieces/nephews who are healthy and who can help clean up after themselves and who are learning how to do things on their own with the desire to be independent and capable.”
-“Why aren’t the things happening right now that I want and need to happen? And why don’t I know how to make them happen? What am I doing wrong?” Stop. Breathe. This one is trickier. Because for this one I have to re-frame personal things, like “am I inadequate? Am I confused? Am I doing every single thing wrong? Do none of the good things I do count for anything?” Stop again. Breathe again. “I cannot force things to happen, but I can be content for this moment to be thankful for where I am, that I know who I am, and that I have the desire to go and do more. And at some point this moment will just be a memory. And right now I am capable. The good things I do count. I am worthy.”
The path of the day may not magically change (although, you never know, it might.). But even those small moments where we make the choice to be conscious of how we take in and respond to what is happening around us make a difference. And tonight I will go to bed with the knowledge that I really probably am super awesome, after all, look how good I did fighting the negative ALL.DAY.LONG. Now, hopefully tomorrow I won’t have to fight it so hard!
(Also, if you want to know how to use your worth you help you live the life you want to lead you should read this book. It’s quick, and easy, and life-changing, and funny, and awesome. 🙂 Was that too much?? That’s okay, it’s all true. And you are worth taking the time to learn how to become who you want to become.)
We are motivated when the cost of achieving those things we want to achieve outweighs the cost of staying where we are and continuing on. Most of us stay where we are because it’s easy. It costs us nothing new to stay in the same position. It may be costing us something we don’t like, whether it’s happiness, sanity, or even physical things like money, but if we are staying the same what we are saying is we are comfortable with the cost. Change requires something different. We have to take on a new cost. We have to venture into the unknown, which is a cost. It’s scary. It’s even scarier deciding that we are going to become who/what we want to become knowing that there is a chance of failure. The fear of failure is what often outweighs the cost of staying the same. Although, sometimes it is the fear of success that does it. We feel like we want a change, but if we are truly willing to go through with it then we are admitting to ourselves that we are worth it. We are worthy of the success. We feel like we truly, honestly deserve it. And then we name the things we did yesterday that weren’t perfect. We go back to the times we made the wrong choices. We think about the issues we had and continue to have, and all in an effort to remind ourselves that we really aren’t as deserving and worthy as we wish we were. So we stop ourselves. We stay put. We want to be brave, but we’re not sure we should be. We want to try, but we don’t know if we should succeed or why we should succeed. We compare ourselves to everyone, whether we know them or not. And we remind ourselves that this is why we are staying where we are.
This is the circle. Or really the cycle. We get it in, and we don’t know how to get out. We are right there at the edge, waiting for the cycle to change. We want it. We are pretty sure we do at least. We know we don’t want things to stay the same. So the issue becomes figuring out how to break the cycle. And the answer is simple, but hard – it boils down to choice. To making a choice to change, and to continuing to make the choice to stay out of the cycle. And that’s hard. Habits form deep ruts. Our neurons know how to operate. Their grooves are ready and well-worn, so jumping outside of them and going off-road is not an easy task. Our brains have a whole lot of work that they do each day. They have to perform efficiently. They fight change because they have to do more work now. They have to rewire the way our neurons think, the patterns they move in. They are designed to know what we are going to do next, how we are going to feel next. So when we change that, they’re not sure what to do, but they know it’s way more efficient to go back to the old way and that’s what they try to do. It calls us back. We have to consciously choose not to let it. We have to consciously say, “I know these issues are here. I know they exist. I know why my brain is fighting me on this right now, but I’m going to choose to stay on course,” because staying on course, continuing to make the different decisions is the only way to create a new groove. It’s the only way to provide staying power. Constantly, consistently make the choice. That is how change occurs.
So if we go back to what we have written out now from Day 1 and Day 2, we know who we are and where we are right now and we know who we want to be and where we want to be. So we have to make a map to get from right now to where we are planning to go. We always go one step at a time, so we would work on our top priority first and move down the list from there. Often times starting one change becomes a catalyst for the others. The rules are to keep it simple and keep it focused.
The example I’m going to use is one of the ways I started to change my thinking. I touched on it a bit yesterday I believe. I was always pretty pessimistic and negative. When I was beginning my final semester of my undergraduate coursework I read a book (The Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz – highly recommend it to everyone, seriously read it.) and in it one of the agreements is to Be Impeccable with Your Word. Part of this meant only saying things that were of value and true and that would pertain to growing and encouraging myself and others. During this point in time I started to notice how quick I was to judge others. I judged outfits, cars, imperfect speech, imperfect writing, anything I could notice to be negative about I was there. I began making a conscious effort then to replace those thoughts with positive thoughts. So when I would find myself thinking, “ewe look at those shoes,” I began stopping myself to disrupt the thought pattern and replacing it with something positive. It might have been, “we are all allowed to dress however we want to,” or “that is a person who I’ve never met and what they wear is not of consequence to me and I don’t need to judge it” or “I hope she has a good meal and that the rest of her evening goes well.” The last example became the one most frequently used as time went on. Initially it was hard. And it felt a bit daunting realizing just how much of my time I spent being negative. It was easy to try to say, “I must be a terrible person.” But that wasn’t helpful either, nor was it true. I was simply a human who had to work on retraining her way of thinking, and that was and still remains okay. But my way of thinking really did start to change. I became less negative and less judgmental. I focused more on encouragement and found myself a whole lot happier overall because of it.
The thing about being motivated to change our lives and take the steps we somewhere inside know we want to take is that we have to be willing to be honest with ourselves. We have to respect who we are enough and value who we are enough to say that this is who I am, this is who I want to be and I am willing to try to fulfill it. That first step is hard, self-worth is essential… and the journey is usually a lot longer than we hoped it would be. We have to be open to the fact that we are human. At some point things are going to get hard, people we hoped would help us won’t, things will probably get confusing and we will probably question why we made the choice in the first place and it is here that we have to go back to our map and remember where we really want to be and that there is a way to get there as long as we keep trying.
**** I know these were long and I apologize. It was hard to condense them, but it’s an issue people ask about a lot. The answer isn’t short, so thanks for reading them and I hope they helped. 🙂 and if you want a longer answer, you can look here…
Day 2: (Day 1 is here if you missed it) Now that we have had the chance to look at ourselves in an honest and open format, it’s important to understand also, why we are where we are. In reality, we are usually where we are because we choose to be there. We made the choices on our path, and this is what they equaled out to. There are certain issues that cause us to move in certain directions, and there are things in life that are not within our control, but for the most part we are the guiding force in where we go and what we do each day.
We now have to begin to understand why we make the choices we make that lead us to where we are. We all have inherent predispositions that we are born with. Some of us are more likely to be shy and some more likely to be outgoing. Some of us are more likely to be tall, some short. Some of us are going to be more likely to be athletic. Some writers, some business-oriented, some introspective, some narcissistic (if you’re reading this, you’re probably not really.). Some of us have the capacity to be born understanding that we are worthy. We know that we are with a life that is going to be worth living. We have something to contribute. We can share that which we have, and we can make things better for those around us. We are worthy of the good things life has to offer inherently.
That last sentence is true for all of us. We are worthy. But for a good many of us (myself certainly included) this concept is not something we carry with us throughout our lifetime. We instead struggle with worth. And this may be things that appear small in nature. We have a bit of a tendency to be negative; when we are trying to make small talk our jokes tend be more like a slight (not necessarily intentional) than a joke, and we look for reasons things probably won’t work out. We have a tendency to be scared of change. To be scared or unwilling to go after our dreams, the things we really want. We might not even know what those things are because we are so certain they won’t happen, what’s the point in letting them in. We thought about them years ago, but life has happened since then. We know exactly why no one understands us. We aren’t sure anyone ever will. We settle. We let go. We give in. We can see those who clearly should be succeeding and pretend we certainly can’t ever be them, because we don’t have whatever manufactured attributes they do. We feel like we might deserve good things, but can think of 100 things we could have done differently that would probably make us much more deserving, so it’s probably right that we don’t have the things we want. Or that life isn’t the way we really wish it would be. We self-sabotage. We keep ourselves down.
All of these things are born out of fear. Fear tells us we aren’t worthy. And it happily lists all the reasons why. And when a person is inclined towards fear, it becomes really difficult to outmaneuver it. It guides our steps, gives us stress, and throws in some confusion just to make it that much harder to even think that things can stop. We don’t know how to think that life can be different, because fear tells us it can’t. And the only way to move out of fear is to realize that we are worthy. That I, the person sitting here staring at this screen, am someone who has worth. Not just a little bit. Not fleeting worth. But permanent lasting worth that does not go away, and it is up to me to recognize it and utilize it. No one can do it for me. Even if I don’t see it, it is there.
As we look at ourselves today our exercise is this: As we talk again to our friend, the goal to write out where we are and why we are here. We want to uncover what drives our decision making. Are we making our choices out of fear or out of hope and love. So we again make our lists:
Things I want to keep about where I am: the place I live, my family, my relationship status, my career, my plans for the future…etc. Again anything at all you want to keep about where you are in your life.
Things I want to change about where I am: the place I live, my family, my relationship status, my career, my plans…etc. Anything you want to change, and prioritize them.
Then we go through any specifics we have about the changes we want to make:
I want to move from a to b. I want to change my career from employee to assistant manager, or from business to dance. I want to go from this terrible relationship to being single and being okay being alone.
And then as we did yesterday, we have a positive foundation for where we are at this moment, we have things we want to change and what we want to change them into, and we have the understanding that we are capable and worthy of making these changes.
(For a more in depth look at the way self-worth, impacts our every day lives, it’s covered in my book )
I’ve had a lot of questions lately about getting started. People who are interested in understanding how to change their current circumstance in some way or another, or in most ways altogether. So I decided it might be a good idea to try to help by plotting out some initial groundwork, and well, since I have a blog, I decided to share it here. But since it will be long, I decided to break it up (It’s probably still long – apologies – it should be helpful though.)
Day 1: To begin I always feel like it’s basically impossible to change anything we want if we haven’t had the chance to really evaluate some important things. The first two are: who we are and where we are – right here, right now. And these two can give us a foundation to work towards who we want to be and where we want to be. And one of the most important keys that influences all of these factors is self-worth. Obviously, I believe in understanding self-worth – I studied it while I was in graduate school (and beyond) and I wrote a book about it. And as we travel through these evaluations, it’s important to remember just how much of a navigational pull self-worth really has, so we will naturally begin uncovering our own individual feelings of self-worth and learning how to use our worth as a tool for success in our journey.
A while back there were some studies done that showed that there was a difference in levels of honesty between subjects who were sitting in a room writing about themselves where one room had a mirror sitting beside the table and the other simply a blank wall. When we are actually forced to stop and look and face ourselves, it’s different than the rest of the time when we can coast through largely ignoring things and knowing that we are planning on fixing whatever may need to be fixed “soon.” Part of this is helpful, we can’t function in panic-mode all the time, it’s not efficient. We have to compromise at certain points in time, it’s simply the way of life. But when we get lost and going along down the same road is no longer a viable option, we have to take the time to find out what is.
We start by looking at who we are. What we know to be true about ourselves where we are right now, in the moment. I was doing this exercise (that I will share next) a short while back sort of explaining it to someone, and I began talking about myself and I described a part of my past as “pathetic,” but I gave it a present-tense verb. I said, “I know, I’m pathetic.” And suddenly I realized that a part of me actually currently felt that way. It wasn’t a mistake. Maybe a Freudian slip, I suppose. And it was an issue I honestly had believe I had worked through all the way. And I started to panic a little, almost on the verge of tears, because I didn’t know what this meant. It had been a while since I had really sat down to look at where I was at and how I was coming along on my goals. I had started simply coasting, because I knew things were mostly going how I wanted them to go. The parts that weren’t technically had an easy fix, that I would “soon” engage in, but I thought I was good. Better than ever. So when I had this moment, I didn’t know how to handle it, and I had to take the time and look back into myself and see who I was, right there, right then to me.
The exercise is this: Describe who you are in writing as if in a conversation with someone who could be (or is) your best friend. This is someone you could tell all of your truths to, no judgment, only understanding.
The goal in this exercise is to uncover in a conversational manner how we feel about who we are right here, right now. So we write it out on paper, (or simply have the conversation in our minds if we don’t want to write it out right now, for whatever reason) and we have a starting point to gather who we are.
From this conversation we write down things we want to keep and (Separately) the things we want to change in order of priority. We want to begin to see who we are right now with a positive starting point and try to understand where we need to go to be closer to who we want to be. And we want to write down what we want to change those things we are displeased with into – what do we want the things we don’t like to become. And with this we have a positive foundation, a gauge of what we need to change and a sight for what we want to change into.
Examples would be:
1. Things I want to keep: Empathy, desire/motivation to change, organizational habits, messiness, ability to love, workout habits, relationship skills, faith, competitive, happiness, etc…. the list can truly be anything you want to keep about you.
2. Things I want to change: Negativity, judgment, lack of motivation, messiness, workout habits, faith, won’t let anyone in, (un)competitive, unhappiness, etc….again, the any of the things you want to change.
3. What I want these things to change into: Negativity to positive attitude, build others up instead of discouraging them and/or judging them, from boredom to looking for ways to help out, from messy to organized, etc.
We are looking at helping ourselves to transform from who we are into who we truly want to be. It’s important to be honest, to be in depth, and to be willing to be open to the journey. All journeys take time, but to go on one we must be willing to step on board. Keep what you write or work really hard to remember what you created in your head. We’ll use them again, as this is our starting point.
Truth is something that can appear to be quite elusive these days. It’s very easy to find half-truths or outright lies, misconceptions, misunderstandings; they are all sitting at our fingertips. So when I find truths that speak to me, that resonate within me in a way that I know in my core this is truth, I try to pay attention.
Maya Angelou was someone I had heard of in high school. We may have read a poem or two, if so I honestly don’t remember. It wasn’t until college that I took more of an interest in her, and in reality it’s probably because I saw her on Oprah. I have a tendency to cringe when speech is seemingly deliberate. When I can tell someone has thoroughly thought through what they are saying and they say it in a very matter of fact manner. I don’t know why. But I typically disengage. So to watch Maya Angelou speak and find myself literally on the edge of my seat feeling as though I am being pulled in a little bit nearer to her with each word was extremely unexpected. She spoke in a very deliberate manner, she knew what she was saying, but this time it was different for me. She was speaking in truth. Every word was one I wanted to hear, and I was glad she spoke with such clarity both in pronunciation and in point. And since truth, as I stated can be hard to come by, I wanted to make sure I shared some of it here, by way of Dr. Angelou.
1.“When people show you who they are believe them (the first time).”
I have found this to be true time and time again. Whether it is in a relationship romantic in nature, a friendship, family members, whomever we have in our lives, people will show us who they are. If someone tells you they are mean, believe them. If someone tells you they don’t care, believe them. If they say they just want to have fun, believe them. If they cheat on you, ignore you, make it a point to hurt you, believe them the first time. They are showing you who they are, and they are making it clear they have no intentions of changing this for you. Once a person shows us what they plan to do, and we stick around, then that is our poor choice. They will easily have the chance to say, “well you already knew” and use it as an excuse. And sadly, they won’t be entirely wrong. We have to learn that being a savior is not supposed to be the same as being a victim. So staying somewhere that is harmful to us to stick it out, to be strong, because we love them and we know they love us if we could just get them to change just one more time is never an excuse. We are saving no one and in trying to do so are only creating inequality within the relationship. We must pay attention to what people tell us about themselves and have enough worth about ourselves to be willing to let it go.
2. “…and if the future road looms ominous or unpromising, and the roads back uninviting, then we need to gather our resolve and, carrying only the necessary baggage, step off that road into another direction. If the new choice is also unpalatable, without embarrassment, we must be ready to change that as well.”
This quote comes from her essay titled New Directions. And it continues along very well with the previous quote. Many times we don’t leave a situation because we’ve planned out a future in our heads. We have something, and maybe we are only holding on by a rapidly fraying string, but we are holding on. There is something in front of us. But when our vision of the future does not match the reality of our future, there is a problem. If we truly stop and look down the road ahead, which most often will look like the road behind and it in no way is a path we should continue down, we must be willing to stop and change directions. We have to let go. We have to imagine a future that is different. We must be willing to try, and not only once, but as many times as it takes to get us to where the future we are imagining has the capacity to line up with the future coming to life in our reality. Whether it’s a career change, a relationship change, or even family that is harming us, we must care enough for ourselves to forge onward towards better things.
3. “It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive. Forgive everybody.”
And on our path to our new places we must let go of the past, lighten our load and forgive. We must be willing to admit to ourselves that we acknowledge what has happened, we understand that we were deeply hurt whether emotionally or physically, whether from and outside source or something we did to ourselves, we must look at the moment for what it is and find a way to release it. It is the only way to move forward successfully. We cannot let those moments define us. We know that they exist. They aren’t likely to be things that we forget. But they are things that we can move forward from without allowing them to control us. Forgiveness is truly one of the greatest gifts we can give to ourselves.
4. “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
In life we all have choices that we make every day. One of the most important choices we make is how we treat others. None of us were immune to people coming into our lives and making us feel bad. As children someone hurt us. Well, in all likelihood, multiple people. Children can be cruel. Adults can be cruel. We are all humans exposed to other humans, and that means life isn’t always going to be pretty. So each day we must make a choice to treat others the way we truly want to be treated. So we must believe ourselves worthy of the treatment we extend to others. We must know that we have the chance to grow a person, to encourage them or to bring them down, and it is essential that we become growers of others. We know how people made us feel. It lasts. We remember being scared, we remember being hurt, we remember being outcast, feeling alone and desolate, that no one else understands or cares. We remember these things because they made us feel like we didn’t matter. And that is not acceptable. We cannot continue a culture of people whose only goal is to make people feel this way. We must do what we can to acknowledge and accept our own worth and love ourselves enough to recognize and grow this in others. To be encouragers and walk in light so that others may follow. So that we can all know truth.
This is an excerpt from one of my favorite parts of her Master Class with Oprah: “to be the best human being you can be” (in every situation)
The first time I ever read the entire “I Have a Dream Speech” I was in my senior year of college. I had read excerpts and seen clips my whole life, but I had never read it all until then. I did so because I had this professor (in this class that happened to help change my life) who gave us an assignment for our first holiday weekend back at school. Our first holiday in the Spring is always the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. And the assignment was to consider the purpose of the holiday – because he felt it wasn’t one that we should just ignore the meaning of simply because we were off- and write about what we decided on in our journals that we kept as a part of the course. So since I really wanted to do well in this class, I decided to do the research I hadn’t in the past and uncover my feelings on the subject. This began with reading the “I Have a Dream Speech” in its entirety.
I grew up as a white female in the south. I’ve lived here (in this state) my whole life. But as a child of the 80’s, I never experienced life prior to the passing of the Civil Rights Act. I’ve never been in a class without a mixture of races in the classroom. I grew up watching The Cosby Show, Good Times, A Different World, 227, Amen, The Jefferson’s, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (I watched The Brady Bunch, Saved by the Bell, and Full House, too). And as a child (by this I mean pre-adolescence), I was naïve enough to believe that this was the norm. This was the way things had always been.
I hadn’t paid attention to the fact that even though there was always diversity in the classroom from my point of view, I was also never, ever the only person of my race in my classroom. I was never a minority. I never stood out. I spent the majority of my time blending in so well that people failed to notice I was even there. And I could do that because I didn’t stand out.
I understand how easy it can be to be revisionist in recalling our own personal experiences. As far as I knew growing up everyone got along for the most part. People all had friends. Some of the lines were sort of divisive, but growing up people tend to be clique-y anyhow. It’s easy to write off that most of the white students ate lunch with other white students, and most black students ate with other black students. We tend to gravitate towards those with whom we feel the most comfort. But looking a little deeper, even though everyone for the most part outwardly got along and everyone was able to coexist peacefully, my perspective, I found was not the only perspective.
As I read over the speech, it made more and more sense that my experience would have been entirely different had I been born a few decades earlier with a slightly darker skin tone. Today I think about what it would be like for me, the mother of a young boy to have to worry about what might happen if my son accidentally tries to play with one of the white children he sees as we are walking down the street. Or as he gets older, if someone will choose to arrest him in the middle of the street for looking at a woman of a different race. I don’t have to worry that his rights don’t exist, that he can be beaten, executed, hung, made a spectacle of for sport simply because of his race. I don’t have to worry that he is truly considered less than human, less than equal, less than anyone else who is around him simply because of any genetic factor. I don’t have to live in fear because my country treats us as less than human in its laws and in its actions, and thus encourages its citizens to do the same for fear they may become ostracized themselves. My personal experience has never known anything of this type of fear, but that is not the case for everyone, and it is essential that this notion is understood and remembered.
To quote from Dr. King’s speech, “And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’”
We are all human, all equal in our humanity, and all deserving of our rights in this country as humans. To accomplish this we have to figure out a way to stop being divisive on our own. To look at one another and recognize that no matter who we are seeing, that person reflects the same human qualities that exist within us. We are all different, each unique, but we are also the same, and it is those similarities we must start accentuating. We are not perfect, and it is easy to judge and look for reasons that others are less than, reasons that make us feel like, even though we aren’t perfect we still have a chance, because we are better than this person or we aren’t doing what that person does. But comparison in that format is never beneficial; we only tear ourselves down when we seek to tear down others.
“They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.”
We will never experience true freedom as long as we are living in a way that serves to prevent others from experiencing freedom. As long as we are judging and condemning based on the superficial, we will never rise above as a whole. We have to look within, we have to confront those things that scare us within ourselves, we have to move past our own revisionist attitudes and search for truth. And from truth we will find a place where our own inherent worth is uncovered. And with each step we take we move closer and closer to seeing the dream of Dr. King realized – a dream where humankind learns the value of humankind, and has the courage to live out those values.
This is a copy of the whole speech, in case you haven’t read it:
“Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.“ – Ralph Waldo Emerson
“If the wind will not serve, take to the oars.” – Latin Proverb
I think one of the most important things I’ve learned as I have gotten older is the importance of understanding that we have to go through things alone. Now, I know I have talked about the importance of understanding that we have to have help if we are going to get to where we are going. And that still stands. But we have to do the work on our own. We are the sole decision makers in what we do each day. We are the ones who are affected by our actions, more so than anyone else. We are the ones who have picked the path we are on. And we are the ones with the ultimate responsibility of getting to where we want/need to go.
It can be frustrating at times when we can’t find anyone to help us in the way we would like to have help. We have ideas and projects that we believe in, but sometimes it feels as though no one else really cares. The people who we feel are supposed to help may not always do so. And that can be difficult when we are trying to accomplish something that we believe in. It’s the ultimate rule when it comes to accomplishing your dreams…. No one will believe in you as much as you do until you can show them why they should. And unfortunately, that usually takes a lot of work.
I find that with writing it takes even more work. You can’t force people to read something. You can’t force someone to pay attention. When you sing people can hear you even if they don’t want to. When you act people can see you, even if they don’t want to. When you paint your work is visible, what you have to say and share is visible, even if people don’t want it to be. But when you write, your ideas are hidden between under the covers. The book covers to be exact. You can’t force people to understand that what you have to say is worthwhile enough to give up a few hours of their lives to read it. That’s significant time. A song is three minutes, and can be turned off. A show is 30 minutes or an hour, and can be turned off. A piece of artwork is available to take in over the course of a few moments. But books, books require an investment. And you have to do work. You’re not just observing, you are actively engaging in reading. And as a writer, I think it’s very important not to waste anyone’s time.
So I made it a point to write something that I believe is worthwhile. And after writing it, it felt great. But now I have to get people to read it. Which is less great. Because even though I want to share it, and even though I believe in it, I have to convince other people that they should as well. And though that makes me uncomfortable, what I have found is that thing that I started learning when I started college – no one else is going to do it for me. I’m the one who has to do the work. The ultimate responsibility is mine.
We all have things we want to do. Things we need to do. And we all have to start somewhere. Is there somewhere you are planning to go or something you are wanting to do? Find the time, find a way, and make it a point to do it. And along the way:
- Don’t be afraid of what you write. Let it flow, even if it makes no sense.
- Understand that even though people may be supportive, they may not be supportive in the way we’d like.
- Remember that even though it’s going to get hard, it’s something worth doing.
- Remember the journey is yours to take, and some of the people will have to come and go. (as will some characters)
- Remember there are plenty of people who have made it through, so there’s no reason that you can’t, too.
- Stay motivated. You have what it takes. YOU!
- Smile. This is just good sense. It has the natural ability to lift your spirit, even when things are hard.
I happened to be on a news site earlier, and I read the article. I never normally scroll all the way down, but this time my computer decided to make the jump for me. I guess I’ve never paid an excessive amount of attention to the comment section at the bottom of online news pieces, but since my computer decided to freeze there, I took a minute to peruse the comments. I’m not sure what I expected, but the venom injected into so many of the comments was jarring. People are looking to fight. Looking to be mean. Seemingly looking to make others feel terrible about their own ideas or any idea that may be in any way different from what said commenter has decided is the “right way” to feel.
Now, I know people are mean online. I know people are looking to say ridiculous things. But it made me think about just how much time and energy is put into this kind of thinking. And not even in an “internet troll” type of way, but every day. (I just learned what internet trolling is, I’m behind.) We are so comparative in the way we view ourselves. We look at others to judge what they are wearing, what they are eating, what they are thinking. The sole purpose is to judge. If you’ve ever read The Four Agreements, by don Miguel Ruiz, the first agreement is to “Be Impeccable with Your Word.” And by this he means that we have to understand the power of our words, the impact that they have on others, but also on ourselves. Those are our thoughts. That’s what we are spending our time, energy and brain power thinking about. In essence, we are thinking about “how can I look at that person in a way that makes me feel better about the choices I’ve made?” We use looking at others and thinking about them as reinforcement for who we are, but when all we are is someone who spends all their time judging others, we are contributing very little to who we can be. That is time that we don’t get back.
There is so much criticism about everyone’s choices (and media surely plays into this) that we forget that everyone here is just human. We are all people trying to live our lives as best we can at each point in the day. We all have lows, we all have highs. We ALL make mistakes. We make poor choices. We say the wrong thing. We engage in things we know we shouldn’t. We all get sad. We all get mad. We all get confused. We are alive. So wouldn’t our time be much better spent building one another up, recognizing that we all fall short sometimes and instead of judging others on what we perceive to be shortcomings, encouraging one another. Not saying, “hey why are you doing that or why are you wearing that?” and instead allowing it to be okay for someone to make different choices than we might. (Unless of course their choices are putting them in danger – this is a completely different subject – always try to find someone who can help in that case!)
There is so much negativity in the world. Instead of feeding into it, create a spark against it. Feed encouragement. Feed hope. Feed kindness and love. THESE are the things we need more of, all of us. Kind words help us climb peaks. They help us reach the summit. And as we speak them they transform us into the kind of person we want to be. Someone who makes the world a better place. Kindness makes us a contributor. It is through our actions that people learn who we are. It’s up to us to make our actions count.
All day long I see people, including myself, with something to complain about. We have a problem. We need someone to blame. Life, everyone’s life, is full of imperfections. It is full of unforeseen bumps, walls, bruises, breaks, tragedies, etc. And it’s full of readily known, easily seen bumps, walls, bruises, and breaks, and in some cases tragedies, as well. None of these, however, are easy for us to deal with. Not on a deeper level. They are things that require time. Sure some are easier for us to process, but to deny that they affect us, to deny that there are residual scars, is simply as stated, denial. It is ultimately unhelpful for all of us.
One of the things that I’ve seen numerous times recently is this statement, “I wish we could return to the morals on which this country was founded.” The statement seems well enough at first glance. But ultimately it is pining for something that never existed in order to blame everyone else for the problems in existence today and tag them as different. It is different, we are different, and that’s why things are the way they are. In reality, we are not all that different. In fact it is how much we have stayed the same in many cases that causes the issues that we have. See, our country was founded on the premise of religious freedom…if you were a protestant. It was founded on morals that included drowning, hanging, and burning females who might be perceived to be a witch. It was founded on denying any human rights, respect or decency to anyone who wasn’t white – as was obvious with slavery and the treatment of native Americans . And to denying a majority of rights, respect, and decency to those who were white, but happened to be poor or a female. You were allowed to murder someone for stealing from you with almost no civil process. It was common practice to allow abuse and mistreatment of women, children, and anyone who wasn’t a powerful (not in the physical sense here) white male. It was founded on the idea that anyone who strayed in any way from the ideas set forth by the males around them could be considered a heretic. It was a time when they believed and practiced the idea that God felt them to be the only worthy members and it was okay to kill, steal, and manipulate their way into power. And the law of the land was much more in line with “an eye for an eye” than a democratic justice system.
Maybe we should go back to the times before this. Perhaps the Renaissance, that was a good time right? Sure our country wasn’t founded then, though it was “found” by a tyrant. Back when we (a human we, here) were crusading around, killing people who thought any differently than us. Taking their land, their money. “Screaming convert or die.” Burning people, hanging people, raping women and children. No? What about the Dark Ages? Should we go back there? What time in history is it that we should return to so that we can find these uplifting morals that I’ve heard so much about?
In truth, those morals are present at all points in time. There are people, probably the majority, who want to do good. Who want to be good. What do we measure a life in once it’s gone? In love? In hate? In blame? What do we measure it in while we are still living? With what do we measure our own lives? If it is not love, then, this is what we have to blame for the way that things are going. If we aren’t learning to love, ourselves, others, and teaching ourselves and others to be better people every day, helping one another rise up, then today will remain just as it was, yesterday, and last week, and even back in the good ole days when this country was founded. It is those who adapt who survive. It isn’t the strongest, or even the smartest, it is those best able to adapt. And it starts with a drop. Just one. One person to start measuring the year, the day, the minute in love, and this ignites the spark.
–It’s been a long time, and this was a bit long – my apologies.