2014: The Year of Humans Sucking and Getting Better

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2014 has been a year of massive learning.

This year, I have witnessed friends experiencing all kinds of painful stuff. Divorces, abuses, rejections and failures have been plentiful.

But I’ve also seen and experienced some wonderful stuff. This year I saw a transgender friend coming to terms with her real self. I saw her being herself and feeling beautiful for possibly the first time. I saw a friend choose to exit a toxic relationship. I saw another friend ask for help even though he hates needing help. I saw people come to yoga class who have been at war with their bodies for decades. I saw them make peace.

And as for me? Man, I fucked up a lot. It’s pretty much my greatest talent. But I also kept trying and had some little successes of my own. I did some things I didn’t think I could do, like getting on to a derby team — did I tell you I’m a Junkyard Doll now? Hell yeah. And I’ve started accepting help from my friends in the form of teaching home yoga classes (think tupperware parties for the soul), and while that might not sound like much, asking friends to host classes for me a year ago would have paralyzed me with fear. My motto for the year was, “see the fear and let it go,” and I repeated it to myself almost constantly for my first six months of roller derby.

On a personal level, I’d say this year was extremely challenging but also rewarding … although sometimes I had to look extra hard to find the happy part.

On a grander scale, it was still a dark year. Terrible things happened in the world. I have felt pretty much gutted and useless about the deaths of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice and far too many more young men who didn’t deserve to die. It’s so clear to me that racism is alive in our world, yet I can’t fathom a way to transfer that knowledge to the people who most need to get it. All the shouting doesn’t seem to help, so I work on compassion. I think compassion is what makes people realize others are human, so that’s what I try to practice and teach.

I’ve been trying to keep a positive attitude about the future of the world, and I’m tempted to write a really airy, upbeat conclusion to this blog post, but it wouldn’t ring true. I want to say that despite all the pain and suffering people are going through, we are becoming more aware. We are being forced to face each other’s suffering and experience the excruciating awakening of compassion. But you know … people are still dying. Specifically, young black men in America. But people all over the world are suffering. Every day we are confronted with it, and the only thing that can stop it is when we recognize others’ suffering, see that they are human, and care enough to help them by changing ourselves and the world. Not enough people are doing that.

So here’s the bad news: This year I learned that humans really suck. We do evil things to each other, largely out of ignorance but also out of hate and fear. All of us do it sometimes, but some people seem to live on that level, and they can be really fucking evil, especially in groups.

And here’s the good news: We don’t have to suck. We could just admit it, you know? Like, “Hey, I kinda suck. I’m human. Will you please love me anyway?” And suddenly … we suck less. And we kinda know deep down that we’re good people who are doing our best. And then — here’s the important part — we have to actually try to be better. We have to leave the shitty relationship or start being kinder to each other. We have to forgive others. We have to look honestly at ourselves and our behaviors. And we have to be brave enough to open our damn mouths and speak when we see injustice. But if we do that … then we’re not totally useless.

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The only useful thing I have to say about racism.

 

don't shoot

Jesus in the garden
prayed. Begged
for his life.
Because we cannot take back our cruelty, we make him king.
Hold him up.
Hold up the shreds of his garments.
We feel so stupid now.

We didn’t know he was God
until we saw him bleed.
And now we make each other bleed.
We say, you are not god.
That is not god lying dead in the street.
That was not god begging for his life.
How do you know?

How do you know he won’t
come back with black skin
wearing a hoodie or just,
you know, walking through
your neighborhood on a
beautiful day?
How do you know three days from now you won’t
remember his face?

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my definition of confidence

Young Woman from the Boni Yaou Family, Djougou, Benin photograph by Alfred Weidinger

One of the most powerful things you can have as an individual is the understanding that absolutely no one can invalidate you or make you less of a human being. No matter what name anyone calls you, you are good. No matter how anyone mistreats you or fails you, you deserve goodness. No matter what challenges you face or shortcomings you may have, you are worthy of love. When you know that, you will not let anyone mistreat you. You will not believe the bullshit they heap on you. Their words and actions may sting, but you will have dignity. And instead of internalizing their evil, you will look the cowards in the eye and see their pain, and you will respond with love. For them and for yourself.

 That’s confidence.

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Monday Night Nonfiction: What I Learned from My Parents

Credit: Paul K on Flickr

What I learned from my parents was to see other people’s suffering.

I didn’t exactly fit in as a kid, and whenever I complained about other kids being jerks, my mom always said, “Poor thing, that person is probably very sad and doesn’t have very many friends.” When I was little, I felt consolled knowing everybody else probably hated the mean kid as much as I did. When I got older, I realized Mom was right. People who were mean were mean to everyone, not just me. Even when a group of kids ganged up on one outsider, they were really the sad ones. Any one of them could be the group’s next target, and they knew it, so they stuck together in their meanness. I felt so sorry for most people that I even tried to be nice to them and occasionally made a friend.

As for my dad, he’s a doctor (still practicing in his late 60s). He loves his patients because they come to him with their problems, they are vulnerable, and all they want is for someone to make them feel better, so he tries. Many nights at the dinner table, Dad would tell us stories about funny things kids would do. Once in a while, the stories would be sad, like the entire family living on nothing but rice. (Of course he told us this without telling the names of patients or any personally identifying information!)

I think Dad was trying to teach us something with those stories. What I took from them was that people can make you laugh and they can make you mad, but they also suffer, so you have to be kind.

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Inspiration and Wisdom from Halcyon

andicat's and halcyon's camera

I really enjoy Halcyon’s Hug Nation videos. He’s one of the people I watched religiously when I was trying to work up the nerve to change my life. If I got a quiet moment at the office, I would go to Youtube and find one of his videos and enjoy the feeling that someone out there was on my side, someone else out there saw the world as this brilliant and gorgeous experience that I hoped it could be. In this video, he shares his guidelines for how to find meaning in your life. It’s a long video but totally worth the watch. I am so grateful for him being out in the world and sharing his love of life. I hope you’ll be able to take some of his ideas to heart.

I know my hippy stuff might not resonate with everyone, but whatever. I find this guy inspiring, especially when he talks about all the ways in which joy is a choice. Most of us in the Western world live with a great luxury of choice. We have so many options spread before us at all times, yet we often think of all these options as nothing more than a hassle. When we start changing our minds about how we want to view the world, we start to change everything.

Thanks, Halcyon, for being a voice for awareness, choice, and transformation.

Xoxo!

 

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