02 January 2015

Happiness and New Year's Resolutions

Happy New Year! I hope 2015 is better to you than 2014. Even if 2014 was awesome. (It wasn't). I wrote an essay. Read it if you like. Don't if you don't like rambling.

I don't like doing the Year in Review thing. I simply don't care. It's over. It's done. Fuck it all. I do like looking forward a bit.

This year, I plan to write more, help my friend with her YouTube channel, read more fiction, and meditate more. In the kids' lives, I am continuing homeschooling the boys, and starting something called Rapid Prompting Method with Crackle. I'm going to try to get back to visit my Mom again (she's recovering from complications from open heart surgery).

I'm also going to try to find my big girl panties, put them on untwisted, and get the fuck over some shit I've been angry about for far too long. That might involve some of the meditation and writing.

This blog entry has been entirely for me so far. Sorry. (Not sorry).

Oh yeah, and there's that. I'm done being dishonest for the sake of harmony. I can either believe that I can affect other's emotions or that they're in charge of their own reactions. I can either believe that what others say and do can affect me or not. It's not both. Did you see the clip on the Daily Show of the woman on Fox News who said that what the US does can put their troops in danger, but then a few minutes later says that what the US does has no effect on other countries? A lot of people walk around with that cognitive dissonance. There are people who think that what they say has no effect on others, but expect others to be kind and respectful to them, because anything else would hurt them. There are those who are the opposite. They think every word coming out of them has the power to affect people, but that nothing coming in can hurt them if they don't let it. It's kind of mindblowing. More common though are the professional victims/abusers. The people who think that words can hurt them without their permission and that their words can hurt others. I reject this flat out.

The only thing that can hurt me is my belief about words. Call me a skanky whore, and I will laugh it off, because I know a) It's not true; b) It means you're a sexist pig. Call me something I know to be true, say, "fat ass", and I will say, "Yeah, and?" because it's factually correct. I have a fat ass. So? It doesn't bother me because DUH. That you think it's an insult speaks to your character, not to my ass. And if my fat ass is something that bothers me, well then that's my own beliefs about my fat that need work, not you and your attitude. Though, maybe that too, but it's unconnected to my reaction.

 Call me something I secretly fear, and I will cut you. Because it's scary. Because you might be right. And then my feelings about myself bubble up. Or I might decide to feel crappy about myself. Suppose I'm scared that I'm a really selfish person (I'm not, but let's pretend). You tell me, "Luna, I'm sick of your selfishness! You're always selfish!" OMG OMG OMG. What if you're right?! What if I am a really selfish, horrible person? No one will love me! I don't love me! I'm a horrible person. Or I can figure out what you think is selfish, decide whether I am doing that thing or not, and stop it if I am. And if you don't like me, well, feel free to leave. It's fine.

And no, this isn't carte blanche to insult people or be an asshole. Because we all know that other people have beliefs that they use to feel bad about things. If I know that many fat people are really sensitive about it, for totally valid reasons, and I decide to use it as an insult, I'm a jerk. Don't be a jerk. There are kind ways of saying most things. Lying to be kind, no. I won't do it anymore.

Lying to be kind. What a weird concept. I will tell you a lie in order to prevent hurting your feelings, even though I don't actually have that power, only you do (because if you decide you no longer believe that it's a bad thing, whatever it is, the truth will no longer hurt). What I'm really deciding is that I'm too uncomfortable with your honest feelings. Or that I'm afraid you will not like me anymore if I am honest. Well, if I'm not honest, you're liking a version of me that isn't really me anyway, so then I have another problem. Managing your feelings with lies. And I'm done. I will not manage anyone's feelings with lies.

And this leads to my latest pet peeve in the progressive communities. Apologies. Apparently, most apologies aren't good enough. Now we have to grovel, admit we knew it was wrong in the first place but did it anyway, swear never to do it again, and then do some selfless act to prove our sentiment is sincere. That is the only acceptable apology and it sucks. I know that it's partially because we've seen and heard so many apologies that were just words meant to appease, with no actual intent to do anything different (other than not get caught next time). I 100% know that. But it's backlash, and I won't do it. Because again, I will not be in charge of your feelings. If I say something unkind, I will apologise for being unkind. If I say something honest, but from love, I will not apologize for it. Even if you are angry or sad. I might say I'm sorry you're sad. Because I will be. Much like I'm sorry for your loss when you're grieving. If I say something stupid, I will apologise for my stupidity. I will not apologize if you decide to be mad at me for something I do not think was wrong. I will not be responsible for your feelings.

No words are inherently offensive. Words only carry offense because of the beliefs about them. Shared or otherwise. I am offended by the word retard, when used as an insult. Because I believe that means that the person using it is dangerous to the welfare of my child. Because when retard is an insult, people with developmental disabilities are granted a little less worth by society. My sister, who also has a dev.disabled child does not believe that, and uses the word freely. It infuriates me. Of course, the proper way to say that would be "I choose to be angry about this". Because I do. Because the belief that the word hurts my child serves me.

The word cunt is not inherently offensive either. It's only offensive because we live in a patriarchy we are trying to dismantle, and cunt is a reminder of others' feelings about women. Eliminating the words doesn't eliminate the sentiment. But eliminating the words DOES prevent that method of propagation. And so the use of the word is (usually) offensive to people with the belief that patriarchy is a bad thing. That's okay. The belief serves us in our goal.

But if someone calls me a cunt privately, or the cashier refers to the government as "a bunch of retards" (Yep, that happened), I can choose not to be angry. I can inform the person calling me a cunt they are no longer welcome in my life, and I can tell the cashier that when she uses retard as a slur, she's saying that people with disabilities are lessers. I did. She gasped and said she didn't mean it that way. I smiled and said, "I know, but that's the effect anyway. Regardless of your intent." (And then I explained it a little more in depth). She said, "Really? Oh man. I will NOT say that again." The next time I saw her, she smiled and told me she had only said it once since, and immediately stopped herself. Intent really actually does matter. Had I gotten angry at her, demanded a "proper" apology, talked to her manager, etc., she'd never have changed and I'd have been angry.

If you want to be a victim your entire life, dear comrades, please, by all means continue to believe that others are in charge of your happiness. If you want to be happy, figure it out. Only you and your beliefs can affect your happiness. And you can change any belief you want to. Not that you necessarily should! Like I said, some beliefs serve us in having a civilized society. Things like "Rape is bad, don't do it" are probably beliefs you don't want to give up (please don't!) But maybe you want to give up the belief that if it happened to you that you have to be hurt and scared forever. I did. It was one of the best beliefs I ever changed. Not that I'm saying you have to. Or that there is any proper way to feel. I'm saying that a lot because I want to be perfectly clear.

Really, there's no one saying you must choose happiness at all times. No one is saying, hey, your dog just died, be happy! (Well, I'm not anyway). You'll be unhappy until you decide that life can be good without your dog. You'll still miss the old guy, but you'll be happy again. Because subconsciously, you decided it. You could decide that immediately, but most of us don't, because our beliefs serve us. And we won't give them up while they do.

So I'm giving up the belief that I have to be angry when people say things that offend me. I do not have to be angry. I might choose to be. But I do not have to be. I am giving up the belief that I owe anyone anything. Ever. And that anyone owes me anything. Ever. Especially apologies. No apologies are ever owed. If they are owed, they are not freely given.

I'm also giving up on the idea that I have to be angry to care. Fuck that. Harper is destroying Canada. I do not have to be angry (I can be, but I don't have to be) in order to work for change. I'm tired of seeing, "If you're not mad, you're not paying attention". It assumes too much. Think about the underlying assumptions! That events can and, worse, should make me mad. That anger is required to change things. That satisfaction and happiness are the same thing. That if you're happy, you don't care. Let's take those apart.

Myth: Events can and should make you mad.
No. Events cannot make you mad. Your beliefs about the events are what make you mad. Your belief that the event is bad and you're scared and you lash back in anger. Your belief that the event requires an angry response. Or that anger is the appropriate response. Or any number of other beliefs. But it is only your belief that is causing your anger. Proof? No single event makes every single human angry. Terrorist attack? Small group of very happy terrorists and a whole lot of people who don't care. It is only our belief that what the terrorists are doing is a bad thing that makes us angry. And again, that's okay. We're allowed our anger. But we are not required to be angry. The attacks on NY in 2001 didn't make me angry, and I didn't choose anger. I was sad. I'm not wrong for my angerless emotion. And my friend isn't wrong for his anger. But anger is not required. Ever.

Myth:  Anger is required to change things.
Let's go with the Harper example. I don't want him to be re-elected. Like at all. Like, I'd rather blow a senator to get inside information to bring him down. Unfortunately, no senators have made such an offer (Looking at you, Nicole Eaton... Ew. I just made myself sick.) I can be completely unsatisfied with what is going on, without being angry. Of course, I can also decide to be angry and use my anger as a driving force, like the phrase intends. But why? Why angry instead of happily hopeful?

Myth: That satisfaction and happiness are the same thing. 
I think this is the one that causes the most trouble for a lot of people. You ever see a weightloss community? "I won't be happy until I lose 35 lbs!" Why not? Why not be happy with your body as it is, right now, and attempt to lose 35lbs? I think there's an underlying societal belief that if someone is happy, they will be complacent. That happiness equals satisfaction. I'm happy with my kids. They're awesome. And hell no I'm not satisfied. If Pop never learns to read, I'll love him and I'll be happy with him, but I'll keep trying to teach him, because I won't be satisfied until he's an adult and is allowed to make his own decisions about what he learns. (This is not an issue. Pop is learning to read just fine.) If Crackle never learns to talk, I'll love him and be happy with him, and I will find another way to communicate with him. I will not be satisfied until he can tell me everything. But I will be happy. Because what fun is a Mom who is never happy until you do what she wants and then finds something else she's not happy about? None. And what's more, I don't want to be unhappy all the time. I don't want my happiness to depend on what my kids are doing.

Myth: If you're not upset when I'm upset, you don't care.
Christie Clark, shitbag that she is, is fucking over the BC environment (and a lot of people in it!) And people are mad. And some aren't. And the ones who aren't are accused of not caring. Some don't. But their lack of anger is not evidence thereof. I'm not mad. I'm disgusted. And I'm trying to make sure it doesn't happen. But I'm not upset. Because that won't help me. I can't use anger to drive myself in this situation. Anger paralyzes me. Except when it unhinges me. And you know what? I don't even have to be disgusted. I can decide that she thinks she's doing what's right, disagree with her vehemently, and work toward making her dream die in the fires of hell.

TL;DR: I will work on being happy and loving. Drop the idea that others are responsible for my feelings. Drop the idea that I am responsible for others' feelings.