The Price of Honesty

Once upon a time, when I was younger, and knew everything, I thought that it was okay to let people know I didn’t like them.  I thought that being misanthropic toward people meant I was being honest.  I’m an introvert, so my default setting is to not like anyone, especially when I first meet them.  Therefore, if someone irritated me more than the normal why-do-I-have-to-interact-with-other-humans reaction, I would make sure they knew that I didn’t like them, using snide remarks, sarcasm, and occasionally out and out ignoring.

Yes, as an “adult,” I often acted like a 5 year old.

In my defense, I have made friends with some strange characters who didn’t have boundaries, and in the cases, the only way I found to discourage them from following me around was to be rude.

But still, that’s no reason to treat other people badly.

I had been sort of coming to that realization for awhile.  I realized that the people who I admired most were kind to everyone, and didn’t treat others badly, even when they deserved it.

Then, I started work at a new place, and most everyone ignored me.  They weren’t mean; just indifferent.  I didn’t feel welcome, except for two people who went out of their way to be helpful and kind.  I realized that the “honesty” I thought I was selling was really snake oil.

How you treat people says more about you than it does about them.  What do I want my behavior to say about me?  Do I want it to say that I’m judgmental, unkind, and disinterested?  Or do I want it to say that I’m accepting, kind, and helpful?

I still prefer to be left alone, and it can be hard to get interested in new people, but I try to make an effort, at least to smile and have a conversation, because that’s how I would want someone to treat me.

What do you want your behavior to tell others about you?

Advertisements

Judgement Free Zone

There aren’t many judgement free zones these days.  Facebook has become an excuse to post all kinds of judgements that come in the form of complaining about others, commenting on articles, and other things too numerous to list.

This morning, a friend of mine posted a picture of a sports car parked in a handicapped spot, and a lot of people commented that the friend should park too close to it, that if someone can get in and out of a car like that, they don’t need a handicapped space, that the person who had that car was probably “lawsuit-happy,” and other things.

I want to encourage you to try to make your brain into a judgement free zone, free from judging yourself, and free from judging others.  I con’t know how many times I’ve heard people say some variation of “don’t judge me until you know me.”

Well, guess what?

We all have stories.

I get it; it’s easy to jump to conclusions about people.  It’s easy to say that if a person is handicapped, they shouldn’t be getting in and out of a sports car.  But there are a lot of handicaps that don’t show.  People sometimes have muscle disorders that make it difficult for them to move.  Or maybe they’re moving just fine now, but can’t predict if they’ll still be moving fine five minutes from now.

I know someone who’s had 3 or 4 cervical spine surgeries.  This person has struggled with walking.  Some days she can walk a mile.  Some days she falls a lot.  She used to have to ride a motorized cart around the grocery store, and it embarrassed her because she thought people would think she was using it because she was “fat” instead of because of medical issues.  These days, she doesn’t need the cart, but parking lots continue to be tripping hazards.  She still parks in the handicapped spots because she is handicapped, and she never knows when she’ll struggle with walking.

She’s relatively young looking, and most of the time, she walks fine.  She doesn’t limp or stumble, and you can’t see the scars on her neck because they’re covered with hair.  It would be easy to assume that she parks in the handicapped spot because of her weight or because of laziness.

Don’t judge.

If you want to make an assumption, assume that everyone has a story.  When I first started trying to change my mindset from judgement to acceptance, I found it easier to make up stories about someone.

That person who cut me off in traffic isn’t a jerk; he just got the news that his child is sick and he’s rushing home because he loves her so much.  That person who was rude to me in the grocery store was up all night caring for her mother, who has cancer.  That 20 year old who parked in the handicapped spot and appears to be in perfect health actually has multiple sclerosis.

It doesn’t matter to me if these stories are true or not.  What matters is that they could be true.  How horrible would I feel if I found out that one of those things was true, and I hadn’t responded with compassion?  I’m okay with being wrong in the opposite direction; I was compassionate and kind, but the person was really a jerk.  I can live with that.  But unkindness to someone who’s struggling with something?  Wouldn’t I want people to be a little kinder to me if I were trying to manage a heavy burden that day?

None of us is going to be perfect at this.  There are days when I just want to growl at everyone and everything.  But I would hope that on those days, someone out there who has to deal with me, thinks, “I bet she’s not always like this.  She’s probably just having a bad day, so I’ll be a little nicer.”

Kindness costs nothing, but judgement is expensive.

If You Do It, Someone Will Judge It

It doesn’t matter what “it” is.  If it can be done, someone will judge it.

On that note, welcome to Wellness Wednesday.  Every Wednesday, I post something related to personal wellness.

Sunglass Cat- Find her on Facebook! Austin, Texas Photo credit: RJS Photography

Sunglass Cat- Find her on Facebook!
Austin, Texas
Photo credit: RJS Photography

I recently read an article about a woman who likes to read books.  She talked about being new to reading romance books, and gave some of her recommendations for books along with stating that despite the bad reputation romance books get, some of them are more well-written than others.

Then the post got weird.

She then wrote about not being afraid to tell others that you read romance novels, that some people will judge you for it, but that talking about romance novels is the only way to find other people who read them and get recommendations.

Say what?  People will judge you for reading a book?!?

Yes, dear reader.  People will judge you for what books you read.  It doesn’t matter that they haven’t read anything other than a cereal box in 10 years; others will judge what you read.  People judge Twilight and 50 Shades of Gray without having read them.  I’m not saying they’re literature; I’m just calling shenanigans on judging them based on an article someone else wrote about them.

Look, I’m a fan of doing what makes you happy.  Those people who are judging you?  They aren’t going to be around in 10 years, 10 days, and sometimes not even in 10 minutes.  They don’t pay your bills.  They haven’t lived your life.

Not caring what people think is an art form that few master, but when I see someone who obviously doesn’t care what others think, I want to applaud.  The happiest people know that flying under the radar is overrated.  I say that as long as what you do doesn’t actively harm anyone, do what you want to do.

Some people will say that you “harm” them when they really mean “offend.”  I’ve heard people say that being gay, having tattoos, wearing things with swear words, having a certain hair color is “harmful” to morality or some nonsense.

I call shenanigans.

Harm is what you do to someone else, not what you do to yourself.  If you hit on someone who isn’t interested (after they’ve told you), that’s harm.  If you hold someone at gunpoint and force them to get tattoos, that’s harm.  If you swear in someone’s face, that’s harm.  If you throw hair dye on someone else, that’s harm.

Being you… not harmful.

So today, remember that all the things you like and dislike make you uniquely you.  They make you cool and interesting.  If someone else doesn’t like those things, then that’s cool.  It means that they’re different from you.  Maybe you can even learn things from one another.

Go forth and be uniquely you today, no matter what that means.  And don’t judge others for being who they are.  Embrace it.  Enjoy it.

Live it.

The Dark Side of Acceptance

On Wellness Wednesdays, I post on a wellness topic.

Sea World, San Diego Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Sea World, San Diego
Photo Credit: Doree Weller

I wouldn’t say that my high school had a bullying problem.  We were a small, rural school.  And yet I was bullied for my weight in high school.  One of my friends was bullied for the way she looked as well.  I recently wrote a story about bullying, and a friend of mine, who has been out of high school far less time than me, said, “That’s not how it works anymore.  Now, it’s the fat black gay kid who’s the popular kid.”

I had seen this trend in the new 21 Jump Street, but I wasn’t sure if it was for real or not.  When I asked another friend of mine about it, she said that it has gotten better, though it’s not quite like my other friend said.

I know that bullying still exists.  I know this because I still see online articles about kids who have attempted or completed suicide based on how bad bullying gets.  I’ve seen adults bully other adults, so I know it doesn’t just come out of nowhere.

Recently, I read an article about how Planet Fitness revoked a woman’s gym membership for not following their “No Judgement Zone” policy.  The woman reportedly got upset when a person she thought was a man entered the locker room.  The person in question is actually transgendered, and identifies as female.  The customer who objected returned to the gym multiple days to tell other gym members that Planet Fitness allows “men” in the women’s dressing rooms, which was what ended in her having her membership revoked.

I’m actually not here to weigh in on that particular issue, but I provided a summary of the story to set the tone for what I do want to talk about.  This article was published as a link on Facebook, and I was curious about the comments.  There were the expected arguments on both sides.  One woman stated that she agreed with the woman who didn’t feel safe with a “man” in her dressing room, and that she would never go to Planet Fitness as a result.  She expressed herself in a logical and appropriate manner.  Other people attacked her, calling her names and telling her that she was being “intolerant.”  They put her down and said things about her that they couldn’t possibly know, saying that she was a bad Christian (she never mentioned religion).

Several times, this woman responded and defended her views, saying that she has the right to feel the way she feels about it, and each time, she was met with a barrage of negative statements from others.

This woman was bullied.

I’m an LGBTQ ally.  I believe that everyone should have the same rights.  BUT, when someone disagrees with my opinion, I don’t have the right to bully them, and neither does anyone else.

There is a big difference between expressing an opinion by stating that you won’t patronize an establishment because you don’t believe in the way they do things and saying that you wish harm to a group of people.  The former is an adult reaction to something that offends you.  The latter is extremist, childish, and just plain wrong.

True acceptance means that we accept the respectful opinions of everyone.  It does not mean that we agree.  It does not mean that we bully.  It means that we allow others to express their opinions.  If we want to have an intelligent, adult discussion with dissenting opinions, that’s wonderful.  That’s what it’s all about.  Acceptance does not mean that everyone has to “accept” your opinion as correct.

By bullying the woman who expressed her opinion, all commenters did was cement her opinions.  People don’t change their minds because other people put them down or shame them.  People change their minds through open and honest discussion, along with respectful arguments that make them think differently.

Next time someone gives an opinion you don’t agree with, listen to them, respectfully and without judgement.  Then give yours.  I believe that this respectful meeting of minds is the way that we can truly promote peace and equality.

What are your thoughts?

Life Lessons

On Wellness Wednesdays, I post about a topic related to wellness.

“I have learned silence form the talkative, tolerance from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind, yet strange, I am ungrateful for those teachers.”

-Khalil Gibran

San Tan Mountain Regional Park, Arizona Photo Credit: Doree Weller

San Tan Mountain Regional Park, Arizona
Photo Credit: Doree Weller

I believe that we’re all presented with the same lesson in life, over and over, until we learn it.  People and situations may annoy or upset us, but the truth is that everything can be a learning experience.

It’s difficult because we don’t get letter grades for these experiences.  No one marks up our experience with a red pen, showing us exactly what we need to improve.  Instead, we have to figure it out.

The best way to figure out how you’re doing in learning about something in particular is by how it makes you feel.  If it upsets, angers, frustrates, or makes you afraid, you may have more to learn from it.  The more intensely you feel, the more important the lesson.

People who won’t shut up irritate me.  They talk and talk, repeating themselves, and usually end up saying very little.  I recently had yet another encounter with one of these individuals.  He was a member of my writer’s critique group, and he gave good feedback, but it was buried within a speech to rival the length of War and Peace.  I tried to let him know, gently, that it was difficult for me to hear what he was trying to tell me when he repeated the same thing over and over.  I think I hurt his feelings, and soon after, he dropped out of the group.  I still feel bad about that, wondering if what I said made him want to leave.

I have two lessons to learn here.  I’m honestly not sure what the first lesson is; I’m still trying to figure it out.  Perhaps that I need to listen, even when I don’t want to?  Or perhaps how to give better feedback?  The second lesson is most definitely that the world doesn’t revolve around me, and if he chose to drop out of group, that was his choice, and I didn’t “cause” it.

If I insulted him, he could have spoken to me about it.  He could have ignored me or told me to go to hell.  I’m not responsible for the choices he made, and likely his choice to leave group didn’t have anything to do with me at all.

What lessons are you still working through?

Finding Yourself

On Wellness Wednesdays, I post about a wellness topic.

“Be happy for this moment… This moment is your life.”

-Omar Khayyam

Desert Botanical Gardens, Phoenix AZ Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Desert Botanical Gardens, Phoenix AZ
Photo Credit: Doree Weller

What does “finding yourself” mean?  Does it mean you’re lost?  Displaced?  Out of touch?

I think that people sometimes use this as shorthand for “finding out who I am.”

We focus on “finding,” as if there’s something hidden or lost.  As if there’s an answer.

But the happiest people I know, know that there isn’t anything hidden.  There’s no “secret.”  That’s the secret: that there is no secret.  There’s no one path to happiness.  In fact, happiness isn’t a goal or a destination; it’s not the ends to your means. It is the means.  It is the path.

What I mean by that is that sometimes I think we do things just to find an answer.  People go to church for an answer.  We go to school so we can “be” something or somebody.  We make money so we can buy stuff so we can “be happy.”

The fact is that as long as we chase happiness, we’ll never get it.  People who make more money spend more money.  The wise man doesn’t have answers; he has questions.  Work is not usually the most satisfying source of identity.  Most of us want to be seen for who we are, but the problem is that many people don’t know.

When you introduce yourself, most of us give our name and what work we do.  But though interesting, that’s not nearly the most interesting thing about me.  When my friends think of me, I’ll bet the first thing that comes to mind is how often I read.  They come to me for recommendations on books, quotes relevant to their lives or what they’re going through.  I write and like to talk about topics that don’t seem to have anything to do with anything.

I’m loyal and kind, sarcastic and irritable, superstitious and logical, contradictory and secure with my contradictions.

But I can’t be summed up by my qualities, and neither can you.  I’m never bored and don’t understand people who are.  I love drinking up a moment.  The other day, we went to see Blade Runner and then went hiking in the woods.  I enjoyed the loud, dark theater with the gritty tech-noir movie as much as I enjoyed the play of light and dogs splashing in the water.

The secret to happiness is to be happy now, today.  There’s no “when” or “if.”  Maybe life wasn’t what you wanted it to be, and maybe it’s not the way it’s supposed to be.  Maybe it sucks.  When people are unhappy, they often want to prove it and justify it.  They list the reasons why they’re unhappy, which usually have something to do with family, job, relationship (or lack thereof).

You can spend time justifying why you’re unhappy, but why would you want to do that?  I believe you, that you’re justified in your unhappiness.  You don’t have to prove it to me!  But is that where you want to live?  Is that where you want to stay stuck?

We can’t change what’s happened to you or how other people treat you.  If you want to be happy, start looking for reasons to be happy.  Reasons to be happy are like seeds.  Sometimes they don’t look like much, but if you water them and give them sunlight, even a little bit, they’ll grow.  Sometimes what they grow into can surprise you.

“They tried to bury us.  They didn’t know we were seeds.”

-Mexican Proverb

If you believe you have reasons to be unhappy, you probably do.  But we all have stories.  There’s no use in comparing the stories, because the worst thing to happen to me is the worst thing for me.  Your worst thing might be different, but it’s still the worst thing for you.  Saying “what happened to me isn’t as bad as what happened to him or her” isn’t useful because you’re only living your life.  I think it’s useless to compare your successes to others.  Just be the best you that you can be.  So why would you compare your sadness to the sadness of another?  It’s yours.  Personal.

Stop making excuses for why you can’t be happy.  Stop focusing on the things that make you unhappy.  If you want to be happy, feed what it is that makes you happy.  Read.  Hike.  Draw.  Walk the dog.  Pet the cat.  Volunteer.  Go to concerts or comedy shows.  Sing in the shower.  Or the car.  Or in your backyard… who cares what the neighbors think?

Instead of finding yourself, find what makes you happy.  Everything else will work itself out.